Tuesday, June 21, 2016
The Isle of Coll
The anxious events of the previous week took their toll. We were exhausted. The three of us wanted nothing more than to sleep in and recuperate after the previous night’s battle. We had no food, no water and feared a sudden onslaught of curiosity seekers who might have seen a giant dragon flying overhead. When the first rays of light emerged over the eastern horizon, we made plans to go.
“Do you need to go back to your house?” I asked Arthur.
“I came here with nothing; I can leave with nothing,” he said. “All I worry about is getting past that wall that’s kept me hostage here for so long.”
“What happened when you tried to leave the island?” asked Marcus.
“Over the years, I walked every inch of the island’s shoreline, looking for weakness in the wall, looking for a hole I could crawl through. I never succeeded,” said Arthur.
“I encountered the same thing right after I got here,” I added. “I tried to get back to Eilidh on board the boat but this force prevented me from even putting a toe in the water. It looks like I’m stuck, too.”
“I came through just fine,” said Marcus. “Our DNA structure is the same. Why wasn’t I affected?”
“It was the same when I came ashore,” I answered. “I came here OK, but once I was here, I couldn’t get off. It’s like a one way valve.”
”I’ve got an idea,” said Arthur. “Let’s see if last night’s events changed anything. Maybe the wall is gone. Let’s go down to the beach at Clabhach and see what happens.”
We told Nessie to stay and made sure her invisi-valve was on before we took the short stroll down to the west side beach. Much to our disappointment, when Arthur and I tried to step into the water, the invisible force field was still intact, preventing us from going any further. What surprised us was when Marcus tried to wade in. He was stopped, too.
We walked back to Cnocan na Ban. Arthur’s mind was still at work, still attempting to come up with a solution.
“Marcus,” he said, “let’s see if Nessie can find a solution that isn’t apparent to us. Climb aboard and get her up in the air. Let’s see what she can do. Maybe she can punch her way through.”
Marcus climbed aboard Nessie and they headed straight towards the large, crescent shaped beach at Crossapol Bay. As soon as they got close to the shoreline, Nessie took a more northerly course, refusing to cross the line between the land and the water.
Marcus did not insist; he let her fly where she wanted to go. Nessie never veered past the shoreline and always kept within the confines of the island, as if she was trapped, too. After taking a full loop around Coll and coming back to Crossapol Bay, Marcus pushed the issue and insisted she fly through the barrier. She would not. Stopping and hovering mid-air, like a dog coming up to an invisible fence surrounding a dog owner’s property, Nessie stayed back from the line and would not move forward, no matter how much Marcus pleaded and insisted.
“She wouldn’t do it,” said Marcus, climbing down from Nessie’s back. “She felt it, too.”
We sat down on the hard granite rocks and put our heads together, trying to consolidate all the information we had, trying to find the weak link in the wall.
“Nessie is an intelligent creature. She sensed she needed to stop,” I said. “But an airplane doesn’t work like that. Arthur, did you ever try to fly out of here?”
“I did, a couple of years ago,” he said. “I was invisible so there was no problem climbing aboard. But as soon as we took off and the plane hit that point at the edge of the island, I got violently ill and the plane’s engine sputtered and stopped. Luckily, the pilot was very skilled. He made an emergency turn and got us back to the aerodrome. It was a dead stick landing. We almost bought the farm that day. I never tried that again.”
“This can’t be a naturally occurring thing,” said Marcus. “To follow the exact waterline and not be off, even by a few inches. That level of precision sure sounds artificial to me. I don’t think nature works like that.
This must have been the plan right from the start, to keep some people out and some people in. It must take a lot of energy to keep that wall in place. That’s expensive.”
“If we can find this power source, can we shut down this wall?” asked Arthur.
“Maybe we don’t have to,” said Marcus. “Maybe its limitations were built in, right from the start.
Remember, Jameson Black is a real estate developer, The Director of Terran Expansion. He’s not going to spend money and expend resources where he doesn’t have to. He’s not going to overdesign. That’s waste he can’t afford. So he builds a short but lengthy wall that a human can’t get over. It works fine, for years and years. Then, after the airplane was invented, he has to build it higher, so an airplane can’t get over, and that works fine, too. But I’m going to guess he didn’t built a bubble or a dome, too expensive, too much wasted energy. He only has Arthur to worry about. He’s only needs a wall high enough to keep his one and only hostage from escaping. I’m thinking this wall is only as tall as it needs to be. No higher. It probably doesn’t go up forever.
And why do I think that? Because when Gregorio flew Nessie up into space, the two of them managed to get over the wall. We know they did it. They must have flown high enough to get over the top, higher than an airplane flies at takeoff.
Why would Black build it higher than ten thousand feet? I can’t think of any reason, it’s wasted money. He probably didn’t take flying dragons into consideration when he designed it.
Maybe that’s our ticket out of here? Up and over, on the back of Nessie.”
“That sounds like a great plan, Marcus. Good thinking,” I said. “But not to rain on everybody’s parade here, but… can she do that? Arthur, you know these creatures better than anybody. Can Nessie carry all that weight? She’s only carried two full weight humans once, last night, for just a few minutes. Can she carry all three of us? And what’s her fuel situation? I don’t know what she eats or even if she eats. Can she carry all three of us up and over this wall then miles and miles of flying after that? It seems like a lot to ask of a young dragon.”
“She looks old enough to find her own food. I don’t think we have to worry about that,” said Arthur. “But, like I said, I only had adult dragons; they certainly could carry the weight. A pup? I don’t know, Magnus; we’ll just have to give it a try.”
“If she can carry the weight and this up and over idea works,” asked Marcus, “what’s the plan after that? Do we head for Iona?”
“I don’t think so, Marcus.” I said. “We still have to finish the job Swede gave us before we go to Iona. Remember, we never shut down the Glastonbury Tor. We still have to do that. Let’s go to Mull, retrieve the sword of Robert the Bruce from where you hid it. Then we can finish that Glastonbury shutdown and move on to Iona.”
“Have you thought about Eilidh?” asked Marcus. “I’m really worried about her.”
“I think about her every hour of every day,” I said. “It’s been over a week now. I have no clue where she is or what’s she’s doing. We don’t even know if she’s alive. But unless she answers her phone, I’d have no idea where to start looking for her.
No, Marcus, I don’t know what to do about Eilidh.”
“Arthur,” said Marcus, now turning his attention to the King. “What are your plans if and when we get out of here?”
Arthur snorted a little laugh as if this was the most stupid question he ever heard.
“At this time last week,” he said, “Tuesday was shaping up to be a lot like the other 80,000 Tuesdays I’ve lived through since the Battle of Camlann. 80,000 Tuesdays. 1,600 years. Can you imagine that? No, of course you can’t. I can’t, either.
Plans? I’ve got no plans. You two upset my boring life so completely that I’m just glad to begin a Tuesday where I don’t know what I’ll do come dinnertime. Whatever you two guys want to do, I’m fine with it.
We took nothing with us except the clothes on our backs, the green rock, the multi-purpose knife and, of course, Excalibur. The sleeping bags, tents, cooking utensils, pots, everything else; we left them all behind, hoping to save weight.
The sun rose higher and higher in the Eastern sky and we feared people would start to arrive at the cell tower any moment now. The first group of the curious would arrive on the ferry from Oban later that day. It was time to go.
We began to climb aboard Nessie’s platform but Marcus noticed the cloth straps made from the fairies’ clothes still tied around Nessie’s abdomen.
“Don’t you think we should cut them off,” asked Marcus. “We’d save a lot of weight.”
“You’re right,” said Arthur. “I think we should. Magnus, can I have that super knife of yours, please.”
I handed Arthur the multi-purpose knife and he began to cut away some of the cloth strips that began to fall away from Nessie’s flanks. But he only cut off four or five of the hundreds still remaining when we noticed two, 4 wheeled ATVs coming in our direction.
“They’re here,” exclaimed Marcus. “Change of plans. Got to go. Now!”
Arthur closed the knife, handed it to me and I put it into my pocket while he quickly climbed aboard. When he was aboard Nessie’s back, Marcus gave her the command to fly.
Nessie obeyed immediately and began to flap her powerful wings. We weren’t moving. Marcus commanded, again and again, but she couldn’t get off the ground, too much weight for the obedient dragon to carry.
We had no idea what would happen once these people on the ATV’s arrived. Would they be able to see us? Didn’t know. Would they be able to see Nessie? Didn’t know. Were they friendly Collachs from town out for a day hike or evil friends of GG? Didn’t know that either. It was way too dangerous to stay and find out. All three of us knew we had to leave…fast.
“We’ve got to lighten her up,” I said. “Either we cut off more of those heavy cloth straps or somebody has to stay behind. They’re getting closer.”
“Nobody stays behind; got that?” said the King, taking charge of the situation. “No time to cut the straps, either. I don’t want to do this; we don’t have much choice.”
Arthur moved towards the front, out of our sight, and commanded Nessie to lower her head. She complied. Seconds later, he returned to the platform.
“Try her again,” he commanded Marcus, “she if she’ll fly now.”
“What did you do?” asked the dragon’s pilot.
“I’ll explain once we’re airborne,” he answered. “Just go!”
Marcus climbed up Nessie’s long neck and assumed his pilot’s position straddled around her head, holding on to her ears.
“OK, Nessie,” said Marcus, talking into her right ear. “Fly, baby; fly. You can do it.”
The young reptile, so eager to please, flapped her wings and flapped some more, straining every muscle in her taught young body. It was working. The dragon and her three hostages began to rise above the granite outcrops and white sandy beaches of Coll, powerfully thrusting higher, reaching closer to the safety of the sky above.
If we could make it up and over, achieving success at a height none of us knew, it might be so high we would not survive the climb. After all, we weren’t fairies, unaffected by such things. Too high, and we’d be above the breathable atmosphere. Too high, and the atmospheric pressure might be so low we’d lose consciousness. It was a risk worth taking. Success promised a new or renewed life outside Jameson Black’s wall of dark energy.
When we got to the 3 km level, the height we agreed was high enough, Marcus turned Nessie towards the east and a rendezvous with the wall…or not.
Closer and closer we flew. We continued to hear Nessie’s labored breathing, straining under our heavy load. Arthur’s long time home, the beautiful Isle of Coll, now floated far beneath us like a green and silver ship. Knowing we were close, Arthur and I braced for impact, not knowing if we might be thrown off the dragon’s back and fall to a certain death. But the impact never came and the four of us sailed up and over the wall, just as we hoped.
Arthur and I were happier than two pigs wallowing in the mud. We jumped and shouted for joy, giving each other high fives and low fives in celebration. High atop Nessie’s head, Marcus stood up, still holding Nessie’s left ear, pumping his right fist like the winning jockey atop the fastest horse at the Kentucky Derby.
But Nessie, the gal who did all the heavy lifting, was now relieved of her weight lifting duties because she successfully cleared the wall of dark energy. She spread her long wings as wide as they could go and settled into a graceful glide towards the east, soon to land near the shoreline of Mull where Marcus stashed the dingy and the sword of Robert the Bruce.
As soon as we landed, Arthur immediately went up to Nessie’s head and looked into her eyes and ears, sniffed around her nostrils and took note of the foul odor coming out of her mouth.
“That’s it,” said Arthur. “She’s done. No more flying today. She’ll need a while to recuperate.”
“Is she going to be OK?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” was Arthur’s honest answer. “I never raised a pup before. We put her through a lot over the last few days; I have no idea how she’ll respond.”
“How did you get into the air?” asked Marcus. “What did you do when you went up front, right before we took off?”
“I switched off her invisi-valve,” said Arthur. “Staying invisible takes a lot of energy. By turning it off, I allowed her to use that energy elsewhere, like powering her wings. She also saved a lot of energy when you flew around for those two days with the valve off. If she was invisible before you came to Coll, she never would have had the energy to fly today.
Of course, the down side is…”
“The whole world saw us,” I said. “Now the race is on to find the flying dragon and the three dudes who rode on her back.
“Right you are, Merlin. But let’s get Nessie put to bed, she needs to rest. We’ll have to submerge her, keep her out of sight.”
While Arthur worked with Marcus, showing him how to put the dragon to bed in the open ocean, I went ashore to scout this remote location, trying to decide what we should do next.
We had no food, no extra clothes, no shelter, no money and we preferred to remain out of sight. On top of all that, this was Mull, not Coll. We were on the moist side of Scotland now and it would probably rain by the end of the day. Once again, time was not on our side. I knew I had better get to work on a solution.
I retrieved the sword of Robert the Bruce. At least I had a cutting tool. I found a soft, level, well drained spot on which to build a shelter and began cutting small trees and branches to construct a lean-to.
“Before you put her to bed,” I said, calling down to Marcus and Arthur, “cut off some of those cloth strips. I need them to build the shelter.”
I tossed them the multi-purpose knife and they began to remove some of the many braided cloth strips still attached to Nessie’s flanks. Before you knew it, I lashed together some of the larger pieces of wood to make a strong frame. Then I placed many of the smaller, shorter branches cross wise, building up the structure of a roof.
When Marcus and Arthur finished putting Nessie to bed under the deep waters off the coast, the three of us lifted the inflatable dingy and set it on top of the roof. It was to serve two purposes: One, to keep the middle of the shelter dry. But, just as importantly, it would also catch and hold whatever rainwater fell from the sky, providing us with an ample supply of fresh water to drink. Finally, ferns and other water shedding plants were woven into the structure, both on top and on the sides. Soon we had a reasonable shelter to get us through the short term.
As dicey as our situation looked when we first arrived, it got better almost immediately. We were a good, resourceful team. Marcus retrieved the emergency pack from the dingy and it contained two fishing hooks. I attached the hooks to some of the shiny, silver metal I broke off from the multi-purpose knife, and lashed them together with the waxed sailing thread from the emergency pack to make two, functional, weighted jigs. When we attached these jigs to some of the braided cords manufactured by the fairies, we had a workable fishing line, which produced results within the hour, four good sized fish which became dinner.
And how did we start the fire? After I demonstrated my woodsman’s skills, constructing the shelter and making the fishing lures, Marcus wanted to show off, too. He decided not to use the matches in the emergency kit. He took the engine from the old outboard motor and jerry rigged a system to use the electricity generated from the engine’s magneto and sent it into the middle of a stack of dried wood he moistened with ten milliliters of gasoline. When Marcus pulled the old engine’s starting cord, sending the spark down the wire and into the petroleum moistened wood, VAROOOMMM! We got a large flash of flame, just short of an explosion, certainly enough to light our meager campfire and provide us with a hearty reason to laugh.
As the Scottish clouds began to lower, bringing rain to Mull, we sat back and watched it pour from the comfort of our dry lean-to, warmed by a fire ignited by electricity we generated ourselves. Our bellies were full of fresh fish, the foolish ones stupid enough to fall for our homemade hooks. And our entertainment? Watching panicked pleasure boats zooming between Mull and Coll, their numbers tripled by floating paparazzi with strained camera lenses, fighting each other to get the money shot of the flying reptile. Also joining us were the Royal Navy’s most modern helicopters, desperately searching for something they could not identify and would not find, despite all their high tech sailor stuff. Arthur turned Nessie’s invisi-valve back to the “on” position. All they could do was burn petrol and make a lot of noise.
“I guess the word is out,” said Arthur.
“It would seem so,” I said, before letting out a satisfied belch.
“Fish head?” asked Marcus, licking his fingers before offering us what was left of the guillotined creature. “They make good soup.”
“Why don’t you save it,” said Arthur. “I’ve got to see if I can keep up with you two geniuses. I’m going to make a lobster trap tomorrow. We can use the fish head for bait. We might be here longer than we planned. That’s OK; this is already the best Tuesday of my life.”