Birth of a Nation

 

I got the story out from Sean Kramer, who is the only one of them who´s still alive.

They had suffered a shipwreck in the Pacific and ended up on an island without any food. The first week they survived on the tins and cans from the ship that had floated on the island. Then nothing. They had a small fire, because one of them had a lighter which surprisingly still worked. They had the few clothes on their bodies. They had money, keys and other things which had meant something in a different world but here, on this naked island, were absolutely useless.


There were five of them, two women and three men. One of the man, Jules Craig, who had worked in the kitchen on the ship, inmediately became leader. Large, strong, tanned, big-mouthed, and with a fashionable rasta hairdo and a existentialist moustache. The two women, Shannon and Kirsten recognized instinctively that he was the most important man to cling on to, and so they did.

And then there were Sean and Gerald. Gerald was the sort of person who didn´t suffer authority gladly. Not a particular strong man, he had that compact, sinewey and stringy aspect of the self sufficient loner. And so, from Jules´ point of view, Gerald was a threat, whereas, of course, Sean wasn´t. Probably Gerald was the first to recognise this right from day one, and during the consecutive days, as irritations and bickerings increased, all of them came to realise the same thing.

In the last days they were crazy from hunger. And then Shannon died. Shannon had been a silent, obedient and almost invisible woman. Kirsten was the opposite. She was bold and outspoken, and put great efforts in showing that it was her own independent thinking that lead her to always, without fail, agree with Jules. She hated Gerald and clearly never had liked Shannon much. It was Kirsten who spoke out loud what the rest had only thought. Let´s eat her.

And they did. All of them. Sean, who had always been the last when the food had been dealt out, even after Gerald, had lived an entire week on 2 parts of sugared pears and a handful of cashew nuts. The rest were only slightly better off. Kirsten and Gerald cut the meat, with sharp stones they had looked for, and Jules cooked it. Sean cried while he ate his part.

After a week, when the meat had gone rather bad, they threw what was left of her body in the sea. There was no wind, and it floated nearby for the following weeks. As a reminder.

We are on our own now, said Kirsten. We are a nation, said Jules. We have to elect a president, said Kirsten. And so Jules became their president. A president in a hunger-stricken country of four.

After 4 more days without food, the president decided that one of them had to be sacrificed. It couldn´t be Kirsten, because she was the only woman left. And it couldn´t be him, because he was the president. Gerald tried to beat him down. It was a tough call who was the stronger of them, but Jules had Kirsten on his side, and she was hard and strong too. Sean was no good for anything of course. That fight occured just at the side of the beach and it ended with Gerald beaten down on the side of the peaceful ocean.

While Kirsten went to fetch the cutting stone, Jules took care of the fire. Sean stood guard by the semi-unconscious Gerald. And then, slowly, Gerald crawled into the sea. Jules didn´t see it and Sean let him go. He knew that meant they would kill him now, and his whole body and brain urged him to scream out, but he couldn´t. He couldn´t because he was afraid. At that point he was more afraid for Gerald than he was for Jules and Kirsten. Even though that made no sense at all.

While he told us this, he still looked bewildered about it. His sister and I wondered why this was so important for him, but we didn´t want to interrupt him and only urged him on.

So, torn between two fears, of which the fear of death seemed to be the lesser one, Sean saw how Gerald floated away. One meter, two meter. And then Gerald started swimming. Despite the weeks of hardship and the thorough beating up they had given him, he was still able to swim. He was from that  persistent and stubborn stock that is so rare. He was near the rock that marked one end of the bay, about 50 meters away, when Jules noticed. You fucker, he spat out and hit Sean hard on his head. Then he dove into the water as well.

And at that point, a sailboat entered the bay.

Tears ran down Sean´s face and he sunk down on his knees. A ship, said Kirsten who had appeared behind him. Jules had seen it also, and swum back to shore, his face still angry because of Gerald´s escape. Kirsten dropped the stone she had held in her hands and sat down, next to Sean. Sean cried. Jules stood and stared.

They saw how they took Gerald aboard. And then how they let out a small lifecraft with a crew of two, to pick them up from the island. They were military. Thank God we didn´t kill anyone, said Sean. Kirsten and Jules didn´t say anything.

They were brought onto the ship and stood on the deck. They didn´t see Gerald. Someone probably took care of him somewhere else. The ship captain saluded them and then he guided Jules to the commander´s hut. A woman officer wrapped some cloth around Kirstin and guided her somewhere else. Only Sean remained on the deck and nobody paid attention to him. After a while they all came back. Jules had been given an uniform and walked next to the captain. They walked like fellow authorities who understood each other´s responsibilities. Kirsten had been given some navy dress and stayed slightly behind Jules and the captain. They stood on the deck and Sean had the impression that they were waiting for some ceremony of sorts. What had Gerald told about them? Thought Sean. And what about him? He stood on the side, pressed against the railing, uncomfortable with himself.

And then, there he was: Gerald. He was still without clothes and was held tight on each side by a soldier. They drove him right in front of the captain and Jules. The captain spoke, trying to sound formal: with respect for your befriended nation, we hereby deliver you the delinquent who illegally tried to escape his punishment according to your laws and who has been caught by our authorities. And then, in less formal english, he added: he is all yours, mate.

Jules gestured Kirsten forward and she obeyed. In her hand she had a hammer someone must have given to her, which she lifted up and drove right into Gerald´s head. His skull cracked with a sickening crunch and grey and red matter splashed on the deck. One soldier ran and came back with a bucket of water which he threw over the deck to clean it of Gerald´s brainmatter. Two other soldiers threw Gerald´s body over the railing into the sea.

Afterwards, they were all invited for lunch. It was delicious according to Sean.

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