Saving Starbird

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Chapter 18

The Haunting of Smugglers Rocks

As they continued to sail towards Smugglers Rocks, Sally started to wonder exactly what they would find when they finally arrived.

She also was worrying how Starbird was faring in the strange round ball that was still being held down by the heavy net on the deck of the boat. To Starbird, that ball was not only his transmuted spacecraft, but while he was on earth it was also, however weird, his home.

Sally also wondered about the strange green light the coxswain and Archie’s dad had seen during the rescue. Could that have been something to do with Starbird?

She asked Mr Tampling, “The green light you saw that night. Have you any idea exactly what had caused it?”

He replied quietly after a long pause, “I have often wondered myself what had created the light. One thing I am sure of however, without it we would have never found the stricken lifeboat in time.”

Archie asked, “Did any of the rescued sailors speak about it?”

His dad said, “No, they had not really spoken about anything during the trip back to harbour, or even afterwards, while they recovered in the warmth of the bar in the Smugglers Rest where they were taken on landing.”

He went on to tell the children about another strange thing concerning the sailor they had rescued. “They had all acted almost as if they were in a trance.”

Mr Tampling agreed. “For a start I thought that they could not speak English, but were a foreign crew.”

They had all sat on the Lifeboat without speaking, either to the crew or between them selves. He had decided that this silence was due to shock, although he had never seen any other survivors act in this strange way. Even when they were given hot drinks and dry clothes in the Smugglers Rest they had all been very quiet, sitting staring with vacant eyes into space.

It was not until he had visited them the next day were the sailors able to speak. It was then that he discovered they were all English. The survivors remembered being on their ship when it was driven by the storm onto an outcrop of rocks, but none of them remembered any thing else until they where sitting safely in the dry clothes the following day in the warm bar of the Smugglers Rest.

Archie’s dad said, “That’s right. The injured sailor was the same. I visited him in hospital a few days later and he remembered nothing at all. It was all very strange.”

He had been told while he was in hospital how Mr Smith had dragged him from the sea, so he thanked him, shaking his hand warmly, but he had no recollection of the rescue. In fact he did not even know that he had a broken leg!

Sally was very quiet for several minutes while she pondered these new facts.

She thought back to the experiences she and Archie had shared together in the cave with Starbird. They had certainly gone into a trance like state together, as that was the way Starbird had been able to communicate with them. Had Starbird helped the sailors, but he did not want them to remember his help?

She remembered how Starbird had told them that he was under orders not to interfere with anything on Earth, but his mission was just to monitor the things that happened. Had he seen the plight of the sailor who would have been drowned without his help? However, Sally could not answer these questions she had set herself.

As they continued to sail towards their destination the weather had begun to change. When they had left the harbour the evening had been very still and warm. Now a strong breeze had started to blow and it was getting quite chilly.

There had also been a sea mist but the breeze had cleared this and the darkness had been lifted a bit by the moonlight that now enabled them to see the waves around them clearer.

Looking back Sally could no longer see the lights of the harbour and village.

They were alone on the dark ever moving sea.

Archie asked Mr Tampling, “What do you know about Smugglers Rocks, and how often have you sailed close to them?”

The coxswain told them all that he had never been very close to them, as the area was very dangerous with a lot of rocks just under the water, as well as the high formation that towered above the waves.

He went on to tell them, “Many of the local fishermen say that the rocks are haunted. I remember my own grandfather telling me he had seen things that made him sure it was.”

Archie asked him, “Why was that? Do you and your dad both believe what you have been told?”

Mr Tampling explained, “My granddad was a very experienced sailor, but he had seen strange lights at night from the rocks and had also heard eerie noises, sometime during the day, but mostly at night. He could not explain what these were, but several other fishermen had also had strange experiences near the rocks.”

He went on to say, ”My dad had once seen lights in the sky above the rocks but after that tried not to go too near the area to fish.”

Archie’s dad also said, “I have heard the stories about the area being haunted, but I have not seen any lights, or heard any noises myself. Still I do believe my friends who have told me about the things they have seen. They are not the sort of people to make things up.”

However he continued, “I did notice something very strange the last time I sailed close to the rocks. Smuggler’s Rocks has always had many cormorants perching on the rocky ledges and diving for fish. There were also hundreds of different gulls that had made their nests, as it is an ideal breading spot for seabirds.”

Archie’s dad paused for several seconds before he said in a very quiet voice, “Now there are no birds to be seen. The rocks seemed deserted by all wild life.”

“That’s true Smithy,” said the coxswain. “The last time I fished about one hundred yards from the outer rocks I did not catch anything in the hour I tried. It used to be a very good place to fish, even if it is a bit dangerous and you have to keep a weather eye open, but not any more.”

They all looked at each other, and then Sally said in a very quiet voice exactly what everyone else had been thinking. “It was Starbird!”

Archie said, “Wait a minute. When Mr Temping’s grandfather was young, it must have been a long time ago he said he saw the lights.”

The coxswain agreed and added, “You are quite right Archie. It could have been almost one hundred years ago.”

Sally said, “But that is in earth years. Perhaps that was not very long in the life span of Starbird.”

Archie said, “Perhaps it was Starbird’s grandfather that had made the noise and lights, which had started the ghost stories.”

Everyone except Sally laughed; she just stared at the large ball under the net on the deck and wondered.

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