You Only Get One Shot




Who knows how long I’ve been here? I started counting the days when I came aground this island, all alone after the wreck, and vowed to tally each time the sun came up after it set once I came across not food, not potable water, nothing but this pen and paper. But I lost interest after a few weeks, and indeed, lost track of some sunsets.

For reasons I can’t seem to comprehend, it appears the days grow longer, so much that I sleep with the bright sun still high in the noon sky shining through my closed eyes, and





I am so unspeakably hungry, I can think of nothing else. It has been weeks since I’ve eaten anything, and yet I still live. Perhaps I would stoop so low to cannibalism, if there even were but a single morsel of my fellow man around me. I don’t even feel weaker, save the gnawing hunger that reigns within my bowels. And not just that of food or drink, but other appetites. I fear I may go my whole life allotted to me without the singular touch of a


I am so unspeakably hungry, I can think of nothing else. It has been weeks since I’ve eaten anything, and yet I still live. Perhaps I would stoop so low to cannibalism, if there even were but a single morsel of my fellow man around me. I don’t even feel weaker, save the gnawing hunger that reigns within my bowels. And not just that of food or drink, but other appetites. I fear I may go my whole life allotted to me without the singular touch of a I feel like something has to be done with these sheets of paper, with this reservoir of ink. Why would fickle fortune put them before me if not? Yes, something important has to be written down. Something


I am so unspeakably hungry, I can think of nothing else. It has been weeks since I’ve eaten anything, and yet I still live. Perhaps I would stoop so low to cannibalism, if there even were but a single morsel of my fellow man around me. I don’t even feel weaker, save the gnawing hunger that reigns within my bowels. And not just that of food or drink, but other appetites. I fear I may go my whole life allotted to me without the singular touch of a I feel like something has to be done with these sheets of paper, with this reservoir of ink. Why put them before me if not? Yes, something important has to be written down. Something Yes, I suppose something literary. Well, why not? I always wanted to be a writer before I shipped out, before I washed ashore to this lonely island.

Do I dare it? I have so many questions racing in my mind. Where do I start? What if it isn’t good? What if start and then I die and never finish? What if I never die and never finish? What if it is good? What’s the use if no one will read it? Should I write because no one will read it, which will spare me the barbs of critique? Should I be the only one in its audience? Is there a point to it at all in this case? Isn’t art supposed to inspire feelings, or bring about positive change? How artful can it be if the only one who even has a chance of bringing about new feelings or change is myself? Do I have enough paper to write down all these q




If it wasn’t as clear before, clear as the bright cloudless sky that loomed over their medusa’s raft of rotting wood and brine, it was now for the four of them aboard the huge driftwood raft that was formerly the deck they strode upon, but now regarded as their vessel whole: someone in their numbers was a saboteur and meant them their deaths.

There was the captain, wrinkled and wizened by the years and years of voyages and narrow brushes with fate as much as the hostile sun above him, as much as his current situation was about to make this brush with fate ever narrower. his first and second mates, one fat and one thin, both becoming as leathered and tanned as their captain under the hateful sun. And none among the crew left to them but the cabin boy, a boy of just barely nineteen years, who told his mother before he left of course he’d be careful, that it was only a superstition that a voyage with a woman aboard would bring about nothing but calamity and disaster, a memory he relished with a bitter laugh as the very woman in question was among them on



There was the captain, wrinkled and wizened by the years and years of voyages and narrow brushes with fate as much as the hostile sun above him, as much as his current situation was about to make this brush with fate ever narrower. his first and second mates, one fat and one thin, both becoming as leathered and tanned as their captain under the hateful sun. And none among the crew left to them but the cabin boy, a young man of just barely nineteen years, who had never in his life even set foot upon a ship till then, who told his mother before he left of course he’d be careful, that it was only a superstition that a voyage with a woman aboard would bring about nothing but calamity and disaster, a memory he relished with a bitter laugh as the very woman in question was among them on when the four of them did what they had to do and ate from the first aboard the raft who succumbed, none other but the


And none among the crew left to them but the cabin boy, a young man of just barely nineteen years, who had never in his life even set foot upon a ship till then, who told his mother before he left of course he’d be careful, that it was only a superstition that a voyage with a woman aboard would bring about nothing but calamity and disaster, a memory he relished with a bitter laugh as the very woman in question was among them on when the four of them did what they had to do and ate from the first aboard the raft who succumbed, none other but the
It was clear that one of them wished their demise, even if it was mutual. Someone had tampered with the captain’s charts, set them adrift to waters far more turbulent than the vessel expected to traverse. Someone had snuck to the stores at night and, after eating their fill while the crew slumbered, slipped a rat or two in a barrel of flour one day, another in a barrel of ale another day, till no one was to have unspoiled food or drink of any kind.

Suspicions of course were meted out to the portly first mate, who must have hidden large portions of the ship’s rations in his own gullet. Equally suspected was the rail-thin second mate, whose primary duty was navigation and upkeep of the ships maps and charts. But not all aboard the raft were above reproach. The captain of course was adamant in allowing this woman aboard the long voyage, an act which he knew would

The captain of course was adamant in allowing this woman aboard the long voyage, an act which he knew would


The captain of course was adamant in allowing this woman aboard the long voyage, an act which he knew would The captain was of course adamant in allowing this woman aboard the long voyage, an act which he was all too aware would arouse the grumblings and superstitions of the crew, or perhaps even tempt the fates themselves. To say this raised an eyebrow or two was an understatement. What was the young lady’s purpose? Where was the ship really sailing off to? And the cabin boy? Why, it was whispered among the grizzled men that the young man had fallen in love, had let the proverbial arrow of the young woman’s quiver enter his heart and strike through and true, which there would be nothing the lad wouldn’t do. Perhaps even

The captain was of course adamant in allowing this woman aboard the long voyage, an act which he was all too aware would arouse the grumblings and superstitions of the crew, or perhaps even tempt the fates themselves. And the cabin boy? Why, it was whispered among the grizzled men that the young man had fallen in love, had let the proverbial arrow of the young woman’s quiver enter his heart and strike through and true, which there would be nothing the lad wouldn’t do. Perhaps even







While it was true the captain would never do anything so foolish as to bring a woman aboard, there were nonetheless whisperings as to the old veteran’s sanity. What had the ravages of Neptune’s wrath truly done to the old man? Did he indeed emerge from tidal wave after squall after maelstrom with his wits intact? People spoke of his legendary drinking habit, and late at night, if you snuck from the crews quarters to walk the deck, it was said that some could hear the captain muttering from his own quarters, strange utterances, even sinister.

And the cabin boy was the most mysterious figure of them all. For not just the captain, but indeed not a soul among the crew if they were a captain themselves, would never bring aboard such a green, such an untested young man into their ranks, save if they were coerced by shadowy figures, or cajoled by some powerful man who was owed a favor. Was he just an inexperienced young man? The fact that he stayed alive for so long, indeed up to the fateful ride aboard the raft, belied his inexperience. Was he a spy aboard the ship? If so, who were his unassuming, inquisitive eyes surveilling the activities of the ship for, and who knew what secrets he sought to uncover?

None suspected him for long, however, as he was the first upon that horrible raft to succumb to the debt all sailors must pay. The captain, the first, and the second mates all took a long moment to meditate upon the lad’s condition. He lied in his own corner of the floating detritus, covered with salt water and the rags he bore upon his back when the ship went under. Unlike the waves that rocked the raft, his bony chest no longer waved up and down. And there it was, lying before the boy, the one possession anyone was able to keep from the wreck: a single pistol, loaded with a single dry bullet, which the captain ordered and the others agreed, was per his last order as a captain to be fired into the malefactor’s heart.

It did not take long for the corpulent first mate, a day to the discovery of the lad’s still body, in fact, to suggest they do what needed to be done, and carve up and devour what little meat the young man had to offer for their own sakes. There were protestations of shock and horror from the captain and second at first, of course, but as the remainder of the day went on the seed that the first had planted in the others’ minds had grown fruit. As accusations of the first mate’s gluttony and hoarding grew among the second, and even soon the captain, it was not long before the fate mate simply admitted to purloining the ship’s stocks in the past. As he stole food while on the ship, upon this new ship he would provide food. The others soon had little energy enough to do anything else but agree.

They had no flame to cook their horrible repast, nor fork and knife to cut their meat, but they knew that their window of opportunity to partake of this feast was dwindling before it would putrefy into a rotten briny corpse. The first mate, as he was so adamant on feasting upon the poor cabin boy, was to have the first bite. He raised one of the arms and took a bite of the lad’s forefinger, who jumped with start and a shout to his feet.

Everyone was shocked and appalled to see the boy still quick with life, none more so than the first mate, who nearly died of fright right then and there. When the captain roared to the young man what was the meaning of all this, he couldn’t help but let out a laugh, he along with the thin second mate. It was all a ruse, whispered among the two of them late at night while the first and the captain slept, to coax a confession of the first’s guilt for all to hear. They knew very well it was the first who stole the ship’s stores, and it was high time they made the guilty man yell out his crimes for God and all the world to hear.

The second mate demanded that the captain fulfill his vow and fire the pistol upon the gluttonous, duplicitous first mate. With a sly look upon his face, the cabin boy suggested that it be the second himself who produce the gun for the captain’s use, which the second obliged without a thought. A shocking thing happened when he stooped to pick up the weapon, however. A piece of parchment fell out of the man’s raggedy shirt pocket and upon the briny raft. The captain went to inspect the sheet, and upon a first look it seemed to be a facsimile of the ship’s charts. But a closer look revealed that it was indeed the real ship’s map! The second mate had been responsible for being lost at sea, by switching the genuine charts for forgeries of his own!

It was true, the second mate tearfully admitted. It had been so long since he had known the familiar touch of a woman’s hand, and what with the captain never allowing the fairer sex upon his ship, and his stinginess with allowing them shore leave, it fell upon the second mate to steer their vessel to friendlier outposts, far from the dangers the genuine voyage promised. Little did anyone know that the second’s alternate route would steer them to far more perilous waters than anyone imagined. All this he admitted, but then pointed a bony finger at the young cabin boy. How did he know any of this, he asked the other men. How did he alone glean the inner creaks and whistles of the hearts of men aboard the ship?

At that, before the cabin boy could reply, before the first or second mates could offer further defenses of their own, the captain snatched the gun away from his second. Something that someone had said made him think, and think some more, and put together disparate thoughts till he pieced together exactly who was responsible for their mutual predicament.

Who was the guilty party? Was it the gluttonous first mate, or the shifty second? Was it indeed the young man, who held some dark secret within his young breast that only the captain could discern in that moment of clarity? Or was it somehow the captain himself, was it the culmination of a series of deliberate or else negligent actions that brought calamity to himself and his own crew? Was he, Agamemnon-like, shackled to his own hasty vow? Was he at that point forced to fire the gun into his own heart?

He answered all these questions without a word, but with a single action. He took the pistol, cocked the hammer, aimed and pulled the trigger, firing the lone bullet straight into the heart of









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