“Look, there’s a light on the water, close to the mainland.”
“It’s the sun’s reflection.” How could he not tell, he isn’t making sense anymore.
“It’s not moving?”
His eyes fall down to his feat, realizing I’m right.
“My ass hurts on this log.”
“Stand up and walk around a bit.”
Or sit there and shuffle pebbles with your feet. A breeze filled with salt and rotting seaweed draws my attention back to the shore. I must look for anemones. There’s one in a tide pool closer to the water. Tentacles surround its soft slimy mouth, waiting patiently for the crashing waves to reach the tide pool and bring a fresh batch of prey. Stroking them causes the anemone to contract.
“Why do you always do that?”
“I like the feeling of a million spikes firing into my finger.”
“What does it feel like?”
My eyes squint in the sunlight as I look at Mark over my shoulder. “Sticky.” He smiles back, uneasily.
Think of me as a tiny cell on the surface of an anemone tentacle. Think of Mark as a microscopic larva. An unborn, immature larva floating by, looking for a piece of ground that will allow him to start his life.
“How long since we beached on this island?” Mark asks.
“You say that every day.”
He’s shuffling more pebbles.
“43 days, 45 since the boat sank, 10 since we stopped walking.”
“Do you still…”
“No, I don’t want to stay here anymore.”
Picture Mark the microscopic larva coming too close to me, not realizing that I’m no ordinary cell. Beneath a hatch on my surface is an inverted spike, a cnida, with a poisonous tail at its tip, waiting to fire.
He’s looking at me with the eyes of a child, “Samantha?"
“Are you sure we’ll get rescued?”
“Yes Mark, I know the Great Bear Rainforest very well. This is a remote part, but I’m positive this channel is a route for cruise ships sailing to Alaska.”
He looks down the beach, trying to locate an eagle call.
“How long could you survive here?”
“As long as I wanted.”
Picture me, the anemone cell, and the hatch on my surface opening, firing the spike into Mark, the passing larva. Picture the barbed points that spiral up the spike like the lines on a candy cane shredding Mark’s surface layer, and the three downward pointing blades at the base of the spike locking inside him just as an arrow head would.
He’s walking away, down the beach, head hanging low, black shirt hanging off his thin shoulders, black bangs hanging over his eyes, hands in his pocket. Mark used to look calm and mysterious, now he looks useless. I hate useless, I hate the world he comes from. Anemones have purpose, nematocytes have function. Like this rock – in hands that have purpose it has function. One end is large and round, giving it weight; the other end is pointed, like the spike fired from me, the nematocyte.
He lies down against the giant tee-pee of fire wood, our beacon, the only place he can sleep. There, he rests on the beach that can bring escape. But this beach is so much more, the border between land and water, where life has found a thousand ways to survive. I can survive here too, Mark can’t. He doesn’t have the skills or the desire. To live in this environment every action must have purpose. Here, I live in a trance, gathering wood, building shelter, catching fish, digging roots, setting traps, wasting no energy. That’s why I dress for function; I cut my hair short for function. But function is rejected by Mark, just as the cruise ship will reject it with steam rooms and dessert buffets. Function is laughed at.
He’s asleep, unaware. I walk towards him. Picture the poisonous tail at the tip of my spike spreading its toxin inside Mark. The struggling larva goes quiet. It was never meant to live. It failed its function.
My shadow creeps onto his body. I stand at his feet, rock raised over his head. On the rock, I notice another small anemone. Beside it, I see my reflection in a tiny drop of water. Short brown hair, brown eyes, thin face, thin lips. The anemone, pink esophagus surrounded by tentacles on a soft green body. I pull the rock closer. We look nothing alike.
Mark wakes up, “Samantha, what the hell are you doing?”
Tears in my eyes, I collapse beside him. Confused, he puts his arm around my shoulder and pulls me closer. His body is warm. I forgot about the warmth.