Chapter 1 A

The sea crashed violently against the rocks of the island.

The trees bent so far over that some of them actually snapped and flew off. The forest was, after all, on the highest point on the island.

A small collection of birds and surprisingly large rats huddled together in a cave and eyed each other with suspicion.

Above them the wind wailed. This was the worst storm the island had seen for eight months. The last one had killed off one entire species on the island - a species which had only just arrived.

There was fresh salmon. Why had this species not eaten any of them?

There was an extraordinary gift from nature - lime and gravel and clay lying bizarrely on a beach. It must have been the only island in the world with a gift like that waiting to be used! The people (for that is what the species was) could have made themselves a little concrete town. But they hadn't even had the wit to make themselves a wooden one. They'd been too busy mourning those who had already perished (and each subsequent death) and arguing over strategy instead of working together. They wasted the precious time they had trying elaborate but hopeless methods for attracting any passing shipping. The trouble was there was no passing shipping out here and one of their attempts at a "distress flare" had burnt down a lot of the forest. They had never been through the forest for fear of snakes and of being bitten by the blood-sucking insects that lived up there. If they had they would have discovered berries that were both tasty and high in Vitamin C. The birds also tended to nest either in the forest or in the caves where both they and the rats were now trying to stare each other out. Their eggs could have been a valuable source of protein. It was, in short, an island of missed opportunities.

The wind picked up speed and broke the 200-mile-an-hour barrier for the first time in 129 years. Not that the rats or any of the other inhabitants still alive on the island would have understood, much less cared about, that statistic.

As the wind tore the sand away from the beach it revealed its grisly secret.

Skeletons stripped of their flesh by the acid in the sand began to emerge from their temporary tombs to join the one and only skeleton which had never been buried in the first place - that of Jenny, the last survivor. For it was she who had carried out the last few burials, including that of her boyfriend Eric, before she, too, had perished. One of the problems about being the last survivor is that you have nobody left to bury your body when the time comes.

Touchingly (in a macabre sort of way) the skeleton of Eric rolled next to that of Jenny and the two remained together, hand in hand, until long after the wind died down.

This was no dead island, however, for in the morning the sun beamed down on a world of berries which had been distributed onto the floor for easy access by the birds, eggs left unguarded by the birds as they went scrumping for berries (which gave protein to the rats) and the start of a new round of rotting vegetation from the fallen trees. This helped kick start the island's ecological system once again. The insects, who had been perilously close to extinction, now had more easily-digestible food at their disposal. Their numbers started to grow again and, over the next weeks and months, so did that of their predators - a strain of bird who flew in from another island due to the disruption but who then liked what they found so much that they started to come in larger numbers.

A much more minor gale blew up seven weeks later and covered up the island's little secret on the beach once again. Jenny and Eric were still holding hands.

The End

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