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Washed Ashore

        Approaching the site where the birds circled overheard, something stopped her in her tracks. A bedraggled figure of a man sprawled on the beach. Lapping waves drenched his body, curled in a fetal position. A little fearful, she crouched down, careful not to approach too near.

 

        Taking a deep breath, she reached out and touched his arm. No response. Biting her lips, she wrestled with the idea of turning back to seek help. But the limp, helpless form stirred something in her. She plucked up her courage and, with some effort, heaved the body over. The seemingly lifeless man groaned. Startled, she jerked back her arm.

 

        "Are you all right, sir?" she said, scanning the man for injuries.


        The face was a ghastly, chalk-white pallor with greenish undertones, except where streaks of black seaweed stuck like an odd-shaped tattoo on one cheek. Blue lips, with a red clot coloring one corner, ringed his mouth which made raspy sounds as though it was difficult to breathe. A large bruise marred his forehead, a fresh flow of blood threatening to burst through the thin skin. A mass of bruises, all purplish-blue and circled with shades of crimson, covered his shoulder and ribcage. She flinched at the sight of the open wound on his chest. Rimmed with sand and small pieces of seaweed, some of which had entered the fleshy part, the injury looked serious.


        "Sir, can you hear me? Don't be afraid. I am going to call for help. Just hang on!" Viki said, quelling the tremor in her voice. The man stirred and muttered something unintelligible.

 

        "l will come back fast, I promise!" she said, more brave than she felt.


        She dashed across the beach with fists clenched, stretching her legs to the limit, her heart hammering in time to her strides. Spying three fishermen crouched near the cluster of fishing boats, talking, she ran up to them, panting out her story. The men recognized her as a fellow fisherman's daughter. Wasting no time, they sprang to their feet after deciphering her breathless story and galvanized into action. As they reached the injured man, Viki called out again.


        The man stirred. His eyes cracked open and he tried to speak, but nothing came out. As the fishermen lifted him, the injured man cried out in a hoarse voice, stiffening with a jerk. Then, his body sagged, and he passed out.