The survival raft was not constructed in hope, but in fear. Its journey has been treacherous and deadly. It has been battered, thrown, and violently slammed into combating waves. Desperate survivors created this work of art in haste and with odd materials. It is the greatest and most important work of their lives.
The main body of the craft is a piece of upholstered furniture. Three life jackets, in bright orange, are attached to the craft, along with several pieces of wood and plastic. The foreign objects are former pieces of a swimming pool’s lounge furniture. Torn off straps of back packs, and a few waist belts have been employed in its construction.
Originally, the raft carried three survivors. While constructing the craft, the three, who were previously unacquainted before the event, had worked together frantically. For hours they fought the wind and waves and held on to each other. Multiple times the raft became airborne and crashed down into the raging waters, often causing at least one of them to fall back into the sea. Each time, the other two labored until they had recovered their overboard crew member.
As the three contended with the wind and waves, and despite the storm’s rage, they attempted verbal communication. Through shouts and screams, they referred to each other, as “brother” and “sister,” all the while shouting, “Hold on! Do not let go!”
Sometime during the hellacious night, the lone survivor realized that the others were gone. That revelation caused him to adjust one of the belts that held the survival craft together. He strapped his arm to the main body of the raft.
He feels like he had failed the others. They had fought so hard to keep each other going, to keep each other alive. He remembers that they were each wearing life jackets. He had surrendered his to help create more buoyancy for their weight laden craft. He wishes them well. He prays that they will survive. He would like to thank them for their efforts someday, hopefully in person.
Twelve hours earlier the raft was engaged in a battle against fierce conditions. A tsunami wave had engulfed the cruise ship and turned it on its port side. Eventually the mighty vessel lost the battle with the waves. It had rolled upside down and began to sink. Currently, world news agencies report that there are “no survivors.” The unconscious man, lying face down in the center of the raft, disputes that report.
The raft now travels in peaceful waters and gently rocks back and forth, rising and falling with the waves. The sun shines down upon his back and neck, warming his tired muscles. His body is spent and worn. The exhaustion has overtaken him and forced him to stop, to rest, and finally, to sleep.
In deep sleep, the lone survivor dreams. He dreams that he is in a dark place, but there is a light source nearby. He moves towards the light and hears a child crying. He holds the child and protects it from the dark. His ancestors speak to him, but he does not understand. The ancestors tell him to abandon the child, but he will not.
Dreams can be like that, confusing, bizarre, and dark. His exhaustion takes him far beyond the dream and into blackness.
His sleep is so deep that he does not hear the fluttering of wings or notice the shadow from above that descends to his little floating raft. The bird lands near the body and begins its inspection. The corpse does not yet smell of death. The bird jabs its pointed beak into the fleshy arm of the body. The man flinches, moans and moves. The bird launches from the raft as the man raises his head.
It takes him a few seconds to make sense of his surroundings. As he pushes himself into an upright position, his hands touch the familiar upholstered furniture, and he remembers. He looks at the waves and becomes aware of the pain in his arm. He touches the wound. It is wet with blood.
He remembers a bird. Land must be near! He rises to his knees to scan the horizon. The sight he sees causes tears to well up in his eyes. The ocean’s current is pushing the raft towards an island.
He begins thinking about his survival plans once he is safely on dry land. He lives a modern lifestyle, with all its conveniences, but he knows with confidence that he possesses the skills to survive living in nature.
His people have been tribal nomads for many generations. His parents were the first of their tribe to live stationary and in a somewhat modern home. When he was a child, they were forced to leave the desert lifestyle. A period of intense and prolonged drought had almost wiped out his people.
As a young boy, for three summers, his parents sent him to dwell with his grandparents in the desert. His father thought it was important that he learn the ways of the land and how to survive in nature. He loved those times with his grandparents, herding goats and cattle across the parched land in search of water.
Those great adventures taught him much about the resources that the land provides. Respect, endurance, and tolerance are some of the life skills that he developed on the hot sands of the Sahara. He needs those skills now, as fate has chosen him to become an island dweller.