Many of the changes would prove to be permanent. Brian had gained immensely in his ability to observe what was happening and react to it; that would last him all his life. He had become more thoughtful as well, and from that time on he would think slowly about something before speaking.
But hope in his knowledge. Hope in the fact that he could learn and survive and take care of himself. Tough hope, he thought that night. I am full of tough hope.
In measured time forty-seven days had passed since the crash. Forty-two days, he thought, since he had died and been born as the new Brian.
But perhaps more than his body was the change in his mind, or in the way he was—was becoming.
You are your most valuable asset. Don’t forget that. You are the best thing you have.”
Maybe it was always that way, discoveries happened because they needed to happen.
Protect food and have a good shelter. Not just a shelter to keep the wind and rain out, but a shelter to protect, a shelter to make him safe.
Without the hatchet he had nothing—no fire, no tools, no weapons—he was nothing. The hatchet was, had been him.
I am not the same, he thought. I see, I hear differently. He did not know when the change started, but it was there; when a sound came to him now he didn’t just hear it but would know the sound. He would swing and look at it—a breaking twig, a movement of air—and know the sound as if he somehow could move his mind back down the wave of sound to the source.
He had changed, and he was tough. I’m tough where it counts—tough in the head.
Small mistakes could turn into disasters, funny little mistakes could snowball so that while you were still smiling at the humor you could find yourself looking at death. In the city if he made a mistake usually there was a way to rectify it, make it all right. If he fell on his bike and sprained a leg he could wait for it to heal; if he forgot something at the store he could find other food in the refrigerator.
It wasn’t just that it was wrong to do, or that it was considered incorrect. It was more than that—it didn’t work. When he sat alone in the darkness and cried and was done, all done with it, nothing had changed. His leg still hurt, it was still dark, he was still alone and the self-pity had accomplished nothing.
It had been a feast day, his first feast day, and a celebration of being alive and the new way he had of getting food. By the end of that day, when it became dark and he lay next to the fire with his stomach full of fish and grease from the meat smeared around his mouth, he could feel new hope building in him. Not hope that he would be rescued—that was gone. But hope in his knowledge. Hope in the fact that he could learn and survive and take care of himself.
So there were things to do.
He sat again by the tree, his back against it. There was a thing bothering him. He wasn’t quite sure what it was but it kept chewing at the edge of his thoughts. Something about the plane and the pilot that would change things . Ahh, there it was—the moment when the pilot had his heart attack his right foot had jerked down on the rudder pedal and the plane had slewed sideways. What did that mean? Why did that keep coming into his thinking that way, nudging and pushing? It means, a voice in his thoughts said, that they might not be coming for you tonight or even tomorrow. When the pilot pushed the rudder pedal the plane had jerked to the side and assumed a new course. Brian could not remember how much it had pulled around, but it wouldn’t have had to be much because after that, with the pilot dead, Brian had flown for hour after hour on the new course. Well away from the flight plan the pilot had filed. Many hours, at maybe 160 miles an hour. Even if it was only a little off course, with that speed and time Brian might now be sitting several hundred miles off to the side of the recorded flight plan.