The Lost Island of the St. Lawrence Seaway

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
It is the late 1700s, and a hunter has encountered a strange man in the woods...

Submitted: June 26, 2017

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Submitted: June 26, 2017

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 Edward “Eddie” Van Ede was fond of rain in the summer. If you asked anyone who knew him, they would say it represented his personality— cold, unpleasant, and a reason be avoided. He loved hunting during the rain. It was harder to be seen, and the animals were more difficult to track—making it much more interesting. The rain was personal, like everything in the world didn’t matter except the present moment. That’s what hunting was for him, a thrill beyond any he had experienced. The feeling of power, and pure predatory instinct. He didn’t care that he was soaked to the bone. He felt alive. 

Eddie wore a special suit when he went hunting. A beige jacket with a large hood and matching pants that turned darker when they got wet, making it harder to be see. A dark green hunting hat covered his head. The rain that slipped through the leaves beat on the rim, gathering in small pools that would run off the edges in annoying streams. He was the colour of tree bark, blending with the forest. If you were to walk by, you wouldn’t look twice. 

Eddie walked across the forest floor without sound. It was late afternoon, but you wouldn’t be able to tell. The clouds were dark above the forest canopy and the leaves thick above his head. The forest was on its own time. It was dark enough to stay hidden, yet light enough to see. He had been doing this many years— he knew all the animals in the region, when to hunt them and what not to touch. He was good at what he did, but most importantly— he loved every second. On days like these he valued every moment away from home, away from his wife and the dull town he lived in. Alexandria Bay was a nice place, but it was less a town and more a settlement. The population was barely over six hundred and fifty people, and everybody knew everybody. It was a small community in what is now Jefferson County, New York. It was located on the northern point of the state, near the border of present day Cornwall, Ontario. Alexandria Bay was the result of the St. Lawrence Seaway trade route, along with many other towns down and upriver. People had begun to settle on the shores of the river because imports were so easily accessible and the land rich in resources to trade for.  One of the most notable traits of Alexandria Bay was the many islands on the river. Most were too small to hold any people, and they served no monetary value, so they were just ignored. Occasionally, people would boat to the islands usually just to explore. Eddie had been to the biggest islands years ago. They were mostly just covered in small trees and shrubs, and didn’t house any wildlife except for birds, who were able to fly from island to island undisturbed by anybody. 

The crack of thunder interrupted his thoughts and the rain started coming down harder. Most people would have called it off and went home, but Eddie wasn’t most people. He smiled to himself, adjusted his hat and kept on walking. He had been trailing a deer for three miles, and was careful not to disturb the environment. 

Suddenly, there was rustling ahead. Eddie froze and lifted up his rifle—a 1795 Springfield, given to him by his father over a decade before. There was evidence of experience on it, marks and scratches from previous hunts. A small reminder from every hunt was recorded on the gun, in some form or another. Some not visible at first glance, but Eddie would be able to tell you how every mark on that rifle came to be. The crunch of leaves quickened and then suddenly stopped. Eddie was still— the rain poured off him in small streams by the wrinkles of his clothes. He was about to take another step when lightening flashed. 

The forest was illuminated, and to his surprise, not twenty feet in front of him was a man— or what Eddie thought was a man. His dark outline was kneeling on the ground, digging a hole with his hands. The lightning passed in an instant and all was dark again. Eddie staggered but stood his ground. Thunder shook the canopy. He could move without sound, but he didn’t dare. He raised his gun, placing his finger on the trigger. He would wait for the next flash of light, just to be sure. Never had he encountered anyone during such conditions before, and he had a bad feeling about it. Who in their right mind would be out— he started to think, but never had a chance to finish. There was a sound behind him. He didn’t heard it at first— the crunch of leaves, getting closer. Eddie backed up to the nearest tree and pressed himself against it, holding his gun to his chest. The footsteps became louder as Eddie drew a breath. They came from the right and passed by swiftly. 

A large figure ran by him. It was a man, his face concealed under the curtain of rain. Eddie had only seen the back of his bald head. His heart rate accelerated as his brain turned on full alert mode. He wasn’t sure why, but he felt scared. His body was telling him danger but his mind was telling him wait. Eddie leaned around the tree and checked behind, half expecting to see another stranger waiting for him. The rain poured onto the empty bed of leaves and the trees looked as solemn as before. He strained to hear more. There was rustling up ahead, and then a thud. 

Eddie realized he was shaking. It was a small tremble at first, he hadn't noticed it, but now his entire body was quivering. It wasn’t because of the cold— he had done this many times. It was something else. Something he had never felt while hunting— fear. He didn’t move. There was another thud, then— he heard the quick rustle of footsteps pound the forest floor, growing softer as they moved away. 

Alexandria Bay was behind him— miles of forest to the west and nothing but the river to the east. Thunder cracked above his head, and Eddie realized he hadn’t heard another sound. As soon as the thought crossed his mind, lightening whipped across the sky and illuminated the forest. 

A large man was on one knee with his back to Eddie, holding his head in his hands. It looked as if he were in pain. The rain seemed to become heavier as Eddie pressed himself against the tree, breathing as quietly as his pounding heart would allow it. The comforting rain had now become unpleasant. Eddie wanted the hell out of there. 

A second lightening bolt lit the forest again, but the man was gone. Eddie watched for any movement. He knew he should go home— this was beyond anything he had ever experienced. He wasn’t going to be involved in a murder, or whatever business the men had. Yet, he felt an odd urge to follow them. They had come into the forest on a day like today, confident that they would not be seen. Their business was surely of importance. What secrets could they hold? He would examine the area ahead and return home, he thought. He promised himself he wouldn’t put himself in danger. He was a hunter after all, his business was with game. 

Eddie stepped from the tree. With each step he made, he felt his heart pound in his chest. In this moment, he remembered his father. Arnold Van Ede, war hero and prized hunter, who had died of heart failure at sixty four. Eddie couldn’t help but wonder if he was going to go the same way. He was a hunter, not the hunted. They hadn’t seen him, he was sure of it. There was nothing to worry about. His heart rate slowed and he took a few breathes through his nose. The air was humid, the forest was beginning to smell soggy. He approached the spot where the men had been. Imprints had been left in the ground below his feet— there were signs of a struggle. Eddie noticed a small hole, somewhat filled in by loose dirt. He kneeled and pushed away the dirt. It was empty, but something else caught his eye. There were shallow dents in the leaves—barely noticeable, but not for a hunters eye. They were footprints that led away towards the river.

‘Just go home’, Eddie said to himself.  

If he did, he knew he would regret it. From this day on, every time he came back out to these woods he would think to himself and wonder what happened. Without a second thought, he gripped his rifle tighter and sprung into quick walk.

Lightening flashed across the sky and thunder cracked above Eddie’s head as he made his way across the forest bed. The rain was beginning to comfort him again— he was regaining his courage. He was, after all, the one with the loaded rifle. The tracks had begun to sink in more as the ground became muddy. Eddie was close. He knew that it would be night soon, and he needed to leave the forest before dark. He never hunted at night, especially in the rain. He slowed his pace, unsure of how much farther the man would be. His prints were minutes old, but they were nearing the river and the mist from the shore was beginning to invade the edges of the forest. Eddie couldn’t see farther than thirty feet ahead of him. But he didn’t have to—amidst the pattering of the rain on the leaves, Eddie heard the shuffling sounds of footsteps ahead. Eddie noticed that there were now two pairs of tracks. They were close to the river now. 

Suddenly there was a loud snap— Eddie stopped mid-track. He looked at his boots and realized he had stepped on a stick. It would have gone unnoticed on any other day, maybe scared off a deer that Eddie was tracking 

The footsteps ahead stopped. The water collected on Eddie’s hat and began trickling in small streams onto his shoulders. 

‘Idiot’, he muttered. 

He aimed his rifle ahead, at the ready. There was only the patter of rain. Lightening flashed far off. As the thunder followed, the forest shook and Eddie heard a splash. He crept along the tracks, his eyes alert for any movement. The mist had become worse. Eddie was so focused on what was in front of him, he didn’t notice the forest drop into the river below. His foot fell through the ledge and as the ground gave away and he lost his balance. He slid right into the bank, a foot and a half deep at its shallowest. Years of rocks and dirt had collected and created a declining hill that led right down into the dark depths beyond the shore. 

Eddie sputtered and tried to regain his balance, losing his footing again to the loose mud. He held onto his rifle with one hand and curled the other around the edge where he had fallen. He stood himself up and caught his breath, looking around make sure no one heard him. The rain was louder on the water out in the open and he was reassured after barely hearing himself. The man was gone, and the two pairs of tracks ended here.

At that moment, lightning cracked across the sky and lit up the river. To his surprise, the white light revealed a small island in the centre of the river. Eddie couldn’t see the far shore, but he knew the land— he had walked these woods hundreds of times but had never noticed the island. It was distinguishable by two large, thin pines on the far side. His eyes wandered, and for a split second he thought there was a small dark shape in the water ahead. Then everything was dark again. He stared across the river. The rain and mist from the river created a grey curtain that rippled and swayed in the wind. Eddie couldn’t see a thing.

This is madness, he thought. It would be night soon, and then there would be no hope finding the way home until morning. He had no intention of being stuck in the woods at night. He shouldn’t have come out this far anyways. His curiosity had got the better of him, and it wouldn’t happen again. Eddie tossed his rifle and grabbed a small tree that was growing close to the water, hoisting himself out of the river. He was soaked to the bone and the cold water had not affected him much. He adjusted his hat, and picked up his gun. He swung it over his shoulder and looked back. Lightening flashed, and he caught a dark outline of the island, now shrouded, fading from view. He turned around to head back when an agonizing shriek pierced the air. 

Eddie jerked his head around and almost fell off the ledge again. Eddie readied the rifle and watched the sights— he saw only darkness. The scream echoed in his mind. He had not heard such a sound before in his life. The shaking had come back again. He stood there, water running off him in small streams that wobbled as he shook. Even in the beginning, as an amateur there had been animals he would have to kill twice. When he injured them, sometimes they would cry in pain. It was a horrible sound— Eddie cringed just thinking about it. He had grown a respect for the hunt, and the animals he killed. Now it only took one shot. Years of practice had made him an excellent shooter. Thunder startled him. The loud clap above him erupted in his eardrums and seemed to echo sevenfold over the river. He gripped his rifle tight, it was the only thing that brought him any sort of comfort. It was as if a part of his father was always with him. He thought about what his father would have done. He had seen death in the war, he had killed before. It was he who took Eddie on his first hunt and showed him how to shoot properly. 

It was slowly becoming darker. Eddie stood under the canopy of trees, starting to become very cold. He knew he had to leave very soon, or there would be no leaving at all. There had been no other sound from the island, but something kept him standing there. He felt obliged to be there, as if he were part of it all. Lightening flashed and Eddie’s heart stopped— the hairs on his neck stood up straight. He could feel his pulse inside his head. 

Just behind the ledge in front of Eddie there was a dark outline of a head, peering up at him. The man was standing on the edge of the river right where Eddie had slipped. For a brief moment while the lightning flashed, Eddie had seen him, and the man had seen Eddie. They were no more than ten feet apart. Eddie cursed to himself for not having went back when his instincts were screaming flee. He raised his gun and aimed it at the head. His hands trembled as he found the trigger. The dark shape of the man hoisted itself from the ledge with incredible ease and stood dripping water in front of Eddie. Lightning exploded across the sky and lit up the trees. For a brief moment, Eddie saw the man. He looked old, but not from age—there were scars all over his face. His bald head gleamed in the light. Eddie noticed he was holding something— a small chain hung from the wrings of his fingers. There was a dark stain running down his face. Eddie felt his heart skip a beat— he realized the man was holding something in his mouth. For that quick second, it glinted in the light. It was a large knife.

Then the world turned dark again. Neither of the men moved. Eddie didn’t want to move. He had been the predator hunting his prey for years, he had never felt like the prey— until now.

A sudden clap of thunder erupted and shook the world,  startling Eddie. His finger seized and he pulled the trigger. 

A shot ran out across the river. Eddie flinched in surprise as the man jerked backwards, the force of the bullet knocking him off his feet. He fell backwards into the river. There was a large splash, and then nothing was heard except the steady drone of rain. 

Eddie stepped forward, his rifle still held in front of him. Something familiar inside of him had awoken. That feeling of power after he got a kill. The rush of adrenaline that he so craved when he came into these woods. He took another step and anxiously adjusted the grip on his rifle. He approached the edge of the forest step by step. There was no sign of the man— the only evidence that remained of his presence was a weak ripple that grew larger and then faded away completely. Eddie stood without moving. His eyes searched the water.

The island was forgotten for the moment as Eddie, still shaken up, finally gave up and swung his rifle over the shoulder and started the walk back to town. The rain continued to pour. 

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There were signs of life everywhere as the morning sun shone between the trees. The rain had stopped sometime in the night. Drops of water gathered on the leaves and fell to the earth. 

Eddie hadn’t gotten any sleep. His wife was asleep when he came back, but she never bothered asking where he’d been, or how the hunts had gone. She never did anymore, and truth be told he never cared to tell her.  But that wasn’t what kept him up. Eddie couldn’t get the image of the man from his head. He had shot him, yet he didn’t feel guilty.  Maybe it was no accident, although he felt there was some part of him that was glad he did it. His instincts screamed danger, and he knew it too. He didn’t even want to think about what might have happened had he cowered. 

Eddie poured himself a scotch when he came home. It warmed him and helped a little with the tremble. He stood under the shower, turning the heat higher and higher until the numbness went away. Then he climbed into bed, and for the first time in a while, put his arm around his wife. He was thankful that there was someone with him tonight, thankful that he wasn’t alone. He considered the possibility that maybe he wouldn’t have come home tonight had things gone differently. And if he went missing, who would go out looking for him, he wondered. He barely spoke to his wife, let alone neighbours or other people in town. He would be surprised if his neighbours even knew his name. He was a recluse, and he preferred it that way. How long would it have taken for people to realize he was missing? A week? A month? How long would it take for them to have found his body? A rotting corpse by then, eaten by animals. They wouldn't be able to identify him. He would be wiped from the face of the planet, and no one would remember Eddie Van Ede, the hunter from Alexandria Bay that lived in the small house by the river. His family name, ended there, left out somewhere in the woods to rot. His wife couldn’t have kids, but he had never wanted them anyway. That might have been what drove them apart after all these years. He had never wanted to adopt. He was a good hunter, and that was it. Why had he always rejected the idea of a family? Did he really want to be forgotten so easily? These thoughts chased him into the early morning. 

As soon as the sun came around, Eddie got out of bed without a sound and made his way into the kitchen. He stood there for a few minutes, going over the events of the previous night. It seemed surreal— the island, the strange men. What happened on that island? 

The sun cast beams of light across the room. Dust was caught in the rays, flying about in every direction. The house is filthy, he thought. His wife had given up on keeping it in order because Eddie was never home. He noticed his gun on the table. He cleaned it out and reloaded it. The island— he needed to go back. It wasn’t something that could wait.

Eddie changed into his spare hunting clothes. The ones from the previous night sat soaked and crumpled on the bathroom floor. He would get them later, he noted. As he closed the door to his bedroom, he watched his wife sleep. They had loved each other once. He closed the door gently and left without another sound. 

There was a fine mist on the river as Eddie walked to the shore. He would borrow a boat and oars from his neighbour, and return them later. It was an emergency. He put his rifle inside and pushed off the dock as mist enveloped him. He began paddling away from shore until he finally disappeared from view. It was quiet again.

Eddie paddled downstream. The river was fair, and the current slow. The shores were invisible on either side. There were many other islands at this part of the river. I might not even find the island, he considered. 

Thirty minutes went by, and the river turned bare. Eddie was beginning to think he had passed the island, when he noticed two trees that appeared to be closer than the others and centred in the water. Thats odd, he thought. He put the oar into the water, changing his direction. As the boat turned, Eddie realized why had never noticed the island before. It was a surreal natural phenomenon, an optical illusion— from the boat, the island was aligned with the shores behind it, its exact height making it look as if there were no island at all. The island became fully visible as the boat came closer. Eddie let the boat drift to the sides of the island. As he pulled in closer, he realized the most peculiar thing— there was no rock, sand or mud from the islands edge to the river bottom. It was as if the ground dropped straight down where the water started. As he peered closer, he realized the water was just as dark underneath the island as it was in the centre of the river. It was as though there was nothing holding up the island.

Eddie tied a rope to the front of the boat and stepped onto the island, pulling it closer and tying the other end of the rope to a large shrub. The island was not large by any means, maybe thirty square feet in total. It was overgrown, but Eddie could make his way around the bushes. They had been broken and parted in some places. Rifle at the ready, he stepped through the grass. 

It was silent. No birds or wildlife could be heard. It was as if everything, including him, was holding its breath. He wasn’t sure what he would find. Maybe he didn’t expect to find anything at all, but something told him that wasn’t true.

All of a sudden, it hit him— a putrid smell, a stench Eddie had unfortunately smelled many times before. He gagged, because he knew what the cause of the smell was. When he was an unskilled hunter, the animals he shot would sometimes manage to get away. He would chase them until he lost their tracks and had to give up. Days or weeks later, he would come across the body in the woods, the unfortunate souls had suffered slow and painful deaths. The smell would be worst in humid summer months. He wanted to turn back and leave. He didn’t want to see what was on the island. He stepped through a large shrub and stopped— a maimed corpse lay on a patch of dirt and flattened grass. In the rain and humidity, it had taken on an uneasy shade of purple.

Eddie turned and vomited. He had seen dead animals, but the idea of a dead human had never frightened him so much as it did now. This had been the scream that he heard. A murder. He suddenly understood the danger that he had put himself in the day before. His life could have ended the same way. Murdered and left in the woods to die. Eddie looked at the man in pity. He could leave and never come back. Never tell anyone about what he found here, and forget about the whole thing. He felt nauseous again, but the feeling was suddenly overpowered by anxiety. He was the only one who knew about this. The man in the woods could have, or would have killed him if Eddie didn’t shoot him first. And if Eddie went back now, what would happen? The body would be found, people questioned. He was the only one who was out here at this time, his tracks all over the island. Who would believe an introvert hunter, someone that kills animals to make a living? Of course he did it, he would have no trouble killing a human. And what of the other man? He remembered the shot, how the man fell into the river and disappeared. He may have drowned, but there was no body. No evidence.  

Eddie looked at the body again and knew what he had to do. He went to the boat and took out the oar. The ground was soft, the rain had moistened the soil. Eddie took the oar and stuck it into the ground, pressing down and pulling up a chunk of dirt. He repeated it again and again. He continued digging into the late morning. 

The mist had cleared up, but small columns of steam rose over the river. The morning was eerie and beautiful. Golden sunlight poured across the river, lighting the water droplets. The light made the river glow, reflecting off the cool dark water and bouncing into the trees on the other side. Eddie, now smeared in sweat and dirt, had created a hole deep enough for the body. He was carving out the sides while the rays of sun beat down on his neck. It was difficult digging with an oar, and by the time he was finished, it had chipped and begun to crack at the bottom. 

He scooped out the dirt and took a moment to guess if the body would fit. Deciding it was big enough, he threw the oar aside and stepped over to the corpse. But Eddie felt wrong, he felt as if he shouldn’t be there. He didn’t know who this person was, or what they were doing there. He didn’t know who killed him, or why. It was too late for that, he finally decided. Either he gets rid of the problem now, or somebody else finds the body and the problem comes back to him. He looked into the pale dead eyes of the man in front of him, and couldn’t help but wonder. What were his last thoughts? Why had he come to this island? 

Eddie grimaced and grabbed the body, rolling it over. He had decided— this ends now. He shivered from the touch. The skin was cold. He grabbed the arms and pushed it into the hole. He adjusted the legs so that it fit inside, and was about to get the oar when he noticed a small box, half buried where the body had been. He kneeled by the box. Had this been what this man was protecting? Or was he hiding it? It looked as if he had tried to bury the box during his final moments. This is why he had came to the island, Eddie realized. He hoped no one would find it here. He didn’t think whoever was after him would follow him into the river.

Eddie wiped some loose dirt off the top. It was a beautiful box, sanded and polished. Whatever was inside the box, a jewel, treasure, or artifact, was worth killing for. Or dying for. Eddie looked back at the man in the grave. Protector of what? Eddie turned to the box, and began to pry it from the dirt. It came up with ease. He slid the lid off the top and stared into the box. 

It was empty. 

Whatever treasure had been inside was gone. Eddie felt a pang of disappointment. He guessed it was stolen probably, by the man he shot. He remembered the man standing there, holding something in his hands. He couldn’t remember. 

Eddie returned the box to its hiding place, and began to scoop dirt back into hole. He had thrown three scoops when he noticed something—the box lay with its inside facing up. The lid slid off and there was a small rectangular shape of a different colour than the wood, just barely visible on the floor of the box. Eddie put the oar aside and took a closer look— it was a piece of paper, a note, stuck to the wood. The water had wet it and discoloured it. He gently peeled it off and held it into the air for a better look. 

On it, in faded ink, barely visible were two words: 

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Para Ana

#

‘Para Ana?’, Eddie asked aloud. He hadn’t a clue what it meant. It frustrated him, and in his irritation he smeared the paper in his fingers, squeezing it into a white paste. He flung what was left of the note back in the hole. He was done.

By the time he finished filling the hole, the sun had risen higher into the sky and the golden light of the river transformed into a bright yellow. The river looked more cheery than it had yesterday. Eddie stomped on the dirt, and then ripped some grass up and threw it on, stomping it. Aside from the body buried there, it looked as if no one had ever set foot on the island. He had done the right thing, he thought. The killer was still out there, but Eddie wasn’t worried anymore. He left him with a lethal parting gift. 

According to Eddie, the only evidence of the entire encounter was an empty box buried on a small island in the St. Lawrence Seayway— but you’ll never get him to admit that. Eddie knew he would be wrongly accused of murder if the body was found. That’s how things worked in Alexandria Bay. The people didn’t like problems, and Eddie was just a hunter. He stayed another moment, and then got into the boat. He untied the rope and without looking back, set up river. He told no one of what happened. He told no one of the men, the island, or the box. 

Eddie was just a hunter. 

As he rowed back towards Alexandria Bay, he had a strange feeling he was being watched. He looked at the forest, the very same that he had been hunting in for years. He knew it better than he knew the town, yet it was different to him now. It would always be. As he turned back and continued rowing, he thought he saw someone standing in the trees. It was only for a second, the sun broke through and shone onto his face, warming it. As he turned back to look again, the forest was empty. Maybe it was his imagination.

Eddie lingered for a moment longer— satisfied that he was just seeing things, and then set home to kiss his wife again. 


© Copyright 2017 Bartchoke. All rights reserved.

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