Pelican Point

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
An ex-con with nothing left for him in his home town. A mysterious island with a promise of jobs and community. People that aren't quite what were expected.

Submitted: July 27, 2016

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Submitted: July 27, 2016

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Pelican Point
Karston Komers

 

The snow flittered overhead, coming down to coat the dock in a fine white powder. Surveying the harbour I saw no signs of the men I was supposed to meet. Bastards better not be late again. Five more minutes and I’m out. Their employer would do far more harm to them if they returned without the coke than I could ever do. Let them punish themselves. Shadows cut through the night and play on the shacks and huts of the dock as the large SUV finally comes around the corner. “About fucking time!” I shout to them, my voice a clear ring over the frozen ground and frigid air.

The vehicle rolls to a stop, two boys exit the car. They look pitiful; oversized pants, ripped, baggy sweaters covering their tiny frames. At least have some class. They crunch over to me in their basketball shoes, ridiculous shades of green and yellow. “You better have all the money this time or you’re not making it back to the truck, that’s a guarantee.”

I stare at them, they say nothing. The smaller one throws a backpack towards me, sliding across the wood towards my feet. “What is this? Fucking high school? A backpack? I ain’t 17.” I open the bag, it’s filled with hundred dollar bills.

“So you guys can do something right! What a surprise.” They remain silent, keeping their distance and almost entirely without moving.

“Alright well if you aren’t gonna say anything then we’re done here. You know the rules.” One of them lets out a cough. “You don’t say anything to anyone and I make sure the boys in blue don’t come knockin’ down your door from an anonymous tip.” I throw the brown paper package to them and the same one catches it. They turn to leave, another good deal flies right under the radar of the entire town.

Faintly I hear the grumble of another engine and the whine of a siren, faintly but surely. It quickly gets closer. Then another engine, and another. “I swear to God if you ratted to the police I will murder you both!”

The driver sprints to the car and gets in, firing it up with a loud roar; the sirens becoming unmistakably closer. The smaller one lingers at the door for a second, turns and looks me dead in the eye. A small smile catching the edges of his mouth. All he says is “Sorry” before he makes a motion to get in. His mistake to stall. My bullet rips through his stomach. The driver doesn’t wait. Flooring the motor and squealing away, he abandons his friend to bleed out on the ground.

Red and blue pierce through the night and bounce off the snow. Three police cars crest the hill and turn the corner. I run back to my old Ford, I can hear the chatter on the police radio. How could I have been so reckless? I would’ve, no, I should’ve, had all the warning in the world had I just stayed near it. There was no way out of this one, no way I could pin the blame on somebody else. I’ve gotten sloppy. Didn’t bother making an alibi, no scapegoats set up. Hell, I don’t even have a safe-house to lay low in. I’m angrier at myself than the dead prick on the ground and his friend. Guess it was only a matter of time before I slipped. Either way, I was going out swinging.

The cruisers stop in a line, forming a flashing wall of metal. I hear the voices crackle over the speakers telling me to drop my weapon, give up and make it easy for everyone. Fuck that. I am not going to jail. I stay crouched behind my rusty sedan until I hear the first door open and the boots hit the ground, my gun prepped for the coming fight. I stand up quickly, fire off a few rounds and sink back down. I hear the cop groan, followed by a quick yelp from one of the others.

One down, two to go. I might actually make it out of this. I stand up, prepared to take out one more when a bullet slams into my right shoulder. I collapse instantly, the pain too much to bear. Maybe I’m not making it out of this one. I accidentally threw my gun when I got hit, I can’t see it but I’m afraid it slid into the water. The two remaining officers seize their opportunity, they race around either side of my car. I go to sit up when I see them but a quick kick to the chest puts me back down on the ground, making my shoulder explode with pain. My wrists feel the cold metal of the handcuffs wrap around them. My legs feel the forceful pushes of the men behind me as they guide me to their patrol car. The cruiser pulls us away, I watch the two men on the ground laying in crimson puddles slowly get further away as the last officer rushes to his friend to try and provide some aid.

My little incident became national news. Some degenerate from the middle of nowhere, Newfoundland, kills a kid and a cop during a botched drug trade? Of course it was gonna be huge. The court case was cut and dry; there was more than enough evidence to convict me of everything I had done. I hadn’t ever second guessed any of my choices until the moment that cell door clicked shut.

_______________________________________________

After my release I came back to the same town I had left. Maybe it was because other than prison I had never been anywhere else. Maybe I don’t know how to live anywhere else, or maybe I’m just looking for some semblance of normality. My house was still there, humbly standing on the hill overlooking the bay. A police ordered shuttle had dropped me off here after I had told them I had no other place to stay. Nearly three damn decades and not one person had wanted to live in the cop killer’s house. It sat there rotting. Then again, did I really do anything different? The white paint was all but gone, the porch had developed a sinkhole right in front of the door, the shutters hung on with desperation to the windows. The small trees in the front yard had grown into massive trunks and the grass was up to my knees.

The door was unlocked and creaked open when I pushed. Bugs falling in hordes from the door frame. Hopping over the hole of the porch I entered my old house, memories flooding into my mind. It was a small house, one bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living room. Didn’t care much for others, figured I’d never need more than I had. Some of my furniture was still there. A couple of broken plates on the kitchen floor, old lighters, a pile of dirt caked pennies. The hot water tank had crashed through the bathroom wall, smashing the toilet and sink in the process. My bedroom had the only surviving window, cracked and scratched as it was. The roof was caving in above where the bed had once been, trails of fibres swaying in the slight breeze running through the house. The floor littered in paper. A singular chair waiting in the middle of the room, the back had fallen off and the bright purple padded seat had a large rip down the center. I always hated that chair. Why did it have to survive of all things?

The entire place smelled musty and felt oppressive in the late summer heat. I went back to the kitchen, put my arms around the rusty oven and with no small effort shifted it from its spot in the corner of the house. I had to know. Would it still be there? Did somebody find it? Hands trembling, I pried up the brittle floor boards where the oven had been. “Fuck yes!” I yelled as I grab the small duffle bag from under the house.

I can’t contain my excitement as I unzip the bag, revealing stacks of fifty dollar bills. My emergency bag. At least I had the foresight then to plan this much. I had always set a quarter of my profits into it. A dealer’s life is hardly uniform, he needs to be prepared with a backup plan. There was nothing for me in this place anymore, it was time to head out.

Stepping out of the house into the bright light of the sun I made the walk down the cracked and rutted road into town. It was a small community, and a surprising pang of anxiety fires through my body as I think about seeing the people I used to live around. The thing with my town is, if you’re not out by twenty you’ll probably be there your entire life. My stomach is growling and I’m hungering for some food that isn’t just slop shoved onto a metal tray by an inmate. Might as well make my way around and see what’s still open. That’s when it hit me, I’m free now! I can eat wherever I want, I can go wherever I want at any pace I want! This is gonna take some getting used to.

The town’s aged just about as well as I have. Half the stores I knew are closed and boarded up. The grass grows high and spills through the cracks of the streets and sidewalks. A young man rides by slowly on his bike, looking me up and down. He glides by silently but I can feel the judgement in his eyes. It’s a small enough community that any newcomer stands out.

Nestled in between a couple of abandoned buildings I find the diner I used to frequent. I enter it, the styling has barely changed since last I saw it. I’m not sure if it’s comforting or unsettling. It feels almost as though no time has passed at all as I sit down in the booth I used to claim as my own. The server comes and hands me a menu, gives me an odd look as she turns back to the kitchen. I wonder if she recognizes me. I’m pretty sure it’s the same girl working now as it was then. I guess once you get a consistent job in this place you stick with it. 

She placed my dinner in front of me and hurried back to the kitchen when I notice her pointing me out to the chefs. All of them were staring at me, watching me eat. I glare at them and they stop.

The food hadn’t really changed that much either. I had gotten a steak and some fries, pretty mediocre to be honest; though there were no other restaurants in this dying place, probably the only reason this one still stood. As I was finishing up my meal one of the chefs who had been staring at me earlier approached me. “You killed that cop and that kid way back when, didn’t you?” he asks in a monotone voice.

I choke and let out a cough. I knew this was gonna happen I just didn’t expect it to be so blunt. “Yeah, what about it?”

He grunts and goes back, apparently satisfied with his mission. The waitress brings me my receipt, I put down some money. She picks it up and looks at me. “Seriously? This bill is from the 80’s. You don’t have anything else?” A sharp edge has developed in her voice, one that wasn’t there when she first greeted me.

“Money is money.” I say stiffly. She huffs audibly and gives me change, looking at me expectantly. I’ll be damned if she’s getting a tip. Walking out of the diner I pretend like I don’t notice the eyes scrutinizing my every move.

A little on edge from the staff I decide to continue walking around town, duffle bag slung over my shoulder. I’m hoping that was a one-off experience and my reputation hasn’t preceded me too far. It’s a warm evening, one of the last before the weather begins to turn. The last golden rays of the sun bounce off the buildings as the sun sinks below the horizon. Other than the man on his bike I haven’t seen a single soul on the streets. I remember the town being slow but not like this, now it was just a terminal town waiting for release.

Though a different company now, the liquor store still stands in the same location it always has. Probably the best kept place in this whole damn town. Really says something about the people. The doors slide open with a ding, I step into the cooled air and take a second to scan my surroundings. I nod a hello to the cashier, he returns the nod but does a double take. There is another man in the corner, facing away from me. I pay him no attention. I get my beer and I leave. The shopkeeper doesn’t say anything beyond the price of the drinks.

Walking out of the shop I crack one of the drinks, the taste is incomparable to anything I’d had in jail over the years. I hear the doors slide open behind me and footsteps approach. I ignore it until I hear a gravelly voice call out from behind me “Hey! I know you.”

“Do ya’ now? I don’t know you.” I bite for now.

“Please, everyone around here knows you. Don’t think that people have forgotten. It has not been that long.” His hair is long and greasy, the beard just as shaggy as his head. He speaks fast and low, an air of urgency in his voice. He rarely makes eye contact.

“So what did you want?” My patience is running thin, fast.

“It’s no secret that you’re not greatly established here anymore; were you ever? I’ve seen your house. I know nobody here is interested in making friends with you.” He trails off.

“If you’re just here to insult me then I’m gone. Hurry up and get to the point.”

“Alright, take it easy. I have a proposition for you, one I’m sure you’ll be interested in hearing. Not far from here, a little distance off the coast, lies an island. The people there are accommodating, they will welcome you as one of their own. I have a cabin on the coast, just outside of town. It’s surrounded by trees, you’ll be as secluded as you want. There are jobs there too. Look around. This place is dying, you know nobody, have you ever even lived outside of here? You have no reason to stay. So why not move to Pelican Point?”

I pause for a moment. The precision of his speech caught me off guard. “And do what? Buy your cabin? Make some great new life for myself?”

“Yes.” Came his curt reply. “Look, go for a month. I’ll take you there on my boat, I’ll even give you some food. I’ll stop in next month and if you don’t like it, we go back. Easy. Come on, let’s go.”

“Why can’t I just call?”

“Storm took out the lines recently.” A slight hesitation. “Just got back from the island myself.”

I’m not entirely sure how to respond. Is it crazy that I’m actually considering this? I can’t say he’s been wrong in anything he’s said and it could do me some good to be out of here.

“You don’t have to make the decision right now,” he cuts the silence “I’ll be at the dock for the next two hours. Think it over.” With the final remark he continues walking down the road, leaving me alone with my thoughts.

The idea tumbled in my head for the next hour as I wandered the empty roads, my path lit by the occasional occupied home. Why shouldn’t I go? I have no plan here. The guy’s right. But how do I even know that this island exists? Maybe for once I should just trust a person. I’m going to that island. How much of this is the liquor talking? I can’t be sure.

His large fishing boat bobs in the water, exhaust pumping out in a neat cloud from the stacks. I stop and turn towards the town for the last time. My home remains perched on the hill, staring down at me. I scan the empty roads and vacant buildings; it only serves to solidify my decision. Pivoting, I begin to move towards the boat and call out to the seemingly vacant machine. A bearded face pokes out from the cabin, the man from the liquor store walks towards me.

“I take it you’re coming with me then?” the sailor asks.

“Yeah. I thought about what you said and I really can’t argue. Might be nice to start fresh somewhere else anyways. I never caught your name, by the way.”

Eyes darting to the ground he tells me his name is Karen. He doesn’t ask mine.

“Karen? School must’ve been rough eh?” I can’t help but smile. First genuine one in far too long. Maybe this was truly the first step towards a better life.

“Yeah yeah, get your kicks in now. You ready to go? It’s not far and it’s a calm night, we can easily make it tonight.” That same urgency carries through his voice.

I agree to leave and board the boat. All I have is the clothes on my back and my bag of cash. I hold on to it tight. For the second time my life’s path changes from the dock. We sail away from shore, I don’t look back.

_______________________________________________

The black silhouette of the island rises up in front of us, standing like a sentry in the night. It was dark save for the dim outline of a lamp post on the island’s dock. A few other boats lay in the water waiting for the morning to come and their captains to bring them to sea. The air here is cool and has a taste that I can’t quite place; like the familiar taste of sea salt yet with something that’s just beyond my reach. I quickly forget about it. We pull up to the dock and Karen ties down the boat. He didn’t say much during the trip, fine by me. Jumping off the vessel and onto the pier he looks back at me, his face covered in shadow from the light directly behind him. He beckons to join and I follow him. It seems like a lifetime since I’ve been on the water and my legs are still a bit unsteady from the voyage, calm as it was.

“Welcome to Pelican Point, my friend!”

I glance at him “We’re not friends.”

“Figure of speech, is all. You’re gonna love it here, you really will. Not much to see now but in the morning it’ll be gorgeous. I can’t stay but I’ll show you to the cabin, help you get settled in, then I have to go.” He pulls up his sleeve and looks at his watch, one of those cheap digital ones that lights up. “We got here kinda late, if I were you I’d try and stay up for the sun rise. We’re facing east now, all you gotta do is come back here. You can see it from the cabin but it’s really something else down here.”

We begin the walk towards the cabin, the path is unpaved but well-worn, too small for cars. Large trees guard the path, sprawling out in every direction creating a mass of engulfing blackness in the night. Worry begins to churn inside me as I wonder if anything or anybody, exists on this island at all.

A small clearing begins to form and I see the cabin. It’s a small, one storey log cabin with a couple of windows high up on the wall facing the path. Trees surround the cabin but with less frequency than the path, leaving space to walk around. The old storm door is on the side under a haphazard wooden roof, it creaks open on old springs and slams shut behind us. There isn’t much to be said about the inside, though I suppose it’s nicer than a cell and really no worse than my house used to be. A small kitchen takes up half the cabin, the other half is a living room. An old TV sits on a lacquered wooden stand in front of an aging couch. Along the front wall of the house lie a single bedroom with an attached bathroom. Despite their age the massive logs that form the walls maintain their composure well. Little decoration presents itself in the cabin save for a few magnets on the fridge from various restaurants. There is a second door at the back of the house leading onto a carpeted porch. The evening guards the view but I can make out a series of stone steps leading to a small beach. As we stand on the porch overlooking the water Karen asks me what I think of the cabin.

“Nice enough. Better than back home I suppose. You said you’d give me food.”

“Oh!” He sounds almost surprised at the statement. Probably expected a little more praise for his place. “Right. Well the fridge is stocked up actually. I don’t know what you like but there’s some meat, eggs, bread in the cupboard. Stuff like that. You’ll be ok for a few days at least.”

I walk inside to the kitchen, he follows close behind. Karen shows me where everything is, tells me to organize things as I like it. The meat he spoke of lies in thick raw slabs inside of Tupperware containers. “What’s this meat? Do you hunt?”

One of his rare moments of eye contact. “Yep. Just some local game. Those two big containers are deer, the others are rabbit. The deer makes for some pretty good steak, real tender. Alright, I really need to be on my way. Let’s talk payment.”

I’d been waiting for this, the weight of the duffle bag still sinking into my shoulder. “Name your price.” I like to see how people act when talking about money. People normally feel uncomfortable asking for large sums. It gives you more bartering power if you’re not the one to propose the price.

“How’s 600 sound? 400 a month for the cabin plus 200 for the ride and the food.” He tells me after a quick pause.

“450.” I counter. “150 for the ride and 300 a month. This ain’t a five star hotel.”

I can tell that he wants to argue further but he sees the set determination in my eyes and thinks better of it. “You have a deal. So I’ll be back here in a month’s time, hopefully by then you’ll be settled in and loving it here. I know I was.” The last part was little more than a whisper. “Last chance to back out of this.”

“Wait, what about work? You told me there would be jobs.” Why was he in such a rush to leave?

“Right!” Again the mariner seems surprised by the question. “I’d try the bar; they’re always looking for new blood. If not, maybe the grocery store down Main Street. You’ll do best to just ask, make yourself known. Be friendly! This is a new start for you, you can be whoever you want. Remember that.”

“Try? You told me there would be jobs here. Not that there might be jobs.” The familiar bite of anger starts to chew on the back of my skull.

“There are! You’ll get a job, I promise. Nobody’s unemployed here who doesn’t want to be. Worst case scenario you ride out the storm until month’s end and we go back.” Karen nods towards my duffle bag, the first time he has acknowledged it at all.

Having received his money the sailor makes his way back to the water, once again leaving me alone with my thoughts. The stove clock tells me it’s far into the morning hours, I briefly consider staying up for the sunrise like Karen suggested. I never was one for appreciating landscapes, I’d rather just sleep. The day has been long, I’ve gone from prison to home to here in less than twenty four hours. Sleep engulfs me the second my head hits the pillow.

The sun sits high in the sky and birds sing their chorus when my eyes finally flick open. My clothes lie in a pile on the ground at the foot of the bed. Did he leave any clothes for me? The wardrobe holds a couple of large sweaters, a bathrobe hangs in the closet. It’ll do for now. I’ll go to town later and buy what I need. Check out that bar. Maybe meet some people. I eat some of the rabbit and a couple eggs for my late breakfast while sitting on the porch. I do have to admit that the view is pretty. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to stay here, almost seems like one of those vacation spots rich people go to.

I opt for my old dirty clothes rather than the sweaters in the closet after I finish my shower. The walk back to town is no less ominous during the day, rather an appreciation for the thickness of the forest fortifies itself; it chokes out all sounds apart from the chatter of birds and the occasional hush of wind. The island is not big and finding town is hardly a challenge. Pelican Point itself lies in the center of the island; the trees don’t thin out, they just stop once the town begins. I found no paths other than the one leading me into town. Seems like most of the people live in town itself, mine might be the only cabin that the island holds. In terms of size and population, Pelican Point can’t be much larger than my mainland home. There is a small spattering of houses painted in various bright colours of reds, greens, blues and yellows. It’s quaint and in far better shape than home. Despite the upkeep there remains a similar air of abandonment. Where are the people? The lawns are nicely kept, the fences straight and well painted. No cars present themselves, the same unpaved but well-worn paths weave through the residential quarter. I walk alone among structures.

Rounding the corner I find what must be Main Street. Apparently Pelican Point doesn’t believe in cement; the lack of roads and sidewalks give way to wooden buildings, almost no brick used at all. Small plants sprout occasionally through the road and a lush carpet of grass wraps itself around the back and sides of the buildings. A handful of shops lie on this street: the grocery store Karen mentioned, a liquor store, a couple of diners, a small bank, even a thrift store. A small man shuffles down the road, hunched over and eyes to the ground. His skin wraps tightly around his bones, no muscle to raise up his frame. I call out to him, his head slowly raises before focusing on me.

“Hey, I heard there’s a bar here. Where would that be?” His eyes dart over my body, looking me up and down before resting on my face, just below my eyes. First glance told me he was old man, but coming closer lead me to realize he was young. Couldn’t be more than thirty. Why is he in such rough shape?

His response is slow and deliberate, almost as if the mere task of talking was burning his crucial energy. “Yeah. You must be the new one. Karen convince you to take his cabin, eh?” The new one? “Bar’s right there at the end of the corner.” He flashes me a slow grin before he continues on his shuffle, revealing a set of yellowed and misshapen teeth.

Weird guy. I don’t think about it too much, I’ve seen his type before. Probably just a junkie, what else do you have to do in a tiny place like this?

The sun beats down on this un-seasonably hot day, a single cloud floats through the sky but offers no protection from the sun. I can’t tell if the town feels cozy or confining due to the thick wall of trees surrounding it. A few locals make their way around, completing the tasks that daily life presents. I see another young man, barely looks any healthier than the guy I spoke with. A couple walks side by side, eyes downcast, no conversation flows between them. When they finally spot me their walk grinds to an immediate halt, they raise their heads in the same slow fashion and watch me pass. I try my best to avoid it but I can’t help but return the look. They keep moving.

This place is worse than home. What happened to people being accommodating? I suppose I’m just new here. A whole day hasn’t even passed yet, no reason to write them off yet. Despite my rationalizations I can’t help but shake that feeling that stirs in my gut, the one that tells me not to trust this place… whatever it is.

I find myself standing outside the wooden façade of the bar, just staring. The Angler is painted in vivid white letters above the door. Smoked glass windows show my aged face squinting into the sun. The inside is dark and I blink away the spots from outside’s brightness. The bar is mostly empty, a few tables seat locals staring into their drinks. I approach the bartender, the first normal looking guy I’ve seen here other than Karen. “Hey, beer please.” He obliges.

He wears a plaid button-up shirt over jeans, the sleeves rolled up. A layer of stubble grows over his face but his hair is well cut and clean, parted to the side. “You’re new here. I know everyone that drinks in this bar. Passing through or here to stay?”

“Yep, got in last night. Staying in that cabin up by the harbour.”

A small chuckle breaks his lips. “Karen’s place? That guy’s been trying to lose that place for years. Well, welcome to Pelican Point. Hope it’s everything he made it out to be. Hey, he leave you any of that meat?”

“Yeah, thanks. He did give me a couple containers of some-“

“Deer and rabbit?” The bartender interrupts, a flash of something on his face. “Might wanna avoid that, he’s not a very good hunter, for the record.”

Seemed fine to me. I ignore his comment. “So I’ve heard you might have some work for a newcomer like me?” This guy better say yes.

“A job?” He scratches his chin. “Hmm. I suppose a couple extra hands couldn’t hurt. Tell ya’ what, we’re having a bit of a festival in a few days, things are gonna get busy. You start Monday, you do well and we’ll discuss a permanent position. Sound fair?” 

“More than, I appreciate the opportunity.”

The bartender smiles and nods his head, turns back to the glasses he was cleaning.

 

I bring my drink to the table in the corner, I sit with my back against the wall. A jukebox plays, filling the room with the slow drawl of some folk singer. The lights above are dim and outdated, caked in dirt that barely lets light shine through. The wooden floor creaks its announcement of any person coming or going. Various fishing trophies and taxidermy animals line the wall. Directly across from me hangs an antiquated painting of a mother and a daughter walking down what looks like Main Street. In its prime it must have been a lively painting but now the faces stare at me blankly. “Hi! I’m Sam.”

The voice startles me and despite myself I jump slightly. Standing next to me is a younger girl, maybe mid-thirties or so. Her face beams a smile to me, something seemingly foreign in this dark pit of a bar. Her clothes also seem out of place, oddly bright in colour compared to the rest of the locals I’ve seen who chiefly wore shades of red, black and grey.

She continues, an almost song like rhythm to her words. “I work in the back. I mostly handle the orders and finances and things like that so you don’t really get to see me much.”

“Alright.” I don’t really want to be talking to this girl.

Her face falls for a moment at the lack of reciprocation but in an instance it’s beaming again. “That’s my dad,” She points to the bartender. “Marshall. I’m Sam by the way! Did I mention that?”

She seems nice enough, but what does she want? “Yeah, you said that. I’m-“

“I know who you are! I always like to meet the new people that Karen brings.”

“People? As in multiple? Does he have more than one place? And how do you know me?”

Her brow furrows, she looks down. “Ok, well I’m sure you’ve guessed, maybe even heard, that you’re not the first in Karen’s cabin. It’s an old family place of his. He didn’t have a great relationship with his parents but he got the place after they died since he was the only child. I guess he feels bad selling it but doesn’t feel quite right staying there himself. So yes, he has tried to bring people here before. And he tends to do his research quite a bit on who he brings, in interest of cabin safety. He’d been following your records for months, he knew when you were getting out and he knew when to make his move.”

I feel a little disgusted at the news. “That means you’ve been stalking me.”

“No no no! Please don’t think that way!” Her hand shoots out and lands on my forearm. “You didn’t actually think you were chosen at random, did you? He wasn’t stalking! Karen just watched the reports to see when you would get out. Your case wasn’t hard to find. He was going to be in town that day anyways!”

Her appeal softens me a bit, though the feeling still lingers. I suppose I hadn’t put much thought into it but I do admit that what she says makes sense. “That’s reasonable enough. What happened to the others though?” Comes my response after a considerable pause, all the while Sam waited patiently.

“The others? I guess none of them really liked it here. Can you imagine that?” She says with a laugh.

“Right. Who wouldn’t want to live here?”

“Exactly!” Her excited reply tells me she didn’t catch the sarcasm laden in my line.

I would have been fine with ending the conversation right there, Sam however, had different plans. She took a seat at my table and then she said something I hadn’t heard in a long time. She asked me about myself. I rarely talk about my past, my family, my aspirations or dreams, but there was something about her that let the words flow freely. The next couple of hours melted away. This was the first genuine human conversation I’d had in decades. I’ve almost forgotten what it feels like. I was starting to feel comfortable around her when she said another thing that I didn’t expect.

“Come to Rachel’s barbecue tomorrow night. It’ll be fun! Rachel and her husband Dan always have great parties. You can meet new people, establish yourself in the community. I’ll be there…”

“Yes.” I agree before I think about it further. Is this another decision made by the liquor? Hell, wouldn’t be the worst one I’ve made.

She smiles, tells me where and when. Reminds me that it’s closing time and I have to leave. I pay for my drinks and step into the cool breeze of the evening. Maybe this island won’t be so bad after all. 

I was in there longer than I realized. Intermittent lamps glow through the darkness of the outside. The heat of the day had been replaced by the calm of night. Liquor still swirling through my body, I decide to continue walking through town, see what little of it I haven’t already. During the sunlight hours there had at least been a few wanderers through the town, now it was completely desolate. The shops had all closed for the evening. Looking back, even The Angler had shut off its lights. This leg of Pelican Point continued on in the same fashion as it had in the rest of town; a dirt road leading towards the trees with wooden venues placed along the sides. Couldn’t have been more than five hundred meters to the edge of the forest but I figured I’d make the walk anyways. With a few hundred meters remaining the door of the outermost building flies open.

Five men come out, two in the front and another two half escorting, half dragging the fifth. They haven’t seen me yet and I duck behind the nearest building, keeping myself enveloped in shadow. The haze of intoxication clouding my brain clears immediately. Sound does not travel well here and I have a hard time making out what is being said. I can hear the wails of the man being dragged. Fuck. Ok. Am I gonna let this happen? What am I supposed to do against four people though? I move along the back of the building, getting slightly closer to the group. “…you knew this was coming. Come on, it’s time.” I barely make out the words before the man’s howling drowns out the silence once again. With that they disappear into the thicket, the sounds of the man quickly becoming fainter. I wait a few minutes behind the building, afraid to move, heart beating wildly. What if they saw me? Eventually my courage returns and I sprint home. I arrive wheezing and bent over at the cabin, the familiar walls bring comfort to my shaken body.

I sit on the living room couch staring at the blank TV. Meat sizzles on the stove as I contemplate what I’d just seen. Whatever that was, it’s not my fight. It’s between that man and the four other men. If he did something to be dragged away like that I’m sure he deserved it. Right? Having led a criminal’s life I’m not foreign to events like that, yet something about it has me feeling extremely uneasy. Something about the way that man pleaded into the nothingness. The way his yells came from a place of pure dread. Thinking about it gave me chills.

_______________________________________________

 

I wake from a restless night, the sun barely peaking over the horizon. I lay paralyzed in bed all night, plagued by the image of the man and the repeating pitch of his cries through my head. Walking down to the beach I stand at the edge of the ocean, the brisk water licking at my toes. A sheet of clouds drifts lazily through the sky, it’s far colder today than it was yesterday. I don’t know how long I stood there staring into the horizon, watching the clouds move and the waves turn. I stayed until the steady flow of water drowned out the echoing sobs.

A few hours pass at home before I realize that it’s time for the barbecue that Sam invited me to. Part of me tells me to stay home, to avoid the function. I can’t stand the people here. The bar staff seem to be the only normal ones. My thoughts flitter back to Sam, her smiling face, her upbeat attitude. I’ll go to see her but that’s it.

I find the bright red house standing in the center of the residential cluster. Minus the one or two people walking through the gate to the backyard of the house the town remains as empty as the day before. I cross into the threshold of the property. Almost no noise is made from the back, if not for the few people before me I would assume I had the wrong house. Turning the corner of the small fence I see the social gathering before me. Approximately ten people stand in the yard, loose fitting clothes, tight skin and shoulders slumped on every single one of them. A murmur of chatter crosses the groups. Other than the occasional twitch of an arm or scratch of a head there’s nothing distinguishing them from statues. A couple of them turn their heads slightly my way as I pass. These people are barely alive, let alone throwing a party.

For the second time I’m startled by that high pitched, bubbly voice. I turn to see Sam standing behind me. “You came! Glad to see it!”

I’m happy for the distraction. “Yeah, I sure did. Why are the people so…?” My voice trails off. What words can be used to describe them?

“So what?” Sam looks legitimately confused by the question, as if nothing was wrong at all.

“Well, like that!” My hand sweeps out in a large gesture. Despite the outburst only the smallest of movements happen amongst the group. “None of them move, none of them talk. They all look like they’re dead!”

She’s hurt by my words. “They’re just a little shy is all! You should bother to get to know anybody before you start with this. Ok? Look, I’ll introduce you to Dan. He’s that one there, at the barbecue.”

I reluctantly follow. Partly because she put her hand on my back to guide me. The chef stands at his barbecue, staring at it with an oddly intense concentration. He’s wearing an old T-Shirt, small rips finding themselves throughout the fabric. A watch sits loosely on his wrist, it doesn’t run. Veins flow across his skin, popping out like twine around a stick. He walks barefoot. “Dan! This is the guy that Karen’s got up in his place. Thought you might get along.”

The man looks up quickly from the food, turns towards the girl. “He’s the new one?” His eyes move over me. He mumbles something to Sam that I can’t hear. Suddenly, without breaking eye contact with Sam, he extends a hand towards me. I refuse to take it until he looks at me. “I’m Dan. Sam’s told me a lot about you. Nice to meet you.” Why does everyone know me here?

Dan is unlike the others. Most people I’ve seen are slow, quiet and lethargic. This man is a polar opposite. His hand movements are fast, eyes constantly scanning. Words come in rapid and precise sentences. He twitches at every sound. It’s as if he’s expecting something to happen at any moment. Sam excuses herself to talk with the others. I’m left with the cook. He keeps shifting his gaze from me, to behind me, to the meat. It becomes a relatively consistent pattern.

“You’re a local then?” It’s the first thing that enters my head. Normally I thrive in silence but there’s something about Dan. Some sort of instability that seems to flow throw his body, it’s almost palpable. It makes me feel uncomfortable. I make any small talk I can to even somewhat avoid his fleeting stare.

“Been here since I was born. Gonna be here ‘till I die. We all are.” The same pattern. Me, behind me, meat.

“All of us? What about me?” Dan stares at me after I say this. The flicking eyes stop. He doesn’t reply and turns back to the food. I try a different approach.

“What are you cooking?” I point towards the grill.

“Just some local game. Deer.” He doesn’t look at me at all when I ask. That’s almost the exact same line Karen gave me back at the cabin when we arrived. Silence ensues after this. I’m relieved to see Sam’s smiling face heading back towards us.

“How are you two getting along?”

“Hey Sam, can we talk for a second?” I need to talk to somebody normal after Dan. I need to talk about the people. About the island. About last night.

“Oh, sure. Is everything alright?” We walk to the edge of the yard, far enough to be out of earshot. She leans casually on the fence. I didn’t notice until then how attractive she was.

“You can’t tell me you don’t see something weird with these people. Maybe it’s just an island thing but I haven’t had a normal conversation with anyone except you yet.”

“I really don’t think you’re giving them a chance! They’re all great people. Why do you think me and my dad have been here so long?”

“And the town is so empty!” Frustration begins to build in me.

“It’s a small town.” She answers carelessly.

I pause for a moment. Should I tell her about last night? Yes. I need to tell someone. “Last night, after I left the bar, I saw something.” Sam’s listening intently now. “Four men came out of a building dragging someone. I didn’t hear much but I saw them pull him into the forest.”

She looks at me quizzically before replying. “You’re telling me you saw a kidnapping? In Pelican Point?” A small laugh. “Last time something went wrong here was 20 years ago and that was because somebody stole a bag of chips. Besides, don’t you think in a tiny place like this somebody would notice? Or hear?”

“I did!” I practically yell at her. “It wasn’t a kidnapping though. That man was screaming for something far worse.”

She shakes her head slightly. I can see the disappointment in her eyes. “This man was screaming? How far were you from the bar? Wouldn’t I have heard? It makes no sense.”

I stutter on my next few words. I don’t know how to convey the emotion I felt last night. Was this town insane? Or was I?

I don’t stay much longer. I have no interest in speaking with these standing corpses and Sam brushes off anything important I have to say. Heading back to the cabin I let the events from the past few days play through my mind. Was it a mistake coming to this island? I hated home. I hate it here. Maybe I’m the issue after all. How do I know that I’m not mental? Sam’s normal. She says she doesn’t notice anything at all. Karen told me that the Pelican Point’s citizens would be accommodating. But they’re both from the island!

The sun streaks across the sky and sags just below the horizon once again, filling the sky with orange and pink. After almost an entire day seated in my log house I realize that I can’t hide out until the month is over. This cabin tortures me. It plays with my thoughts, makes them hopeless and dark. Outside calls to me and I heed it. Leaving home I grab the flashlight Karen left behind. The trail ends but I keep walking into the trees, searching for something. I’m not sure what yet. It feels as if there’s something pulling me, guiding my every step. Little light is offered from the setting sun and long shadows stretch across the ground. I notice how intensely silent it is. Trees form a dense maze that I carefully pick through. Large roots try to snare my feet and branches sweep low to defend from above. The mosquitos are fierce, a never ending cloud of vampirism. The ground gives way under my boot slightly, a small trench in the ground to my left. Illuminated only by the beam of the flashlight I follow the trench. It’s waist deep and roughly dug. Couldn’t be more than a few years old. A few old branches cover the top in an irregular canopy. Was that to hide it from view? I crawl through on my hands and knees, the dirt is dry and loose and fills the air easily. My shoulders begin to find more space in the trench. The walls widen and the path dips, I soon have space to stand up and walk as long as I crouch. The rut gradually gets larger until a small pit forms. It is completely covered with logs and no light from above would enter this area during the day.

A small dome catches the glint of my flashlight. I walk over to it, use my hands to uncover the soil around it. That’s when I notice. Two empty eye sockets stare up at me. I stifle the noise that tries to come out of my throat. Against all better judgement I force myself to shine the light over the rest of the pit. Bones. Hundreds of them. Arms reaching out for salvation. Legs, trying desperately to run. Skulls silently judging and pleading. Nothing could have prepared me for this macabre scene and my most animal of instincts takes over. I run.

Getting out of the pit proves a struggle but I breathe in the chilled night air deeply once I reach the outside. My mind is racing. Coherent thoughts don’t form, everything is a jumble. Plants and timber rush by as my body tells me to keep moving. My breath comes a little easier as the lights of the city begin to come into view. A few more steps and the forest lies behind me. I keep running, blindly obeying my legs as they tell me to fight. I round a familiar corner, the glow from the pub and bright letters reading The Angler fill my vision.

Bursting inside I stop briefly in the door frame. I see Marshall behind the bar, pouring a drink for a local. Another sits at the table I occupied last night. All three turn to look at me. Making a conscious effort I slow my breathing and walk slowly over to the bartender. My breath is ragged and my words come with heavy emphasis. “Look, Marshall. I need to talk to Sam right now. Where is she?”

He looks suspiciously at me for a moment. I can see him hesitate before he replies. “Sam just stepped out actually. She left this for you.” He hands me a small, sealed envelope. I leave without further words.

My hands shake wildly and fumble with the letter. It finally opens and I unfold the note within. “I’ve been thinking about what you said earlier today. You were right, people have been acting strange lately. We have a few people that haven’t been seen in a few days. We’re definitely on to something huge here. Meet me at Karen’s old house. Follow the road The Angler lies on into the forest, you’ll find a path shortly afterwards that will lead you right there. I’ll meet you outside. I promise. –Sam”

Karen’s old house? Nobody had ever mention a second house before. Looking up from the paper my head turns to the left. The forest. That same stretch of forest I saw someone disappear into not even twenty four hours ago. My heart drops and I feel a pit form in my stomach. Dread washes over me as I bring each foot forward. I stand at the edge, the blackness echoing in front of me. I can still hear the screams rattle around my mind. One step into the trees, then another. And another. Not even three meters in and the town behind me vanishes. The circular illumination from the flashlight cuts through the night and flickers on fallen stumps. A large rectangular structure begins to form in the midst of the thicket. Stars and a bright moon give shape to a cabin, my flashlight works out the details. It’s oddly similar to the one I’m staying in. I call out Sam’s name to no avail. I call again louder, a small rustling in the bushes.

Sam appears. She looks different than normal. Her usual smile is replaced by a sullen expression. She wears a black sweater. “What the hell is this place, Sam? You never told me Karen had a second cabin!”

Her hand gestures wildly for me to follow but she offers no answer. We walk to the back where the porch and beach of my cabin would have been. “Look. You were right. Follow me.” Her words are monotone, none of her usual pep follows her now.

“Sam? Is everything alright? What’s going on?” My voice is becoming more frantic with each passing moment. She looks directly into my eyes before walking away to the far wall.

Her next words come quietly and get lost into the vegetation. “You truly believe that the others got to just leave, don’t you?”

I’m about to ask her what she means when she runs around the corner. I follow to find an open cellar and no sign of my companion. A light shines dimly in the stairwell and I turn off the flashlight. The wooden stairs moan at my descending body. I call out to Sam again, no answer. Reaching the bottom of the stairs the feeling hits me. That same unforgettable taste I first felt when I arrived on the island; its overpowering now and surrounds me like a wall. A noise from the top of the stairs grabs my attention. The stair light shuts off and the figure is left a silhouette. The silhouette of a girl. Sam’s voice reaches out to me like a distant noise. “Have you ever even seen any deer on the island?” The cellar door slams shut. The heavy lock bolts into place.

For a brief moment everything makes sense. The malnourished people. The empty town. The way everyone knew me. The meat. Light flickers from the flashlight, the stairway is empty. I slowly pivot behind me, the light scanning the walls. A knife lies on the floor, a bloody cleaver stands embedded in the counter. Of every event I’ve been through, every hardship surpassed, this is how I end. Meat hooks hang from the ceiling, small pools of crimson form under them. If I had just listened to myself I would have been fine. The fingers of a bony hand lay on the ground, the wrist sliced clean of its forearm. Another nameless victim to this fucked up town.


© Copyright 2017 Karston Komers. All rights reserved.

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