They first saw him on the shoreline of Larsen bay on Kodiak island, off the south coast of Alaska, walking along as if he’d been there a hundred times before. He looked completely out of place, dressed in a yellow hawaiian shirt with bermuda shorts, mirrored sunglasses and a pair of flip-flops. With it being the tail end of autumn, and winter gearing up to replace it, people wore coats and boots, and clothing for cold weather. It seemed he didn’t notice the cold at all, and Mr and Mrs Perry just watched as he walked along and disappeared up wooden steps.
For the rest of their Alaskan holiday, they didn’t give him much further thought other than that isn’t it strange how some people will wear T-shirts in winter, and leather coats in summer. Some people can be odd.
Jaqueline and Keith Perry, 47 years married lived in Northhampton, England, and on their walls were many framed photographs of the two of them in various locations around the world. Smiling at a national park in the Congo with gorillas in the background. Grinning at the Rhongphu monanstery in Tibet. Smiling against a backdrop of a ship making its way slowly through the Panama canal.
However, since their Alaskan trip, they had been on several other excursions, and in each of them, they had seen the same man, the same tourist, dressed exactly the same, like he’d took a wrong turn in the Bahamas or Benidorm. Somewhere, at some point on their holiday, there he was.
In New Zealand they had went to see a prestigeous rugby match, a semi-final between North harbour and Hawkes bay, and who should be walking up the steps further along to their left?
He had disappeared through an exit, but it was Jaqueline who had noted that nobody else was looking at him.
In Guatemala, at the Tikal Mayan ruins, further ahead, they saw him sitting on steps where he would stand and walk up around a wall, out of sight.
Keith and Jaqueline were fairly sceptical about things supernatural, and had simply thought it was coincidence, but that could only stretch so far.
At a mardi-gras festival in the Phillipines as they were watching a parade, who should walk on past, and in so doing, give them a glance?
The stranger had wound his way into the fabric of their minds and they had found themselves talking about who he was and whether it really was a coincidence that he appeared at some point on their excursions.
Any subseqent holidays would harbour the slight apprehension of him appearing again. Keith thought, however, that if he should see him, then he would maybe approach, but was dubious about that. Talking to strangers was something he rarely did, so the thought was not appealing, even quite prudent, perhaps best left alone, but he could see Jaqueline doing that if he could not. Either way they knew they couldn’t let it prevent them from any further holidays.
They had told friends, and Jacqeline had sought answers from a doctor who offered her no answers. Even a local psychic she had found advertising on a library notice board had left her baffled. The man was a manifestation of her guru and was showing her the path towards self-realisation, trying to make her aware of the spiritual path she must undertake for inner peace and pure knowledge leading to the opening of her third eye which in turn would unblock any negativity within her chakras. Thank-you, that’ll be £50 please.
Their friends also couldn’t offer any answers, and they had heard the word ‘coincidence’ a lot, perhaps enough for them to believe that it really was. It is possible to flip a coin and land on tails a hundred, a thousand, a million times in a row? or roll a die, and keep landing on the same number?
So back on holiday they went, on a Mediterranean cruise, and it was towards the end of their ten day trip that the ship was slowly moving away from a harbour, and there he was, on the shore, standing amongst those waving at people on the ship, but he wasn’t waving, and Jaqueline guessed he was looking directly at them.
Without answers, they knew they had to accept that he would be there at some point, and wondered if they should approach him at all. Keith decided that he would try and find out who he was, and when they were on their next holiday in China, they were standing at Guangzhou’s pearl river dock, waiting to board the overnight boat to Wuzhou when out there on the river, a man was driving a dinghy, with one passenger, with his yellow hawaiian shirt and mirrored sunglasses. Keith knew there was no way to talk to him, as the boat disappeared away beyond the corner of a small building, and he knew he wouldn’t see him again until the next holiday.
Soon after they had arrived at Ivato international airport in Madagascar, they had taken a taxi to their hotel, and halfway there Keith had spotted the tourist simply walking along the pavement. ‘Stop’ he had said ‘Stop the car,’ the driver looking confused, yet the car was going slow enough to simply get out anyway, which is what Keith did, much to Jaqueline’s surprise. The driver was surprised also, thinking he was trying to get away without paying, and got out of the car himself and started shouting at Keith who was standing in the middle of the road, trying to see the tourist who had gone, vanished into the streets. A couple of vehicles beeped their horns and Keith sheepishly made his way back into the taxi with an annoyed driver, knowing that for the duration of that holiday, he wouldn’t see the tourist again.
For their next excursion, warm clothes was the order of the day as they headed up into the Arctic for an icebreaker cruiseship tour in the seas of Greenland, and in the middle of their ten day trip they stopped to walk one mile across the ice towards a designated wildlife viewing spot, overlooking the sea, where several chairs had been laid out and guides would talk to them about the animals. There may be seals that would come and say hello, and perhaps a few Beluga whales entertaining them as the cameras clicked away.
However, on this particular trip, as they were heading towards the viewing spot, icy snowy wind began to make an appearance, so much so that it made the people in front of them hard to see, but they saw enough that as the other people disappeared from view, they didn’t seem to acknowledge the intensifying weather, yet it was enough for Keith and Jaqueline to stop.
Through the blizzard, he emerged, still in his hawaiian shirt with his sunglasses and flip-flops. The storm didn’t seem to be affecting him at all. Keith and Jaqueline just stared at him. He then turned and walked back, stopping a little further ahead to check if they would follow. Keith and Jaqueline looked at each other, then at him, then began to walk towards him. The man walked deeper on into the icy storm.
The blizzard seemed to get worse but they ploughed on through, the tourist stopping every now and then to look back at them, until after around ten minutes the large looming maw of an ice cave emerged in front of them. They watched as the tourist disappeared into it, and followed him.
They came out of the icy wind, the snow howling past the entrance and looked at each other again as if the other had answers to unasked questions.
Jaqueline shrugged and walked into the cave. It wasn’t dark, the walls were icy blue, glistening, and they only walked in around forty metres to find not the tourist, but an elderly man, sitting on a rocking chair, staring at them.
They could hear the storm outside and they could hear the slow squeaking of the chair.
“Mr Shaw” said Keith. The man just looked at them, a look of disappointment on his face, in his wrinkled brown suit.
“Befrienders” said the man, standing up. He slowly slid forward, and they saw his eyes were black, his mouth opening wider than normal for nothing to emerge. He raised his arms towards them, but Keith and Jaqueline saw that they had turned into snakes, writhing pythons, and it was too late to turn and run when the snakes sunk their fangs into their throats.
Venom, or some kind of fluid flowed into their bloodstreams, and when it found its way into their brains the vision came like a kaleidoscopic avalanche.
Mr Shaw, sitting in his rocking chair in his care home, turning to look at the couple who volunteered for a local charity where they would go around to various institutions and befriend people who had no-one, no family, no friends, no-one but their own reflections.
When they befriended Mr Shaw, they discovered he was a rather wealthy man, making his money from the import/export of copper and aluminium, and began to neglect their duties elsewhere and focus their attention on him, as he had nobody to leave his money to. That was, until he made two new friends.
When he passed, Mr Shaw had left all his 24 million to Jaqueline and Keith who did not hesitate to use it for holidays, which would have been fine, however, but upon his passing into the after-life, Mr Shaw discovered they were not real friends at all, they were just befriending him for his money.
Could he forgive them though? he had asked himself.
It was a question he did not have an answer to because he could not decide, so over the years he began to appear to them as a tourist as he was his younger days, trying to work it out.
In the ice cave in the arctic, he made his decision.
Unconciousness swept over them and they collapsed to the floor.
After a few moments they awoke, as though they had been asleep for days. Mr Shaw had gone, the rocking chair had gone. The ice cave was normal.
They both stood up and looked at each other.
There was nothing to say. They knew they would never see the tourist again, except perhaps when in the after-life themselves, but until then, he would not disturb them.
They made their way slowly out of the ice cave. The blizzard had gone, and the sky was clear blue.
Yet, on the ground around four metres ahead, there was a snake, curled up, looking at them.
It uncurled itself by sliding away to the left, slowly, because written on the serpent in bold white lettering was the word: ‘FORGIVEN’.
Keith and Jaqeline stood there for a few moments, watching as it vanished into the distance.
“Shall we get back to the group?” asked Jaqueline quietly. Keith nodded.
“Yes”. They walked slowly back, and found that time had hardly passed at all, rejoining the group as normal, nobody having noticed them missing.
They sat in the chairs to watch the wildlife that decided to show themselves as the guide talked his rhetoric.
Keith and Jaqueline just looked and smiled at each other, Jaqueline resting her head on Keith’s shoulder, holding gloved hands.
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, John JonesWrite a Review