Adapt, Improvise, Overcome: how I’ve acclimatised to lockdown island

Editor Alex Castillo describes the physical and mental transformations he underwent during his stay on lockdown island.

Alex Castillo-Powell

Isolation IslandIzzy Thomas

Nearly a year has passed by since I’ve been trapped in this lockdown desert island. Time has become meaningless. I just watch the sun go down and feel the shifting gravitational pull of the moon, telling me it’s nearly time for tea. The trees have become my friends and the wind speaks to me with its melancholic wooosh. It’s not easy being stuck on this island, but slowly – bit by bit – my body has adapted. My cells regenerate and my survival instincts kick in. This is the story of being stuck on lockdown island and how my body has lived to tell the tale.

Physical Transformation

The days pass, bent over, shoulders hunched, neck curved, head merging to become one with my laptop screen. I doomscroll the internet, surfing the headlines, swimming out to sea only to be carried back to shore with sore muscles and a salty mouth. But the human body is no chump. After a year of bending my neck to merge myself with the screens that consume me, my muscles have kicked in and millennia of Darwinian evolution have been reversed. We no longer stand upright but have taken our place with the other animals. I sit idly on a desk chair and there is no need to bend my neck – it is already there.

Living on this small island, my legs no longer yearn to move as they once did. The energy that has powered homo sapiens to travel the seas, to span continents and build civilisations. That energy is long gone now. My body conserves itself, hibernating. My legs wait on standby, the Microsoft logo pinging across all four corners of the screen, waiting for the mouse to move. But I have transcended my legs. They have gone the way of the appendix, and are now just cumbersome, obsolete, leftover. They dangle over the edge of my bed to remind me of another time.

The mouth I once used to converse with friends, to yell unintelligible lyrics on a club dance floor, to shout “I’m walking here”, as I walk across a busy road. This mouth is no longer. It still has its uses: munching on Doritos, letting out a low grumble of approval as I scroll through Instagram videos, telling the cat to stop meowing. But its role is different now. It conveys messages through morse code mumbles. Gone are the days of inefficient articulation.

The days are long and the nights even longer. My sleep patterns have shifted. The creatures of the island emerge at night-time and my body has synchronised with them, standing guard at 2am, ready for the next YouTube video to emerge out of the wilderness and sink its teeth into me. I man my post deep into the night, anticipating the next frighteningly mediocre Netflix thriller to be thrown my way. Ready to encounter it head on.

Mental Transformation

While my body grows stronger and more efficient, conserving fuel like a Toyota Prius, my mind re-focuses and re-wires, neural networks shooting off to tackle the problems of the day. I know there is much to do, but if my body grows tired then the jungle creatures will eat me, so my mind meticulously prioritises and compartmentalises the activities of the day. I could do my seminar readings. I could exercise. I could read my book. But that would be giving the island what it wants … to weaken and debilitate me. Luckily, my mind has grown wise to the tricks of this cruel place.


Mountain View

He Said She Said: Part 1

Life on a desert island can be slow, monotonous and repetitive. You wake up, sharpen your spears, retrieve some coconuts, watch Netflix … the days tend to merge into one. My mind has adapted to the monotony with selective memory failure, forgetting the past so that every day is new and exciting. When was the last time I went outside? I do not know. When is my essay due? What essay? Like Drew Barrymore in 50 First Dates, I wake up to a new day and a first date with Adam Sandler, none the wiser.

Escape from the Island

While my mind and body have adapted, my soul still longs for the mainland. When the creatures of the island sleep, I collect wood and branches, preparing to build my canoe – before realising that I can’t even assemble IKEA furniture. Still, I persist in my endeavour, tying the branches together with sturdy bits of seaweed, smoothing out the wood with coconuts and staring wistfully at the moon, looking for signs that the sea will soon calm.