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Asking “What if?"

By D.K. ShepardPublished 2 months ago 3 min read
Top Story - March 2024
Photo by Josh Sorenson on Unsplash

It was day nine, by Marcus’s count. He and Terrance had already spent eight days on the yellow life raft afloat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. There had only been six survivors that surfaced after their plane crash-landed in the water. Together, they had secured three of the life rafts that had been aboard the aircraft and had divided themselves up - two per raft. They had tied the buoyant vessels together, but in the storm, on day four, the rope connecting Marcus and Terrance’s raft to the others came loose. Now, they were separated from the rest of the group with no way to signal for help since the flare gun was in one of the other rafts.

“How much water do we have left?” Terrance asked. The forty-year old computer technician was brutally sunburned and his lips were etched with cracks. He had managed to acquire a spare t-shirt from the drifting wreckage, and had formed it into a turban to keep the unrelenting sun from scorching his bald head.

Marcus slowly lifted a Dasani bottle and swished the couple swallows around. “This is it,” he replied. Marcus watched the water shimmer in the light and imagined the liquid running down his parched throat. He was so thirsty; water was all his heat-addled brain could think about. The only thing he could see for miles in each direction were fathoms of water, but not one drop he could drink. He wiped the sweat beading on his forehead. How was it possible his body was still capable of this function with such little water intake?

“Were you listening when Lexi said she thought the plane was hijacked?” Terrance asked in a weary voice. They were both lying in crumpled heaps, heads slumped against the rim of the raft.

“Yeah, crazy stuff,” Marcus answered.

“Why would someone do that?” Terrance continued. “Just to plummet people into the ocean?”

“I don’t know, man,” Marcus stated. “Maybe Lexi was imagining it.”

Marcus knew though that Lexi was perfectly correct about what she had seen from her first class seat, a man with a dark business suit had exited the lavatory, at the same moment one of the co-pilots had come out to relieve himself. The clean-cut man with the suit had forced his way through to the cockpit, knocking both pilots unconscious with a couple well aimed punches. The hijacker took the controls and sent the aircraft into a plunging dive. He had barricaded himself inside the cockpit. And at some point he must have changed his mind because the plane had pulled up and started to level out before the crash, but it was just too late.

That’s what Lexi had seen, but Marcus knew the rest of the story. He knew that right before the hijacker had gone to the lavatory he had received a message from his brother. A message that said the hijacker’s wife had finally been beaten by the tumor in her skull. She was gone, and he had not been by her side in those final moments. Lexi couldn’t have discovered that from her seat three rows ahead.

Now Marcus stared up at the sun, cursing himself for not intervening during the flight, when he noticed the man sitting next to him was obviously unstable. He played a million possible scenarios in his mind where he could have done something to stop the crash. If he had just been willing to put himself in an uncomfortable position, offering a condolence or an open ear, maybe he would be at his silly business conference right now instead of this life raft.

Terrance had grown quiet. Marcus pulled himself out of his ruminations to see that the other man had fallen asleep. Marcus removed the cap from the water bottle and poured the remaining mouthfuls into the ocean. They were going to die. Might as well stop prolonging the process. He leaned his head back and was about to nod off when a splotch of color caught his attention. Banishing the sleepiness away he peered out at the horizon. An island.

Before he knew what he was doing, he started yelling with his hoarse voice and shaking Terrance awake. Maybe they wouldn’t die after all.

Author's Note: This short story was inspired by a prompt to write a story that takes place entirely in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Short Story

About the Creator

D.K. Shepard

Character Crafter, Witty Banter Enthusiast, World Builder, Unpublished novelist...for now

Fantasy is where I thrive, but I like to experiment with genres for my short stories. Currently employed as a teacher in Louisville.

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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Comments (10)

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  • Joe O’Connor2 months ago

    “but not one drop he could drink” is such a great line, and perfectly portrays the desperation of their plight. What an awful situation to find yourself in! Even worse when all you can do is think about what you could or should have done. You drop the reader right into the middle of this and use Marcus’ thoughts to flashback. Nicely done D.K.😊

  • Hannah Moore2 months ago

    Love him pouring that water away, utterly hopeless.

  • Anna 2 months ago

    Congrats on Top Story!🥳🥳🥳

  • Paul Stewart2 months ago

    I saw this a few days ago and then forgot to get to it. So glad I read it this morning. This is such a good little story. Love the way you described how hopeless their situation was and then recounting the regrets of maybe preventing the crash. That bit of hope...just at the end was perfectly timed. Well done DK and congrats on a fine Top Story

  • Cathy holmes2 months ago

    Oh wow. This is fabulous. I love the glimmer of hope at the end. Well done and congrats on the TS.

  • O,h lots hope and remore in this one. Somehow I didn't expect a happy ending, but I'm glad they were going to survive. Nice story!

  • JBaz2 months ago

    You never pour water away… but then again I never been in a life raft for Eight days. This was beautifully drawn out, with a sprig of hope tossed in at the end. Congratulations

  • Rachel Deeming2 months ago

    Why did he pour that water away? That bit made me really angry for some reason! Loved this story and the back story through it. Great writing, D.K..

  • Bonnie Bowerman2 months ago

    Love a riveting tale with a happy ending! Enjoyed this!

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