7. Body

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Pamela stayed with the body while I ran up to the others to tell them about our find. They all wanted to have a look—everyone except Bruna, who was still out—and we returned to the beach together.

The man had come to rest in shallow water with his head pointing towards the land and his face turned to one side. He wore a singed, blue suit and a slack life jacket. His red, curly hair was soaked, and his pale but purple-lipped face wore a perplexed expression, unseeing eyes staring at a rock beside it.

"He must be one of the passengers from the airplane," Chris said.

"So he also paddled here?" Pamela asked.

"No, of course not." Chris shook his head. "But I don't think we were very fast with our paddling because the wind was against us. He, though, was mostly submerged, and the current may have been enough to carry him here."

Nita waded into the water, clumsy on her bare feet. Yves followed her, offering an arm for support.

She knelt and touched the dead man's head. "His neck is broken. Probably happened in the crash."

"And how did he get out?" I asked.

"The explosion tore through the hull in the economy section," Pamela said. "The breach was obviously big enough for the man." She gestured at the body.

"I wonder if there are more like him," Yves said. He looked up and down the beach.

"Unlikely," Pamela said. "I guess that most of the passengers were wearing their seatbelts at that time. They wouldn't just fall out."

Instead, they would now rest at the bottom of the ocean, like Adriana, the flight attendant, staring into the darkness.

Only this guy got out. I wondered why his belt didn't hold him in. Maybe he hadn't closed it, which would explain his broken neck.

Nita closed the man's eyes and got up. Her gaze on the body, hugging herself, she shook her head. "It's not right. Not proper."

"What's not right?" Chris asked.

"This man dying like that and being found by strangers." Nita's words were quiet, almost drowning the murmur of the waves. "No one deserves to die alone. Without someone they know, someone to hold their hand while they cross the line."

Yves put a hand on her shoulder.

For a moment, we all stared at the body. His lips had a bluish tinge. 

They'd never smile again.

"He's with the Lord now," Pamela said, then she scratched her head. "And what do we do with the body?"

"Let's pull him onto the shore," Chris said. "The authorities can collect him when they arrive."

Yves nodded, and the two men pulled the body up to the shore, leaving him in the shade of some shrubs.

I didn't want to watch the ritual. "Let's go back," I said to Pamela and Nita.

"Absolutely." Pamela rubbed her arms.

As we ascended, the men caught up with us.

A couple of minutes later, we found Bruna sitting in the shadows, leaning against a black rock.

"Oh, you're awake." Nita detached herself from Yves' helping hand and stumbled toward her patient. "How do you feel?"

"I'll live." Her mouth painted a thin line across her pale face.

"That's amazing." Nita investigated the burns on her calves. "You're lucky."

"I'm tough. Are you the doctor around here, Miss...?"

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