November Challenge: Day 28

Happy Thanksgiving everybody. I just got off a six hour shift and I have about 5 hours before I have to be back at the store for a 10 hour shift (I will not be sleeping before Black Friday starts).

I’m not 100% sure I knew where I was going with this story, so I probably won’t keep it going tomorrow, but I’m going to post it anyway. Let me know if there was anything about it that worked and I’ll try to save it for use on something later. Thanks.

Writing Challenge Day 28 (Untitled)
By E. W. Morrow
Word Count: 2035

“I can’t believe he has his own private island,” Simon said as the small ferry churned its way across the chilly waters of Lake Pinatoba to the small island in the center.

“Had,” corrected Amber, pulling her jacket tighter around herself. “He had his own island. Now you have one.”

“Yeah, but still, I never knew…”

“What, never?” Amber asked, endeavoring to squeeze every last ounce of warmth from her thick woolen coat. “Never visited dear old gramps for the holidays?”

“Nope,” Simon said, a hint of sadness in his voice. “Never even met the man. I think I saw him at the funeral, but it was a long time ago. I was just a kid and, well…”

“You had other things on your mind,” Amber finished.

“Yeah.”

They grew silent after that exchange, content to let the lapping of the water against the prow of the boat and their own misty breathing fill the void. Lake Pinatoba was hardly a lake at all, barely more than a mile across at any given point. According to the locals it was actually the remnants of some ancient crater that had landed in these hills millions of years ago, and looking at it Simon could believe it. It was almost perfectly circular in shape. More of an ovoid really, since the north-western an south-eastern ends tapered slightly where a few streams from the hills above filtered in and replenished the water supply. Simon imagined that from above the entire lake looked like a giant eye with the island in the center representing a pinpoint pupil of some kind.

The island itself was a geographical oddity of it’s own. Word around the watering hole in the nearby town said that it was a super dense collection of dolostone and granite, crushed down by the impact that had leveled the surrounding area and created the lake millions of years ago. Year after year of erosion and weathering had widened the lake slightly and softened it’s edges, and the forest had grown back in and even the rocky clump of land in the center had it’s own tiny ecosystem on it.

Local legend about the island was colorful and varied, as one might expect. It had all manner of nick names and epithets, from “Wizard’s Island” to “Devil’s Horn” and “Angel’s Landing”.

“They say,” Amber said as the ferry neared the ancient wooden dock on the island’s south side, “that late at night you can see lights flickering around the island as far back as the opposite shore.”

“Oh yeah?” Simon said in a distracted tone of voice. “Was this before or after my grandfather built his cabin on the island?”

“Both,” Amber chuckled. “Apparently the legends go as far back as the mid 1800s when the lake was first discovered. Even longer, probably. You’d have to ask the Native American tribes who used to live in these parts. Not many of them left now, I’m afraid.”

“So what are these lights supposed to be?” Simon asked.

“Hard to say. In one legend the island is a sort of siphon, or a trap of some kind, and it catches lost souls. Spirits get funneled in and never escape. Another story says that the impact that made the crater weakened to walls between this world and the next, and things from the other side peek through from time to time.”

“What kind of things?”

“Who knows. Ghosts. Aliens tourists. Demons. Whatever scares you the most, I guess.”

“Huh,” grunted Simon as the boat pulled up alongside the dock. The gnarled old ferryman killed the engine and let the boat coast the last few feet while he made ready to tie the boat off. “Anyone actually see these lights on the island itself?”

“I don’t think so,” Amber said. “But as far as I know the lights are only supposed to appear at night, and apart from your grandfather I don’t think anyone has ever spent the night on the island.”

“Until now, anyway.” Simon said.

“Until now,” Amber agreed.

The old man had finished lashing the boat to the mooring and was waving at them impatiently to disembark. Simon and Amber grabbed their bags and did as they were asked. They had barely stepped on to the damp wooden planks of the ancient dock when the ferryman started untying the boat again. He grumbled something about being back tomorrow to collect them, but when they asked for a specific time the only response they got was “after dawn”. Then the old man swung the small boat out onto the water again and made his way back to the mainland with considerably more haste than he’d shown in getting them there.

“Well,” Simon began, “I guess that’s that.”

“Yes, I suppose it is,” Amber replied. “Let’s get inside before it gets dark.”

The two made their way up the worn dirt path at the end of the dock and up a gentle incline towards the center of the island. The whole island was maybe two hundred meters across but the cabin was supposed to be only thirty or forty meters ahead just beyond the tree line. It took them less than ten minutes at a leisurely pace to scale the steepening incline and round a bend in the woods. The foliage was surprisingly thick for such a small island and the cabin was almost entirely obscured from view until they were nearly upon it.

“Wow,” Simon said as they rounded a second bend and the cabin came into view. “That is not what I was expecting.”

“Me neither.” Amber said.

“You haven’t been here before?” asked Simon, slightly shocked.

“No. I’ve been mostly occupied by settling the more…traditional aspects of your grandfather’s estate. I didn’t have time to make it out here until now.”

“But you must have had some idea,” Simon insisted.

“Well, yes,” Amber admitted. “I was given a description of the cabin’s interior, along with instructions on getting settled, but still, I wasn’t entirely prepared for this.”

The cabin was much larger than any cabin Simon or Amber had ever seen. The stood two stories tall but apparently had a quite spacious attic above one side. The whole thing towered in front of them seemingly out of proportion to the trees surrounding it. The cabin’s face was wide and actually had ornately carved wooden pillars leading up the path to the front door, a path that became cobblestone instead of dirt some twenty-five feet up. The foundation was all hard, blocky stone, apparently from the same material that comprised the bedrock around these parts. The windows were arched in a Gothic style, tall and thin and plentiful. It looked more like a small mansion than the simple log cabin Simon had been expecting.

They made their way up the stone path and up to the massive oak door at the front of the house. It had a large iron knocker affixed to the front but no visible doorknob. Amber, apparently expecting this, simple pushed and the door swung open with a long, loud creak. Inside was dark and shadowy, but Simon could just make out a flight of stairs in the distance and possibly a ring of statues along the walls.

“Welcome,” Amber said as she stepped over the threshold and gestured to the darkness, “to Danefield Manor.” She dropped her bag by the door and fumbled in the darkness to her right for something Simon couldn’t see. He heard the clink of glass and a rustling that sounded like a box of matches and the suddenly a bright, golden light bloomed inside. Amber reappeared holding an old fashioned oil lamp beneath her chin so that it played strange shadows across her face. She smiled what might have been a genuine smile but looked sinister under the effect of the lantern’s flame.

“Let’s get a fire going, and then we can find our rooms,” She said, and then turned and looked around for a moment as if trying to remember where she was going. Simon followed her, desperate not to be left in the manor’s darkened interior by himself.

“We only have to stay one night, right?” Simon asked as they made their way down a gloomy corridor.

“Yes, that’s all the will required. One night in the manor with a duly represented legal official present as a witness.”

“And then I get the money.”

“Yes, the money, the company, and the island.”

“I’m not entirely sure I want the island,” Simon mumbled.

“Why not?” Amber teased. “Think of it as the best pickup line you’ve ever been handed.”

“Oh yeah?” Simon asked.

“Definitely,” Amber said. “All the girls want a guy with their own island.”

“Huh,” Simon said, ignoring Amber’s laughter. “I still can’t believe my grandfather actually stipulated spending a night here. Its so—so…”

“Cliche?” Amber finished, pushing open a door at the end of the hallway that led to a wide chamber of some kind.

“Exactly,” Simon said, relieved he wasn’t the only one who thought so.

“Well,” Amber said, lighting a row of candles to her side, “from what I gather, your grandfather was always rather eccentric. I guess he just decided to accept the fact and revel in it. Would you care to start the fire while I finish giving us some more light?”

It took a few minutes to work open the rust metal grate over the small fireplace and a few more to stack some kindling and small logs inside. It wasn’t until the fire was crackling and popping that Simon even wondered why everything should be so well prepared for them. The kindling was set off to one side of the hearth, a tin bucket of dry twigs sitting on a pile of incredibly old newspapers, and the logs were stacked neatly on the other next to the rack of pokers, smallest logs on the top and bigger ones on the bottom. There was even a box of long stem matches on the mantle above the hearth. Simon said as much to Amber as he stoked the fire.

“Your grandfather was a very neat person,” she said as she took a seat in one of the high backed chairs near the fireplace. “I imagine this place has been kept pretty much static over the past few years.”

“But, this doesn’t seem a little too—planned out to you?” Simon asked, taking a seat in the chair opposite Amber. “It’s like someone came in and set all this up ahead of time.”

“I doubt it,” Amber said, staring into the fire, “but I suppose anything’s possible.”

Simon got out of the chair and made a circuit of the room. It was sparsely but expensively furnished. Along the walls were a few book cases packed with dusty tomes. There was a sideboard off to one side with a crystal decanter set atop a silver tray. Amber liquid glistened in the candle light. Simon had little trouble believing that the cupboards below were full of bottles of very strong, and very expensive, liquor.

“Care for a drink?” Simon asked, uncorking the decanter and giving it a whiff. “Smells like scotch. Probably something else down below.”

“I don’t suppose you’ve got the makings of a gin and tonic, do you?”

“Let me check.” Simon pulled open the cupboard drawer and, just as he thought, found bottles of several types of alcohol. He rummaged around for a moment, bottles clinking, and came up holding two that looked promising. “Well, so long as it hasn’t been opened this should still be good. Never seen tonic water in a glass bottle before.” Simon gripped the top of the bottle and heaved. It gave an enticing hiss as it opened. “Well I’ll be. How do you take it.”

“Pretty strong, usually,” Amber said with a grunt, stretching and rubbing the cold from her limbs by the fire. “It’s been that kind of day.”

“Yes it has,” Simon agreed, helping himself to a glass of scotch. Maybe it was just his imagination, or some residual smell from the other side of the room, but the liquid smelled woody and warm, like a campfire. It made him think of pleasant childhood memories.

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