Short story in four chapters.
I woke up on a beach with a pounding headache and dry mouth. I was wearing a T-shirt that said More Love, Less Hate, a pair of jeans, and sneakers. I still had my wallet, and my phone was in a front pocket; I never put it in back after sitting on the previous one and breaking it.
Wishing I had Tylenol or Advil, I stared at the aqua water beating on the shore. To the right, the beach seemed to stretch on forever before rounding the far curve of this place. On the left, the beach stopped at a thick strand of trees that grew right down to the water.
Panic surged through me. I didn’t know where I was or how I’d gotten here.
“Where the hell am I?” a woman said behind me.
I turned my head to look at her, and a sharp jab of pain went from my temples to my neck, making me groan. She was about my age or younger—I guessed around twenty-eight—and had long brown hair. She wore shorts and a sleeveless cotton top. In one hand she carried a pair of flip-flops; the other was pressed to the side of her head.
“Let me guess. You have a headache.”
She looked at me. “Killer. You, too?”
“Yeah.” I’d been tempted to nod, but decided speaking would be less painful. “To answer your question, I don’t know where we are.” She gingerly sat beside me, and we gazed out at the ocean. “I suspect we were drugged and brought here.”
“Because of the headaches?”
“That, and I can’t remember anything after talking to some guy in an antique shop.” I’d been wandering in and out of the tourist places on Cape Cod, enjoying the first vacation I’d had in years, when I’d spotted a sign that read The Dusty Dirigible. Unable to ignore its siren call, I’d gone inside and inspected a jumble of overpriced heirlooms and relics. A man had approached me—nothing special but nice-looking. He’d asked me if I was looking for something in particular, and I said no and backed toward the door, wanting to escape the sales pitch. He’d moved toward me, put his hand on my arm, and then—
Nothing, until I’d woken up here.
“Same thing happened to me.” She brushed sand off her legs and sighed. “I was in Fountain Square—that’s in Rockville, Maryland—watching the kids play in the water jets, when a middle-aged guy sat beside me and commented on how much he enjoyed the laughter of children. Next thing I know, I’m waking up here. My friends are going to be so worried. We were shopping for someone’s birthday present and separated briefly. I was tired and wanted to rest a few minutes.” Her voice thickened as she quietly cried.
I put an arm around her, and she leaned into me. “I was on Cape Cod with my boyfriend. He stayed at home this morning to get ready for some friends who are visiting this weekend.” I wondered what time it was and hauled out my phone to check. “Dead. I suppose I should have expected that.”
“I’d say it’s about eleven, judging by the position of the sun.” She frowned. “Doesn’t it look a little odd to you somehow?”
“What, the sun?” I squinted at it. “Looks the same as always.”
“It’s seems smaller.”
“Must be your imagination. Feels the same anyway. Nice and warm.” I got to my feet and held down a hand to her. “Come on. Let’s explore.”
“What are we looking for?” She allowed me to help her up.
“Other people, houses, signs… anything to tell us where we are. Fresh water would be good, too. I’m thirsty.”
We went right, following the beach. Birds chattered in the jungle, and a mild breeze kept me comfortable as we walked.
I was still freaked out, but being with someone helped keep me calm. We’d figure this out. In the meantime, we weren’t starving yet, wild animals or cannibals weren’t trying to kill us, and the sky was a clear blue, meaning there were no big-ass tropical storms on the way.
“My name’s Jon, by the way. I live in New York City.”
“I’m Shelly. Call me Shell. I live in Rockville.”
“Yet somehow, despite living in two different states, we both ended up on this beach and don’t remember how we got here. Weird.” I pinched myself. “Nope, not dreaming. Wide fucking awake.”
She chuckled weakly. “Already pinched myself and came to the same conclusion. What do you do for a living?”
“I’m a tax accountant. You?”
“Are you or your parents wealthy?”
“Not by the wildest stretch of imagination.”
“Same here, so why would anyone want to drug and kidnap us? We’re not spies, we ain’t rich… what the hell.”
The sand was firm enough, we were able to trudge along without much effort, but after a few minutes, I started to sweat. It was hot, and there was humidity. The jungle closed in on the beach as we went south, but just when I thought we’d have to brave the trees, the strip of sand widened again.
It took us about three hours to get back to where we’d started, just a few yards past the trees near the water. We’d pushed through without a problem. “We’re on an island then.”
Shell bit her lip. “And no sign of habitation.”
“There has to be something here besides sand, salt water, and jungle.”
“Why does there have to be?” Her voice was sharp and demanding. “This is all there is!”
“Doesn’t make sense to bring us here, then let us die of thirst.” When she started to sit, I hauled her back on her feet. “Nope. We’re doing this again. We must have missed something.”
“Yup. That’s me. An asshole who, if he doesn’t get water soon, is going to pass out.”
This time around, we kept our eyes on the jungle rather than our feet or the beach, and soon spotted a trail that led off into the trees.
Shell hung back. “There might be snakes in there.”
“Probably is, but we have to find fresh water, and that means going inland.”
She put on her flip-slops. “Lead on then.”
I went first and discovered the path was fairly clear. I only rarely had to hold branches out of Shell’s way. Whoever made it had kept it in good shape.
I heard birds, but I never saw any. I wondered about wild boar, which were more dangerous than snakes, but didn’t see any of those either.
After about half an hour, we broke into a clearing, and in that clearing was a thatched hut. I stopped cold, and Shell bumped my back.
“What?” she asked, sounding like a tired toddler.
I moved her out from behind me. “Look.”
She looked. “Wow. It has a porch and everything.” Raising her voice, she called, “Hello! Anyone home?”
There was no answer. We both called, and after getting no response, cautiously approached the structure. It looked brand new, and I saw nothing that indicated anyone was living there.
“Don’t you find this strange?” I said as I climbed the steps to the porch.
“I don’t really care as long as there’s food and water inside.”
After knocking a few times, we went in. The door wasn’t locked. We checked the place out and found a living room, bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen. The furniture throughout was untouched, as if had just delivered and put in place. The fridge was full of food, the freezer was loaded with meat and fish, and wonders of all wonders, when I turned on the faucet, water came out.
I tasted it. “Fresh.”
Shell opened cabinet doors until she found cups, grabbed two of them, and handed me one. We filled them and drank.
“Damn, that tastes good,” she proclaimed, smacking her lips. She filled the cup a second time.
I turned on a burner on the electric stove. It heated. “Where’s the power coming from?”
“I didn’t see any.”
“Maybe they buried them. Maybe it’s solar or wind. Who cares? We have a place to stay until we figure out what’s going on.”
This didn’t feel at all right, but as there was nothing I could do about it at present, I set my worries aside. We made sandwiches using stuff from the fridge and ate them eagerly, then went back out on the porch and sat in the swing.
“No cellphone reception, no land line—I checked. Now what?” Shell rocked the swing in tandem with me, moving her feet when I did.
“I don’t know.” Having access to food and water had improved my spirits immensely, but now that basic survival needs had been met, I was more determined than ever to find out what was going on.