She lay on her back, her eyes on the darkening sky as she drifted aimlessly; listening as the waves lapped against the side of the rubber raft she floated in. In the distance, she could hear the calls from those trapped on shore, calling for her to come back. Somehow, she believed that they knew she would not, could not go back. Not willingly. She slathered herself with sunscreen and covered her face with a large hat, grateful for the foresight to pack such items along with the necessities. Ha, that was a joke.
She’d packed up the raft with bottles of water, a small bag of clothing and another stuffed with cash. But, as was her habit, she’d neglected the essentials. She’d forgotten the oars. She could see them now, on the shore waiting for her. For a while, she’d paddled toward the boat that waited at the center of the lake, but when she no longer had the strength to continue, they had sailed away without her. She had given up, too tired to struggle against the tide. She was resigned to her fate. She would be carried back to the throng and there she would stay, locked into a life she didn’t want. A life that she had nearly escaped on a luxury yacht that had been just yards away. She lifted the brim of her hat to see the people milling along the shore line and figured that eventually, the tide would carry her back to the shore and back to Danny.
Danny of the beautiful green eyes and shy smile. Danny who had been by her side since the start of it all, Danny who’d taken her to this very lake on midnight swims and summer picnics, who’d kissed her on the sand and promised that this would be the best, most exciting summer of her life. It had been on this beach , just three weeks ago, that he’d gotten down on his knee and slipped a ring on her finger. Danny, had been her person… until he wasn’t. Now he was just another face in the crowd, another body baking in the wretched heat of late July in Southern Florida.
“Well,” she said resigned to her fate , “ your ship had sailed, darling Lily. It’s back to the pit with you.” Closing her eyes beneath the expensive sun hat she’d gotten just for the escape she’d planned for herself. She must have drifted into sleep because the soft sound of a droning motor, somewhere far off woke her. In the still of the stifling night, she could feel a breeze, soft against her skin. The purr of the motor louder, the breeze stronger as something moved closer. She opened her eyes and saw the search lights the gentle purr became a roar as a coast guard helicopter spotted her, flashing a brilliant spotlight on her.
She waved her arms, screaming as loudly as she could gesture for help when the ladder dropped from the sky. She stood grasping it, just as the clammy fingers grasped the side of her raft. Relief washed over her the cool air for the chopper blades tousled her hair. She didn’t even care that her sunburned hands cracked and bled as she hauled herself up, or that the brush of the rope against her skin set every nerve on fire. She didn’t feel the weight of her bags as they scrapped her red raw thighs. Nothing else mattered. She was leaving.
Once she was hauled into the helicopter by the muscled hands of two fresh faced men in uniform and snapped her safety harness, she heard the pilot curse.
“You’re lucky we found you when we did.” He said pointing down. She followed the high beams as they caught the brilliant red of her abandoned raft riding the last wave to shore, where an army of the undead waited. Standing in the center, with pale, lifeless green eyes and a hint of a shy smile, Danny looked up at her his fingers reaching as if he knew.