There are times when someone's presence produces foolish excitement. This wasn’t one of them. It was beginning to dawn on Roland that the vacant interest in his arrival on this tiny island was well founded. The man on the left-hand end of the line was swaying and his forehead seemed to be erupting with balls of sweat. His eyelids were becoming heavy, his knees unlocking and folding beneath him.
The others in the line were not reacting to the deterioration of their companion and so Roland quickly stepped forward, just in time to scoop the hot, wiry frame of the man into his arms. The man’s eyes were now fully closed and although he weighed little, his clammy form was slipping from Roland’s grasp and he moved to lay him down onto the sand. The next person along the line had recoiled and flung their arms up the air and let out a hoarse scream. As he’d done so, the remaining six bodies fell like dominoes and landed in a pile, their legs protruding like wayward sticks on a bonfire.
Roland raised his palms to the group as they hauled themselves back onto their feet.
‘It’s OK, I don’t want to hurt you. Do you have any water?’
They looked out to sea. There were birds with beaks like Concorde and V-shaped wings soaring in a predatory fashion overhead. The shimmering tide was gently lapping against the hull of the jet ski and in the sunlight, Roland could see the tiny flecks of pink coral in the white sand accumulating, embracing this foreign body into its own substance. The screaming had died down, the birds glided in silent circles and the horizon was as deserted as the expressions on the faces of those who had now formed a circle around the body of their friend.