6. Full of Himself

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"That man Chris is jarring my nerves," Pamela said as she ascended the rocky slope before us. Her white shirt was dazzling in the sunlight.

I laughed. "I feel you. He's so full of himself."

"I bet he's just trying to save us, but still..."

Trying to save us—fat chance. I remembered the scene he had made on the airplane. "At least, this place won't have any lavatories out of service."

"Lavatories? There probably won't be any lavatories here at all."

"Exactly..." I realized that she wouldn't know about his behavior on the plane. "Never mind."

She stopped. I stood beside her. We had reached a gentle, flattened ridge, leading from a promontory up to the rounded hill on our right side. Ahead of us, a steep slope led down to the sea—a sea that stretched all the way to the horizon. An endless surface of blue under the cloud-studded sky.

I squinted at the scenery, trying to focus. My eyesight was blurry without my glasses. "No other land that way, I think."

"Guam must be somewhere out there, but it's probably too far away."

"Let's go up, okay?" I gestured towards the hill. I was eager to get a look at this place.

She nodded.

We threaded our way through the hip-high, tough shrubs that grew from cracks between the rocks.

"Thanks to the airline for the sensible uniform shoes and pants," she said. "These rocks sure are sharp, and the plants are scratchy."

"Yeah. And thank them for the hat they gave you."

Somehow she had held on to her pilot's hat. I envied her for the shade. My hair was a mousy brown, but it was thin and straight and provided little protection. The sun's touch was fierce on my still-throbbing wound. I longed for some shelter from it's heat.

"You want it?" She held it out to me.

"Naw, that's your privilege."

"You need it more than I do. I'm sun-proof." She tugged at a strand of her thick, black bob. "But your head looks more and more like a lobster's." She prodded my chest with her headwear.

I took it and placed it on my scalp, gingerly. "Thanks."


We reached the summit of the hill some minutes later. It was probably the highest elevation on the island—an island that looked no more than a mile across, in any direction.

Shrubs mostly covered the hill's flat top while gray and brown dominated its northern, more pointed sibling. Between the hills, a depression extended from our landing spot on the right hand to the opposite beach on the left.

Nothing but wilderness.

"Looks like we're pretty alone here," she said.

I nodded. "I guess so. We can't see the north shore from this point, though. It's hidden by the other hill." I pointed at the peak in front of us.

"Looks like a volcano," she said. "I hope it's not active. I don't need no eruptions now."

"There's no smoke, so I guess it's dead." Not that I knew much about volcanoes, but it felt reassuring to say this. "Let's walk around it and see what's on its other side."

"Yeah, but we have to hurry. It'll be dark soon." Pamela glanced at the sun that was approaching the horizon. "But before we go..." She hesitated. "Do you think there are predators here? Not velociraptors, of course, but anything else that's dangerous?"

I shook my head. "No. Not big ones, at least. The island is too small for that." Again, I wasn't sure there. But it made sense to me. Something as small as this place wouldn't be the home of a bear or a lion. "Maybe some snakes or spiders."

"Ugh. I hate snakes and spiders."

They weren't my friends either, but what I really hated were bugs, especially the large ones with the rounded, fat back section.

We descended into the depression between the hills, keeping to the left of the volcano, and approached the shore on that side.

Except for an almost flat field of bare, volcanic rock, things looked very similar here. The rock field led to a shallow beach.

"What's that?" Pamela pointed at a blue object lying a couple of feet off the water's edge

It was a plastic bottle, about a gallon in size. Battered and empty, no cap. Probably floating waste carried to the island by the waves of the Pacific.

"Let's take it," she said. "For water."

"What water?"

"Don't be a pessimist. We'll find some. The Lord has given us a bottle. So he'll also give us water." She grinned, displaying her white teeth.

"You're an optimist," I said.

"No," she shook her head, "just a priest's daughter. He taught me that the Lord will provide. As a priest, he has first-hand knowledge."

"Praise the Lord," I said and took the bottle from her.

We headed north, touring that side of the island. Again, lots of rocks, shrubs, and some grass. And noisy birds.

At the northernmost tip of the island, we found the first sign of human civilization.

It was a white-painted, wooden box the size of a vending machine, with an inclined, tarred roof. It stood on four poles embedded in the ground. A double-door at one side was secured with a padlock.

A white, one-yard metal rod reached upwards from its top. It carried a spinning propeller, a black piece of machinery, a solar panel, and an antenna.

"This looks like a weather station," I said. At least the propeller did.

"And it seems to have a radio, with that antenna." Pamela picked up a stone the size of a grapefruit. "Let's have a look." Before I could stop her, she brought it down on the padlock.

The box shook. She hit again, and the hook holding the lock came loose.

She pulled open the door. There was some machinery inside. A small, red light was blinking on one of the devices.

"Can you make sense of this?" Pamela asked. She tried to pull out a piece of equipment the size of a car's radio, but it was tethered with cables to the others.

"No," I said, "but don't break it."

"Okay, let's tell the others." She put the device back and closed the doors. "I'm sure that Chris will know what to do with it."

I snorted.

We headed back along the shore on the other side of the island, the east side. It was but a narrow stretch of boulders, embedded between the water and a steep slope leading up to the north peak.

We were almost back at the outcrop where we had landed when I saw something lying on the shore, where the water met the stones. Blue and brown. Human-sized. Human-shaped.

"There's someone over there." I tried to focus my eyes but couldn't make out any details.

"Crap. You're right. It's a man."

The figure didn't move.

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