I am here.
The words are scrawled in the sand of the beach. I stare at them for a long time.
It has been months since I was made governor of this island. I searched it over, three times. There is no one else here. At least, I do not know that anyone else is here.
I am here.
These words written by someone with a stick in the sand.
Who is here? Where is he?
When did they write this? Did they come at night? Did they see me sleeping and leave me this message? Why didn’t they wake me? Are they watching me? Now?
They wrote in English. They wrote.
The only footprints that I see on the beach are my own.
I am the governor of this island. I must try to work this puzzle.
If there is someone else on this island, someone else who writes, in English, how long have they been here? Since before I was marooned here?
I yelled and hallo’d for anyone to hear me when I was first landed. Surely anyone here would have heard me. Perhaps they are afraid of me? After all, I was set ashore by a boatful of men who were rather displeased with me. Perhaps a stranger would think of me as dangerous. This would not be wrong, but if they were afraid to come forward before, why now leave a message?
Do they think I have grown weak?
I am here.
I am not so weak.
There is good fresh water here. The water wells up from the roots of the island, runs down in lazy waterfalls off the cliff to this small beach. I visit the beach each low tide to dig for clams and cockles. They are different from the cockles of my childhood, but they still fill a mouth. For the belly the wild pigs of the island are more satisfying.
Will I ever eat bread again?
Surely no one came ashore without my noticing? When not building my hut on the cliff, or devising traps for pigs, or digging for clams, I’ve only watched for sail.
There was a time I was poorly. My experiment in fermenting the strange fruits of the native trees made me quite ill. Perhaps during those sick days someone came and snuck past me.
But if that is so, do I need to fear? If they came ashore then and saw me in that ill drunk state and wished to do me in, they could have done it easy.
I don’t know. I have grown unaccustomed to the thinking of others.
I am here.
In the evenings, I miss the sound of violins.
At first I was happy enough to be alone. To suddenly have an entire island of your own after living aboard a brigantine with a hundred other men is no small prize.
The island be not a large, but it is not too small. Having assured myself there was sustenance in this place to last beyond my natural life, I began to think how long life could yet be.
I began to miss other people. I even wished the return of the corsairs that marooned me here.
I dream of seeing snow again.
My captors thought me a gentleman and asked after ransom, but I have no one to pay for me. None of the other prisoners would risk themselves for my favour. I make myself unpopular wherever I go, as has always been the way. When I am angry, I cannot keep my tongue civilly shut up in my head. And it is a truth of the watery world that many prefer the man who strikes only with a lash to the man who’s tongue is a lash. The world wants nothing more of me and my tongue. It abandons me. I am certain no one searches nor mourns for me.
A thought. What if the mysterious scrawler in the sand is not a man, but a woman?
A woman here alone with me.
I fear my heart may stop!
Perhaps I can find a way to cut my hair and beard a little.
Oh be still, you foolish. It would be even more strange for a woman to be washed ashore here than another man.
My head hurts. Perhaps it is the sun.
I never thought I would miss fog, but I do.
Have I been speaking aloud again? For a time I did so often. I would talk to myself of my plans. I would talk to the pigs of their roasting, and to the sea and the trees and the birds. I spoke to the ship I prayed to see on the horizon.
For a long time now, there has been nothing new to say. I have tested and tasted all that there is to taste. There seems nothing more I can do for myself but repair what is already made. Nothing has changed here to speak of for four full moons. Until today.
I am here is written in the sand.
I think I do not want another person hiding on my island.
I have claimed the island with every step. I have built the only habitation. I have prepared and tended the smouldering signal fires. I increasingly question why.
Not one sail on the horizon, not for all this time.
All on this island is mine. The pigs are mine. The clams are mine. The fish that swim near, mine. The trees, mine. As the first to walk here, I claim it all, all mine. What right does a stranger have to share it?
This is now my home. I am the governor of this island.
I do not know what I will do about a stranger, intrusion on my peace, but I must think. I must think.
I am here.
I walk over the sand, and I drop the stick from my hand.