Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter Eighty Eight

Pancho set Sebastian gently in the lee of a large rock, sheltered as best he could from the oncoming storm. He cursed his inability to carry Sebastian back to the safety of the trees, but with the rain beginning, he knew it was better to keep his friend dry and still. Seb had a huge lump at the back of his head, but it wasn't bleeding. He hoped the explanation would be simple.

It had been months since they emerged from the cavern, with their loads of supplies. The Watcher had made it clear they were on their own, and so the young men had considered the possibilities in case another shipwreck occured: they would bury a few supplies around the island as well as maintaining their platforms in the trees. If strangers came, they would hide until they knew it was safe, and they made sure to let each other know where they were working each day.

But after weeks of solitude, Pancho and Sebastian let their guard down. They relished the quiet, the songs of the birds, the easy rhythm of life on the island. Once the platforms were finished, they had time for experimenting, for making music, for playing. It was easy to think they were safe on the island, and alone. And aside from their weekly survey of the beaches and paths, they stopped thinking about contingency plans.

Pancho set off for the closest cache of emergency rations and supplies, hoping it was still intact. Hoping,

Once there, he grabbed the bag containing a length of shelter cloth, a blanket and a flask of water. Carefully, he replaced the cover on the cache and ran back to Sebastian.

All night long, while the rain came down and the waves beat at the shore, Pancho watched anxiously over his friend. All night long, when a branch fell nearby, or the wind gusted a little harder, or the rain let up, Pancho would peer out from the sheltered rock, gripping the largest rock he could hold, watching for any movement, listening for any sound.

It seemed Sebastian would never wake, but toward the dawn, he stirred and tried to sit up. Pancho gently shushed him and adjusted the jacket he had placed under his head for a pillow.

"Where?" he began, reaching out with his hands in the dark.

Pancho sighed with relief, "We're under a rock shelter at the beach. You were hurt and a storm came..." Pancho's voice cracked.

Sebastian tried again to sit up, but Pancho kept his hand on his shoulder. "What happened, Seb? I found you half the island away from your basket."

"Oh..." Sebastian flailed for words.

"I was looking for driftwood to make a new table, and I went around the island. I found some pretty rocks I was going to bring home to you." Sebastian put his hand to his head and felt around for the lump, "And I decided to try come back and get you to help me carry the wood. But as I was climbing up the dune..." he paused, and in the growing light Pancho saw uncertainty flash on Seb's face. The rain was gone, the breeze off the water was back to normal.

"You don't know, do you?" it was more a statement, and Pancho punctuated his words with a helpless gesture. "You got hit on the head -- or fell -- on the other side of the island; and you show up here."

They sat in silence for a spell, then Pancho stood. "I'll be back in a few minutes. I want to look around."

Stepping outside, he looked to the horizon and saw a bright fire spreading along the water. Dawn was here.

The sea grasses were still bent from the wind, held down by the rain. Here and there, a larger clump of reeds stood upright, stronger against storms, but the tips broken off by the ferocity of the winds.

A shorebird wandered by the water's edge, and Pancho followed its track up the beach. There was a new collection of driftwood, the odd strange shell, a fish or two, battered by the waves during the storm lay still, bits and pieces of seaweed festooning their sides. He could not see any trace of Sebastian's passage of the day before, nor of his own.

Shaking his head, Pancho returned to the rock, to see Sebastian sitting up, drinking the last of the water from the flask.

"So?" Sebastian looked at Pancho.

"So, the storm removed all trace of our passage last night. If anything remains of whatever happened to you, it is likely also gone.

"Come. We'll set out for home." He reached out and pulled his friend up, noting that he winced as he stood and held his head slightly to one side.

Slowly, slowly they made their way back to the forest, along paths swept clean and smooth by the storm.

Here a pile of rubble, washed along by the rains, gathered in a hollow; a collection of leaves and grasses pushed up against the roots of a tree.

Finally, they reached the edge of the forest. The paths were littered with twigs, leaves, bits of nesting. One or two trees at the edge had succumbed to the wind, but the interior of the forest seemed a calm refuge from the changes outside. Still, branches had fallen, here and there a brief bright spot on the ground promised a seedling a better chance than formerly.

The closest platform was damaged, so they moved on, watching for the changes.

Under the next platform sat the basket Sebastian had left on the beach, with Pancho's staff leaning against it.

A bird hopped nearby, and another sang from a nearby shrub. And the sun's light grew stronger.