Seth was not sure how much time had passed. The sun had set and risen and set again and again. He lost track of the days. Time did not seem to matter. The shipwreck was already a fading memory. He only knew it had been a long time ago.
Seth’s lips always felt dry no matter how much he licked them with his swollen tongue. His skin was burned. The sun beat down against him relentlessly in the morning until early afternoon.
Luckily, rains fell frequently in the tropics. During the afternoon showers, he sat in the boat with his head turned upwards and mouth open. He drank in the salty sky during those afternoon storms while clinging to the sides of his boat as it rocked and rolled to a soundtrack of thunder. When he was hungry, he gnawed on the bones of his friends.
And the sky told him stories when he decided to pay attention. Clouds shifted into the shape of girls, and sometimes, he would smile and feel himself when he had the strength. He remembered the touch of a girl back on the mainland. It had been a long time ago, in another life, in his old school, but the memory was enough to stir him. He sometimes almost felt alive.
He began talking to the gulls until one day they answered him. He did not like the stories the birds told, however, so he blocked out their prattle. He tried to forget their language. One of the gulls grew annoyed with him as it screeched out for attention. Once the gull realized Seth was ignoring him, it dropped a big, wet, white bomb on the boy’s head. Seth laughed, leaned over the wooden sides of his lifeboat, and rinsed the excrement from his shaggy unkempt hair in the ocean.
Underwater, he opened his eyes. He saw mermaids down there, but they were all being raped by sharks. The mermaids screamed up to him for help. Those cries for help soon turned into bubbly terror as the waters became pink and then burgundy. The sharks looked up to Seth through the clouded waters with dark, beady, uncaring eyes. There was no hunger there – just hatred. Seth pulled his head back out of the water and spent the remainder of the afternoon watching shark fins circle him. He tried to decipher the patterns of their movement.
Seth gnawed on John’s femur one night. Upon reaching the marrow, he heard John talking, but the words were obscure. Seth turned around and there was John. Seth’s best friend’s face was distorted. It was pulled too taught, as if it were an elastic sheet stretched over a crudely shaped metal frame. There were no arms on the figure, no legs. It was as if John were made out of transparent gauze. John was nothing more than a distorted face and bare torso. Seth reached out for John. Seth said he was sorry, but John wasn’t really there. John faded into the clouds and rose upwards. Eventually, the cloudy thing that was not John blocked the light of the moon.
Stars swirled above Seth in the darkness, and he traced their lines in the sky. Once the stars provided direction to sailors, but Seth did not know anything about that. The GPS ran out of batteries long ago.
The shark fins circled in concentric patterns.
Seth looked towards the pile of bones. He grew sick and vomited over the side of the boat. Gulls descended out of the darkness of sky and lapped up the slick of his sickness from the swelling surface of the endless ocean.
Seth asked the gulls if they were hungry in their secret language. The birds regarded him with darkness in their eyes. Their squawks became laughter as they descended and tore away flesh with hard beaks.
A ship emerged. It ascended from the distant horizon and grew larger until it towered over him. Seth was brought onboard. The men on the ship asked Seth his name, but the boy could no longer speak their language. The gulls stripped his humanity away, leaving him a shark. Dark eyes gleamed under the moonless sky. The boy bared his teeth, rushed at the men, and began to bite.
Above him, the thing that was not John smiled.