TESTIMONY PART 3
I don’t know how long we drifted. Days, for certain. A week, perhaps? I don’t remember much from those days. I remember reading in silence, and occasionally strumming an aimless tune on Mami-san’s ukulele. I remember Mami-san’s incessant complaining, and Koyama’s leering growing more noticeable. I remember Yoshida-san speaking of a dream he had while sleeping on the deck of the yacht, a dream in which he saw a large ship coming toward us that seemed to be our salvation. He said it had grown larger, its massive hull approaching without slowing, ready to crash into our tiny boat and kill us all. Sakeda-san had heard his screaming, and rushed to awaken him.
It was all a blur. A blur of hopelessness and despair.
But all that changed when Koyama…
… when Koyama found the island.
(NOTE: Murai-san’s pause following this sentence was nearly a minute long, during which time he appeared to be breathing heavily. No attempt at communication or consolation during this silence was given by me, my fellow doctors, or the police in attendance. His testimony resumed upon his breathing returning to normal.)
Yes, it was Koyama-san who spotted it first. He yelled it over and over again. “Island! Island! It’s an island!” We were all on deck in seconds.
There is was. An island shrouded in fog. We could see a beach and trees beyond, but little else. Sakeda-san speculated that it could have been a part of the Ogasawara chain. Who knows if that’s true. We had no idea of knowing where we were, or of how far we had drifted. The island could have been anywhere.
But it didn’t matter to us just where it was. It was an island. It meant food and water. That was all we needed to know.
Within minutes, we had gathered what few items we could carry in preparation for going ashore. We anchored the remnants of the yacht before we could drift away from the landmass, and quickly abandoned it to begin our long swim to the beach.
The swim lasted forever. We were already weak from stress and lack of sustenance. But we made it. The seven of us fell upon the wet sand, exhausted beyond exhaustion. My limbs felt limp and useless as I struggled to pull myself up. But we stood, pushing the exhaustion away. There was food and water to find. Rest could wait.
The island wasn’t big. Maybe only a few kilometers across. Most of it was covered in a thick jungle, tall trees and dense underbrush growing on a series of jagged slopes and hills. As we marched across the island that first day, we found ourselves moving up and down across these inclined areas, with few flat stretches between them. The island may have been small, but I remember feeling as though we walked for days. It was most likely my hunger and fatigue playing tricks on my mind, as well as my aching feet.
Koyama-san was the first to spot potential food: a small, red berry which he immediately spat out. We moved on, beginning to lose hope of ever finding food. Sakeda-san led us through unending vegetation, none of it worth even attempting to eat. When the foggy jungle finally gave way, we faced a steep cliff. With little choice, we climbed it, only to face yet another jungle at its summit. I could feel the last of my hope draining away.
And then, only a few moments after reaching the top of the rocky cliff, I heard Koyama calling ahead of me. “Water!” I stumbled forward, Akiko at my side as we entered the foliage, following Koyama’s voice in the hope that it would lead us, finally, to the water we ached for.
It was there, of course. A tiny stream stood almost peacefully at our feet, as if waiting patiently for us parched and impatient castaways to happen upon it. I ignored my dehydrated fatigue long enough to allow Mami and Akiko to drink first, during which time Koyama pointed out a most interesting discovery…
Stones. Several of them, laid out in a most on-purpose way. A line of them formed a barrier that held back the stream, creating a fuller watering hole for perspective drinkers. Human drinkers. It seemed that we weren’t the first people to happen upon the island. Of course, we couldn’t have known then that-
We drank our fill before moving on. There was still food to find, perhaps shelter to construct. Koyama speculated that we could find human dwellings on the opposite side of the island, which would explain the purposefully laid stones at the watering hole. Indeed, the signs of previous human activity in the area had continued to appear during our march, including cut marks on the nearby trees and the obvious clearing of the underbrush that formed the path we walked upon. Perhaps Koyama found these signs of life encouraging, but as we continued our way across the island, I couldn’t shake a feeling of most unnatural unease from creeping into my mind. There was something not right, something abnormal about that island. I could feel it even then.
More jungle came and went. Another cliff. Yet more fog.
At the top of the final cliff, the fog parted before us just enough to make her visible. She rested on the beach nearly a kilometer away, her tattered sails and dangling lines billowing like spider’s webs in the cold wind. It was less a ship, and more the corpse of a once-living vessel.
But corpse or no corpse, it was a momentous discovery. It meant shelter, perhaps food and drink. And maybe, just maybe… fellow men.