Short SciFi: Rebirth Of The Hzaighlans - Part I
Amanda was only twelve when she followed in her father's footsteps who had lived and died on the Grand Banks. She began serving as a deck youth on a huge trawling ship and grew to adulthood on the open seas, mending nets and helping to prepare meals below deck. Although the work was hard it was well paid, and there were other activities that Amanda engaged in below deck with the lonely male sailors that significantly supplemented her income.
She had set out on a bright, hot October day on the Virgen De Guadalupe out of Ensenada to the rich bottom-trawling areas of the western Pacific. Once they were almost a thousand miles out of port on the way to the main rockfish grounds, a huge typhoon wrecked the ship leaving her floating alone and clinging to a ragged piece of timber.
Her thirst and hunger threatened to plunge her into unconsciousness to quickly end up as fodder for the sharks that circled her continuously. After five days of not daring to sleep, Amanda felt the hallucinations of her fevered brain finally conquering her body. She tried to fight against them, as she knew that as soon as she let herself fall to sleep, she would fall off her precarious perch to be shredded by the sharks.
She clung on for her life through yet another night. As dawn broke through the darkness, she saw land to the west. Could it have been another hallucination, she asked herself? She tried to focus through foggy eyes. The land was still there. Hallucination or not, she knew she had only the strength for a few more hours of life. She would expend that energy in paddling towards that mysterious sight.
Tiny sharks nibbled at her legs as she paddled furiously toward the land. A large shark was attracted by the blood in the water, and forced her to play dead for hours as it circled. Finally, the shark lost interest and disappeared, and Amanda started paddling again. The sun had set and she had not yet reached the land. She was so close but simply did not have the strength to continue. She tucked her bleeding legs under her body to protect them from the tiny sharks and fell into unconsciousness.
When Amanda awoke, she was flat on her side on a rocky beach, the surf washing up by her bleeding, nibbled legs. She shook herself awake, and found it hard to convince herself for an instant that she was not dead. She had washed up on a small cove which was ringed with fruit trees. She dragged herself on scarred hands and knees up to the nearest orchard and began to feed on the juicy, rotted fallen fruits which lay on the ground. She stayed in that orchard for three days, virtually motionless except for the feeding on the bounty which surrounded her, as her body slowly healed.
After a few more days, she was able to stand and walk around, albeit painfully. She was able to reach some of the fresher fruits on the lower branches of the trees and enjoyed them far more than the overripe selections which had already fallen. It was two weeks, maybe more, before she felt sufficently strong to venture from this orchard which had saved her life.
She began to walk south along the shore, hoping perhaps that she had landed one of the Philippine Islands. There had to be a fishing village or town somewhere and she might be able to get passage back home. She walked south for several days, eating fruits and grasses by day and resting under overhangs by night. She encountered many wild animals she had never seen before, but she just shrugged it off as strange jungle fauna. She was a woman of the sea and knew little of the land. There were many large, four legged herbivorous reptiles with enormous tails and long, thin necks munching on grasses and ferns. They were somewhat similar to the iguanas she had seen when they were in port in Baja California, but five times the size.
She walked for several more days, and by this time was convinced that she would have reached some type of human settlement if she were in the Philippines. She was beginning to understand that she was stranded here on what was likely an uninhabited island, very possibly for the rest of her life, and there was nothing she could do but to make herself as comfortable as possible. She had debated with herself for days whether there was any reason to keep walking. Should she just establish a camp in a fertile orchard near the sea and just sit and live out her life? Or should she keep walking hoping to encounter something, anything, which could get her home? She had slowed her frenetic earlier pace of walking down to barely a couple of miles a day. There was no hurry now. She realized that there was little, if anything, on this island which would prey on her and there was more than enough food all around her. There were strange tropical fruits everywhere, and the sea was so full of fish she could wade in and catch one with her bare hands whenever she wished. There were some small, lethargic lizards which tasted a bit like the chicken at home, except they seemed to be all spongy dark meat, with none of the tasty white meat. She thanked her stars that she knew how to start fire in a minute with a bowed stick. At least she didn't have to eat these things raw.
In the distance she saw a large mountain range which was a considerable break from the low rolling hills she had seen so far on this island. She sped up her pace as she thought that there might be human settlements in the valley beyond. She crested the mountain range and began descending to the valleys. These areas were thick with vegetation and the canopy overhead blocked out the sun except for a few random rays which reached the surface. She was just arriving at her first flat area after her long steep descent when she saw several large trees that had been broken like matchsticks. As she turned to see them, she noticed that there were more broken trees behind them, as if a huge tornado had cut a swath through the forest. She figured that this path was much easier to traverse than the slow slog pushing through the overgrown forest floor so she turned along it. She had to walk a zigzag path as there were large, regularly spaced puddles all along this trail. She had walked along for a couple of hundred yards when she realized that the puddles were too regularly spaced. She stopped to look at one of them. Not only were all the puddles the same size but they alternated right and left. Like... footprints. Suddenly she heard the sound of timber cracking and the seismic thump of something enormous running towards her. Her panic froze her long enough to be able to peek through the trees to see a giant two-legged dinosaur coming straight for her. It seemed as time stood still for a moment. She remembered watching Jurassic Park as a little girl on tv. This was not too different. But that was just a movie. How could these huge lizards still be alive today? But there was no time to worry about that. She had to snap out of her timewarp and run for her life!
She ran off the trail into the thick underbrush, hoping that the giant lizard would be slowed down by having to smash through trees. She jumped and ran and clambered as fast as she could, the branches scraping and cutting her as she ran. She arrived back at the long cliff and began to climb it as fast as she could. The giant dinosaur was right behind her and as she climbed, he jumped up to grab her, but his enormous mouth only made contact with the rock a few feet below her. She kept on climbing up the almost sheer cliff until she finally was able to stop on a small rock ledge to catch her breath. By this time she was more than 500 feet above the forest floor and safe from any of the valley reptiles. There was nowhere to go now but back to the shores. She would never survive the descent onto those plains, as she would be chased down and eaten as soon as she got to the bottom of the steep cliffs which fortunately seemed to act as an effective barrier to the huge lizards.
There was nowhere to go now, but back towards the coast. Even a life of endless tropical boredom had more to recommend itself than a quick death in the jaws of a giant lizard, she thought. She carefully retraced her steps through the mountain pass and back down to the green, fertile, hospitable coastal plains. She convinced herself that there were a lot worse places on this giant, unpopulated island to spend one's life.
She found a sheltered cove teeming with fish on a sandy beach, surrounded on three sides by a bounteous orchard. To the north of the cove was a deep, wide cave for shelter. She settled there almost exactly two months after she had washed ashore far to the north. In that year she had walked for countless miles, seen sights that no human had likely ever seen, and yet was still completely, and totally alone.