Off The Grid Chapter 2
To The Lighthouse
The Saint Augustine is a silhouette between the jaws of an inlet as night creeps toward her. The huge shape of the vessel fills a splash of distant ocean beyond the narrow channel. Her Larch planks moan quietly at anchor in the inlet under the last colours of a setting late August sun. In front of her a dense fringe of mangroves seem to close up and draw nearer around her as their branches and leaves disappear from green into reddish blue, and gradually dissolve into a darkening wall of black shadow shapes.
On deck, sitting on the edge of the deck, a figure pulls an arm free from a makeshift sling and rubs the shape of an injured shoulder, then, with deep rubbing, feels satisfaction in the density and definition of toned sinews and muscle.
The evening is growing and a half moon, tracked close by Venus, gashes a celestial image into the face of the sky creating a silent pathway for the carpet of milky way lights emerging behind. Hints of redness are still spilled across the warm horizon, but the only meaning for this nervous person is sufficient light to make out the lighthouse shed. “two hundred metres – not too far - swim it in fifteen or twenty -no problem no problem mother – do the necessary – do the necessary”.
Only the tin roof of the lighthouse gleams out against the wall of mangroves. The inlet has now become a black cave.
The figure climbs down the rope ladder which hangs over the planks of the swollen hull. Dangling a foot into the water it is pleasantly warm and soft. “not too deep” and then startles as a bird cries wheeling overhead.
Pausing, remembering a dream from last night where flocks of petrels, thousands of petrels which were being hatched but were out of control, attacked swarming all over, but fluffy and warm but choking. “did I die” the casual thought is murmured. Hard to remember although the feeling of the warm feathers around the skin is mirrored by the skin of the water
The figure slides into the darkening water and beneath the surface it is cool against the legs.
The moonlight is beginning to make the tin shed of the lighthouse glow white – the tall bamboo poles of the shack are in darkness and hard to make out, but the roof is shining clear like a beacon and the water is a pulsing silver sheet.
“be with me god and keep me safe” out loud, floating beside the comforting power of the wooden boat edge, and the child inside prays again and again. Pushing away and beginning to stroke the body through the clear stillness, pushing through the warm surface and the gentle coolness of the water.
The shape of the boat has now receded behind, and the black box shape of the wooden shack looms ahead. Tiring a little, feeling the ache growing in the sore shoulder. The tide is mild but it is coming in and helping, rubbing the shoulder while floating, rubbing gently.
Then a gentle bump against the left calf. The urge to shout leaps into a silent throat, a freeze rushing through veins rushing it to the heart. The moon watches passively as the shout of surprise is a silent alarm.
Taking a deep breath the figure now floats unmoving on the surface of the inlet water, like a log, feeling the soft swaying of the incoming tide beneath. Now edging closer to the mangroves in stillness and suspension. The reality of the bump against the leg fades into disbelief but then the reality of it cannot be denied. A look across to the glowing roof of the shed then back to the empty safety of the boat. The big hulk of floating black wood seems closer. “do the necessary god – look after me – look out for me” quietly, and then propelling onward toward the shack. Not splashing or breaking the water, only gently breast-stroking.
Bang! This time the bump is harder. The victim tries to swim hard but now going side-ways and only one leg will work. Suddenly dragged beneath the water there is struggling and kicks with a free leg. The leg kicks against something huge – some monster – more kicks and twists with urgency and desperate anger. Then the figure bobs to the surface like a bloody cork.
The surface of the water is calm, lit softly as the moonlight picks out the detailed patterns of the tide like thousands of intricate scales moving and breathing in a glittering gown.
Now swimming furiously and splashing arms wildly but one leg is not working. The shack is looking closer, nearer “please god let me...” Bang! hit again at the hip this time, and beating wildly silently screaming above the water and under again against the great jaws that have closed. Punching punches, punches, punching wildly at the huge head, searching for eyes to strike. Then released again to see the moon, but the sound of bone cracking is like a horrible signal of approaching doom. “Not me not me not yet god please” and a thrashing hand at last closes on the rung of the ladder of the shack and the figure begins to drag itself upward.
Then struck again and slipping under the water, only the silence of the inlet is restored, broken by occasional swirling as the great beast rises to shake and roll its prey.