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Author: Kat Austen








The last thought going through my mind as the current started to pull me under? I’m going to die a virgin. That was what ruled my headspace as I confronted my own death.

I was a twenty-four-year-old virgin about to die alone.

Alone. It had been the theme of my life for as long as I could remember. It was what had driven me to purchase the small sailboat, now sinking to the ocean floor in pieces all around me, and set out in search for meaning and purpose in the ocean.

It was a last ditch sort of vision quest. One year ago, I’d left my job as a nurse in Chicago and flown to Cambodia to backpack, but when that failed to quiet my soul, I flew to Papua New Guinea and dumped my life savings into a sailboat. Then I took to the seas, vowing to myself that I wouldn’t return to civilization until I’d found peace and whatever it was I’d spent my entire life searching for.

I didn’t know what it was, just that I didn’t have it and wouldn’t be content until I did.

It had seemed like a good idea at the time. It had even seemed like a good idea up until an hour ago, when a storm came out of nowhere and threw my boat around like it was no more substantial than a toothpick. I was an experienced sailor and had fared through stormy seas, but this was different. This was like Poseidon himself was stabbing his trident through the waters, destruction his objective.

I’d been heading toward where I’d seen a plume of smoke rising from an island before the sun set, but I hadn’t made it to shore before the boat crashed into an outcropping of rocks. I’d barely had time to leap overboard before my ship started to sink, and despite the lifejacket I’d cinched into place, the waves crashed over me, one right after the other, just as capable of drowning me as the ocean body itself.

The next wave that pounded against me drove me into something hard and cragged. Another rock, which meant I must be getting closer to the island I’d been trying to get to before the storm started. Here in Micronesia, an island was close by anywhere you sailed, but few were occupied and most were inhospitable. I’d probably be better off dying quickly in the ocean than dying slowly on some harsh, deserted island.

That was what I found myself hoping as warm liquid trickled down the side of my face and a sharp pang pulsed in my arm thanks to the crash into the rock.

As consciousness started to fade, my body thrashing at the ocean’s mercy, I suddenly felt something that wasn’t so violent and foreboding. It came in the form of two strong arms winding around me from behind and drawing me close. My body started to glide through the water, away from the wreckage.

Those strong, warm arms never left me; they never even loosened. They stayed wound around me, guiding me away to calmer waters. I felt safe and protected and like I wouldn’t die alone. For that stolen moment, I felt the kind of peace I’d spent years searching for.

I knew I was hallucinating—none of this was real—but I didn’t care. If this was a dream, I didn’t want to wake up.

The farther I got from the wreckage, the more the roar of the waves dimmed until the noise was just a rolling echo. That was when I heard another sound. Just one word. The voice of my ghost savior.










My head felt like it was being squeezed in a vise at the same time it felt ready to explode. Pain radiated down my left arm, searing and throbbing. The rest of my body I couldn’t feel, probably because my head and arm were taking up all of my attention.

My eyes felt pasted closed, so I had to fight them open, but once I did, it took a moment of blinking to adjust to the light streaming around me. What happened? Where was I? Those were the two questions running through my mind as I struggled to make sense of what I was seeing.

I was in some kind of shelter—some kind of dwelling. It was made of all organic substances, from parts of trees to large, glossy plant leaves. There was a roof, and though the space was small, it seemed well-made—like it had been constructed by someone who knew a thing or two about putting a structure together using what you had on hand.

I was laid out on a grass mat that had been woven together—a few more layered beneath it for cushion—but this crude “bed” was the only piece of furniture in the dwelling. There was a random assortment of knick-knacks spaced around, from a few books that looked as beat-up as I felt, to a couple of dented cooking pots, to a whole tower of what look liked homemade spears propped up in a corner. Someone lived here. Someone who lived here had brought me here.

As the realizations started to register, my last memory came to me. Two strong arms pulling me to safety. One word stirred in my mind—Mine.

It wasn’t a dream. It wasn’t a hallucination. I knew that because of the pain I felt firing through my body and the way I could feel my heartbeat in my ears.

I needed to get out of here. I didn’t know where I was or what was happening or who had saved me or what their intentions were, but I needed to leave. I knew that if nothing else.

When I sat up rapidly, a cry spilled out of my mouth from the pain firing in my head. My eyes clamped closed when I saw white. I wasn’t about to let myself pass out again.

I needed to leave. I couldn’t do that if I kept blacking out.

After a few deep breaths, I managed to open my eyes. When I did, I saw something that should have made me scream again, but I stayed silent. I didn’t want this person to know I was frightened.

I didn’t want him to know I was scared of him.

He seemed to appear out of nowhere, silent and sudden, and looking up at him from my vantage point made him seem huge. He was probably only a few inches past six feet, but staring up at him made him seen like a giant twice that size.

“Who are you?” I asked as calmly as I was capable.

He didn’t respond. He just stood there, staring at me like he was trying to decide if I was as real as I was trying to convince myself he was.

He’d clearly been marooned on this island for a while. His skin was dark from the sun, his light blue eyes and sun-bleached hair a stark contrast to the caramel-brown color. It was hard to tell how old he was thanks to the overgrown beard and hair that seemed to cover most of his face. To look at his veiled face, he could have just as easily been twenty as he was sixty.

However, his body gave a better indication at his age. Since he was entirely naked other than a miniscule piece of fabric that covered his groin, I pretty much had the whole view of his body. And for a girl who was just starting to accept she’d become a castaway on some island in the middle of nowhere with no food, water, or supplies, I should not have been admiring this fellow castaway’s body as much as I was.

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