When I came up for air, the others were already gone. Black, black water all around me, couldn’t tell which way was up or down for a minute, choking, retching, so much water in my eyes, my nose. I went under again but then a big wave bobbed me up. It felt like the ocean toyed with me like that forever, but it was probably just fifteen minutes – almost killing me, then spitting me back out for a huge, painful breath of air.
A piece of the ship found me just as I was beginning to slip into a quiet, deep blue state somewhere warm and just above the waves, somewhere very quiet and still. The pain woke me and I was angry when I realized I’d been hit in the jaw with this giant piece of wood. I tried to push it away actually, I was so tired, just wanted the sweet deep blue quiet, but then there were arms pulling roughly, I groaned water as they heaved me up onto some sort of makeshift raft. I heaved seawater from every small, dark, painful crevice of my body, retched and retched and then the world went black again, a vast field of cold stars above my head, winking out all at once.
There must have been drifting I guess, a long cold night of it, but all I remember is the brilliant morning and the hard white stones of a mysterious beach pressing into my cheeks. I started crying as soon as I tried to move, the pain of being alive was so excruciating. When I finally managed to pull myself onto hands and knees, I noticed that I was on a vast beach full of white pebbles that were dazzling in the sun, and that sitting next to me, calm as a statue, was a boy of about 17, wearing a red sarong and holding a huge pink conch shell, its curves and spines so exquisite it was hard to tell which I should pay more attention to – the boy or the shell.