Floating: Into the Horizon (A Portrait)

Everyone knew it would come, it was just a matter of time. But that didn’t mean they prepared. Decades had passed with the same warnings, the same facts repeated over and over. But it was always somewhere else, hurricane in the gulf, the torrential rains and massive flooding in Southern Asia. All of it added up, all of it meant something, but nobody listened.

Even when the final act was building up. It was like everyone just ignored it. Andrew supposed some of them, most of them, were probably in shock, but that was no excuse, it was their fault anyway. He didn’t consider himself a religious person, but he was considering it. Perhaps it would do him some good if he really was the only one left, he thought.

He lay on his back looking up at the cloud-less sky imagining the moment; a giant hand reaching down from the sky out of no-where, and Andrew would paddle up and step on the index finger and be lifted into the sky. That’s how it would happen.

He laughed out-loud, but got quiet suddenly. It had been days since he had heard any voice, even his own. There was nothing anymore. The girl at the grocery store with the braces, the woman from down the street with the dog that Andrew swore had never left it’s owner’s arms since birth, the old man who snuck out to the front porch every night to smoke so his wife wouldn’t know; they were all gone. But none of them mattered anymore. None of them ever mattered he told himself; certain, in a cautious kind of way. He sat up lazily and looked around the medium sized boat. But something was off, something didn’t feel right. He realized at once what it was: Bear was missing.

It wasn’t such a small boat, but he didn’t remember moving him. He stood slowly, making sure to keep his balance as the waves lifted the boat and dropped it just as quickly. He went to the stern, where Bear was supposed to be sitting. He gulped, more in the sad realization of the fact than the fear of it. This wasn’t supposed to happen, Bear was supposed to stay with him forever, until the day the hand came down from the sky. But the boat was not that large, he had never been taught how to build things and there was only so much that he could do with plywood. It had taken him 4 years to put together, he started the minute he heard the news. Most people had dismissed it as superstition, something that the news would make a big hype about and then nothing would happen. But Andrew new better, he was gonna be the one to make it, he was gonna be the one that everyone wished they had listened to.

And Bear was with him all the way. But now he was gone. He searched the main deck, walking right through the small dirt-field he had created to grow beans and rice; the only food he could find before the worst of the storms started to hit. The height of the waves seemed to increase beneath him as he searched the whole boat, but there was no trace of Bear and there was nothing in the world Andrew could do.

But, it was only a stuffed bear. He stood still as the thought passed through him like a cold breeze, and he began to laugh. Almost all of humanity drowns and all he cares about is a stuffed animal. It was ridiculous to think such things. What about the girl at the grocery store with the braces, and her long hair that would fall in front of her eyes, or the old lady and her dog, who sat in a white wicker garden chair on summer evenings and laughed in short, long bursts with her Bridge friends. A stuffed bear? It was nothing, it was a silly idea that had long passed and, it was gone.

He tried to come to terms with it, but there was still a ball at the back of his throat. Even if he had spent his childhood mostly alone, as his grand-parents sat listless watching football or cooking Macaroni and Cheese, he didn’t know how to live without anything or anybody.

He went to the edge of the boat, and sat down, dipping his bare legs in the water. The sound of the waves seemed to fade away, the heat of the dull sun a distant thought. The world seemed so empty. He looked down at the boat and began to pick at the wood, a small sliver came off poking him in the thumb. Then, it struck him.

He stood up, took his shirt off, and laid it on the flooring. He assessed the cloth, trying to picture the whole thing in his mind. When he had a good idea, he started ripping it. Once finished, he used his knife to turn the sliver of wood into a blunt needle. The fabric was worn enough that it he could easily poke through. For thread, he used the knife to take one of the fibers from the rope, long enough to put the whole thing together. When all the pieces were together, he went to the cabin and found his two jars of beans and rice that hadn’t been planted yet. He filled the cloth with some of them and began to sew.

Working patiently, he took the rest of the day to finish; careful not to spill anything, and cautious with every stitch, making sure that it would hold. By nightfall, he had a new bear. He set Bear inside the cabin, where he wouldn’t roll away. It didn’t look perfect, but it would do. He crawled into bed, ignoring his stomach, and the dryness in his throat. He had a companion, something he never thought he would need, but he did, he would just have to find some other way to find food.

With the sun long gone, the boat slipped slowly into the darkness of the night as Andrew closed his eyes drifting into sleep. His last vision of the day: a great hand descending from the sky, coming to carry him and Bear away.

Posted in Stories by Preston on February 9th, 2011

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