A mysterious couple take a boat trip to an island of the dead
|He bent over and tensed out his arms. His hands, fisting around the handles, held them down towards the bottom of the boat. The oars came up like two spread-out gigantic wings for a few static moments until he pulled up the wood and let them drop like some deep-sea diver. He dragged them across the top of the boat and released his hands. The lake returned to its mirror-like surface hiding the gray to black icy depths. The boatman decided to take a rest. The boat moved slightly as he sat still and positioned his legs now and then for several minutes as he collected his thoughts.
Here's a couple of live ones He eyed them suspiciously, guardedly. The seconds stretched into minutes which seemed like hours. He wasn't used to move living ones. They were apt to ask questions. It was usually the dead that were shifted; corpses wrapped mummy-like in threadbare cloth that needed burying. He was taking them to a solitary island, a bleak desolate place that served as a burial ground. The island was called The 'Isle of Dead Persons Bones.' There was also a castle-like tower, a ruin that stood in the center. Despite being neglected, weather-beaten, it had remained embedded in the soil for centuries.
Wafers of mist began to skim and collect across the water. It started to thicken and mask the surroundings. A breeze picked up. The water rippled ending the stillness. The cloaked visibility reduced it to a few yards. The ripples petered out into the thick vapor.
The boatman shivered. He grasped the oar handles and extended his arms like two parallel gymnast poles and drew them up to his chest. The water sloshed back and forward as the oars did their work. He couldn't see why the husband and wife needed to visit the island unless it was to pay respects to some buried relative, some deceased mother, father, father-in-law perhaps, a distant cousin, to some corpse he'd brought across. Had curiosity got the better of them? Not many knew about the island unless some word had got out.
"Are we there yet?" The woman's tone was earnest, high-pitched. The boatman said nothing. Her husband sat rigid. The bench's hard surface numbed his behind. His bent legs were, widely set apart. He looked askance into the opaque distance. He wanted to look away from the boatman's fixed expression. He thought something about scrutiny lurked within the eyes.
You could hardly call them tourists the boatman surmised as he gazed intently at them. His gaping mouth showed yellow uneven gap teeth. His brown leather sou-wester was upturned at the front. His toothy leer couldn't make head or tail of them. There wasn't any camera slung over the man's shoulder. She was dressed in a dull gray raincoat with a pale blue headscarf. Who would want to visit a small landmass in the middle of forbidden waters? There's nothing of interest, of comfort to see, on the place of skeletons, skulls and shards.
The vessel got nearer. A bank of thick weedy undergrowth started to appear. He let the boat drift into a small enclave where it came to a stop on some shattered rocks. The couple got up and stepped out of the boat once it felt firm on top of the broken mass. Their feet dislodged the rocks and prodded the surface as they walked up the inlet. The boatman dragged the boat up the beach until he stopped at a wooden stake where he slung a knotted cord and tied it off to secure it.
He called after the couple: "You won't be late back will you? "The question sounded pointless, spurious, misplaced, given their inexplicable reason for being there, but he dreaded rowing back on an inky black surface. He could follow it blindfolded but It gave him the creeps just thinking about doing it in the dark. He returned to the boat and sat hunched on the middle bench, took out a thin roll-up from a tin he had bedded in an inside pocket and started smoking. Whiffs of smoke coiled and drifted away from the lighted tobacco that burned inwards as he started to take drags.
The couple clambered up the bank. It was difficult to find an opening through a cluster of trees that almost barred the way through.
"I thought he was never going to avert his attention," the husband complained."His gaze was uncanny, like a detective's."
"We had to get here somehow. We have to get this done or there'll be hell to pay."
They finished the last few feet anxiously. Before them was mound after mound of burial sites, like viewing a war cemetery. Their feet pushed through dense undergrowth, most of it neglected. It started to soak their shoes as spats of rain began to descend, adding to the already moist grass. They footed warily passed the end and along the sides of the mounds like treading on eggshells. Something had forewarned them not to tread on the mounds - something in the air - perhaps it was a premonition. Tall winter-looking trees, one here, another there, appeared at the sides of the burial site contrasting the dense tree-vegetation cloaking the bank. Several crows croaked after they'd landed on the cold branches. Their eyelids, as they saw the couple through rare moments, flicked on and off like flashlights. The wind picked up and brushed the couple's cheeks. It did nothing to dispel the fog that plagued the air like cancer.
Dull gray granite loomed. Blocks that were thick were bricked on top of each other like a wall except that it went upwards instead of along. The fog prevented them from seeing how far.
"Have we arrived? Is this the place?"
"According to the dream it is. It's what I saw?" The wife's affirmation sounded reassuring, but it was the only building on the entire island.
Approaching the building the undergrowth got even thicker. Walking around the outside, they looked for an entrance. There didn't appear to be one, an opening that led inside.
"How do we get in?" the husband asked. "This is all we need."
They felt along the base of the tower, pressing each of the blocks like a blind person without a stick. It was like clutching at straws but there had to be a way in. It's what her dream showed.
They continued to feel the blocks and press frantically. The man, pressing one repeatedly, caused a grating sound. It started to move inwards as though it acted as a pass key for other blocks that started to grate and move one after the other like a set of dominoes until they formed a door six feet by three that opened inside providing an entrance. A dark gap appeared in front of them.
The couple let out a verbal exclamation which confirmed the woman's suspicions. "I told you there had to be a way inside, for us, or a secret we stumbled on that hasn't been rediscovered for centuries."
"It doesn't look inviting." The husband hunched his shoulders.
They stepped inside, cautiously. They had no way of knowing what they'd find.
A gloomy tunnel, wide enough for three people to span, led the way forward. Its walls were cave-like; an uneven stone that looked like it had been quarried, but it glittered lighting up the dingy surrounds.
"There's no need to use the torch." The man was relieved that he didn't need to reach into his jacket's long inside pocket and fetch one out. But the wife felt an uneasy premonition, that the walls were evil.
"Don't touch the sides on any account," she warned.
"I don't know, except they're dangerous. They give me the creeps."
It was an enchanted tunnel. It could only be used to gain access to the chamber, but the tower was barely large enough to accommodate such a thoroughfare but it held the key for getting to the place of destiny.
It wasn't long before they came to another door. It was locked. Not only locked but bolted.
"What do we do now?"
"Shh...I can hear something." The woman pressed her right ear against the door.
A feint whining sound, like the voices of crying children, came from the other side. It got louder and louder, reaching to such a pitch that she drove her ear away from the door and cupped it in the palm of her hand.
"Stop! I can't bear it!"
"That chanting. It's awful." She buried her face in her hands for a few minutes before releasing them. "We can't go in unless it's repeated three times."
"Do we really want to go through with this? Shouldn't we just head back?"
"We have to go on," she insisted. "There's no other choice."
She re-positioned herself in front of the door, calmed herself as best she could and waited for a few moments before speaking:
If you want to come in, come in, come in
Find out the mystery or just let it be
You know you can win
If you want to come in
After the third time, nothing was heard unless a pin was dropped. They stood there for some minutes which seemed like hours. The bolts at the top and bottom of the door started to move and pull back automatically from their metal housing. A key appeared in a hole at the center of the side of the door. The key turned three revolutions anti-clockwise. The door started to open inwards. There was no creaking sound except for an echo. They started to look into a space that look vague, indeterminable.
"Do you think it's safe to go in?" The husband asked nervously. He secretly hoped his wife didn't want to venture any further.
"There's only one way to find out, isn't there?"
She led the way and stepped over the threshold, a shallow step that led into what seemed like a circular chamber.They had to venture past a corner on the right which blocked the view. They took tentative steps. Beyond the corner, the chamber was too dingy. The door thudded shut leaving a lingering echo. There was no way back. Her husband retraced his steps and panicked. Fear gripped as he tried to force open the door. It wouldn't budge. His felt as though his gut was sinking into his body.
"What are we going to do? We can't get out! We're trapped!"
"We'll have to go in."
He fumbled for the torch in his right coat pocket and pulled it out. "I hope this works."
He flicked the switch open. The beam immediately lit up the surrounds. He shone it to the right, then to the left as though he was searching for a defunct fuse until he fixed it on a stone circle, like a one-layered cake, on top of a platform directly in the middle.
"Well...blow me down. What do you think that's all about?" The mysterious table-like object held a curiosity which blew away his fears.
"Not sure. I can't make it out. I think we...."
Before she could finish her sentence and they could venture a step further, a noise like the sound of rushing winds began to penetrate the chamber. It got louder and louder, then the shrieking began.
Something began to emerge from underneath the floor and float with the shrieking. It was a black cloaked and hooded figure. The dark material glistened from the torch's light. It floated this way then that. Another emerged and did the same, then another, until the entire chamber was filled with phantom-like apparitions. Each of the cloaks wrapped a pale white body. They weren't anything physical. They'd been selected among the dead. Their past merited it. The eyes were hollow, as though nothing was there except for the sockets. The mouths started to open widely and to gape. A snake-hissing sound began. It began to pull. The man clutched his throat. She did the same. They found it difficult to breathe. The apparitions were sucking the lives out of the couple.
"Quick! To the circle! It's our only hope!"
The hissing got more and more intense. The lack of oxygen made them gasp and stop their footsteps as though they were choking in smoke. But it wasn't just oxygen. It was their selves, their beings that were being pulled. They crawled on their bellies on the stone floor. They tensed out both their arms to try and touch the plinth, but it was too late. They lay limp. The two bodies remained as lifeless as the stone floor that bore them.
The beings were above their lifeless corpses. A Force immediately pulled them away from the bodies. Its energy floated and permeated them around the chamber along the circular sides and under the ceiling. The phantoms couldn't reach them. The hissing, although it didn't break, wasn't strong enough to break through the wind. It was a different wind from the wind of the phantoms.
The force spread over the top of the plinth. The cake-like circle reacted to the force, like methane gas that had suddenly ignited, but it was no ordinary fire that shot upwards like a spiral staircase from a hole in the middle. It shattered the roof of the tower with penetrating force. The fragments of the ceiling fell inwards with a rapaciousness that they clattered onto the stone floor. The wind dragged the beings into the cool flame. It couldn't disintegrate them. Instead, it pulled them up out of the building and into the firmament.
The Boatman, still sitting in his wooden vessel, nearly fell over the side as he reacted open mouthed, eyes staring widely at the bolt of lightning, until it was snuffed out like a squashed potato.
"Mr and Mrs Richardson." He called for the couple. "It's getting late. We need to head back." There was no answer. He clambered up through the growth, among the burial mounds, to the back of the tower. It was just by chance that he didn't wrong-foot his steps and clamber on the mounds. It was silent as the grave. He continued to call. There was still no answer.
He reached the boat, loosened the tied cord and slid the boat back into the water. I'm not waiting for that couple....no bloody way.
The chipping and tweeting of the bird sound in the tree outside the bedroom window usually woke Mrs Richardson. Being a light sleeper, she didn't need to use an alarm. But it wasn't the chirping this time. She'd been jolted from a sleep that was almost comatose. She shook her husband's shoulder.
"What time is it?" He shifted drowsily.
"Almost a quarter past six. I had the most strangest of dreams, but I'm fine now." She relayed to her husband the details.
"I had the same dream. How extraordinary."
"I told you we had to see it through. Let's press our hands together and see if the power works."
"How could we see it through - in a dream, I mean?"
"I can't explain it, but it held the key."
They sat up and faced each other and sandwiched the others hands as though pressed in some prayer-like ritual.
A few days later, it was reported that a massive Tsunami expected down the west coast of Africa had been averted.
A flood of migrants from a refugee camp were being allowed across the English Channel into Britain.
It was only the start.