The soft sound of waves was lapping in the distance. Was I near the ocean? My mouth felt dry and I was having trouble breathing through my nose. I inhaled and immediately coughed out a large amount of salt water and sand. I was finally coming back to. I was laying face down on a beach of white sand. I pushed myself up and coughed up any remaining sea water that I could get out of my lungs. I was sore in places I didn’t know I could feel pain, my clothing was torn to shreds, and I was missing one of my boots.
I looked around and saw no one. I realized that my father must be dead, no one could have survived that storm. How was I still alive? Where could I possibly be? I slowly stood up and dragged myself into the cover of the trees behind the white sand. The sun was beating down and the cover of the tropical leaves created a more relaxing environment.
I licked my lips and felt how dry they had become. I desperately needed to get some water, and fast. I knew my hair had to be a giant tangled mess. I tried to comb my fingers through the knots, but that didn’t get me anywhere. I gave up and pulled my hair back, tying it in a tangled knot with a scrap of cloth from my torn skirts. I pulled off my remaining boot and pulled the laces out, it might come in handy soon.
I stood up and decided to head into the jungle to look for fresh water, and possible inhabitants on the island. After what must have been about an hour walking forward, I came to another sand beach. I looked to my right then to my left, I could see how the island curved around, proving that this particular island was quite a small one. Definitely not large enough to house human life.
I sank down to my knees, feeling defeated. I was going to die alone on this island. Why couldn’t I have died in the sea with my father? It would have been a better death than starving to death alone on some island in God knows where. I let my body fall to the ground and closed my eyes, heavy with the weight of hunger and dehydration.
When I woke I knew a few hours had passed, the sun was a little lower in the sky than it had been before. I put my hand on the ground to push myself up and came to contact with a hard fuzzy rock. I picked it up and examined it, and I knew then that it wasn’t a rock but a fruit called a coconut. My father had told me about them, they contained a fluid and a sweet flesh inside. I had to get the fruit open so I could get to the water inside.
I looked around for a rock to break it open but found nothing but soft sand and trees. I followed along the beach and found a large rock formation jetting out of the ground from the sea. I ran as fast as I could to the edge and started to pound the coconut on the rock, after a few weak thrusts I felt it start to crack open. I put the crack to my kips and let the fluid drip out into my mouth.
It was like heaven. The liquid was light and sweet. Once the fluid was gone I cracked the coconut open into pieces and scraped out the white flesh with my nails and teeth. It wasn’t as sweet as the water, but it was food and I needed something in my stomach. After I devoured what I could, I went and found more fallen coconuts and ate and drank as much as my stomach could hold.
The sun would be going down soon. I needed to find shelter, but there was nothing on this island but sand and trees. If I had more daylight I would try to find means to start a fire, but the sun was nearly set and there was not enough time. I was too tired to move, I fell to the ground under a large palm tree and immediately fell asleep.
My ears were muffled, it sounded like I was under water. But that couldn’t be, I was breathing just fine. I opened my eyes and saw an array of colors glowing around me. Everything was blurry. I blinked my eyes a few times and my blurred vision subsided. Now that I could see clearly I knew my first thought was right…I was under water.
There colors I saw dancing around were actually coming from brightly colored fish and coral that seemed to be glowing in the sunlight shining through the waves. I reached out to touch a patch of beautiful lavender colored coral and was startled to see scaled webbing between my fingers and little fins over my knuckles. The scales were translucent but had an iridescent shine that reflected a rainbow of colors.
Suddenly I heard a voice calling out to me, “Cora.”
I looked in all directions but I couldn’t see anything. I opened my mouth to call out, but no noise left my lips.
Then I heard the voice again, “Cora.”, it was louder this time.
I tried to call out again, and again no sound left my lips. What was going on?
“Cora.”, the voice called out, this time it felt like it was inside my skull, “Cora, you must hang on. Follow your heart, follow the sea.
By the time I opened my eyes the sun was already high in the sky. I had been on this island for three days now. Coconuts had been the main ingredient to my survival. I drank coconut milk, ate coconut flesh, and used the hairs from the outside of the fruit to act as dried flint to start my fires. I was strong and I was alive, but I was really starting to get sick of the flavor and smell of coconut.
I needed to find some real food, some meat to fill my belly. The only animals I had seen on this island were bright colored birds, and I didn’t have a weapon to try and capture one. The best option I had was to try to catch some fish. I found a piece of driftwood on the beach and did the best I could to break pieces off to create a spear. I went into the water, but I couldn’t find any fish near the beach, my plan wasn’t going to work. After a few hours I was exhausted from my efforts.
Looking out into the water, I started to feel calm and relaxed. The waves seemed to be calling to me, memories of my dream from the night before started to flood into my mind. I decided that I would go for a swim in the shallow waves. I loosened the laces on my corset and striped away all of my clothing. I was alone on this island after all, no one would be able to see my naked body. After I removed my shredded chemise, I started into the water. The sea on my bare skin felt like liquid silk, hugging all the curves and crevices of my body.
I laid back and floated over the soft waves. Closing my eyes, I let the waves rock my body back and forth. I’m not sure how long I let myself float there, but I was startled to hear voices somewhere in the distance. I stopped floating and brought my head up from the water, my feet were barely touching the sand on the ocean floor. I scanned the beach for the source of the voices but saw nothing. Then I realized the voices were coming from behind me in the direction of the sea.
My eyes widened as I took in the sight before me. There was a small boat with six men rowing to the beach, behind them was a large and dark ship. The sails were colored with a dark red. I searched for a flag to find what country the ship belonged to, but only found a plain black flag flying high above the sails. It had to be a pirate ship.
I had no where to go, I was trapped in the water and I was stark naked. There wasn’t enough time to try and escape toward the beach, the small boat was too close, and I wouldn’t be able to outswim it. The best I could do was stay where I was and pray to God that these men wouldn’t harm me. They were only a few meters away and I could see the questioning faces that they wore.
“Oy! What are ye woman? Are ye some sort a siren?”, the man at closest to me shouted with a pistol aimed in my direction.
“Be ready to cover yer ears lads, don’t let her beauty fool ye. Merfolk play tricks with yer eyes and ears.”, a heavy set man at the back of the boat added.
Siren? Merfolk? These men really thought I was some sort of mystic being? Though I couldn’t blame them for thinking so. My general appearance was not what any typical lady looked like. My white hair and bright eyes alone could fool anyone into thinking I was some sort of magical creature. Plus, I knew my naked form would not help me in this situation.
The boat was closer now, only a meter or so away. The man with the pistol spoke again with his deep voice. “Aye lass, tell us what you are or I’ll shoot ye. And I never miss my mark.”
The man sitting next to him added, “Sea creatures don’t speak languages of men, she must be a siren. Look at er hair an eyes, humans do not hold this beauty. I say ye shoot er Captain.”
So the man at the front was the Captain, I could see his hesitation at the man’s words, deciding whether or not he should kill me now. I had to speak before it was too late.
“Wait! P-please sir don’t shoot! I’m not a siren or anything like that. Please don’t kill me!”, I pleaded with the men before me.
I could see the shock in the men’s faces. The Captain kept his pistol aimed at me, but I could see his shoulders relax slightly.
“Who are you? You speak with the words of a lady.”, the Captain spoke more clearly this time and left out his shortened pirate dialect.
I cleared my throat and tried to speak as clearly as I could so these men would know I was a proper lady and not some evil sea creature, “My name is Coraline Lignum Ashton. I was aboard the Lignum Vitae, we hit a storm four days ago. I woke up on this island.”
The Captain lowered his pistol at my words, “Ashton? Are you related to Oliver Ashton?”
Thank God he knew my fathers name, I felt some slight relief and answered, “Yes Sir, he is my father.”, I paused then spoke again, “Well he was my father, I don’t think he survived the storm.”
“I am sorry to hear that miss. Captain Ashton was a good man.”, the captain said with sad eyes, “I am Captain Phineas Tucker, you may call me Captain Phin my lady.”, he said with a slight bow of his head.