They had taken crude measurements and determined the island’s daily path. It described a rough ellipse- north and west as the tide rose, then south and east as it waned. Always, on the horizon in one direction or another, heavier swells than they sailed in could be seen breaking against some underwater obstruction.
The dead zone was a natural trap for flotsam. On the third day Bobb spotted a wooden barrel floating close to the north shore and swam it in. Salt water had leached in to corrupt the alcoholic contents, but the metal bands that held it together, and the wood itself, could be put to use. The metal was fashioned into a grapple and attached to the length of rope to haul in floating material without getting wet feet. Small strips became a barbed points and Sheel quickly became adept at harpooning fish.
Day by day the camp grew. A great expanse of rubberised canvas became both a bivouac off the single tree and a night-time collector of condensing dew. Bottles gave up their contents and became storage or were fashioned into lenses for the solar still and cooker Gim was building. They had even started farming- after a fashion- cultivating furrows of the algae for soups and planting seeds from the few fruit that washed up whole.
Sheel was at the fishing hole they had hacked through the roots near the shore. She had baited it with handfuls of the surface algae, so much richer than the stuff that grew below the waterline, and was waiting with a harpoon. Bobb watched as she shifted slightly. There was a movement just at the edge of light’s penetration, but she didn’t aim directly at it. Slightly to the right there was another movement, closer to the surface, the coil of a long thin body tracking the smaller fish. Sheel threw the harpoon with the whole of her body. It dug into its target, and moved sharply as the eel reacted. Grasping the very end of the long harpoon handle, Sheel used all her weight to drive it through the eel’s body.
Bobb made for one of the smaller spare harpoons, but Sheel, spotting him for the first time, shook her head and pointed at the rope trailing out of the fishing hole. They hauled back and brought the eel to the surface. Its head broke water and flailed around, a many eyed, multi toothed thing like the one Sheel had described after her trip under the island.
“Damn! I should have hit it nearer the brain.” Sheel let out some slack and stepped a safe distance from the eel. Now she nodded at the other harpoons. Bobb picked one and circled around behind her. The eel’s eyes weren’t made for use out of water. It could see two shapes moving around it, with no clue which was closer or the greater threat. It feinted toward the smaller shape, which moved quickly away.
Bobb watched the eel whip toward Sheel and took the opportunity to jump in. He drove the harpoon home just behind the great jaws, pushing it through and wedging it in the ground.
“You missed the brain.” Sheel pointed out.
“Only by a little.” Bobb lied. They had cut up their first catch and identified the various organs. The primary stomach was just behind the jaws, directly behind a sphinctered gullet. Much further back, in a bulge under the first dorsal fin, was the brain. Sheel took the last harpoon and pushed it between the overlapping plates protecting the brain.
The eel still twitched, it would take a long time for all its nerves to process their final signals. They didn’t watch it, walking to the shore and staring at the nearest surf line. “That was the biggest so far.” Bobb commented.
“This end of our territory seems the most fertile for life, like the other has the richest plunder.”
“How long do you think we’ll be out here?”
“Possibly for ever. Maybe until the seasons change and storms rip our little home apart. We can live long enough to see either eventuality.”
“I’ll go for the first one. I don’t imagine this place grew to this size between storm seasons. If there are any.
“Do you remember the stories of the outposters? How they survived for generations cut off from supply routes and outside communication.”
“You’re asking me to have your children?” Sheel laughed, then checked the look on Bobb’s face. “And Gim’s too? I mean, if you’re looking at breeding generations of descendants, you want them to start with as wide a gene pool as possible, don’t you.”
“You weren’t meant to take the suggestion that seriously. It was just an idea.”
“It stays an idea. I still think we’ll be rescued from our little paradise.”
The eel had stopped twitching. They set about cutting it up with knives fashioned from glass.