Tragedy in Paradise - A New Piece of Original Fiction (Part 1)

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

This story is a work of fiction but is inspired by actual events.


The text of Tragedy in Paradise is below, and you can also listen in to my performance of the story on my Social Musings by Austin YouTube Channel and Social Musings by Austin podcast on Apple Podcasts. Links below.


YouTube Channel: https://youtu.be/rR7XZuEB0ho


Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/tragedy-in-paradise-part-one/id1583635698?i=1000544143326




November 13, 2021

Bucuti Resort

Manchebo Beach, Aruba

16:30 Atlantic Standard Time (AST)



Note to readers: here is a map of the island of Aruba. It is a small island, only 20 miles long, and the tourist destinations are mostly clustered on the northwestern shore of the island (close to the De Palm Pier sign to the left on the map).



Aruba is part of the Netherlands Antilles and lies in the Southern portion of the Caribbean Sea approximately 15 miles off the coast of Venezuela.


This story begins on Manchebo Beach, which is in the bottom middle of this map of the main tourist areas on the Northwest side of the island.






Alex had not wanted to come on this vacation. He and his partner, Andy, had been fighting in their New York City apartment right up until they boarded yesterday’s nonstop flight to Aruba.


Andy said he needed to get away, and Alex reluctantly agreed. Alex had told himself that he needed a break from his high-stress corporate job. He thought that maybe a beach vacation would reduce his irritability and the corresponding relationship problems that he knew deep down were caused by his short temper.


Alex knew he loved Andy. He just didn’t really know how to show it. You see, work had always been Alex’s salvation. Any time something bad happened, Alex would just throw himself into his job with renewed fervor. It was his coping mechanism.


So now they were here in Aruba on a last-minute getaway staying at the fanciest boutique-style hotel on the island.


The hotel was stunningly beautiful, and they had received a complimentary suite upgrade upon arrival. Once unpacked, they caught the last of the Aruban sunshine as they walked the beach at sunset and dined in one of the Caribbean’s top outdoor romantic dining restaurants.


Now, on their first full day in Aruba, they had sipped margaritas on the beach and lounged by the pool.


Aruba is known for its watersports, and all along the beach there were little shacks offering all sorts of activities. Boat rides. Snorkeling tours. Rafts for rent. And, of course Andy had wanted to rent a jet ski at some point during their trip. They would maybe even take a snorkeling trip aboard the Jolly Pirates ship one afternoon. Oh, and there was Renaissance Island with all of those Instagram pictures with flamingos. That was also on Andy's list.



Now, in their hotel room, Andy came up with the fateful idea.


“Hey, let’s rent one of those two-person floats and watch the sunset from the water. We can have the hotel send us a bottle of champagne. Wouldn’t that be nice?”


Alex thought about it. It was moments like these where Alex knew he needed to be more adventurous to save his relationship with Andy.


“OK, let’s do it.”



November 13, 2021

Meteorological Department Aruba

Oranjestad, Aruba

16.40 AST

While Andy and Alex waited in their room for the champagne to arrive (sunset was an hour and a half away at 6.10pm), the forecasters at the Meteorological Department Aruba in downtown Oranjestad were perplexed.


Over the last few hours, weather conditions had deteriorated across the entire Caribbean, and currents had strengthened significantly around the main tourist areas of Aruba like Baby Beach, Mangel Halto, Manchebo Beach and Arashi.


Things had gotten so bad that the department heads were about to issue a Small Craft Advisory for the entire island.


The advisory notice would read something like this:


-AN ALERT FOR STRONG WINDS WILL BECOME IN EFFECT AS BY SATURDAY EVENING
UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE...
-A SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY WILL BECOME IN EFFECT BY SATURDAY 6 PM...
MARINERS OPERATING SMALL VESSELS MUST EXERCISE CAUTION OVER OPEN WATERS
AND NEAR COASTAL REGIONS, ESPECIALLY OVER THE EAST TO NORTHWEST AREA...

SYNOPSIS...
THE ATLANTIC HIGH PRESSURE SYSTEM IS BUILDING AND WILL MAKE THE PRESSURE
GRADIENT IN THE CARIBBEAN MORE REMARKABLE DURING THE NEXT FEW DAYS. WINDS
OF MORE OR LESS 22 TO 27 KNOTS CAN BE EXPERIENCED WITH OCCASIONAL GUSTS
OF 35 TO POSSIBLY UP TO 40 KNOTS (BEAUFORT 8). THIS WILL MAKE FOR QUITE
ROUGH SEAS ON CERTAIN LOCATIONS.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...
THE GENERAL PUBLIC ARE URGED TO TAKE THIS INTO ACCOUNT; SEA USERS/ BATHERS
AND MARINERS ARE URGED TO EXERCISE CAUTION OVER OPEN WATERS AND NEAR
COASTAL REGIONS AS THE STRONG WIND WILL CAUSE LOCALLY QUITE ROUGH
SEAS.


November 13, 2021

On a Raft in the Caribbean Sea

Just off Manchebo Beach, Aruba

17:30 AST


Alex and Andy had just caught the watersports activity director before the end of his shift. He had explained that the floats were only to be used in the daylight. However, for an extra $10, he had agreed to let them return the raft in the morning.


They were now floating about 25 yards from the beach. Waves were lapping the 10 foot by 10 foot inflatable floating device. They were lying side by side looking up at the sky.




“Isn’t this perfect?” said Andy.


Alex grunted agreement as he took a big gulp of champagne. Why does he always ask me if I am ok? That is so annoying sometimes. Can’t he just relax and let the moment be, Alex thought. Then, God, I am really a terrible person if this is what I am thinking right at this moment.


Andy looked over at Alex and stated: “You know I love you, right?”


“I know,” was all Alex could muster. He sighed as he drank his champagne flute dry and had Andy pour him another. Maybe I can just drink the whole time I am here to get through this, Alex thought.


Between Andy’s profession of love and Alex’s wandering mind, neither of them noticed that their raft had floated outside of the buoys demarking the safe swimming zone.



November 13, 2021

On the beach

Manchebo Beach, Aruba

17:45 AST


Sarah and her girlfriends had just flown in from Boston that afternoon. They were staying at the Divi all-inclusive resorts, and while her two best friends were in the room getting ready, Sarah was enjoying a late afternoon stroll on the beach.


She could not get over all of the ocean’s different shades of blue in contrast with the billowing white clouds and the golden sand that seemed to stretch for miles.


Sarah had never really been to the Caribbean before. Sure, she had hit the beach in Cape Cod and the Jersey Shore. Yet, Aruba seemed breathtaking to her.


She took her iPhone 12 Pro out of her pocket to take a picture or two for her Snapchat story. Snap. Snap.


Sarah looked down at her phone to check out her handiwork. It was hard to see with the sun’s glare, but the images looked good. She was just about to add a filter when she blurted out loud, “Wait a minute.”


In her picture, Sarah could see a float with two men at a distance out in the sea.


She looked up and blinked her eyes to see if it was true. The scene was hard to make out, as the sun was about 25 minutes away from setting in the direction looking out to sea.



Sarah strained her eyes. Off in the distance, it seemed like the two men were waving frantically. They must have been 50 yards away from the beach, but their raft was getting further away. It sounded like they might have been screaming: “Help!”


In that moment, Sarah weighed her options. She knew she was not the strongest swimmer. She looked around. Most of the beachgoers had already packed up for the day. She was pretty much alone on this stretch of beach.


She knew she couldn’t use her phone, as she was on airplane mode avoiding cellular roaming charges. She didn’t even know if she could get service here.


She waved at them and screamed back: “I’m getting help!” and raced back to her room at the Divi.



November 13, 2021

On a Raft in the Caribbean Sea

100 yards off Manchebo Beach, Aruba

17:50 AST


Alex and Andy were frantic.


“Andy, did she see us?”


Alex: “I don’t know. Did you bring your phone?”


“I did. Let me see if I can get cell service,” as Andy desperately noticed he had one bar left.


“I don’t even know what number to call, Alex,” cried Andy. “Is it 911 here?”


“I don’t have a clue. Damn it, Andy. Why did you come up with this stupid idea?” replied Alex hysterically.


Andy googled Aruba Emergency Number. At that point, his cell phone went out of range.



November 13, 2021

Divi Aruba All-Inclusive Resort

Divi Beach, Aruba

17:55 AST

Sarah was completely out of breath after running the 100 yards back to her hotel room. The Divi Aruba All-Inclusive Resort was next to Manchebo Beach and had its own beachfront area.


As she rushed in, one of her girlfriends snarked, “What’s the rush?”


“Some people are being swept out to sea out there! Where’s the room phone?” Sarah asked as she gasped for air.


She rushed over to the phone in between the two queen beds in their double room.


She dialed 0 to get to the front desk.


“Good evening, how may I direct your call?” asked the friendly-sounding operator. In the background noise of the phone, Sarah could hear the sounds of the steel drum player in the lobby welcoming the new guests, a scene she had participated in only 15 minutes' prior. How quickly things had changed.


Sarah screamed into the receiver: “I just saw two men floating out to sea at the beach. They need help. Please call someone!”


“Ok, miss. Let me connect you with the police. Just one moment.”




November 13, 2021

Aruba Police Headquarters

Oranjestad, Aruba

18:00 AST



The call had just come in from a tourist at the Divi hotel. The witness had said that she had seen two men being swept out to sea on a float.


This had happened before, or something like it.


Back in August, a 35-year-old woman from Maryland had been snorkeling at Baby Beach on the Southern end of the island. She had ventured too far away from the beach, and the strong Caribbean current had taken her away. Her remains had never been found.


Sergeant Michel Oduber was the ranking officer on duty at police headquarters.


He pulled out his checklist for marine search and rescues, although he knew them by heart. He had been the one who had led the search for the missing Maryland woman, in vain. Oduber had hoped he would never have to deal with a similar situation, but here we were, back in my worst nightmare, he thought.


Step One of the procedures was to contact the Dutch Marines at their base on the other side of the island. They had massive resources including search and rescue vessels and a helicopter.


Michel knew that the Marines and Aruba's own Korps Politie were the best hope at saving these two people. In the back of his mind, he was hoping that this was all just a false alarm. Maybe the woman believed she had seen something that she had not. Maybe she was just messing with them. Please God, let that be the case, he thought.




November 13, 2021

Savaneta Marine Barracks

Savaneta, Aruba

18:10 AST


Commander van der Beek took the call. Sergeant Oduber sounded alarmed. Yet this was what the Dutch Marines trained for. Moments like these.


Van der Beek looked out his office window. The sun was setting. He knew that it would be very dark very soon and that search and rescue efforts would need to cease at 20:00hrs.




November 13, 2021

On a Raft in the Caribbean Sea

0.5 miles off the coast of Aruba

19:30 AST



It was pitch black now around the raft, and the sea was getting rougher. They were getting into open waters.


Andy had his phone flashlight on.


Alex heard his partner crying softly.


“Alex, my battery is almost gone. I’m sorry. I forgot to charge it earlier,” said Andy in between sniffles.


Alex was in shock. Why is this happening to me, he thought. I can’t believe this is how it is going to end. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. I am sure someone will find us. I know they will be looking for us, he prayed over and over.



November 13, 2021

On board Dutch Marine Helicopter

Caribbean Sea, Aruba

19:55 AST


“Sir, we have scoured the most likely spots they would be, and we have found nothing. Do you want us to make another passby? It is going to be full dark soon.”


Commander Van der Beek looked out on the open ocean from his spot in the cockpit. The elements looked downright nasty down there. Even in the dark with the spotlight on, he could see the white crests of the large waves below.


“There may be two individuals out there, lost, and very scared. We need to keep looking. We must find them. Let’s do one more flyby,” the Commander ordered.



November 13, 2021

Aruba Today Headquarters

Oranjestad, Aruba

20:15 AST


The staffers at the island's only English-speaking newspaper focused on tourists were shocked to their core. Not since the murder of Natalee Holloway in 2005 had there been such a terrible tragedy.


Now, as they posted the following message on their Facebook page, they shuddered as they thought how this story might end.


Note to readers - this is the actual post from Aruba Today:



November 13, 2021

On a Raft in the Caribbean Sea

2.2 miles off the coast of Aruba

23:30 AST



The rain had just stopped. Alex and Andy were shivering, wet and in only their bathing suits. Waves were crashing around their raft.


They had seen no one, and they had lost sight of the island of Aruba for hours it seemed.


Alex knew that this was probably the end. Am I gonna cry? Am I gonna die? Am I gonna say goodbye?, he thought.


“I love you, Andy. I know I might not have shown it to you, but I do,” said Alex stoically.


Andy burst into fresh tears. “All I wanted for us is to have a nice vacation together,” Andy sobbed.


“I know, Andy, I know.”



November 14, 2021

Aruba Police Headquarters

Oranjestad, Aruba

05:00 AST


Michel had lost count of how many coffees had sustained him through the long night. After several communications with Commander van der Beek, Michel knew that the two tourists suspected of drifting out to sea had not been found. The search would continue beginning at daylight at 0630hrs.




As Michel looked at a nautical map of the Netherlands Antilles and surrounding areas, he contemplated three potential likely scenarios.


  1. The tourists were still out there waiting to be found, somewhere in the open ocean

  2. The tourists had returned safely unnoticed somehow OR

  3. The witness was unreliable and that the incident never actually occurred.


Sergeant Oduber really hoped that it was either option b or c, and as he picked up the phone to call the Aruban press outlets, he prayed that this new day would end with positive news.


End of Part 1.


How do you think this story ends? Are the tourists found or not? Did this mysterious event ever really happen?

Please tune in next week to hear the rest of the story!


I hope you enjoyed this new original story from Social Musings by Austin. If you are interested in hearing the original song that goes with this story, you can find it on the Social Musings by Austin YouTube Channel using the link below:



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