I’d been racing crabs for about forty-five minutes when I suddenly realised, I am going to die. The two are not related. I have become heavily invested in the racing of crabs; taking my mind off things I suppose. I dug a deep trench across the beach, parallel to the water and spent a good hour wandering up and down the shoreline looking for worthy contenders to race along its length. There are three crabs competing in the current race. The smallest crab consistently comes in first. I have named him Fred.
Fred doesn’t seem particularly bothered about being first. He just ambles up to my makeshift finish line with an accidental sort of determination while the other two scramble haphazardly around in different directions. I admire Fred. If I were more like him, perhaps I wouldn’t be here.
I have always wanted to be first. Even as a child I was captivated by tales of adventurers and explorers. I cannot recall a time when I did not want to be a pioneer.
I notice that Fred has clambered out of the trench and is making his way down the beach. I get up to fetch him and scan the horizon. There are no ships. I squint up at the oppressive, open sky. There are no planes. I know there won’t be. I know. Despite the sneering insinuations of certain gentlemen back home. I know about navigation, maps, longitudes and latitudes, headwinds, weather patterns, fuel consumption and radio transmissions. Nobody is coming. I look anyway, half seeing, half imagining hopeful black specks on the horizon. I squint at them, willing them to grow larger. Screwing up my eyes until they disappear entirely and I realise they were never there to begin with.
I retrieve Fred and set him back down on my racetrack. I’m bored with racing now but I enjoy the company.
“Aren’t you Amelia Earhart, the famous aviator?” Fred asks, suitably awestruck.
“I am.” I reply.
“Weren’t you the first woman to complete a trans-Atlantic flight?” he is breathless in his admiration.
“You must be very brave.”
I smile. “I’m not.”
“Weren’t you afraid?” he asks.
I think before I answer. “Perhaps I was,” I explain, “but I was excited, too. You see, no woman had ever done it before.”
“You’re a pioneer.”
“It must have been very dangerous.” Fred is becoming annoyingly earnest.
“You’ll be the first woman to fly around the world!”
I don’t want to talk to Fred anymore. The next time he wanders off I let him go. He meanders, untroubled down the beach, growing smaller and smaller until he disappears behind a dip in the sand. The tide has crept gently up the beach and I watch, indignant, as my racetrack with fills with water and gradually collapses. Eventually, there is nothing more to see, and hugging my knees, my gaze drifts away and up, and I stare, hard and unblinking at the distant horizon.
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