The story has some explicit contents and graphic details. Along with nudity and profanity. Reader discretion recommended.
Men in Paradise - 5. Chapter 5 - The Fishing
Fish was the first food source for mankind, 40,000 years before Paleolithic Human discovered Fishing to catch Fish, it provided them with vital protein. Fish traps made of wood were one of the earliest methods of fishing. Archaeological features such as discarded fish bones from shell middens and cave paintings indicate that sea foods were important and consumed in large quantities for early human survival. Most individuals lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle during this time and were, of course, constantly on the move. However, where there are early examples of permanent settlements such as those at Lepenski Vir, they are almost always associated with fishing as a main source of food. Traps are almost universal culturally and appear to have been invented several times independently. Essentially, there are two types of trap, a permanent or semi-permanent structure installed in a river or tidal environment, and a bottle or pot trap that is typically baited to attract prey, but not always, and is occasionally removed from the water.
It had been Six days, every morning I spent watching the sea right after I wake up. I would go to the shore and stand in front of the waves for at least an hour or so. It had become a daily routine.
Six days since then, I could not find a single mode of transportation anywhere around. No ships, no fishermen boats, no flight, or helicopter either to rescue us. The only thing I have seen were birds flying above the sea trying to find their prey in the saltwater or migrating to our island from long distance in bunches. But not even a single sign of remote help we could get.
I wondered about our whereabouts. With a warm climate and coconut trees everywhere, I presumed it could be a tropical island. The Island next to us which could be seen on plain sight had two large mountains ice-covered on top of it. I calculated the time of our flight travel before the plane crash, perhaps we were flying above the North Atlantic Ocean between Europe and North America. The island could be located somewhere near North America which has a tropical climate. I was aware that the Caribbean islands situated closer to the United States have a tropical climate too or we could have been someplace close to South America which is well known for rainforests and tropical climate. But I never heard that there will be ice-covered mountains in North or South America. I wondered what if we were anywhere around Greenwich or Canada which has several uninhabited islands and ice. if that were the case, I was not sure if I could find any fishermen boat or ship since those regions are far isolated from populated regions, trade routes, and ports.
It was devastating and my hope for a rescue from the island was diminishing. I hid my disappointment so that I do not create panic among boys who were younger and frightened than me.
I saw Justin walking towards me from our cabin, he had recovered quickly. He was not limping anymore. In his Jean shorts without his shirt, his white skin, curly blonde hair, and deep blue eyes, he looked better than we first met him.
'Huh, now I am stuck with an Indian teenager, an Arab boy, and an American guy, probably for the rest of my life on an island that seems far away from the real world', I thought.
"Where do you think we are?" I asked Justin. I was hoping he would know.
"I have been wondering the same. We could be anywhere, you know. This looks like a tropical island, which means we could be somewhere in North or South America" He said.
I nodded my head in agreement.
"But those ice mountains out there. That confuses me. I don't think there are any such mountains in South America" He reflected on my thoughts which I had a while ago.
"Could this be one of those islands in Canada or Greenwich?" I told showcasing my geographical knowledge.
"Yes, it could be" He replied me.
"If that is the case, I am not sure if we will be able to see any ships or flight since those regions are unpopulated areas' I added some more facts.
"Yes, I thought the same," He said with the same disheartened tone I had earlier.
We stood there a few more minutes in silence, watching the sea. And then he took a banana from his trouser pocket and asked me,
"You want one?"
I hesitated. Due to food scarcity, hunger has become constant to all of us.
Over the last two days, we lived only by consuming bananas and coconuts. My taste buds were longing for different food. I knew that consuming bananas and coconuts could not be a longer solution of food source for us, I had stomach pain all day. And Afridi was having dysentery for two days. We were losing weight and we could not take it any longer.
We tried to get fish, but it was not easy, we had no tools and had to rely on our bare hands to catch the fish in the sea. None of us were fishing experts.
"What are you looking at?" Justin asked me with his French-accented English.
"I need fish, I am tired of eating bananas and coconuts for the last 6 days" I complained.
"Me too" he echoed my thoughts and continued "We need to find a way to get fish".
"Do you think we can build a fish trap?" I asked him.
"If we have to survive here anymore, we need to try a lot of things, otherwise it will get worse" Justin replied.
'Justin Pierre was the tallest among us, he was more than six feet tall with his long hands. If we worked together probably, we could break some branches from a few trees and build a fish trap' I thought.
We went back to the cabin. Afridi and Jai were chatting calmly, probably discussing how to survive here and get food.
‘Thank god, teenagers are getting well together, otherwise I had to babysit them,’ I thought.
"We need to open the container, we can't keep eating coconuts and bananas," both Afridi and Jai said in chorus.
Well, I was not expecting that.
I was not sure about opening the container. We tried that last couple of days and our effort went in vain. The container lid was made of heavy metal and it didn't budge an inch.
"We tried that already, right?" I said.
Jai replied, "I have an idea to open it. Let me light a wooden stick on fire and we can burn the edges of the container locker spot, we can even insert a small burning stick inside its keyhole. It might open".
"OK, you guys try that, Justin and I are going to build a fish trap to get some fish for us today," I told them since I wasn't sure of their 'container opening idea'.
I went to the water stream and Justin followed me. I have seen some small trees which weren't unreachable height. I held Justin's legs and lifted him towards the top. I thought he would weigh less despite his height. I realized his butt was on my face. And I noticed the butt was too big.
'Oh boy, he wasn't a bony guy at all,' I thought.
I realized my biceps were tiring within a minute or so, I must have lost a few pounds in the last few days, I needed protein. But soon after Justin grabbed a branch, he broke it after a couple of attempts. I decided to use the small knife which Jai gave to me to cut the stem into smaller pieces for the fish trap. When I was cutting it, Justin wandered around the water stream, it wasn't deep probably one or two feet, it ran above the rocks from the ground and flowing towards the other end of the island. Justin came back with a Bamboo piece in his hand.
"Look, what I found. There are several Bamboo trees out there" he pointed in a direction next to the water stream. He took me to the spot where he found them. Yes, indeed there were a bunch of bamboo trees.
"This could be good for a fish trap, don't you think?" He asked me excitedly.
We got down to work and started cutting down a bamboo tree. We took a couple of stems and brought them back to the cabin.
The Boys were still busy opening the container.
"Did you find any thread in the luggage?" I asked Jai.
He said "No", then he started plucking coir from the empty coconuts and weave a thread. Within 10 minutes, he gave me one.
By the time, Justin and I were involved in cutting down the bamboo branch into small equal parts and a couple of large parts.
I tied the bamboo parts into a half square shape, the fish trap was ready in two hours effort.
Justin and I took it to the sea, after fours hours wait. We stood there in the waters, waiting for a fish to get itself caught in our bamboo trap. Finally, we caught one. It was bigger than our arm's length. And then we got a few smaller fishes.
When we returned to the cabin more good news awaited us. Somehow boys luckily managed to open the container lid.
It was indeed a food container of the Flight canteen. It had bread packets, uncooked brown rice, oats, barley, and noodles packets, it had sauce and mayonnaise bottles in huge quantities. We even got uncooked meat and vegetables carefully packed. I had no idea why there were uncooked items in the box. But who cares right, I blew a whistle. The items in the container were worth at least a week's food source for us.
We have not eaten anything the whole day except a couple of bananas since morning when the sun sets in, Jai lit up the fire again, we collected a lot of dry woods from nearby places. After several minutes of argument, we decided to cook the fish first and eat it with the bread like a Fish sandwich, we used the sauce to add some spice to it.
Like barbecue style, I tied the big fish by coir thread with a bamboo stick and burnt it on the fire. Our taste buds were completely numb due to abundant consumption of coconuts and bananas, even the burnt fish tasted like a delicious meal, I added some mayonnaise on the bread and put my fish piece in between and ate it. Fish thorns poked my tongue and insides of my mouth, I was least bothered though.
We savoured two entire bread packets and emptied even smaller fishes within ten or fifteen minutes. That was the best meal course we had in days.
Jai said "Guys, if we have to cook rice, noodles, and other stuff, we need utensils"
Afridi interrupted him by asking "Can't we use these emptied coconuts as utensils to cook?", he was waving an empty coconut on Jai's face.
It was naive.
Jai laughed at him and asked, " Have you ever cooked before?".
Justin and I laughed along with him.
And then Jai continued saying "No way, it will burn everything"
"I took pottery classes during college, if we could find clay anywhere, I could make pots" Justin volunteered.
"Where do we find clay then?" Afridi asked again.
"It will be everywhere here, all we need to do is to find some wet soil and dig it up a bit, we will get them for sure," Justin told him.
We decided to go and look for clay in the morning at the stream, we had more surprises await us the next day.
In the meantime, I felt cold wind passing through from the North. The whole day's climate has been warm and sunny. And I carried a dozen dead bodies from elsewhere to the burial place, it was tiresome. Probably, I would have burnt more calories and with the rate, things were going there, I thought I might end up becoming bony and skinny just like Jai very sooner. I needed to eat more, find a way to take as much meat as possible. Catching fish using a fish trap was a good start.
Justin gave me a piece of good news when we were fishing that evening. He saw a wild deer passing across when he was wandering around the forest for water before we found him.
That means food to me. I never imagined animals could live here on that inhabited island. Though the forest was dense and had plenty of vegetation, I assumed only birds and bugs were in it. That seemed like a possibility for hunting. I have read that primitive human survived by hunting and gathering rather than maintaining cattle and agriculture. Well, 6 days of living on that deserted island somewhat trained me to just put more thoughts on food and survival rather than computers and bug fixing.
It might take days or even weeks for the rescue mission to locate us, we needed to find a way to survive until then. It was good that Jai managed to open the food container which was worth a week's source of food. There was no need to worry about hunting and gathering much, if Justin finds a way to make a couple of clay utensils such as a pot or something, I could have boiled rice and stuff. So I decided not to put too much thought into hunting until then.
But there was another issue I was having especially at nights.
Mosquitoes and bugs, it seems they have increased in population ever since we arrived here. Particularly, it was targeting me since I was sleeping in an open space without any cover over my head nor any blankets. I couldn't sleep long after midnight and managed to get sleep in the early mornings. I wasn't sure if other boys were facing similar issues.
Jai found a body lotion from one of the ladies handbags and gave it to me when he noticed mosquito bite marks all over my chest, shoulders, and back.
The boy had been a real sweetheart, taking care of most of us with compassion and quick intelligence.
I knew that the boys had to sleep inside a tiny cabin and adjust their bodies to provide room for others. Other than that, life wasn't as worse as we initially expected. 'We needed to get back home and forget about those painful moments and probably would remember it like an adventure in the future' I presumed.
News about our missing plane would have reached my office by then. Preethi, my eldest sister living in the UK and my other sister Vani might have had phone calls every day since I left. My relatives and friends especially Vijay would have been inquiring non-stop by now. I knew they loved me, except for one person. I wonder if she would have even cared that I went missing.
I settled down most of the pending things with her before I left Chennai. It was a nasty divorce, and it took me at least 8 months to recover financially.
Thankfully both my sisters and friends stood by me. Preethi spoke to me on the phone almost every day to make sure I wasn't too depressed. I was at the low point of my life; my self-control and confidence were thinning day by day. So, I spent a lot of hours working out at the gym, mornings and evenings and indulged myself at office work the rest of the day to overcome my depression.
That new project at New York which I volunteered to take was what I wanted desperately to get away from the past. It was good money too. I promised Preethi that I would visit her end of December for the holidays. When I took the plane to New York, I was looking forward to a new life. But I never thought my life would have turned out that way forcing me to survive on daily basis on a deserted island.
I am publishing my story here on experimental basis. Readers feedback and comments are most welcome
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