I never smoke. Well, at least, not until this moment. It seemed fitting for the time. I don't know how much time I have left. You see smoking to relieve stress and anxiety in the movies, considering Kyle won't need them. I figured, what the hell. The BiC probably only had enough left for one more light.
It's been years since I was this alone. No friends. No food. No water. I don't think I'm going to survive much longer. I wish I had a signal so I'd be able to tell my family goodbye. Tell my girlfriend, Naomi, I love her and that it will be okay. I wish I could talk to Kyle's family. Same for Pat and Aaron's.
Unfortunately for all of us, no one will know of what happened to us. I'll be lucky if this shows up anywhere. If anyone does find it, I don't know if anyone would believe it.
Well. Here goes nothing.
It was Spring Break. Pat had a rich uncle who had a house in Belize. San Pedro, to be exact. The place was nice. We joke that Pat's uncle was running drugs for El Chapo to afford it. But really, he was just a successful stockbroker, a real good one. Anyway, he let us use the house since he wouldn't be around. We were all seniors at Columbia, and a long break was needed. I mean, even as a history major, I was under a ton of pressure.
We took the offer. Pat and his girlfriend Meghan, Aaron and his girlfriend Jamie, and Kyle went by himself because Kyle had the highest sex drive of anyone I knew. I, of course, brought Naomi. We all looked forward to cutting loose. San Pedro was beautiful. Pat had a friend, Juan Luis, who knew the best spots for us to go. Plus, his uncle kept a lot of liquor at the house. And not the cheap stuff either. I'm talking the guy had an open bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue with two unopened on back up.
Anyways, one of the things to do was fishing. Belize, among other things, was known for its fishing. Not just any fishing, sports fishing. Granted, it was March, and the most common fish were not the exciting kind. But there were still good chances at Marlin and Sailfish.
On Thursday, our third day in Belize, the boys went fishing. Juan Luis had a sportfishing yacht and offered to take us. The idea was the girls could spend the day together, while we would use the day to get sun, fish, and drink beer. Kyle could brag without sickening the girls. And the rest of us could just talk about things the girls don't care about.
The plan was to be out most of the day. Leave at 8, come back at 5, standard fishing trip. None of us caught anything like this before. Excitement filled the boat. We brought a cooler full of beer, Modelo, Dos Equis, Blue Moon, and Miller Lite. We brought sandwiches and snacks as well. When we set sail, everything seemed fine. The sky was clear, allowing for a beautiful red sunrise to wake us up.
Around 9, Juan Luis let us sit in the ocean. We were pretty far offshore. We could see San Pedro, but not much.
Lines dropped, bottles cracked, and it was smooth sailing. Aaron sat down, wearing his life vest, completely scared of drowning. We had to beg him to come. He dropped his line and talked about how Jamie wanted to get engaged soon and his own fears. Sure, he loved the girl but worried he didn't sleep around as much as a man should. Kyle encouraged a break, Pat and myself told him not to. Aaron grew up the youngest of six. His brothers were athletes and traditionally masculine. All of them got into state schools on scholarships, Aaron pushed himself academically and earned a scholarship on brainpower. Much to the disparagement to his father. He was a law major.
While Aaron was telling his story. Pat spotted a visitor, a small shark. It swam toward us. Probably for the bait. We got a close look at it. Aaron reeled up, not wanting to lose the bait. The shark circled and left.
Fishing resumed. As did the conversation. Juan Luis moved us further away from shore as there wasn't any sign of marlin and most catches being Wahoos or Permits. After stopping, with San Pedro being not much more than a dot on the horizon. We continued.
Pat caught the first marlin.
I got the second.
Aaron caught one.
Kyle was smoking and chatting about this one cheerleader from campus.
The fun was ramping up. Juan Luis moved toward us, wanting to join the fun. No one saw the rogue wave that hit us. I don't know how waves work, I'll admit that. But a 10-foot wave that appeared out of nowhere on a sunny day did not seem possible. But it happened, and it pushed on us hard. Aaron went overboard. Juan Luis was flung further away. Thankfully, we didn't capsize.
Aaron was pulled aboard by Kyle, the strongest of us. Pat and I held his belt so he could. We saw Juan Luis. The current must-have grabbed in the commotion because he was a lot further than where he landed. We watched his hands failed. He screamed. Not for help. But in pain. We all watched him go under. It was a violent pull. Like watching a rock get thrown in. Right down.
Sharks. It had to be.
We looked over to see. Maybe it was the current. Perhaps it was something else.
But there was nothing. As fast as the chaos started, it was over. But our captain was gone. Calling someone was out of the picture. We probably could have figured out how to steer and get the engine running, but we couldn't navigate. We couldn't see San Pedro anymore.
It took less than 10 minutes, but we were lost. Instantly, ideas were through.
Pat said: go north. Which probably could waste gas.
Kyle said: wait. Seems reasonable. We could drop anchor. But we didn't have service to call, nor did we have a lot of food. The yacht didn't have a stove, so we couldn't boil water.
Aaron said nothing.
I couldn't think of anything better, so I sided with Kyle.
In the open water, we sat in silence. The beer was gone. What we didn't drink, we tossed. We put the food inside, to keep it out of the sun. There was ice left, which hopefully could have given us some water. But not much. Pat left the cooler open to melt it. Kyle kept smoking.
Aaron prayed his rosary. We all hoped nothing worse happened.
The open ocean is the perfect humbler. You could be the President, and if you are alone in the ocean, you are no one. Waves don't care about your position. The saltwater won't turn fresh because of who you're related to.
You are its subject, and it will have its way with you.
And as quickly as we were put in this mess, it got worse—storm clouds. Gusts of wind moved us further away. At this point, with no land reference, any direction seemed like the wrong direction. We held on for dear life. The rain came down on us, and Pat tried to catch the rainwater. Lightning flashed, and waves crashed.
Again, it didn't seem like long that the storm hit us. But we were definitely lost at sea.
I thought of Naomi. I laid down on the wet floor and looked at the sky. Something has to happen.
That's when I heard Kyle say the words I never wanted to hear.
Sharks are here.
The first sharks we saw came in a pair. They were grey. The one closest to us had a hook in its jaw, rusted out. The outside one was bigger, at least 6 inches wider and a foot and a half longer than the other. Its face was lighter, almost whiter. Both of them had white tips on their fins. Now, normally, I liked sharks. Discovery helped with that. But the feature about the USS Indianapolis gave me nightmares. And now, I'm living it.
They circled but not attacked. We weren't sinking, so I assumed the sharks were curious.
Aaron, either in shock or panic, threw his life raft away from the boat. Threw it as far as he could. It landed an okay distance, enough to get the sharks' attention. I checked my phone. The first contact with the sharks was at 5 o'clock.
We were supposed to be back by now, and the girls must be worried. They had to be. Hopefully, Pat told Meghan to call someone if we didn't come back. I prayed he did.
I'm not religious. But I knew that I was meeting God. In the sense of discovery of rebirth. In the sense of all-mighty power. In the sense that only through strength could one survive the challenge. Like Job or Abraham, they had to prove themselves. Staying alive was my challenge.
Pat divided his sandwich, while not big to begin with, there wasn't much. I ate my sandwich early, around 11:30. Aaron ate his at 1, not long before the wave hit. None of the snacks we brought would be helpful. Chips and popcorn were not ideal for being stranded. It'd be enough to survive, maybe. But we needed water. The ice and rainwater wouldn't last us forever.
Pretty soon, night fell on us. We had to try and sleep.
My dream that night was trippy. It started with me having sex with Naomi in a room full of dreamcatchers. She put her fingers to my lips and whispered, 'you have a chance at life.' From there, I was fully clothed, walking to the casket of Emmett Till. I stared into his bruised, wet face. The image from high school history burned into my skull. His eyes opened, and he reached out. And I woke up. But at this part, I knew I was still dreaming. I was in therapy, talking about life. A vinyl record player kept scratching. Music was trying to come out by wouldn't. As I spoke to the psychiatrist, the office started to flood. Then, I was back in Columbia. At my desk. A math test on it. The professor looking at me, about to yell at me for being naked.
And that's when Pat woke me. He held the flare gun.
He sat us down at the stern and faced us.
He said: We are stuck. We are in a bad spot. If we are going, to be honest. Unless we work together. We won't last long. So I'm going to propose some ideas.
The first idea: no cannibalism until one of us was dead. We had to have died first.
The second idea: no one eats unless they have to.
The third idea: every 4 hours, they try to rest and keep watch for boats or planes.
We all agreed. It seemed pretty basic, but as long as no one turned on each other, we could remain together.
It all seemed like a fever dream. I tried to go back to sleep, but I was too freaked out.
The next morning, the sunset was red again, and it hurt my eyes to see it. I felt tired. Aaron was up, shivering.
I said: what's the matter? A dumb question, but I wanted to know exactly.
Aaron said: I promised myself I was going to end up dead before I was 40. I wanted to show that I could do it. But I can't. I should have stayed in San Pedro. I want to tell Jamie that I do want to marry her. I do. I do.
The shock was settling in. I sat next to him, and I held him.
By 9, Kyle and Pat were awake. Kyle looked like shit. His skin already showing signs of dehydration. Between the smoking and the beer, he was the worst off. We all were in bad shape. I had at least four. I know Pat had six. Aaron maybe had one, and Kyle easily had 10. Of course, this during the day.
This time, a third shark came toward us. Same species as the others, but larger, easily 15 feet. It was wide. It hit the boat on the starboard. Not a curious nudge, but a severe hit. It knocked the yacht a couple degrees in the opposite direction.
We stared in shock as the shark circled around, giving a nudge on our port side. Aaron screamed prayer against the shark. Begging Jesus to send it away. The shark came close again. This time it circled a few times before the fin went underwater.
I looked over to Pat. We didn't think that divine intervention played into what happened.
We were hunted.
Rationing the food became hard. Pat's phone died. The first one of ours to go. Well, technically, the second because Aaron's was ruined when he went overboard.
Kyle tossed his empty cigarette box and opened a fresh pack.
Around 11, Pat passed out the water we had. But even that wasn't enough. If we kept like this, we wouldn't make it another two days.
Finally, I spoke: we need to move inland. Maybe if we try east, it could work.
Pat said: why east?
I said: think about it, we probably went west to come out this far. If we go east, we could see land—some settlement.
Kyle and Aaron voted to agree with me. Begrudgingly, Pat agreed. He fired up the engine, and we went east. Hopefully, the nightmare would end. Unfortunately, we had no such luck. For one, the sharks followed us. Second, the engine must have taken damage as not long after we moved, it puttered out.
Anxiety fell upon us again. This time, all the sharks made their presence known. The big one, I called it Bruce, swam closest. The other two, Whitey and Hook, swam behind Bruce. This time, it was Whitey and Hook who nudged the boat.
Pat walked toward the bow with the flare gun and fired a shot at Bruce. He missed, and it landed near the shark's gills. Bruce reacted in shock, hitting the bow, which knocked Pat down. But the sharks swam away.
Kyle was biting his nails, the nail his index finger on his left hand was much lower than the healthy line. His finger must have been burning.
I noticed that Pat was guarding the food more. He didn't trust us to go for it.
As night fell, the sharks returned. Like a parasite. This time it was only Whitey and Hook, but they were getting bolder, biting the stern. Aaron swung with the fishing rod but to no avail. He was weak. After two strong swings, they became closer to their own circles.
Kyle started jumping on the boat in an attempt to scare them. After three strong jumps and a fourth weak one, they left. Kyle was gaunt. Pat and Aaron weren't looking great either. While I wasn't going to waste whatever battery I had left to check myself in the camera, I knew I wasn't looking great. I could feel myself get weaker.
By 6, our last water was gone. We had to resort to drinking our piss. Each of us had a designated bottle. Throughout the night, we would try to piss. When we could, we would drink. Aaron refused, claiming he didn't need to go. At this point, it was getting harder for all of us.
By 8, we ate scraps. I looked at my barely healthy friends. I felt myself eyeing up who would die first.
Looking at your friends with the idea of cannibalizing them is never pleasant. I had to fight those urges. There was at least one knife on board. At this state, it would be easy to slice one of their throats and dig in. But I couldn't. I would not allow myself to. As much as I love Naomi, my mom, dad, and brother, I could never do that.
If it came to it, I would commit suicide.
Night fell, and sleeping wasn't going to happen. Pat was scaring me as he hoarded the flare gun, plus a knife. He also held control over the food. If anyone had the potential to kill, it was him. I couldn't sleep. If I did, it wasn't for long.
I woke up at around 3AM. I saw someone leaned over the port side. Aaron. He was taking massive gulps of seawater. I grabbed his shirt.
I screamed and yelled. I slapped him. Finally, I tried to burp him. I woke up Pat and Kyle. It was too late. The amount of seawater Aaron drank had doomed him. But something far scary was happening. We were sinking.
The sharks were back again today. Again, they circled and didn't touch us. We stood at the bow. By nightfall, we would be mostly submerged. Thankfully, Juan Luis had an inflatable raft, it had a pump. We all took turns pumping it. Well, all except Aaron. He was ranting about God, Moses, Satan, you name it.
Pat was getting angered by it. Kyle and I feared Pat now. As we saw, the food was getting lower, we assumed it was Pat. The captain's area, or hull, or whatever was covered in markings. Some were caveman style drawings, others were phrases.
Bait. Predator. East. Hunger was the drive. Driven. Wendigo.
At one point, when Pat was pumping. I peed into my bottle, I looked over to Kyle.
I think Pat's gone crazy. He agreed. We worried about what he might do. Kyle suggested we just let him work through it.
While I was pumping, Pat walked up to the chanting Aaron.
He yelled: you stole fucking food.
Aaron: five loaves of bread and two fish.
Pat: fuck you.
I stopped pumping.
Aaron: The lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
Before Kyle or I could do anything, Pat took out the knife and stabbed Aaron in the gut. The serrated edge cut through Aaron's dehydrated skin without much resistance. Blood dripped from the blade as Pat pulled sideways. The squishing sound which came from Aaron made my stomach churn. With a healthy couple of pulls, Aaron's intestines dropped to the ground. Aaron, still alive but unable to speak, looked over at us. His eyes were bloodshot, fear in them.
Kyle puked. I couldn't move. Pat removed the knife and plunged it into Aaron's skull.
Pat looked at us. He looked back at Aaron's corpse, ogling his guts.
I joined Kyle in puking.
The noises that Pat made while he… it could never recreate them. He enjoyed the raw meat. Like an animal, he bit and tore. He licked the blood he could. He only ate the organs. Kyle watched in horror, unable to move. I focused on pumping. Pushing through the burning on my arms and back.
When Pat finished. He pushed what he could of the body into the ocean. The sharks took it with them.
With the raft nearly done and almost half the yacht underwater, I curled into the fetal position and waited. Pat was sobbing. Begging for mercy to God. I couldn't shake Aaron. All he wanted was to live. Be happy. Have a family. Now, he was gone. Nothing. What Pat did took away the human part of Aaron. He was meat.
And Pat didn't have a soul. He knew it.
For the night, the sharks were happy.
I woke up, surprised I could sleep at all. The replay of Pat's monstrous action plagued my dreams. My back was wet, and the bow finally touched the water. The raft was ready. I heard banging and looked over, and Kyle was wrestling Pat. Pat was winning.
He was slamming Kyle's head onto the deck, grabbing his throat. I broke away to see that Bruce was the only one circling. I moved in. I pushed Pat as hard as I could, which was enough to knock him over. Kyle began hitting him in the face. He grabbed Pat by his face and slammed it into the deck, pushing into his eyes. I pulled Kyle away.
Kyle asked why.
Because we are still human.
Pat looked at us. Shame on his face. He took the knife, the one he used on Aaron, and handed it to Kyle. He reached into his pants and gave me the flare gun.
Pat closed his eyes and, without another word, let himself be taken by the ocean. Bruce opened his jaws, bit Pat's torso, and dragged him to the depths, blood following close behind.
Without Aaron and without Pat, we embarked on the raft and went away from the fishing yacht.
We paddled when we could. We tried to drift back, but we were lost. Out in the open. One bite from Bruce or even the other two, and we were as good as dead. Kyle's phone had died. Mine was close. Guess being stranded meant not needing social media.
I looked at Kyle. He was a skeleton. He was dying. We both knew it but didn't say anything. He began to cry.
Kyle: it was me who ate that food. I killed them. I did this.
I stared at him. Too tired to respond.
Kyle: I'm a bad person. I used others to get where I was, and I allowed others to take the fall. I have no excuse. I'm sorry.
He stood up.
I'm fucking sorry.
I was too. Sorry to everyone. Sorry to Aaron's family, who will never find their son. If they did, he wouldn't look human—a son who was a victim of cannibalism. I'm sorry to Jamie, who wanted to marry Aaron so bad and will never be able to. The future kids they could have who will never be. I'm sorry to Pat's family. They will never find their son either. If he survived, he would be broken. Broken for killing his friend and for attacking another. I'm sorry that Meghan will live by herself, surviving her own loss. I'm sorry for Naomi that I wasn't better for her. That I allowed this to happen. That I didn't better prepare. I'm sorry for Kyle too. Sure, he didn't always treat women the best, nor was he going to change the world in any significant manner. But he wasn't bad. He wasn't evil. Just lost.
As lost as we are now.
I looked at Kyle.
I said: Kyle, you aren't bad. We all make mistakes. This isn't your fault.
Kyle put his cigarettes in the middle of the raft.
Kyle: light one for me. Will you?
I did. He puffed it.
Kyle: you never smoked.
Kyle: it's bad for you. He laughed. He coughed. His hand dragged in the water.
We sat in silence. He enjoyed his cigarette. I laid, looking at the sun. It was beating down on us. Going on four days. The sun dried our skin out. Burned our skin.
A fin broke the surface. It was Hook. Whitey not too far behind.
Those bastard sharks never left us alone. Did they?
Should we tell them we don't taste good?
I don't think they care.
Do me a favor, don't let them get me.
He moved his hand into the raft.
The cigarette dangled from Kyle's mouth as he spoke.
Growing up, I used to love sharks.
Ever think you'd die by them?
No. I don't even think they'll get me.
It took a minute to realize that Kyle died just as the sharks appeared. I moved his hand away from the ocean. The cigarette that dangled blew into the ocean. The big fin of Bruce appeared. I reached into Kyle's pocket and grabbed his lighter.
He grabbed the damp cigarette box and took one out. I lit it.
The sharks are gaining. My phone is dying and, I don't know if I will live to see the outcome. Hell, I don't know if this story will even survive. If it does. Mom, Dad, I tried. I'm sorry. Naomi, I love you. You'll be okay. Scott, take care of yourself, little man. I hope you remember me. I'm sorry to Pat's family. I'm sorry to Meghan. I'm sorry to Aaron's family. I'm sorry, Jamie. I'm sorry to Kyle's grandparents. He was a good kid.