[Second of my submissions to the Caferati contest]
He was walking by the shore when he saw the bottle, green wink of glass amid the jostled crowd of the waves. He had to wade out to get it, trousers rolled up to his knee, seizing it as it eddied at the edge of the turning tide, as if hesitating to commit itself to the reach of the land.
It looked like something out of a dream, or a book of fairy tales. A green bottle, label free, with a slip of something white inside. For a while he tried to uncork it, but the salt water had caused the cork to bloat and eventually he had to break the neck of the bottle against a rock to get to the message. It hurt him to do this. It felt like ingratitude.
Inside, on a ragged scrap of paper were the words “HELP ME! I’M STRANDED AND ALL ALONE. PLEASE HELP!”. The writing was poorly formed, as though written by someone whose strength was ebbing. Something dark and a little runny had been used for ink. Possibly blood. Possibly shit. There were no coordinates, no other information that could help pinpoint where this message had come from.
He stood on the shore and stared out at the horizon. Where in this whelmed and restless expanse of the world could he be – this soul crying out for help? After a while he threw the scrap of paper aside. It didn’t matter anyway. He himself was stranded, marooned on this island of his own, awaiting a rescue he knew better than to expect. Even if he knew where the message came from, there was nothing he could do to help.