|Little Hog Island at Night|
Friday, September 28, 2012
Dana crept along the tumbled edges of the ruins, carefully stepping over and around fallen stones. She pressed close to the wall, but if anyone came out with a flashlight, they would see her. There was nowhere to hide. This is really stupid, Dana thought, Why am I doing this?
When she got to the window, she tried to swallow her heart back down—it seemed to be blocking her airways. She inched up her head and peered in.
By the light of a kerosene lamp, four men sat around a wooden table playing cards. Their faces, full of weird dancing shadows, reminded Dana of the witches from Macbeth. She shivered.
The man who faced the window was the one who had warned her not to swim to the island. His lids covered his eyes as he look down at the cards in his hand and he appeared to not see her. Dana walked past the door and past the next window, which was dark. She climbed over a crumbled wall, walked along an intact wall, past three more windows, and turned to walk behind the building. She wanted to reach one of the other windows she’d seen through the first one, a window where she could look in without being spotted by someone coming or going.
A sound startled her and she paused. Someone was behind the building. Dana heard him crashing around. She watched his light moving among the blocks of granite. She crouched in deep shadow between the wall and tumbled stone. She spotted another small building. In the light of the man’s flashlight, it looked like a stone shed. The man went in, banged around a little, and then was silent. A moment later, he reemerged and went back to the card-game building.
Dana waited a little while, and then walked over to the shed. A rusty padlock hung on a hasp. She looked for a window, and then realized the lock had not been pulled shut. She slipped it off, pulled the loop from the hasp, pushed the door slowly open, stopped when it made a low eerie creaking, pushed again gently and peered in. Rusty swords and bayonets hung on the walls. Along the base of three walls of the shed, footlockers were stacked. Dana opened one. Guns. More guns. On the other side, grenades. Dana shut the lids and headed for the door.
A sudden light in her face half-blinded her.
“What have we here?” asked a rough voice. The man who had warned her about the tides stood blocking the doorway. His deeply shadowed face did not look pleased.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
Discovery at Little Hog Island, Chapter 1: The Warning
i. The warning
Dana stood poised at the edge of the sea in her bathing suit. A rough wind tossed and tangled her hair. She studied the island, its rocky shore and the tangle of dark hemlocks and spruces. Sweeping away, barely visible behind the trees, was a barren rocky spit with birds flying in and out. Her birds, terns, by the look of it. The island was wild, intriguing and tempting, and close enough to swim to. She stepped between the rocks into the shockingly cold water, and paused, shivering.
A man coming up the beach waved his arm urgently. She considered going on, but decided to wait and stepped back onto the damp sand that had collected between jagged rocks. She was a little embarrassed because she was no longer trim, but bulged a little in her suit. The man was fully dressed in baggy blue work parts and a long-sleeved blue work shirt and did not look as if he would ever wear swim trunks. He was gruff-looking, weather-beaten and sported a two-day beard. He looked to be fifty-ish, about her age.
“You thinking of swimming out to Little Hog Island?” He asked. “Not from these parts, eh?”
“Yeah, I thought I’d swim out and back. I like a destination, when there’s one nearby."
“I need to warn you: it’s not safe. The way the tide comes in and out around the island, there are currents, and they get very fast. People have died trying to swim out there, visitors. Most of the locals know better. Ask anyone. Want to swim? Go over the dunes there and swim in the lake. It’s warmer, too.”
“Thanks,” Dana said, as the man turned and strode back down the beach among the rocks.
She looked back at the island, considering the man’s words. The island was so close, and she couldn’t see any currents. She looked at his back retreating through the rocks. He turned and saw her looking at him, and paused. She stepped back up the beach.
She went over the dunes and found a lake, picturesque amid the pines. After she’d swum, she lay on a blanket and half-dozed, thinking and dreaming of the island until voices woke her. A group of teenagers traipsed into the swale between the dunes and set up a volleyball net. They immediately began were playing, diving for the ball, leaping high. From their banter, she gathered they were locals.
“Excuse me,” she asked, “Has anyone drowned swimming out to Little Hog Island?”
“Yes,” a girl said, “a couple people, three or four. I guess there’re bad currents there.”
“Have any of you been out there?” The kids all shook their heads.
“My Grandpa said he’d been out there, and kids used to go out when he was a kid. I guess the current shifted. He said there was some ruins.” one boy said.
“But you never went out to look?”
“Nah, never thought about it much.”
Dana couldn’t stop thinking about it. She dug out supplies, a water bottle, a headlamp with red gels over the light, a mini mag light that would fit in her pocket. She hauled her inflatable kayak out of her huge backpack and blew it up. She felt like a spy or a criminal. If there were bad currents, she would avoid them. As soon as it got dark, she paddled south along the shore until she was well past the island, then out to sea, and then back around. She landed without incident on the far side of the island and stowed the kayak in the bushes. Then she crept carefully up a narrow path through the darkness, holding her headlamp with its red gel low to the ground.
Did she think she was some kind of sleuth? Who was she kidding? Her imagination was overactive, probably, thinking that man was trying to hide something. And if he were, would she be able to find it? Then what?
The trail climbed steeply, winding between rocks and a thicket of trees, and then opened into a clearing. Ruins were dimly visible, stone walls, foundations, a small stone building that looked intact. From the window, a light shone—and she heard voices.