The Lone Survivor
For the past three years, the Block Island Yacht Club has sponsored a creative writing contest for Block Island School students. Each year, the first paragraph is supplied by the judges, and the story itself must be complete fiction with a Block Island and maritime-related theme. After that, the students can let their imaginations fly. Block Island rising senior Ruby Crawford won second place this year with her story, titled “The Lone Survivor.” The Block Island Times will publish the winning entry in an upcoming edition.
By Ruby Crawford
All of a sudden, the movement on the boat diminished, the waves were smaller, and the rocking was less severe. The red light that marks the channel was just visible. The crew that was awake could see the cut, the opening to The Great Salt Pond. In less than an hour, they would be in the harbor. They were exhausted.
The Captain of the vessel, Harvey Morgan, called to his First Mate Ian Sander through the howling wind to wake up the rest of the crew and tell them the good news. Only two crew members remained aside from Harvey and Ian; the rest had been lost in the storm. As Ian approached the cabins of his comrades, something smacked the side of the boat, knocking him to the ground. Stunned, and bleeding from a small cut just below his left eyebrow, Ian struggled to get back on his feet. Once he had steadied himself, he yelled to the Captain, “What was that? Any damage?” No reply. Worried, Ian hurried to wake Justin and Eoin, the two remaining crew members. Justin and Eoin had woken up after being thrown from their beds when something hit the boat and found Ian outside their doors. The three men rushed to the deck of the boat to see what all the commotion was about. When they got there, the Captain was gone. They called his name into the blackness that surrounded them. There was no response. The men began to panic, frantically screaming “Harvey!,” until Ian spotted something in the distance. He used a flashlight in an attempt to make it out. Moments later, the light slipped through his fingers, his eyes got wide and his skin turned pale. Justin and Eoin could barely hear Ian as he whispered “Shark. It’s a shark!” Just as those words left Ian’s mouth the boat was hit again. This time, there was a loud cracking noise, as the old and worn-out wood of the boat split. Water rushed onto the deck, surrounding the men as they tried to bail out the boat. It was no use. The boat was going to sink and they knew it. The men made the decision to jump overboard to avoid being injured by the debris being tossed around the boat. They plunged into the cold rough sea, just as the boat began to capsize. Justin emerged first, shouting “Ian, Eoin, where are you guys!” Ian and Eoin found their way to Justin and the three men huddled together in the water, freezing and in shock. As the sun began to rise, the men felt a twinge of hope. “Someone will find us.” said Ian, “We have to stay strong.”
Hours passed, and still no one had come. The men clung to what was left of their boat, using it to stay afloat. They had forgotten about the shark Ian had thought he’d seen, convincing themselves that it had been something else and not a man-eating apex predator, until Eoin saw something breach the surface a couple hundred yards ahead. He scanned the surface of the water, searching for whatever he had seen, and then he saw it. A fin was gliding through the waves towards the men. “It is dawn,” Ian thought to himself, “Dawn is feeding time for sharks.” Eoin did not take his eyes off of the water ahead, watching the fin as it dipped beneath the waves and then resurfaced, getting closer and closer. He grabbed Justin and Ian by the arms and urged them to look ahead. “I saw something” said Eoin, “I’m sure it was I shark.” The men, now even more terrified than before, watched the fin as it came rushing towards them. Ian yelled “Stick your legs out and kick, you have to fight.” Justin and Eoin did as they were told, flailing spastically, trying to avoid being dragged underwater to their death. Unfortunately, their efforts proved ineffective. Justin screamed as the shark latched onto his leg, piercing his femoral artery. Blood rushed from his body, turning the water around the men a dark crimson. Eoin and Ian watched the life leave Justin’s eyes as he was pulled underwater. The two men were left surrounded in their friend’s blood, feeling hopeless and ridden with despair. Eoin said to Ian “We have to swim away from the boat. This blood is just going to attract more sharks.” Ian replied, “Justin is dead and we’re probably next.” Annoyed by Ian’s pessimistic remark, Eoin began to swim away from him, tears rolling down his cheek. He made it about one hundred yards before his body was sent flying into the air; a gigantic Great White, four times the size of the men, followed. Ian watched as the shark engulfed half of Eoin’s body before crashing back into the water and disappearing, leaving behind another large pool of blood. Ian swam to the pool of blood, splashing around, desperate to find Eoin, but it was no use. Eoin was gone.
Eoin and Justin were gone and Ian was left to survive on his own. He could see Block Island in the distance, it was miles away, but his desperation and determination to live gave him the courage to try to make it there. He began to paddle quickly, but quietly, trying to cause the least amount of noise so as not to attract the shark. Ian’s adrenaline was the only thing keeping him going. He had not had food or water for almost 24 hours and his body was in poor condition from injuries sustained during the sinking of the boat. He sang to himself as he swam towards the island, “Sail away on the Block Island Ferry. Take a trip back to carefree time.” An annoying jingle that helped him to keep going.
Singing only helped Ian for a short time, and soon the feeling of hopelessness crept up on him again. He was about to give up when he heard someone calling his name. “Ian! I’m over here!” Ian looked in the direction of the voice and began to sob when he saw who it was. Harvey was floating on a piece of debris, about 50 yards to the right of Ian. “Thank god!” said Harvey, “I thought I was the only one that made it.” As Harvey approached, Ian saw that his left arm was now a bloody stub wrapped in a t-shirt. Ian immediately knew what had happened to him. The shark that had killed Justin and Eoin had found Harvey, too. Ian hugged Harvey, holding on tight and not wanting to let go. Harvey chuckled and pushed Ian off of him, trying to uphold his tough exterior, but he had almost broken down in tears at the sight of his friend Ian. Ian began to tell Harvey what had happened to Justin and Eoin, but Harvey stopped him mid-sentence, saying “I know. It’s okay we’re going to be okay.”
Ian was found by a fishing boat three miles off the coast of the island, unconscious, and alone. When he came to, he began asking for Harvey. The men on the fishing boat tried to explain to him that he had been found alone but Ian insisted that Harvey had been with him. He said that they had tied themselves together so that they would not get separated again but the men that rescued him had not found rope or anything that could have been used to bind the men together. One of the men aboard the fishing boat had medical training and explained to Ian that he was very fatigued and extreme dehydration can lead to hallucinations. Ian insisted that he had not hallucinated and demanded that the men find Harvey. Ian became violent, enraged that no one believed him and that he may have lost another friend. The men who had rescued him were forced to tie his hands behind his back, afraid that he would hurt one of them or himself.
The fishing boat docked in New Harbor at around 3 p.m. The men aboard the boat had contacted the local police and rescue department and informed them on what had happened. Ian was put into an ambulance and rushed to the medical center. He had only sustained minor injuries aside from the serious emotional trauma. Ian was questioned by the police after receiving medical care. He told them everything from the moment the boat he was on sank to the shark attacks and even managed to provide a few details about his rescue. The police sent out a search and rescue team to search for the bodies of Justin, Eoin, and Harvey but they were never found.
Ian had survived this horrific ordeal but his life would never be the same. He had lost three of his closest friends and was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. His wife left him because she said that he was no longer the man she loved. Ian tried to get his life back to normal, but he could not hold down a job and people did not trust him because of his poor mental state. Ian knew that he could not let his experiences break him and he was determined to turn his life around.
Three years later, Ian was the successful founder of a support group for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He held the meetings on Block Island and managed to gain a lot of support for his cause. Soon people around the country knew about Ian’s story and were inspired by it. He had suffered great loss and trauma and still managed to turn his life around. Ian’s support group was a non-profit organization, so he made a living by becoming a public speaker. He told his story to people who had had similar experiences, in hopes of inspiring them to believe in themselves. He used what he had learned from his own suffering to try to help people around the world and he did.