When he sees the ship he lets off a dozen signal flares and drinks his entire day’s ration of water. It is a miracle, finally. The chance he’s been waiting for. He waves his arms and hollers until his voice is raw, and slowly the vessel glides closer. There is a rope ladder dangling from the rail. He paddles frantically, the little life raft bobbing and dropping on the big ship’s swells. Snags the ladder. Ties off the raft. Clambers aboard.
There’s nobody on deck. Not a single person to be seen. The engine room is quiet. The bridge deserted. In the canteen, flies buzz over half-finished meals, the food now capped with mould. Every bunk is empty. The corridors echo silence.
He makes a few attempts to start the engine, but to no avail. The computer systems are dead, and the maps are missing. There is a sparse store of food and water. There are comfortable beds. He hauls the liferaft up onto the deck and pitches it there like a tent. He’ll sleep tonight, like every night, beneath a swathe of canvas. The stars are the same. He’ll be a castaway for some time yet.