That night in bed, with Shell curled around me, we talked about it in low voices.
“Someone scratched that word in the sand,” she said. “That means someone’s watching us. Have you noticed any cameras anywhere? In the hut or the jungle?”
“I haven’t seen any.”
The night had cooled down, and she pulled the blanket up. “It’s damn creepy, is what it is.” She burrowed into my shoulder. “I want to go home.”
She started to cry, and I pulled her closer. Having no one else to turn to, we’d gotten close the last couple weeks.
The more I thought about the word on the beach, the angrier I became. Not only was someone watching us, they were messing with us.
What the hell did it mean? That word could be used for just about anything, but reducing it to it most basic meaning, it indicated frustration, rage, or… someone was telling us to get it on.
We’d been moved to this island somehow and provided with shelter and food. We were alone, except for someone we hadn’t seen or heard. I missed Mitch and was feeling sexually deprived. There was nothing bi about me. I was physically attracted only to men. Much as I liked Shell, and despite sharing the same bed every night, I didn’t want to jump her. There was no chance we’d fuck, so if that’s what the word meant, the writer was shit out of luck. I simply didn’t think of her that way.
What she thought of me, I hadn’t asked and didn’t plan to.
The next morning, I was up early. Leaving Shell still asleep, I trotted naked along the path to the beach. I was sick of the clothes I’d arrived in, and even though they were clean, they were torn and stained from knocking around the island. We’d explored as much of it as we could and found nothing but trees. There wasn’t even a hidden lagoon or waterfall. The hut and beach were pretty much it.
FUCK was still on the sand. I saw it as an accusation and a warning.
My anger from last night returned full force, and I leaped on the writing, trampling the letters under my feet until they were gone. “Who the fuck are you? Show yourself, you sadist. Come on! Tell me why we’re here.”
Furious, I stalked to the edge of the water and stared out to sea. Birdsong but no birds. No snakes, no boars, no deer… nothing.
Was there even fish in this ocean? I’d never seen any.
I waded into the gentle waves and swam straight to the horizon.
At first I was overly aware of my dangly bits and a possible Great White biting them off—visions of Jaws, which was a favorite movie of mine and Mitch’s—but when nothing happened after a few minutes, I relaxed and concentrated on swimming.
Where I was going, I had no idea. I just needed to move, feel my muscles working, forget myself in the repetitive, almost soothing motion of the crawl.
After about five minutes, I stopped and floated, resting. I was in pretty good shape from regular visits to the gym, but swimming in salt water was taxing. Also, my anger had faded, leaving me with less desire to behave erratically. Just because I couldn’t see sharks—or any other ocean creatures—didn’t mean they weren’t there.
I was about to turn around and return to the beach when I saw a flash of light a few feet above the water about thirty yards away. Something larger than a firefly, but smaller than the output of a camera flash, had sparked and vanished.
I slowly swam toward the spot… and ran into an invisible wall.