Strange things happen on the idyllic island
Word count 1894
The small holiday Island off the coast of Spain attracted many visitors from the mainland each year. The twice daily ferry disgorged hundreds of day trippers and those who were visiting for their annual vacation. The island had much to offer, stunning scenery, cliff walks and long secluded beaches.
It was coming to the end of the season. A chill wind blew in from the ocean, reminding the permanent residents to think about “shutting up shop” for a while.
Old Mrs Polanski disliked “the foreigners” as she called anyone whose family hadn’t lived on the island for at least a hundred years, and was always pleased to see the end of the tourist season. Katerina Polanski was ageless, her house in the main square overlooked all the goings on and nothing got past those bright eagle eyes of hers. So much so that the police took little interest when Katerina reported some misdemeanour or other, as she did so often. From her third-floor bedroom window she would sit knitting in her favourite rocking chair, watching “her domain” below.
The year had been a busy one. More crowds of tourists than ever poured from the ferries, excited to begin their vacation on the beautiful Island. Mrs Polanski had been busy keeping her eye on the visitors as they crowded daily into the town centre, making a mess and keeping her awake till all hours.
The store across the road from her house, Ye Old Curiosity Shop, usually had a dozen or so customers looking for a bargain. Tom, the owner, never let a patron escape his sales pitch if he could avoid it. His friendliness and interest in people was endless.
“Where are you from, my friend?” He’d ask, displaying his genuine interest in people and ability to talk to anyone. He’d soon discover if they were on vacation, or if they were travelling alone. This left the potential customer feeling almost obliged to purchase some unusual knick-knack or other. There was no shortage of items to choose from, for the displays in the two large bay windows were fascinating and changed often. Tom offered old clocks and jewellery, pottery and brass from the Orient, breathtaking coloured glassware and even the odd stuffed animal or two. One was never sure what hidden gem there may be, if one only looked hard enough.
“Come On In, We Are Open” the sign welcomed people to browse every single day of the week. Old Tom didn’t like missing a sale and never seemed to mind working the long hours.
“You work too hard Tom, you’re not getting any younger you know.” Katerina shouted from her window one evening. Tom raised his eyes to his friend of many years. He was used to their banter and smiled.
“You know you’re older than me, Katerina.” He laughed and coaxed, “ We could still show the young ones how to dance if you’d only come down from that window of yours.” With that he began to dance to a Viennese Waltz playing on an antique gramophone just inside his shop.
The old lady smiled, “I need to keep my eyes on things Tom, you know that. Soon all the foreigners will be gone and we can have some peace and quiet.”
“It’s those foreigners that keep my shop going, the locals don’t buy much. I won’t be sorry though when this season’s over. I’m feeling tired.”
“Close up for the day Tom, it’s getting late.”Tom gave a wave as he went into his shop.
Almost all of the visitors had left the little Island to its winter sleep, but Katerina still sat by her window rocking in her red velvet chair. Her once thick black hair, now nearly white, lay across her shoulders, released from the long plait she usually wore. She gazed down at the town square and over to Tom’s closed shop. She could have been his wife. After her first husband died Tom had confessed he’d always admired her, and would she consider marrying an old man such as he? She’d refused, but now several years later, wondered if it would have been a solution to the loneliness they must both feel.
She was musing about what might have been when something stopped her train of thought. “What was that?” she murmured. Sitting motionless and listening intently, she wondered what had caught her eye. Then she saw in the night sky a glow and heard a faint droning. She stood and opened the window wide, leaning her body upwards, staring at the light. It seemed to hover motionless above the square, then speed off and disappear from her view. She grabbed the telephone, which was always next to the chair, placed so she could contact the police quickly if she needed to report an incident.
“Hello Sergeant. This is Katerina Polanski”
“Yes, Mrs Polanski, what can I do for you this time?” Katerina could hear the sarcasm in his voice but chose to ignore it.
“I wish to report strange lights in the sky. It happened only a few minutes ago. Do you think someone has sent one of those drone things to spy on the island?”
“Mrs Polanski, I’m sure that’s not the case. No one else has reported anything, but if you see it again be sure to let us know.” He said, abruptly ending the call.
Sergeant Derek replaced the phone and sighed. “That bloody woman has too much imagination, and too much time on her hands.”
“Oh, Christ, not Mrs Polanski again, Sarge? She’s a pest, that’s at least six complaints this month. What was this time, the neighbour's dog?”
The constable laughed, “That’s a new one, Sarge.”
“We’re too shorthanded to be spending valuable time chasing imaginary drones.” The Sarge seemed irritated, “We’ve had another report of someone missing.”
“People sometimes just leave the Island without first telling anyone. Who’s gone missing now?”
“Some young chap, his girlfriend said he’d gone out to get bread from the bakery and never came back.”
“Probably had a row and changed his return ticket without telling her. It happens all the time Sarge.”
Katerina heard the click as the policeman hung up the phone just as she was about to speak, leaving her with her mouth open. “How rude!” Standing at her open window looking into the night sky, she thought, I know what I saw. Folk around here think I’m going senile. She sat back down in her chair, her cat Rufus was soon curled up on her knee as she watched the dark sky and waited.
Something woke her. She realised it was that droning sound again. Rufus gave a cry of indignation as Katerina pushed him to the floor. The bedroom suddenly filled with a blue undulating glow. Frightened, she stood away from the window, afraid that whatever made that dreadful sound would enter her house. Eventually she plucked up enough courage to look through the open window and saw, above her friend’s shop, a beam of light emanating from a source high in the scudding clouds. She picked up the phone, intending to call the police again, then paused, they’ll think I’m delusional, Putting on her old dressing gown and slippers, she went downstairs and opened the front door leading directly out onto the street. She stepped cautiously out into the chilly night. There was no sign of anything. The empty street appeared normal, no noise, no blue light, just the moon and the sound of her own breathing.
The next morning Katerina wondered if she had imagined the whole thing as she slipped Rufus a bit of toast from her plate. After breakfast she decided she’d go and ask Tom if he’d heard anything in the night. She waited until opening time and walked across. That’s strange, he’s always open by now, she thought, when she saw the ‘Closed’ sign. She cupped her hands to peer through the glass door but could see no sign of life. She was about to cross back over the road when she decided to try the door and found it opened easily. The bell jangled, breaking the eerie silence.
“Hello Tom, it’s Katerina,” she called quietly. There was no answer. A shiver travelled through her old bones as she turned to leave. Then a sound, quiet but unmistakable, came from the room at the back of the shop. “Tom, is that you?” Katerina imagined perhaps her friend was lying ill on the floor. The sound had come from behind a closed door posting a sign which read, “More curiosities in here. You're welcome to browse.” Katerina knew this was the part of the shop which held the bigger pieces of old furniture and household goods such as old washing machines, mangles, copper pots and pans, in fact anything that instilled nostalgia. She pushed on the door; it swung open silently.
It took Katerina’s mind a few seconds to comprehend the scene she’d stumbled upon. This room was windowless and yet she could see the bizarre tableau cast in the same eerie blue light she’d seen the night before. Reluctant to enter any further, she stopped dead in her tracks.
It was then she felt the grip of cold, sharp claws around the back of her neck, propelling her forward. Horrified, she felt as if she had no power to resist, shuffling along in her tatty old slippers. The cord on her dressing gown had loosened, and she stood vulnerable in her long flannelette nightdress, staring at the vision before her. A large, round antique dining table and six ornate, ebony chairs were in the middle of the crowded room. The bony claw still gripped the back of her neck, making it impossible to turn her head to see what thing held her in the vice like grip. But she recognised the voice. It was Tom.
“Welcome Katerina, please join us. There is a vacant chair waiting, just for you.” Her legs trembled as the hand pushed her down on to the chair. Suddenly released, she was free to stare in horrified fascination at her companions. They were barely recognisable as human beings, as their bodies seemed devoid of any fluids, all blood long sucked dry. She forced herself to raise her pale blue, watery eyes to look upon the grinning faces. Their dried skin, like parchment, stretched taut over skulls, but it was the eyes that would be the last memory that would imprint upon her brain. The eyes of all five corpses were hanging from sockets on sinewy threads, the eyeballs appearing as nothing more than small dried fruit. Bony hands rested upon the varnished surface, the fingers giving the occasional twitch. Turning her head away from the horror, she sought to get some explanation, or comfort from her would be lover. Tom’s arm snaked around her shoulders, his hand once more wrapping around her throat. Suddenly his fingers were like syringes, one by one puncturing her flesh. Katerina heard a sucking sound close to her ear. Slurp. Slurp. Unable to resist, she felt her life’s blood being pumped from her body. She couldn’t move or speak and her vision faded. The last sound she heard was Tom’s voice.
“Ah Katerina. So nosy, such a busybody.” He chuckled as her bodily fluids drained into his alien’s body. “Remember, Katerina my love, It was curiosity that killed the cat.”