The Lone Isle
January 26, 2009
Brigdi Island is about a mile and half off the coast of Pennsylvania, spanning one mile across and approximately two miles wide. It was founded sometime in the late 1600′s as a small fishing community. Since the island’s founding the population has never grown or shrunk much past a thousand people. Isolated from the rest of the world and outside influences, it has become known as an island free from time.
There are no roads that join Brigdi Island to the main land. The only way to reach the island is by chartering a boat. The voyage there taking approximately an hour, due to the rough waters around the island and the fact that the only port is located in the small town on the opposite side. Several times in the past people have talked about building a bridge connecting the island to the main land but as neither the island community nor the neighboring city on the coast has the funding it never leads to more than just talks.
The state once offered to intervene and construct a road themselves. However, once the state learned what the expense of such a project would be given the rough seas, the time it would take to finish, along with the fact that every year the island is hit with a large storm that would destroy any construction work, the proposal was quickly dropped.
Andrew sighed, closing his pocket notebook and shoved it back into his jacket pocket. That was everything Andrew had been able to gather about the small island off the coast of nowhere. Sure he had heard all sorts of rumors and gossip from the locals on the main land but nothing that he could write a story on.
The small barge crashed into another wave making Andrew’s stomach lurch as he gripped the railing for dear life. The people at the dock had warned him that this ride would be a little rough. The waters this time of year always got dangerously choppy. But Andrew did not have a choice in the matter. Boat was the only way to reach the island and he had been told that this would be the last voyage to the island until later next week. He had been told that the waters were just too rough and too few people visited the island this time of year to justify keeping the trips going.
It was for that exact reason Andrew wanted to get to the Island. He had heard the stories about the reclusive island that was all but cut off from the rest of the world, free from time. He disregarded all the rumors about the inhabitants being some sort of cult or the other stories about small town secrets as nothing more than superstition.
What intrigued him was this storm. Every year in February there was a huge storm that would hit the island but would dissipate before it reached shore. This did not interest him so much as the rumor that the storm hit on the exact day of a festival that the townspeople held. That the truth was, he had been told, that the storm was not on the same day as the festival but the festival was on the same day of the storm. That meant they somehow knew every year what day a storm would arrive. That alone was an interesting thing. But Andrew could feel that there was more to it than that.
It was a sill that he had come to rely on over the years. The ability to know when there was something worth investigating. And that feeling was telling him now that there was a story somewhere on that island. A story that no one had ever reported on before.
“How much longer do you think?” Andrew asked, turning away from the railing so he was facing the man steering the ship.
“About fifteen minutes, give or take.” The older stoic looking man did not even look at Andrew as he held onto the metal wheel in front of him with one hand the other hand resting on the throttle. “Lot of it will depend on how choppy the waters get. The east side of the Island is a lot worse than the west.”
The Barge hit another wave and this time Andrew was lifted in the air a few inches. The sudden sense of weightlessness made his stomach flip and his eyes widen with fear.
“Hey, hey.” The man moved his body so he was out of the way of Andrew. “Please, if you are going to vomit do it off the side. If you are feeling sick sit in the middle,” He pointed to the deck in front of him. “There is less movement.”
Andrew tried to thank the man but was too afraid to speak, as he did not know what would actually come out. Instead, he placed his hand on the railing for support as he made his way to the spot that the man had suggested.
Another large wave hit, sending salt water splashing on the deck covering Andrew a freezing spray, making the cold air even colder.
Andrew sunk deep into his jacket as he sat down on one of the benches. He closed his eyes hoping that it would help with the motion sickness.
“This totally isn’t worth it,” he mumbled under his breath as they hit another huge wave. Andrew clutched the front of his coat tightening his stomach. This was going to be the longest fifteen minutes of his life at this rate.
“No need to panic.”
Andrew almost shot out of his seat from the sudden sound of someone’s voice behind him. His sea sickness momentarily forgotten.
Andrew spun around on the bench to see a toothpick of a man standing behind him. He was the only other passenger on the ship besides Andrew, and he had even been told that if both of them had not been trying to get to the island they might not have even bothered to make the trip. That making the trip for one person just was not worth the effort.
Andrew had not seen much of the man for the majority of the voyage, as he had spent most of the time asleep down below. How the man could sleep in such waters was beyond Andrew.
“I am not panicking.” The surprise now gone, Andrew turned back around and went back to being miserable. “Besides, how would you know anyway? Are you a sailor?” Andrew turned his head to get a better look at the man. He wore a new style black fedora, heavy black leather coat and reflective sunglasses, like he was in the Matrix or something.
The sunglasses boggled Andrew. The weather was cloudy and nearing sunset. How the man could see anything was beyond him. The guy did gave off the vibe that he was trying to be to cool for school, so his fashion sense really should not have surprised Andrew.
“No, I’m not a sailor but you see the captain up there?” Sunglasses pointed to the man steering the barge.
“Yeah, what about him?” Andrew frowned.
“He is a sailor, and he is not panicking,” Sunglasses pointed out. “So if he is not worried then there is no reason for us to worry.”
“Bah.” Andrew waved off his comment. “Maybe he is just trying to put on a brave face in front of his passengers.”
“That still means that things aren’t so bad that he can keep on acting like things are alright. So it still holds that there is nothing worth panicking over.” Sunglasses’ voice was so monotone it seemed like he did not have a feeling about it one way or another.
Why was he even talking to Andrew? He sounded like the whole exchange was nothing but a bother in the first place.
“I already told you, I am not panicking. I just get motion sick easily.” That was a lie. This was the first time in his life that Andrew had ever gotten sick like this, but the man in sunglasses did not seem sick and the last thing Andrew was going to do was let this poser show him up.
“Why come out here if you get sick so easily?” Sunglasses asked.
Andrew’s eye twitched a bit from the question. He was starting to get annoyed now. This man had not said two words to Andrew the entire trip, so why was he now acting so chatty? “If you must know, I am a freelance journalist and I have been asked to do a story on the festival that happens every year on this island.”
That was another lie. While it said freelance journalist on his business card that was just his way of making himself seem more professional. In truth, most papers and magazines hired him to get dirt on people that they wanted to get the scoop on but still wanted plausible deniability if he ever got caught. There were many articles out there that he was the ‘anonymous source’ mentioned.
Not that he would ever tell this person that.
In fact, this was the first story that Andrew could say was his and his alone in over a year. The only reason he was doing it at all was because he had been in the area trying to blackmail an old acquaintance into giving him some work and when that fell through he felt like he had nothing to lose.
“I see,” Sunglasses nodded. “Must suck to get these assignments despite the fact that they make you sick.” The man said it like it was no big deal and that just made the comment all the more insulting.
“If you must know, I volunteered for this story.” There was a hint of rage in Andrews’s voice though he did his best to keep it under control.
It was one thing to call his normal job lousy, stupid, or unethical, seeing as Andrew would agree, but to say that about the things he did on his own was another matter.
“If you are just going to stand there and make fun of me, why don’t you just leave me alone?” Andrew hunched over and wrapped himself up in his still damp jacket. He did not care if Sunglasses said anything else, he was done talking.
“Alright.” Sunglasses gave a shrug of indifference. “We’re there anyway.”
Andrew looked up and saw that they were coming into the small dock of the town.
When had that happened?
He had been so caught up in his anger talking to Sunglasses that he had forgotten all about the rough sea and his motion sickness. Too bad he had not forgotten about how cold he was.
Andrew stood up and went to the front of the boat so he could get a better view of the island and the town, leaving the man in sunglasses behind.
The town looked like it was straight out of the ’80’s. The building were old looking and the paint was faded and worn down by the ocean weather. There was nothing remotely similar to modern technology, and the only stop lights that he had heard about were the two downtown.
The island even had an old fashion lighthouse. It was a white towering monument on a deserted rock face a few hundred yards off the coast. The light was off though. Andrew frowned at that. He would have thought that this close to dusk they would have already started it up.
He stared at the lighthouse as the boat floated on by. It looked rundown but for the most part it still seemed to be in good enough condition. At the top was a figure of a person, looking down at the boat as it passed by.
“Oh, I guess it’s not abandoned after all,” Andrew mumbled as he gazed up at the person, trying to get a better view of who was up there. It looked like a younger woman with a cowl on her back. She lazily stared down at the ship from atop the tower as she leaned against the railing. Her long, raven black, hair blew in the wind obscuring most of her face. After a few seconds the boat had past and Andrew lost sight of her.
The boat pulled along the large pier where two men were waiting, both of them the tall strong sort a person expected to see working the docks. As soon as the boat stopped the two men got to work, doing things that Andrew knew nothing about but was sure were important.
“Alright, everyone off,” the captain called out walking away from the large wheel.
Andrew left the front of the boat and started to make his way down the loading ramp.
There was a thud sound as Andrew’s suitcase was tossed from the boat onto the pier. “Hey, be careful with that! I got some fragile equipment in there.” Andrew called out to the dockworker who was holding the second of Andrew’s bags.
The dockworker looked over at Andrew, then down at the bag he was holding, then back at Andrew locking eyes with him. Keeping his eyes on Andrew, he carelessly tossed the bag onto the pier.
“God Damn it! What did I just say?” Andrew ran over to his equipment, hoping that nothing was broken. The dockworker paid him no mind as he went on doing his other tasks.
“Profanity is the language of a simple mind,” a voice behind him stated.
Andrew turned around and saw Sunglasses leaping off the boat, hands in pockets, landing on the dock behind him. He was not looking at Andrew but it was obvious that he had been talking to him.
“What the hell does that mean?” Andrew asked, glaring over his shoulder at Sunglasses. “Are you saying I’m stupid?”
“If you were stupid then you would never realize that I was saying such.” Sunglasses fixed his fedora then stuck his hand back in his leather coat pocket as he walked down the pier away from Andrew.
“Did he just…” Andrew grinded his teeth as he thought on what the man had just said to him. He hated guys like that. People who thought they were smarter than everyone else, and thought that made them superior.
“Alright, that’s everything. We will be casting off in fifteen minutes.” The captain yelled at the others. He was standing at the railing on the upper deck of the ship holding a metal clipboard.
“Hey, what about that guy’s stuff?” Andrew called up to the captain, as he pointed in the direction Sunglasses had left.
“What?” The captain looked up from his clipboard at where Andrew was pointing. “Oh, that guy didn’t have any luggage.” The captain shrugged, looking back down at his clipboard. “He said he would just get everything that he needed here.”
“Well that’s stupid. Has to be more expensive that way.” Andrew realized he was talking to himself and shook it off.
“Well, I will see you in about two weeks. Have a nice stay, I guess.” The captain gave Andrew a wave with is clipboard as he turned towards the large steering wheel.
“Wait. Two weeks?” Andrew gasped, running up to the edge of the boat. “I thought you were planning on making the next trip here sometime next week?”
“End of next week,” the captain corrected. “That means you got all of this week and most of next, if not all. Depends on the weather. So I’ll be back in about two weeks.”
“Well that’s just great.” Andrew had only planned on staying here a single week. He had no idea what he would do with himself in this small of a town for two. Andrew thanked the captain begrudgingly as he gathered up his bags and headed toward his hotel.
The town was much like he suspected. Old, worn down and everything smelled of salt water and fish. Andrew saw only a handful of cars during the walk from the dock to his hotel and all of them were made pre millennium.
The hotel that he was staying at was simply called ‘Inn’ the name painted on a sign out front. It was an old, two story building that was no bigger than a large house. The entire bottom floor looked a restaurant, leaving maybe four or five rooms on the top floor for people to actually sleep in.
So long as the rooms were clean and the bed was comfortable then it did not really matter to Andrew. He would not be spending much time there if he could help it.
A bell rang as Andrew opened the door to the reception area. The room was small but well lit. A large wood counter separating Andrew from the attendant.
“Hello. How can I help you?” the clerk asked, smiling at Andrew as he walked in. He was a middle age man with all of his teeth. Andrew considered that a plus, even if his clothes looked like they should have been thrown out back when they were still in fashion in the ’90’s.
Andrew walked over setting his bags on the ground and resting his hands on top of the counter. “Yes my name in Andrew Cowen. I called the other day about a reservation.”
“Ah hello Mr. Cowen. You can call me Tucker. We have been expecting you.” Tucker reached behind him and pulled a key off the wall. There were six spots in total but there were only five keys including his. “If you would just fill this out then you should be all set,” Tucker said sliding a piece of paper across the counter. “Your room is on the second floor, the first door on your right. The restaurant is open from 11 to 8 if you would like something to eat. The prices are fair I assure you.”
Andrew took the paper that he was handed and grabbed a nearby pen. “Is there someone else staying here?” he asked as he started filling everything out.
“Just one other person,” Tucker confirmed. “He just checked in a few minutes ago.”
“Wait.” Andrew’s eyes narrowed. “Was this a taller man wearing sunglasses and a goofy hat?
Tucker blinked in surprise. “Why yes sir, he was.” His eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Do you know him?”
Andrew sighed. Of course he would have picked the same hotel as Andrew had. “No. We met on the boat ride over. I had kind of hoped he would go someplace else.”
“Well I am not surprised,” Tucker shrugged.
“Because,” Tucker smiled half laughing. “This is the only hotel in town. We don’t get many visitors. Most of the mainlanders that come here are only here for the day or have family on the island.”
That made sense. Still, Andrew did not like the idea of having that jerk so close to him. Just another reason to not spend much time in his room.
“Mind if I ask you what you are doing on this island?” Tucker casually asked. “You don’t look like a fishermen and I would recognize you if you were from here.”
Andrew looked up from his form at the man. “Oh, well I am doing an exposé on your festival. It would seem that someone noticed that no one had ever done one before so they thought it would be a good fluff peace.”
“I see.” Tucker paused for a second as he pondered on that. “Well there is nothing really exciting about it. In fact, it’s really you mainlanders who call it a festival, not us.”
Andrew furrowed his brow. He had only heard of it being called a festival. Granted he was unable to find out anything about it, like why it was held or what actually happened during it, but he figured he would find all of that out while he was here. “If it’s not a festival then what is it?”
“Hummm.” Tucker thought about it for a second. “I guess you might call it more of a vigil. Just a tradition that we do every year. Though you are asking the wrong person if you want the history behind it.”
“I understand. Thank you.” Andrew slid the finished form across the counter and took the key from Tucker. Picking up his bags Andrew went up the stairs to his room. It took a few times to shift his stuff and get the key into the lock but finally he managed it and the door opened.
The room was small with a single bed like he had expected. It had a small work station next to a small slide down window. Everything about the room was just small.
Andrew put his suitcase on the rack and started pulling out his equipment from his bag and spread it out on his bed.
He had all the electronic devices that he would ever need. His camera, laptop, cell phone, and his own little mic recorder used during interviews, that he would sometimes ‘forget’ to tell people he had on him.
Hooking up his laptop to the charger he sat down on the bed to check his email.
“Right.” Andrew reached over grabbing the old phone on the nightstand by the bed dialing the front desk.
“How can I help you Mr. Cowan?” Tucker’s voice answered.
“Yes can I have the WIFI password please?”
There was a long pause on the other end. “I’m sorry, what’s WIFI?”
They had to be kidding. Was Tucker really saying that not only did this hotel not have WIFI but they did not even know what it was? This place really was stuck in the past, wasn’t it?
“Um, you know, never mind.” Andrew tried his best to hide his annoyance.
“Alright, if you say so. Let me know if there is anything else you need.”
The line went dead.
No internet for two weeks.
Andrew lay back in the bed trying to calm his growing frustration. He hoped nobody tried to email him while he was here, else he would be the one coming across as a dick for not responding. Not that it mattered too much. If anyone had anything important to ask of him they would call or text.
“Wait.” Andrew reached into his pocket pulling out his cell phone, flipping it open.
“God damn it all!” Sure enough he had no signal and it would also seem that his phone was roaming. So for the next two weeks he was completely cut off from the rest of the world. “Fan Fucking…”
Profanity is the language of a simple mind.
The words that the guy in sunglasses had said came back to him, making him stop mid curse.
“Oh, what does he know?” Andrew grabbed the pillow on the bed and threw it across the room.
Andrew sat cross-legged on the bed trying to think what he should do. It was not like he could leave now that he was here. Though he was quickly beginning to think that this trip was not going to be worth it. Doubly so if he missed an actual paying job because of all of this.
After a few minutes he decided that there was nothing he could do on an empty stomach and headed down to the restaurant.
As he opened the door to leave his room he heard a voice coming from the room at the end of the hall.
That sounded like Sunglasses. Who was he talking too?
Andrew crept along trying not to make sounds as he walked, pressing his ear to the door.
“No I just got in…”
It was Sunglasses alright though Andrew could not hear anyone else in the room. He must be talking on the phone.
“Eh, nothing really, just some would be reporter is here. Would seem he is writing a story on the festival…”
A would be reporter? Andrew clenched his fist in anger. Who did this guy think he was?
“No, its fine. I doubt there is anything you could really do even if you did come out. I should be done here in a week or so. I’ll let you know if I need you to get me out early.”
Who was this guy talking to? Must be someone with a boat if he could come pick Sunglasses up. Though it would seem that Sunglasses was here for some mysterious reasons of his own, and he seemed to know something, at least about the festival.
“I doubt it too, but that’s not the point of all this. The point is to see if…” his voice trailed off. “Hey my cell is almost dead. Let me charge it and I will call you back later… Bye.”
Andrew quickly moved down the hall. He did not want to be next to the door if Sunglasses decided to leave the room. He figured it was best to make himself scarce and head downstairs to the restaurant.
There were a few people scattered about the room eating their meals, but there were still several tables open, though Andrew decided to sit at the counter anyway. He knew that was the best way to talk to the people. Thankfully, he did not see Sunglasses anywhere. He just hoped that it stayed that way.
“What can I get you hun?”
Andrew turned in his chair to look at the woman who was talking to him. She was younger than Andrew would have expected maybe in her late twenties but still had the air of someone much older. She was wearing simple jeans and a button up blue shirt with a pad of paper and pencil in her hand.
“Mind if I get a menu first?”
The woman laughed popping her gum. “Honey, my husband is the cook, as long as it’s nothing fancy he will make it for you.”
“I’ll take a T-bone then. Medium Rare with a baked potato.” As the words left his mouth he realized that on an isolated island like this the fish was probably cheaper than the steak.
“Would you like anything to drink?” the woman asked as she scribbled on her note pad.
“Just some coffee.”
“You got it hun. Give me a holler if there is anything else I can get you. Just call for Tiffany.” She gave Andrew a wink and went on her merry way.
Well he had to say one thing, with the exception of that dock worker the people here seemed nice enough.
“Never seen your face around here stranger.”
Andrew turned in his chair to look at the man who had sat down beside him. He was a weathered man in his thirties. He looked like he had just gotten back from months out at sea or something.
“Yeah, I just got here a few hours ago,” Andrew smiled. This was working faster than he had anticipated.
“Well welcome to Brigdi’s. You can call me Jack.” He reached over offering his hand.
“Pleasure, my name is Andrew,” he smiled taking the hand. His grip was something fierce crushing Andrews hand and yet they were not nearly as callused as Andrew would have suspected.
“And what brings a young man like yourself to our quaint little town?” Jack asked.
Young? Even if this man was older than he looked he could not be that much older than Andrew. He shrugged off the comment though.
“I am a journalist doing an exposé on your festival,” Andrew answered.
“Festival huh?” The man looked like he was about to spit.
“Yeah, though I heard already that it’s not actually a festival.”
Jack looked lost in thought for a moment. “I guess you could say it’s a ceremony of sorts.”
So there was something special about this festival. “So what about the stories that I heard concerning a storm happening on the exact same day?”
Jack gave out a full bellied laugh. “Oh that’s just superstition. Sure they happen during the same month and there have even been times that they happen on the same day but you know how stories go. It happens once on the same day and suddenly it happens every time.”
It did not escape Andrew’s notice that he came up with that response very quickly and his explanation was smooth and detailed as if it was something that he had practiced beforehand. An entire career made out of finding peoples secrets had trained him to know when people were lying to him.
But Andrew laughed along with the sailor playing along as if he had not noticed anything.
“Now tell me,” Andrew lend forward on the counter. “Who drew the short straw around here that they have to man that lighthouse?”
Jack frowned. “What that old place? It hasn’t been in use for nearly a decade. We got a fancy radar system now that tells ships where the coast line is”
Andrew looked down deep in thought. “I could have sworn I saw a woman up there.”
“Ah looks like you saw the witch of the lighthouse.” Jack slapped him on the back with another laugh.
“Oh it’s a tale that goes back to the founding of his island. Apparently there is a witch that lives in that lighthouse and will sink any ship that tries to leave, or something like that. I was never really one for superstition.”
“Here you go honey.” A plate of food was placed in front of Andrew cutting him off from asking Jack anything else. Tiffany smiled at him from behind the counter as she poured Andrew his coffee. “Is Jack telling you one of his fish stories?”
“Just some local legends,” Andrew smiled.
“Well I had better be going.” Jack stood up putting on a weathered cap. “Say hi to your husband for me, Tiff.”
“Will do.” Tiffany smiled giving him a warm send off.
Andrew frowned. Why was he in such a hurry to leave? Didn’t he just get here?
He pondered it over as he cut into his steak. The feeling that he had about there being a story here was stronger than ever. There was a festival that was not a festival. An abandon lighthouse with a witch living in it, a storm that hits every year, and everyone seems to be tiptoeing around him as if there is something that they do not want him to know.
Not that he believed for a second that there was actually a witch or that there was any kind of supernatural explanation for the storm. That did not mean that the people in this town did not believe that to be the case. And if they did then who knew what kind of things they would do.
The Wicker Man came to mind. Though he hoped that he was not the one who was burned alive at the end.
But he had seen that woman in the lighthouse hadn’t he?
“How is everything?” Tiffany asked him after he was already half finished with his meal.
“It’s fine, thank you very much,” he smiled at her. To his surprise it had actually been a pretty good steak. Though he was a little worried about what the price would end up being. “Could you by chance tell me where I could go to get a drink in this town?”
“The only place you can find in this town is the Tavern.”
The Tavern? Really? They had a hotel called ‘Inn’ and a bar called ‘Tavern’. What was with this town?
He wrote down the basic directions how to get there that he got from Tiffany in his little note pad. Thanking her he paid his bill, which turned out to be less than half of what he would have expected it to be, and left the Inn.
The Tavern was not very far so Andrew decided to walk, though he doubted there was any kind of taxi service in this town. It was a lot colder out now that the sun had gone down and the streets were dark as there were very few streetlights. Despite all of that the town seemed more alive and active now than it had when he first got here.
He could now see several cars driving down streets as well as several people making their way around the town. None of them seemed bothered by the lack of light and did not even bother to carry a light of their own.
Andrew checked his watch. It was a little after seven. He wondered what there was in this town that people would be doing this late at night.
He heard the Tavern long before he could see it. The sound of drunk fishermen was something not easily missed. He was not surprised in the slightest that the place was an old wooden building that looked like it had been built sometime in the 1800′s. Andrew had to wonder if maybe it actually had been. It was larger than the hotel but it was only a single floor.
With a squeak the door to the bar opened. Andrew’s senses were flooded with the smell of beer and bad bar music. The music came from a jukebox that had been new when his father was young.
He got more than a few glances from the patrons which seemed to consist of men mostly in their early thirties. For the most part the people just ignored him as he walked over to the bar.
“What can I get you?” a younger man asked him as Andrew sat down on an old barstool.
“Just a beer is fine.” Andrew looked around the room as the bartender poured his drink from the tap. There was a definite vibe in the air. Some of the people seemed apathetic to him being there, while others seemed to be on guard possibly even hostile. That was only a feeling though. It was not like people were shooting him death glances or anything.
“You must be the journalist that everyone is talking about. Andrew right?” the bartender said putting the glass down in front of him.
“That’s right. It seems word travels fast. I only got here a few hours ago.” Andrew took a sip from his mug.
“You can call me Berk, and it’s a small town,” Berk shrugged. “Anything new is exciting.”
“And what about the other guy that came with me?” Andrew asked. “What have you heard about him?”
The bartender pursed his lips together. He opened his mouth to say something but was interrupted by the sound of another man.
“Andrew! Didn’t expect to see you again so soon.” Jack slapped him on the back making Andrew almost spill his beer.
“So I take it you’re the one who has been telling people about me.” Andrew wiped the foam off his mouth with the back of his sleeve.
“Ah you’re not mad are you?” he laughed his breath reeking of alcohol.
“Not at all, makes it easier for me to introduce myself. I don’t have to explain who I am every time.” Andrew smiled as warmly as possible.
“See, what are friends for? Berk give me another drink,” he shouted at the bartender, Andrew momentarily forgotten. “So what do you think of our town, reporter man?” Jack was more than a little drunk it seemed.
“Haven’t had much time to explore yet but the people I have met so far seem very nice.” Andrew was trying his best not to breathe in the smell that radiated off of Jack. “So other than the restaurant under the Inn what places are there for me to get something to eat?”
“The food store mostly.” Jack burst out laughing.
“Other than a bakery slash coffee shop there aren’t any other restaurants,” the bartender explained.
“I see.” Andrew nodded. He had not planned on spending much time in his room but it might just turn out that there was nothing else for him to do here.
“Oh come on cheer up.” Jack slapped Andrew on the back again this time his beer did splash out onto the counter.
“So what is with this story of the witch in the lighthouse?” Andrew wiped off his chin. He really wanted to know about the festival but he thought that if he started with the other urban legends they would be more willing to open up.
“What? Has Jack been telling his stories again?” Berk chuckled shaking his head at Jack.
“Nope,” Jack smiled downing his glass. “This man saw her all on his own when he came in.”
Andrew noticed the split second that Berk’s eyes narrowed and glanced at Andrew. It would seem that this was just as touchy of a subject as the festival. What was with this island?
But the look was gone as soon as it was there and he gave a smile. “Well in that case let’s see. There are so many different versions of the story it’s hard to pick the best one.” Berk looked around the bar as if he was looking for someone. “Hey, John come here for a second.” He beckoned a man on the other side of the bar over.
Andrew looked behind him and saw the young man rising from the table making his way towards the bar. On the other side of the table was Sunglasses. He was still wearing his coat and reflective sunglasses, though his fedora was resting on the table in front of him.
How had Andrew not seen him when he came in? More than that, what was he doing here? The man did not have a drink so it obviously was not for the booze.
“What’s going on?” John asked as he approached the bar.
“Our reporter friend would like to know about the Witch of the Lighthouse.” Berk gestured to Andrew. “Since your version is the best, I figured you should tell him.”
The man shrugged and sat down. “Buy me a drink and I’d be happy too.”
“Done deal.” Andrew nodded at Berk who obediently pored a glass and put it in front of John.
John grabbed the glass taking a long drink from it slamming it on the bar half finished. “Alright, what do you want to know?”
“Everything.” Andrew shrugged. “Who is she? Why is she there?” Andrew reached into his pocket and pulled out the audio recorder and put it on the counter.
“Now what’s that little doohickey?” Jack asked reaching for it.
“It’s just something to record the conversation so I can listen to it again later.” Andrew pushed Jack’s hand away before he could touch it. “Wouldn’t want to miss quote something later now would we?”
“Let it be Jack,” Berk glared at him and Jack retreated his hand away. “Get on with the story John.”
John leaned back a bit gathering his thoughts. “Well as the story goes, a little girl once lived on this island with her family. They were the one who manned the lighthouse. The family was feared and ostracized by the villagers as it was believed that they studied witchcraft. As such they mostly kept to themselves preferring to stay in their lighthouse and the townspeople in turn left them alone.
“But one day after a terrible accident both parents were killed leaving the girl all alone. The other villagers refused to take her in as they all feared what curse or misfortune she may bring. So the girl lived alone for years in the lighthouse.”
John took another drink from his glass before continuing. “Several years passed and the girl grew into a fine young woman. Most of the town had forgotten about her but as she grew older she longed for companionship. So she started making trips into the town.
“For the most part the people just ignored her. Choosing to keep their distance. I bet you can tell were this is heading.”
Andrew nodded. “She met a boy, am I right?”
“Oh not just any boy. This boy was the son of the mayor and it was assumed that he would one day become the mayor himself after his father died. When his father found out that his son was spending time with a witch he became furious. He ordered his son to never see the woman again and threatened the witch, that if she ever saw his son again he would have her burned at the stake.”
“But let me guess.” Andrew finished off his beer and ordered a refill. “They continued to see each other anyway.”
John nodded. “In secret, late at night the boy would sail his boat to the lighthouse and leave before dawn. And for years they managed to keep their relationship a secret. That was until the child was born.”
What a twist. Andrew did not say that, but he wanted too.
“When the father found out that, not only had his son disobeyed him and continued to see the witch but also had a child with her, he grew furious and organized the townspeople into a good old fashion mob. They sailed out to the lighthouse and dragged the woman and the baby out. In their rage they drowned the baby and murdered the boy, but as they readied to burn the woman she cursed them all. Saying that anyone who had helped in this would never again be able to leave the island.
“After that things on the island quieted down, but it didn’t take long for accidents to start happening. As soon as boats would sail out past the lighthouse they would capsize or catch on fire and every time it happened people would say that they saw a woman standing atop the lighthouse crying.
“The townspeople were quick to realize that everyone who was having this misfortune were people involved in the deaths of the witch and soon all fishing stopped on the island as fear drove them to stay in their homes.
“As the years passed and people grew old and died, the accidents slowly stopped, but every now and then a ship will sink just as it passes the lighthouse and the witch can be seen atop watching. These people are thought to be the decedents of those original villagers who were unfortunate victims of the witch’s revenge.”
John took a breath as he finished his story. Andrew reached over and switched off the recorder.
“That is a very interesting story,” Andrew said sliding the device back into his jacket.
“Yeah it gets better every time we hear John tell it,” Berk laughed. “You will hear different versions but all of them are similar to that,” he smiled at Andrew.
“But is there any truth to the tale?” Andrew asked.
Jack gave a loud roar of laughter. “Well you tell us boy. You are the one who says you saw her.”
“I never said I saw her. I just said I saw someone in that lighthouse.”
“Probably just kids or something playing around where they aren’t allowed.” Berk assured. “I have been here most my life and I have never seen anything that would make me believe that story is true.”
Andrew looked around the bar. It had gotten fuller since he arrived but he could not find Sunglasses anywhere. He must have left during the story. Andrew wondered if maybe the story of the witch had something to do as to why he was here. Maybe he was investigating if there was any truth behind the story. Like a ghost hunter or something. He defiantly gave of that kind of vibe.
“And who is this young man?”
This voice was new, and really close. Unlike the other voices in the bar this one was not slurring its speech or stumbling over words.
Andrew spun around in his bar stool to see the man standing behind him. He was older looking somewhere in his late forties, with silver hair. The smile he wore was friendly enough but his eyes lacked any warmth.
“Oh Mister Mayor,” Berk said putting down the glass he was cleaning. Jack and John both quickly stood from their seats. “This is Andrew. He is a reporter doing a story on our town.”
“Is that right?” The older man looked down at where Andrew was sitting as if he was trying to sum him up. Andrew noticed that most of the talking in the bar had gone quiet as everyone watched the Mayor. People the Mayor would have walked by, were also standing their hands clasped in front of them.
Andrew had to laugh. He remembered when his high school teacher had tried to teach their class that kind of etiquette. To stand when a teacher or important person entered the room. It had not gone over well.
Island free from time indeed. He smiled.
“And what is it about this island that you are wanting to write about?” the Mayor asked looking down at Andrew.
Andrew swallowed his smile gone. There was something about this man that just seemed imposing. Despite his age he just exuded authority and power. Andrew found he had to fight the urge not to stand along with the others.
“The festival mostly.” Andrew was looking at him straight in the eyes as if transfixed by the Mayor’s gaze. “But I am also looking into the other local legends of the island.”
“Jack here just got done telling him the story behind the Witch of the Lighthouse.” Berk explained.
“Oh really? Tell me, what you thought of the story?” the man peered at him without blinking, waiting for Andrew’s answer.
Andrew swallowed as he tried to think clearly through his buzzed mind. “Well to be honest the mayor in the story was a bit of a dick.”
“Yes, I always thought so as well,” the mayor chuckled a bit but his eyes still seemed cold, only Andrew noticed then that they were not actually cold at all. Instead they looked tired. “The idea of punishing people for doing nothing wrong always seemed… cruel.”
“I’m sorry.” Andrew said. “We haven’t been properly introduced. My name is Andrew.” he held out his hand.
“Yes, and as you may have already figured out I am the mayor of this town.” He took Andrew’s hand crushing it with his grip. Andrew had to bite his lip to prevent himself from crying out in pain.
The mayor let go of Andrews hand and wiped it off on his pants. Andrew wondered if maybe he had some salt on his hands from the bar peanuts or something.
“So where is the other one who came to the island? I had heard that he was here as well.” The mayor looked around the bar.
“Oh him.” John looked back at the table where Sunglasses had been before. “It looks like he has already left.”
“I see.” The mayor looked at the table for a moment deep in thought. “Well then I shouldn’t keep you from your stories any longer. I hope you enjoy your stay in my town,” the mayor smiled again and walked out.
As soon as he was gone everyone sat back down and resumed their conversations like nothing had happened.
“Not a very social person is he?” Andrew had not meant to say that out loud but the beer had started to go to his head.
“He is a busy man,” Berk said. “He doesn’t have much time for other activities.”
“Yes, I am sure that he has a lot on his plate with the festival coming up.” Andrew put it out there hoping that someone would do something with it.
“Yeah he does,” Jack sighed but other than that no one said a word.
The evening dragged on from there. They all told him stories. Some of them too unbelievable to be true; others too boring for him to care much about. Andrew would laugh when he was supposed to laugh and seem interested when he was supposed to be interested but no matter how hard he tried he could not get anything out of them about the festival.
Every time he was able to work it into the flow of the conversation they would be quick to brush him off or change the topic. He wondered if they realized that the more they refused to talk about it the more convinced he became that it was something worth discovering.
Andrew staggered out of the bar sometime after one in the morning. He had spent a lot more money than he had intended buying drinks for others and had drunk much more than he should have. But it just seemed like everyone could drink forever. They had all successfully drank him under the table, and it had been a while since anyone had managed that.
The air was cold and everything was dark making it harder for Andrew to find his way back to the hotel. He had taken about six steps outside when he heard raised voices. He strained to hear what was being said.
“So are you the new Hyperion?” It sounded like a woman’s voice. Young from the sound of it.
“Yeah that’s me.” That voice sounded familiar but Andrew was too drunk to think straight.
“What happened to the other one?” the woman asked.
“Same thing that happens to them all.”
There was a long moment of silence.
“You look a lot like him.” the woman said. “It’s the eyes.”
“You can’t see my eyes.” the man chuckled a little.
“Sure I can.”
There was another long silence.
“Thank you for coming. I always feel bad about you having to make the trip out here for me,” the woman’s voice grew quieter. “You think that maybe you will have a different opinion about breaking the seal than you predecessor?”
“I don’t know. If I think that I can then I will. But sadly I don’t think enough has changed since the last Hyperion was here.”
“I see.” the woman sounded sullen.
There was another long silence.
“Well please let me know before the festival then?” the woman said.
Andrew heard footsteps coming in his direction. Andrew tried to hide but instead he just tripped over his own feet and went face first into the ground.
Andrew looked up and saw Sunglasses standing over him.
“Oh yeah why wouldn’t I be’aving fun with mouth’ull of gravel?” Andrew was having a hard time trying not to slur his words.
What was this guy doing out here? And who was he talking too? Whoever it was, they were talking about the festival. But more importantly, why in hell was he wearing sunglasses at one o’clock in the morning?
“That’s why I don’t drink.” Sunglasses stood there for a moment looking down on Andrew as if deciding what to do. Finally he reached down grabbing Andrew’s arm lifting him off the ground.
“By the way,” Andrew said putting his weight on the man. “The mayor was looking fer you.”
“I know. Me and him already had a nice long talk.” Sunglasses’ voice had a hint of annoyance in it. Andrew could not tell if that was directed at him or at the Mayor. They started walking, Sunglasses seeming to lead Andrew back to the hotel.
“So you’ neer told me. What brings you to tis island? You’ot family’ere or some thin?”
“I just come here every once and while,” Sunglasses stated.
“Got somein to do’ith the festival doesn it?”
The man looked at Andrew as he dragged him along. “Perceptive aren’t you?”
“Cause it’s me job,” Andrew grinned.
“And what have you found out so far?”
“That this town has a secret. Shhhhhh.” Andrew put his finger to his lips but missed and hit closer to his eye.
“And what secret is that?”
“I don’t know. It’s a secret,” Andrew laughed. “Oh wow, I had way too much to drink.” He put his hand to his head trying to clear the fog and maybe stop the spinning.
“Some might say that any amount is too much.”
“Well you show mee one’f those eople and I will sock em.” Andrew did his best to make a fist and held it up in front of his face. “Sock em in the kisser.”
The rest of the walk was a blur. The next thing that Andrew remembered was waking up in his bed the next day. The sun shining into his face from the window.
Andrew checked his watch. It was a little after noon. The sun was out but the sky was cloudy. It looked like it could rain any time now.
Andrew tried to put together what had happened the previous night. A lot of it was a blur and thinking about it just made his hangover worse. He only hoped that if anything important had been said he was able to record it since it was unlikely that he would recall any of it any time soon.
Andrew slowly showered and got changed, trying his best not to make any loud sounds or move his head to fast.
Staggering down the stairs he walked into the restaurant. It was almost empty with the exception of a couple of people talking at a table while drinking coffee.
“Have a fun night last night?” Tiffany’s voice seemed to pound in Andrew’s head and he instinctively cringed from the sound. “Oh I’m sorry honey.”
Tiffany was behind him rubbing his back. Andrew glanced at her from the corner of his eye. She was wearing the same outfit that she had been last night. In fact she looked exactly the same as she had the night before.
“Here hold on a bit. I got just the thing for you.” She walked behind the counter into the kitchen.
Andrew sat down at the same spot he had the night before holding his head trying to stop the throbbing. Tiffany came back a few minutes later holding a large glass.
“Drink this.” She handed Andrew the glass.
He took it looking at the thick blue foamy liquid inside. He was too afraid to smell it for fear what would happen. “What is it?” he cringed.
“My personal blend,” she smiled with a smack of her gum. “Guaranteed to cure hangovers and unclog sinks.”
He looked at her with a skeptical look telling her he had not found the joke funny. He was not sure if the cure was worse than the hangover. Tiffany reached out her hand bringing the glass to his lips forcing him to drink. It was bitter as he expected but other than that it had little taste.
Andrew tried to stop after a few swallows but Tiffany would not let go. “Finish it all or it won’t work.” With a few more gulps he finished contents of the glass.
The glass came down and Andrew bent over sticking out his tongue trying to get the taste out of his mouth. To his surprise there was almost no aftertaste and his headache was gone. He shot up thinking there might be some kind of mistake.
“See, what did I tell you?’ Tiffany smiled at him. “How about some breakfast then?”
“Um sure.” before he even could utter a thanks she had walked back into the kitchen.
Andrew’s breakfast consisted of coffee, pancakes, eggs, and bacon, with a price that still seemed to low. Finishing it quickly now that his hangover was gone, he thanked Tiffany and went out into the town.
The air had a chill forcing Andrew to zip up his coat and shove his hands in his pocket. His camera slung across his shoulder. The wind had picked up since last night and it brought with it a cold chill that seemed to cut right through Andrew’s clothing and went straight to his bones.
The town was as dead as it was the other day. For some reason it seemed more alive last night even though he could not really see anything in the dark. If he did not know better he would actually say that this place was abandoned.
Andrew walked downtown trying to get familiar with the town’s layout, taking some pictures as he went. He had planned on going to the town hall or library to look up the town records but no matter how hard he looked he could not seem to find either of them. He was not sure if he could not find them or if they were just hidden in some obscure part of the island.
Sometime around 3pm Andrew found himself stumbling into a small coffee shop in an attempt to escape the cold.
“Welcome,” came a perky voice from behind the counter. It was from a young woman wearing a pressed, black button up shirt. The nicest thing he had seen anyone wear since he had arrived.
The entire building looked out of place. The floor had clean tiles that looked new. The lights were bright and the tables were the fake wood that you would find in any coffee shop.
“Hello.” Andrew greeted the woman with a nod as he walked up to the counter.
“Oh, I haven’t seen you here before,” she grinned flashing her sparkling white teeth. “I’m Stephaney.” The woman was very attractive and unlike most of the other people in town she looked like she was raised in this century. She even had some makeup on.
“Yeah I’m the reporter. My name is Andrew.” He gave her a nod not wanting to take his cold hands out of his pocket.
“What brings a reporter to our town?” she tilted her head to the side.
“Oh?” Andrew leaned back in surprise. “Here I thought everyone had already heard about me.”
The woman’s smile faded a little but quickly recovered. “You could say that I’m really not in the know around here.”
“A pretty thing like you?” Andrew frowned playfully. “Why is that?”
“It’s nothing really,” she shook her head. “Is there anything that I can get you?”
Andrew looked at her for a moment, trying to put things together. It had not gone unnoticed that she quickly changed the topic. Maybe she had moved here and so she was not considered a local or something. Or maybe she had done something to earn the scorn of the others. Like maybe by an iPod instead of cassette tapes.
“I’ll just take a large coffee please,” Andrew said. “Need something to warm me up.”
“I know, it’s freezing out there.” She pressed a few buttons on the register that also looked too new to be in this town. “Looks like the storm this year is going to be a brutal one.” She seemed to catch herself before saying anything more.
“What’s wrong?” Andrew pressed.
“Oh nothing. I just let my mouth go sometimes without really thinking.” She gave him a reassuring smile. “That will be $4.37.”
“Ah that’s the prices that I am used too.” he grinned pulling out his wallet.
The woman laughed. “Yeah well that’s one advantage of living in a town that’s free from time. The prices are old as well.” She took his ten dollar bill and handed him his change.
“But not yours I see,” Andrew pointed out.
Stephaney got to work making his coffee talking as she did so. “I went to school on the mainland so you could say I am more cultured.”
“But you were born here though, right?”
“Sure was.” She handed him his cup. “Lived here all my life.”
Andrew reached out gripping the cup with his cold hands using the warmth to thaw them out. “So why live here then? Why not get a job somewhere else?”
“Oh after my dad died I felt like I needed to be here to take care of my mom. She took his death really hard.” She said it so naturally like it was no big deal.
“I guess that disproves the curse theory then,” Andrew mumbled taking a sip.
Surprised that she had even heard him he moved the cup away from his mouth. “Oh just the tale about the witch sinking ships as they try to leave the island.”
Stephaney bit her lip. “Yeah I’ve heard of that one too.”
“So the festival is in a few days.” Andrew said changing the subject. “I would have thought there would be more decorations or something up by now. Though with a storm on its way I guess I can understand that.”
“Oh that,” Stephaney looked off into the distance as if thinking for a moment. “I have actually never been so I can’t tell you too much about what goes on.”
“Really?” Andrew frowned again. “A girl like you and no one ever asked you to go with them?”
“It’s not that kind of festival anyway.” Her smile was weak but her eyes were still warm.
“So I keep hearing,” Andrew mumbled taking another sip. “Though I don’t hear much else about it.”
“It’s nothing really.” She shook her head. “It’s just an old tradition of the town. They gather on the beach and all hold hands singing a song that no one remembers the meaning of. I am sure they are all just embarrassed by it.”
Andrew gave a little victory cry in his head. This was the first time that he had learned anything about the actual festival. It was not much but it was something, though it seemed a little weird.
“Seems like an odd tradition.” Andrew commented hoping to get something more.
“I am sure if you learned the meaning behind it, it wouldn’t seem as odd.” Stephaney gave him a look as if telling him that was the end of the conversation.
“Right, I should let you get back to work. Thank you for your time.” He toasted his cup to her.
“It was no problem,” she said, her warm smile back on her face.
Andrew waved and sat down at one of the tables. The shop was empty but considering the size of the town and the time of day that did not seem that odd. He sat there sipping his coffee watching as Stephaney went about her business.
“So have you noticed anything yet?”
Andrew jumped in his seat from the sound of the voice. He turned and saw Sunglasses sitting in the seat next to him. He was still in the same stupid leather jacket, his hat resting on his knee, and as always he had on those ridiculous reflective sunglasses. At least it was day time. Though it was still cloudy out.
“Oh it’s you.” Andrew turned back and took a sip of his nearly empty coffee. He figured he would hurry up and leave. “What was I supposed to have noticed?”
Sunglasses leaned forward in his chair. “How many people have you seen since getting here? Twenty, thirty?”
“Sounds about right.” Andrew glanced over at the man. “What’s your point?”
“And out of all those people you haven’t noticed anything odd?” Andrew looked at the man waiting for him to get to the point. “Where are all the children?” Sunglasses asked. “Where are all the old people?”
Andrew frowned. “What do you mean?”
The man shrugged. “A community like this you would think that it would be filled with the elderly. The people that have been here all their lives. And it’s after 3. Schools out. So where are all the kids? You would think teens would flock to the only coffee shop in town and yet this place is dead.”
Andrew thought about that for a moment. He was right. The oldest person he had seen was the Mayor and at most he was fifty. Everyone else looked to be in their twenties or thirties. But what did that mean? After all Stephaney had said she was born and raised here, so there were children somewhere.
“Here’s your hot chocolate.” Stephaney said placing a cup on the counter.
“Just something to think about.” Sunglasses got up flipping his hat in his hand before putting it on his head, moving toward the counter.
“Psh, what a poser,” Andrew spat.
“Thank you so much.” Sunglasses smiled at Stephaney as he picked up the cup off the counter.
“Ha ha very funny.” Her sarcasm a bit playful.
“I like to think so.” He gave a tip of his hat and walked outside taking a drink from his cup.
“What is that guy’s deal?” Andrew asked frustrated. He had been a little louder than he had intended.
Stephaney looked over at him wondering if there was a problem.
“Sorry.” He raised a reassuring hand at her. “Just talking to myself.”
“Its fine,” she smiled and went back to work.
Sunglasses was right though. He had not seen any old people in this town or kids. And he should have seen at least one by now. What did that mean though? And what was he getting at by pointing it out? Who was that guy anyway? Who had he been talking to earlier? What was he talking about last night regarding a seal?
“Ahhhh.” Andrew shook his head trying to shake out all the thoughts. At the moment he had far more questions than he did answers.
Andrew got up tossing his empty coffee cup in the trash waving goodbye to Stephaney as he left. He may not know what was going on but he knew that he was not likely to find out just by asking questions. If he wanted to find the dirt on this town then he would have to do it the way he always did it.
He found himself walking along the pier, trying to work out his next move. What he needed to do was break into the Mayor’s house. If there was any information in this town then it would be there. Though Andrew had to be careful not to get caught. It would not be too hard for the townspeople to just kill him and cover it up in at town this small and isolated. Not to mention he had no idea where the Mayor’s house was.
Andrew looked out at the ocean, resolved in his next course of action. His eyes instinctively went to the lighthouse of in the distance. It seemed a little more imposing now. From this distance it did not look as run down. He was sure that one could see the entire island from atop that building.
Andrew squinted and leaned forward slightly.
It looked like there was something at the top of the lighthouse.
Could it be the witch?
From this distance he could not tell so Andrew reached around grabbing his camera. He used the lens to zoom in on the figure. It was hard to make out and it was hard to keep the camera steady zooming in on something so far away. Sure enough though as the image came into focus it was a person.
He turned the lens bringing the image into better focus. It looked like a young woman dressed in white sitting in a chair at the top of the tower brushing her long blond hair. Andrew could not make out her face but he snapped a few shots anyway.
The shutter was so fast that he could not see for a moment but as soon as it stopped the woman was no longer brushing her hair. Instead she was staring right at Andrew.
Andrew lowered his camera for a second.
He looked through the lens again but the woman was gone.
“Alright that was a little creepy,” he said. “I am sure there is a reasonable explanation for that though.”
Andrew screamed in fright from the sound of the person standing next to him.
“Would you stop doing that?” Andrew felt like hitting the Sunglasses guy. “What are you even doing here?”
“Taking a walk,” he said monotone. “What are you doing here?”
“Taking pictures obviously.” He held up his camera still staring at the lighthouse.
“Mind if I take a look?”
Andrew glared at the man. What was he getting at? Was he going to try something?
Not taking the camera off around his neck he positioned it so the man could see the screen on the back as he went to his recent pictures of the woman.
But all he could see was images of an empty lighthouse.
“That can’t be right.” Andrew flipped through more pictures until he got to the ones he had taken earlier that day, then went through them again. All of them were the same. Just pictures of an empty lighthouse. “I know I saw someone up there.”
“I don’t doubt it.”
“Oh please. I don’t need your platitudes,” Andrew snapped. What was going on? Was there really a witch after all?
“I was being honest,” the man assured. “Maybe it’s you who needs to think with a more open mind.”
“What? You mean that there are actually witches and this town is actually cursed?” It sounded ridiculous as he said the words. “Be reasonable.”
“There was a time when curses and witches were just as reasonable as any other explanation.”
This guy was definitely off his rocker. “Yeah, during a time that bloodletting and leaches were the go to way to cure colds.”
“Eh, true enough,” he shrugged putting his hands in his pocket. “Times change as does our understanding of the world and how it works. After all, there is no way that there could be a witch that lives in that tower. That can mean only one thing.”
“Oh yeah and what’s that?”
The man smiled. “That you are obviously going insane.” He patted him on the back and walked off towards the town, sticking his hands in his coat pockets.
Insane. That was definitely one explanation. It was also possible that he was just wanting there to be story so bad that he was seeing things. That was far more likely.
Well crazy or not. This town was still hiding something and he wanted to find out what it was.
Andrew exhaled as he twisted the lock pick causing it bend inside the door lock. Andrew swore as he pulled it out trying to bend it back with his fingers.
He had found the Mayor’s house fast enough. He just simply asked someone, saying that he would like to interview him and they pointed him right to it. It was a nice enough house with a large lawn and no gate or wall to speak of.
The locks looked old and simple enough he had thought there would be no problem getting in but this was the third lock pick that had broken. It was like this house was refusing to let him in.
He had waited until dark before trying and there were no lights on in the house so he was sure that everyone inside was asleep or out. He was using the back door as they usually had less security and they often went unnoticed. He was not worried about an alarm as it did not seem likely that anyone had such high tech in this town.
But all of that amounted to nothing if he could not even get through the door.
Andrew pulled out his last lock pick. He had broken into many places in his career, and even thought himself pretty good at breaking and entering. So he had no idea why he was having such troubles with this old place.
He gave it a little bit of force and the lock pick once again bent in the lock.
Andrew bit his tongue to prevent him from crying out in anger.
He pulled out a small pocket knife deciding to take a bit more of a forceful approach. He did not like the idea of leaving a broken lock in his wake as he would probably be a likely suspect in a town like this, but he had run out of options. The answers were in there and he had to find them. He would talk his way out of anything that came up. He might even be able to blame Sunglasses for it, which in his mind would be a bit of poetic justice.
The lock snapped as the knife turned. Andrew pulled out the WD40 that he had brought with him and sprayed it on the hinges. He had made enough noise as it was and he did not want a door squeaking.
Andrew opened the door enough for him to squeeze inside and started looking around. If the architecture of the house was normal then a study should be on the bottom floor with all the bedrooms on the top floor. That should make it easier for him to snoop around without being noticed.
Jackpot! Andrew thought as he opened a door leading into an office looking area. He pulled out a small flashlight and turned it on. It was a dim light so not to give him away but bright enough that he could read the things in the room.
He started with the desk first. Most important items were usually found in a desk. First he checked underneath making sure that nothing was taped to the bottom. A little disappointed that there was nothing there he started going through the drawers. Not finding anything that looked too interesting he started going through the papers on top.
Where a desk calendar would normally be there was a large map of the town. Andrew looked at the map noticing something odd. This was the first time that he had seen an actual map of the town and he could not help but notice something odd about it. The streets were not laid out in some random order or in any kind of grid. In fact they formed a very intricate design. And not just some star or something like so many conspiracy theorist went on about but an intricate pattern laid out in the streets.
Andrew took out his note pad and tried to draw out the pattern that he saw. He would try his best to research it later once he had access to the internet. When he finished he started going through the papers on the desk. Under a stack of shipping reports that detailed the amount of food that was sent into the town, Andrew found a black leather log book. It looked old and well used.
He opened it up and started flipping through the pages. It was written in a language that he did not understand or even recognize. But he did recognize one thing about it, the date on one of the pages was back in the 1800′s. If that was correct then this journal was over 200 years old.
The lights flipped on in the room, temporarily blinding Andrew. Andrew froze like a mouse that had been spotted by a predator. Slowly he looked up at the doorway where he saw the mayor in a clean shirt and pressed pants glaring at Andrew. The look on his face was not one of anger but it was obvious he was not happy to see Andrew either.
“Mind if I ask you what you are doing in my house?” The mayor’s voice was flat and cold. Andrew was not sure if the man was scared or debating whether to kill him or not. Deciding to error on the side of caution Andrew decided to assume it was the killing one.
Andrew stood up trying to exude an air of confidence. “I am trying to figure out what this town is hiding.” He stuck his hand in his pocket to hide the fact that it was shaking. “I know there is something more to this festival and I know it has something to do with this storm. I just don’t know what.”
The mayor stood there for a moment. His eyes were cold and his gaze pierced into Andrew’s soul. Despite his age this man looked like he would have no problem killing Andrew if he wanted to and Andrew had no doubt that he would.
The mayor took a deep breath his expression softening ever so slightly. “You really want to know?”
The question seemed to bare more weight than it implied but Andrew had come too far to back out now. “Yes I do,” he said as confidently as possible.
The mayor walked over and took the book out of Andrew’s hand and held it in front of him. “This book tells the story of what happened on this island. Much like the tale that you heard from John last night there really was a witch that lived in that lighthouse. And like the story says she really did fall in love with a man from the town. Though he was not the son of the mayor, however the mayor was not innocent in all of this either.”
“You mean you can read what’s written in there?”
The old man smiled a little like the very question amused him. “Yes, it is written in an ancient form of Saxon. This island was originally colonized by Vikings who never left. When the pilgrims arrived here this town was already old.”
“So what happened then?”
“Like in the story, when the towns’ people found out about the affair they burned the boy and the witch but the witch’s hatred was strong. Even though her body was dead her spirit, and her anger remained. She summoned her power and unleashed a terrible storm on the island killing many and nearly wiped out the town.”
Andrew frowned. This was not exactly what he was expecting but it was still outlandish.
The mayor continued on. “The town survived and the people thought it was over. They thought that the witch had depleted her magic and could do no more to them. However exactly a year later another storm struck just as terrible as the one before.
“It would seem that the witch would not be satisfied until the entire town was destroyed and everyone in it was dead. Ever since then, on the anniversary of that day the storm would hit. The people in an attempt to defend themselves turned to the magic of their ancestors, and they established a ritual to protect the island from the storm.”
“Why not just leave? Seems like a simple enough solution.” Andrew was still far from convinced, but he figured if nothing else this made for a good story.
“Because any ship that tried to depart from the island would be sunk if any townsperson were on it.”
“So that part of the story is true then? You are all trapped on this island?”
The Mayor shook his head. “Not all of us. Only those who are descendants of the townspeople. People of no blood relation are free to come and go as they please.”
The mayor smiled as he saw Andrew’s expression. “I can tell that you do not believe me.”
“Evil spirits, ancient rituals. Yeah, color me unconvinced,” Andrew snorted.
“I understand. We live in a time were such tales are nothing more than superstition and folklore.” The mayor thought for a moment. “Obviously it will take more than a simple story in order to convince you. I will make you a deal. The festival is in two days. I want you to come down to the beach before sunset and you can see for yourself. If afterwards you are still not convinced then by all means feel free to write your article about the insane townspeople and their backwards beliefs. However…”
The mayor gave Andrew a cold stare. “If what you see convinces you then you must promise me not to tell others about it. If we attract unwanted attention who knows what kind of problems that will bring. On top of that, if we ever fail to stop the storm then it is possible the storm would hit the coast and who knows the destruction that will cause.”
“Alright you have a deal,” Andrew said immediately. “Though I will let you know that I doubt that you will convince me.”
“I understand, but I have faith,” the mayor nodded.
“I do have one question.” Andrew looked at the man. “What were you planning on doing with me on the day of the festival if I hadn’t come here and talked to you?”
“We would have probably knocked you out so that you would be unconscious that night and wake up in the morning unaware of the events that would have transpired the night before.”
This guy sure did like to use a lot of words. Andrew thought to himself. Though Andrew was just glad it did not look like he was going to be murdered this night.
The mayor let Andrew leave and said nothing about him breaking into his house or the broken lock on his door, and Andrew was in no hurry to bring it up.
Instead he just headed back to the hotel. He had gotten his story. The people here were nuts. He had figured it would be something like that and he was happy to find out that he was right. All that was left was to take a few pictures of them dancing around the beach in a few days and he would be all set.
Andrew did not know why the mayor was so sure that Andrew would be convinced, maybe drugs would be involved or something, but it didn’t matter. He would get his story and he was sure the local papers on the mainland would pay a high price for it.
He could see the headline of it now. ‘Crazy locals performing ritual to appease dead spirits.’ It might have needed some work but it did not matter. He was all set.
He got back to the hotel and laid down on his bed staring at the ceilings with a large grin on his face as he drifted off to sleep. This was going to be fun he could tell.
“Your coffee is ready,” Stephaney called out as she set the cup on the counter.
“Thank you.” Andrew quickly stood up grabbing his cup then sat back down at the table and continued to type on his laptop. While a majority of his article he would wait to write until after the festival later that night he could still write out the basics beforehand. He had a good idea what the article would say it was just a matter of getting the details to fill in some of the blanks.
“You seem to be working on something good,” Stephaney commented leaning on the counter watching him work.
“Ah well,” Andrew grinned not looking up from his laptop. “You could say that I had a break in the story a few nights ago and I am trying to put it all down on paper while it is still fresh.”
“Oh really? What kind of break is that?” she asked raising an eyebrow.
Andrew looked up and smiled at her with a giddy grin. “The mayor told me all about the festival tonight. About how it’s actually a ritual to fend off the storm.”
“Is that what he said?” She gave a halfhearted smile. “And you believe that did you?”
“Not at all. I think he’s nuts. I can understand why you said that you never went. You must have realized how nuts these people are.” He was not even looking at her anymore he was just typing as fast as he could.
“That’s not quite the reason.” The door opened cutting her off from saying anything else. “Hello.”
Andrew looked up and saw Sunglasses walk in. Andrew smiled smugly to himself. There was no way for him to sneak up on him this time. Though it seemed a little odd that Andrew had not seen him much in the past two days. He wondered if Sunglasses knew about the festival. It seemed like he did. Maybe he was here to help them with it. There would always be people who would be attracted to these kinds of things.
“Good afternoon.” Sunglasses nodded at Stephaney.
“Hot chocolate again?” she asked.
“Yes, please. Thank you.”
Stephaney grabbed a cup and started working. Sunglasses stood close to Andrew waiting for his drink but he never turned back to look at him.
“So I take it you know about the festival then?” Andrew could not keep himself from talking anymore. He just had to know if this guy was as crazy as everyone else.
“I would like to think so anyway,” Sunglasses said casually, not even bothering to look back at Andrew. “I take it you figured it out then.”
“That this town performs a ritual to appease the wrath of a long dead witch,” Andrew laughed. “Yeah, I was able to put it together. The mayor wants me to come down to the beach tonight and watch.”
“Is that right?” Sunglasses did not sound all the impressed but Andrew could not stop now that he had started.
“Sure is,” Andrew nodded. “Will you be joining us?”
Andrew could tell Sunglasses was smiling despite the fact he was looking away from him. “No, I think I will spend the time in my room,” he stated.
Stephaney placed a cup on the counter. “Here you go.”
“Thanks.” He reached into his pocket presumably to pay for his drink.
“On the house,” Stephaney said raising her hand to stop him.
“You sure?” Sunglasses frowned.
Stephaney smiled and waved her hand in front of her face. “It’s the least I can do since you came all the way out here.” She gave a quick look at Andrew who turned his gaze back to his computer.
“If you don’t like it here you could always leave you know,” Sunglasses stated.
“I never said I didn’t like it here,” Stephaney said with a bright smile. “On the contrary I love it here, and I love the people.”
Sunglasses gave a warm smile and a nod as he listened to her. “That is good to hear. There may be hope after all.” He held up his cup to her as thanks and left.
Once he was gone, Andrew glared at Stephaney. “You have yet to give me a free drink. I had to make a long trip to get here too you know?”
“I’m sorry, but I was actually good friends with his father,” she said.
“Really?” Andrew frowned. Maybe his father had been born here as well. That would explain some things. Like how everyone seemed to know him but also gave him his space.
“Yeah there weren’t many other people for me to hang out with growing up and Ryan was always nice to me.” Stephaney seemed to be spacing off as she talked. “He said that I was his hope for the future. He even sent me a card when my father died.” Stephaney’s eyes widened as she realized that she was rambling. “Sorry, don’t mind me. I’m doing that thing were my mouth gets ahead of me again.”
Andrew decided to leave it at that and went back to work. He would have to leave in a few hours and he wanted to be sure to have plenty of time. He did not want to miss a single thing.
He looked over at Stephaney. “So if you aren’t going to the festival, what will you be doing tonight?”
Stephaney seemed to be trying to choose her words carefully as if she was afraid she would give something away. “Oh well, the power usually goes out so I tend to just read in my house. That reminds me, I will be closed tomorrow to help out with repairs. You might also want to stock up on some food and water I doubt there will be any place open tomorrow.”
“Thanks for the tip,” Andrew nodded. That did not actually sound like a bad idea. He checked his watch. If he wanted to go buy anything then he had better get going, he doubted he would have time after the festival.
He put his laptop back in the bag and waved goodbye. He should also get something to eat at the restaurant as well before he headed for the beach.
There was a little beat in his step as he walked. There was something to be said about the anticipation of all of this. In just a few hours everything would be over. It made his blood race. It was this kind of feeling that he could never get doing his normal work.
Andrew set the grocery sack down on the floor next to his chair. Before he was even finished sitting down Tiffany was filling a coffee mug up in front of him with a fresh pot of coffee.
“Thank you,” Andrew smiled at here. “Now I take it the Mayor told you not to ruffee my drink?”
Tiffany laughed though not in the way that said that he had been wrong. “Don’t worry hun this coffee is drug free. Can I get you something to eat?”
“Ah,” Andrew thought about it for a second. “Something light. I will be doing a lot of moving around tonight and don’t want to get sick.”
“Sure thing.” Giving him her signature wink, Tiffany walked into the kitchen.
It occurred to him then that he had never seen her husband who was supposedly the cook. Not that he had much reason to walk near the kitchen, he still found it odd that in nearly four days he had never seen the man once given how much time he had spent down here.
Andrew took a quick look around the room. There was no one else around, probably all out getting ready for tonight. If he was going to do any snooping now would be his only chance. Casually getting up he made his way to the corner making it look as if he was heading for the bathroom. As soon as he neared the kitchen door he slowed down trying not to make any noise, letting his steps touch down as lightly as he could on flat feet.
He looked through the small window in the door opening the door slightly so he could hear what was being said.
“-soup maybe,” a male’s voice said. “It’s light and will keep him warm. Also we can have some leftover for tomorrow.”
“Sounds perfect love.” Andrew recognized the voice as Tiffany’s.
He looked around trying to find where they were. He saw Tiffany leaning in giving a man in his late 60’s a kiss on the lips. It was long and full of passion.
“I’ll be taking off as soon as he is done,” Tiffany said as she broke the kiss. “Be sure to turn everything off.”
“I know, I know.” The old man gave her a dismissive bat of his hand as he started grabbing pots. “You would think that after forty years you would start to trust me.”
“After forty years I have learned that you always forget unless you are told,” Tiffany laughed and started to turn.
Andrew ducked out of the way and dashed back to his chair. Sitting down he took a sip from his coffee, hiding the fact that he was out of breath.
What the Hell? Andrew thought sitting at his table. What the actual Hell?
That was probably the most terrifying sight he had ever seen and he had lived in California for several years. With the sight of a twenty something woman and a sixty something man making out the no old people theory went out the window. He wished he had found out a different way however. The image of those two kissing was forever burned into his mind.
“Hey Tiff.” The voice broke him out of his thoughts.
“Hey hun. What can I do for you?”
Andrew turned and saw Sunglasses standing by the register waving Tiffany over to him.
“You mind having Allen make me something real fast? I will eat it in my room so not to keep him any longer than he has to be.”
“Sure, anything in particular?”
“Anything is fine,” Sunglasses smiled. “I’ll bring the dishes down tomorrow.”
“He’s making some soup for our friend here. I will get you what’s left. He says it’s impossible to make soup in small amounts so there should be plenty.” She smiled at him giving a playful smack of her gum. “Would you like something to drink with that?”
“You kidding?” Sunglasses snorted. “All you have here is the P-cola stuff.”
Tiffany gave a full body laugh. “Whatever,” she rolled her eyes. “I’ll have the soup right out.”
“Thank you,” Sunglasses said. “So how come you two never had any children?”
Tiffany rocked her head back and forth. “I love Allen and for me that is enough,” she smiled weakly as if she did not expect that answer to really satisfy.
“I see.” Sunglasses raised his chin like he was seeing behind what she had said.
Tiffany waked to the back again no doubt to tell Allen of the new order.
A shiver went up Andrew’s back as he thought about those two together. His old wrinkly body against her smooth twenty something. He gagged at the thought. He knew women tended to go for the older guys but that was just creepy.
A few minutes later she came back out with a pot of coffee and topped Andrew’s cup off.
“So you said that your husband is the cook?” Andrew tried to sound as casual as possible.
“That’s right,” she smiled at him as she finished filling his cup. “His name’s Allen. We have been married now for…” she trailed off for a moment before giving a warm smile. “A long time now.”
That sent another shiver down his back. Was this some kind of creepy man who married some 12 year old or something?
“Was he born on this island?”
“No,” she shook her head. “He came here many years ago. A young kid looking for adventure. We hated each other when we first met and I just wanted him gone, but he grew on me,” she shrugged with a happy smile. “In less than a year we were married. It took a while but everyone else accepted it eventually.”
“I bet.” He tried his best to hide his disgust and make it look like his comment had been a friendly one.
Tiffany did not seem to notice and went on about her work. A few minutes later she came out with a bowl of soup, and some bread that she was carrying bare handed.
“Careful, it’s hot,” she warned placing the bowl in front of Andrew. She then came back a few seconds later handing a full tray of soup to Sunglasses.
“Thank you,” he nodded as he took the tray. “Stay safe tonight.” He turned to head up the stairs.
“Hey,” she called after him. “About tonight…” She gave a cautious glance back at Andrew who was trying to look like he was not paying attention.
Sunglasses stopped and looked at her waiting for her to finish.
“Is there any hope of…” she asked in a soft voice her sentence trailing off.
Sunglasses gave a weak smile of what looked almost like pity. “Not this time I fear,” he said. “But after seeing you of all people married to Allen there is defiantly hope for the next time I come here. You two are my hope for the future of this town,” He smiled. With that he continued to head up the stairs with his tray full of food.
Andrew raised a questioning eyebrow. What was that all about? The thing about being the hope for the future. That is what Stephaney has said Sunglasses father had said about her. For some reason he could not shake the feeling that he was still missing something to this story.
He quietly ate his soup as he pondered this. What else could he be missing? He knew it had to do something with Sunglasses. Everyone seemed to know him and welcomed him almost as if he was one of their own but at the same time no one wanted to talk about him or even to him. The few that did talk to him seemed scared of him in some way.
“You all done honey?” Tiffany’s voice cut off his thoughts.
Andrew looked down at the empty bowl of soup in front of him. “Yes thank you, it was good. My compliments to the chef.”
“I will be sure and tell him.” She picked up the bowl. “If you want to wait a little bit I’ll put this away and we can both head down to the beach together.”
“Sounds good.” He stood up. “I’ll just go put this stuff in my room.” Grabbing his grocery sack he went up to his room pulling out his room key as he climbed the stairs. He stopped before entering the room, looking down the hall where sunglasses was staying. He thought about going to his room and asking him some questions but he dismissed the idea. He did not have the time.
Putting his food for tomorrow away he went back down the stairs where Tiffany was waiting for him now wearing a light coat.
“All set?” she smiled up at him as he clomped down the steps.
“Ready. Is your husband not coming?” he asked looking around as if searching for someone.
She shook her head. “No, he wouldn’t be much help even if he wanted to go.” Without another word of explanation she headed out the door toward the beach.
The sun was starting to dip into the horizon and the storm clouds were becoming intense. It did in fact look like it was going to rain tonight. Not sure how they were able to predict the storm so many days in advance, but that really was not the issue in all of this.
The beach was covered in people all of them looked to be around twenty to thirty five. None of them seemed to be wearing anything special, which surprised Andrew a little bit. He had been expecting black cloaks or possibly even mass nudity. Instead they all seemed to be dressed as if this was just any other day of work.
Andrew took a seat at the top of the beach where he could see everything, taking a few quick shots of the townspeople as they gathered. All of them seemed to know exactly what they should do and where they should be. Product of doing this every year no doubt.
As the sun finished setting, the Mayor stood on a platform in the middle of the beach, the townspeople gathering around him. He was speaking in some language that Andrew had never heard before but everyone seemed to know what he was saying and responded with head nods or yeses simultaneously.
Then everything grew quiet as the people formed circles holding hands. The Mayor started to speak in English again.
“My Brothers and Sisters. We have gathered here, like every year, in hopes of breaking the Witch’s cures upon us. The circle of power is strong and the power has been gathered. Now I ask that all of you lend me your power.”
On the last word they all raised their hands into the air and started chanting.
Andrew had to stop himself from laughing as he took a few more pictures. This will be the one they used for the article he was sure.
As they chanted lightning started building in the clouds over head. With how dark the clouds were, he was surprised that it wasn’t raining.
Andrew looked into the sky watching as the storm build. He frowned as he noticed what looked like pink sparks dancing in the sky. He blinked his eyes thinking that it was just a trick of the light. Then a lightning bolt struck. It was loud and made Andrew jump as the vibrations made everything tremble. But the bolt never hit the ground, instead it stopped a hundred feet in the air causing a bright pink flash.
Andrew could not believe what he had just seen. Just as he was about to write it off as something he had imagined another bolt of lightning struck.
This time he was ready for it and did not blink as it struck and watched as the pink light arched across the island.
“It’s a dome,” Andrew whispered in disbelief. “There is actually a protective dome around the Island.”
Another strike of lightning and the sky lit up. Andrew had to stick his hand out to his sides in order from him to keep his balance as the thunder shook the ground once more.
He could not believe what he was seeing. They really were using magic to protect the island from this storm.
Andrew looked back at the people still chanting on the beach. Some of them fell to the ground panting as if they were exhausted, while many others looked like they were about to do the same. But their chant continued never slowing or pausing in its rhythm.
Without even really thinking about what he was doing he snapped a few more pictures as he watched in disbelief.
The lightning started to grow more intense; the lightning bolts happening faster and seemed to be becoming larger. The thunder was so strong that it started to feel more like an earthquake rather then aftershock from lightning. A few times as the lightning would strike the protective barrier it would break through, striking the island itself. Andrew screamed in fear as the bolts hit within visible view.
The barrier was starting to weaken.
He looked back at the crowed of people. Several more had fallen and were sprawled across the beach. He was not sure how much longer they would be able to hold out.
Andrew pulled his knees to his chest in a futile effort to comfort himself. Would they not be able to protect the town this time?
If they failed what kind of devastation would this storm cause? The mayor had feared that this storm might hit the main land and unleash untold devastation if they failed. How many people would die if that happened?
It was hard to believe, but Andrew knew that what he saw in front of him was real and not the cause of illusions or drug induced hallucination. This was far to loused to be a dream and it was all to vibrate to be his imagination. Meaning the only conclusion he could make was that this was all actually happening.
Andrew stopped taking pictures. He understood what the Mayor had said now. If word of this got out there would be panic. Whether people believed him or not did not matter. As soon as everyone knew about this ritual, everything was over. There was no way that he could publish this story.
The villagers’ chanting started to die down and the storm along with them. Over half the towns people had collapsed and the ones still standing looked like they were at their limit. Had this storm gone on any longer he was not sure they could have kept the barrier up.
Andrew let out a sigh and looked at his watch. He felt like the storm had lasted all night but it had only been maybe an hour. He had no idea how these people were able to do this every year.
The towns’ people started helping each other as they made their way back up the beach. Picking up the ones who had collapsed, they carried them on their shoulders back towards the town. The Mayor stepped off his platform looking completely unfazed by everything that had happened.
He walked over to Andrew holding out a hand offering to help him up. “So do you believe now?” he asked.
“I do.” Andrew took his hand. The Mayor seemed to lift Andrew up without any effort.
“So will you then honor your word and keep quiet about this?”
Andrew lifted up his camera pulling out the SD card and handed it to the Mayor. “These are all the pictures that I took since I got here. There are no other copies.”
Almost as if he did not fully understand the Mayor took the SD card examining the small chip in his hand for a second. “I am sorry that you came all the way here for nothing.”
“No it’s fine.” Andrew shook his head. “I think that I got something much better than a story. Maybe I can find something to help you guys out in the future. A totem or something.”
The mayor nodded. “We will not turn down your help. Look for something that will allow us to better channel magic or in some way enhance our own.”
“So will there be like a celebration or something later?” Andrew said it almost as a joke but the look he got from the Mayor told him that it was not funny.
“Why would we celebrate?” his voice brimming with anger.
“Because you saved the town?” Andrew’s voice was weak, not sure where he had offended.
The Mayor sighed a little. “That may be true but sadly our work is not over. We will spend the next couple of week repairing what was damaged and then we must start getting ready for next year.”
“I see.” Andrew felt bad for these people. Their whole lives revolved around this night. He wondered how many ever just gave up and decided that it just was not worth it.
Lying in bed Andrew stared at the ceiling. His mind going over what he had seen that night. How the lightning would just stop as it hit that magical barrier. Everything had been true. The story about the witch, the magic she used to try and wipe out the town, everything.
Andrew rolled over onto his side sliding his arm under the pillow.
It all seemed sad to him somehow. But no matter how much he thought about it there was still something that bothered him. A tingling in the back of his head. The reporter instinct that told him that this story was not over yet. That there was still something that he had missed.
But what was it?
No matter how much he thought about it he just could not figure it out.
Figuring he would not get any sleep until he found out for sure, he got out of bed.
Just as Stephaney had said the power was out throughout the town, so he had to use his small flashlight to find his way. The sky was clear of all clouds and the full moon was bright enough that he could see mostly where he was going without running into things.
He had not noticed that it was a full moon tonight. It had been so cloudy the past few days he could not remember the last time he had actually seen the moon.
Without much thought as to where he was going or even what he was doing, Andrew got in a small row boat on the pier and started to row out to the lighthouse. The waters were almost unnaturally still as he rowed out. The complete opposite of a few days ago when he was seeing five foot waves.
His arms were not used to the exertion of rowing and were almost numb by the time he was half way but he kept on rowing. He had to know.
The boat made a loud thud as it hit the rocks on the small island of rocks. Taking the rope on the front he did his best to tie the boat down to a rock that looked sturdy enough then made his way up the rock face to the lighthouse.
Once he reached the top, the ground leveled off and was covered in soft short grass that surrounded to the building. Pulling out his flashlight he started to make his way to the door. The wooden door was old and falling apart the paint having long since been peeled away. It and even looked like it might have been broken and was simply hanging there.
He reached out his hand and put it on the door knob giving it a turn.
Andrew spun at the sound of the voice. Behind him was a beautiful woman who looked no older than 20. She was dressed in a white gown and seemed to be glowing as she stood there. The light of the moon seemingly reflecting off of her adding to the glow effect.
“The witch of the lighthouse,” Andrew whispered in both awe and horror. He was actually standing before her. Her beauty was almost surreal as if there was something not real about it.
“Nela fol be ku na talisima follai,” the woman said.
Andrew thought she might be trying to cast a spell on him and moved to cover his ears.
“She apologizes. She says she is tired and unable to summon the magic needed for her to speak in English.” Andrew turned to face the sound of the new voice. There sitting casually on one of the rock faces was Sunglasses, his head hung in a mournful fashion. “She can still understand though,” Sunglasses added looking up at Andrew the light from the moon and the woman reflecting off the mirrored lenses.
“You?” Andrew gasped in surprise. “What are you doing here?” Andrew demanded. He should have known this guy was up to something.
“I was asked to come here.” Sunglasses stood up from the rock he was sitting on and walked over to where the witch was standing. “Leena asked me to come and see if the people in this town were ready to be released.”
“So the stories were true. You are holding these people hostage here.” Andrew then realized the spot that he was in. He was obviously dealing with people that had no problem killing. And they could summon powers beyond his understanding.
The witch said something and Sunglasses nodded. “Leena has asked that I explain to you everything that has gone on here, but on the condition that you leave this island and never return.”
Andrew crossed his arms. “I make no promises. Let me hear what you have to say first.”
Sunglasses looked at the witch who gave him a nod. “Alright,” Sunglasses nodded clearing his throat. “Brigdi told you some made up story about a curse being on this island due to some wrath of a witch correct?”
Andrew frowned. “Who’s Brigdi? Isn’t that the name of the Island?”
“Brigdi is not the name of the Island but the name of the person who rules it. Brigdi’s Island. You met him. You referred to him as the Mayor.”
Andrew had never actually learned the Mayor’s name but that still did not make sense.
“Brigdi is a powerful Sea Fey that ruled these waters two thousand years ago,” Sunglasses explained. “He ruled these seas and much of the shore along it. He was a fair ruler who looked after his people but he despised humans with an intense hatred.
“When the Vikings first settled these lands he drove them off with harsh winters and terrible storms. It was because of him that New Found Land failed. Later when the Spanish and English came, they were determined to settle this land and refused to be scared off by cold winters.
“It became clear to Brigdi that bad weather and rough seas would not be enough to drive the humans out this time. As such he began killing the humans as they tried to settle. The Roanoke Colony in 1587 was one of his first places that he attacked. But even this was not enough to stop the slew of European settles. As their colonies grew Brigdi decided that he would wipe them all out in a single stroke and gathered his army on this island preparing for full out war against the humans.”
Sunglasses gave a sorrowful sigh, “But a single Lamina, a Fey who are best known for their wickedness and evil deeds, saw what was happening and intervened. Using all her magic to cast a spell around the island, she trapped Brigdi and his army so that none of them could leave.” Sunglasses put a comforting hand on the Witch’s shoulder. She gave him a weak smile in response.
“In desperation Brigdi and his army combined their power in a ritual so they could channel all their magic into Brigdi where he used his power over the elements to summon a fearsome storm. In order to maintain the ward Leena intertwined her own life force into her magic strengthening it. But even so it was close and she was only just able to maintain the barrier.
“So every year on the day that her powers are weakest, when the moon is full and the Rie… the magic river in this area is shallow, they perform the same ritual hoping that they will break free and return to the ocean and launch their assault on humanity.”
Andrew listened in silence. He wanted to dismiss everything Sunglasses was saying as lies but there was something in his words that made him want to believe. His words were able to do something that the Mayor’s words had been unable to do. Silence the little voice in the back of his mind.
“As time passed humans started coming to the island,” Sunglasses continued. “Brigdi knew they could not defend themselves if the humans attacked in force trapped as he was. So they posed themselves as a human colony, and to maintain that cover they started trade relations with the humans passing themselves off as a small fishing village.”
Andrew shook his head. “Wait so what about all of that about a witch and-”
“Were all lies,” Sunglasses said. “Just a story to get you on their side.”
“Why?” Andrew asked. “If what you say is true, why would they even want me on their side?”
“Because you can leave this island,” Sunglasses stated. “It is possible for you to find things that are unattainable for them. A powerful spell or talisman that will allow then to increase their power. You already agreed to help them find such a thing, did you not?”
He had. In fact he had already planned on doing some research as soon as he could get on the internet again.
“Wait. Why should I believe anything that you say as oppose to what they told me?” Andrew asked still refusing to accept any of this. “In fact, you expect me to believe that some races of fish people are living on this island and they have been posing as humans for hundreds of years and no one ever noticed?”
“Is my story so outrageous knowing everything that you know?” Sunglasses asked crossing his arms. “Have you really not noticed the strange things going on around here? The things that they told you that don’t make sense.”
Sunglasses raised a finger in the air, “For one they told you that every year on the anniversary of the witch’s death this storm hits correct?”
“Yeah,” Andrew nodded not sure where this was going.
“Yet the storm happens on a different day every year,” Sunglasses said. “If it really happened on the anniversary then it would be the exact same day.”
That was true. He had not thought of that. “But that alone doesn’t make what they said a lie. I am sure there are many explanations. Different calendars or something.”
“Number two.” Sunglasses went on ignoring what Andrew had said lifting a second finger. “The age of the people.”
“Ha! You’re wrong. Allen is super old,” Andrew shot back.
“And he is also human,” Sunglasses nodded. “Think of the story Tiffany told you. How they met and she didn’t get along with him. That they had been married for a long time, and yet she looks so young. How the rest of the towns people didn’t accept them at first.”
Andrew frowned as he tried to put the pieces together. Thinking back Allen had something about them being together for twenty years. But Tiffany only looked to be in her mid-twenties. “What are you saying?”
“That Tiffany is an ageless Fey,” Sunglasses said. “As where Allen is a human who ages like all other humans. That is why she looks so young and yet he is so old.”
“Or he is some creepy old guy who married a child.” Andrew waved him off but his heart was not in it and he knew that it made sense.
“Did you notice that no one ever gave you their real name?” Sunglasses asked.
“What are you talking about? Sure they did.”
“Did they?” Sunglasses raised his chin. “Or did they say; you can call me?”
Andrew paused. He had noticed that. “Just some local custom.”
“Or maybe a Fey’s real name is powerful and thus they never give it out to anyone, even a human. Same goes for saying thank you. For a Fey to thank anyone implies a debt of gratitude.”
Andrew was starting to get frustrated. This all seemed just like something to confuse him, but the more he thought the more he noticed how stories did not add up or how people would react when he told them what he knew as if that was not the truth at all.
“How about the fact that the storm didn’t start until after the people started chanting and it stopped after they did,” Sunglasses pressed.
“Well that just…” the storm had stopped after they stopped chanting. He realized. If they were protecting the town then they should have stopped after the storm not before.
“Well then who are you? What role do you play in all of this?” Andrew asked. While he was still unconvinced, he was no longer so convinced either.
“I am the Hyperion,” he said placing his hand on his chest as if he was introducing himself. “I am a human whose job it is to keep the peace between the Humans and the magical creatures known as Fairies or Fey as they prefer to be called. Something about sounding more threatening,” Sunglasses shrugged. “After the first hundred years of keeping the ward around this island up, Leena asked the Hyperion of that time, a man named Connor, to come to the island in hopes that Brigdi had calmed down and no longer wanted to wage war on the humans. If that were the case then she would release them.
“But what the Hyperion found was the opposite. His confinement had driven Brigdi mad. He hated humans more than ever. But I did find one glimmer of hope. While Brigdi’s anger grew, the other Fey did not mirror his feelings. They grew tired of their imprisonment and as the decades passed they simply wanted it to be over.
“Some of them grew to like the humans. Others even fell in love with them, had children. Slowly their hearts softened. One day maybe they will simply lose all will to fight. But things move slowly for immortal beings and they are slow to change, but if that day comes then the ward will lower and they will be set free.”
Andrew was quiet. Should he really believe what he had been told? It made sense, and it did fit better with what he knew then the other story but somehow it just seemed less romantic to him. A vengeful witch unleashing a curse on innocent people just somehow seemed like a better story than an army of monsters being held back by another monster.
“If you still do not believe me than simply ask the towns people,” Sunglasses suggested. “Ask them when they are alone and no one else is around. Tell them what I told you and ask if it is true. Ask them and draw your own conclusions.”
“Casting off!” the boat captain yelled as the boat began to pull out of the dock.
Andrew leaned on the railing at the back of the boat watching as they left the town and cursed island in their wake. The ride was smooth this time. The storm having passed the waters had calmed and the boat had even come to pick them up a few days early.
Andrew sighed lowering his head. He was ready to get back. Spending a week practically locked in that hotel room had driven him stir crazy. Though he could now say that he was a master at computer solitaire and mine sweeper.
“Not the kind of trip you were expecting?” Sunglasses asked walking up next to Andrew placing his hands on the railing.
“Not in the slightest,” Andrew sighed. “You were right. Tiffany, Stephaney, even Allen, that crazy old man, all confirmed what you told me. Man once Allen got going he just would not stop. He went on and on about how terrible Brigdi was and talked for hours about what he was trying to do.” Andrew gave a weak smile. “Had nothing but nice things to say about you though. That was kind of a surprise.”
Sunglasses laughed. The sound actually surprised Andrew as it seemed so uncharacteristic of him. “Well Allen always was very vocal about his opinions and he isn’t one to hold back. The only reason he is alive is because none on the island, Brigdi included, would ever go against Tiffany.” He sighed putting his full body weight on the railing. “When the last Hyperion came here forty years ago those two had just met.”
“Did Tiffany really hate humans back then?”
Sunglasses smiled. “Back then she was Brigdi’s first knight. His right hand. She hated humans almost as much as he did, but she wasn’t going to kill Allen as long as the Hyperion was there so she was forced to put up with him. I think it was the fact that they both were so honest about their hate for each other that caused them to fall in love,” he trailed off giving a sullen smile. “But then what do I know about any of that?”
“So then Stephaney, she isn’t human either?” Andrew asked.
“She is what is known as a Changeling,” Sunglasses explained. “Half human, half Fey. Her father was human, though that is a story that goes back over a hundred years. She is actually well over eighty.”
“There is something that I still don’t understand.” Allen shifted so he was leaning against one arm on the railing his body facing Sunglasses.
Sunglasses looked over at him. “What’s that?”
“Why did Leena put the barrier up in the first place?”
Sunglasses took a deep breath and looked out over the ocean. “Because it was the right thing to do.” He paused staring out into the ocean. “At least that is what I choose to believe. In truth, I have no idea why she decided to help humanity. Maybe she fell in love with a human, maybe she lost a bet. In the end, does it really matter?”
“But for her to be stuck in that lighthouse until who knows how long…” Andrew shook his head. “It just seems so cruel.”
Sunglasses sighed. “Trust me, it is far worse than you realize.”
Sunglasses looked at Andrew. “Remember how I told you that Leena had to use her own life force to strengthen the ward?”
“Well that means her life is now tied to that ward. If it ever lowers then she will die, even if she lowers it herself.”
There was a pause as the words sunk in.
Sunglasses gave a mournful sigh pushing his weight onto the railing. “In many ways she is just as imprisoned as they are, but as where they have hope of one day leaving and living out their lives she only has to look forward to death.”
“So if you tell her one day that they have turned from their evil ways and are reformed?”
“Then she will die,” he nodded bitterly. “Assuming that they don’t break free first.”
“Can they break free?” Andrew asked with a bit of worry in his voice.
“Sure,” Sunglasses nodded. “They got close this year. It’s not a matter of if but when, and they all know it. Otherwise they wouldn’t have continued this for so long. That is also why I was asked to come here during the festival. Leena wanted to know if this year she could finally rest. If this time she could not resist as much and finally let them go.”
“But why would she need to fight at all?” Andrew asked. Why not just let them go if they are ready?”
“You saw them after the ritual,” Sunglasses said. “You saw how tired they all were. They go until they can’t go anymore. Do you really think that if they brought down that barrier that they would immediately go charging ahead into the main land? No. They would have to recover, think about their next action. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll decide that it’s not worth it. That they should just return to the sea and put all of this behind them.”
Sunglasses grabbed the railing leaning back as he let out a laugh. “Maybe they will even decide to stay on the island. Wouldn’t that be ironic?” His smile faded as he returned to his original position.
The rest of the boat ride they stood in silence. Neither of them saying a word, just watching the waves of the ocean. The boat pulled into port and the two got off the ship. They both walked side by side for a time until they reached the road.
“Well I’m this way.” Andrew said pointing to the left.
“And I’m this way.” Sunglasses pointed to the right.
“So I guess we go our separate ways then. You heading back home?” Andrew asked.
Sunglasses stuck his hands in his jacket pockets’ turning on his heels, “Actually while I’m here, there is another island not far from here that I would like to check out. Supposedly they do some sort of sacrifice to some sleeping god or some such. I thought since I was in the area I would see what was really going on.”
Andrew gave a small smile and shook his head. “You know I am not even going to ask if you are being serious or not.” He ran his hand through his hair taking a deep breath. “Think we will ever see each other again?”
He shrugged. “Who knows? But,” he pulled out his wallet and handed Andrew a business card. “If you ever need my help, give me a call. Now that you know of the hidden world it will be impossible for you to ignore it.”
Andrew took the card. It had Hyperion Investigations in bold italic letters.
“Your name’s Riley?” Andrew realized that he had never learned the man’s name.
“That’s me,” he smiled almost warmly. “Riley Newman.”
Andrew gave a small wave turning to walk away, Riley did the same. “By the way.” Andrew stopped and turned around. “Do you think…”
Riley turned and looked at Andrew. “What?”
Andrew hesitated scratching his head a little embarrassed that he was about to ask this. “I know I promised to never return, but do you think the witch, I mean Leena, would mind if I came back and visited her some day?”
Riley gave a soft smile. “You know what?” He took a long breath as he thought it over. “I don’t think she would mind that at all.”
For you are my hope for the future…