Saufatu stood neck-deep in the water, watching the dawn arrive over the great empty ocean to the east. He raised the coconut shard in his right hand to his mouth and nibbled on the flesh, enjoying the mixture of sweet and salty flavors, then quickly glanced over his shoulder at the shore. He knew before looking that there would be no-one there: even Funafuti, the biggest of the Eight Islands, was nearly always empty except on Independence Day. Here on Niulakiti, the first of the islands to sink, he had never seen another soul.
He turned back to the sea, took another bite of his coconut and frowned. Something was out there. He squinted, trying to make out the dark smudge perhaps a half kilometer out towards the horizon. It looked like someone swimming, or rather thrashing at the surface; suddenly he remembered what he had put out there, realized what was happening, and pushed himself out into the waves.
It had been a long time since he had been swimming, but a childhood spent in the sea had inscribed his muscles with the necessary motions. He inhaled and exhaled salt spray with each stroke, getting nearer and nearer to the man – for he could now see that it was a man, dark-haired and tanned but unmistakeably white – who was struggling for his life. The snout and fin of the grey reef shark, rising and falling from the water as it fought to draw the man down, completed the picture.
Saufatu reached the man a few minutes later, closing his mouth to avoid inhaling the bloody water. The man looked pale, but surprisingly composed given what he had just been through. He put his right arm around Saufatu’s shoulder and kicked his legs weakly.
"Not that way," Saufatu said, shaking his head. "Past here it’s all algorithmic. Just let me pull you."