The Island, Epilogue
At the break of dawn, Kell and I woke up feeling somewhat frazzled, to say the least.
“You ok Steve?” He said rubbing his eyes.
“Yeah, and you?” I replied through a long yawn
“I’m good, mister. C’mon, let’s go see the damage at the museum before we head back to the inn. See if we can get back before panting Pinter gets wind we’re missing in action.”
And with that, we were up and off in the direction of the museum.
As we approached the museum there was an eerie silence about the place. Normally you could expect to hear birdsong. Not one tweet could be heard.
We went through the gardens and eventually turned a corner into the central patio where all the figureheads were on display. We fully expected to see total and utter devastation. Nothing of the sort.
Everything was exactly as it should have been as if nothing had ever happened. There was a faint smell of napalm and nothing of bitter almonds.
Kell and I just stared at it all in disbelief. What the hell, was it all just a bad dream?
Suddenly I noticed a couple of things. The figure I had down for a beautiful middle-aged Charlotte had a somehow more relaxed expression on her face. There were traces of rivulets of tears running down her cheek. At the base of the figure, on the plinth lay a white feather rocking back and forth slightly on its spine. As I stared at the feather I heard the soft flapping of a birds wings somewhere behind me. I quickly looked over my shoulder and thought I caught a glimpse of a white dove.
“ Hey Steve, look over here,” Kell said.
He was standing next to the only figurehead in a state of charred ruin. On the floor at the base was what looked like a small mound of burnt sawdust. I bent down and lightly touched it. I gingerly held my slightly blackened fingertip to my nose. Burnt bitter almonds.
“ Beats me.” Said Kell. “Let’s head back to the inn, c’mon.”
We set off for the inn through the beautifully manicured gardens onto the rough dirt path, overgrown with bracken and bush.
We got back to the inn just in time to see Pinter coming out of a side door, all of sweaty fluster, as usual.
“ So there you are,...." Pinter said, exhaling a big breath of relief. " You’ll never believe what’s happened Kell,” he said totally ignoring me, as if I didn’t exist.
“ Bloody kitchen porter has gone missing and it looks like that kid whose thieving mother once worked here has not returned home neither. She’s been down here searching high and low for him. Have either of you two seen anything of those two on your travels anywhere?”
“ Nope.” Said Kell emphatically.
“Right,..." said Pinter, "....well get yourselves breakfasted and ready to start work if you can, I’m expecting a couple more boatloads of guests mid-morning.” And with that Pinter turned and headed back inside the inn.
“ OK Stevie boy, nothing happened last night, ok? Zero, nada, nothing, period. I’m gonna get a shower, I suggest you do likewise huh. I’ll see you in the bar in about half an hour.” Kell went slowly to his room as if he was a man who didn’t have a care in the world. I too headed off to my room to grab a towel and a clean change of clothes.
As I passed by the beer garden I suddenly caught sight of a white dove on the picket fence right where the black crow was perched yesterday.
I went inside my room, grabbed my things and headed to the shower block.
AS I came out of the shower block I noticed that the white dove was no longer perched on the picket fence. I simply carried on to my room thinking no more of it.
As I entered my room I saw Charlotte in broad daylight standing by my bed with her back to the window.
“ Hello Steve, are you ok?" She whispered.
“ Kind of, I suppose,” I answered.
“ Steve, I have a lot to thank you for. I was watching over you. I really wanted you to leave, you know. But I’m glad you stayed.
Steve, you not only freed me, but you also freed all the others too.”
“ Who were they all?” I asked.
“ Oh, you know, old mariners who lost their lives when their ships foundered on the nearby rocks.”
“ And that palooka I called bitter almonds?
Who or what was he?”
“ Captain Burkheart was his name. His ship the ‘Celeste’ was carrying a cargo of almonds from India when got wrecked on the rocks. Burkheart was the only survivor. They say he abandoned his ship and his men to save his own skin. His fate was to be shunned by the people and haunted by the ghosts of his crew. For that reason, he became a very bitter man and preyed on innocent souls like me.”
“ So what was with the book, ‘Beyond the Body’, and why didn’t he simply take it when he had it in his hands, right here in this room?”
“ He had been told that that book contained a codified account of what happened to me. The writer, who was a traveller on the astral plane, was too afraid to write openly about it, fearing retribution from supernatural forces.
Burkheart was a convenient agent for them, those evil powers that have ruled over this place for far too long. He was a willing participant in capturing innocent souls for them.
He probably didn’t take the book because he was fearful that you might have already discovered the codified message in the text. What he really wanted was you, Steve. But he felt safer taking your soul down at the museum. Here was far too risky for him.
When he realised you and your friend had enemies he decided to recruit them to serve his own evil intentions.”
“ Right,” I said softly. “This morning my friend and I went back to the museum and found it all in one piece after we virtually destroyed it last night. Can you explain that for me?"
“ I know, I was there looking over you. Steve….” She paused and gazed out of the window a little.
“……you know, some things just can’t be explained. Sometimes it’s best not to dig too deep, for your own safety and well-being. It’s best to not know too much.”
“ Ok, the girl from Canada who was with me, what happened to her?”
“I’m sorry to have spoilt your fun. She seemed like a nice girl. When I realised you were not going to simply disappear as I asked you, I spooked her to get her to leave the island and get as far away as possible. Right now she’s on a train down through France, en-route to the South of Spain before she moves on to Morocco. She’s ok, she’s safe and well.”
“Ok, I understand,” I said. “And you, what happens with you now?”
“ I’m free at last Steve, thanks to you. Of course, I can never return to the land of the living. I just have to stay here for now and wait for my mum and dad. The Elysian Fields can be a heaven or a hell Steve, it’s whatever you choose to make it.
I’m at peace here, thanks to you and your friend.”
At that moment I felt somebody had come up behind me. I looked over my shoulder. It was Kell.
“ You talking to yourself, you can get put in a padded cell for that huh.”
I was still facing Charlotte and shrugged my shoulders at her.
“ It’s ok,” she said. “Your friend isn’t sensitive enough to see or hear me." she whispered.
“ It’s time for me to go, don’t forget to find my parents and tell them I’m ok.” She said.
In that loud baritone voice of his, Kell said
“ Are you going to stare out of that window all freekin day or are we going to get a man’s breakfast down our necks?”
In the time it took me to look behind and say “I’m coming.” Charlotte had disappeared. I turned to find Kell had already left my room and was halfway down the hall. Like an obedient little puppy dog, I trotted after my master.
As we crossed the beer garden I saw the white dove still perched on the picket fence.
Suddenly panting Pinter came out whinging
“ You’ll never guess what’s happened…..”
“ After breakfast sir, two hungry men need to eat.” Then he turned his head to me and surreptitiously said: “ Ok, ignore him, he’s always the bloody same, let’s go eat.”
Later that day I found myself disembarking the big yellow Sea King helicopter on the mainland. It was the same chopper that had taken me to the island.
Kell had seen me off the island, taking me to the main island and the local heliport in his repaired new boat. It was a beautiful boat.
I wasn’t surprised it was so desired by any who cast eyes on her.
Kell gave me a big man hug and made me promise to stay in touch. I said I would, but I have never spoken to him since. I hope he’s still around somewhere, and who knows, maybe one day we will bump into one another again.
From the heliport on the mainland, I headed straight to the local library clutching Charllote’s teddy bear in my hand. I was a man on a mission.
At the library, I was in luck. The first volume of local residents revealed that the only Bingham’s in town were but a few streets away. I handed the volume back to the old librarian and left the library full of hope that both Charlotte’s parents were still alive.
In no more than five minutes I found myself standing on the doorstep of an old rustic cottage built out of locally quarried sandstone. I knocked, not too loudly, on the old oak door. To my right I saw curtains twitching, no doubt somebody checking to see who I might be.
In less than a minute an old couple opened the door.
“ Hello, I’m sorry to bother you,..... I said. “ ....I have a message from your daughter, Charlotte?”
The two old pensioners appeared to not be in too bad health. They both gave me a confused expression. Then Charlotte’s father spoke ever so softly and tenderly.
“ That’s impossible. You see young man, our lovely daughter……” tears started to well up in his strained eyes. I too could feel their pain, his pain, at what he wanted to say. But he just couldn’t finish his sentence.
I held up Charlotte’s teddy and at first, the old couple simply frowned in confusion. Eventually, they said in unison, “Ok, you better come in, young man.”
I sat on the old lounge sofa sipping tea, in between sips, telling them what Charlotte had asked me to say.
From what they told me they had indeed split up after the event, but over the years they had come to forgive each other for nothing that was nothing more than a few seconds of distracted attention as Charlotte slipped out of the back door to go see the figureheads at the museum.
I handed over Charlotte’s old teddy bear and could immediately see what comfort it was going to give them in their remaining years. Just at that moment I noticed a beautiful white dove sat on the longe window sill.
"Oh look, what a beautiful bird!" I exclaimed.
" Yes." said Mrs Bingham, it came earlier on then just flew off. And now it's back. I said to my husband Charles how if it hangs around we should care for it a little and call it Charlotte. You see, she loved animals, and white doves she adored. She once said she wanted to be a white dove and live in heaven forever." At that they both broke down in tears. My eyes too were watering up.
In the end, I left them to their deep sadness, tinged with a little sparkle of joy that their daughter had reached out to them from the other side.
I slowly made my way to the nearby bus station to catch a bus home up in the north.
As I approached the queue for my bus I found myself stood behind a girl just like the girl from Canada. I gently tapped her on the shoulder and said “ Helen…..”
The girl turned her head to look at me and I immediately realised my mistake.
“…..Ahhh, I’m terribly sorry, my bad.” I stuttered.
She simply smiled the loveliest, brightest open smile and said “ Oh, that’s ok, I do that all the time. It kinda sucks, doesn’t it? Where you headed anyway?"
“ Up north, to the end of the line,” I said.
“ Cool, me too, let’s sit together, help pass the hours ahead of us. Tell me all about what an adventurous life you’re having.”
" Where are you from?" I asked.
" West coast of Canada." she said.
And with that, we boarded the bus and went straight to the back to get comfortable.
“Well…..I came down here seeking adventure, and oh boy did I ever find it.” I began.
The bus rumbled out of the station, jolting us as it rolled bumpily over old cobbled streets. Suddenly I noticed the white dove out of the bus window flying alongside of us. After a few minutes the dove peeled off and flew out over the over the sea. As I tried to keep an eye on it until it disappeared, I caught sight of a little dinghy with what looked like a hunchback at the helm. At the top of its mast a beautiful Canadian Snow Goose flew around in circles just above the mast. And I thought to myself, this is going to be one hell of a story. And I’m not sure the length of this journey is going to give me enough time to get through to the end of it. But I was in no hurry to leave the pleasant company of such a lovely looking, smiley girl. And, if I was in luck, maybe this wasn’t the beginning of the end of the journey after all. Maybe it was just the start of another chapter of this thing we call life.