Seeing castaway humans was always a bad omen. All of Nellie’s friends were superstitious birds, but she didn’t believe in crazy things like that. Albatrosses were always worrying. Whether it was about their territory, their babies, food; they were always squawking about something. They had crazy bird tales about accidentally pooping on humans, which was bad luck, whereas a red sunrise was good luck. They never made sense to Nellie. She would rather spend her days exploring and seeing the world than sit in her nest and squawk at other birds. Her mate Orville never liked Nellie going too far. She always had to be back before the light went out.
Today, she wanted to fly around and see where she would end up. She wanted to fly on the open ocean instead of staying by the coast. She was flying for quite some time when she stumbled upon a small boat in the middle of nowhere. They saw her before she saw them.
Then something caught her eye. It was a group of men in a small boat. They clearly saw her before she saw them. They were pointing and yelling at each other, and smiles seemed to grow on the men’s faces. Nellie wondered, what were these humans doing in the water? In such a small boat? She circled the men to scope them out. Who were these men? Everyone knows humans don’t belong in the ocean. Nellie could see that the small boat was crammed with four men, two oars, one tarp, and no food. These men were skinny and frail.
Nellie landed in the water not far from the boat. All day she swam around the boat. The men eventually calmed down and sat in the boat talking with one another. However, one of the men was staring at her with wild eyes. They looked like they were going to pop out of his head.
Eventually, the sun was starting to disappear, and Nellie knew the sharks were going to arrive anytime now. She knew it was time to go back home.
When Nellie arrived back to the mud mound where her nest was, Orville was waiting for her.
“Have you been sitting on that egg all day?” she asked.
“Well yeah, you weren’t here to incubate it. Did you get any food?”
Nellie shuffled her feet. “Uh, no.”
Orville sighed. “What did you do all day?”
“I was out exploring. I found humans. They were castaways. They’re on a little boa—”
“Nellie, humans are bad luck, you know this,” Orville interrupted. “I get a bad feeling about castaways. They always bring trouble.”
The next day, Nellie found them again. Not too far off from where she found them the day before. Everything was the same—however, the man with the crazy eyes was gone.
The men were quiet today. They made notice of Nellie, but they were not excited. They were lifeless. Nellie, in her boredom, decided she wanted to find the man with the wild eyes.
She scoured the water for the man. Why would they leave him behind?
A few miles away from the boat, she found what was left of his body. A good portion was picked through by other animals. Nellie wasn’t too hungry, but she took an eyeball for a snack. It went down nicely.
Nellie flew back to check on the men, but they were gone. The boat was still there but the men were nowhere to be seen. Whatever happened to the man with the crazy eyes happened to the men. Nellie thought it must’ve been the sharks. They were the most dangerous animal, but when they were done eating, they always left enough food for the birds. The men’s bodies were probably floating in the water somewhere. Maybe the boat will have clues.
Nellie swooped down to the boat like the detective she was and landed on the tarp that was now covering the raft. Maybe she could find the men and save them. She could prove to her friends that castaway humans aren’t bad luck.
When she put her little orange feet on the tarp, it sank a little. Then it sank a lot. Then the sun was gone. It was night. She had to go home. No. It was the tarp. The men betrayed her. Then, she couldn’t breathe.
Art by Julia Gomes