22 July 2009

Alderney, the island of silence

It was probably the worst awakening he'd ever experienced, because he woke up mid-air, seconds before slamming hard onto something in the dark and getting a face full of salt water right when he chose to gasp in surprise.
He struggled up, dizzy from the pitching of the boat, shivering and trying to not panic, and ran onto the deck where Jake had decided to try to deal with the situation himself. That was just Jake, who was barely a hundred-forty pounds soaking wet as he was then, and he looked terrified, something Sam hasn't seen in his eyes since the boy was maybe six. He's managed to take down the sail with minimal damage and now he's fumbling with the key.
"Do you know what you're doing!?!" yell Sam, feeling lunch, breakfast, and last night's dinner about to come flying up.
Jake doesn't answer, nor does he look very happy, but his head dips in relief when the engine comes on.
"Wave!" yells Sam, pointing wildly, "Fucking wave coming at us!" knowing there's a better way to tell his brother where it is, but Jake gets it and turns the wheel hard into it.
The wave keeps getting closer and bigger and Jake is fighting with the wheel and the throttle to try to turn her, and now Sam panics and throws all his weight against it. Their combined force turns the boat just in time, they smack into it more or less straight on. Jake sprawls to the ground and Sam gets a face full of the wheel, but all the bad visions of Poseidon Adventure appear to have been avoided for now. It's not a perfect result though, for a full minute he feels like the entire boat is pointed straight up and then airborne before it comes down hard on the backside, and he screams, feeling as if his arms are about yanked out of their sockets but sure as fuck not about to let go of the wheel. And then there's another, and another, and Sam is fighting to keep her aimed right into them while Jake keeps hitting the throttle as if that might make things better, kid's seen too many movies, thinks Sam, it isn't making a damned bit of difference.
"What the fuck is that?!?!" yelps Sam, it's a giant black shape almost dead in front of them, and he doesn't know the answer, just knows, don't hit it, and there's a slight scrape but they barely miss it. And suddenly more of them. And more. Rocks.
"Stop going so fucking fast!" he yells, not even sure if that's the right advice, but ever so sure that bumping into one of those is a bad thing. They're surrounded by them and suddenly the wind is gone, the waves go calm, even though the rain is coming down twice as hard now.
He hears a really strange noise, it sounds like birds or something, before realizing it's Jake laughing, blood trickling out of his nose and a ridiculous expression on his face.
"Land ho!" Jake yelps before cutting the throttle to almost nothing and falling to the deck, laughing hysterically.
Sam sees it now through sheets of rain, cliffs, big ones, and a sandy beach right ahead, he's never felt so relieved in his life. There's a crumbling old concrete building on the beach. Jake leaps to his feet and jumps right into the water, killing the engine and dragging the boat to shore like a possessed demon until they're safely on the sand.
Sam is more than happy to get off of the boat and stumble with his brother to the shelter of the old concrete building, out of the rain, grabbing a cooler from the boat they never checked which he hopes has food in it.

The concrete building has the feel of doom about it. Water trickles down from strange huge holes in the structure. He plops down the cooler, and opens it.
"Unless we're going to a beach party, this isn't helpful," he says, staring at several dozen cans of beer.
Sam feels haunted by this place, and soon he starts to understand why. He kicks over a trunk by accident and in archaic print the words "Fleischkonserve" leap off of a bunch of old round tins that spill out of it.
"My god," he says, he can only understand what this is because he studied German, and Jake looks at him with curiosity.
"They're rations from the Second World War for German soldiers," says Sam, and he sits down in the dust to study one, now noticing that just underneath the muddy floor are dozens of empty shell casings of all sizes, and a curious white thing is poking up from a dirt-crusted backpack next to him.
"Rations is food, right?"
"Well, yeah, just, I don't know if they're still safe to eat."
"I'm starving," pronounces Jake.
He opens the army-issue backpack, and finds a crumbling diary of some kind, the words in it too blurred for him to read in that alphabet, but the white thing poking up says it all, a young man in a Wehrmacht uniform, looking proud and scared who might be seventeen if that. Something in his eyes seems so sad. He shows it to Jake, who looks but doesn't speak, he struggles with his Swiss army knife against a tin before it opens with a pop, sniffs it, and tastes a little bit.
"Don't eat that!"
Jake makes a face. "It tastes like shit but it doesn't taste spoiled. Give me a beer, quickly, please..."
Sam tries a little of it while opening beers for them. "Ugh," he says, drowning the taste with the beer, but Jake is right, it just tastes like dirty feet, not like rotten food. And he realizes just how hungry he is, and they dig in, nothing like a meal of sixty-year old soldier food and warm beer.
"I think that used to be chicken," says Jake, and Sam laughs.
The rain is easing some and he's feeling full, but not sick, thankfully, and now he's sipping his beer and trying to read the diary while Jake studies the photo.
"He looks so scared," Jake says.
"He's writing something here about his true love or something, I think, it's damned hard to read. 'Fate brought us together, and fate brought me here, and if fate so chooses for us we will be together again soon, but I believe we are fated to be together in eternity without regard.'"
Jake says, "True. Want another beer?"
"Yes. I mean, I'm just trying to translate what he wrote down here."
"Dated 14 October, 1944, 'We are lost here but the commanders will not accept it. I hope my words reach you through the ether and we shall join hands again someday in the not too distant future, in a place without all this death and war.'"
Jake has lost interest, though, now he's poking around through the mud himself.
"Fuck," he says, and Sam looks up to see him holding a tattered piece of cloth with two gleaming lightning bolts on it. In his other hand is a pistol, something Sam has only seen in war movies, and his sneaker has just kicked a gleaming skull with an unmistakable round hole in the side of it.
Thunder rumbles.
Jake looks scared, and Sam hugs him to make his brother feel better, but now he's wondering how many skeletons and bullets are under the mud they have no choice but to sleep on tonight.

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