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Showcasing creative writing by university students around the world.

Gustaf-Lord-sunrose

Illustration by Gustaf Lord

Published Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Words by

The Sun Rose

The sun rose on a small island in the Pacific, same as it did for everywhere else, lighting up pink clouds against a blue sky. A man, in isolation, trotted along the beach, footprints trailing behind him. The large wreck of the plane that had brought him there, a Boeing 747, lay behind him some distance away. Its belly was smashed up on the beach, while its nose had found its way into the bushes and trees some months ago, and had chosen to remain there.

The sun rose on a small island in the Pacific, same as it did for everywhere else, lighting up pink clouds against a blue sky. A man, in isolation, trotted along the beach, footprints trailing behind him. The large wreck of the plane that had brought him there, a Boeing 747, lay behind him some distance away. Its belly was smashed up on the beach, while its nose had found its way into the bushes and trees some months ago, and had chosen to remain there. The man did not spare even a second glance at this behemoth, and seemed unaware that it was there. Strangely tranquil, he enjoyed the cool breeze on his face, a remnant of the night’s coldness that had not yet entirely been overcome by the oncoming onslaught of tropical heat. He would be found. For months he had not, and yet he could feel it coming, a wind of hope. He was the prisoner of this island; the first prisoner, for he was sure no one had inhabited it before. But today it did not feel like a prison so much as an ephemeral thing, a waiting lounge. Thoughts wandered home. She would be waiting, a woman tall and slender of figure who liked summer dresses and had an almost obsessive love for painting. He recalled her stare, a wide eyed gaze that at once betrayed both naiveté and maturity, and enticed one to look back and be lost for an age. He wanted to be lost.

 

The island was temperamental. The clouds thickened, and floated across the sky, temporarily hiding the sun and shrouding the sand in greyness. He descended a flight of stone stairs carved into the high rocks and continued down a decrepit stone path that eventually disappeared into sand and tide. There, he came across a bottle, half buried in the sand, almost empty but for a scroll of paper slotted in. He knelt to pick it up, and retrieved a note from inside. The handwriting was distinctly recognisable as his own hurried scrawl. He had sent out dozens of these bottles, messages to the world, to a potential rescuer. Please rescue me. Cleverly, he had hoped to assist them in finding him by drawing, in as much detail as he could, the shape of the island on which he was imprisoned. Through modern technology, they should have been able to match it with the shape of the island on their maps, and pinpoint exactly where he was. One of these bottles must have returned.

 

But suddenly he was perplexed, for the now faded drawing on the map was not the shape of the island he was on, which resembled Africa, but an altogether alien outline. Confusion turned to anger. He would never be found! The notes had been his only hope of showing the world exactly where he was. For some reason, the sketch in this message had the wrong shape, the wrong island, leaving the right one devoid of hope.

 

The sun danced in and out of the clouds, leaving the island either infuriatingly bright or a drab shade of grey. At the edge of the beach there was an ages old marble statue of an angel, stood on one foot, hand outstretched as if pointing to some freedom beyond the sea. He now found himself slumped against this stone angel. There are no angels here, nor demons. He was a forlorn figure, alone in loneliness; he had shouted at the sea, at the world, at the sun, even at god, but they did not give way, and he turned to go home. At sunset he passed the awful wreck that had left him stranded on the island, a large cargo ship that had run aground, spilling its contents across the sand. He was acutely aware of that conspicuous intruder, and his mind dwelled on it even as his feet left it behind. Finally, he arrived at the familiar lamp post, its base buried in weeds. Turning right, he returned home.

 

The new day saw a fresh set of footprints appear in the sand. Its maker trudged along the beach. Had it been a year? His original methods of keeping track had failed, his tallies now hopelessly antiquated. He barely noticed the train wreck on the edge of the island. He barely noticed the deer that crossed his path,

only to suddenly stop and stare at him, petrified. Life drifted, almost at a halt. Hope washed away.

 

His mind wandered once again to the woman. Take your mind off her. He knew, in that moment, facing the waters beyond, that he would never see her again. But his mind remained where it was. Without any real hope of it ever being seen, he retrieved the bottle from a collection of his belongings. He took the misleading message out, and started writing furiously on its back. This is for you. He slowly walked to the edge and thrust it away into a hungry sea. Willpower meant little here, but he willed that she would see it, would find it. At long last, his gaze turned away from the sea, and he decided to retire.

 

He kept his shelter close to the beach, in a cave carved into the side of a precipice. Turning left at the lamp post each evening, he would walk some way through shrubbery before finding an abandoned street, always under a starry sky. Out of uneasiness, he always kept his walks through that street short. Eventually, he would emerge from the street of dilapidated buildings into a stone courtyard, of which the most notable feature was a statue of an angel, head hung in resignation with one hand on her forehand. The courtyard had ornate walls, covered with vines and various flowers and lit by oil lamps. Through the courtyard was the cave. Making sure to wipe his feet on the drab ‘HOME SWEET HOME’ mat, he would enter it for the night.

 

That night, sleep brought an unfamiliar dream. He found himself seated, grasping a round rubber circle in his hands. Yes, that was it. He was driving. She was next to him. He turned to her to say something. When he turned back, he saw a large creature illuminated by his headlights. In a moment, it unfolded. A sudden, sharp breath of air. The rapid turning of the steering wheel. A gasp, headlights staring back at him. Darkness.

 

The sun rose again. He awoke feeling liberated, in wonder at his strange dream. He understood, even though he knew nothing new. Energetically, he ran out, through the courtyard, down the street of unblemished red brick buildings under a morning sky, and jogged through the shrubbery to the lamp post. The sun was just starting to peer over the trees on the horizon. He paid little attention to the crumbling car wreck on the beach that had left him stranded. He spied the Empire State Building in the distance behind the trees. He jogged with increasing vigour, and suddenly was there, in a morning in New York. He saw her slender frame, her elegant gait as she walked forward. He ran down the street to her; this was his homecoming. He found himself at a standstill in front ofher. For a long time their eyes locked, neither speaking, each staring. The sun rose further. Finally, he smiled sadly:

 

“But I can’t even remember who you are.”
She smiled; this observation seemed to mean very little to her, and she took his hand as they walked. He couldn’t remember who she was, or even who he was. And he presently forgot where he was. But none of this mattered; he wanted nothing more. They reached a pier on the beach. Everything about it was familiar. He spent a few forevers standing there, his fingers not leaving hers. The sun set a final time on New York, the lamp post and the mat in front of the cave.

 

One late afternoon, a tall, slender women dressed wholly in black ushered the last of the guests out of the house and solemnly shut the door. For a moment, her grace and angelic demeanour were broken as she slumped to the floor, a hopeless shell lost at sea, alone in loneliness. As she looked up, her eyes slowly wandered. In the garden, white walls covered in vines. Out the window, the now empty garage. In front of her, a vibrant painting of angels, one sad, one hopeful. But then she spied something she had never seen before out of the corners of her now widened eyes. She slowly stood back up and walked to the table in the living room. There it was.
A bottle, almost empty but for a scroll of paper slotted in.

 

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