Squinting against the sun, the boy lifted his sand encrusted face.
Slowly, struggling in the heat, he sat up. The ocean that had wrested his fishing boat from him in a gale was now supine, resting itself on the white sand where it had tossed him in its earlier fury. Fragments of his vessel were strewn along the high tide mark; the splintered deck, some coiled rope, a flask.
Seeing the flask, the boy scrabbled across the sand on all fours.
Water spilled over his face in his eagerness. It dripped into his tangled hair and onto his chest where it stung scratches he had sustained in the storm. After gulping half the water, he looked around him, taking stock. The beach was small, no more than a dimple in the coastline, and indistinguishable from a dozen others. He felt a momentary panic as he tried to find his bearings.
Cliffs, red and ragged, but perhaps offering a foothold, bounded the beach. This meant he had drifted south, well beyond the usual fishing grounds. If he could climb the cliff, he knew it would take him days to walk home.
His belly rumbled and he realised he had not eaten, having fought the storm overnight and then been unconscious all day.
Rocks on one end of the beach offered the best prospect for foraging, so the boy walked towards the outcrop, collecting any flotsam that he thought useful. When he arrived at the serrated-edged rock-pools he held the rope, his jacket which had been lying under a pile of kelp, some splintered planks that he intended to use for kindling if his tinderbox dried out, and a piece of frayed netting that might be repaired.
Peering into the pools, the boy found them inhabited by crabs, small fish and molluscs.
The tide was turning, and when the cliff’s shadow fell across his shoulders, the boy began looking for a sheltered place to spend the night. Scrub and heath covered the clifftop, but he thought he saw an indentation, perhaps a cave, partway up. Using the rope, the boy tied together the wood and netting, into which he had placed two small crabs.
Seeking a foothold, his limbs ached as he hung against the cliff face. The pads of his fingers bled where the rocks had cut them and he regretted carrying the net which caught on the spiky shrubs that somehow eked an existence in the cliff’s fissures. Somewhere above him was the cave, although he could no longer see it and doubted he would be able to reach it before dark.
Keep going up
He forced himself to climb further and as he did, he thought about his family. Perhaps they were looking for him. Or they may think him dead.
But I’m not
At last his fingers found a ledge, and hauling himself over it he lay there panting, watching the last of the light fade.