Aqua green waves roll across an uninhabited sandy shore.
“This is not fair. How come we didn’t die? Huh? It’s been, like, what? Five days? Our plane crashed and no one knows where the hell we are. How is that possible, Mitch?”
Mitch squints his dry eyes toward the watery horizon. “Damned if I know. I haven’t seen a ship or boat. What about you, Ronnie? Have you seen anything?”
Ronnie shakes his salty head. “Nope. Nothing. Say…are you gonna eat that crab, Fritz? Or just stand on it?”
“Oh, yeah, go ahead. I’m sick of crabs. I’m sick of coconuts. I’m sick of palm trees. I’m sick of sand. I’m sick of water. I don’t care if I starve to death. Besides…I can’t stomach another coconut—those disgusting things cut right through me.” Fritz says while rubbing his stomach. The grouchy crab pinches his toe. “Ouch! I hate those abominable things! Why me?”
Ronnie jumps up and down, then scoops up the moody crab. “You said that yesterday, remember? Just keep eating and everything will be okay. I think.”
Fritz crosses his arms. “I don’t know. I’ll think about it, Ronnie.”
“Hey! Look at what I found.” Mitch says.
A brass artifact glows in the golden sand. The searing metal burns his fingers as he exhumes the object from the beach shore. He brushes sand off the smooth metal—a distorted reflection of Mitch’s face warps within the unusual metal. “I need to shave.” Mitch says.
Ronnie snatches the artifact out of Mitch’s hands. “Let me see that. Please. Thank you.”
“Ehhh…looks like something a hippie would own. Probably just an incense burner. Get rid of it.” Says Ronnie.
Prismatic colors swirl and merge into a familiar form. Vibrant hues boil against a curtain of invisible heat. The figure drifts like a soft breeze.
“Huh? Am I the only one who sees that?” Fritz says.
Mitch squints his eyes. “I see it, too.”
The illusory figure drifts across the sand while sunshine glimmers upon her tan skin. Hips sway as a windy specter pulls at her jeweled garments. “Hello—which one of you fine gentlemen rubbed my lamp?”
“What? This? It’s just an incense burner.” Ronnie says.
“You’re funny. Don’t be silly. That’s my lamp. Over the years, many people have rubbed it.”
Fritz elbows Mitch and whispers in his ear. “Yeah…I bet.”
“I’ll grant each of you a single wish.” She says.
They stare at the sparkling illusion.
“Is this happening right now?”
She holds the lamp in her hands. “Only one wish, okay? Try not to waste it.”
Fritz laughs. “Ha, well, jeez, let me see…hmmm…oh! I know! I wish to be immortal, that way I don’t have to eat another damn coconut.”
“Your wish is my command.” She says.
Fritz looks down at his bare feet. “What? That’s it? That was…ummm…uneventful.”
Mitch scratches his wet head. “Do you feel hungry, Fritz?”
“Yeah, Fritz, are you hungry?” Ronnie says.
Fritz looks at his stomach. “Fellas…I hate to say it…but…I’m full! Ha, I haven’t felt this great…since…I don’t know!”
Mitch and Ronnie hug each other. “Holy shit! Noway!”
Fritz paces down the coast. “I need to test it out. Let’s see…right! Hey Mitch, do you see that rock? Pick it up and bash me over the head.”
Mitch covers his dry mouth. “Wait, what did you say?”
He points at the ground. “Pick up the rock. Go ahead. Bash me over the head. It’s okay. I think.”
Mitch picks up the rock. “Gee, Fritz, I don’t know if that’s a good idea.”
Fritz turns around and points at the top of his head. “You used to play baseball. Give it all you got. Go on. I’m ready. Come one. Do it. Let’s see if you still got it.”
He grips the jagged rock between his fingers as Mitch’s arm twirls like a tornado. The rock craters into the back of Fritz’s cranium. He stumbles and wobbles as his legs shake like jelly. “I think you threw the rock a little too hard, Mitch.”
“I told you it was a bad idea!” Mitch says.
A smile reveals Fritz’s dirty teeth. “Just kidding. I didn’t feel it.”
Fritz jumps up and down. “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! I feel great, so, what do you fellas want to do? Huh? Yeah, let’s do something, come on!”
He runs down the beach and jumps into the frigid ocean. Fritz swims headfirst against the waves as a shark fin sheers its way through the aqua green water. A bladed mouth opens—serrated teeth chows down on his torso. The ocean turns red.
“Who’s next?” The beautiful mirage asks.
“Wait. I’m okay, fellas.” Fritz says while crawling along the coast. Seagulls follow the trail of guts as they swallow pieces of unknown meat. He smacks a seagull across the head. “Beat it, that’s mine.”
Fritz walks toward Ronnie and Mitch. The open wounds are like a window into his biological soul, but the curtains are starting to close—fleshy stitches merge and twist until they form a complete tapestry of his former self. Fritz slaps his stomach. “See? Good as new, boys. Good as new.”
As he steps toward Mitch, his bare foot sinks into the sand. Ronnie and Mitch back away as Fritz squirms through the liquid ground. “How ’bout a little help, huh?”
Ronnie and Mitch look at each other. “Should we get a branch?” Ronnie says.
“Where?” Mitch says.
Ronnie scratches his head. “Good question.”
“We can go back to the plane. I’m sure there’s something we can use.” Ronnie says.
The liquid sand smothers Fritz’s mouth.
“No way. We won’t make it back in time.” Mitch says.
Ronnie crosses his skinny arms. “What about that paddle? Do you remember where we put it?”
Fritze’s hand extends above the quicksand. A middle finger salutes as it submerges underneath the shore.
Ronnie and Mitch turn around. “Wait…what the fuck just happened? He was right here!” Ronnie says.
Mitch points at the beautiful mirage. “Hey! You ripped us off! I thought he wasn’t supposed to die. What’s up with that?”
The mirage yawns. “Oh, he’s still alive. Somewhere. Down there.”
Mitch and Ronnie back away from the quicksand. “Watch where you step.” Ronnie says.
“Let’s just go back to the plane. We’ll wait for help, and there’s plenty of coconuts.” Mitch says.
“We waited long enough. You saw what I saw, that damn shark should have turned Fritz into fish food. We can do this. We just need to outsmart her, that’s all. Simple. Think about it: we can take a hot shower tonight and eat something other than crabs. How does that sound? We just need to think of the right wish, and I have an idea.” Ronnie says.
“What?” Mitch says.
“Wish for a boat. You know how to sail. Wish for something good…something you can use to get off this island. What do you say? Sound like a plan?”
Ronnie looks toward the watery horizon. “Well…I suppose I can use the maps and compass.”
“Wish for a boat and we’ll sail the hell out of here. I’ll share the last wish with you, okay? I promise.” Mitch says.
Ronnie looks into the mirage’s yellow eyes. “I wish for a sailing boat.”
“Your wish is my command.”
Mitch taps him on the shoulder. “See? What did I tell ya? We’ll be out of here in no time.”
They stand along the coast until the hot Sun journeys westward across the blue sky. “Hey, lady, he asked for a boat, so where’s the boat?” Ronnie says.
“It’s here.” She says.
“Where?” Mitch asks.
The shimmering illusion points toward the ocean. “Over there.”
Ronnie walks along the coast and then scoops his hands in the clear water. He holds a tiny object within the center of his palm. Minuscule sails ripple against the sea breeze. “You probably should have specified the size of your sailing boat.” Ronnie says.
He places the sailing boat inside Mitch’s hand.
“Wait, what? This is not my boat. Please tell me this is not my boat, right? This can’t be my boat. Right?”
The mirage yawns. “That’s your boat. Take care of it.”
Mitch crushes the tiny boat as he glares through Ronnie. “I wasted my wish, and it’s all your fault.”
He picks up a rock and cracks it upon his sweaty head. Ronnie collapses.
“Ronnie? Are you okay? Stop joking around.” Mitch says.
Mitch nudges him as an oasis of blood soaks into the sand. “No, no, no, no…this can’t be happening…”
“I’m obligated to grant one more wish. It’s the rules. I’m not supposed to do this, but since I like you, go ahead—take your friend’s wish.” Th mirage says.
Mitch rubs his chin. “I don’t know. What am I going to do? I just killed my best friend. The cops will never believe what happened. I’ll go to prison. Forever.”
“Are you sure? The seagulls are awfully hungry. He may as well be a pile of bones.” The pretty illusion says.
“What about Fritz?” Mitch says.
The mirage grins. “What about him?”
He looks up into the blue sky. “I just want to go home. You can do that, right? Just send me home. Pronto.”
The pretty illusion smiles. “Your wish is my last command.”
Salty wind pushes against shimmering braided hair—a faint laughter dissolves into the sound of calm ocean waves losing its watery breath against the shore.
“Wait! I thought you’d send me home! I had one more wish, remember?”
A volatile burp corrodes the back his throat..as if magma exploded from the dark depth of his gut.
“I don’t feel so good.” Mitch says.
The heart inside his chest implodes like a dying star—an unimaginable force pulls the squishy universe inside him—as it orbits the black center where his heart should be. The air inside his lungs sways against the eternal vastness and then plummets into the unseen realm of Mitch’s chest. Particles of bone disintegrate as the grotesque matter swirls around the frigid darkness, glowing the same color as the stuff which flows inside his veins: hot and red. The hellish wind pulls Mitch’s head into his own chest. A cosmic eternity freezes his eyes as he coalesces into the gooey dimension that resides in all of us.
The gorgeous illusion laughs as she drops her lantern onto the sandy shore. “Home is where the heart is, Mitch.”