Crusoe.com – page 3

by Matt Whyman

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by Matt Whyman

Five days later, our web page had still to claw into double clicks. Despite registering with the leading search engines, even creating a new category for 'dot com destitutes', we simply could not attract sufficient attention to ourselves.

At the same time, both Vendredi and myself were struck down by fever. A virus, thought the Frenchman, but not a strain he could cure with his disc doctor. It was homesickness, I was sure. Privately, I began to fear death by nostalgia.

Lolling in the shade, we watched the screen for a sign of life, attracting nothing but fleeting surfers and flies. Such was the constant buzzing around our ears that at first we were deaf to the sound of inbound propellers. Then the shadow swept over us, and in an instant our affliction vanished. Vendredi and myself both dancing in the clearing. Waving madly at the cargo plane. Wondering when it was going to turn. Then watching in disbelief when instead it made the drop. Way out in the distance. Over the island closest to ours. I looked to my feet, then across at my downcast companion.

"Reckon you can build a raft?" I asked, and was delighted to hear that he could.

Vendredi's software skills weren't much called upon that afternoon. Still, he did a fine job, and by the time the tide crept forth it floated a fine looking vessel. By our standards at least. Half a dozen lengths of rough timber held together by the remnants of his copper roll. I fashioned the oar myself. Removed every thorn so he wouldn't cut his hands on the voyage.

"Solo?" questioned Vendredi, and looked out across the darkening seas. I assured him that even a man of his position was up to the task. That I had been most impressed by his fortitude and invention, and that he didn't need my leadership to show him the ropes. I promised I would keep a fire burning until dawn. There to guide him back once he had reclaimed our supplies.

"You'll be fine," I called out, as he floated into the gloom. "Working alone after dark is what your kind do best."

I spent a long and anxious night at the summit, keeping watch beside the blaze. Fretting over the fate of poor Vendredi. For as the moon swung into its zenith, the sea breeze delivered the patter of distant drumming. A celebration. That's how it sounded to me. And I couldn't help but picture my island companion turning slowly on some cannibal's spit. I was beset by guilt. Overcome by the thoughtless manner with which I had dispatched him into the unknown. For the man was more than just support staff. He was human. In the same boat as me. Or not, as was the case just then.

Still, I stood sentinel. Leaning over a pulpit of rock. Determined not to succumb to sleep. Cursing when I awoke cloaked in dew. Then catching my breath when I peered down below. For there was Vendredi! Paddling furiously against the swell. Fighting to avoid the rocks. I called his name repeatedly. Punching the air on my way down the goat track. Slowing only as I scrambled over the dune and registered his lack of luck.

"The cargo?" I panted. "Where is it?" Vendredi dropped to his knees, the raft turning in the surf beside him. His sunken eyes welling as he looked back up at me.

"What?" I said pressingly. "Tell me what you found?"

In a husk of his former voice, The Frenchman said: "Les femmes."

"Pardon me?"

"Avec des webcams."

"Webcams?" I translated, chilled by a sense of dread. "There are women over there? With webcams?"

"C'est diabolique," he said. "Une atrocité."

I agreed. It was bad. Good there were other survivors from the shipwreck. Bad none of the female contingency had chanced to wash up with us. Very bad indeed, in fact. For now it seemed we were in competition. Fighting for attention from the outside world. Women with webcams. Two chaps with no pictures on their homepage.

Yes all websites were equal, but some were more equal than others. Far more so than ours could ever hope to be.

We were doomed, and as I contemplated the full horror of our situation a second cargo plane swung over the island. Another delivery for our nubile neighbours, I presumed. Coming in so low it kicked up sand in our face.

"That's it," I said to Vendredi. "We're going to die here."

It was then, for the first time since my arrival, that I lost command of my composure. Tears flowed down my cheeks. The salty streams serving only to reinforce our hideous predicament. Vendredi opened his arms to mine, and readily I hugged him. Pulling back abruptly, however, when something hard and uncomfortable came between us.

"A camera!" I declared, having parted his shirt to find it hanging by a strap. "Where did you find this?"

Sheepishly, Vendredi informed me he had stolen it. Re-enacting the scene in which he had crept into the outskirts of the camp under moonlight and seized this prize possession. An Olympian undertaking, so I understood, on account of the bacchanalian broadcast taking place around the fire at the time.

Any other man might have turned to stone at the sight my companion so bravely resisted, and I praised him for his focus. Sadly the camera was only a basic digital model, which meant we couldn't match them with moving images. Nonetheless, we had the means to add a visual dimension to our website. A way to entertain, as demanded by the medium.

"Can you hook this up?"

Vendredi looked at me like he owned the patent. "Oui. Bien sur."

"Good man," I said, and clapped my hands together. "Then get undressed."

Without blinking, the Frenchman took one step away from me. "Excusé-moi?"

"Vendredi, this is the Internet." I began to undo the two remaining buttons on my shirt. Bid my companion to do likewise. "It's our only connection to the real world. Don't you see? How else are we going to draw attention to ourselves?"

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