Merik opened his eyes only to slam them shut as the light of the sun jabbed into them.
“Agh,” he grunted then rolled over with a groan. He winced as pain flared from his abdomen coupled by another wave of it from his head. He grasped both his side and his forehead, and with a grit of his teeth, forced himself to sit up. Pain rolled with it as he did along with a brief sense of vertigo. He sat still, waiting several breaths for the migraine to dull into a throb, before opening his eyes. When he did, he took a sharp intake of breath.
As far as the eye could see, the ocean stretched on and on without end.
No land. No ship. No rescue. No nothing.
“Oh, no, no, no,” he groaned. He’d forgotten what had happened the night before, forgotten that he was soaked, hurt, and cast adrift in the raft in the middle of nowhere.
“God, why? Just why?” he mumbled as he scanned the empty horizon. And this was supposed to be a fun trip, he thought. What the hell are we going to do now? He turned to voice just that but ended up gasping instead. The raft was empty, save himself, a small oar sticking to the side, and the fabric roof of the raft. The small bag that held the emergency transmitter and supplies, that all life rafts were supposed to have, was missing. Only the small rope that had been attached to it remained. Its end: ripped.
But none of that concerned him. In fact, it was all oblivious to him. Only one thing mattered and one thing only: Where are my friends!?
He grabbed the sides of his head and tried to recall the events of the night prior.
He remembered the storm, the rolling and crashing of waves as the ship struggled to rise above each swell, Ashley’s scream for help in the cabin when the desk slid and pinned her, Ryan’s desperate yell to grab the life raft, then… The wave.
Merik sat up straight. The memories came without mercy; the small rolled-up bundled raft under his arm, then the inky dark wall rising above him with the flash of lightning just as it rushed forth, his back slamming into the cabin wall, destroying all direction as the deck suddenly became the sky and the cold water, the floor.
Capsized, the word came to him as he held the ripped rope in his hand. He remembered how he’d panicked and pulled the raft’s cord, inflating it underwater, underneath the ship like an idiot. His arms ached with memory of thrashing in the darkness as the raft dragged him upwards across the ship’s hard surface, then to its edge. There was a jolt and he was yanked back. Something had snagged onto the raft. For several heart-wrenching seconds, Merik knew he would die. Something crashed into the ship, and he was yanked up or was it down? He could no longer tell. Something snapped. Merik felt his arm get pulled from its socket. He screamed, and seawater rushed down his throat. He’d drowned. But then, cool air filled with thousands of icy needles pecked his cheeks. The roar of the sea, the wind, the lightning surrounded him as he broke the surface. He gagged for air as wave after heavy wave tried to force him back into the black depths. Adrenaline and the will to live coursed through his veins. His grip tightened on the raft. He kicked, and he pulled, and he kicked. Then, he fell forward. His face hit the hard water-proof fabric. By the grace of God, he’d made it into the raft. What happened next? He couldn’t remember.
But he knew now as he sat alone in that orange raft adrift among each calm wave rising and falling and rising and falling, spraying the taste of salt upon his lips; the cirrus clouds floating above in the morning’s sky and the sun’s warm rays raining against his skin...
The Polaris had sunk. The Polaris had sunk with the supply kit. The Polaris had left him...
“Alone,” the bitter word rose from his lips like a thick vapor among the wind. The Polaris was gone, that meant that everyone was–“No!” he spat, shaking his head.
He grabbed his shoulders and began to rock back and forth.
“No,” he whispered.
It couldn’t be. It just couldn’t be. They couldn’t be. No, he refused to believe it. Daren was not gone. No! H-he couldn’t be gone. Andrew couldn’t, Ash couldn’t, Ryan couldn’t–Hell! Definitely not Ryan. That guy could live through anything!
Then, where are they? a small voice in the back of his mind whispered. Merik raised his eyes; the raft's emptiness watching him. How did they survive? There was only one emergency raft and you’re on it.
Merik swallowed hard as the words resounded in his head. One raft...
“But-but, they just…I couldn’t have been the only one to…” he trailed off. The taste of salt upon his lips grew moist as tears rolled down, mixing with the seawater. Merik knew the truth, even if he didn’t want to believe it.
Everyone aboard The Polaris: his best friend, Daren and his brother, Ryan, his friend Andrew, and Ashley, they’d all gone down with the ship during the storm. Only he had survived.
Merik closed his eyes. He raised his head to the sky. He drew in a shaky breath and tried to contain the pain and tears that streamed from his clenched eyes as that painful truth once again sank into the depths of his soul:
He was alone.