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The Diary of Slade Beckman

Written by E.  T. Gentian

Day 1

My name is Slade Beckman. My day job is pharmaceutical sales and I’m from the suburbs of Philadelphia. However, my family always took at least one long camping trip per summer growing up, and I still like to get out into the backwoods every chance I get. Today though, I woke up alone on a beach, with debris scattered all across the sand. The last thing I remember is going on a Caribbean cruise in celebration of my thirtieth birthday. Sort of a “happy birthday from Slade, to Slade.” On the second night of the trip, I ended up joining an overnight yacht excursion at one of our layover ports. I came across these papers and pens while searching the wreckage, and decided to keep a journal of what happens.I woke up with the sun pretty high overhead, so I’m guessing close to noon. I spent the next few hours looking along the beach for other survivors to no avail, as well as any supplies I could salvage. Thankfully, I found my small travel bag during the search. My clothes are, of course, soaked. But my pocket knife, lighter and flint striker were still there. So far, the only drinkable water I’ve found is from a half-full canteen among the wreckage. But it’s dark now, so I have to wait until tomorrow to keep looking for a fresh water source. I’ve never been overly fond of sardines, but when I found an entire box of untarnished cans, I was overjoyed. I only ate one of them tonight though, since the extra salt would cause me to blow through my limited water. I’m not sure what kinds of trees these are here along the beach, but they have large leaves. I wanted to have as thick a layer between myself and the ground tonight as possible, so I spent a good amount of time piling these leaves into a bed. I decided not to stray too far away from the beach tonight, seeing as how I don’t know what’s out there. Thus far, I’ve heard a handful of birds throughout the day, and it seems that fate has decided to dump me here as a sort of food-relief package for the native insects. I’ll do more exploring tomorrow. I think I’m going to throw another branch on the fire, then try to get some semblance of sleep. I just hope I gathered enough wood to last the night.

Day 2

Well, that was a wet night. The tiny shelter I made out of the surrounding leaves was practically non-existent by morning. The bed held up a little better, but everything was waterlogged from the storm. My poor little fire didn’t stand a chance.

There were several stranded fish to eat in the pools left behind during low-tide, but I had to wait for my firewood to dry out enough to catch flame before I could cook them.

Normally, finding a fresh water source would be my first priority. But in this case, if I walk off into the jungle, I might miss my only shot at signaling a passing plane or boat. Besides, I was able to partially refill my canteen during the storm last night, so I decided to do some rescue prep before exploring. We are, after all, close(ish) to a popular Caribbean sea port. I’m sure rescue efforts will be launched when the yacht fails to return.

As I roamed the beach seeking out a large branch for digging, I stumbled across a large, torn-up fishing net that must have been washed in by the storm. When I picked it up, I also saw some kelp had been snagged on it. I brought it all back to my makeshift camp, hanging the kelp out to dry in the sun; my own grassroots version of seaweed crisps.

Going back to the beach, I carved out a large SOS in the sand. Then, I filled in the letters with any dark debris I found laying around; mostly broken branches.

I’ve never had to build a signal fire before, but I know the basic principles. Still, after gathering three piles of stones for the bases, I realized my problem. All the wood and kindling available to me are still soaking wet from the violent storm.

It was turning into a very hot day, but still incredibly humid, so I don’t expect things to fully dry out for a couple of days. Due to the lack of dry firewood, I decided to deviate from the international signal of three, evenly-spaced fires, and instead focused all my efforts toward keeping one alive at all times. Doing it this way, I should be able to keep a reserve pile ready to be thrown on at a moment’s notice.

Looking over the bounty from my romantic stroll along the beach, I realized the net would best serve me as a lattice for my shelter. I weave what look like banana leaves through the holes to act as shingles. Perfect size for one person to sleep comfortably! Tonight however, the firewood is my guest of honor, and as such occupies most of my newly built island palace. Looks like another long night for Slade, but at least I’ll be ready to catch any passing glances come morning.

Signals in place, island palace built to last, and a ferocious grumbly in my tumbly, I choked down another can of fish-flavored calories and pressed into the jungle. I remembered hearing some sort of bleating to the west, so that’s where I headed first. After all, whatever it was probably drinks freshwater too, right?

I’ve always prided myself on being a fairly agile and athletic outdoorsman, but if I had any lunch money on my person, the jungle would’ve taken it and all other possessions long ago. And then there are the spiders…ambitious little buggers (no pun intended) who have no honor. I was always taught only to kill something if I intended to eat it, but them? They seem to have set their webs deliberately to catch a human head. I don’t care how tough you think you are, or if your legal name is Tarzan; when one of these nets plasters itself to your face like cling wrap over a half eaten watermelon, you will find you’ve come preprogrammed with the Spider Dance (quite similar to a caffeinated pee-pee dance) as the primary defense mechanism.

About an hour and a half of wandering this jungle, I finally heard the sweet music of moving water! A small stream cuts through the dense undergrowth. If I’m not rescued soon, I’ll probably follow its path to see where it leads me. But for today, I filled my canteen and took it back to my green-covered palace to boil the water.

No sign of any passing humans today, so I’m settling in and preparing to extend my work visa here on Gilligan’s island. On a brighter note, The outer layer of firewood dried out remarkably during my short excursion, so I spent the last few hours of daylight fashioning a couple of spears by the fire. One for fishing whatever I can fish here and one for not being humaned by whatever can human here.

I remember hearing that the Spanish had originally planted colonies of pigs in the islands of the new world, which would then multiply and give the returning Spaniards a reliable food source years later. Thus, I am using a portion of the fat from my dinner to grease the defensive spear for fire-hardening. I’ve managed to conquer everything this place has thrown at me so far (knock on wood), and I don’t intend to let Pumbaa take that away on a whim.

In addition, I’ve decided to make char cloth, in the event I have to start a fire again post-storm. I used a strip of denim cut from the jeans in my backpack, and an empty sardine can to throw in with the coals of my campfire.

I didn’t find the source of the bleating, but the discovery of water is good enough for today. I decided to skip the sardines tonight, since the fire was large enough to cook one of the stranded fish I found this morning. Garnished with seaweed and glazed with a bit of hunger sauce, it was a welcomed end to day two.

Day 3

Who knew bats were so dang loud? Last night the sky was clear of clouds, letting me dazzle in the milky way’s brilliance. But I didn’t have long to relax, as the flutter of bat wings became a buzz, which became a roar of flapping and screeches. My trusty fire kept them out of my little green palace, but the whole air seemed filled with their presence.

As dawn broke, they began to flee the light. I really hope they don’t keep me up every night, or exploration will be become decidedly more difficult. But as I watched the bats, I noticed which trees had fruit, and their presence promises shelter of some sort, so I am labeling them my frenemies for now.

Hey, Ho, to the river I go. To heal my heart and drown my woe.

Pain may come, and sleep may go, but there still be…unknown hours to go.

Sticky is the web strung through my hair en route to the stream that flows to God knows where.

Better than rain or rippling brook, is a fish chomping down on my hook.

I eventually remembered reading about Polynesian tribes carrying coals with them from camp to camp using pieces of fungus or punky logs tied together at just the right tightness to keep the coal smoldering, yet never bursting into an actual flame. How hard could it be?

So there I was, simply strapping two pieces of rotten wood together, using fibers from the same type of leaves making up my hut. Surprisingly enough, my contraption made it all the way to the river intact. Only for me to find a lukewarm, used-to-be-coal, extinguished from my inattention.

Note to self: when constructing your very own fire-carrying device, allow the resident biting insects enough time to conduct their fire drill prior to slinging it around your neck.

Needless to say, I had to make another trip to and from the river…and due to negligence, another after that. This low carb diet thing is not all it’s cracked up to be. Luckily, after a needed break and return to the drawing board, I was able to find a fist-sized piece of fungus, break it off the tree, and carve a pit into the center.

Using this method allowed me to carry the coal all the way to the river. Yes, still glowing. Although this time, I took several falls while still saving the precious fungus. Much like a proper Brit with his last cup of tea.

It’s a 30 minute trek to the stream when I’m casually walking straight there, now ignoring the detour signs maliciously placed by my 8-legged cohabitants. I decided to spend several hours next to the stream to hydrate myself, taking twenty-minute jaunts exploring up and down the river to see if I can find any human spore.

The lack of sleep last night eventually caught up to my enthusiasm for further arts and crafts, and the humid heat ate away at my stores of energy. Discouragement from my lack of finds was the last straw. I’ve not seen so much as a foot, hoof or paw print.

Come to think of it, nothing’s come of that initial bleating from yesterday. Whatever it was must have been a bit further away than I anticipated and already moved on, as I haven't heard it all day, either.

I stumbled back to camp, scarfed down some sort of nourishment (although exactly what escapes my memory), and soon fell asleep to the soft sound of waves, with the sun sinking towards the horizon.

Unfortunately, the cacophony of bat noises woke me scant hours later, and I’ve been up ever since. It has given me the opportunity to make sure the fire was still well fed, and write this entry. But, I need sleep; and soon, or I’m gonna start talking to coconuts…(if I ever find any, that is)

Day 4

I woke up this morning scrabbling for my spear. My head is fuzzy from the lack of proper rest, so I’m not sure if I imagined or dreamt about a shadowy figure before falling asleep. Perhaps something really was lurking just beyond sight, but it was probably just the stupid bats again. At least, there’s no foot or paw print that I’ve found so far. Besides my own, of course. But then again, my senses aren’t the sharpest they’ve ever been.

The humidity seemed to thicken drastically through the morning, and while the cloud cover was a welcome respite from the merciless sun, another storm seems to be approaching. If it’s anything like the last one, I want to be better prepared. So exploration is on hold for now. I spent the morning gathering as many large leaves as I could to shore up my little hut. The more protection my fire and I have from the elements, the better chance we have of making it to morning.

As I sat munching a quick lunch of sardines and seaweed, a glint caught my eye near the beach’s tide line. Much to my surprise, in the midst of driftwood and ocean debris, an old fashioned rum bottle was nestled! A quick peruse of the beach didn’t turn up anything else human-made.

I was a bit despondent this morning, with no signs of civilization after that lonely airplane the other night. But the bottle renewed my sense of adventure. Maybe if I look at this place as my own personal Treasure Island, surviving here will be easier.

Hopeful again, I rinsed the rum bottle out with salt water, filled it with fresh water from the stream, then set it next to the coals I worked so hard for yesterday. As I left that to boil and sterilize, I set about replenishing my firewood, food and water stocks for the coming storm.

On one of my treks to the stream yesterday, I found a bog rich with cattails. I grabbed armloads to split between kindling and a starchy snack later.

Even fishing went well for me today. I’m full from a decent dinner, I’ve got enough fresh water to last me through the night, and I don’t think my little night furies will bother me tonight.

Thunder and lightning are closing in, so I’m going to batten down the hatches and prepare for treasure hunting tomorrow.

Day 5

Well, my adventurous, treasure-hunting spirit was rather dampened due to the storm last night and had apparently been overcome by that of Ariel, as I found myself desperately wanting to be where the people are. Despite all my hard work, my little island castle couldn’t hold up to the fierce winds and pelting rain. My stockpile of firewood is completely waterlogged again, and my green roof woven into the old fishing net was torn to shreds.

The fire didn’t stand a chance. All this left me feeling pretty discouraged, but that was nothing compared to when I caught a glimpse of the stream which had been my primary fresh water source. The storm had stirred up a bunch of mud and debris into the water, making a gurgling brown mess.

Once again not wanting to leave what was left of the camp for too long in the event of passersby, I decided to move upstream with haste in an attempt to find any clear section of water possible. To my relief, a 10 minute walk revealed my quarry—albeit only a small trickle—feeding into the stream from a small cliff overhead. This would have to be purified, and it took over five minutes to get a full canteen of moss-essenced water, but it was enough to let me refocus on my central goal from the moment I woke up on that beach: finding civilization. Or carbs, carbs would be nice too.

As I returned to camp via a different route than normal, being farther upstream and all, I stumbled across an entrance to some sort of cave. While I’m unsure where bat droppings score on the glycemic index, it still seemed worth checking out on the next water run. Resting back at camp, halfway through my canteen and with storm clouds instead of civilization on the horizon, I decided to spend my first night away from the water’s edge—and my best shot at rescue—in hopes that this cave might offer the protection I’m attributing to it.

I quickly packed up everything from the beachside camp that could be useful. Before leaving I plussed up my emergency signal teepee and the S.O.S etching in the beach, then left to make my new camp with what daylight I had left.

Carefully poking into the small cave mouth, I was greeted again by spider webs and the dishonorable little creatures that made them. There were sounds of running water coming from the yawning darkness deeper in the cave. It called to me and I couldn't help but think that no one knows how far it goes. Above all, it was nearly bone dry! Hopefully without emphasis on bone…

With no telling just how far I’d go, and after using some of my char-cloth to build a new fire, I used oil from my sardine lunch to grease up one of the branches as a torch and pressed on Into the Unkno…erm…I mean cave.

There is a winding river and dizzying network of tunnels, but the discovery of the century was an old AA battery, likely changed out of a flashlight or GPS, and a crunched up soda can; indicating that civilization—and lasagna—must be closer than I originally feared. I would like to say I remained cautiously optimistic about this discovery, but caution has been thrown to the wind and stored in my new critter-filled dreamcatchers as I drift off to sleep like a kid on Christmas Eve.

I wanna be where the people are, wanna see, wanna see ‘em dancin’…