Chapter Four - Through the Maw
“OK! What was that all about?” Megan asked.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” I said.
“Try me! I could tell there was something funny going on.”
I thought about it for a bit then decided it was safe, telling her. She’d never let on and, even if she did, no one was ever going to believe her. “Okay then,” I said with a shrug. “You heard him talking about ‘the sight’ thing?”
“Well… he wasn’t joking and he just tried to use it to read my mind… but I managed to kick him out.”
“What?” Megan exploded.
“I said you wouldn’t believe it. To be honest, I’m not sure I really believe it myself. I tell you what…”
I tried to find my way back into the ‘cloud world’ thing but, for some reason, I couldn’t work out how I’d done it last time. That was a bit funny… maybe it had something to do with what the fisherman did.
Thinking back to the whole fight thing did the trick… the clouds suddenly burst into life around me again. And, this time, I could relax a bit and have a more careful look around.
There were about a dozen clouds out there but there didn’t seem to be any particular pattern to the way they were laid out. The fisherman was easy enough to spot but I couldn’t tell who anyone else was.
So I slipped back out again. “You’re going to have to help me here,” I told Megan. “I can see quite a few minds round here but I can’t work out who’s who. Think of something obvious for me… say a dog.”
She nodded, so I hopped back into the cloud world - it was much easier this time. And I could easily spot the large furry dog, hovering near the surface of one of the clouds… that one had to be Megan. So I reached across and, after hunting around for a bit, I found just what I was looking for.
“Was it a Newfoundland, by any chance!” I asked, as casually as I could, when I emerged.
Megan nodded, her mouth open in shock.
“By the way,” I added, “who’s Philip?”
She turned bright red. “But I never said…” she gasped. “How on earth did you know?”
“Do you believe me now?” I asked with a smile, “or do I have to hunt for a couple more secrets?”
Megan shook her head emphatically. “You won’t tell anyone, will you?”
“Of course not. Who do you think I am?”
I leaned back against the cabin wall and rubbed my forehead. It was pretty hard work and I’d given myself a bit of a headache.
I just sat there for a bit with my eyes closed, trying to get my head round what had just happened. Then I sort of reached a decision. “I’m going to find out what else that guy knows about the whole ‘sight’ thing,” I told Megan.
“Don’t you think you ought to talk to Miss Parsons first?” she asked.
I just gave her a look.
“No…” she said, answering her own question, “because she’d never believe you and, even if she did, she’d just try and stop you from doing it.”
I gave her a smile
“But are you sure it’s safe?”
“I’ll be fine. That fisherman is the strongest person about and I didn’t have any problems dealing with him.”
So I jumped back into the cloud world… it was getting easier every time… then I slipped into the guy’s cloud and started hunting around.
His head was full of what I guess were normal sort of fisherman type thoughts… I need to go out to check the lobster pots tomorrow… the boat’ll need more diesel soon… the tide’s running along a bit nippily today. It might be a bit too choppy through the Maw…
I was a bit fed up at that… but then I saw that this was the chance to pay the others back for the whole island thing. So I checked that he didn’t think it was too dangerous then set to work. I formed up the idea in my own mind then tried to sort of push it across into his cloud: “Yeah, we should be okay through the Maw. That gang of girls back there might squeal a bit but we’ll be fine.”
The whole thing was getting much easier now so I reached out towards the cluster of thoughts and feelings that were linked with the ‘Aunt Winnie’ idea.
She lived out on her own in a little cottage just north of the Seat… she’s ancient, much older than the fisherman… she’s deaf and dumb and she can only communicate using ‘the sight’… she has regular contact with a couple of the people from the island.
That thought kicked off an explosion inside me… there really was an island out there! I mean… I knew I could see it but… well… with the way everyone else was reacting, I was starting to doubt my own eyes.
I dug even deeper into the fisherman’s memories and came across an image from years ago. There was a creature, much bigger than any bird, flying far off near the horizon. In a way, he knew what he thought it was but there seemed to be some sort of block, kind of like he wanted to keep it out of his mind… almost as if he was trying to protect himself by not thinking about it. But I tried to feel around this idea until it came bubbling to the surface…
Which meant the dragons were real… he’d even seen one of them…
Which meant that those huge birds I’d seen, flying around the top of the mountain, weren’t birds at all…
I was still trying to make sense of it all when I sort of noticed something. I wasn’t quite sure what it was, at first, but then I worked out that it was coming from out in the real world.
I flipped back out and found it was Megan shaking my arm. “Wake up, sleepy head!” she was saying. “We’re nearly there.”
“I wasn’t asleep,” I answered. I thought about telling her about the dragons and everything but there really wasn’t any point… and, anyway, I was distracted because we were just arriving at the sea stack.
“It’s huge!” Megan gasped as we got even closer. You really had to stretch your neck just to look up to the top. “And look at all those birds. They must be nesting on the thing.”
I relaxed a bit as the boat chugged past the stack then I leaned across to Megan. “Get ready,” I told her, “and hold tight. Things are about to get really… exciting!”
Megan tried to give me a funny look but I turned to watch the waves which were bouncing off the base of the stack and really throwing the little boat about.
“Is everybody ready?” the fisherman shouted as we rounded the end of the thing. Then, without waiting for an answer, he added, “Hold tight!”
The boat’s engine roared, powering through the churn of broken water as he threw us into ‘The Maw’, the narrow channel between the cliffs and the stack.
There was this chorus of screams from the back of the boat as Droopy and the others worked out what he was doing. But somehow I could feel the guy’s calm control as he drove the boat on. So I felt pretty relaxed as we ploughed on into the choppy water… but I did flinch a bit when Megan’s fingers dug into my arm.
The boat was thrown around and I had to grab at the metal ring. Then I grinned across at Megan and let out this wild whoop thing as the waves began to break over the front of the boat, splashing water over us. We were thrown all over the place and the rocks on either side looked really close as we ploughed on through the narrow channel.
And then we were out in the quieter water on the other side and, as the fisherman eased back the engines, I could hear Droopy bellowing at him. “What on earth did you think you were doing?” she was shouting. “We could have all been killed.”
I settled back with a broad grin on my face. I’d never heard her getting all shouty like that before. She must have been pretty much wetting herself back there!
“How did you know he was going to do that?” Megan gasped. “You didn’t… you couldn’t…”
I just smiled and didn’t bother answering. “You know,” I said after a bit, “I think this holiday’s going to be fun after all!” I leaned back against the cabin as we chugged back along the coastline towards the village.
After a couple of minutes, I had an idea. “I want to see how you drive the boat,” I told Megan. “You coming?” We made our way back and stood at the entrance to the cabin looking down on the old fisherman. He looked up at us a bit sheepishly.
“I forgot you two were up front, there,” he said. “You must have got soaked!”
“It wasn’t too bad,” I answered. “It was a bit like a roller-coaster ride, but with more water!”
“I’m glad you weren’t as scared as some of them,” he said quietly, flicking his head back towards Droopy. I didn’t bother answering but just gave him a bit of a smile. He turned away, looking totally embarrassed and pretending to be fiddling with something on the instrument panel.
“How hard is it to drive the thing?” I asked when he glanced back again.
“You have to be quite careful when you’re in tight spaces,” he answered, with a bit of a grin, “but out here, it’s not too tricky at all. There’s nothing else to hit! Come on in and have a go!”
The two of us went into the cabin. I sat down and tried to look confident as I took the wheel.
“Right,” he said, “So we’ve got to get round the headland, out there… and we’ll have to go out a touch further on account of the rocks at the base… and you have to steer her even further out on account of the wind that’s pushing us in towards the shore.”
He watched as I turned the wheel. “Go on, he said, “a bit further.”
“It’s not working,” I said after a couple of seconds. “Nothing’s happening.”
“Give her a chance,” he laughed. “It’s not like riding a bike. She takes a bit of time to come round. There, you see, she’s coming now…. you can straighten her up.”
“But we’re still heading towards that headland.”
“Don’t worry. She’ll keep on coming round for a good while after you take the steering off. That’s why you need to think a good way ahead, especially when you’re messing about in a harbour.”
“Or through the Maw?” I said. I couldn’t help it
He turned away to hide the fact that he was smiling.
We chugged along for a while and, after a bit, he adjusted a lever.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s the throttle,” he answered. “It sets how hard the engine works and so how fast we go. We’re coming up to the headland now so I’m just easing it back a touch because it’s about to get choppy.”
“I think I should take over now,” he added, taking back the wheel. “Some people,” he glanced back towards Droopy, “might not like it if we get too close to the rocks again!”
A gentle rain was starting as the boat nosed its way round the headland. “Liquid sunshine,” the fishermen said.
And, as the boat came to rest against the harbour wall, he turned to the rest of the passengers, sitting in the back of the boat. “I hope you enjoyed your trip and will come back again…” he began, but he was obviously still totally flustered, and basically withered under Droopy’s least droopy gaze. He limply finished his speech saying, “I hope you enjoy the rest of your holiday.”
He went back to hide in his cabin as the mate hopped out and tied the boat up.