Sarah lay back on the sand, both ankles spread at awkward ankles, her once-bright hair dull and damp, and growing at equally awkward angles. Karissa knelt beside her still body, her long fingers deftly manufacturing a splint from wood and vines; so practised at this was she, I'd be surprised if she couldn't do it in her sleep.
The remainder of the campers crowded round, some sitting, in pain from their own injuries, their backs propped against logs and driftwood, grimacing at the splinters like worn-faced gargoyles. Kevin sat with his knees drawn to his forehead, his weathered face covered, his grey-tinged skin painfully wrinkled and blistered by the constant outdoors and ongoing stress. When I first saw him on the boat, he was a relaxed and laid-back kind of guy; now he's thin and angular.
I was standing at the time, perhaps one of the healthiest campers, looking on over my injured friends and feeling sick and sad. What has become of our adventure, in its exhilarating novelty, its unexpected corners and amazing discoveries? It has been engulfed. At least we are still united. United in the fellowship of the gloomy.
I sighed and wandered away from the despondent scene, and the campers' eyes scarcely flickered from Sarah and Karissa as I moved. Spreading my arms, I let the warm raindrops fall and catch on my skin. The sky was crying in sympathy, its drops sliding down my cheeks, masking any presence of salty droplets amongst them. Only I could taste my tears. Only I knew that I was crying.
And it surprised me that I cried. I'm a horribly selfish person, and the fact that I could cry for the pain of people I hadn't known just days or weeks ago, seemed strange. Had I learnt to care on this island with these people? I knew they weren't exactly enamoured with me. I don't think Bree ever liked me that much. And in turn, she wasn't exactly a kindred spirit to me. But the fact that I could actually cry for her, and the others, made me cry even more for the sheer knowledge of having gained in compassion of character.
Not that it would ever be significant. If we never got off this island, that compassion would have been wasted. Wasted, except for perhaps some small trivial difference in our dying moments, as we faded away in the throes of severe starvation.
The rain stopped, and I realised that I was hardly in sight of the counselors. I paused, hesitating, wondering what to do. Go back, I supposed.
But as I hesitated, looking back at the thin column of smoke from the fire on the beach, a high-pitched scream of saturated pain and fury sliced through my ears from behind.
I jumped and turned, but the scream, after those few seconds of horror, did not return. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw that Kevin was on his feet, wary, and one of the boys, too, had struggled to a standing position. They were both looking my way, and I saw that they thought I had screamed.
But no. I had not. Had I? The scream had come from behind me, to the South. And it had been a human scream? A tribe? A boat? We had not seen any evidence of either things, but something, there was. I started down the hill through the forest, without a pause or a fear.
Twenty minutes later, I came upon a scene. The first thing I saw was the blood. Everywhere. Pools of it. Puddles of it. Crimson and stinking. And I heard a whimpering sound. A person. The blood belonged to a person.
Rounding the corner, a body on the sand came into view. It was a boy, older than me. But that wasn't the first thing I noted. No; the first thing I noted was the stump where his left hand should have been, and the blood flowing from the stump like the jet of a fountain.
Bitter-tasting bile rose in my throat, and I felt my word grow dizzy for a moment. Then I balanced myself, spat once into a rockpool, and collected my wits.