Sending out an S.O.S.

the arcanist

My flash fiction horror story ‘Message in a Bottle’ has washed ashore in this week’s issue of The Arcanist magazine.

The story is under 1,000 words so I won’t write a long essay about it, but I did find the research for the piece very interesting. It begins with a person stranded on a desert island, as told by a message in the bottle.

Scanning Google Earth for the most remote dots of land was surprisingly unsettling. Many places claim to be the most isolated, but to ensure maximum suffering for my protagonist I wanted to ensure the island would not have any food, which is difficult considering that 15th century Spanish explorers seeded every island they came across with goats and rats.

In the end, I settled on something off shore from the Marquesas Island chain. Look up a place called ‘Fatu Hiva’. It is surrounded by unfathomable amounts of ocean. If you zoom out you will see the curve of the planet before you see the closest major land mass.

How would you get on or off such a god forsaken spit of land? That depends on the whims of the ocean’s currents. Some currents are hoarders that take years to deliver flocks of rubber ducks around the globe, others are like serial killers that specialize in severed feet.

There are so many ways to die that you may be surprised to learn that hypothermia will probably get you. After blistering under the sun all day you can look forward to vicious thunderstorms that drench you with freezing cold water.

Here’s a sample of the story…

desert-island

I recovered a few luxuries from the shipwreck. Some rope, a sharp piece of metal. And a way to make fire. I started each day with a signal fire, casting my thin trail of smoke into the sky like a fishing line.

I made a belt from the salvaged rigging and managed to climb the trees. There, carved into the bark twenty feet in the air, I discovered a series of slashes. There are no straight lines in nature. Someone had been here when this tree was much shorter. Another survivor, marking the days and months.

        Who were they? When were they here? Had they escaped? My mind starved for answers as my body starved for food.

There was nothing to do but wither beneath the sun as it crawled across the empty heavens. Too weak to stand, I lay pinned between the sky and sea. I could feel myself being ground into sand. I cursed the sun until it withdrew. At night I was plunged into darkness, alone and adrift between voids that stretched in all directions.

Check out the full story at The Arcanist Magazine.

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