Printed from WriteWords -


by  belka37

Posted: Sunday, October 11, 2009
Word Count: 2046
Summary: This is part 1 of story 3 in a trilogy about three boys affected by 3 different wars. Story 1 WW1; Story 2 WW2. Story 3: Jason's father is somewhere in the Middle East
Related Works: PARADISE ISLAND Chapter 2 • 

Jason kicked his way along the beach. A rippling wavelet pushed between his toes. He paused, letting his gaze follow the froth-edged water trickle back down the sand and into the darkening sea. As he took another step forward his toe stubbed against a piece of ageing grey driftwood. A hot breath hissed its way out between his teeth.
Behind him the golden glow of the timbers on the jetty reflected the rays of the sinking sun . A group of anglers, mainly school holidayers - legs adrift, rods jutting in all directions - sat deep in contemplation. An occasional satisfied murmur sounded as another herring reeled in and the seagulls circled overhead, screeching for their share
Jason didn’t want to be stuck here with his Mum and kid sisters for the whole holidays. Greg and Sandy promised they’d come across and he’d spent everyday since he’d arrived on the island at Thomson Bay, his eyes searching each inbound ferry for his mates. Still no sign of them.
“Never mind dear,” Mum had said, as she cleared away the breakfast things that morning, “I’m sure you’ll find something to do.”
Jason had shoved his hands into the pockets of his broad shorts and scowled.
“Why not take the girls up to Oliver Hill? Explore the tunnels?”
Jason threw his mother a sulky look and, slamming the door behind him, took off.
Girls, he thought, as he trudged along the beach, are like the quokkas. They latch onto you and want to be fed all the time.
His stormy thoughts were interrupted by the approach of a group of fishermen on their way back to the settlement.
“Hi, son.”
“You OK?”
“Be careful if you’re headin’ up to Charlotte Point. The wind’s up’n it’s pretty rough.”
Jason kept his head down as he nodded a brief acknowledgement.
He’d forgotten about Charlotte Point. He and Dad ‘d gone snorkelling there. He remembered the coral tall above the shallow sandy seafloor - the schools of multi-hued parrot fish. It’d been a calm day. They’d swum across the reef beyond the coral outcrops into a breathtakingly brilliant-coloured underwater world where the stark image of a broken ship stared up through the seaweed. He saw again the look of amazement on his teacher’s face when he showed her his Year 4 art folio titled: Charlotte’s Secret. For a moment the feeling of exhilaration he had felt then, returned. He had never worked so hard on a school project in his life!
Jason had wanted to dive on the wreck of the City of York that day but Dad said he’d rather leave those old fellows undisturbed. A clear picture of the eleven dead seamen seemed to dance across his mind.
That had been three years ago his world made sense. Dad was overseas now, somewhere in the Middle East. Nothing seemed OK anymore.
A shaft of light from the lighthouse played across the headland at regular intervals. As Jason reached the Point he remembered the fishermen’s warning.
“Funny,” he thought. “Today’s 12 July, 1999 … the same day the City of York sank in 1899. Exactly one hundred years ago.”
On that day Captain Jones, had seen the shaft of light from the lighthouse and thought it was a flare from a pilot boat coming to lead him to safety. Like a fly attracted to the sparkling of a spider’s web he had followed the beckoning flicker to his death - to the death of his crew. Death to all of them.
Jason looked across the reef. It looked calm enough. Not that he really cared. Anger welled up within him. “Why did I have to come here for the lousy holidays, anyway? Where are Greg and Sandy? They told me they’d be here. Mum still treats me like a kid. Dad said, I was the man of the house while he was away.”
The thought of Dad swung Jason’s mood.
Who would miss me if I died … never came back?
He waded out between the jutting coral.
A sudden gust of wind! Jason lost his balance and floundered horizontal across the reef. He allowed the swell to carry him into the deepening water. Large drops of rain stung his face. He heard the rumble of a wave breaking on the outer reef ... or was it thunder? Next moment Jason was battered by blinding rain and a churning sea. The recurring shaft of light had disappeared.
After a time the sea grew calmer. Jason had no idea where he was. The island was lost in mist. Tiredness weighed heavily on each limb. His head felt like a leaden ball. He was drifting, drifting, ever drifting, down ... down ... down ...
Jason held his breath until his head was near bursting — he drew in deeply. No choking, no spluttering ...
That’s weird. I thought you’re supposed to be dead if you drowned. Maybe I’m hallucinating.
Jason laughed.
He felt more alive than he had in months. Two iridescent fish eyed him curiously as they darted about.
The downward drift halted. His feet touched the soft white sand of the ocean floor. He began a weightless walk. As he rounded a cavernous outcrop, a small cabin took shape in front of him. He quickened his step. A large door of solid wood confronted him. On it printed in large letters: CAPTAIN JONES.
Davy Jones Locker?
Of course! he again recalled. The wreck of the ‘City of York’ on 12 July, 1899. Captain Jones and eleven men perished ... exactly one hundred years to the day.
Jason inched open the door. Inside, behind a driftwood desk sat the old sea captain writing. Dark veins snaked across the sinewy wrinkles that shaped the back of his hands. In his left hand he held a quill pen which he dipped from time to time into a polished cowrie shell.
The captain looked up.
“Pleased to meet you Jason Dugan,” he boomed. “Was wondering when you’d arrive.”
Jason gaped.
“How ...?”
Captain Jones broke in.
“Heard you were on your way. The others’ll be back presently.”
“My crew, boy. We’re happy to have you join us.”
Jason felt vaguely uneasy. But he’d not long to wait. A group of oddly dressed men – leg hugging trousers, blousing shirts with large collars that splayed to the shoulder tips and wide brimmed hats with flattened crowns - were walking toward him..
He was about to extend a hand toward them, when a voice he recognised as his father’s called urgently, “Son, not yet. It’s not time.”
Jason felt his body shaking. Rough hands pounded his chest. He felt sick.
The soft yellow of morning light greeted him as he opened his eyes. Through a blur he vaguely distinguished human figures - a buzz of voices.
As his eyes focussed he saw three or four men standing around him. Another was kneeling at his side and one more above his head.
“Welcome back, son,” said the one kneeling.
Jason stared briefly uncomprehendingly then closed his eyes again. His whole body felt incredibly heavy. His clothes clung wetly. Sand irritated his skin. The taste of salt filled his mouth
Slowly reality dawned on him. He sat up with a jerk.
“I’m back here! Oh, hell. No!”
Jason spent the rest of the day at the nursing post. He registered his mother’s presence and was vaguely aware that his sisters had come. But with the quietness all around, nothing seemed quite real.
He heard his mother, “Ssh! Let him sleep.”
And the under-breath protests,
“But Mum ...”
“Mum! Tell him Greg and Sandy are here. Got in this morning.”
Jason’s body sprang to life. He drew a deep breath. Fresh air.
* * * * *
On Wednesday, Greg - a camera slung over his shoulder - and Sandy, carrying the snorkeling gear, called around to pick up Jason. The three of them hired bicycles and rode up to Charlotte Point. The sun shone brightly. There was no wind. The boys donned their snorkels and swam across the reef beyond the coral outcrops, laughing and tagging one another as they went. Greg suddenly somersaulted and dived underwater to get a photograph of a giant squid as it … .Sandy and Jason followed.
Greg signaled Sandy to steady the camera for a shot and Jason moved out of the way. As he peered into underwater world, hoping to catch glimpse of another school of Parrot Fish, the stark image of the broken ship stared up at him. Through the seaweed he heard voices calling him. Jason shuddered. Would those ghosts never let him go?
He looked around for Greg and Sandy. They were still concentrating on getting more shots for the School Magazine. Jason began to surface. He needed to escape. As he swam back over the reef and headed for the shore, inside his head he again heard his father’s voice. “I need you, son. Wait for me.”
Greg and Sandy flopped on the sand next to Jason.
“Where did you get to?” asked Greg.
Sandy studied Jason’s face as he struggled to find the right words. “You Okay?’
Jason nodded. “Yep! Just a bit cold, I guess. Thought I’d come back and get something to eat. … Here,” he added, passing out an opened package, “Mum made us some pretty good grub.”
The boys ate in silence. Sandy tapped his fingers against his knee. Something’s not right, he thought, but what can I do—say? Jason is the strongest swimmer of us three and not a kid to take silly risks. What had happened the night before Greg and I arrived?
‘What’s with you?’ Greg interrupted.
“Nothing really. Just wondering if …” He looked at Jason. “You want to head back to the settlement?”
Jason shook his head. “No, no. I’m Okay. Just a bit spaced out, I guess.”
“Is this where … where … whatever happened … happened?” asked Greg.
“Mmm,’ said Jason as he dug his hands into the sand and scooped out a hollow and watched it fill with water.
Soon the three of them were digging and packing sand to erect a huge sand sculpture.
“A monument,” declared Greg, with a great bow and flourish of the hand, “to Captain Jones and crew who died on this reef a hundred years ago.”
Jason looked out across the reef. “How did you know that?”
“Grade Four project! Don’t you remember? You did such a job of it, Mrs Hamon never let the rest of us forget it.”
“Sorry.” Jason smiled. “Funny you remembered though. Three days ago was the exact day it happened back then.”
“And you came here to celebrate it?” Sandy ran his fingers back through his hair.
“Not exactly. I can’t explain. I just felt drawn to this place - and then everything got out of control.”
“How do you mean?” Sandy and Greg looked at each other.
Jason coughed. “Come on guys. You’ll laugh at me!”
The two boys pursed their lips. “No, we won’t. Honest!”
Jason puffed his cheeks out and slowly exhaled. “I saw stuff. Heard voices.”
“Like ghosts, you mean?” said Greg.
“Sort of. It’s too hard to explain .. but my dad was there! Do you think … is he dead?”
Sandy gasped. “Did he speak to you?”
“What did he say?”
Jason moistened his lips. “He said … he said, ‘It’s not time’ or something like that.”
“Then I reckon he’s not dead,” said Sandy.
“You don’t think I’m mad then,”
“No way. My Gramps has told me lots of stories about how he sent messages to Gran from the front during the Second World War. Reckons with all the censorship of letters, it was the only way to get a message through.”
“Yikes,” said Greg. “That’s amazing.”
“He spoke to me again this morning,” said Jason. “This time he said, ‘I need you, son. Wait for me.”
“There, you see! He needs you. He’s sent you a message. I reckon he’s on his way home. .
(2000 words)
… … … … … … …
Jason pushed his way to the front of the crowd milling around the exit from which passengers emerged from the quarantine area of Perth International Airport..