Cortland Prescott was born with a gilded spoon in one hand and a jewel-encrusted knife in the other. One was for satisfying his every craving, the other was for stabbing his competitors in the back.
He insisted on the finest things in life—often to the detriment of his business, his family, his friends. A critical board meeting was scheduled for Monday, and much work needed to be done in preparation. Instead of buckling down, he took off and left the hard work to his employees.
“Bryce,” he said. “You’re working this weekend. I want you in charge of the merger.”
“But, sir. It’s my anniversary. My wife and I are going away for the weekend.”
“Prescott Enterprises needs you. I need you. Or do you not need this job?”
Bryce’s face fell, but he agreed to rearrange his plans and spearhead the merger. Cortland laughed at his VP as he walked away, cheering himself on like an entitled frat boy, chanting his trademark line, “King of the Boardroom!”
While Bryce toiled, Cortland intended to spend the weekend enjoying the sun and surf. He had his captain ready his yacht—Cortland’s Folly—and his steward stock the galley with caviar, pate, lobster tails, tropical fruit, and an assortment of cheeses and wines. As he planned on entertaining a few young ladies, he also made certain a few bottles of the 50-year-old Glenfiddich were on board. Nothing would impress them more than sixteen-thousand-dollars-a-bottle scotch.
He’d spent the morning watching the ladies sunbathe and the afternoon with them in his cabin below. The water had gotten rougher, adding to the “motion of the ocean” as the yacht pitched and yawed. The ladies were exhausted, but it only invigorated him more. “King of the Bedroom,” he said as he ogled their naked forms.
While they napped, he grabbed a bottle of the scotch and a tumbler and headed up to the deck. The skies roiled with thunderous abandon and the water swelled with stormy purpose.
The crew bustled about the yacht, following their captain’s orders. “Sir,” the captain said to Cortland. “It’s not safe up here. Please go to your cabin.” Then he rushed back to the control room.
But instead of Cortland seeking shelter below, he taunted the skies. “Is that all you’ve got? I’m not just King of the Boardroom and King of the Bedroom. I’m King of the Big Briny Deep! Bring on your worst!”
As if the storm was sentient, it replied with vigor. The yacht listed in the wind, the waves crescendoed and crashed on the deck.
Yet through it all, Cortland stood at the rail and lifted his face to the skies. He owned that yacht, and he owned that ocean.
A jagged bolt of lightning illuminated the sea, showed a giant wall of brackish water looming over the dwarfed ship.
Cortland’s eyes widened before the blackness claimed him.
He woke, waterlogged and alone, yacht wreckage strewn around him. His designer clothes damp and torn, sand and shell fragments chaffing his burned skin.
The bottle of Glenfiddich was somehow still clutched in his hand.
He called for his companions, searched the beach for his crew, tromped through the lush foliage looking for a settlement of any kind.
He gathered a few coconuts on his way back to the shore. It took him hours to split even one open on a jagged outcropping of rock. Most of the water spilled, but he managed to salvage a few sips, then he gnawed on the meat.
He hated coconut.
As night fell, he tried to make a fire. But the twigs he’d gathered were too green or his fire-making skills too pathetic. He shivered in the damp sand until morning, tucked under some of the salvaged wreckage for protection against the wind.
A week later, not a single ship had been sighted, not a solitary airplane had flown overhead. Cortland was parched and famished. His skin was blistered and the soles of his feet raw. He looked longingly at the bottle of scotch but knew drinking it would only dehydrate him further.
He took his wallet out of his pocket and looked through it. Several credit cards. His driver’s license. A couple of pictures of himself. And a receipt from a coffee shop he’d gone to on his way to the marina.
Half delirious, he dug through the leather for a pen or pencil and raged at not finding any. Still undeterred, he searched the sand for any rock that might write. He found several small black ones—probably the remains of what he hoped was a dormant volcano—and used one as charcoal. Writing on his receipt, he composed an S.O.S.
Shipwrecked. Small island. East of Cuba? Cortland Prescott.
God help him. Was he lost somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle? No one would ever find him.
He saw spots, heard echoing laughter. The sun beat down on him. He truly was losing it. Maybe he had heat exhaustion. Maybe dehydration and starvation were clouding his judgment. He wouldn’t let the elements win. He was King of the Boardroom, damn it. He could do anything. He would be king of that godforsaken beach.
Cortland dumped out the scotch, watched as the golden liquid saturated the ground and got absorbed in the relentlessly hot sand. Then he stuck his receipt in the bottle, capped it, and flung it into the sea.
• • •
A year later, a gleaming yacht sailed near a pristine island. Wreckage on the beach caught the owner’s attention, and he and a small crew went ashore to investigate.
All they found was a skeleton wearing a coconut shell like a crown, an empty bottle of high-end scotch clutched in its hand.
The steward said, “Guess the guy got shipwrecked here. Too bad we didn’t find him sooner.”
Bryce glanced at the wreckage, just managed to make out “Cort… Fol…” in the weathered paint. He grinned, clapped the steward on the back, and bowed at the skeleton. “All hail, the King of the Beach.”
“Aw, that’s not right. Show some respect. The guy’s dead.”
“Believe me, it’s right. Let’s get out of here.”
They headed back to Sweet Revenge, the yacht Bryce bought when he took over Prescott Enterprises.
This story inspired by the WordPress daily prompt: Bottle.