Creative Writing,  Short Stories

Message in a Bottle

“Grandpa what’s that?” A tiny blonde girl pointed to a bottle half sticking out of the sand.

The old man stooped over to pick it up, his spine and knees popping as he did so. “There’s a note in here. Let me see what it says.” He worked his arthritic fingers to remove the cap and tilted the tightly coiled paper out, unrolling it and adjusting his glasses. The note read:

“My story, which I hope is one of survival, started a week ago. I brought my boyfriend Dale here for our one year anniversary. The locals call it “The Island of Lost Souls” but we dismissed the stories as old island lore designed to scare tourists and keep children from taking boats out too far from the coast. 

The water was calm. It was less than an hour before our boat gritted up on the sand. We ate roast beef sandwiches with too much mustard. We drank red wine and lay under the canopy of the old palms waiting for night so we could watch the stars. 

That was when I saw the blue top of a bottle sticking out of the sand. The plastic soda bottle was missing its label and I would have dismissed it as litter if I hadn’t noticed the rolled up paper tucked inside, barely visible through the grime.

Dale unscrewed the lid and my finger was narrow enough to slip in. With some effort I removed the page. 

Send help. Trapped on the island. She’s going to kill me too. 

“Nice try Dale,” I laughed, but the hair stood up on the back of my neck anyway. The note didn’t look recent.

A high pitched shriek, a guttural wail, pierced the air around us from deep in the shade of the trees. We ran to where we left our boat on the beach, but it was gone.

“I swear if this is a joke Dale it’s not funny!” I yelled at him but he didn’t seem to hear me. He was looking into the trees, eyes wide, lips white. 

“It’s kids–locals playing jokes on the tourists–that’s all this is. It’s gotta be.” Dale said. The uncertainty in his eyes did not go unnoticed. We found a thin path through the trees and started walking, certain we’d find the lollygaggers responsible. We had no other way to get off the island before dark.

We followed the sound of screaming. The island is small, so our walk was short. There is a well in the center of the island made of large grey stones about knee high. It’s deep enough and dark enough that you can’t see the bottom. 

The screaming had become a low growl. From behind a dense thicket near the well, a pale woman sprung, thin and wiry, snarling and running toward Dale. She had only scraps of clothing on and her hair was thickly knotted. Her face was so dirty it was impossible to make out her features but her teeth were covered in blood that dripped down her chin. She smelled of hot copper. Dale held his arm out in defense and she bit into him. Tearing. I grabbed at her, he was pushing her but she was strong.

My foot caught on a root and I tripped. The well swallowed me whole. I must have been knocked out for a while because when I woke up it was full dark up through the hole. It stinks down here. Everything is wet. It’s filled with trash that looks like it was washed up on the beach: bottles, fast food waste, empty cigarette packs. There are 6 cells with open doors. In one of them, the floor is red and sticky with blood. There are hoses and huge drains like a meat processing plant. There’s a locked door and I can hear that woman on the other side, grunting and chewing. I haven’t seen Dale. I think it’s been 10 days, maybe more.

Eventually she’ll unlock the door. She’ll have to when she gets… hungry. I’ll fight like hell. Until then I pray this message makes it out of here. The drains have to make it back to the water somehow.

“Grandpa what is it? What is it?” The little girl pleaded, tugging on the old man’s sleeve. His gaze had clouded over as he stared across the calm water. The island stood hazy in the distance.

“Nothing sweetheart. Just tourists.”

Feature photo by Brian Yurasits

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