You can read last week’s tale here, or just catch up with this week’s story. Friday Flash Fiction – Island | Times and Tides of a Beachwriter (tidalscribe.com)https://tidalscribe.com/2021/03/05/friday-flash-fiction-island/
Cassie stood on the small jetty apart from the others and tried to think clearly. At Christmas she could never have imagined March would find her on a deserted Scottish island, leaving behind pandemic lockdown England, leaving behind a secure job and home in a busy town. In the two months of careful preparation she had anticipated this moment and the challenges the next year or so held. What she had not expected was to encounter a problem even before they had stepped off the boat. The spiral of domestic smoke drifting against the clear sky signalled that they were not the first to set foot on this island for over a year. They had been told that no one had lived on the island for decades.
She turned questioningly to Sam and was surprised to hear a chuckle rising in his throat that soon turned to laughter. The skipper still had one foot on his boat, a reminder that the break in the weather was not going to last and he was staying only long enough for them to get their kit unloaded. Sam’s dog was already exploring the beach.
‘Why did none of us think of this? How many people with a boat might take the opportunity to escape the pandemic and enjoy the freedom of a desert island. There’s hundreds of uninhabited islands and who’s to stop them?’
Cassie found herself joining in Sam’s amusement, though her laughter was tinged with hysteria.
‘You mean some millionaire has their luxury yacht moored round the other side of the island?’
‘A millionaire would be happy to stay on his yacht and not need to escape to an island’ butted in Sam’s son.
‘Could be refugees from England who arrived in a rubber dingy’ said Sam.
They all turned to the skipper, who hadn’t uttered a word yet.
‘Well dinae look at me, I hae not set foot on this island fer five years and it were a godforsaken place then. None of yer fancy scientists’ projects ever came to anything. I told you I’ll give you a month afore yo’re wantin to come off. Now are you goin to come back wuth me or will youse get to know your new neighbours?’
As Carrie heard herself saying ‘Of course we’ll stay, we’ve come this far…’ Sam spoke up.
‘I shall be staying, I’ve nothing to lose, but Cassie and Lucas have to decide for themselves.’
His son laughed. ‘I’ll not give Ma and the auld man a chance to crow over our failure, I’m staying Dad.’
Cassie felt doubts creeping in before the skipper had even cast off. How would an office worker, a homeless scientist and a teenager cope if the inhabitants did not want them to stay? But as she tried to look nonchalant carting her one woman tent onto the beach she was confronted by a naked man stepping from behind a rocky outcrop. An arm appeared from behind the rock handing him a towel, but he was in no haste to cover himself up.
‘Can’t a couple come down for their daily swim in peace and who the hell are you lot?’
Behind him a heavily pregnant young woman was having difficulty protecting her modesty as her towel flapped in the wind. Whoever these people were, thought Cassie, island life must have made them tough if they could stroll naked down to the beach and contemplate getting in the cold sea.
Lucas had a broad grin on his face as he dropped his heavy kit bag in the sand; safely on dry land he had recovered from his sea sickness. Mocking their English accents he exaggerated his own Scottish baritone.
‘We’re supposed to be here and youse are not, but it seems you are weell settled. Is it jus the twae of youse or nearly thrae?’
‘Just us, we ate the others.’
‘Only joking, I’m Jack and this is Alice, come on up to the croft. I hope you have tents, there’s not much room, but Alice will be glad to have the company of another woman, especially when her time comes.’
Alice had not offered her opinion yet and Cassie had the horrendous thought she might be expected to deliver a baby, she knew nothing about childbirth and had no desire to find out. As they followed Jack, Sam was unfolding their official map of the island.
‘You won’t be needing that, we know every foot of this place.’
Lucas was full of questions, including what food supplies they might have as his appetite had returned.
In the tiny croft they were all grateful for a cup of tea and Cassie relished the smoky taste. Jack let them explain their plans before launching in to a colourful tale of how he and Alice came to be there.
‘…so that was the end of our sailing round the world avoiding the pandemic, the boat just about made it to this island and at least we had the charts and the radio so we knew where we were, even if nobody else does. I realised I had been here before when I was at uni., trying to set up a bird watching project.’
‘But could you charge your phones up and all that’ said Cassie vaguely.
‘For a brief while, till all the boat’s batteries were drained, but there’s no internet access here anyway.’
‘But we are supposed to keep in touch with base and do Zoom meetings’ said Cassie.
Alice came to life at this point and laughed. ‘Cassie the city girl, hey are you two together?’
‘Yes, no… we haven’t known each other long and yes I guess I am a city girl, but I don’t like shopping and I’m a bit of a loner, so I knew I could do this. There are more groups coming when they’ve done their isolation, we were worried Lucas would be bored or lonely.’
‘Well he won’t find any Girl Fridays here,’ laughed Jack ‘but he won’t be bored. We three chaps have got a lot of work to do, fix the boat, build some more crofts. And plenty for Cassie, do you know how to butcher a sheep, not that I’m saying the girls have to do all the cooking…’
‘What… sheep, no, I mean I can cook, but we are getting supplies every few weeks…’
Lucas laughed. ‘I can shoot and butcher venison, so sheep no problem, but is this island supposed to have sheep?’
‘All that’s left from past inhabitants I guess, we’re doing them a favour, keeping the population down, same as you do with your deer on the estate.’
Cassie wanted to get out of the croft, wanted to talk to Sam on his own, it was hard to take everything in.
Sam winked at her then turned to the others. ‘Me and Cassie are just going to check on the dog, you show Lucas where we might set up camp.’
Outside they wandered down a narrow track between rocks and heather, Sheba nosing ahead, looking at home already.
‘We’ll be okay Cassie, we wanted an adventure, we can still carry on with the project same as we would have done and we’ll get our own croft built, there’s certainly enough rocks around. This is real life, no more working for MPJ, no more lockdown.’
‘I keep wondering if we have been set up, are there TV cameras hidden, like one of those awful reality shows that I never watch?’
‘Could be worse, like one of those horror movies where everyone ends up eating each other… hey it won’t be long till the boat comes again and here we are, we’ve really done it.’