27 January, 2008 by katelaity
When Lizzie awoke, the sun was high in the sky and the crush of her thirst an unbearable manacle which clung to her body with unutterable misery. She tried not to lick her lips and increase the misery, but the salt water inadvertently swallowed in the night had raised a salty hunger that burned to be assuaged. Lizzie, with some considerable difficulty, wrestled a small morsel of cheese from the workbag knotted to her wrist. She spoke a small prayer to the winds and waters for safe delivery, thinking Poseidon and Amphitrite might be more nearly within earshot than a contemporary deity, then began to nibble on the small wedge of cheese in hopes of making it last as long as possible.
Although Lizzie commanded herself to careful and delicate consumption, the tiny portion quickly disappeared, leaving her still hungry and perhaps doubly thirsty. She drew her eyes to the horizon and searched in vain for some sign of land or humanity. The water gave a curious brightness to the sky and almost seemed to shimmer in the distance. Lizzie considered kicking her feet to aid in her progress, but the horror of removing herself even further from safety froze her to inaction. Best to let the sea carry her forth, she told herself grimly, if there was to be any hope.
She had no sense of time or its passing. Although the passage of the sun across the sky could be tracked over time, Lizzie faded in and out of consciousness as the merciless orb beat down upon her. She did not dream, but her mind filled with random snatches of memory, from the long lost visages of her parents, to the distant and restrained images of Alice’s family, and of course, the inescapable oddness of their contemporary adventures since the funeral. As the day wore on and the glint of beams upon the waves taxed her already overwhelmed brain, Lizzie experienced feverish dreams of the King of Naples that she knew she would recall later only with supreme embarrassment, but which at the time proved somewhat soothing to her delirious spirit.
In this way, beleaguered by fancy, salty waves and savage thirst, the day passed, although Lizzie could not believe it was but one. She could hardly dare to believe that she could survive another like it, but put the thought away as soon as it rose to the surface of her consciousness. Sounds and voices echoed in her ears but Lizzie could never tell with certainty whether they came from without or within and feared that the merciless sun might deprive her altogether of her wits. After a time it was all she could do to cling to the barrel and try not to cry.
It was with a start that she awoke some indeterminate time later, to find the sun down and the black night once more holding sway. “Where are you now, Alice?” she whispered aloud, but there was no response in return save the waves lapping against the sides of the barrel. At least the cooler night air restored some sense of hope against the derangement of the bright day. Lizzie rallied and considered whether to give in to the urge for another bite of cheese, or to steel herself for another cold night without sustenance.
She was quite unprepared for the strange sensation she felt next as something brushed against her foot. The offended limb recoiled with sudden horror and Lizzie looked vainly into the ink-black water, where she was unable to see anything at all. Raising her head once more, Lizzie was startled to see something white in the distance. Could it be a mirage? As she squinted into the dark, Lizzie relaxed her legs once more and behold! They were touching the sandy surface of the ocean floor. The long white shape must surely be the strand along the shore! She was safe, safe at last. She had never been more grateful in her young life as she strode awkwardly through the water toward the approaching prize of land, sweet land.