Island of Lost Forevers – Chapter 1

Island of Lost Forevers – Chapter 1

While the sea churned beneath the small boat, Captain Jones scrambled to reach the engine controls. Moments before the ocean had been placid; the perfect day for fishing. With the sun shining out of a cloudless blue sky, he’d spent the morning sprawled across the deck bench, waiting for a tug on the line.

The ocean announced its fury with a massive thunder clap. Water poured across the deck before the captain realized what was happening, sweeping his fishing rod and bait box overboard. He might have followed if he hadn’t been sitting next to the life line. He hooked it to his belt with record speed and clawed his way toward the cabin.

The small craft pitched dangerously to one side as he turned the engine key, ocean slick hands scrabbling for purchase on the console. He brushed dripping grey hair from his face, squinting salt-stung eyes to read the GPS and weather data.

The depth meter read shallows where they shouldn’t be. The satellite didn’t indicate an unexpected storm. The ocean rumbled as waves slapped against the bow. The engine whined as it struggled to hold the ship against the current.

“Come on,” he muttered between clenched teeth, repeating the mantra over and over. “You ken do it…”

When his sturdy little fishing vessel bobbed on a calming ocean, Captain Jones breathed a sigh of relief and lifted his gaze. It was then he saw the mountain, looming high in the distance, casting a shadow across what should be open water.

What the-

Screams drew his attention. His fishing spot wasn’t crowded, but it wasn’t secluded either. The clear, calm waters were a favorite vacation getaway. Not every boat weathered the crisis as well as his. Without hesitation he ran for the life rings, tossing them in the proper direction before steering close enough the swimmers could climb aboard.

He pulled a family of five from the water, two of them young children; they and their mother the source of the screams. All five thanked him profusely as he turned his craft toward shore.

The engine purred now the tide returned to normal. What havoc would those rogue waves wreak on the beach? Thankfully none had been large enough to qualify as a tsunami. They’d wash away plenty of umbrellas, beach towels and plastic toys. There’d be many a ruined day but, hopefully, no lives would be lost.

Course set, he came out of the cabin to peer at the mountain receding in the distance.

“It came out of nowhere,” murmured the woman huddled in a damp blanket between two of her children, her voice pitched high toward hysteria. “It just sat on the ocean like it belonged there.”

“The mountain?” Captain Jones demanded, breathless.

“Not just a mountain.” The father shook his head. “An entire island.”

As they bobbed on the crest of the next wave, he caught a glimpse of it, green and glittering in the sun.

“Yes,” Captain Jones murmured, recalling the violent rocking of an otherwise smooth sea, “that would do it.”

* * * * * *

The headline: Scientists Baffled by Appearance of Mysterious Island conjured the image of people in white lab coats running in frantic circles flailing their arms. The amusing, if inaccurate, thought brought a smile to Catilen’s lips as she scanned the article.

“All right, Damian, I admit it; I’d love to know how they’re going to explain this. Conspiracy theory, maybe?” She glanced up at the professor who delivered the article. He leaned against her desk, arms crossed over his chest, a smug smile splitting his lips.

“This is a prestigious paper, not a tabloid. Besides, there were witnesses. I’ll tell you what they won’t do, Cat, they won’t admit the flaws in their investigative methods.” Catilen detected a hint of triumph in his voice. Damian wasn’t fond of scientists or their methods. They disregard too many possibilities he deems viable. Not that she didn’t agree modern scientists had some bad habits; she didn’t share her colleague’s desire to fill the gaps. If San Francisco State University had a parapsychology department, he’d beat down doors to head it.

“They’re still going to have a hard time convincing everyone this is legit, even with the freak mini-tsunami. Islands don’t just appear out of thin air.”

“So conventional science tells us.” Damian held up one finger to forestall any further arguments. “They’ll have to worry about explaining it sooner or later. But look at this.” He jabbed his finger at the article’s final paragraph. “That’s the most interesting part.”

Catilen read the two lines partly obscured by his fingertip. “Just off the coast of… That’s not far from here!”

“When do we leave?” Damian grinned, green eyes glittering with mischief.

Peering at him out of the corners of her eyes, Catilen fought the urge to grin. “Cheeky. It’s not like I don’t have a stack of papers to assault with a red pen. And it’s the equinox this weekend.”

“You know, I was wondering if that didn’t have something to do with it.” He sat down across from her. Leaning across her desk, he spoke his theories in low tones. It made sense he’d bring this discussion to her. She didn’t dismiss Professor Damian Cooke’s ideas the way everyone else did. “A lot of power pools at the turning of seasons. There are some interesting planetary junctions too.” She noted the excitement in his eyes and the joy suffusing his face as he gestured wildly to emphasize each point.

“This could be big, Catilen,” he finished with a sincere, pleading look. “People like us wait whole lifetimes for things like this.”

With a start, she realized his question had been serious. Gazing at the blurry photograph, taken by a confused fisherman, included with the article, she considered his offer. She couldn’t argue with his sentiment. What they could find on such an island! Lost history, artifacts, extinct animals. Her heart raced. People.

What kind of stories could a person living on that island tell? But such a trip wasn’t without risk. An island that appeared out of thin air could disappear as quickly.

“Assuming we could get past the government barricades-” she started.

“Leave that to me,” Damien interrupted, flashing her a confident grin.

“Assuming we could get past the government barricades,” she repeated with a stern scowl, “this isn’t something we can leap into. We’re not going to find a Holiday Inn on an uncharted island. We’re going to need camping equipment. A first aid kit. A few days worth of supplies.” She ticked off each item on the list, lifting a finger to indicate how they stacked up. “Not to mention some other precautions I know you’d want to prepare.”

Damian nodded to each item, waving a hand to indicate his impatience. “I thought early Saturday morning.” He tilted his head forward and lifted both eyebrows, imploring her.

Catilen pursed her lips. Damian’s enthusiasm was contagious. The adventurous thrill in the pit of her stomach was hard to ignore.

“All right.” She noted the restraint her coworker applied to keep from pumping his fists with triumph. “Let’s meet for dinner tonight to discuss it.”

“Dinner,” Damian agreed as he swept to his feet. Catilen half-expected him to dance to his next class. “Seven o’clock. I’ll pick you up.”

“Seven,” she agreed. “See you then.”

* * * * * *

Catilen chose an oriental style dress from her closet and donned it with care. The fabric was deep blue, the edges embroidered with delicate red flowers. It was of a more conservative cut than some of her outfits, with long, flowing sleeves and a knee-length skirt. She didn’t worry about Damian’s intentions, but she wanted to communicate hers.

Every time they’d done dinner, it had been as friends. To discuss Damian’s theories and ideas. To see where their opinions overlapped. They’d even started a proposal to open a new department at the University, but ultimately had to abandon the idea. Catilen couldn’t afford to lose her job no matter how much potential she saw in Damian’s research.

The trouble was, Damian wanted more than friendship. She wasn’t opposed to the idea; he was a nice guy, intelligent, thoughtful and passionate about his interests. I could do much worse than Professor Cooke. But she wasn’t sure she wanted more than friendship with anyone. She had other considerations when it came to relationships.

Satisfied by her quick scrutiny of the dress in the mirror, Catilen flitted down the hall to the bathroom. She gathered her dark brown hair in a bun high on her head, spearing it with an Asian-style hairpin that matched the dress’s embroidery. She donned a pair of silver earrings with dangling stars and applied a light coat of makeup.

As she slid her lipstick back into its tube, the doorbell rang. She hurried to answer the door, smiling at Damian in greeting.

“Wow.” He grinned. “You look gorgeous.”

Damian wore dark slacks and a navy button-down shirt. He also wore a tie, suggesting they were headed someplace fancy. He’d carefully combed his short crop of blond hair to one side, but a single strand stubbornly refused to submit. No matter how many times he brushed it aside, it strayed across his forehead.

Catilen smiled. “You clean up pretty nice yourself, Professor.”

He offered her his arm, playing the gentleman.

Snatching her purse from the table by the door, Catilen shook it to make certain she had her keys. She locked the door, pulled it closed behind her and accepted his offer, threading her arm through his. The gentleman act continued as Damian opened the car door for her before moving to the driver’s side. Raking the obstinate strand of hair out of his face, he settled into the driver’s seat.

“I brought you some reading material,” he announced, reaching across her to open the glove compartment. A thick sheaf of paper nearly lodged itself in the small opening as it tumbled into her lap.

Catilen hurried to contain the papers before they scattered all over the floor. “What’s this?” She thought they might be student papers he wanted help evaluating, but there weren’t any paperclips or staples in the stack.

“It’s everything relevant I could find about the island.” Damian turned the key in the ignition and put the car into gear. “Most of it’s from the Internet.”

Catilen’s eyebrows shot upward. The pages weren’t double sided, but it was still a large pile. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d think someone didn’t have any afternoon classes to teach.”

Damian flashed her a grin as he pulled out of the driveway. “Independent studies. Projects are due at the end of the month. I figured most of my students needed the extra period to work on them.”

She was too preoccupied with the stack of printouts to comment on her colleague’s afternoon schedule. While she doubted the original agenda included project work, she understood the allure of the phenomena for someone with Damian’s interests. Her afternoon had been something of a blur, every spare moment spent rearranging her schedule to accommodate their trip and wondering what they would find.

If we make it as far as the island. The article warned of military patrols in the area, probably to fend off would-be adventurers like themselves. If they did cross the blockade, they were just as likely to be intercepted on the way home. And that didn’t account for the dangers they might encounter on the island; wild animals, poisonous plants, hidden cliff edges…

She scanned the text as she leafed through the papers. This was no hasty gathering of random data. Damian put work into this research, highlighting passages and jotting notes in the margins.

“Some of those highlighted sections correspond with discussions in one of my reference books,” Damian said as she flipped deeper into the stack. Catilen frowned, hoping he wasn’t neglecting work for this. “The island appears to be located in the center of a power nexus.”

Skipping several pages that lacked highlights, Catilen discovered a pixelated map. A large black blob rested in the center of a web of thin black lines. She didn’t need to read the legend to understand it.

“You mean a connection of ley lines?”

Damian nodded. “There’s evidence the lines have been shifting. The process has occurred slowly over the last several decades. I’ve been tracking it. Most people think it’s a natural process that occurs on its own. Like rivers changing course. But I found research recently that suggests the shift happens in cycles. The current flow of power along Earth’s ley lines matches one which existed thousands of years ago. That could account for the sudden appearance of an island out of nowhere.”

Most people would have laughed at the idea of mystical power lines causing landmasses to appear and disappear. Scientist regarded ley lines as supernatural nonsense, but Catilen thought the river metaphor apt.

A car horn blared, snapping her attention to the road. Their car swerved back into its lane and the sound of the horn whipped past. Damian cast her a sheepish look, followed by an apologetic one.

Catilen gripped the dash with one hand while she willed her thudding heart to calm. She was used to dangerous driving in the city, but she wasn’t used to being in the dangerous car. She swallowed several deep breaths before she spoke again.

“If you want to visit this island, you realize we need to survive until the weekend. Right?”

“Sorry about that.” Damian kept his eyes on the road this time. “Anyway, like I was saying; it’s possible this island only exists in our world when the ley lines take this precise alignment.”

It took a moment for Catilen to refocus on the printouts and the accompanying conversation. She kept peeking at passing cars, worried excitement would get the better of her companion again. As the city lights streaked past and no other high-pitched horns split the night, her concentration returned.

“I wonder where it goes when it leaves. Do you think it travels across the lines to some other place?”

“I don’t know,” Damian admitted. “I suppose it could. Maybe we’ll find out.”

Catilen wasn’t keen on following the island to its new destination. She took a moment to contemplate the implication; for a long time, parallel dimensions had been consigned to the realm of science fiction. Only with the advent of string theory had mainstream scientists accepted the idea of parallel planes of existence. I wonder if it’s possible for those dimensions to overlap sometimes. If there was another Earth, with another Catilen living a similar life, could cosmic lines of power on each plane intersect each other, occasionally connecting them?

Damian pulled into a downtown parking lot. The small bump at the entrance jerked her attention back to the present. After parking, Damian hurried around the car to open her door and offer his arm again. Catilen’s high-heels clicked against the pavement as they made the short journey to the restaurant.

His choice surprised her. Boulevard boasted one of the city’s highest ratings for romantic getaways. The building bore an old-style façade, perhaps nineteenth century. Brown pillars stood between large, gold-trimmed windows. Intricate white engravings adorned the doorway. Matching molding lined the building’s first story. Catilen thought it looked French.

The hostess greeted them just inside the door. Damian gave his name and reservation time. The cheerful young woman led them deeper into the building, across a mosaic covered floor, past a polished mahogany bar to a secluded table near one of the windows they’d passed outside. She left them with menus and Catilen took a few minutes to browse hers. She’d never been to this place before.

It was fancier than she’d anticipated; another indication Damian wished for more than friendship.

Their waiter arrived quickly to introduce himself. He rattled off the daily specials the way only someone with long familiarity can, his smile never faltering. Damian ordered a bottle of wine and the waiter promised to return in a few minutes to take their orders.

“You’ve been quiet,” Damian noted, his tone cautious. “You aren’t having second thoughts are you?”

She smiled to reassure him. “Not at all. You’ve obviously put a great deal of thought into this. I’m just worried we’re rushing. We’ve spoken about your theories but you haven’t said anything about the supplies we need or-“

“Don’t worry about that.” Damian reached across the table, resting his hand on hers. “Let me take care of it. I have most of the camping supplies already. I just need to pick up a few extra things.”

“You make it sound as if you’re ready to drop everything and go on adventures at a moment’s notice.”

“I camp a lot.” He shrugged. “My research is best done in the wild. How do you think I spend my summer vacations?”

Catilen chuckled, not surprised. If Damian tried half his experiments in his back yard, his neighbors would think him mad. “All right, Tarzan. I guess I’ll trust you know what you’re doing.”

“I wish we could get away sooner. The government’s trying to keep all this quiet. There’re already rumors the newspaper article is a hoax. I think there’s something on that island they want to hide.”

Catilen frowned. She worried most about getting past the navy patrols. Neither she, nor Damian, were chosen research representatives. The military wouldn’t take kindly to their intrusion. They didn’t care what kind of opportunity that island represented. They had the money and guns to fulfill whatever mandate the government handed them.

“You mentioned that before. How do you plan on getting past them? It’s not like we’re the only people who’ll embrace this kind of foolhardy trip.”

Damian leaned close before he answered, glancing in every direction to make sure no one overheard. She recognized the conspiratorial look on his face; it meant most people would label him crazy for what he was about to say. She leaned forward to catch his words.

“Well, Cat, they don’t believe in the sort of things we can do, so it doesn’t occur to them to protect against them. A simple obfuscation spell ought to do it. Especially if we pair it with distraction charms. After that, as long as we keep quiet, we should be fine.”

At this point, most people would abandon Damian to his own devices. Lucky for him, Catilen wasn’t most people. She fingered the silver pendant on the chain around her neck; a pentagram surrounded by the phases of the moon. Her magic differed from Damian’s, but that didn’t prevent her from understanding his abilities, or accepting them as legitimate.

“We should probably sync our wards,” she replied. “Mine are due for renewal anyway.”

Damian’s eyes widened with surprise. “Are you sure? Your shields will be sensitive to me for an entire month.”

And yours to me. She wouldn’t have offered if she wasn’t comfortable with the commitment. Damian’s gentle kindness had never been an act, unlike the good-guy routines she’d witnessed from many other men. It was a major factor in her willingness to run away to a mysterious island with him.

“I think it’s better that way. If we do run into trouble, it’ll be easier for us to keep track of each other. And it might give us an edge in an emergency. Besides, I have to renew them before we leave anyway.”

“We should do it Friday,” Damian mused after a moment to consider. “It’ll be a full moon, won’t it?”

Catilen grinned, her eyes gleaming. Oh yes, Damian Cooke knows what he’s doing. “Indeed. Convenient, isn’t it? We should use my backyard. It’s surrounded by a high fence.” One of the reasons she’d chosen that residence. Some of her practices required privacy as well.

Damian nodded, pleased by the arrangement. “I don’t think we’ll be on the island long. I’ll bet we can solve the mystery over the weekend. I guess you’ll still miss your equinox festival though.”

She doubted they could unravel the cosmic mysteries of a ley line travelling island in two days. But they’d have to be satisfied after a single weekend if they wanted to keep their jobs. “There’s always next year.” But where would she be in a year? The question sobered her.

“Damian,” she said softly, her smile gone, her tone solemn, “have you considered the possibility we might not make it back?”

“Yeah,” he admitted, his expression grim. “But I decided not to let it stop me from trying. I wouldn’t be losing much, honestly.”

She wondered if he’d considered all the possibilities. If whatever brought the island here, ley lines or otherwise, shifted while they were on it, they could be trapped there. Who knew if its next destination would be hospitable? And that was only if they made it to the island. The military could arrest them, or worse, sink them. The island offered exciting prospects, but she couldn’t forget the risks were real.

“I just want to make sure you’re not leaping into this without due consideration,” she said slowly, worried he’d dismiss her words as nagging. “I can tell how excited you are…”

Damian brushed her hand with his, the gesture accompanied by a reassuring smile. “I’d be lying if I said it didn’t frighten me at all. It’s not too late to back out, you know. I wouldn’t fault you.”

“No.” She caught his hand before he had a chance to remove it. “I’m frightened too, but not enough to give up this opportunity.”

“Good.” Damian squeezed her hand, a relieved smile on his face. “I can’t think of anyone I’d rather travel with.”

Her cheeks burned. Before she could respond, their waiter returned. He poured the wine for Damian and let him sample it before pouring glasses for each of them. Damian ordered himself a steak, while she chose a seafood dish.

The dinner conversation turned to other things. She enjoyed these friendly outings, even if she didn’t want them to be dates. She was as eccentric as Damian, if in different ways. She was beginning to think those eccentricities complemented each other nicely.

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