The complete short story started last December, and just completed today. I thought I should do some short story work today, for I’ve been a bit slack in following up on various writing projects. I hope you all like it, and that it’s not too long a read. Enjoy!
Lone Beacon (challenges, differences, & tides)
It has been four months since I have seen home now, the make shift camp out here on this rock. The isolation tends to make one not bother about the date or the season, but the weather has turned cold now, and the rest of the work crew have left for Christmas. I am the only one left now, to maintain the temporary beacon, there were to be two of us, but Krail took ill and left with the last supply ship.
Today has been one of those days, where if the light rain has not got you soaked, then the driving winds have forced the sea spray right through you. Today I am making to the one small piece of forest on the back of the island, to climb atop the mountainous headland hidden with in the continuous tree canopy. Only a couple crew members have climbed to the top to date, they said it took all their experience from the campaigns they fought in across the tops of the Pyrenees.
I’m just checking through the supplies for the climb, and have checked the beacon, it should be right for at least seventy-two hours, even in this weather. James and Samuel said, the volcanic rock under the forest is relatively dry, except for where the watercourses run, and that following the southern edge is the best route to follow.
So here are the supplies for the short expedition, two lengths of rope, water and food ration for two days, a short axe, machete, some medical supplies just in case, and a spyglass. Well I think I am ready now, I’ll just top the beacon up and be on my way to the west side of this rocky land.
Well, I’ve made good headway, only took maybe an hour to reach The Forest of Light and Shadows as James has termed the wood surrounds the headland. Now to look for the path Samuel has marked. To the South they said, look for a large tree with a shield cut into it and follow in and the cut trail veers left. Here we go, the tree with the shield, and there’s the path they cut all those months ago.
Following their rough cut path through the forest, the land starts to rise rapidly, the load on my back is taking it’s toll, so I decide to leave the short axe and one of the lengths of rope hanging on a tree. I’ll collect these on the return journey the next day.
I feel better now, even though I am scrambling on all fours, through the dappled light and shadows of the tall trees, a pine of some sort. The high I go, the looser the rocky surface beneath the forest is becoming. I’ve had a couple of near misses already, a couple of falls, and a largish boulder almost take my head clean off a moment ago.
Ah! The top is getting near, I can start to smell the salt air drifting in to mingle with the scents of the pine forest. There’s the first bit of solid bit cloud covered sky I have seen in hours. Don’t think I have been climbing non stop, I have had need to pause several times today already, but I did not want to bore you with such mundane details. Except, there are many ways the water runs down the mountain, and that the birds and small creatures of forest are most amusing to watch go about their daily business.
Here we are the top finally, breaking free of the forest has never felt so good, I collapse on the open ground at the top of the mountain headland, stretching out for just a few moments to catch my breath. Here as the soft rain cools my body at the edge of the forest’s out stretched arms to the sky, I think, what a life, to be far from what we know as civilisation, and society. Here waking each day to the elements and know life is good, and that the hustle and bustle of city folk so far from my mind.
After the short rest on the sweeping grass covered ground, I stagger to my feet and walk towards the vertical drop at the edge of headland, to my shock, I then find myself diving face first into the ground, just miss smashing my head on a rock under the vegetation cover.
Ships, dozens of ships, Brigs, Corvettes, Man of wars, Frigates, and Ships of the line, most flying French colours, but there are some Dutch too. I pull my spyglass from my pack to take a closer look and count what is out there. At least sixty-three sea going vessels are in anchorage off the island. What are they doing here with such numbers in the South Pacific? What are their intentions, and Where is their final destination?…..
Looking closer through my spyglass, the French and Dutch ships have maybe a hand full of cannons on their top decks, the lower decks are carrying none. But why are they all sitting so low in the water? Might they be loaded with gold, silver and jewels?
Puzzled, I make my way back down as fast as I can, I opt to take a running jump out as faraway from the cliff as possible, and land in the waiting sea’s high tide below. With a little luck, they won’t spot me in this weather.
Clearing out from the headland as far as I can, I land feet first into the sea below. I start to swim out towards the nearest ship, a French Ship of the Line, seas are a little rough with the wind, making headway is slow going. Eventually I make it alongside the hull of the French ship.
I hear what seems to be a jolly atmosphere on board, drinking, laughing, music, dancing, singing, and several crewmembers yelling load the cannon in French. I tuck in close to the hull, not sure what’s about to happen.
After a few moments, I hear the boom of the cannon firing, swiftly followed by riotous laughter and jeering. Soon wind and gravity brings to my attention.
“Hey, Englishman down there,” comes the calls from above. “Come aboard, join us in celebration, an armistice has been signed, we are at peace friend!”
Climbing on board I am soon greeted with rum.
“Our French and Dutch governors of the East Indies, sent us to the south to collect as much snow as we could, so we can celebrate Christmas here in the tropics.” “See, we even have our own snow cannon!”
The dance, and celebration continued into the early hours of the morning, but the French fleet were departing the island’s shores at first light. Six slightly sober Frenchmen and a Lieutenant offered to take me ashore, I accepted.
After boarding the longboat, the journey took some time to find a beach to land at, while such as the distance, a silence fell. Not a word, or even a grunt of exertion, until we landed, all of us stepping on to the beach.
As I turned to bid farewell, the French Lieutenant drew both his pistols, saying. “For what you English have done to my country, my people, and my family, I should shoot you here on the spot. Nevertheless, I am no supporter of Napoleon, and we are at peace. For such things, I have no stomach for fighting and war no more. So please, accept my grandfather’s pistols in remembrance of our fortunate meeting, and our celebration of peace.”
After accepting the gifts, and bidding everyone farewell, the Lieutenant turned one last time, “Should you ever make it to Brittany in Northern France, seek out the family of Aubron, for you’ll be most welcome.”
With a departing wave, and salute, the French returned to their ship, while I made for higher ground. Once above I waited, and watched through my telescope as the signals conversed to set full sail throughout the entire fleet.
To see the huge sheets of canvas unfurl, and billow to fill with the fresh morning breeze. A spectacular sight, of which I’ve never seen before, and one I will probably never set eyes on again, though for now I must return to my own duties on the other side of the island.
For tending a lone beacon is an important one, a duty of care at the welcome of the changing tides.