Island of Speculation
Dusk, the time when it’s neither light nor dark. Tilly stared at the small island and blinked, trying to make out what it was she was seeing. Towards the far left, on the highest point, a pale luminous light of red, gold and green shimmered in waves encircling a hump of ground.
What was it? Tilly looked around, was she the only one to notice what was going on? There were plenty of people milling around talking, drinking, laughing and yes, looking at the views. But, no one was exclaiming and pointing to the island in excitement.
She looked back at the unsettling phenomenon just in time to see it suddenly disappear. Had she imagined it? The disquiet she still felt inside told her – no.
* * *
Tilly sat at her laptop trying to find out any information about the small tidal island, there was aplenty. It had been there when Dinosaurs roamed the Earth, leaving their footsteps behind, embedded in the fore-shore of the island. A prehistoric fort had been discovered at some stage. Romans had been and gone in the area. And, in the 18th century smugglers had made good use of it.
Could a build-up of all that history in some way have left its mark overtime on the Island? And, what about things that had surely happened there since? She couldn’t believe that the island’s background hadn’t drawn people of a mystical nature to its shores. There was definitely something, she just couldn’t rid herself of the sight she’d seen, no matter how much she’d tried to explain it away to herself.
“What’s up, love?” a voice asked. “You’re looking very serious sitting there.”
Tilly looked up to see her grandfather stood in the doorway.
“Hi Gramps, I’m just doing a bit of research about this area - it’s quite interesting when it comes down to it.”
“I could tell you a few bits and pieces that you won’t find on there,” he indicated the laptop. “Events that have happened in my lifetime. Incidents that are hard to explain. Things you’d have trouble believing.”
“I think you might be the one surprised at what I believe, Gramps.”
“What’s that then? Tell me first? Before your old gramps gets funny looks from you in relating his tales. And you think that he’s gone doodle-ally-tap,”
“I’d never think that.” Tilly, regarded her grandfather with love in her eyes. “I know you would never josh me if we were having a serious conversation.”
“No, Tilly, I wouldn’t.”
“I saw something last night at dusk when I was looking at the island. The thing is nobody else around me mentioned it. And I had this weird feeling that I was the only one who could see it. That in itself was eerie enough, not to mention the uncanny feeling I had inside.”
Stroking his chin Tilly’s grandfather studied her thoughtfully. “Not everyone can see what’s happening in front of their very eyes, Tilly. They are unaware of other dimensions surrounding them.”
“That’s very intriguing. I didn’t think you were into that sort of thing?”
“Just because I don’t go blabbing away about it?” he smiled at his grand-daughter. “You’re apt to get funny looks from folk, they think that you’re just plain daft or have a screw loose. I find it wise not to mention ghosts and such.”
“Ghosts... I’ve never seen a ghost!” Tilly faltered. “Although, I did sense old Rover’s presence for quite a while after he’d died.” She thought tenderly of her first dog, he’d been her best friend and confidant for ten years, before she’d lost him when she was fifteen.
“There are many different levels of perception, Tilly, and varied subjects. What do you say if we go make tea and toast? And then, I’ll tell you some of things that I’ve seen, felt and wondered about over the years. By the way, what was it then - that you saw on the island last night?”
* * *
As they sat overlooking the island they were discussing, Gramps began his tale.
“There was the time when I was a young lad and had been for a walk with my father, up over the headland. I remember the island looking beautiful as it came into view on our return. We’d come down the hill and just rounded the bend in the road, when suddenly from behind we heard the sound of a horse. Its hooves drumming as it galloped, heading in our direction.
“The road was so narrow I thought that we would be trampled. As I feared the animal would be upon us before it registered or cared, that we were in its way. We stood still; my heart racing painfully as I clutched at my father’s hand. ‘Don’t worry, Son. It won’t hurt us. It’s just a fleeting moment, trapped in time.’ I cast a look at my father reassured by the certainty of the tone in his voice. The horse and a rider came charging past us. I could see white flecks of spittle on the horse’s chest. His nostrils flaring, his eyes wide and wild. Of the rider – I only saw him from the waist down – the top part of the body just wasn’t there.”
I looked at my grandfather, his eyes focused on the past memory. Silence fell.
“Wow, that certainly beats my story. You said that there was more?”
“Yes,” Gramps nodded. He gestured towards the island. “There was the time when I went over on my own. I often went to see the Hermit crabs. It was a warm but windy day and I’d eventually sat on the grass looking out to sea watching the ships. I became aware of noises, low and eerie, surrounding me. I felt as though I was cocooned in them.” He paused, then grinned at me. “The hairs on the back of my neck stood up on end. One was a pitiful keening sound, like someone wailing over their losses. Another,
an angry thrum, sometimes muffled, occasionally forceful. I wanted to get up and run, but I couldn’t. My legs had gone weak. There was no one else around either for me to shout out to, so that they might come and listen. I quickly realised though whatever it was, it wasn’t harming me. And, I became more relaxed and inquisitive as to what the sounds could be?
“I remembered stories that there had been the remains of an Iron Age fort discovered on the island. Did forts have dungeons in those days? I asked myself. Or were there even caves under the island? That could explain the noise, I supposed? Wind and waves would and could create the sounds I heard. I listened more intently. Yes. It certainly was a possibility.
“Why hadn’t I or anyone else heard the sounds before? Maybe people had, and like myself been afraid, and gone away not saying anything. There again, perhaps, the wind and tide had to be just right to create such a phenomenon. Could there be a crevice? Somewhere in the thick undergrowth near to where I was sitting that the sounds were emerging from?
“I had so many questions but no answers. I’ve never heard that noise again. Nor even discovered if any caves or dungeons exist. I’ve always wondered though if that wasn’t the cause – what was?”
Tilly frowned her mind searching for possibilities. “I can’t think of anything either, I wonder...?”
“There was something,” her grandfather broke in. “A few years later a couple of mates and I went across to the island. Frank, one of the lads had been cut off by the tide the evening before. The silly fool had fallen asleep and woke up too late to get back. So, he had to sit it out until the next tide.
“He told us that he’d made himself comfortable and waited, watching the stars come out. He felt sure he’d be able to pick his way back safely to the mainland as there was a full moon that night. When he heard a bizarre kind of chanting start up, he’d been alarmed. What on earth was that? It was fear-provoking. He said it reminded him of films he’d seen that had cults or covens of witches in them. With it being so quiet on the island it was hard to say what distance away they were. He certainly felt no compulsion to go and find out. He’d gone over his dilemma. No food, water, torch, or even matches to make a fire. Still, maybe the last one was a blessing? He wouldn’t want to give his location away. He was on his own and he felt helpless and very nervous.
“As soon as he gauged that he could make it across the causeway without any holdups, he was off. Concentrating on where he put his feet, he didn’t look back.”
Gramps smiled at the memory at that point. “Anyhow, that afternoon, full of bravado, the three of us set off on a witch/cult hunt. None of us had any idea what we were actually looking for. But emboldened by our number we were determined to try and discover something.
“After Frank had taken us to where he’d sat the night before we’d started our search. We soon came across the remains of a recent fire, and decided that this must have been the place of the previous night’s activity. I for one though doubted that a coven of witches or members of a cult would leave any obvious signs behind. We poked about but found no clues, maybe it was just as well. We were all sensitive to an atmosphere. A sense of something invisible watching us. Heavy, cloying and brooding. Holding its breath – waiting. A disembodied voice saying ‘boo’ would have had us peeing our pants, and running away screaming like a bunch of hysterical girls. We eventually returned to the mainland joshing with each other, the way lads do. But I think we all wondered – what if? My mind had cast itself back to that time I’d been sat on the grass. Convincing myself of the sea and wind creating noises in a cave or whatever, but what if it had been a moment trapped in time again, like the galloping horse? I couldn’t think of any good encounters from the past I’d experienced, only tragic ones. Even ghosts I’ve seen, and there’s been a few, have had appalling endings to their lives.”
Tilly stared at her Grandfather in amazement. “How come you’ve never told me any of this before now?”
“I’ve never felt the necessity to. Most people would put such things down to fanciful thinking, Tilly. I feel your different, you are... perceptive. Mind a world of imagination is no bad thing either. It keeps us humans moving forwards. Where would we be without DR’s, Scientists, Engineers, Architects to name but a few. Life is tantalizing, but I’m afraid we don’t always get the answers we are looking for.”
Tilly looked thoughtfully towards the island. “Do you think what I saw last night, Gramps, could in anyway have been a ‘Portal’?”
Pat Coates is 77 years old and lives in Sully, South Wales. Married with two children and two grandchildren.