WRIT LARGE: Ch 20, Part 3
Count Your Rainbows
Dear readers, I hope you have been enjoying Lucas’s journey over the past twenty chapters. For the final five I’m going to mix things up a bit. The cadence will still be one chapter a week, but instead of delivering this to you in three parts I’m going to give you the full chapter once a week, on my Friday morning (Sydney time).
I’d love feedback from you during this final phase of the story about this shift in cadence as it is most likely going to be how I deliver the sequel to Writ Large. In the meantime, here is Part 3 of Chapter 20. Enjoy, and remember the last few words of this chapter - we are all!
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I ask Jeff if he slept at all during the night.
He washes down a mouthful of food with what’s left of his bottled water. “Sleep? What’s that?” He shakes his head. “Someone had to protect you guys from the nocturnal predators of Sepoi.”
“Seriously?” Olivia is wide-eyed. “Did you have to fight them off?”
“Oh yes,” Jeff’s tone is serious. “With my trusty weapon here.” He removes his mobile phone from his backpack and waves it at us. “Turns out they think a torchlight is the same as a flame.”
“Did you take some pictures?” Kim asks.
“No, it was too dark and all you’d have seen was rain.”
“So, what did you see?” Sandra is picking thin tiny bones from her fish.
“There was this rodent-type creature, larger than a rat, snuffling around Todd’s shoes.”
“Must’ve smelt them,” says Jeremy.
Todd raises a foot to his face, his leg curved at an impossible angle, and sniffs exaggeratedly. “Does smell a bit fishy but to be fair, we did almost drown. No offence.” He salutes the captain.
“None taken.” The captain has been quiet, one eye on the horizon at all times while we’ve been eating, but he has made himself comfortable even if he isn’t as loud as the tribe members.
“Did you see anything else?” Sandra persists.
“Plenty of birds,” says Jeff. “Fat ones waddling about and pecking around in case we dropped any crumbs.”
“At night?” Tony asks.
“Sure. There was this other animal, squirrel maybe, swinging upside down from a tree. I was worried it would land on someone’s face. Made me think of Alien when they try to prise that slimy monster from John Hurt’s face, and once I had that in my head, sleep was a no-no.”
“You didn’t see any animals, did you?” Sandra asks.
Jeff grins. “I heard plenty. And there were bats flying around. You wouldn’t have wanted one of those babies stuck in your hair when you woke up.”
“And I was going to tell everyone back home that Jeff Probst was my saviour,” says Olivia. “You’ve let me down, Jeff.”
“Sorry,” says Jeff. “You could still tell them though. Who’s to know? I’ve always wanted to be someone’s hero.”
“Well, if Bernard Arnault decides he no longer needs a runaway PA, I’ll sell my story to the British media.”
I tell Olivia that Bernard won’t let her go because she’s a fantastic PA, and besides, she can blame me for dragging her away on the camping trip that became a shipwreck.
“Thanks,” she says. “Can I also tell him that you made me drink too much when we were out with Lim’s sons?”
“That one you can blame on me,” says Jeff. “And when Bernard asks, I’ll blame Loui.”
We’re quiet for a while, thoughtful, the only sounds that of the flames spitting out twigs, and the gulls circling overhead for scraps.
Eventually, after toying with the question since we all regrouped on the shore, I ask the others what they think we should do if we are not rescued today. I don’t want them to think that I’m being negative, more practical, realistic.
Thankfully, no one sees it as a negative question.
“It is still early,” says the captain. “There will be plenty of damage from the storm. But they will search for us, you have my word.”
Todd scratches his elbow as though it is helping him to focus. “We want to get off the island today, though, right?” he says. “We’re all agreed on that?”
“Agreed,” says Jeff. “We could all do with a bath, some clean clothes, and a good night’s sleep. What are you thinking?”
“Well, I don’t see the point of sitting around waiting for a rescue party that may or may not arrive at some point today, or tomorrow, or whenever. The sea’s pretty calm now. I’m up for building a raft and getting away under our own steam.” He looks at the captain. “You’ll navigate us back to Tioman?”
The captain rubs his hands together. “Of course.”
“What do you guys think?” Todd asks.
“Can’t hurt to have a Plan B,” says Jeremy.
“I’m in,” says Kim.
“This all depends on finding a decent supply of logs though,” says Tony. “And I don’t see any laying around.”
“We’ll find what we can. There’ll be plenty of trees broken in the storm. And it’ll keep us busy, give us something to focus on, something we can all get involved in.”
“It’s a great idea,” says Jeff. “We’ll keep the fire going to alert any potential rescue team. Tell us what you need.”
We all set about searching the island in pairs for heavy fallen branches and lengths of vine that are strong enough to bind any logs together and hold them. On Sandra’s suggestion we also gather any fibreglass sections from the boat that have been washed up overnight and the remaining dinghy—anything that will keep us afloat. Jeff and the captain scale the cliff and retrieve the waterproofs from the makeshift camp to make a sail, and they also return with the roof of the shelter. They test its buoyancy in the sea. It holds, although it is unlikely to take much weight, but it’s a starting point, according to Todd.
“That’s what we need to achieve,” he says, “but on a larger, heavier scale.”
We work until the sun is high in the sky. Todd has removed his shirt and continues to bind thick branches together with lengths of vine, tying expert knots and dragging the growing raft to the sea where he sits on it to check that it doesn’t sink. The rest of us continue to scavenge for more useful debris while trying to stay out of the sun.
It is the captain who spots the helicopter first. He shields his eyes with the flat of his hand and squints into the distance until he is certain before he points it out. Almost at the same time, we hear the faint whirring sounds of the helicopter’s blades.
We all stop what we’re doing and grin at the sky as though we’ve spotted an angel floating towards us. Tony, Jeremy, and Todd, raise their hands above their heads and wave, yelling, “Over here!”
Kim fans the fire until the flames are waist-high and then steps back, a wide smile on her face.
No one speaks then. We wait until it becomes obvious that the helicopter has spotted us, before we all jump up and down, hugging each other, and murmuring, “We did it. We’re going home.”
The island can’t accommodate a large rescue helicopter, so it hovers above the sea, and we swim out to it, climbing a rope ladder one at a time, until we are all safely aboard, the captain the last one to join us. He shakes the rescuers’ hands and claps them on the back as if they’re old friends enjoying a scenic tour of the islands. I realise now that his confidence was well-placed and never deserted him, his expression as serene as ever.
The rest of us are quiet. As we make our way back to Tioman, the helicopter lurching sickeningly as it turns around, we peer out of the window at Sepoi. The rockface is so sheer, I cannot contemplate that we spent the night on the clifftop or that we climbed down it this morning, half-asleep, and weak with hunger and fear. We pass Labas, a smaller island than Sepoi, sparkling under the afternoon sun.
It is only now that we are on our way to safety, that I fully understand the dangerous situation we were in. We might have died. I blink back tears and realise that I will not tell Ann about this until I am back in Sydney, where I can look back on events of the past twenty-four hours with a survivor’s outlook. It is as Jeff said, humans are resilient.
We’re all survivors.
I'm looking forward to reading a full chapter at one time. I think that is a great idea moving forward. I enjoyed the bits at a time in the beginning, but I was finding it hard to keep up sometimes. I think knowing that a new chapter will appear each Friday is exciting! Makes me look forward to the weekend. Thank you for sharing this, and I'm excited to see the conclusion. It seems like each character has changed so much in the last few chapters.
The elements can imperil and the elements can save. Gripping as ever. Look forward to the conclusion. Could imagine this working well as an audiobook (as well as being filmic - if costly to make) Lots of opportunity for scene setting through nature sounds and the noise of the theme park and casino and commerce earlier in the book.