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Scare It Forward: Angel Island (2010)

Scare It Forward: Angel Island (2010)

Note: Scare It Forward is a form of storytelling in the same vein as telling ghost stories around a campfire.  Thirty one different authors will contribute a chapter as they scare the story forward during the month of October.  Each new chapter will be published at Midnight.



Chapter 1

By WC

Artwork by Dave Nocturne

You couldn’t say that Eloise was disappointed about leaving Redding, California.  Not in the least.  But as she sat on the ferryboat crossing the Raccoon Straits headed for her new home on Angel Island, a thought did occur to her.

How well did she really know the man sitting opposite her? Sure, they were married; but what did she really know about him?

She looked down at his well worn-in Timberland hiking boots, then slowly up to his faded jeans with his quadriceps bulging through the pant legs, to his giant muscular tattooed arms and up into his coal black eyes.  He smiled at her his bewitching smile.  Eloise had to catch her breath.  He had that effect on her.  Sure he looked so rough and tumbled, but he had always been so gentle with her.  Eloise knew Stiles was a series of contradictions, but wasn’t that what she fell in love with?

All her earthly possession surrounded her on this foggy evening. Not the fog you hear about in horror tales, rather the real, thick heavy San Francisco fog.

Angel Island lies right in the middle of San Francisco Bay and has a population of 50 people.  Yes, she was going to live on an island inhabited by 50 human souls that usually sat surrounded by a thick swirling fog.  And the only way to get to and from her new abode was by ferryboat.

Two weeks ago it sounded so romantic.

She married Stiles only a month earlier, after he had graduated from forestry school at Redding’s University.  He was lucky to find the kind of position he did with the California State Parks so quickly.  He was going to be the newest ranger on Angel Island.  Population five zero, but on summer days and weekends, thousands of people inhabited this little plot of land that seemed virtually dropped in the middle of the Bay every day.  There was hiking and biking trails, campsites, fishing, beaches and miles and miles of spectacular Northern California flora and fauna. Varieties of native grasses and grand trees–Monterey Pines, Eucalyptus Doulas Firs and Black Locust trees inhabited the island along with the 50 residents, hundreds of deer and dozens of willful raccoons. Visitors enjoyed the island for the day and then would hop on the last ferry home, back to civilization, which was only a few miles away but, as Eloise stared at the approaching land mass, she realized those few miles seemed as far away as China, the country of her grandmother’s birth.

The foghorns were blowing loudly this late autumn evening.  The deep moan seemed to ricochet off her anxious soul.  The top of the lighthouse suddenly came into view and Eloise sat back in her seat and watched the beacon of light flash off and on, off and on.

This was going to be romantic, wasn’t it?

They were almost at Ayala Cove, the main docking terminal for commercial ferryboats when an elderly Chinese man walked over to Stiles.

“You the new ranger?” he asked with a slight accent.

Stiles stood up and stretched out his arm. “Stiles Everling and my wife, Eloise.  Yes, I’m the new ranger.”

The old man stared at Eloise. Finally he spoke. “I’m Mr. Ling. I’ve been volunteering on this island for over twenty years.  I’ve just come this evening to say goodbye to Mr. Gruenwald.  Are you taking his place?” He asked Stiles but avoided looking into his dark eyes.

“Yes I heard they were having a little party for him. I hope it’s all right if we join you all later this evening,” Stiles was talking directly to Mr. Ling.  But Mr. Ling was now staring at Eloise.

“Of course you come.  The party will be a good way for you to get to know everyone on the island.  Doesn’t take long.” Mr. Ling laughed covering his mouth, a custom left over from his native country. “But first I take the lady for a tour,” he sounded adamant. “I take her for a tour of Angel Island.”

Eloise spoke for the first time. “That sounds wonderful but I have all my bags and I really can’t wait to see our new house,” Eloise grabbed Stile’s hand.

“Plenty of time for your new house, Ms. Everling. Plenty of time on Angel Island.  First you need a tour by me. I insist.”

Eloise didn’t have the heart to turn the old man down; hell, he reminded her of her maternal Grandfather, “Okay, but call me Eloise.”  She smiled her most radiant smile.

Mr. Ling was old but wasn’t dead and certainly couldn’t help being struck by Eloise’s exotic beauty. Her long thick black hair hung heavy down her back.  Her clear blue eyes would have mimicked the Bay had it not been for the low-lying fog.  Her huge smile, olive complexion and the small freckles along the bridge of her nose, gave it away that she was not completely of Chinese descent.

Eloise lost her balance as the ferryboat bumped its way to its final resting stop. It was Mr. Ling that grabbed her arm to steady her.  “You okay?” he asked but didn’t wait for an answer. “This ferry will turn around in fifteen minutes.  Last ferry for tonight.  I spend the night with Mr. Gruenwald and leave with him in the morning.”

“What happens if something happens on the island?” asked Eloise.

He smiled reassuringly, “Don’t worry, dear, there is a speed boat for emergencies. Did I tell you I’ve been volunteer here for over twenty years?”

Eloise watched Stiles unload all their earthly belongings as Mr. Ling grabbed her arm to begin the grand tour.

“Love you,” she shouted to her new husband.

Stiles smiled and waved her on as Mr. Ling began to speak.

“You’ve been here before?” Mr. Ling made it sound more like a statement than a question.

“No, I’d never even heard of Angel Island until two weeks ago when Stiles was offered this job.”

Mr. Ling stopped and stared for a long moment.  Then he proceeded to hurry her along a windy path.  For an old man, he sure was in great condition.  Eloise had trouble keeping up with him.

The sun was beginning to set you; could see the giant orb slowly dipping into the heavily clouded sea.  It looked like a ball of fire.

“Beautiful Island, Angel Island,” Mr. Ling was reading her thoughts.  “But it wasn’t always so.”

Mr. Ling and Eloise stood in front of an old two story wooden building.  “I used to live there,” Mr. Ling said, sounding strong, almost angry. “But when I lived there they had armed guards and barbed wire surrounding all these buildings.  I was a paper boy.”

Eloise was lost.  “Follow me,” Mr. Ling said practically running up the stairs.  They entered a large room, faded with time and weather.  Eloise walked over to the walls.  Chinese calligraphy covered the old panels.

Eloise traced her fingers along the wall to feel the Chinese characters carved into the old wooden walls.  She looked at Mr. Ling.

“Poems,” he said.  “Some are poems of death.  This was an immigration center from 1910 until 1940, like Ellis Island, except most were from Asia and many of us got stuck living here for many years.  They called me a ‘paper boy’ because I did not have the proper paper work to stay in this country.  When my mother found out she took two sharpened pencils and stuck them deep into her ears.  They let me stay.”

Eloise closed her eyes.  An image flashed before her eyes. She blinked wildly.  It came again.  Mr. Ling’s mother’s face, a face she had never seen before became her face, her eyes, her hands.  Why was she imagining this horrific act as if she was Mr. Ling’s mother?  Suddenly, Eloise closed her eyes tightly and felt the pain of two pencils, sharp as steel being rammed through her ears and straight into her brain.  Eloise felt the floor beneath her feet begin to shake.  For a moment she thought it was an earthquake, then she realized her legs were giving way.  She heard herself scream as she landed on the floor in a room filled with poems of death.

She lay in a pool of her own blood.

Chapter 2

By Jeff Ferrell

“Eloise, wake up!” yelled a voice far off in the distance.

Eloise slowly fluttered her eyelids open. The two blurry figures above her slowly came into focus. One was the strange man she recognized as Mr. Ling, and the other was her husband.

“Eloise, can you hear me?” Stiles said as he bent over her.

“Stiles?” she said groggily. “What am I doing here?”

“Let’s help her up.” Stiles said as he turned to Mr. Ling. The two men slowly helped Eloise up off the floor and onto her feet. Eloise looked around the room, slowly recalling where she was.

“What happened?” she said to Mr. Ling.

“You fell down on the ground and wouldn’t wake up. I was worried, so I ran and got your husband.” said Mr. Ling.

“You were just laying there on the floor, Elle. What do you think caused it? Do you remember?” her husband said to her.

“I remember Mr. Ling telling me about this place and about his mother, and…” as she trailed off she remembered the pain of the pencils slowly going through her ears and deep into her brain. She brought her hands to her ears and closed her eyes.

“You OK, Elle?” Stiles said as he wrapped his arms around her. She silently nodded.

“Come, let’s get you two out of here.” Mr. Ling said as he quickly ushered them out of the old wooden building.

Once they got outside, Eloise felt like she could breathe again. She inhaled the damp autumn air deeply. “This place has a lot of bad memories. It sometimes has a bad effect on people.” Mr. Ling said to Eloise. She looked up at the old wooden building. It seemed to be looking back at her. “Come, I’ll show you the rest of the island. Both of you.” Stiles nodded and he and Eloise followed behind Mr. Ling as he led them away from the building.

As Eloise walked away, she couldn’t help but glance at the old building behind her. As she looked up, there appeared to be a woman standing in a window on the upper floor, peering back at her from behind tattered curtains. It was the figure of a young Chinese woman, with blood running from her ears. Eloise turned forward and squeezed her eyes shut as she continued walking forward down the winding trail.

“What is it, Elle?” Stiles said as he looked down at his visibly shaken wife.

“Nothing, I… just thought I saw something,” she said.

Stiles looked back at the old building behind them, its windows empty. He turned back to Eloise and put his arm around her. “I think we should get to our new house so you can get some rest before the party tonight. You need it.”

“I’m fine,” she said firmly. “I want to see the rest of the island.”

“Alright,” Stiles said. “If you think you‘re up to it.”

“I am,” she said, looking around at the trees surrounding them.

As they turned a corner of the winding trail, the massive lighthouse came fully into view. Eloise stopped and looked up at the looming structure before them. Mr. Ling turned to her. “Ah, the lighthouse. Would you like to see the inside? It’s very beautiful.” Eloise nodded as she continued staring up at it, the light at the top shining off and on through the thick fog around them.

“Follow me,” Mr. Ling said, grinning.

“Are you sure you want to go in there?” Stiles said to Eloise.

“I’m sure. I’ve always loved lighthouses. We used to have one where I grew up.” Stiles looked down at her and smiled. He kissed her.

“I learn something new about you every day,” he said as they continued toward the lighthouse.

“Sometimes secrets have a strange way of coming to light,” she said as they approached the entrance.

The sun had just finished setting over the horizon, leaving the light atop the lighthouse the sole source of luminance in the sky. Mr. Ling unlocked the door to the lighthouse and swung it open. He held it open for Eloise and Stiles as they walked inside. “Watch your step, there have been many accidents here. Some of them tragic,” he said as he closed the door behind them. The sound of the steel door slamming shut echoed through the desolate woods surrounding them.

Inside the lighthouse was damp and covered with years of rust and decay. Eloise looked up at the tall spiral staircase above them leading all the way to the top. “This is beautiful,” she said walking toward the bottom of the staircase.

Mr. Ling looked at her and smiled, “I wouldn’t walk up those stairs if I were you. The wood’s not solid. It became rotten over the years and no one has repaired it since Joe had his accident.”

“What kind of accident?” Stiles said, squinting his eyes.

“Joe was the lighthouse keeper. One day as he was waking back down the stairs after repairing the light, he stepped onto an old step that had rotted away. He fell, all the way down to the bottom. He broke his neck.”

“That’s awful. And no one has been looking after the lighthouse since?” asked Stiles.

Mr. Ling shook his head. “The island is small and they can’t afford to pay anyone. Joe was the only one who knew how to care for this place. I help when I can, but I won’t go up those stairs.”

Eloise wandered around the place, still in awe. Against a wall was a small desk, covered with books and rusty picture frames containing old photographs. She walked up to the desk and picked up an old picture of a man standing in front of the lighthouse. “Is this Joe?” she said, inspecting the photo. Mr. Ling walked over to her and looked at the picture.

“That’s Joe. Poor man.” Mr. Ling said, shaking his head. He looked up. “It’s getting dark, we should get you to your house.”

“That’s the best idea I’ve heard all night”, Stiles said, already heading for the door. “Come on, Elle.”

As Eloise set the picture back down on the desk, she saw a dusty old book lying under a pile of papers. She brushed the papers aside and lifted up the book. Its cover read, “Angel Island: A History.” She grabbed the book and tucked it under her arm. “Coming,” she called out to Stiles as she hurried toward the door.

Mr. Ling held the door open for them as they walked back outside into the fog. He closed the door behind them. As the loud slamming of the steel door echoed through the walls of the lighthouse, the small glass picture frame containing the photo of Joe fell from the desk and shattered onto the floor.

Chapter 3

By Tom Misnik

Mr Ling led Stiles and Eloise up the winding road to the house. It was a cold autumn night in the Bay Area. The fog was rolling in heavy and making it difficult to see where they were going.

Stiles placed his leather jacket around Eloise’s shoulders and helped her along the windy path to the old dark house as Ling led the way. Even after all of the excitement of the evening, they both were stunned at how beautiful the lights of San Francisco looked from the island.

A dirt path had been carefully carved to respect the giant trees creating windy twists and sudden turns. It was quite clear that Ling was very familiar with the island.

Both Ling and Stiles were concerned about the spill Eloise had taken at the immigration center. Stiles took Mr. Ling’s flashlight and pointed it into her blue eyes. “One pupil looks bigger than the other,” he said aloud.

“That means a possible concussion– she needs to stay awake.” Mr. Ling was clear with his advice.

“Is there a doctor who could come check her out?” Stiles asked.

“Warren Cargrave. I’m sure he’ll be able to take the ferry over from Tiburon in the morning. He’s a very well respected doctor in this area–an unassuming man though he stands 6 feet 4 inches tall,” Mr. Ling smiled.

It was clear that Mr. Ling knew his way around the area very well. He was one of the Chinese immigrants who came through when it was known as “the Ellis Island of the West”

Ling took the flashlight back from Stiles and pointed it at the house. “It will look better in the day time, “ he said. It was a big house for the two of them, especially in comparison to the small apartment that Ling had lived in for all of his years.

Stiles sighed and helped Eloise up the steps and onto the front porch. The door creaked as they went in and the sound of an owl hooting in a tree in the distance startled the three of them. Who could blame them after what they had already been through?

The San Francisco Bay winds whipped around the island.

Ling let go of the door behind them, the wind grabbed it and it slammed shut with a loud THUD.

They were finally in their new home.  But it seemed someone forgot to turn the power back on.

“You know this house belonged to Joe,” Mr. Ling informed the young couple. “It’s in need of some up keep, I see.”

“Ewww, look at that ratty old thing.” Stiles seemed startled.

Mr. Ling face flashed with anger. He lifted the flashlight as if to strike him, “Hey, don’t talk that way about Mrs. Brewer.”

Stiles corrected him, “No, no I was talking about that moose head on the wall over the fireplace.” Ling thought he meant the photo of Joe’s wife Lillian that sat on the mantle over the fireplace.

The house had remained empty since Joe’s accident. For tonight all that was available to them for light were candles.

“At least we have our camping gear,” Eloise said optimistically.

Stiles, embarrassed, had to admit that in all the confusion he had left their camping gear back at the lighthouse.  They would just have to make due.

Ling led them up the creaky steps and into the master bedroom. There were candles in the room, thankfully. Stiles found some matches in his jacket pocket and lit them and Ling bid them a good night and found his way out of the house and to the cottage of his old friend Mr. Gruenwald.

Stiles knew he had to keep Eloise awake because of her possible concussion. He also knew he had to get himself ready for his first day as a ranger on Angel Island.

“Sorry honey, I’ll just be a minute”, he said kissing her forehead. “I’d like to get ready for my first day tomorrow, I heard about the bears in San Francisco.” He took his candle in the bathroom and began to scrub off the dirt from his hands and face.

Eloise was left in the room alone. So in an attempt to get keep herself awake, she started reading that book she picked up in the lighthouse. “ Angel Island : A History,” she said to herself brushing off some of the dust that gathered on the book jacket. She began reading through the book in the shimmering light from the candle.

“The history of the island goes back to 1769,” she said loudly enough hoping that Stiles would hear in the bathroom.

“Honey,” she said but she got no answer.  “Stiles,” she said a bit louder, “I think I did really hit my head pretty badly in the old immigration building. I’m looking at some of these images in this book and I swear they all look like Joe. There is a soldier behind someone named General Wright and he looks exactly like Joe.” She began turning the pages faster and faster. She stopped to read about the 1882 Chinese Exclusion act.

She blinked her eyes wildly.  In the photo sat a young man that looked just like Mr. Ling. On the other side of the table sat Joe.  It was clear that Joe was questioning the young Chinese boy.

A draft seemed to appear from nowhere and flipped all the pages to the back of the book.  Eloise found herself staring at the photo of Joe—the one that had fallen in the lighthouse only a short time before.

The wind blew the window open and the candle out. Eloise screamed as the room went black.

Chapter 4

by Frank Coffey

Stiles Everling was stabbed to death on October 2, a Saturday night, at his new Angel Island home in the San Francisco Bay.

At 7:35 Sunday morning, he looked at Henry Ling, with whom he was sharing a pot of superb Dragon Well green tea and said, “I’ll take another cup.”

“You look tired.” Ling did not seem unhappy making the observation.

“I had a bad night.”

Ling nodded. “Many bad nights on Angel Island.”

“You’ve never considered standup comedy as a career choice? Just guessing.”

“Your wife fainting? A joke?”

Stiles sighed. No matter the high quality Dragon Well, accepting the tea proffer now seemed an outstandingly poor idea.

Ling stood up. “Bad dreams your own self, am I wrong?”

He wasn’t. The nightmare garishly gruesome.

By the time they’d finally gotten to sleep last night it was freakin’ way late and the early morning hand-painted ceramic tea pot Ling held aloft outside the door had looked promising. Mistake.

Enough with the drama. The old guy was relentlessly, comically dark and depressing and Stiles was pretty much done. He should never have opened the damn door.

Not unkindly, Stiles said, “Yes, I had a bad dream. Yes, my wife fainted. No, there aren’t any more bad nights on Angel Island than anywhere else. End-a-story. Okay?”

Pointing toward a window full of morning fog-shrouded San Francisco Bay, Stiles said, “Beauty trumps bad, Mr. Ling.”

Why me? Why do I attract downheads?

His cheerless first college roommate. Artie. Loathed condiments. All condiments. Forget eating them, he couldn’t be in the presence of ketchup or mustard or any other damn condiment. So, of course, Artie-the-dope ate all his meals in their room. Place smelled like a dumpster. A first ballot Downhead Hall of Famer.

“End-a-story,” he heard Ling repeat deliberately, rolling the words in his mouth as if they were a foreign language. “Meaning you find my warning about bad nights and Angel Island to be … absurd?”

“Mr. Ling, I didn’t …”

“The hallucinatory rantings of a crazy old man….”

“That’s not ….

“… who you can’t wait to get away from.”

Bingo.

Stiles looked up as Ling moved toward him, close. The old man seemed suddenly transformed, as though he were an actual physical threat. As if he’d lost 40 years and was now coiled ready to strike. Stiles actually felt something he reluctantly identified as fear.

Jesus Christ. Where did that come from?

Guy’s older than the Ancient Mariner.

I so don’t need this.

“Mrs. Everling enjoy her reading?”

Stiles surprised, hesitated. “She did.” Irritation now bubbling.

“That particular volume has some … provocative photographs. They didn’t upset your wife I hope.”

Stiles said, lamely, they had not.

It wasn’t fair to say that Eloise was obsessed with the black and white photographs of Joe Brewer, Ling and General George Wright they were shown last night. But it wasn’t wrong either.

After the candle was blown out, after the scream, they’d been up almost all night. Yes, the men in the photos playing out a century’s old bigotry looked like Joe Brewer and Henry Ling. So what? Where we going with this? Stiles had just gotten his Masters, a Ph.D. would follow. Forestry was science. Trees didn’t obsess.

Married a month, how well did he really know Elle? Stiles was suddenly worried. Since they hit Angel Island Eloise had been acting … neurotic. Stiles Everling hated neurotic.

Mr. Ling hand extended, leaving. Genial again. “I’m glad Eloise is enjoying the book. It was written by Harold Gruenwald, my friend Curtis’s father. Something of a local classic.”

“Eloise was enthralled.” Way too true.

“I’m afraid Harold had some nasty things to say about some nasty people. Scandalous things. They didn’t like it. Some of them still don’t.”

“Still?” Stiles wondered whether he’d sighed out loud, quickly decided he didn’t care. “Book’s gotta be what, 50 years, 75 years old?”

“64 actually. Published in 1946.”

“Melodrama leaves me cold, Mr. Ling. I’m a science geek, outdoor department.”

“Those who forget the past are condemned to relive it,” Ling said.

Good God. What next?

“The title of the book’s last chapter. Local legend says if you read the chapter while on Angel Island your life will never be the same.”  Ling chuckled. A first. “Ah, melodrama again. My apologies.”

The visit was almost over. Stiles felt like rejoicing. And moving things along.

“I didn’t mean to offend you earlier, Mr. Ling. But this is my first job and my first marriage and what I was trying to say is that I want to begin both with optimism and joy.”

Genial suddenly disappeared. “Joy?” Ling’s laugh the hollow, lonely call of a Herring Gull.

A surge of emotion raced through Stiles, surprising him with its unambiguous intensity. Ling had gotten to him. Why-in-the-world was that?

Clueless. No flippin’ idea.

A lie.

“Joy is a choice, Mr. Ling,” shaking his hand, wanting him gone.

Ling said, “Not on Angel Island.”

Eloise was curled up in bed reading intently. A light fuzz of morning sun had struggled through the Bay’s fog to splash across the pale skin of her lovely face. Occasionally his wife’s beauty nearly overwhelmed him.

From the doorway Stiles said, “I’m proud of myself. I didn’t lose it with the guy.”

No answer.

“Mr. Ling doesn’t think the glass is half full. Mr. Ling thinks there’s no water in the world.”

“Hmmmm.”

“I passionately defended our commitment to joyful living as a lifestyle choice.”

Nothing. Angel Island history apparently still more compelling than a story about how a new husband controlled his well-known temper while a massively annoying and utterly self-actualized fruitcake attempted to intrude himself into their lives.

“I clubbed him with the moose head. Quieted right down.”

“Very nice of you.” Mumbled.

“Then I drop-kicked him off the end of the dock. It was all very … homicidal.”

“Lovely ….”

Later they had a laugh. And later still a shower. It was good.

But somehow off too. Somehow not good.

Unable to hide, Eloise was a raw nerve. Spooked. A salt-of-the-earth-sensible young woman emotionally rattled by reading a doubtlessly overwrought book about an island with some sort of bogus, exotic and, of course, macabre secret.

Gimme a break.

Stiles tried to imagine what it would actually feel like to be rattled deep-down. Freaked out at your core. He couldn’t do it.

Chapter 5

By Endless Meghan Warner

Rain pattered against the immigration station’s roof. The wind blew unwelcome water through the barbed wire windows on the little Chinese boy’s face. The scant bedding he was given was hardly any match against this nighttime weather and morning seemed so far away, though he couldn’t tell how long it’d been since lights out was called at ten p.m.

The foghorn for an approaching ship screeched. Then silence. The boy listened hard, hoping for the tumble of waves or the footsteps of the American guards outside the door.

The San Francisco fog shifted to cover the muted blue light from the sky and left him in complete darkness. He gripped the grimy sheet he’d been given and longed for her embrace of his mother they locked in separate quarters.

Out of nowhere came the slow click of authoritative shoes.

As the boy’s heart began to slow and he relaxed, a thunder-worthy crack shook the bunk he lay on.

Chapter 6

By Hank Sawyer

The young boy tucked his head beneath his grungy blanket, as the clacking of the shoes grew louder. He shut his eyes and hoped to be invisible. A hand fell lightly upon his shoulder as a quiet voice spoke to him in the darkness, “Wake up.” The hand gently pushed the boy’s shoulder. The young child ignored the shake, and thought of himself as dead. If he were dead, then no one would bother him. The movement changed from a gentle touch to an abrupt ripping away of the dirty blanket. The boy turned over and looked into the face of a handsome man with fair hair and a strong jaw, Captain Everling. The boy stared into the Captain’s eyes, waiting. Smiling slightly and extending his hand to assist the child from his bunk, the Captain spoke, “We need you tonight.”

The Captain led the boy down a winding dirt path, weaving right and left through the beach brush, making their way to the massive structure of the lighthouse.  A large man, balding and stinking of stale cigars stood in front of the building. His hands were stuffed into his pockets as he looked out over the rocks towards the sea.

Captain Everling stopped upon reaching the large fellow, brought his hand upward against his brow and saluted. “General, I’ve got the boy.” The General scoffed and reached into his breast pocket pulling loose a rather ratty cigar, half smoked and chewed upon. Shoving it into his mouth he spoke gruffly, a voice of a man who had smoked far too many cigars. “Well, it’s about God damn time.”

The General turned, stepped toward the lighthouse and with one kick pushed open the door. The boy had been here before. He felt anxious, tense, but he was not afraid.  He obediently followed the two men into the building. Turning his glaring stare upon the boy, the General cleared his throat and spat on the floor. The boy stood silent, looking down at his shoes. Captain Everling squatted by him, looking at the child’s face. “You remember what to do, right Henry?”

The boy squinted and examined the Captain, not entirely sure as to why he was being called Henry. After a moment of silence Henry nodded and took a step forward. He brushed past the General, who was looking at him as though he were a roach that had just crawled out from underneath a plate.  Henry dropped to his knees and began to crawl under the spiraling staircase that hugged the wall, curling its way upward.

Beneath the first step was a space where only a small child could fit. Henry began to pull at a row of loose brick, lifting them outward, stacking them gingerly against the wall. Captain Everling leaned forward, pressing against the staircase as he extended his hand. Henry looked up, reached his small hand through the stair to take the lit lantern. 
The General reached into his pant pocket and pulled loose a box of matches, shaking the box before opening them. He stood in the shadows and lit his cigar. After several long puffs, “I thought Slants could see in the dark,” he chuckled out loud and looked to the Captain. “You treat that mutt too nice. You should put the fear of God in him, like I do his mother!” The Captain looked toward the General and spoke softly, a hardly audible whisper, “Roger, he’s just a little boy.” The General laughed and spat once more. “A boy born from the loins of a whore, Stiles.”

Henry lowered himself into the hole he had created after removing the bricks. He began to worm himself into a position fit for crawling. The two by two foot hole gave him barely room in which to squeeze his body. The quiet voice of Captain Everling filled the hole, “Be careful son.”  Henry began to crawl.

Henry had done this many times, at least once a week.  He was told to look for big shiny bricks, like the ones he had removed from beneath the stair, but yellow in color. The golden blocks were very important to the General.  Henry would lie flat on his stomach and wiggle like a snake through tunnels fit only for small rodents. He would scoot a foot, place his lantern ahead at arms length, scoot to meet his light, set it again at arms length then scoot to meet it yet again.  He never found anything of interest, an old piece of leather, the tip of a pick.  Once he found a tooth.  He would then back his way out, returning to the mouse hole under the stair only to be chastised for his failure.

Tonight would be no different.  The General would perhaps spit upon him or launch his booted foot into his side whilst shouting words Henry didn’t understand. He would then stomp out in a storm of rage.
 For nearly three hours he crawled and wiggled through the hidden tunnels underneath the walls of the lighthouse, finding nothing, not even a tooth this time. He pushed himself backward into the light of the room, blinking and coughing. Henry stood with difficulty, his knees and elbows bruised and sore from his toil. Captain Everling assisted him up as he aided in brushing the muck from the child’s shoulders.

Henry looked to the Captain, then to the General shaking his head from side to side. He mentally braced himself for the spew of abuse. This particular night though, the General did nothing. His ratty cigar, finished hours before, had left large chunks of ash scattered about the bricked floor. The General absently kicked at one as he and Captain Everling exchanged glances, not speaking a word. After what seemed like an eternity the General spoke quietly to the young Chinese child, “Get back to your bunk.” Henry nodded and scurried out the door, sprinting back to his quarters.
 Henry slept in the women’s ward, the only boy on the entire floor. He would remove his shoes prior to entering the hall and creep ever so quietly inside. Reaching his bunk with relief, he curled into his blanket and waited for the quick approaching morning light.

Mornings were always the most difficult for young Henry. He had to bathe with the girls. He would stand stripped naked, shaking, awaiting his turn, his trembling hands trying to cover his private self. The girls poking and pulling, asking to see if he truly was a boy.  Henry would quietly stare at the floor, wishing a well would open so he could fall far away from it all. His queue drew unwanted attention. He being the only one to tie and braid back his hair, it was constantly being twisted and yanked. His mother having said, “Your grandfather wore a queue, as did his father before, and so shall you wear a queue.”

The girls were not his biggest sorrow. He was ostracized because of his mother. Henry’s mother was young, slight of build and beautiful.  Her face was smooth as porcelain, her eyes as dark as mink. She smelled of mimosa flowers and cigars.  Because of his mother, Henry was not fed the slop the others were given.  Everyone else had bowls of rice or vegetables, but Henry would be given a slice of chicken or a bowl of roast soup in addition to the rice and vegetables.  Because of Henry’s mother, he slept in the women’s ward, so as to not be hurt by the older boys. Because of Henry’s mother he wore a traditional queue. Because of Henry’s mother he was entrusted to the secret of the lighthouse. Because of Henry’s mother, his life was without friends. Because of Henry’s mother, Henry was very alone.

Every Wednesday a woman with hair of fire and eyes of emerald would come to him. They would sit upon his bunk, and study the White Man’s language. She would read to him a passage, and he then would read one back. She would even, on occasion, leave the book for him to try to read on his own. It was a depressing story, one written by a man named James. Not just a man, but a KING named James. Henry would sit on his bed reading quietly the stories; thinking to himself, “why would a King write such sad tales?” He read of a powerful man creating the world, then allowing his only son to perish in that world! It wasn’t until Henry was older that he realized a King named James did not in fact write that book.

Henry had heard most people came to Angel Island for only a few  months. But he and his mother had been on the Island for nearly five years, it having been 1910 when they arrived. He did not understand why the fire haired lady, who did not speak like the others, was allowed to leave. She wore a white dress with the sign of the cross on it. A sign Henry did not like because the man in his book was killed upon one.

Henry saw his mother perhaps once a week. She would come to him in the night and sit upon his bed. She would call him “Ohn” while holding him close against her bosom, crying. He hadn’t really any idea as to why this happened. His mother would speak to him in their native tongue, and tell him stories of his grandfather and his people. She would tell him of dragons and older times when things were not so hard. Though she stayed quite a while, each visit seemed like seconds. Captain Everling would arrive to take her away, turning before leaving to wink at young Henry and whisper he would be back in the evening.  Henry or “Ohn” as his Mother called him, would sit alone and wait.

Summer turned to Autumn. The leaves on the trees on Angel Island were turning the color of the morning sun, gold and sunset orange. The Bay winds had begun to blow a harsh chill, and everyone felt damp and cold. Many of the older women in the ward were taken away, the guards feared that diseases would spread. Things got worse for Henry this particular Autumn, for Henry was provided with a brightly colored, thick wool blanket one chilly November night by a guard from the General’s house. Only minutes after the guard had gone and Henry had curled tightly inside his treasure, the trouble began. Several older girls approached his bunk. Henry pulled the blanket tighter, wishing for his well of safety. The girls sat upon his bed poking him until he folded out of his cocoon.

“Oh Henry, you’ve got such a nice blanket, Henry!” The girls would chant in poor English, poking at his sides. “Oh Henry, did your mommy get you this? Was your mommy good to Captain?” A girl would giggle and interject, “Oh the Captain!, Oh, the Captain!” They would giggle and chatter between themselves, taunting poor Henry. After perhaps a half hour of this, the eldest of the girls, an olive skinned demon if Henry had ever seen one, leaned against him whispering into his ear, “Oh Henry, Oh Henry, don’t you know you’re not white?” The other girls began to leave, each standing and tiptoeing back to their beds, but the eldest stayed, her lips pressed against his ears. “Son of whore!” The girl quickly shot an arm outward, stabbing Henry in the right ear with a chop stick, then scampering away with Henry’s brightly colored blanket.
Henry bit down upon his bloodied pillow, his eyes closed tightly, he’d felt this pain before.  Upon arriving on Angel Island and being told of immediate deportation, his mother, taking the suggestion of Captain Everling; handicapped her baby by jabbing pencils in his ears.

Now, Henry lay upon his bed, the chopstick protruding.  This was the way the Captain found him.

Weeks later, after Henry had been seen by the doctor, the eldest girl disappeared. Henry continued his weekly appointment at the lighthouse as he made his way through the endless tunnels beneath, but now the visits from the fire haired lady and his mother had ceased. He was alone, save for his book, which still depressed him. Captain Everling would, on occasion, come and see him. He would leave Henry snippets from the newspaper, knowing the boy enjoyed reading.  Henry would read about baseball or the President. He didn’t understand what these things were, but he was thankful for new things to read. The women in the ward now left him alone, fearing what may happen if they decided to gang upon him again.

Fall changed to Winter, and Winter changed to Spring. Everything smelled fresh and sweet. Occasionally the Captain would allow him to take walks, on the one condition that he would tell no others. Henry would see animals whose names he did not know and ask the Captain. The Captain would teach him about the raccoons, the fox and the rabbits. On these walks Henry would also pick wildflowers in the hope that Captain Everling would pass them on to his mother. 
It was a simple day in May when General Wright and Captain Everling came to him and told him his mother was dead. She had died in a complicated childbirth, having bled to death.  And that was it.

Henry sat quietly for days following, wondering what his sibling would have been like, perhaps an old soul returning to care for him.  He would never know if the child lived or if it was a sister or brother.  Though he was at the tender age of 12, he knew where children came from. He had overheard the older women whispering of sin. He was very much aware. He sat and pondered who the father had been.

One rainy warm night the Captain had come to his bunk and retrieved him rather early. Despite his three years of crawling in that awful hole and having never found anything other than a tooth, he was still forced to venture below the earth. Henry crawled and squirmed and wiggled down the same tunnels finding nothing of importance. As he came to an intersection of the tunnels he rolled his back against the tunnel wall and turned off his lantern.  Wrapped in darkness, he pressed himself against the wall and yearned to be cuddled by his blanket. He thought of the deep dark well in which he wished to fall. The dirt behind his back began to crumble, clots of dirt fell upon his already dirty clothes.  Before Henry could roll away he fell.  He fell into a well of darkness.

When Henry came back into the world of the conscious he sat forward and wondered if he had fallen into his wishing well. Henry reached about in the dark, patting the cavern floor for his lantern. It took him several minutes, but eventually his hand fell upon the handle. Setting the lantern flat, he pressed his pockets for his matches. Shaking the box before extracting a single match he, with experienced ease, re-lit the lantern. Warm light cut through the darkness. Henry found his footing and stood, swinging the light from side to side. The walls shimmered and sparkled a warm golden yellow. A feeling of pride washed over him, but he quickly choked it down. His only friend, James, had taught him that pride could be a sin.

Scattered about the cavern were various tools, shovels, pick ax, small hand shovels and a wheelbarrow. After examining each tool with wonder, Henry looked upward toward the hole from which he had fallen. After having crawled through the tunnels so many times, he was sure where he was, or rather what he was under.

Several feet from the wall of gold was a small passage, large enough for a decent sized man to crawl through. Henry grabbed a pick ax. He wanted to bring back something, proof he’d finally had a find. It was only an hour or so worth of crawling until Henry met the surface of the earth. He pushed himself through a rotten stump covered in moss that had covered the mouth of the hole. He took a deep breath of fresh, sweet air. Henry was only about a mile or so from the lighthouse. He walked briskly, but measured. He let the feeling of pride return to cheer him, a cautious cheer.  The lighthouse was an ominous structure on the island with several paths leading to it, making Henry’s trek easier. He was no more than a foot away from the entrance when he paused to view the conversation between the Captain and the General.

“Good mighty Christ, it’s chilly tonight.” General Wright said. There was a short silence before Captain Everling spoke. “It wouldn’t be so chilly if you hadn’t have killed the China-Woman.” The General boomed laughter. “You make it sound like I shot her, Stiles!”

“You did just about everything but that,” the Captain retorted.

Henry began to move forward, toward the light that slipped between the lighthouse door. “She was a whore, Stiles. What’s it to you, any how? There are plenty of young bloods locked up here!” Henry began to see red, his vision now tinted and his brain clouded with rage. Henry burst through the door, raising the pick upward while racing toward the General. Captain Everling reached out, wrapping his hands about the waist of the young boy, pulling him back. In his rage, Henry’s actions were muddled and not within his control. He swung his arms upward, the tip of the pick ax landed between Captain Everling’s eyes. Henry felt a spurt of warmth stream over his face and his shoulders. The Captain fell back, motionless. Within a heartbeat of a second, the General stepped forward with his mighty catcher’s mitt of a hand knocking Henry to the ground.

Ohn “Henry” Ling  was sentenced to death July 12, 1916. He was given no trial. Several guards, including the blanket bearing guard, accompanied General Roger Wright into the woods on the already hot July morning. Henry was bound by the legs and hands with a thick rope that was then wrapped around his slender neck. The rope was tossed about a large branch of a tree, and two guards (the blanket bearing guard refusing to follow command) pulled and held, with all their strength, until Henry was lifted off the ground and hanged to death.  His corpse was cremated on July 13, 1916 with his papers and his King James Bible–his only worldly possessions. 
Captain Stiles Everling was honorably buried in Arlington National Cemetery July 20, 1916.

Chapter 7

by

Brian James Lane


Eloise Everling closed the book “Angel Island: A History” with a deep, labored sigh. The candlelit room cast exaggerated, dancing shadows over the ceiling. Stiles appeared as though she had physically slapped him.

“Stiles Everling. I read it. Spelled the same. Captain Everling.” Eloise commented.

Eloise knew that her newlywed husband had long since given up the notion of sleep, performing his chivalrous duty to keep her company until Doctor Cargrave could visit her in the morning. But the portion Eloise had read about the poor Asian boy, and the General and Captain, who shared her husband’s name, filled him with a ghostly pallor and widened his eyes. Eloise doubted her husband would be able to sleep even if he wasn’t keeping watch over her for signs of concussion.

“It really says Captain Stiles Everling?” He whispered.

“Yes.”

“My mother always told me that her father-in-law died in World War I and that out of respect to my dad, I took his father’s name. She never mentioned…” He trailed off.

“What does this mean, Stiles? Was your grandfather buried-”

“-In Arlington, yes. With honors.” Stiles admitted.

A loud hammering at the door made them both cry out. Stiles laughed, trying his best to calm Eloise down. She could see through him. His eyes gave away his fright.

“Don’t worry. I got it.” He said, approaching the rustic-looking door.

With a slow, methodical creek, Stiles opened the door inward. Outside stood a strange looking man in a tattered, mud-streaked yellow raincoat. Lightning flashed behind him, making Eloise cry out again.

Stiles couldn’t help but stammer. “Can I help you?” He said.

“Rain’s coming.” The man croaked in a voice filtered through years of alcohol and tobacco abuse.

Stiles glanced outside unnecessarily. He nodded, encouraging the man to elaborate.

“Name’s Gruenwald. Curtis Gruenwald.”

Eloise interjected. “Mr. Ling’s friend.”

Gruenwald merely nodded, his face dark and shadowed by the impending storm. Eloise couldn’t see his eyes, but she could feel his gaze. She couldn’t help but look away.

“Something I can do for you, Mr. Gruenwald?” Stiles said.

“Mmmm hmmmm,” Gruenwald said, “There is. Ferry’s been delayed. Storm. Doctor can’t make it. Ling sent me here to see if the lady needed anything to help.”

Eloise had already seen myriad horrors, unimaginable things, since arriving on the island. It was becoming muddled now, but she tried to remember if they occurred after fainting and hitting her head. She had almost convinced herself that they had. Almost.

“I’m okay. Really. Tell Mr. Ling it was sweet of him to think about it and-”

“-You ought to lie down and rest, Mrs. Everling. You need your rest.” Gruenwald said.

“Rest is the last thing she needs.” Stiles corrected

“Used to come here and check on Mrs. Brewer, too. She wasn’t too healthy. Especially after the accident.”

Another flash of lightning silhouetted Gruenwald from behind. Rain began to fall, angrily and with purpose. Usually, rain in the Pacific Coast came in mists. Not this rain. It was verging on torrential

“Won’t you come inside, Mr. Gruenwald?” said Eloise, immediately regretting her ingrained manners.

Stiles stepped out of the way as Gruenwald stomped in. Eloise said, “I’m afraid we can’t offer you coffee or anything until we get-”

“Lillian – ahh, Mrs. Brewer, was a fine woman. Not too sturdy, but pleasing to the eye. Like you.” Gruenwald said to Eloise.
Stiles’ mouth dropped slightly and Eloise truly wondered if his chivalry would extend to correcting the old fisherman – perhaps by force. In an effort to keep peace, Eloise didn’t wait to see what her husband would do. “Umm, Mr. Gruenwald. What else do you know about this place? Stiles and I were reading and didn’t even realize that his grandfather was here for a bit.”

Stiles pointed to a chair, and Gruenwald took it with a nod. Eloise and Stiles followed suit, sitting around the small dining room table. The candles flickered and the storm raged outside. Eloise wondered if Stiles would be able to work at the park his first day, after all. Perhaps the poor man could get some sleep, she hoped.

“Angel Island has its ghosts, you know.” Gruenwald blurted out.

When neither Stiles nor Eloise appeared shocked by this, Gruenwald smiled for the first time. He was missing several teeth and the remaining vestiges were decayed and rotting. It sent shivers down Eloise’s spine. “Yes,” he said, “you know.”

“With all the oriental immigrants, you had to know that some of that mumbo-jumbo would rub off on the place. Kind of like them blackies in the south when they were brought over as slaves. Turned all their voodoo and stuff into mish-mashed beliefs with the Cajuns. It’s like that here. Leftover soup of Oriental philosophies.”

Eloise refrained from correcting the man’s antiquated and racist terminology, nodding at him to continue. Stiles was either too tired or too involved in the tale to have noticed the bigotry. Gruenwald paused as he fumbled through enormous pockets.

Gruenwald produced a pipe and tobacco like a magician. A fleeting fear of second-hand smoke crossed Eloise’s mind. She worried about the developmental stage of the fetus inside her and how smoke would affect the baby. She knew, however, that if she asked Gruenwald not to smoke that Stiles would suspect. She didn’t want him to know…yet.

Up until three months ago, she had been a heavy smoker. Eloise remained quiet, opting to stand instead and peer out the window and keeping her secret for the time being. The rain had already saturated the ground, which was now overflowing with runoff. Eloise smelled the sweet tobacco smoke as Gruenwald continued.

“Well, they have this thing here that is a perversion of what’s called ‘Taoism’. Dunno if you ever heard of that or not.” Gruenwald said.

“Yes,” Stiles piped up, “It’s the eastern philosophy of balance. Yin and Yang.”

Gruenwald nodded. “Taoism means the way of life. Nice stuff. Balance, like you said, Mr. Everling. Nice and neat and everything mirror image. Black and white. I don’t know if you noticed or not, but this island is a perfect circle. They even went so far as to put identical lighthouses on both sides of the island to keep the balance, only the north-facing one has long since fallen. But, the cannery is there…and if you see aerial pictures, the smokestack from the cannery looks just like the circle of the lighthouse from above. If you squint your eyes, the trailhead through the park runs along in a swish-like pattern. You can almost make out a Yin and Yang from it.”

“I understand Taosim, Mr. Gruenwald. It’s a philosophy and a way of life, as you said, but it has absolutely nothing to do with ghosts.” Eloise interrupted.

Gruenwald smiled his wretched smile, billows of smoke pouring through the Jack-o-Lantern-like visage. Eloise held her breath and subconsciously rubbed her belly. Stiles frowned slightly at this, but it didn’t fully connect for him, either. “That’s where we get the mix-up.” Gruenwald said.

“They call it ‘Qī sì’.” He continued.

“See soo?” Stiles said.

“It means ‘seven-four’, Stiles.” Eloise explained.

Gruenwald nodded, taking a deep drag from the pipe. The glowing embers illuminated his haggard face. He waited for Eloise to make the connection. She nodded, indicating she had.

“What?” Stiles asked.

Eloise turned to Stiles and said, “Qī sì are homophones, Stiles. Like ‘fair’ and ‘fare’. They sound like other words in Chinese.”

“Which words do they sound like?” He asked.

“Well, Qī sounds like Qǐ, which means ‘arise’.”

Stiles frowned. “And ‘soo’, what does that mean?”

Gruenwald replied, “Death.”

A flash of lightning immediately accompanied by thunder made all by Gruenwald wince. Stiles looked at his wife for confirmation. She nodded.

“The number four is a homophone for death (sǐ) in Chinese.” She explained.

“Seven-four is the evil bastard child of Taoism. It’s the belief that not only is there is balance between life and death, but that they can trade places. Arise death.” Gruenwald stated.

“What do you mean by that?” Eloise asked.

“Look,” he said, “There are exactly fifty-two people on this island. Mr. Ling and I get to leave because of you two. There has to be fifty people because there are fifty graves on this island. One hundred exactly. Well, that’s not true…exactly. Actually, one-oh-one here now.”

“I don’t understand.” Eloise said.

“The dead can’t rise with an imbalance, sweet-heart. That’s why I made me a deal with them. You see, I can’t get off the island –yet. Not with this storm. Speedboat won’t make it to the mainland without sinking in the rain and the ferry is delayed because of the storm. So, they said I just have to get rid of two orientals and throw them to the sea to keep balance so that they can trade with the living bodies and rise again when the time comes.”

Stiles stood up, angry. His chair fell backwards, smashing against the floor. Eloise gasped at the commotion. Gruenwald spat out his pipe and withdrew a large hunting knife from his capacious pockets. He leered at them.

Eloise suddenly realized that the mud streaking Gruenwald’s rain jacket wasn’t mud at all, but rust in color from the meager candlelight. Blood. “Mr. Ling?” She gasped.

Gruenwald nodded. “Yup, he got to leave after all, didn’t he? Right into Ayala Cove.”

Stiles advanced, but Gruenwald countered, keeping the table between them. Gruenwald advanced towards Eloise. “One more oriental in the cove and I get to be free of this accursed rock forever. You just stay there, pretty boy. They want you alive…for now.”

Gruenwald dashed towards Eloise, knife thrust out ahead ready to make its deadly intent known. Stiles leaped over the table, launching himself in a gallant effort to protect his bride from the attack. Eloise was frozen in terror.

The two struggled and Eloise screamed. The lightning and thunder raged on as if cheering on the conflict. Despite Stile’s excellent physical condition, the advantage was entirely Curtis Gruenwald’s. It didn’t take long.

Stiles Everling was stabbed to death on October 2, a Saturday night, at his new Angel Island home in the San Francisco Bay. Tomorrow, he would share a pot of Dragon Well green tea with Mr. Ling, who’s body would wash ashore on Angel Island a few hours later. Neither would be in the best of spirits for the occasion.

Eloise thought of none of this. All she could think about was how the balance was upset. Not only for the reason that her husband had just been murdered in front of her eyes in her place, but for the fact that the life inside her made the island one more person that the forces that be had planned.

She would have dwelled upon the thought until Gruenwald carved her into fish bait had it not been for the boy screaming to her from out in the rain. The boy yelled for her to run. The boy, somehow familiar to Eloise. A boy some called Henry, though his name was Ohn. Ohn Ling. Murdered by lynching almost one-hundred years ago.

CHAPTER EIGHT

BY

JULIE MOFFITT

Eloise ran out of the house, the boy, Henry yelled to her, “Run for your life!”

Which way to run?

It was hard to think in the darkness with the rain pounding the ground and the thunder and lightening raging on.   Eloise made a quick decision—the path through the woods.  She must find her way back to the lighthouse.

Her thoughts bounced in her brain.

Maybe I can find a phone, CB radio some kind of communication to the outside world.

Eloise ran wildly without falling but the rain was hitting her in the face making it impossible to see.  The lightening was the only light in these dark woods.

She looked back at the house where her husband was murdered. Tears stung her eyes.   Her only thought–protecting her unborn child. She was determined to save the baby and herself.

I must stay alive to raise our child.

She looked back at the house one more time. This time a shadow appeared from the upstairs window. The lightening flashed allowing a glimpse into the darkness– an Asian girl stood peering out.

Am I seeing things again?

She was afraid to look again but forced herself to look back once more. The Asian girl had simply vanished or had she?  

Eloise continued down the path.  Branches cluttered her way as a result of the storm.

I pray I don’t fall.

No sooner than she thought this, her right shoe caught on a tangled branch and she tripped, falling to the ground with a thud.

Eloise laid on the ground, wet, exhausted and emotionally drained. She rubbed her throbbing ankle.

I hope it’s just twisted.

She was about to try and get up when she noticed something crawling through some brush.  Panic gripped her.  She did her best to remain calm.

Stay very still.

She realized it was a snake and a big one.  Eloise was deathly afraid of snakes.  Eloise forced herself not to scream as the snake crawled across her leg.

Just stay calm and it will go away.

Eloise watched the snake crawl over her leg and off into the woods. She said a silent prayer, thanking God for small favors.

Just a little further.

And there in the distance was her beacon of hope, the lighthouse. Its light guiding her along the way.   A voice called out to her in the darkness.

Am I imagining things?

Eloise looked to her right.  At the edge of the woods, standing completely still was the young boy, Henry–blood dripping from his ears.

She shuddered thinking about the story she had read about Henry. Chills tingled down her spine.

Henry was pointing–leading the way for Eloise, down the path.

She turned and looked back.  Henry was gone.

Did I really see Henry or am I hallucinating because of the concussion?

She finally reached the lighthouse. Eloise pushed open the front door and walked in.  She looked around for any kind of communication. She spotted a CB radio on a table.

Finally I can get some help!!! She tried the CB radio. Static!

This has to work!

Tired, hungry and dying of thirst, Eloise mustered her strength and ventured further into the lighthouse. Luckily she found a small fridge with some bottled water.

She drank the water quickly quenching her thirst and decided to try the CB radio one more time; she was determined to get off this island and back to the mainland.

Just as she placed her hand on the CB radio, the front door of the lighthouse quickly opened and shut with a bang as loud as a shotgun.

Eloise turned around and screamed, “Oh not you, please don’t hurt me!”  Then everything went black.

Chapter 9

By

Annah Deluca-Scully

The phone rang.  Dr. Warren Cargrave looked up from his morning paper as sunlight spilled across his half eaten breakfast of soggy eggs and burnt toast. He pushed his large frame up and walked slowly to answer it.  His footsteps made the sound of death toll drums.

Who the hell could this be? It’s my day off, for Christ sake.

A massive shadow stretched long and dark across the hard wood floor of his small apartment on the lagoon. It raised a giant arm across, like an octopus about to seize its prey, and picked up the receiver.

“Hello, who is this?”

“Good morning, Dr. Cargrave. So sorry to bother, “said Mr Ling.

“Now what?” Cargrave snapped.

“We have another problem.  Actually, we have two problems.”

Pause. Silence.

A bead of sweat grew, sparkled and rolled down along the white sideburns of Cargrave’s healthy head of hair, disappearing into his stiff, starched collar.  A frown creased deeply into his brow.

“Not again, ” he whispered.

“I’m afraid so, Warren,” said Mr. Ling. “ They just arrived.  A young couple. Stiles, the husband, is to be our new ranger. His wife, Eloise, has Asian blood.  She had the vision. She fell and hit her head. I think you should come look at her.”

“Which vision are you talking about?”

“The pencils. She knows about the pencils.  She is reading the history book and resting, but I’m afraid of what she might do when she finds out. I’m afraid of what they might do to them. The numbers are off.”

Cargrave told Mr. Ling to make sure they weren’t left alone.

“I’ll be on the 4 o’clock ferry, “ he said with a sigh as placed his hand on the pressure that was building in his chest. “Just meet me at the dock when I arrive. And don’t make me wait.”

At least it was a sunny day, but the clouds were moving in and the wind would make the ride choppy.

Cargrave hated boats. More than anything, he hated Angel Island.

Dear, God, not again. He glanced at his elongated shadow. I’ve got to get those kids to safety. Before it’s too late.

With a shaky hand, Dr Cargrave packed his medical bag, grabbed his rain slicker and headed to his car. He looked up and saw his reflection in the rear view mirror.  His eyes were red and sunken. His skin ashen. He was a big man, a former football star in his day at UC Berkeley.  That was thirty years ago. On this day, he felt small and weak. Cargrave placed his head on the steering wheel and tears leaked down his cheeks silently.

Why me? I’m too old for this hero shit. Why can’t they let me be?

The sky was no longer bright. A wall of clouds as black as a raven’s wing was moving toward the shore. Lightning forked in the distance. When Cargrave arrived at the ferry dock, he was told at the ticket office that the ferries were cancelled that afternoon due to weather.

“When will the next ferry leave?” he asked and then realized the question was ridiculous.

“Look out there, sir,” said the perky, dark-haired woman with bright brown eyes behind the glass. “That storm came out of the blue. Forecast was for sunny weather today, but who knows how long this will last? It appears to be swirling right over Angel Island, would you agree? Nothing will be going out tonight. Check back tomorrow.”

Cargrave trudged back to his car, put it in gear and headed back to his small flat as rain began to pelt the windshield like Ringo on meth.  He was soaked by the time he opened his door and headed straight to the phone.

Dialing. Ringing. Still ringing. No answer. No answering machine.

Goddamnit, Ling, pick up! Where the hell is he?

Cargrave spent most of that night and the next day trying to reach Ling. The storm raged on; the streets became shallow rivers. Weather alerts scrolled across the television screen.

“This is one of the most torrential storms we’ve seen in years. It’s a record breaker! And there’s no end in sight!” said Tony DeLuca, the cheesiest meteorologist on cable, as he danced around playing a kazoo wearing a top hat and tails outside the Ch 5 studio in the hammering rain. Tony was known for his crazy costumes and unorthodox approach to reporting the weather.

Look at that jackass making jokes about this. This is no joke.

Ringing. No answer. Thunder. Then a flash.

Dead men can’t answer the phone.

Lightning cracked above the roof sending vibrations through his feet.  And then the next revelation burned into his thoughts like a Ponderosa branding iron.

I’ve got to get to those kids.

But deep down, Cargrave knew he was too late. He knew Ling was dead. Had the Equalizers got to the couple?  The couple arrived innocently. Thinking they were safe. Just starting their lives together. But the two of them made two too many. The island would not permit imbalance. Cargrave had seen this played out many times before.

He considered calling the police. Or the Coast Guard. But what would he tell them? That ghosts are causing the accidental deaths and disappearances on Angel Island? And have been doing so for over 60 years? They never listened to him before. Why would they now?

No, he was alone.  As he had always been. He never married. He had no living relatives. His life was his small practice. His patients were mostly low-income Asians. His only friend was his nurse, Maria. But he did not want to involve her. She was young and beautiful and innocent like Stiles and Eloise.

Then I’ll do it myself.

Cargrave dressed in warm layers, topped with a green rain slicker and grabbed his bag again.  Before leaving he carefully opened the dresser drawer and pulled out an antique American Bulldog .32 nickel-plated revolver. He carefully placed six bullets into their chambers.

He took a long look at that gun and couldn’t help thinking about a line from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. “You see, in this world there’s two kinds of people, my friend: Those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig.”

As the rain whipped his white hair back, he approached the dock. No one was around. Night was falling and the boats bobbed and smashed against their bumpers.  God, how Cargrave hated boats.

Why the hell did I choose to live here then? This is boat central. I’m either an idiot or a pawn… or both.

Then his eye caught something bright. A canary-yellow kayak was leaning against the ticket office wall, the paddle alongside.

He looked out into the whitecaps that peaked and waned. He saw the imprint of innumerable raindrops on the surface of chops. The wind felt sharp as a scalpel’s edge and sang a song of hollowness.  The island was engulfed in churning steel colored fog. Was this worth the risk?  It’s suicide out there.

Thunder and then a flash.

I have no choice.

And within minutes a small yellow kayak carrying a large, insane man could be seen paddling furiously over heaving swells and through an impossible storm toward the ominous convulsive mouth of the Raccoon Straights.

Chapter 10

By

Will Newell

A hand gently helped Eloise to sit up, “Eloise, honey, you were out cold. Luckily, I was walking by when I heard you scream.”

The overly painted face of a middle-aged woman began to come into focus.

“Who are you?” Eloise asked, feeling the room slightly spinning. “And how do you know my name?”

“Oh, dear, where are my manners? My name is Elizabeth Kauffman, but everyone here calls me Beth. I’m your neighbor, lovey.”

Beth Kauffman didn’t look like she belonged on rugged Angel Island.  She sported thick blue eye shadow and deep pink lipstick.  Her cheeks had been tinted too heavily by red rouge.  Beth Kauffman also had managed to squeeze her size fourteen body into size six clothing.

“I live in the lovely pink house next to yours.  I’ve lived there for over 17 years.” Beth’s voice was shrill, and her left eye began drifting in its eye socket ever so slightly, then more intensely.  “Do you remember what happened dear? I mean before you fainted?”

“Not really.” Eloise said, still trying to get her bearings. She noticed that Beth was holding a book. “Um, Beth, what book are you reading?”

“Just something I found lying next to you.”

“That book is mine!’’ Without a thought, Eloise snatched the book.

Beth threw up her arms. “I’m sorry, dear.  I didn’t mean to offend you.”

As Beth was talking, Eloise was quickly leafing through the pages of “Angel Island: A History.”

“Where is the last page of the book?  Beth, what have you done with it?”

Beth stared at her blankly.

“It goes up to page 77.  Everything is here, but page 78. The last page has been ripped out.” Eloise looked straight at Beth. Her lazy eye made it difficult to know where Beth was looking.

“What do you mean it’s ripped out?”  Beth asked.  “I had nothing to do with that.  This is exactly how I found the book, sweetheart.”

Eloise tried to stand, “Was I alone when you found me?” Her head started throbbing. She caught herself as she fell back to the floor.

“Darling, calm down. You were all alone, sugar,” Beth said reassuringly.

But Eloise was convinced that either someone didn’t want her to see that page or somehow during the struggle in her house, the page was torn out.

She had glanced through the entire book. Now she willed herself to remember.

What was written on page 78? Page 78? Seven eight!

Eloise stood up.  “Is there a CB radio here that works or anyone on the island who can get cell reception?”

“Not tonight, deary. These storms blow in once in a while, but I will admit this one is a real doozy.”

The digits, seven and eight kept flashing through her mind.

“The page must have fallen out of the book when I ran out of the house,” Eloise spoke quickly as she started hobbling toward the front door of the old lighthouse.

“Where do you think you are going, Missy? You can barely walk straight!”  Beth said in a maternal tone.

“I’m going home,” Eloise looked back at Beth.

“Oh nonsense, sweetheart, not alone you’re not.” Eloise wobbled around a bit. “See, you are in no condition to be on your own. Let me help you,” Beth insisted.

Eloise knew this was a losing battle.  She needed to get back to the house.  Deep inside her she knew that somewhere on page 78 was the key to her salvation.  Numbers in Chinese culture were too significant to be ignored.  The island was off balance—she needed to understand the connection made on page seven-eight.

Eloise had no intension of telling Beth that the number 7 (qī) in Chinese meant ghostly and the number 8 (bā) meant fortune.  She wasn’t sure the significance of these two words placed side by side, but she did know to trust her instincts and everything inside of her screamed that it was essential for her to find the missing page!

Beth helped Eloise up, and they walked out of the lighthouse and onto the trail back to the home that was occupied for one short night by Eloise and Stiles Everling.

As they slowly walked through the storm, Eloise began to gain control of her own two feet.

“Beth, why don’t you head home? I’m fine now.” Eloise was direct.  Although the thought of entering that house alone was terrifying, she sure the hell wasn’t about to trust Ms. Elizabeth Kauffman.

Beth got the message. “Or better yet, why don’t you come over to my house for some tea after you find what you need? That way we can get to know each other.”

Hesitantly, Eloise nodded in agreement.

Eloise waved goodbye and walked right toward her own house.  She stopped to look up at the sweet old beach cottage that had gone from quaint to sinister in less than 24 hours.  It was only a short time ago that her husband had been stabbed to death trying to save her life.

This is either the stupidest thing I’ve ever done or the bravest.

Eloise slowly walked through the door of her house.  She made her way into the dining room where her husband had taken his last breath. She closed her eyes tightly and said an old Chinese prayer.  She forced herself to open her eyes.

He was gone! She ran from room to room wildly.  Finally, she stumbled upstairs to their bedroom.

The candles were still lit and casting an eerie glow.

Stiles Everling was lying on the bed. His chest was cut open from the rib cage to his pelvis. The open wound was gushing blood.

Eloise bent over and began to dry heave.  It didn’t last long.  Her sorrow turned to anger.

“WHO COULD HAVE DONE THIS TO MY STILES!” she screamed.

A sudden crash of thunder made Eloise turn her head toward the northern wall in her bedroom. It was splattered with blood. There was a pattern in the markings that almost looked like words and numbers, but nothing that she could decipher.

Eloise gazed out the window and stared at the ominous clouds. The flash of lightning that followed the thunder burst into the dark room – the markings on the wall were reflected on the window.  They caught the reflection from the wall behind her.  What she saw was now turned right side up and read front to back.

It only took her a second to read the words and see the numbers.

She turned back to the splattered wall.

Another bolt of lightning lit the tortured room. The markings all of a sudden made sense. It suddenly dawned on Eloise that everything on the island was in direct opposition to itself, like the Yin and Yang that Gruenwald had spoken about before he hacked her husband to death.  Even the bloodstains on the wall were upside down and backwards.

The words sent a chill down her spine more intense than if she had been hit by one of the lightening bolts closing in on Angel Island. And then there were the numbers, significant numbers. Yes, it was the date for Halloween this year. But there was more. Eloise had always been good with numbers. She added them quickly in her head.

10 31 2010.

Then she manipulated the numbers.  The digits added together equaled eight.  Then Eloise thought for a moment.  “Shit,” she said aloud to no one. “It’s the year of our Lord 2000.  And for just this millenium the digits also add up to seven.”

Eloise understood immediately what these numbers meant combined with the words written below the date.

“Beware devious fortune and the undead.”

Eloise looked over at her dead husband’s body. His right index finger was covered in his own blood. Instantly, Eloise knew Stiles was trying to warn her.

Chapter 11

by

Donna Marie Nowak

Dr. Warren Cargrave crested the waves in the yellow kayak, fighting desperately to keep the knifelike boat from disappearing in the swirling and treacherous eddies.  The rain slashed at his face and blinded him.  His hands grew numb as he gripped the paddle, but he focused on the dark shape before him and the faint pulse of light from Angel Island’s ancient lighthouse.  Its steady light couldn’t save a ship from being smashed to bits against the rocks in such weather.  A gray fin sliced through the water nearby, almost invisible, and Cargrave shuddered, the ice penetrating his bones.  God, he hated water.  His fear stemmed back to his childhood when he’d almost drowned in a swimming pool.  His mother had kicked off her shoes and dove in, fully clothed.  And these waters were known to harbor the Great Whites.  They had swallowed swimmers and boaters far more experienced than he.  No one could swim here and hope to live, in fact.  Lightning crackled against the churning sea in front of him, electric white, the island thrown into momentary relief.  Angel Island.  Like a hulking beast.  Patient.  Watchful.  Ready to devour him if the water didn’t.  Safe for the raccoons and things that walked at night.

But that young couple was in danger, he reminded himself.  The legend was that the island disposed of those who left its numbers imbalanced, but he knew that wasn’t entirely the truth.  It wasn’t partial to any group, Asians or whites or blacks or Indians either.  It only wanted blood, because of the centuries of bad blood that had tainted its history, the many immigrants who had passed through, the sorrows and secrets.  The undead walked on that island – they were colder than these waves and clever shapeshifters.  Beth Kauffman lived there, a good soul, but the others had been fooled when Beth’s doppelganger confronted them.  Oh, the Equalizers were good at that.  They were clever manipulators, able to mimic any human being and inhabit their form.  I have to do it.  I have to save those kids.  As a doctor, it was all he knew.  Saving lives was his calling.  What other purpose could he have?  Steeling himself against the stinging lash of water, gasping against the relentless cold, he forged on.  Long fingers of fog were now creeping across the water like a malevolent gas.

***

Eloise had to leave–if not for herself, for the baby.  She could see a light in the window of Beth Kauffman’s house, blurred through the rain.  It was tempting to confide in someone, be less alone in this nightmare, seek a neighbor.  But she knew she was on her own.  She moved with stealth.  If she couldn’t trust anyone, if she was in hell, she would need to be as quiet and invisible as gas.  She dressed quietly in dark clothes, letting her damp things fall to the floor, wondering if she was numb.  She felt nothing.  She moved like one in a black fog, unable to see inches in front of her.  The darkness would close in and swallow her if she didn’t continue to fight it.  Mindlessly she slipped on her raincoat.  The steady thunder of rain muffled her footfalls as she crept towards the door.  Slowly she turned the knob, looking behind her at the house.  House of horror.   She slipped out the door into the rain and then stopped.  The boy stood before her, barefoot, his ears still bloody.  He beckoned for her to follow him. Beware devious fortune and the undead.

Eloise hesitated, but her head was throbbing and her mind unclear.  It was because of him she had fainted upon arriving at Angel Island.  She had to find out what he was trying to tell her now.

He ran towards the lighthouse, his small form swift and spare.  He disappeared in and out of the thick bank of fog that was rolling in.  Periodically he looked back at her, silently urging her on, his eyes pleading before he was swallowed in moving fog again.  She kept up.  He led her through the door like a black eye.  In the damp interior, Eloise paused to catch her breath, holding her side.  She looked up at the spiral staircase that hugged the wall, disappearing into blackness.  Her heart skittered in her chest.  What did he want here?  Beware devious fortune and the undead. He gestured to the bricks along the wall, doing a pantomime.

“Stones?  I don’t understand,” Eloise said, her voice hoarse and anguished.  Her teeth chattered helplessly.

The boy looked up alertly as if listening.  Eloise listened too but could only hear the rain thundering like hundreds of boots against the structure, the wind howling through its loose eaves.  Sometimes it seemed to scream – or was that in her mind, her own mind screaming?  Quickly the boy ascended the staircase.  He seemed to sense something that Eloise couldn’t understand.  He motioned for her to follow.  The spiral staircase was as black as pitch, the steps irregular.  It seemed to sway in the wind, but that was impossible.  It was her head swaying, the series of events too incomprehensible to take in, terror overcoming her.  Was Stiles really dead – Stiles who had been so vital, so bewitching?  Her mind raced as she climbed upwards, round and round and round.  And suddenly she stopped.   There was a faint movement behind her.  She hesitated, her heart pounding, her head swirling like the coils of the staircase.  What?  What was it? Would she feel that same sense of movement, of presence behind her again?  She waited, then looked up.  The child was continuing and it gave her renewed strength.

Round and round they went, monster stalking monster stalking monster.  She peered fearfully into the blackness behind her, touched her hand to her abdomen as if to calm the small life growing there.  She was almost at the top of the stairs now.  The lightning flashed.  In that instant, she saw a figure waiting for her at the top of the stairs.  But it was not the boy.

Chapter 12

By

Robin J Cody

To her horror it was Stiles…was he okay?

That’s impossible. I saw Stiles die; I saw his cold lifeless body lying in a pool of blood in front of me…he saved me.

A flash of lighting brightly lit the staircase blinding Eloise for a second. She rubbed her eyes trying to regain her sight.

Stiles was gone!

She noticed a metal hatch at the top of the stairs. It was wet and cold to the touch. Eloise pushed against it as hard as she could. The hatch slowly creaked open.  The sound of papers and garbage fell to the sides. It was an emergency hatch where Joe had spent many stormy nights manning the lighthouse, guiding people to safety.

Eloise was soaking wet, she had never felt this tired and her head hurt fiercely.  She began to shake uncontrollably.

Have I gone insane?

Her breathing was shallow.  Shaking, she dropped to her knees gasping for air. Now’s not the time to panic. She tried to slow down her beating heart.

Calm down Eloise. Breathe. Long deep breaths. It’s going to be okay.

The room was pitch-black, the occasional flicker of lightning illuminated the room for seconds at a time. Eloise fumbled in the dark. The room smelled musty and dank as if no one had occupied its cramped quarters in a long time. Trash covered the floor.  She could hear the distinct rustling of rats.

She needed a light of some kind.  If only she had matches, a lighter, a lamp– anything that would enable her to see. She made her way over to an old desk. It too smelled of rot and mold. Franticly she dug thought the drawers.

“Yes!” she cried out loud her hands trembling, as she fumbled to open the lighter.

“Please work…Please!” The lighter clicked open and she instantly spun the spark wheel. Click….Click…

“Damn it!” she cried, She tried one more time. Click…a small flame started to flicker.  Hanging up on the wall in front of her was an old kerosene lamp. It was covered in cobwebs and layers of grime from years of neglect. The webs pulled and snapped as she grabbed it from the wall. Small spiders scattered across her shaking hand. The hair on the back of her neck stood straight up.

She noticed that the lamp was nearly out of fuel but it would have to do.  She raised the globe off the old lamp, lighting the wick. Her nostrils were filled with the smell of stale burning kerosene. The lamp barely lit the room.  With eerie glow from the lamp and the squeaking and rummaging of rodents stirring in the night, Eloise was on edge.

To the side of the desk was an old military footlocker covered in papers and waste. The sea air corroded the padlock that locked the box.  She tugged at the lock and it opened with a horrible moan. Eloise wasted no time.  She found old photos and letters, even an old uniform that must have served as a snack for the moths that had lived in the footlocker with the other remnants. She reached in to the bottom of the box. A sharp pain shot through her hand.

She quickly pulled her hand out of the locker.  A large cut ran across her palm. The blood slowly came to the surface trickling down her wrist.  Her blood felt warm and thick on her cold skin. She could feel her pulse beating in the wound.

Carefully she took out the old, half eaten uniform.  She found a large sharp knife lying in the bottom of the locker. She carefully took the razor sharp blade out of the box. It was an old U.S Marine combat knife that was as sharp as the day it was made. She tore up what was left of the uniform, and made a crude bandage for her hand and wrapped the knife in what was left of the material.  She tucked the knife it in the small of her back using the belt of her pants as a restraint.

She wasn’t finished rummaging through the papers in the bottom of the footlocker. Most of them had been damaged by water and mold but she could make out a photo of Joe wearing military fatigues. The writing on the back of the photo was now a series of lines and blurs. She put the photo in her back pocket. On the other side of the room she could see a metal ladder that lead to the top of the tower.

The rungs were old and rusty.  Eloise held the lamp in her bandaged hand. She didn’t want to rub the dirty rust metal in to the gash of her hand. Carefully and slowly she began to ascend the narrow tunnel. Eloise made it to the top, carefully placing the lantern above her. The sound of the rain bounced off of the metal roof and pelted the glass. A bright flash of lightning ripped open the sky. It missed Eloise and the lighthouse by inches. It was amazingly bright, brilliant, like nothing she had ever seen before. The air was charged with electricity. The loud crash of thunder that quickly followed, knocked her down to her knees.

Eloise began to sob uncontrollably; the tears ran down her face. Her life had been destroyed. The man she loved murdered in front of her. The boy with the bleeding ears was trying to tell her something she could not understand. It was all too much. It seemed like a horrible nightmare in which she couldn’t awake.

Beware devious fortune and the undead”…what did the boy mean. What was Stiles trying to show me, her head pounded as thoughts raced though her brain?

“What are you trying to show me?!” She screamed out at the top of her lungs cursing the heavens for the horrors she had witnessed.

Another flash of light and cracking of thunder seemed to answer her question. She pulled herself to her feet holding on to a large brass switch. It was the switch for the light. It was dull and dusty and tarnished, she threw it in to the on position, and the large bulb began to hum and glow brighter and brighter. The light pierced thought the darkness like a sharp blade. Eloise started to regain her composure.  The light seemed to signify a glimmer of hope in what seemed like the longest night of her young life.

She started back down the ladder, the rungs slippery from years of damp air. The lamp slipped from her hand smashing below in to the darkness. Eloise froze. She knew she had to climb down.  She clung to the rungs tightly, taking each step carefully.

When she finally reached the bottom, she pulled out the Zippo from her pocket. It dimly lit the room, the dull flicker of the flame made the shadows dance around her like shadow puppets mocking her. She heard someone or something coming up the stairs. Large booming foots steps echoed as they came closer and closer.

Eloise frantically looked for a place to hide.

What should I do?

She ran over to the desk.  She could smell the rat urine and see the rat droppings as she kneeled down to hide herself under the desk. Her skin crawled as her stomach began to heave.

The hatch crashed open; a large broad shouldered man entered the room. Eloise took the knife out of the back of her belt and unfolded the cloth revealing the sharp blade. The man turned on a flashlight and slowly scanned the room. A rat brushed Eloise’s leg. She bit her lip to try not to scream. The beam of light passed by the desk.  The footsteps began to get closer, slowly thumping towards her.

All she could see were soaking wet boots covered in mud. Eloise clutched the knife tightly. Her knuckles turned white from her grip. She held the knife close to her body, shaking in fear.

Chapter 13

By

Morgan Rolland

The fog kept on creeping across the water, slowly thickening; blocking what was in its path from view.

Great.

He continued to paddle, every second he knew he was getting closer to that wretched island. He felt uncertain as he entered the mist, not too sure where he was going. He didn’t want to think of all the possible things that could happen during such a violent storm, but he knew that he had to get to the island, for the couple’s sake. The waters kept churning, more violent each time. The rain poured down on him, targeting him just as maggots target rotting flesh. It made it even more difficult to see. In the distance, besides the roaring of the thunder, he could hear something moving gently in the water.

He did not let himself be distracted though, for as much as he hated water, he was determined to reach his destination. He was a brave man. Many others would not dare to cross these waters in such harsh conditions, on a Ferry, let alone a kayak. The fog was thick now, and only the faint glow of the lighthouse’s bulb was visible.

A tremendous wave came crashing up onto the side of the tiny boat, filling it with water. The boat was pushed away harshly, and nearly capsized. He continued to paddle, faster and with more force this time. He tightened his grip on the paddle once more. The dim light was now becoming much clearer. It was only a matter of minutes; those minutes were the worst of his life, before he reached the sandy shore of an island. He was soaked to the bone, but it didn’t seem to bother him, for he was more concerned about the couple. Wriggling out of the small boat, the doctor stumbled onto land, and after a few seconds, he regained his balance and stood upright facing the kayak. He reached into the opening and patted the bottom, hoping to find his medical box. He grabbed it. In front of him stood the lighthouse, it’s beam still shining brightly, leading anything out on the waters to safety.

Chapter 14

By

Rich Orth

Eloise awoke from yet another nightmare. She was always present, but for some reason a childlike Ling permeated them, almost as if haunting her from the grave! Over time, the visions had become a motion picture, playing over and over again in the theatre of her mind.  The events leading up to becoming part of Angel Island implied a life so promising. She and Stiles were to begin their perfect life together.  Now, as Eloise sat upright in what once was “their” bed, she was left with the realization…Life had spiraled out of her control.

Vivid images of walls flashed before her eyes.  This constant over recent days continued to make absolutely no sense.  No sense to her sensibilities.  No sense, as had almost her entire time on Angel Island.   Eloise attempted to treat this as nothing more than a minor distraction.  Yes, her walls were collapsing quickly around her. Yes, her beloved Stiles was gone forever.  Stiles her knight, her protector for life.  Eloise never dreamed how short life would be. The sweetest tastes, now sour morsels swirling under her tongue.  Left vulnerable to the elements, Eloise was determined to succeed.

Walls, the word, the image it entails, persisted, was embedded in her brain.  Crumbling was of course the initial thought.  Now, collapsing was more, so much more, the truth of what had been wrought.  Eloise thought of the word evil, but shook that off as improbable.  Blaming a nonentity for what destiny had brought to the table was borderline insane.  A table, now set for only one. Alone on an island….without having the choice of bringing those favorite things, the things we quiz each other on.

As she gathered her thoughts…once lucid, now degraded into near insanity, she was wide-awake.  Eloise again laid her hands on the book, “The History of Angel Island.”  As thoughts of walls was her theme, she revisited the chapter on the Miwok Tribe.  Native Americans had once inhabited this now horrid place.  The Miwok believed in no walls.  This struck Eloise as bizarre.  Why would anyone living on this Island, prone to the constant forces of Mother Nature, not want the protection of walls?  The Miwok apparently also trod so lightly, footprints were imperceptible.  While thinking of this, Eloise imagined a horror movie of Native American Spirits inhabiting a newly built settlement.  God, she thought, haven’t enough of those stories been written and filmed. Again, she returned to her initial conception. Why other than incarceration, would any human shun a necessity of preservation? Why?

Breathe forward.  Eloise exhaled, relaxed, one more breath made no difference.  She had been fighting the temptation since day one. The day her, Stiles, and Mr. Ling, even the thought of his name now frightened her, visited that dank structure, which felt as if it bled evil.  She would now return…full circle in her mind..to that place…the Hellish magnet which she prayed was opposable, but attracted her like a moth to the all consuming flame.

As the two story wooden  building came into view, Eloise was what she needed to be.  She was the picture of composed apprehension.  Through the doors, her perception not where it’s meant to be, still she moved it forward.  The lamp is lit..hoping to shed light on this past, present and future, that is Angel Island.  That story, to Eloise’s belief was written upon the walls.  Again the concept of walls suffocated her.  It seemed so simple, read the walls…all is solved.  Encountering a language issue was not a thought.  Mr. Ling could have translated, but he was not invited to this party.  She thought to herself…why the hell did I not value the concept of my Grandmother’s attempts to teach me a native language?  She wanted to be All-American so badly, she simply denied her roots.  Eloise sighed, ready to give up…as she slumped wearily in the corner, a glistening caught her eye.  Between the  floorboards appeared to be something….something that wanted her attention.  Her nails bleeding, she finally pried up the board.  There within her grasp was in her mind, the link ..albeit clue, that may save her… save her from what??  Insanity?  As she pulled the parchment and the medallion from their resting place, Eloise sensed she was not alone.  Stiles was gone, if she followed, they would meet once again.  Why would anyone ever fear that..again seeing your love of a lifetime.  So, time to trudge on, she grasped the parchment, which she began to read out loud to herself and her demons.

On this night
Fog creeping
Meadow releasing
A steady stream
Evil taking flight

Perversity uninvited
Swallowing, reaping
Ever increasing
Twilights final gleem
Danger///it so excites

Cemetery fenced in
Keeping death at bay
But as the mist
Envelops our lives
Death,yes death
finality..finally arrives

We are unable to resist
Devouring us whole
Morsel by morsel
Drawing us into the fold

Through the portal
To sights unseen
For us to never behold
But as a lonely figure in
Dante’s scene
Our world remains unconsoled

So in the night
When all alone
Despair thee not
For you are at home
The door is opened
As it closes again
History..it repeats
Destiny so arcane

Awake from the dream..
Sleep to the nightmare
Follow the theme
Too late to beware
The night it extends
Centuries blend
Nowhere to run
He is always aware

He…who is he, Eloise thought….and what is this symbol on this medallion? And why?  Why?  Why, don’t I just leave??

Chapter 15

By

William Castle

Dr. Warren Cargrave walked straight through the doors of the old wooden two-story immigration center.  The door slammed shut violently behind him.  The echoing from the bedlam startled Eloise’s reverie.

Walls.

His tall, wet body seemed to shake rainwater everywhere.  With giant but elegant strides he made his way across the ancient floorboards.

No time to be flustered.

Eloise stuffed the parchment she had just finished reading back under the floorboard.

“You Eloise Everling?” Dr. Cargrave’s worried eyes were already examining his patient.

Eloise stayed mute.

“I’m Warren Cargrave.  Dr. Cargrave.  Mr. Ling called me before your phone lines went down.”

Eloise continued to stare in disbelief.

“He said you were injured.  Your head?” Dr. Cargrave looked in his medical bag and took out his light. As he talked he was looking deep into Eloise’s pupils. Now, look to your right.  That’s a good girl.  Follow the light.”

Eloise wasn’t sure she liked his condescending tone, but she let Dr. Warren Cargrave inspect her.  As he was busy looking into her eyes, Eloise silently manipulated the wooden floorboard making sure the parchment was hidden once again, veiled from this man’s probing eyes.

His long fingers felt around her head.  He grabbed for his stethoscope and began to listen to her chest.

He took his hands and began to press lightly on her belly.

Eloise instinctively jumped up.

“How did you get onto this island? There’ve been no ferries!” Eloise was facing Dr. Cargrave but was now backing away slowly towards the front door.

Walls.

She was just about to turn and bolt through the front door when Dr. Cargrave looked down and said one word.

“Kayak.”

Eloise stopped dead in her tracks.

“You kayaked here in this weather?” Eloise was stunned.  “Why?”

“I had to.  I knew you were in trouble.  And I knew Mr. Ling was dead.”

“How?  How did you know?”

“And your husband. Where is he?”  Dr. Cargrave spoke softly, almost imperceptibly.

He is always aware.

The last line of the poem echoed in her head.

Was Cargrave He?

Cargrave could sense Eloise’s agitation.

He spoke deliberately.  “Your neighbor, Beth Kauffman, she’s a good lady. You can trust her.”

Eloise almost laughed.  Trust!

How can I trust you?

She wanted to scream to this elegant man but she held her tongue.

“Eloise, let me take you to Beth’s house.  Let us get you comfortable. She will take care of you I promise.”

Promise. There was another one of those slippery words.

Eloise instinctively felt for the knife hidden in her back belt loop.

Too late to beware
The night it extends
Centuries blend
Nowhere to run

“Okay, let’s get out of here.”  Eloise didn’t trust anyone on this island, but she knew she had to survive, if not for her own sake then for the sake of the baby growing inside of her.  But first she must figure out her connection with the island. Since the moment she planted her foot right foot on Angel Island soil she felt something overshadowing.  She tried to stick a label on her presentiment but nothing stuck.  Not good, not evil, not life or death.  It was deeper.  It was so much more.

Cargrave didn’t have to knock on Beth’s front door.  She was standing outside in the rain, holding a giant pink umbrella, seemingly waiting for the two of them to arrive.

How did she know we were coming?

Her mind slipped back to the poem that now lay hidden underneath the floorboards.

“Come in, come in and out of the cold,” Beth’s nasally voice greeted them.  So did the intense smell of cheap perfume–way too much cheap perfume.

Eloise coughed as she entered the house.

“Doctor, she is going to catch Pneumonia,” Beth began chattering as she busied herself.

“Sit, sit on the couch lovey,” she commanded Eloise.  “You make sure she is okay, Doc.  Don’t forget to check her head.  She had quite a fall. I’m going to put on the tea.  Do you all like Dragon Well green tea?” She turned and left before the two had answered.

Beth stepped into the kitchen.  The door swung shut behind her.

Eloise heard whispering.

“Who’s here?” she looked at Cargrave.

“I don’t know,” Cargrave replied looking agitated.  “I’ll be right back, “ he stood up and walked into the kitchen.

Eloise stood as well and looked around the quaint little room.  It was overly decorated but she would have expected that from Beth.  Like her cabin next door, there were lots of small rooms.  Many rooms with many walls.  The thought gave her goose bumps.

The whispering from the kitchen died down instantly.  It suddenly became deathly silent.  Eloise walked into the kitchen.  “Hell-ooo.”

Nobody was there.

Where the hell did everybody go?

Their sudden absence freaked her out as much as anything that had happened to her so far.

She began to search every tiny room of the downstairs of Elizabeth Kauffman’s home.

Then, for some unknown reason, Eloise untied her hiking boots and slung them around her shoulder.  In stocking feet, she began to tiptoe up the back stairs.

The whistle from the teapot startled her.  She ran back down to the kitchen and  quickly switched off the kettle.  She retraced her steps up the old staircase.

She quietly searched all the upstairs rooms.  The doors were all wide open, save one.

Her feet quickly hastened to the side of the closed door.  She knelt over and listened intently.

There it was again.  The whispering.

Cargrave’s calm and distinct voice came tumbling through the door.

Walls.

He said one word.  But this word made everyone gasp.

“What are we going to do?   It must stay even.”

There was the word again.  It came in a whisper.

“Are you absolutely sure she’s… pregnant?”

The answer was resolute.

“Yes.”

“If she dies, then so will the baby.”

Then Beth Kauffman said in the most matter of fact way, “Then we will just have to kill the baby.”

Her terrified baby blues grew as wide as saucers with the indomitable look of a mother ready to kill for the life inside of her.  But she didn’t panic.

Eloise grabbed for the knife hidden in her belt loop. She untied the material wrapped around its sharp blade and shoved it in her pocket.  She held the knife tightly in her right hand.

With her left hand she swiftly put on her hiking boots, tied them as tightly as she could using just the one hand. Then she walked doggedly down the stairs and out the door of Ms. Elizabeth Kauffman’s house.

She wasn’t thinking about walls at this moment.  No.

She was thinking about finding the kayak that Dr. Warren Cargrave claimed to have arrived on earlier that night.

But first she was convinced that she had to return to the immigration center and retrieve the old parchment paper that lay buried beneath the floorboards.

Chapter 16

By

H.C. Hush

Just as Eloise got to the front door, the blood began pounding behind her eyes. She put her hand on the wooden doorframe and steadied herself. She thought for a moment, a moment she couldn’t really spare, about slipping back up the stairs. And breaking in on Beth and the Doctor during their conversation about killing her baby. Breaking in, screaming, plunging the blade into Beth’s soft middle aged belly, watching as her eyes bugged out of her garishly made up face, slicing upwards, as she gasped her last breath. Then turning around and drawing the gore covered knife across the dear old Doc’s throat, watching his eyes roll upward as he fell backward. She wanted revenge for Stiles. She saw his face in her mind’s eye, smiling at her.

Then a pickaxe plunged into his forehead.

No! Gruenwald stabbed him. That’s not right. What is this place?  That last question shook her back to reality–he horrible reality into which she was plunged.  Good God, Eloise asked herself, how much time did I waste standing here? Looking around she saw that she was still alone. Carefully opening the door she stepped out, and began to run. The rain had let up a bit and it was only a mist coming down. Panting, her hand throbbing, she slowed not even for a half second, intent upon getting to the immigration building. “I’m going to get the parchment, the medallion, and get to that kayak. Get away from this hell on earth.” Eloise said as she ran.

That poem must be a clue. A key to what is going on here. As she saw the old wooden structure coming up in the darkness, a bolt of lightning hit the building. The left front corner exploded outward. Pieces of plaster and wood and shingles showered out and down. Eloise ducked and covered her head with her arms. When the last bit of debris had stopped falling, Eloise started toward the building once again. Her eyes still adjusting back to the darkness.

Then she saw him again.

Young Ohn Henry Ling, standing there, a hangman’s noose around his small neck. Small broken neck to be exact. His head sat a half-inch to the right of his neck, with eyes, pleading, looking directly into hers. His arms outstretched. She thought she heard him call out to her, “Mommy, help me.” Eloise thought her spine had been extracted from her body at the sight and sound of Henry. Her skin felt as if it had crawled completely around her body and back again.

He’s not there, she told herself. Despair thee not. In ten minutes, I’ll be paddling a kayak back to sanity. He’s not the undead, he’s just in my mind. He’s not really there. Go away Henry. She began moving toward the door. She reached out to grab the handle and open the door. As she touched the Henry apparition, Eloise blacked out and fell to the ground.

Chapter 17

By

Woofer McWooferson

“Elle, wake up.”

The voice sounded far away, but somehow Eloise knew it was right beside her.

“Honey, you’ve got to wake up. Your life depends on it.”

Stiles! Her eyes flew open and she looked toward the sound of the voice. It was Stiles, but he was dressed exactly as he was on their first date.

“Don’t be afraid,” Henry Ling said from her other side. “Nothing can hurt you here. It is in the other world that you are in danger.”

Eloise looked from her dead husband to the other man and back. “How can this be?”

Stiles shook his head with a sad smile. “It can’t. That’s why you have to wake up in the other world. It’s too late for our child, but you can still make it.”

Eloise’s eyes widened at the mention of the child and she instinctively rubbed her belly, but she said nothing. Something inside of her hardened, and she knew that the time for tears was over. Losing a husband and child in the same day could send anyone over the edge, but Eloise was made of stronger stuff. That, of course, was the problem in the first place: They knew.

Who are they?

Mr. Ling cleared his throat and Eloise looked to him again. Continuing where Stiles left off, he told Eloise everything that he knew about the island. Eloise’s color came back as Mr. Ling spoke, his words acting like medicine to her soul and psyche. By the time he had finished, resolve had filled a face once wracked with fear, and she seemed larger than her 5’ 3”.

“Mr. Ling –” Eloise began, but he raised a finger and she stopped. “Yes?”

“They will not let you leave, and if you take the kayak, you will die. Follow the boy.” He nodded when Eloise raised an eyebrow.

She turned back to her dead husband who nodded agreement. “They don’t know that the baby’s gone, and they are going to try to force a miscarriage. You heard Dr. Cargrave and Beth Kauffman planning it.”

“What about the locket? The poem? Page 78?” Eloise asked.

“Follow the boy,” Mr. Ling said again.

Eloise nodded without looking back to him. She wanted to look at Stiles as long as she could, knowing that she would be waking up soon.

That’s an odd thought. I’m awake now.

“Aren’t you-” She started, but Mr. Ling cut her off once more.

“The boy will lead you to a place of safety for the night where the rest of your questions will be answered.”

***

Lightning flashed, illuminating the boy standing over her. Eloise groped on the ground beside her and found a small branch. It was larger at one end than the other, and a knot near the break made it resemble a very small, very crude club. She grabbed the makeshift weapon and stood, beckoning to the boy to lead. As she followed, she shuddered involuntarily at his appearance and redoubled her resolve to make things right. With both a knife and a club, Eloise felt a little better about her ability to do so. At last he stopped and pointed to an unremarkable looking rotten stump.

“Is this the place? The same place?”

The ghost nodded and again gestured to the stump.

How?

It seemed impossible, but so had almost everything else Eloise had experienced since her arrival on Angel Island. She dropped to her knees and placed the club on the ground within quick reach. Without pausing she began to dig and claw at the roots of the stump. At last she felt her left hand break through the dirt. Encouraged, Eloise wrapped the fingers of her right hand around one of the roots and pulled with all her might. It moved. Remembering what she’d been taught about lifting, she scrambled to a crouch, gripped the root with both hands, and began to pull up as she stood. After a moment’s hesitation, the stump lifted enough that Eloise was able to grab the club and wedge it in place to hold the stump aloft.

Just a little luck, please.

With a quick check to ensure the knife would stay in place, Eloise fell to her belly and slithered into the darkness below. When she turned to retrieve her club and secure her hiding place, the boy was gone. She turned back to the dirt chamber and closed her eyes for a moment as she listened. Nothing. Eloise opened her eyes again and remained motionless as they adjusted to the dark. After a minute or two, she was able to make out the edges of the chamber. It was little more than a large hole with a clear passage hewn in one rocky wall. Instinct told her it lead toward the lighthouse, and reason set her moving in that direction. Mr. Ling had told her to follow the boy.

He’s the boy.

And the boy had clearly wanted her to come in here. She was supposed to follow the tunnel. Eloise bent, redoubling her grip on the club, and entered the tunnel. Using the club as a probe, she tested the ground ahead as she proceeded, slow at first but more rapidly as she gained confidence in the dark. Or was it so dark any longer? Eloise noticed that she could clearly discern her hand on the club. She closed her eyes, counted to sixty, and then opened them again. Yes, it was much lighter ahead. Eloise began moving again, certain that whatever the boy wanted her to find was in the light.

She slowed again as she neared the end of the tunnel. Visibility was fine, but she was wary now. She could hear the storm outside and wondered briefly that it sounded even worse than earlier. A steady drip came from the glowing cavern ahead but no other sound. Eloise stepped forward and gasped audibly in spite of herself. The walls were shot through with gold and illuminated by a lantern held by a Chinese woman whose face spoke of a sorrow Eloise understood immediately. It was Ohn “Henry” Ling’s mother.

“You will be safe here tonight,” Mrs. Ling said, hanging the lantern on a hook. She quickly crossed the cavern and pressed a brightly colored, thick wool blanket into Eloise’s free hand. “Wrap up in this.”

As Eloise wrapped the blanket around her, Mrs. Ling set about making a fire in what once was obviously a cook pit. “It is very good that you made it. They have enlisted others to search for you and for this.”

She glanced over her shoulder at Eloise. “Take off your clothes so we can dry them by the fire.” When Eloise hesitated, Mrs. Ling added. “ You can keep the knife close if it makes you feel better.”

“I know you, don’t I?” asked Eloise.

Mrs. Ling gave the fire a little poke and turned back to Eloise.

That was fast.

“My sister was your grandmother.”

CHAPTER 18

By

Patrick J. Power

Eloise gasped at the spirit’s words, realizing she was speaking to the specter of her own ancestor.

“Yes, child. I am your great aunt, Ling. My name has the meaning of the word ‘soul’ or ‘spirit,’ and has great bearing on the battle being waged here this night. A battle that will end either with balance being restored to Angel Island, or the ending of Angel Island, and the visitation of chaos on the word spreading from here. There are powers at work here you cannot imagine, and you are at the center of this great conflict. You, and the child you are carrying, are the key to the outcome.”

Eloise felt her terror ramp up at Ling’s words, every centimeter of skin covered in goose pimples, as she understood that Ling’s words held more truth than she could handle. But, she could not deny them either.

“How can I be the key to anything? I am no one–just a widow who feels like the pawn in some cosmic game. I feel like Rosemary giving birth to the Devil’s child now! What the hell does this have to do with ME???” Eloise practically screamed at Ling’s spectral form.

“Quiet, child. Sit and feel at peace while I tell you the story,” Ling answered.

Eloise felt a wave of calm sweep over her and slid to a seated position on the dirt floor. Tranquility filled her being giving her strength after all the terrors of the evening, and she was ready to hear Ling’s explanation.”

“This all started at the beginning of time. Actually, long before even time was measured. There were great Lords of Balance, made of beings of Chaos and beings of Order. These Great Old Ones were constantly at war, and Angel Island became their last battleground. Many of these Old Ones fought their opposite number, and as each was defeated, they slowly slipped into another reality, where they waited for the fight to be won or lost. Their numbers dwindled as the battle lasted a millennia, until there were two of these creatures left, one for Chaos, and one for Order. As they realized they were the last two, they both understood the futility of what they were doing. An unspoken truce arose. Chaos and Order then pondered how to end the war.”

All of this passed both through Eloise’s ears, and through her mind. Images of the tortured conflict between the two armies passed through Eloise’s mind, showing her horrors, beauties, and images combining both and neither. Pictures even her mind had difficulty comprehending of creatures that had no relation to the world in which Eloise lived. She shuddered, tears falling down her face. Her hands protectively covered her abdomen to protect the life growing inside her. A life that suddenly had taken on new meaning. Ling continued.

“After decades of debate, the last of the Lords of Chaos and Order decided that the last battlefield would also be the entrance to the other dimensions where the others of their kind waited. The perfect circle that was Angel Island, became the perfect symbol of balance, which we define as Yin & Yang. As you know, there were lighthouses built on opposite sides of the island. Even before that, though, these were places of power where the last Lords had made their homes during the decades of the truce. The river that defines the center, along with the circle, and the places of opposing power actually inspired our Yin & Yang. Angel Island is THE place of balance. Even the name Angel Island was inspired by those fisherman, and others, who caught glimpses of those beings in battle and debate over the millennia as the world continued on its own way”

Eloise felt the truth of the words, and her senses opened outward until she knew that the balance was seriously out of true. Something of monstrous power was taking over the island, and everything was being shaken out of its true place, to a place Eloise could not yet stomach. She felt nauseous remembering the images that had passed through her mind.

“I can see you sense what is happening, Eloise, and I know it horrifies you. The issue here is not one that any of the other humans left can understand. You see, Mykarteh and Sthtulan, the Last Lords, still live here on Angel Island. Each has taken human pawns in their game to either keep Angel Island as the last bastion of Order, or the gate through which Chaos will be released to rule the world. Mykarteh strives to keep the balance in place, but Sthtulan has warped every human into believing that Balance can only be maintained through keeping the number of dead here at the same number as those who live. Gruenwald is an obvious agent of Sthtulan, while Beth and Cargrave are agents of Mykarteh. But, all are wrong in believing that murdering people can maintain the balance. Because while there are fifty graves and fifty people here, the numbers of souls trapped here, souls such as myself, Ohn, Mr. Ling, and your husband Stiles, way outnumber those who are supposed to be the perfect number. The ghosts are tipping the balance toward chaos.”

A shudder ran through Eloise, and she realized she had known this from the moment she stepped on the island. THIS was the wrongness she had felt in the air. THIS was why she could see the ghosts. THIS was the purpose of her life. The single intent of her life and the life within her. “Please Aunt Ling, please tell me why I am here, and how I can restore the balance?”

“What I can tell you, Eloise is that you and your child will restore the spirit, the soul, of this island. This soul was destroyed when I was murdered, when Ohn killed your husband’s grandfather Stiles, and when Ohn himself was killed. The three murders snapped the link between Angel Island and the island’s spirit drifted away, only to evaporate into the cosmos. You and the daughter within will become the new soul of the island. Being my grandniece, you not only carry my blood but that of Ohn. The child you carry also has the blood of Stiles. The love that created that child restores the Yin & Yang to Angel Island,” Ling replied.

Eloise struggled to reconcile what she had just heard. It FELT right. She knew the words were true, but Ling had not completely answered her question. “But, HOW do I do this?” Eloise pleaded in a whisper, tears falling freely from her eyes.

Since she was studying Ling so intently, she easily saw a change in the ghost’s expression from one of quiet peace to one of great sorrow. Her blood seemed to turn to ice in her veins as Ling answered her question.

“I do not know. I do know you have to become one with Angel Island, but I don’t see the future, only the past. The answer lies with you somewhere, hidden until the time you need to know it. There are also clues out there to help you”

Eloise felt on the verge of snapping into pieces, her stress returning in ebbs and tides through her body. It was almost too much for her to comprehend. “What happens if I do not accomplish returning Angel Island’s soul and bringing the balance back?”, Eloise asked Ling, already feeling the answer in her bones.

“If balance is not restored, all those beings of Chaos & Order outside of this world, this dimension, will be released back to our world to begin the battle anew,” Ling replied in a quiet, obviously frightened voice.

It was too much. At this declaration by Ling, the number of horrifying events she had gone through on Angel Island overwhelmed here, and her spirit shattered. Eloise lay on the floor, weeping uncontrollably curling into a ball to protect her child.

Scare It Forward

Chapter 19

By

Jason Hewlett

Eloise isn’t sure when she fell asleep or how long she slept for. It could have been for five seconds, or five hours. When she opened her eyes, her aunt’s spirit was gone.

What remained was the sheer weight of the burden she had been tasked with and the consequence of not taking action. But what?

Did becoming one with Angel Island mean taking her own life? The thought chilled her.

Before she knew what she was doing, Eloise had the knife unwrapped and in her hands. The blade hovered above her left wrist, vibrating slightly in her grasp as if she subconsciously fought the urge to use it against herself.

What is this? She wondered, horrified. How . . .

Eloise willed herself to drop the knife and back away from the weapon, repulsed by it and what she was about to do. Had something seized control of her? Had chaos made her try and kill herself?

Then the chuckling started from the shadows around her, low, deep and cruel. Like a corpse laughing through a mouthful of dirt.

“You always were a tough one, Elle. It’s one of the many things I love about you.” It was the voice of Stiles, only wrong. Inhuman.

Evil.

She crawled backwards down the tunnel as he, it, moved into view. It was Stiles alright, but his skin was rotted and one eye was missing.

“Hey baby. Miss me?” he said with a smile.

Eloise screamed, managed to turn in the cramped quarters, and crawl as fast as she could back out through the cavern. Her dead husband’s laughter followed her.

Wasn’t Stiles supposed to be with Ling? The two had told her to follow the boy to a place of safety.

“It was a place of safety, love. But your long dead aunt is long gone.” His voice followed her. Stiles, or whatever it was that looked like Stiles, was after her in the tunnel.

She hazarded a look back, managed to catch a glimpse of her pursuer. It didn’t look like Stiles anymore. Now it looked like the boy, only a bastardized version of him.

“I can be anyone you want me to be, Elle. Whoever it takes to make you see things my way. Granted, the look is a little rough around the edges,” said the thing, shifting before her eyes into a childhood friend.

The magic trick startled her enough to slow her down. The thing, perhaps Sthtulan itself, reached out and grabbed her left leg, bringing her escape to a halt.

Eloise screamed when she realized that what held her leg was not a hand, but a tentacle right out of a Lovecraftian nightmare. Her childhood friend — Bill, I think his name was Bill – replaced by a shapeless, terrible thing from beyond space and time.

“Bet you wish you had used that knife now,” it said to her, the words more in her head than spoken out loud.

Eloise’s mind wanted to snap. She wanted to give it up right then and there and let herself be taken by this thing, this mass of evil that slowly wrapped itself around her ankle and then up the leg itself.

But by doing that, she wouldn’t just be surrendering her life. She would be forfeiting her child’s life as well. That was not an option.

Mustering every bit of energy she possessed, Eloise kicked the terror in what she hoped was the face. How she expected to harm such an entity with a simple kick, she didn’t know. But she had to try.

Be it from shock or actual pain, the being relaxed its grip somewhat. Enough to encourage Eloise to strike again. This one also struck home, and forced the monster to loosen its hold some more. Eloise broke free.

She wasted no time. Eloise hurled herself along the tunnel and did her best to ignore the sickening sound of the horror chasing her.

Thump, slide.

It moved closer, gaining.

Thump, slide.

Eloise clawed forward, the entrance in sight.

Thump Slide.

Even closer. Too close.

She felt something wet and hideous claw across her back. It failed to grab hold, but the movement was enough to break skin and draw blood.

The violation forced an extra hit of adrenalin into her system. With a scream of rage, Eloise burst forward from the tunnel into the fresh air of Angel Island.

And the grasp of Dr. Cargrave and Beth Kauffman.

Chapter 20

By

Daniel H. Ingraham

Eloise, realizing that the burly arms that were wrapped around her were those of Dr. Cargrave, began to kick and claw and scream in an almost vain effort to escape his grasp.

“Calm down Lovey, you’re safe now!“  Beth Kauffman said in a soothing tone. “Why did you leave my cottage?”

Eloise broke free from the doctor’s grasp and reached to the small of her back for the knife. The knife she left on the dirt floor of the cavern.

“Dammit!”

She glared up at Beth and Cargrave defiantly. “I heard you talking in the upstairs room! You want to kill my baby!”

“Oh no, no Lovey. You have it all wrong.” Beth said.

“Like hell I do!”

Dr. Cargrave raised a hand reassuringly. “Now Eloise, we did discuss that, but decided to abandon that as an option. I’m a doctor, sworn to heal and do no harm.”

Eloise’s eyes are little more that dark slits. “Why should I believe you?”

Cargrave shrugged. “I don’t know. And I’m not going to try to make something up that would only sound like some lame excuse.”

“Come on Lovey, you can trust us,” interjected Beth.

“I don’t know,” said Eloise, still tense. “But Auntie Ling did say that you two were good people.”

“What’s that Dear?” asked Beth.

“Nothing,  Ms. Kauffman, nothing.”

“Okay, whatever you say. Let’s go back to my cottage and get you cleaned up. “ Beth said, putting her ample arm around Eloise’s shoulders. They all turned and began walking back toward Ms. Kauffman’s cottage.

…………………

The night sky was still overcast, and there were the occasional flashes of lightning as they approached Beth’s cottage, but it had stopped raining. Silhouetted in the open from the door of the cottage were the figures of two people, one larger than the other. They both took a step toward Dr. Cargrave, Beth and Eloise. The lightning flashes revealed Stiles and Mr. Ling, but it was not Stiles or Mr. Ling either. And this Stiles was not the one who appeared to her in the cavern, this one was just as gruesome, if not worse.

This Stiles, like the one in the cavern, had skin rotted away and the same eye was missing, but his abdomen was still sliced open and the skin was peeled back revealing his ribcage, and he had his intestines wrapped around his waist like a ghoulish sash. Mr. Ling’s right arm was almost completely severed just above the elbow, he was missing an ear, his nose had been sliced off and his eyes gouged out. He had dozens of stab wounds all over his chest and a deep gash across his neck.

“Good evening my dear” said Mr. Ling in a gurgling tone, deep red, almost black blood seeped from one corner of his mouth and out of the gash ripped in his neck. He took a blind, stumbling step toward Eloise.

“We’ve been waiting for you, my Darling,” Stiles said reaching for her.

Chapter 21

by

Phil Posner

As ‘the thing’ that appeared as Stiles reached out, Eloise jumped back, turning over a table to keep something between them.  Then the four of them began coming towards her, closer, with menace.

A jingling, rhythmic beating sound seemed to jump out of the air, source invisible, but sounding as if it were in the room.  It sounded to Eloise like something she had heard before, something ancient, something native.

The quartet stopped, dead in their tracks, as if petrified.

Eloise bolted through the door and ran.  “The cave,” she thought, “I must get back there, I feel like I still have something to do, to see, to learn there.”   Resolutely, she ran back to the entrance to which the boy had led her the first time.

As Eloise ran back into the cave she saw a narrow passage she hadn’t noticed before.  She followed it for some twenty yards when she suddenly dropped down about six feet to a circular section of a cavern below, landing on her feet with a sharp, “Ufh”.

As her eyes adjusted to the light she was able to make out drawings on the wall.  Ancient drawings, beautiful in their simplicity, of deer, fish, and people, likely the natives that inhabited and visited the island to hunt

and to fish, centuries ago.  These must be the Coast Miwok she had read of in the Angel Island book.

As she studied the paintings she realized how close these people were to the life spirit of the island.  She felt how a conflict such as the one now taking place here would hurt and anger them.

Now she heard the footsteps again, getting louder, heavier.  She pressed herself against the wall backing into the shadows.  Across the cavern a figure seem to materialize from the cave wall.  Tall, dark skinned, well muscled, nearly naked, clearly resembling the pictures of the Miwok she had seen in the book and in the paintings on the wall behind her. To Eloise, his weathered, lined face, strong chin and his straight black hair gave him a heroic look.  He could have been thirty….or seventy.

He gazed at her hard and smiled.  Smiled, and nodded benevolently.  He said only one word, “Chokeche.”  “His name?” Eloise thought.

Suddenly the creature floated down from the opening above.  It took but a few seconds for it to spot her and begin to move towards her.  Its arm extended towards her throat. Four inches. Two.

A strong arm grasped that of the creature and pulled it aside. As they both whirled to face each other, the Miwok still grasping the thing firmly, began chanting and dancing, pushing and pulling the seemingly powerless

thing away from Eloise, away from her unborn child.  As they danced the dance of death and rebirth. Now forward, now backward, spinning, struggling, they both began to fade into the painted wall behind them.  Chokeche finally looked into Eloise’s eyes and smiled again, before they both disappeared.

“No walls” said Eloise.  “Is this what they meant by ‘no walls’?”

Eloise got to her feet and ran down the passage which now appeared at the far end of the circular cavern.

Chapter 22

By

Bill Bronson

Chokeche opened his eyes and realized that it had happened again, he had slipped into dream-time without breathing the smoke or entering the sealskin dreaming lodge above the totem-cave.  He lay on his back struggling to remember how he ended up on the rocky beach near the tribe’s canoes. Now he remembered the two strangers.  Nothing had been the same since the man and woman washed up on shore. The Gods must have been very angry to throw these two strangers onto his island. They washed up on shore while the wind, waves and crashing light of the Sky Gods shattered his people’s peaceful existence with a power he had never seen in his long and strange lifetime.

These strangers did not speak the language of his people, the Miwok that had lived on the island for many generations.  Chokeche, the Shaman of the tribe, was the keeper and teacher of his people’s lore. He sang the stories of creation of the earth, the receding of the waters and the frozen land that his ancestors crossed to come to this land. He sang the stories of O-let’-te the Coyote and Kok’-kol the Raven and spoke with these and other Gods in Dream-Time. These Gods and spirits guided Chokeche and taught him the ways of the earth and spirit world.

As Shaman to his people, Chokeche had passed down the history of his people, healed the ill, painted on the walls of the Totem-Cave and taught his people of the seasons of mother earth.  When life was out of balance on the island Chokeche helped some of his people peacefully cross into the next life, with songs and potions. He prepared roots and bark to keep the young couples from bringing too many new lives into the world and onto their island.  He was instructed in these things while in Dream-Time and the people and the island prospered.

Since the strangers arrived his journeys into Dream-Time had changed from awesome visions of his people’s Gods to strange and horrible glimpses of all types of creatures, some that looked like human beings but acted like vile and evil demons. In these visits Chokeche seemed to be on his island home but things were strange and different. On one side of his island there was a tall stone lodge with a blazing eye at the top that searched the earth with evil light through the misty night. All of the other lodges on this strange vision of his island were built with walls. His people would never build lodges with walls. What could have happened to his people?

It seemed that O-let’-te , Ah-wet’-che the Crow and the Star-People spirits had deserted him and these new strange people-demons crowded his mind during Dream-Time. Some of the Demons looked like the yellow-skinned strangers and some were as pale as death, some were black as shadows but most of them were evil and twisted in nature. Now when Chokeche slipped into his dreaming he became trapped in the minds of these demons, saw through their eyes and felt the killing rage welling up inside himself/them. Chokeche now feared dream-time and what he was becoming.

As Chokeche sat on the beach the hate and sickness from his unwanted visit to dream-time seeped into his heart and the urge to slaughter the strangers filled his being. Chokeche had always done what needed to be done but never took joy in these duties. But now his soul seemed to be singing a song of death and blood and Chokeche shook with fear and rage. Chokeche now remembered why he had come to the canoes, he thought that he needed to leave his island home before he became one of the demons and destroyed the Miwok way of life. He could not believe that hate and rage could help his people so he had come to the shore to give himself to Hoo-soo’-pe the water maiden, she would save his spirit from the sickness these strangers brought and help bring a new balance to the island.

Then a strange feeling of calm came over him and he began to understand that his dream-time visions were coming to him from a place outside his existence and that his people could not survive if he were to run from his duty. If he were to save the Miwok he would have to let this blood rage take over his soul and slaughter the strangers like he would one of the seal/people that fed and clothed his tribe. Only the blood of these strangers would satisfy the Gods.

Chokeche’s eyes drooped and without warning he slipped back into dream-time, but this time it was different. True-Time and Dream-Time were as one. Now the Chokeche/demon being were also as one and this new creature saw many different versions of his island home at one time. This new Shaman-Demon arose with hate and purpose in its eyes, as it staggered and shuffled back towards the village, its vision changed with each step.

As Chokeche looked down at his feet they seemed to change with each pounding heartbeat. First he saw his sealskin moccasins, then black, hard, shiny moccasins, then the rotten bones of a corpse laid out in the sun. He looked up and his island home also changed with each step, barren rocky land, then tall trees, then the walled lodges, then a battle of huge unknown forces before the time of people, everything was wrong.

Chokeche struggled to free himself from the evil dream-time demons that had filled his spirit. Chokeche felt as if two forces were tearing him apart and yet these two forces were part of one whole, good and evil warring within his breast, the Shaman remembered the stories of the Coyote and the Silver Fox and sang their essence to help drive the evil beast from his heart. The hate drained from his breast and Chokeche found himself in that strange version of his island with the walled lodges and the awesome, tall lodge with the blinding eye of fire.

He was here for a reason though he did not know why. He felt that someone needed his help and as he started to walk towards the tower he realized that the world was solid but he was not. His spirit like form floated slightly above the earth and he moved forward like mist on the breeze. The Shaman felt as he did in dream-time, able to pass through time and solid objects as if they were the air of life.

As he was drawn towards the tower he slipped through the rock and earth an emerged into a cave that he knew very well, Chokeche had spent much time in this secret underground cavern. He breathed life on to the walls of this Totem-Cave as had his father and many teachers before him. They had painted the tales of creation and death, of birth and the end of all life, why was he drawn here?

As the Shaman studied the walls a woman stumbled into the cave, at first he thought she was one of the strangers that had washed up on this island in his time, for she could have been her twin. The woman gazed at the paintings on the wall with awe and wonder. As he studied her he could see her spirits aura and it was pure and radiant, he knew that any harm that came to her would be a loss for this world.

Chokeche floated towards the woman and she could see him, why could she see him, was she a Shaman too?  He knew at once that he was drawn to this place to meet this woman. He smiled and said his name “Chokeche.” She seemed to hear him and gazed back at him with wonder. He used his “sight ” and saw that she was with child and frightened beyond reason, but she was not afraid of him.

The reason for her fear invaded the cave on silent tendrils of mist and a stench from beyond this world. This creature seemed to have come from his recent dream-time nightmares. Writhing tentacles slithered out from a darkness broken by one glowing eye, this arm-like thing reached for the woman’s throat. Chokeche acted without fear for his spirit’s safety and threw himself on this thing from outside the world of people.

His spirit body and that of the creature became one, at first he thought he would be devoured by the cold and menacing heart of this thing. But the Shaman’s spirit was strong  and fought back. The Miwok song of life burst from the Shamans mouth and seemed to crush the creature for a moment. Chokeche was attacked and fought back many times in the cave of totems. He could not tell if this battle lasted for a moment or until the end of times, for it seemed that he and this creature were as one being–one being with all the good and evil that existed in the worlds of people and of Gods. Chokeche gave one last look at the woman and slipped into Dream-Time with the creature.

Chokeche died and was reborn in all the eras of his ancestors and those that would follow in the battle with this creature. He knew that this battle was his reason the Coyote had brought him and his people into this world. Chokeche also knew that the woman in the Totem-Cave was part of this battle for the soul of his people and of mother earth. The battle raged on and on through space and time, perhaps the struggle would never end.

Chokeche opened his eyes and felt the rocky ground of the Totem-Cave beneath him, dim light seeping in from above told him it was day time. Was he home or in another time, he struggled to his feet to find out.

Chapter 23

by

Dan Dillard

Waves of reality mixed with waves of lunacy. Her eyes filled with altering visions of family and violence, and like tidal pools, they changed each time she blinked. In her heart, she loved Stiles, but in her head she could no longer see him. Only the tentacled, spoiled version of him that attacked her. In her mind, all the people she knew had grown hypodermic-needle teeth and black pits where their eyes used to be.

She stopped in the passage and waited for her breathing to subside. Demons? Spirits? What did it all mean?

A steady stream, evil take flight.

She waited for her heartbeat to slow and stop the pounding inside her skull. Eloise closed her eyes for only a moment in attempt to reconnect to the child she carried within. It was all she had left of the Stiles she knew and loved.

Keeping death at bay.

Her hand quivered as it brushed across her still-flat belly. Intuition told her everything was still intact. The baby was fine.

Awake from the dream.

Opening her eyes, Eloise ignored her surroundings and pressed on through the small passageway to the outside world. Words and concepts she couldn’t quite grasp fought for attention in her head. Asian legend and Native American lore and the odd duality of the so-called living on Angel Island … it all added up to nothing.

Balance. It was all about balance. Her ancestral spirits spoke of balance. The good Chokeche cancelled out the Stiles-demon. It was as if all the actions on the island represented something larger. As if it were a cross-section representing everything and each being dangled on the strings of gods and devils. It was a chessboard for the planet, perhaps the universe, and up until her arrival the game was in perpetual stalemate.

No ups without downs.

No light without darkness.

No good fortune without rotten evil luck.

Either her arrival had shifted the order of things, or her arrival had replaced order, foiling some being’s evil plans. Perhaps now that being was angry with her.

Sunlight crept in through the mist and dawn provided her a bit of comfort even as the morning chill overcame the adrenaline she was riding on. Her racing mind slammed on the brakes and she began to weep. She wanted help. No more riddles and no more games.

“Aunt Ling!” Eloise shouted.

She wandered through thin brush and mist to find herself on a familiar path. She looked toward the sky to confirm her suspicions. It led to the lighthouse on the opposite side of the island.

“Aunt Ling!” she yelled again.

This time with more intensity. Tears began to flow out of frustration and her voice wavered as she called for her great aunt once again. She trudged to an old redwood door, the only blemish in the lighthouses stone structure, and blew out her breath as she leaned against it. Emotion overcame her once again and she doubled over in tears.

Nothing in nature responded to her presence. Nothing consoled her or showed sympathy. No breeze, no bird, mammal or insect made a sound. She stood and brushed her clothing back into place.

The rising sun continued burning its path through the thick mist and slowly revealed the landscape although Eloise didn’t care. The truth was solid in her head and in her heart. She was hurt, she was tired, but she was no longer confused.

She pushed open the door to the light house with new found resolve. The spiral staircase proved no match. Each footfall echoed in the hollow tube of the lighthouse, the rhythm only strengthening her drive. Every step tread felt like another piece to the code she was trying to decipher. In short time, Eloise stood in the watch room adjacent to the lamp and looked out over the surrounding water. She slid the window back and stepped out to the safety railing. The lightest of breezes danced over her face, blowing her hair back. Salt air penetrated her pores. She watched the fog beneath continue to dissipate as it wound around trees and man-made structures. Peace flowed over her. She knew what she had to do.

She saw the yin and the yang.

Her heartbeat steady and her breathing calm, she reached one hand up to the wrought-iron framework and stepped up on the railing, steadying her foothold.

“Balance,” she said and let go her grip.

Chapter 24

By

Rich Orth and William Castle

Eloise may have let go of her grip but she stood on the thin iron railing balancing like a ballerina as she single-mindedly spoke to the sea and cliffs and the angels and demons.

“The tactility as my hand
Feels the pain
Embraces emotions..
From seemingly …
Meaningless walls
I endure..as so did they
Those who came before
Though..what’s in store for me
We….me…us
The chosen..”

And then, without another thought, Eloise Everling leapt to her death. Every soul, living or dead, heard her humbled words scream out through the raging night.

“The blood of the many
Forever protect the few
Tonight is the night
As is every night
Will this end
Still we descend”

***

She opened her eyes.

She was just losing her balance as the ferryboat bumped its way to its final resting stop. It was Mr. Ling that grabbed her arm to steady her. “You okay?” he asked but didn’t wait for an answer. “This ferry will turn around in fifteen minutes.  Last ferry for tonight.  I spend the night with Mr. Gruenwald and leave with him in the morning.”

Déjà vu.

He smiled reassuringly, “Don’t worry, dear, there is a speed boat for emergencies. Did I tell you I’ve been volunteering here for over twenty years?”

Eloise watched Stiles unload all their earthly belongings as Mr. Ling grabbed her arm to begin the grand tour.

“Love you,” she shouted to her new husband.

God, I feel like this has happened before.

Eloise paused to look at her gorgeous husband one last time.

Stiles smiled and waved her on, as Mr. Ling began to speak.

“You’ve been here before?” Mr. Ling made it sound more like a statement than a question.

“No, I’d never even heard of Angel Island until two weeks ago when Stiles was offered this job.”
Is that the truth? Shit, this feeling is intense like I have been here before.

Mr. Ling stopped and stared for a long moment.  Then he proceeded to hurry her along a windy path.  For an old man, he sure was in great condition.  Eloise had trouble keeping up with him.

The sun was beginning to set; you could see the giant orb slowly dipping into the heavily clouded sea.  It looked like a ball of fire.

“Beautiful island, Angel Island,” Mr. Ling was reading her thoughts.  “But it wasn’t always so.”

Mr. Ling and Eloise stood in front of an old two-story wooden building.  “I used to live there,” Mr. Ling said, sounding strong, almost angry. “But when I lived there they had armed guards and barbed wire surrounding all these buildings.  I was a paper boy.”

Eloise was lost.  “Follow me,” Mr. Ling said practically running up the stairs.  They entered a large room, faded with time and weather.  Eloise walked over to the walls.  Chinese calligraphy covered the old panels.

Eloise traced her fingers along the wall to feel the Chinese characters carved into the old wooden walls.  She looked at Mr. Ling.

“Poems,” he said.  “Some are poems of death.  This was an immigration center from 1910 until 1940, like Ellis Island, except most were from Asia and many of us got stuck living here for many years.  They called me a ‘paper boy’ because I did not have the proper paper work to stay in this country.  When my mother found out she took two sharpened pencils and stuck them deep into her ears.  They let me stay.”

Eloise closed her eyes. She took her hand and felt the bump on the back of her head.

When did I get that?

An image flashed before her eyes. Mr. Ling walked over to Eloise and handed her his canteen filled with water.

“You look like you could use a sip,” he said to her.

Hell with that crap.

Eloise shoved the canteen into Mr. Ling’s stomach.

You gave me some water before when you told me the same bullshit story. But I know how this tale ends.

Eloise grabbed wildly for her messenger bag that was wrapped around her left hip.  Without missing a beat, she took out two sharpened pencils.

She lunged for Mr. Ling.  “Get the hell out of here,” she screamed with the force of a wild gale. She was ready to stick the pencils deep into his skull.

Volunteer Ranger Ohn Ling ran out of the immigration center and never looked back.

The man probably thinks I’m insane. Good. Maybe I am. Nobody’s gonna screw with me today.

As soon as Eloise thought this, the sun broke through the fog and rested for a moment on the horizon before it finally fell into the sea. The room filled with brilliant light.

Eloise walked up to a poem and began to caress its engraving.  It was written in Chinese.

She never learned the language of her ancestors.  But today it didn’t matter.  She understood each character, each word.

Each poem.

“Alone…
In this overcrowded room
Barely protected from
the elements
Walls preventing my escape
Though walls….
these walls
Allow our, my story to be told
It unfolds///

For I am here to die
My soul to be immortalized
Perpetually in verse
My destiny…my ending..
Enveloped by the curse
He…mentioned then and now
He..the bastard that ..
created us
Denies us
Escape from this Hell
This Hallow’s Eve
Balance is to be set
Culling has begun
Never ended
He…………….
you know who “He” is….”

She gingerly felt inside her messenger bag and carefully pulled out her ragged old journal. She read the poem on the very first page.  A poem she had written a decade ago. The words were exact. At that moment Eloise felt as trapped as she ever has been not just by the walls around her but also by her insurmountable destiny.  She ran to the floor and ripped open the floorboard where the parchment lay. When she turned the old yellowed parchment over, she gasped.  There, in her writing were these words.

“Left for dead
Demons dancin’ in my head
Beloved has betrayed me
In the medallion
lies the key
To get me home
Home safely
Free from this Island
The Angels haunt
Free from this Island
I am destined to haunt”

How is this poss…

She didn’t get to finish her thought when the horn from the ferryboat began to blow.  She knew this was the last boat off the island.

She threw the medallion in her messenger bag, ran down to Ayala Cove and onto the dock.  She stopped abruptly right before she stepped foot onto the ferryboat.

Stiles. How can I leave Stiles?

She felt her belly and walked onto the last ferryboat leaving Angel Island.

She took her seat and stared back at the island as the boat began to fight the choppy current.

“It’s not going to be a smooth ride folks.  I can promise you that,” the captain’s voice broke her reverie.

“We’ll do our best to get you home safely.”

Home safely? Eloise had no idea what those words meant anymore.

Eloise picked up her journal and leafed to the last page.  Her words she wrote brought tears to her eyes.  She had just written these tender words as she began her journey with her new love.

“Arrival to a new dream
With my love
Life is renewed
Most beautiful scenes
with my love
I am consumed
Blessed Angels
Protect us from all
Feel the safety
that surrounds
Though Angels fall
I fear not
Evil may abound
But I am safe in the arm
Arms of He
He who vowed to love me”

A voice on the loud speaker interrupted her reading. “Folks, the sea looks bad tonight, as bad as I’ve ever seen it.  I’m sorry but…”

Chapter 25

By

Mickey Bonura

“It seems there is a delay in leaving. We will need to re dock for just a bit.”

Eloise jumped to her feet. “What! What is going on?” she screamed out loud.

“No worries dear. Seems this kind of thing happens quite a bit. By the way I’m Beth Kauffman. You must be the wife of that hot new ranger,” said a woman from behind Eloise.

Just as this was said the ferry horn sounded and there was a jerk that sent Eloise into the guard rail of the boat. Eloise was shaken.

“Here love let me get you some help.” Beth Kauffman yelled out “Oh Dr. Cargrave. Can you take a look at this young lady? She seems a bit out of sorts.”

Out from around the corner popped Dr. Cargrave.

The boat was open and pushed up against the dock.

“How may I help?” Questioned the doctor as he and Beth started to walk closer to Eloise in what seemed to be slow motion.

Eloise suddenly heard only the footsteps. The clacking of the shoes on the deck got louder. Eloise’s eyes blurred. Eloise felt something brush her shoulder. She couldn’t seem to focus. “What the?” she screamed as panic began to set in.

As she looked around she saw a little Asian boy, an Asian woman, a Native American man, and another man. Eloise kept blinking her eyes to try to focus. Every time she blinked her eyes the people seemed to change. First the Asian woman was beautiful, the little Asian boy cute and well kept, Beth Kauffman well put together but with too much make up and strange, loud clothing, the Native American dressed in modern day clothing with flowing long, gorgeous hair, Dr. Cargrave a tall muscular man.

Lightning struck out of the sky that seemed to stretch from Angel Island to the main land. Still blinking to try to focus, Eloise looked upon the other man. His face shadowed. He wore a tattered mud-streaked yellow raincoat. He was missing several teeth and the remaining were rotting. This man grabbed his pipe and went to light it. He struck the flame to light his pipe, illuminating everyone.

Now the beautiful Asian woman was bruised, in blood soaked clothes bleeding from her ears. The Asian boy, beaten, his body misshapen with a noose hung around his neck. The Native American was in a loin cloth. Beth Kauffman rain soaked makeup running down her face, and Dr. Cargrave clothes torn rain soaked.

Lightning streaked across the sky. The people morphed into rotting flesh torn forms. Two more were advancing towards her.  Eloise screamed, “Stiles, Mr. Ling, Beth Kauffman, Dr. Cargrave, Aunt Ling, Chokeche, young Ling, Gruenwald!”

They seemed to be moving towards her in slow motion. Eloise ran off the ferry and down the docking terminal. When she felt she had put a good distance between herself and them she glanced back.

Eloise stopped dead in her tracks. “How the hell?” she thought. There was nothing. No ferry, no zombie people, nothing but water.

Eloise screamed aloud “What is happening? What do you want from me?” Eloise paused a moment to try to collect herself. She turned around and found herself a few feet away from the old two story wooden building that was once the immigration center.

“How the hell?!” Eloise looked around wondered how she got there.  “Fine, I get it! I need to be here. Why me? Why here? Guess I need to figure that out myself right! Thanks,” Eloise said out loud, resolute. She stood before the stairs; armed guards were positioned next to the barbed wire that surrounded the building. She thought to herself “That wasn’t there when I got here.”

Eloise walked into the building. She saw the immigrants locked in rooms that were full. They were separated, women of certain ages in rooms and girls of other ages in another. No one seemed to see her so she continued on, looking in the rooms. Many rooms she passed were of soldiers who were having their way with the women and girls. She turned her head—unspeakable terror. The pain on the girl’s faces as they were forced to please the soldiers would forever be etched in her mind.

If only she could do something. She ran to the next room and came upon a giant muscular man with coal black eyes. A soldier sat with a young Asian boy, tenderly teaching him to read a book. His uniform showed the rank of a captain. Eloise walked into the room. She looked into the eyes of the soldier. He had a bewitching smile. Eloise had to catch her breath as she realized she was looking into the eyes of her beloved Stiles. Tears ran down her face as she wished she could reach out and be in his arms. She watched the Captain and the boy for a brief moment then the light from the light house crossed through the room.

It was almost hypnotic. The lighthouse seemed to be beckoning her. Eloise walked out of the room and followed the light. She passed the hallway. The light from the lighthouse illuminated the walls, Eloise realized she needed to stop and read the pictures and poems on the wall. She thought to herself “Why does everything seem so familiar to me? I need to make sense of this situation.” Eloise remembered all that she had seen in her mind since her arrival to Angel Island. “How much of all this is real? What has actually happened? How do I make sense of all this?” she thought to herself.

Eloise continued to read the markings on the wall.

My destiny…my ending…Enveloped by the curse

“Ok I get there must be a curse on this Island. But things can be changed. You just need to make the right changes.” Eloise said out loud.

He…mentioned then and now He…the bastard that…created us denies us Escape from this Hell.

“Who he? What is this?” screamed Eloise questioning out loud hoping for an answer.

This Hallows Eve Balance was to be set Culling has begun Never ended

“I don’t even know what day it is anymore. Is Hallows Eve near? What am I to do?” thought Eloise as she turned to leave the old immigration center.

Eloise slowly opened the door to go out. She wanted to make sure there was no trouble waiting for her out the door and took a breath and thought “I still feel I have no answers.”

The light house seemed to be lighting the path back to itself. Eloise started down the path up to the light house. As she walked along the path she sees shadows ahead. Now she moves with caution in fear of what she is about to face.

Up ahead the shadows got clearer. It was a woman and a man. They were embracing one another.  Not yet knowing if this was another vision Eloise continued slowly. As she got closer she realized the man was her loving husband Stiles. “What is going on here?” yelled Eloise as she walked up to them.

The woman ran off before Eloise could get a look at her. “What exactly were you doing with that woman? Who in the hell is she?” questioned Eloise.

“I thought you were going to take a tour with our new friend Mr. Ling? Surely the tour isn’t over yet. Where is Mr. Ling dear?” questioned Stiles.

“Don’t even try to change the subject Stiles. Who in the HELL was that woman? I want an answer and I want it now!” demanded Eloise.

“Calm down. I thought you were going to be on a tour with Mr. Ling.” said Stiles as he started to walk towards Eloise.

“No, seems like when I am not around you help yourself to other women. I can’t believe all of this. Is this why you have come to work here? You have other women lined up here for your pleasure? What am I? Just someone at home for you to keep locked up in four walls? Walls…” Eloise paused when she said this and she started to back away from Stiles.

“That is not the case my love! I love you and only you dear. I took you as my wife not my slave. I love you darling.” Stiles said as he tried to grab Eloise.

Eloise turned and ran from Stiles screaming “No! You are not even my Stiles. You are not real. None of this is real. Why won’t this stop?” Eloise trips over something on the path and stumbles. She catches herself before falling and stops. She looks back. No one is even there. “Did I even really see Stiles?” she thinks to herself.

The light house was still lighting the path for Eloise to follow. She knew she must go there. “I have to go on and find out what I am missing in all of this.” she thinks to herself.

Looking around Eloise saw a clear path up to the light house. She moved as quickly and quietly as she could in hopes there were no other obstacles in the way. Eloise made it to the door of the light house and pushed it open. She entered and went straight to the desk.

Eloise looked around then she started to go through the papers on the desk. “I know there must be something here. I need to find the last page. Page 78.” mumbled Eloise as she shuffled through the papers on the desk. “Maybe if I find page 78, I will find the answers that I seek.” thought Eloise as she dug through the desk and all around.

A gust of wind blew open the door of the light house. The wind blew strong enough to send papers flying all around the room. Eloise was frightened by the sudden gust so she ducked under the desk. The wind seemed to blow strong as a tornado. As she hid under the desk a calendar fell next to her. The wind blew the pages and it opened to October 30 and 31. All of a sudden the wind just stopped. Eloise went to get out from under the desk but found something was holding her. Something had attached to her shirt.

Chapter 26

By

Mallory Lauve

Eloise began to panic. So she turned slowly and noticed her blouse was stuck on the corner of the drawer.  She unfastened the lace blouse and picked up the calendar lying there wondering why these two dates stood open in front of her. Was this coincidence or something more? She started looking through the papers on the desk again. She found a private notebook written in handwriting similar to hers but it seemed different somehow. The writing seemed angry. She sat on a small stool in the corner and read the private notebook. It was someone’s journal but the name was scratched out. First she read the date—October 30 and 31st ! She continued reading, “Today is Thursday, October 30th .  I truly miss him its been a little over a month since we were intimate and I miss him. I miss his touch. I miss his kiss. The way he felt towards me and now that he is gone, it feels impossible to be with someone new.  I feel I will never be the same person I was before. “

Eloise dried her eyes after reading the last passage in the notebook. She didn’t realize how long she stayed in the lighthouse reading so she walked over to the door and made sure everything was straight. She opened the door to the staircase and began walking down a couple of steps when she heard the door at the bottom open. She saw the light from the lighthouse cast a shadow on the wall. The shadow was blurred by light and rain. She couldn’t tell if was a man or woman so she ran back up the stairs and hid back under the desk. The very same place she was so frightened of before. She heard the footsteps coming up the metal spiral staircase. She could hear the heavy footsteps climb higher and higher and then they stopped at the door. After what seemed like hours, the door opened and the wind slammed into the wall. Eloise heard the footsteps walk into the room and toward the desk. She wasn’t sure who it was; she didn’t want so scare them or herself because she just found out she was pregnant she didn’t want to endanger herself or life of her unborn child. She heard papers being moved on top of desk.  Some of the papers fell to the floor.  Eloise noticed it was the same piece of paper that was stuck to her blouse earlier. It was written in a different language, one she didn’t recognize. She heard the exhale.

Chapter 27

By

Christine Richman

She crouched under the desk, holding her breath as not to alert the being that stood only inches from her.  Not knowing whom it was or what their intentions to her and her child were, she stayed quiet.  The being stooped over, picking up the papers that had been dropped on the floor.  As he bent over, she had a feeling she knew this person, a man she had seen before, but where?  She thought, and thought.  “Bingo!”, she exclaimed silently almost banging her head on the desk above her.  “It’s Joe Brewer. But how could this be? Joe is dead.  He died before Stiles and I arrived.  Why is he appearing before me? Maybe he can help me….or will he hurt me?  What if he wants to hurt my baby?  Maybe…..,”she thought but was interrupted by someone bursting into the lighthouse.

“Joe. Joe, I thought I’d never find you.  How are you today?” a woman voice pierced the silence.

Joe answered in a low growl with a slight hint of contempt in his voice, “Fine as frog’s hair, Beth.  What brings you here today?”

“Well, I was wondering if you would be my guest tonight for dinner. I am having some folks over tonight about 6:30 and wanted to invite you,” Beth continued, flirting as she inched closer to Joe.

The more Beth tried to entice Joe, the more uninterested Joe became.  She was drenched in a perfume that made Joe and Eloise both sick to their stomachs.  Nauseating.  As Joe crossed the room, Eloise could feel his discomfort towards Beth.

Beth continued, “Joe, please say you will come.  It’ll be fun.”

Joe, stammered, “Beth I have things to do here.  I do appreciate the invite but I can’t.  I just can’t.”

“Joe, what on this earth could be more important than a home cooked meal?” Beth paused, “You have put me off and put me off.  I think you just don’t like me.”  Beth had gotten so close to Joe he was choking on her perfume.  Beth had him wedged up against the back wall of the lighthouse and was leaning into him. “Joe,” Beth continued as she walked her fat little fingers up his chest, “Now you wouldn’t want me to think you don’t like me, would you?”

Eloise could read Joe’s face like a book.   He may have verbally said yes but his face said “HELL NO!!” His disdain for her was plainly engraved in his face.  But it was more than disdain, hatred? Beth was no beauty, but that wasn’t the problem.  Joe’s face bulged with purple veins seething with rage.  He must know something Eloise does not.

With a child like demeanor, Beth seemed to skip out of the lighthouse, proud she wore her indented victim down.  He was coming to dinner.  Joe, relieved Beth had left, but wishing her perfume had left with her, finished picking up his papers and straightened up his desk.  He left the room with a huff.  As the door slammed shut, Eloise emerged from under the desk.

Not knowing if this was real or another dark image she quickly rifled though his papers looking and quickly reading–searching for page 78.  She sat in the quiet room thinking of all the events that may or may not have happened.   The only real thing she was sure of was the she and Stiles had come to this island to being a new life together.  She was carrying his child.  She needed to find the key to why she was here.  She needed to find out way she was involved in this. Why she could not leave this God forsaken place.  It just did not make sense.  And now she understood she had to make sense of it.

Her Great-Aunt Ling was here somewhere.  Her connection was clear, it’s meaning still blurry.  Seventy-Four, bastard child of Taoism.  The young boy Ling, bastard child of an immigrant.  The immigrant center.  The search for gold.  The missing page 78.  Stiles’ death.  Mr. Ling’s mother’s suicide or murder.  50 living souls, 50 graves.  What did it all mean?

In quiet repose, she pondered, the island, the Indian, the medallion, its possible meaning, the walls, but not for long.  She was startled out of her deep thought as Joe reemerged into the room.  Quickly she moved back under the desk.

Once again, Joe stormed out of the lighthouse petulant.  As soon as the coast was clear, Eloise ventured out into the empty room again.  Her head was spinning from disturbing thoughts and the pain from the blow to the back of her head. She did not have the time for this. She must go on, if not for herself, if not for Stiles, then their unborn baby.

Joe must have something to do with this.  Joe may know something.  “I must follow him,” she thought.  Gathering her messenger bag and a few papers she had to “borrow” from Joe, she was off to cautiously follow Joe.

Hiding in the shadows of the Eucalyptus trees, she found Joe on way to dinner with Beth. The sheer pain of having to spent time in Beth’s presence was in his face.  Beth was not a good person, Eloise knew but could not put her finger on why.  Soon she and Joe arrived at Beth’s house.  Joe entered the domicile as Eloise cautiously found a safe place to watch and listen.

From her vantage point Eloise could see Beth busy as a bee in the kitchen preparing the evenings meal of Yankee Pot Roast and Steamed vegetables.  It smelled delicious.  It made her stomach growl and rumble with hunger.  Eloise realized she had not eaten.  She was famished. But she could not think of that now.

As her other guests including 3 men Eloise did not know, arrived she greeted them as she had Joe with a warm overly friendly hug.  Of course all of her guests were single males.  She seemed so desperate to get a man and they knew it.

Dinner was served with wine and homemade bread.  After everyone was feed Beth invited the crowd to her living room for a night of dancing.  Everyone thanked their host and left more quickly than Beth had expected.  But somehow she cornered poor Joe.  Joe, being a gentleman, sat in her living room with a grimace and bore the evening. After about an hour of chit chat, Joe emerged from his prison with a long face.  The night was more horrible than he had imagined and thankfully it was over.  He found himself on her front porch in the moonlight with a woman that just did not get it.  “God, deliver me,” Joe thought as he quickly bolted from his prison.  With a quick and labored dinner was great and have a good night Joe was gone.

Joe wound his way back to the lighthouse as Eloise followed.  The safety of the lighthouse felt like a welcomed beacon–beacon of light in this dark harbor.  Joe had a smile on his face.  He had not smiled the entire night at Beth’s.  Joe entered the lighthouse and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Upon entering and continuing on up the stairs to the top, Eloise move into the lower level.  She had to sleep.  She needed rest.  The lighthouse would provide it.

Eloise found a dark corner of the main room behind the stairs that ascended to the top of the lighthouse.  It was concealed from view. She dropped her bag falling to the floor for some much needed rest.

But soon something startled her.  The front door creaked open.  Who or what could it be?  She sat up and stayed as still as statue.  Who or whatever it was came in and went up the stairs to the top of the lighthouse.  She heard each and every tread on the steps.  The weight of the person making each step let out an aching groan–thump, creak, thump creak, all the way to the top, showering her with dust and dirt from the failing stairway.  She waited in silence, hoping not to be seen.  Thump, creak, thump, creak, then, finally thump at the top of the spiral staircase. The person advanced to the room that housed the light.

“Oh my…you scared me.  Why are you here?  I told you I have work to do,” Joe said in a huff.  There was no response.  Joe walked out to the landing where the person stopped and continued, “I need to get this light’s gears greased up before the next storm.”  Eloise slipped from her hiding place to get a closer look.  She carefully walked around the bottom of the stairs to get a clearer view of the person but the top flight was to dark to make out clearly who for sure was there.  She leaned in closer to hear the next little bit of conversation but it was inaudible.  Then, quicker than lighting, Joe and the unknown person started to struggle.  The being pushed Joe closer and closer to the edge of the stairs. This struggle continued for what seemed like forever.  Joe could not escape the clutches of the person.  Back and forth they moved across the top of the landing, dangerously close to the railing.  Once Joe was there, the being started to push him over the rail.  On and on the struggle continued till finally without warning the rail gave way.  Down Joe went, with a terrible scream.  Down Joe fell to his impending death.  Eloise ran back to her hiding place for fear of what she’d seen as Joe fell to his death.  Just as sure as she was breathing, she was certain that Joe had breathed his last breath.  After the loud thud of Joe’s poor body hitting the floor, a quick silence filled the room.  Eloise’s stomach churned at the thought of his demise and the bloody mess that surely lay in the room at the bottom of the steps.  No sooner has she thought these sentiments, the strong pungent odor of wet copper filled her delicate nose. She wanted to barf. The smell permeated the corner where she hid from the sight.  She tried to keep her composure as her gut wrenched.   Just then the sound of cold laughter filled the room. Laughter as mad as any sound she had ever heard.  A woman’s laughter.

Then the woman descended the steps, by passed Joe’s body and exited the door, pausing to turn and look at his lifeless form on the floor.  It was Beth.  She was standing in the doorway with her portly silhouette revealed in the moonlight.  As she stood there looking at this foul deed, she exclaimed, “You know someone had to die.  Justine had her baby girl. So I picked you.  One life for one life.  Remember, Joe?”

With that she left Eloise with the corpse of Joe Brewer.  Eloise knew she had to get out of there and get him help.  But who would help.  Would this gore be there if she returned?

She emerged from her safe place and ventured out, where Joe lay in a pool of his blood, gasping for air.  He was still alive! After a fall like, it was a miracle he was still breathing.  He saw her.  She approached him to offer her comfort in his last moments.  Eloise, bending over him, offered him kind words.  As best he could, he whispered, coughing and spitting blood, “The answers, in the painting.  The painting.  At house.” With these, his last words, Joe Brewer succumbed to death.

Chapter 28

By

David J. Russell

It was the laughter that did it. Fear, exhaustion, nausea, all turned to anger. Rage took Eloise towards the laughter, towards the woman who, at once, became the women; made-up Beth of the cheap perfume, the woman kissing Stiles and sneaking away, the Great Aunt Ling full of sorrow and secrets, and Eloise herself wronged in every way. Eloise raged and all balance left her. Up she followed, followed the insult, chased the laughter up the iron stairs, to confront it or kill it as fate pulled her to it.

Eloise spiraled up the metal steps and pushed through the door of the vast glass-walled beacon room, into the jar-like room housing the huge coiled bulb, into the last room of the lighthouse cone. Across the room and outside it, against the balcony rails, stood the woman, back turned gazing out to the Bay, loudly laughing. Eloise, smelling the familiar sweet stink, yelled “BETH!”, and the woman turned.

It was not Beth. Its face was not made-up. It had no face at all. The woman, mouthless, laughed and fell. But she did not fall down. She fell up into the sky.

And it began.

Angel Island turned and began to open its Gate.

Eloise stood helpless as Angel Island began to open its Gate.

The Wheel, the Great Tao Wheel, the cosmic gear of Order and Chaos ground into movement on machines both gears timeless and eternally permanent; ground the great wheel of the island, pulling its rough circumference back to balance, turning the graves of the fifty dead and the fifty alive. The twin lighthouses were the crank handles of this awful machine; one tower was rubble, and the other Eloise rode to what? The Great Tao Wheel, older than the comets, wrenched its imbalance towards an order only The Old Ones fathomed, an order without heart, with nothing to do with the fifty humans on the ground who now, automatically, scurried to their predestined posts. The Fifty could only stand, stiffened, on their marks, as the cogs of the Great Wheel turned its unknown Order towards them. The fifty were pulled like the tiny figures in a weather clock, pulled into the torrent of Chaos’ uncertain surrender. Even the trees seemed to bend towards the Yin or the Yang of the islands circle like magnetic poles opposing like poles. Animals that could move, moved to one end or the other as the island’s filaments repelled, brushed, and moved apart.

The storm was arriving.

A pus Moon blanched yellow in the sky as the stars seemed to slip from it. The sky boiled its clouds into the night, clouds pregnant with the weight of impending floods. Lightening, the midwives, tore the cloud bellies open and Eloise sobbed as the sky puked out its unforgiving torrents of the coming storm’s birth. The night shattered and re-shattered, took a moment’s breath, and the thunder roared and tensed and squeezed the heart. Lightening, shock white and electrical, whipped stroked the great bruise of the Bay as flashing fires cooked the waters into the color of molten aluminum, a weird metal water that slowly smoothly slipped under the advancing black mist. Secrets seemed to seek voice in this crushing noise of electrical fire and flooding skies. Licking against the lighthouse turret, blue St. Elmo’s Fire snapped across the tower’s metal ribs, eerie cold ghost fires. Heaven and Hell, now inseparable, shuddered loose and blindly, fighting like dogs taken by madness. Eloise felt her tiny embryo cry out in her womb, weeping, panicked, striking its paddle limbs against the blood walls of her insides. The terrified and tiny inchoate life tore the vessels in Eloise’s sinus which ruptured and wept blood and snot.

Eloise begged again and again for the anchor of Stiles’s memory, for Stiles to be alive again with steadiness and strength and clarity and words to rudder her into harbor, to safety, to before this. She begged to utter his name, spoke every prayer she knew but her parched throat only croaked, “Ohn – Ohn – Ling – Chokeche Manitou – Chokeche Manitou – Manitou – Mykarteh – Mykarteh…” The coiled lighthouse beacon strobed and sputtered and launched its light cone, not to warn but insidiously to welcome some Thing into its churning harbor. Some Thing not seen for eons.

There are no angels on Angel’s Island.

Eloise sobbed, panicked, pleaded, pissing herself with terror, begging barely audible prayers for a salvation too paralyzed to appear. There was no one. The Great Gods, the Lords of Order pushed into the glass bottle where Eloise now shook, and some Thing stepped through the door. Eloise could only shriek, “This is no dream!! This is really happening!!!”

Chapter 29

By

Malcolm Q. Orrall

The boy Ohn Ling dragged his mother’s body down the muddy trail, slipping in his bare feet now bloodied from the jagged rocks poking up from the trail bed.  They would not have his mother’s body to defile in death as they had in life.  He would deprive them of that.

He could feel the warmth in her hands still, even as the stinging rain chilled the outer layers of her skin, warmth still emanated from within her.  He longed for her to comfort him.  He could feel that life had only left her moments before, and except for the lack of responsiveness in her fingers as he pulled her, he could fool himself for an instant that she was still alive.

They sought to punish him by making him bury her, but they did not know that even as a boy he was already well-steeped in his family’s tradition of burying their own dead.  The poverty he knew before he came to live in America was far worse than any cruelty they could conjure.  There would be time for tears later, but he knew as his emigrated family’s sole survivor, it was now his duty to uphold the family’s honor.  The gashes on the bottoms of his feet only made him more determined that they should never find her.  It pained him to drag her this way, but she would understand.  In life he had seen her as invincible, his tender and quiet protector, but when the lightning flashed and he saw the clothing partially torn off of her, the bindings unraveling from her tiny feet, her skirt torn at the hip, long striations along her thighs, and the breasts that had nurtured him when there was little food for anyone else, scraping up against the rocks, he realized that in that instant, his childhood was gone.

He covered her, knowing how modest she really was despite her reputation, and retied her tunic.  He found a small notebook tucked in a pocket inside her belt.  He put it in his pocket.  A broken piece of chopstick was barely visible inside her ear canal.  He pinched it carefully and pulled it free.  It did not come easily, but he could not bury her that way.

He sat down and lifted her body onto his lap and let the rain wash the blood from her face and her ears, wiping away layer by layer as the watered-down blood replenished itself, and then the rain, thinning it as it ran, made it seem as if it were gushing from her.

She was colder now.  He knew it wouldn’t be long before he would not be able to pretend she was sleeping any longer.  He bent down to rub his cheeks against her lips, to mimic the way she used to kiss him after his bath.  They still felt like her lips.  If only he could feel their warmth, and feel them move once again.  He thought for a moment about what must have gone through her mind before she did what she did, and he could only imagine it was a love he was too young to understand, but he knew how to take love in, and he let himself do it hoping that maybe it would allow some part of her to feel his love and gratefulness for what she had done.  He let himself know that she did it for love.  She did it for him.  He pushed away the thoughts that maybe there could have been another way.  That was his mother.  That was her way.  He had to accept it.

Silently he wept, his tears washing gently down his cheeks in the rain that was now slowing to a gentle patter on the broad leaves of the coastal rainforest around him.   His face fell gently forward into his mother’s hair, and he slipped quietly into one last beautiful dream of the two of them playing together back in China, when a firm but gentle had shook him at his shoulder.  The hand felt so calm and familiar, that when he raised his own eyes to look into the eyes of the Shaman, he was already at ease.  The look of the man with his strange garments and his talismans took young Ohn by surprise, but he could see the sympathy that radiated in the man’s eyes.

“Chokeche,” the man said.  He pointed to his mother’s body, and tapped his chest knowingly.  “Ohn Ling,” the boy replied.

* * * * *

Knowing that he would prefer to be nearest his mother’s face, Chokeche gestured to Ohn Ling to take his mother’s chest and arms, while he moved to lift her by the knees.  He had been watching these people that came from far away, and he saw how they had been treated.  He had been watching when his mother had killed herself.  He knew why.  He saw her bravery and he saw the bravery of the boy and he knew.  This was the one he had been waiting for.

Fighting back the residue of his dream tears, young Ohn asked, “Can you help me find a place to bury her where she will never be found?”  The boy studied Chokeche for signs he understood.  Chokeche studied the boy for signs of weakness, and seeing none, he nodded and gestured, issuing a Miwok command the boy understood to mean, “Come, we have work to do.”

Together they carried the now stiffening body up the trail to a rock escarpment where Chokeche rolled back a giant boulder that blocked the entrance to a cave, and in they went.

They laid his mother’s body down by the entrance. Inside the cave was a pool of water.  Droplets of groundwater echoed in the dankness as young Ohn strained to see.  He’d never known such blackness. Chokeche walked surefooted to a corner of the cave and lit a small torch.

Instinctively young Ohn read Chokeche’s movements, and quickly flinging his mother’s notebook aside, together they picked up her body and plunged into the cold dark depths.  Down they went, pulling, kicking.  The light of the torch grew dim, and still they went down until they found a narrow entrance between two rocks that appeared as only an insignificant shadow in the blackness.  Young Ohn’s stomach began convulsing for air.  He turned to bolt for the surface but Chokeche grabbed him by his pants leg and pulled him down and calmly put a hand on the boy’s chest.  Within moments the boy stopped his struggling and relaxed his lips, the last of his air escaping in a stream of bubbles from his mouth.  His eyes went wide, and his body began to sink.

Chokeche wasted no time pulling the two limp bodies by their long black hair through the narrow opening, following the walls of the tunnel until it turned upward, into another pool that was lit by the silver Moon showing through the clouds by way of a narrow slit at the top of the cavernous dome roof.  Just enough of the vibrant night sky was now visible that a glint of the light caught in young Ohn’s eye as he drifted to the surface.  The light inside him flickered, and Chokeche put his hand once more on the boy’s chest, giving him a sharp blow to his solar plexus.  The boy awoke coughing and sputtering in considerable discomfort, but happy to be alive again even as Chokeche immediately put him to work pulling his mother’s lifeless body to the shore.  Silently they carried her back to the far end of the cavern, where the boy began to make out the form of skulls and bones and the remnants of Miwok life that were put there for the souls to take with them into the next life.  It was familiar to young Ohn, and even comforting.  He had been to the resting place of his own ancestors, and laid his own father to rest.  He knew the inside of tombs and could feel the Qi that flowed there.  He saw quite plainly that Chokeche must be a Holy Man.  He knew the rituals of his family, and he imagined the Qi that must flow in this place from Chokeche’s rituals, and his frequent presence.  Life Energy that he imagined would keep the ancestors near, should they ever need to be summoned.  His mother would be safe here, and he knew it.

* * * * *

Young Ohn Ling awoke from his night in the cave to find himself back in the barracks, fully rested, and somehow at considerable peace concerning the loss of his mother, and little memory of what went on in the cave except for his certainty that her body would never be found.  He thought that perhaps Chokeche did not want him to know too many secrets just yet.  But what he did know already made him feel that the men would never be able to hurt him again.  In a panic he reached for his pocket and was relieved to find his mother’s notebook, perfectly dry.  Chokeche had taken care of everything.  He’d seen his mother writing in it from time to time, but this was the first time he looked inside it.  There were poems, drawings, diagrams, and little notes, mostly unintelligible to him, but one page stood out.  If only because it was empty, he flipped to the pages before and after, and realized it would have been numbered page 78.  Why, of all the pages, did she leave that one page, neatly and deliberately, blank?

Of the number 78, the first number seven he did not understand, but he knew right away what the eight meant to his mother.  Eight was her lucky number, and she said it should be everyone’s lucky number, because it was twice the number four which sounded of death, and his mother had always said, “Eight is the best number, because as two fours it is twice death, and therefore it is the death of death.  It is the only way you can come back from death, by way of 8.  And any who try to harm you with the powers of the number four will be foiled by your knowledge of the number eight!  Always do things 8 times and you will live long life.”  He remembered his father teaching him to do his Qi exercises in cycles of 8.

But deep down, he was glad the page was blank.  He couldn’t bear to look at his mother’s handwriting just yet.  He looked out the small dirt-stained window into the still driving rain, and suddenly felt as though he had been on the island for a very, very long time.  He knew they weren’t done with him.  They would continue to find ways to humiliate him, to have him compromise himself, do their dirty work.  Whatever they made him do, they did to themselves.  He knew that, but his suffering was for a purpose now, and that made it bearable.  Chokeche had said that they would meet again, and with complete trust Ohn Ling believed him.

Little by little Chokeche taught him the ways of the Shaman.  How to survive in dream-time, and make his way back safely to true-time.  And even how to wrestle with the Demons that were a part of every man, to make allies of them if need be, and Chokeche had told him, one day there would be such a need.  And when he grew confident, Ohn Ling offered the knowledge of the old ways, The Way, that his mother had sung to him in song. For Ohn Ling they were as natural as breathing.  “Be like the water, for in not striving, water gives life to all things.”  It was not lost on him that the first place Chokeche took him was to a place of water.  He was comforted knowing his mother passed through water on her way to her burial.  That was a good omen and she would have been pleased with him for that.  He realized that this was a new memory from the night before.  Perhaps Chokeche wanted him to remember this because it would comfort him.

More had happened, he was sure of it.  There were ceremonies.  There was smoke without fire.  Seeing without looking.  Things not unlike what his father taught him.  Perhaps Chokeche intended to reveal the memories of his teachings one by one as young Ohn’s experiences gave them meaning.  But what most drew him to what Chokeche had promised to teach, was the dream of water.  Did Chokeche know the ways of water?  Young Ohn was beginning to think so.

“Guard your senses.” He remembered that warning from another song his mother sang.  For Ohn Ling, even he had to admit this ideal seemed absurd.  At his tender age, it was way too late for that.  For when he thought of it he needed only remember the night he buried his mother to feel it would ever be of use to him.  But later to his surprise, it would come in handy when he was pressed into the service of Captain Stiles and the General, although he knew that wasn’t how the warning was intended.  And it helped to view that night not as something awful, but as something beautiful, a gift he could give his mother for the gift she gave of his own life.  So he shared her songs of wisdom anyways, and Chokeche took their meaning into his being and made them a part of himself.  He liked that Chokeche would listen.  And in this way they became an ideal match as teacher and student.

As the months progressed Ohn Ling was only a little surprised that the men had never even asked where he buried his mother.  Their lack of understanding was so profound that the only thing that interested them was to tease him about what a good job he had made of it, as they were so fond of saying with a laugh, and therefore he should be the one to bury all the dead from now on.  And so it came to be that young Ohn, now Henry Ling, knew where every single body was buried on Angel Island.  It is from this time out of time that he slowly accumulated his power. So many dead bodies, so many untold stories, so much treachery.  Power so tempered and disciplined by his deepening rage and his training with Chokeche, that Henry could even allow himself to be murdered if it served his purpose, and more than once if it so pleased him.  He would never again be a victim.  What they did to him, they did to themselves, and he made sure of it.  To him, it was just another version of dream-time.  He would be back.

As Chokeche’s protégé, Henry learned how to move freely among all the stages of dream-time and true-time.  And between the two of them there was nothing that happened on Angel Island that one of them did not either conjure or foretell, and that the other did not know about soon after.

* * * * *

Eloise awoke with a start.  Page 78!  The dizzying impact of the dream vision, bringing together all of the elements she had read about in the Angel Island book and its hidden codes, gave her a sudden cogency she had lacked with all the fearful paper shuffling and hiding and stair-climbing and running.  There was purpose now to her thinking.  She was not as helpless as her life thus far had insidiously led her to believe.  All of her life since she had shut herself down had been asleep.  She knew it know, and knew now why she had lost her way.  Her gift that her mother had feared so much, this part of her that she had been running from, was a strength!

It was supposed to frighten her!

In careless or untrained hands it was something to be feared.  It demanded her respect.

She realized now that she already knew the answers to many of her questions.  It was her running from it all these years that caused her lack of trust in what she was seeing.  She knew what to do next.

Joe’s body was lying there brutally damaged from the fall.  The fact that he had died before she came to the island would have to wait until later.  It was his dying words that echoed in her mind.

“The answers, in the painting.  The painting.  At house.”

But in whose house?  Not her own, there were no paintings on those walls yet.  They were simply, walls.  She shuddered.

She ran upstairs to grab the notebook she had seen on the table.  It belonged to her Aunt Ling.  She didn’t even have to think about it.  The words of her mother long ago crept into her thoughts as she ran.  Women in the Ling clan were known across the land as empaths, as seekers, as healers.  But Eloise had fashioned herself a modern woman and let this part of her go unheeded.  Sure, there was the occasional moment where she knew exactly what another person was feeling, but didn’t everybody?  She remembered her journal, the one she scribbled in compulsively as a child but had put away when one of her visions frightened her to the point it was as if her personality had fractured, leaving her with nightmares all through her teen years.  When her personality finally patched itself back up, she knew it didn’t go back quite perfectly, and she worried that this experience had actually made the gift even stronger, but as long as she could keep fooling herself she was quite content to let this “gift” gradually fade back into a best-forgotten memory.  This was the same journal that she hadn’t picked up in years but impulsively stuck in her suitcase at the last moment, just as she and Stiles were about to leave for Angel Island to start their perfect life, a life as far from the “gift” as she could conjure.  In fact, she now knew, marrying Stiles was how she was going to make her normal and perfect life even more normal and perfect.  Well, she now accepted that normal was never going to happen, but she took some comfort in the realization that her life now, though complicated, was finally perfect.

She recalled her vision of Mrs. Ling’s suicide, her empathic reliving of that event, and now understood that it was her welcome to the island.

Everything is connected!

She saw that it was Mrs. Ling’s way of saying:

“Welcome, Eloise.  Your life is calling.  There is a reason you came here, this is where you belong.”

She realized now, that she was indeed home, and there was work to be done.

* * * * *

Eloise ran through the woods and back to the Beth’s house, the nearest house and the only house besides her own that she had been inside.

She entered the back door, slinking stealthily past the remaining revelers at Beth’s party along the way.  Seeing that everyone was now basking in the afterglow and listening to music, she went straight to the only painting she remembered from the main hall.

Eloise pulled the painting down and tore at the back paper mounting, glancing at the picture for but an instant.  The paper crumbled and disintegrated in her fingers.  Nothing.  She put the painting down and took a good look. It took a moment, but she could now tell it was a portrait of the island’s first governor during it’s immigration days, and there, on the desk, laying open to a blank page, was Aunt Ling’s very notebook that she now held in her hand.  She looked down, she said a prayer to her ancestors, and took a deep breath.  For better or worse, the truth would soon be known.  Instinctively she flipped through the pages as quickly as she could, and there, on page 78, she saw that indeed, the page had been left blank.

The page not written!

Slowly she reached into her pocket and pulled out her own notebook and cautiously turned to page 78.  It was all coming back to her now.  The nightmares, the night sweats and soaking wet sheets, the night terrors, her parents running in, throwing on the light switch, only to see her standing on her bed in her nighty speaking gibberish with her eyes wide open, frightening her parents near to death.  She wondered if it had killed her father.

She turned the page, and there it was, right in her own possession all the time, in her own handwriting, the page that Aunt Ling knew another Ling woman would one day write, the page Aunt Ling left blank in her own notebook, the page Aunt Ling tore out of every significant book on the island as the only safe way to pass the secret down without speaking it, until a Ling woman with an even greater gift could come to set things right.

But Eloise hadn’t practiced her gift in years.  Don’t these things take time to develop?  Then she remembered there was a part of her that wondered, after all the nightmares and suffering, whether she would have been better off to just fling herself into the madness.  Maybe her gifts had been developing somewhere down deep, gathering experience, protecting her when she didn’t know it, only occasionally coming forth in her dreams.  Suddenly she realized she could not escape her destiny.  She had always felt she missed her calling, but now her calling had come to find her.  Suddenly it all made sense.

* * * * *

Just as the full weight of Eloise’s revelation came down upon her, Chokeche put his hand over her mouth to stifle the scream he knew was coming. “Come, we don’t have much time,” he spoke in the Chinese he had learned from the young Ohn.  “If I let you go will you be quiet?”  Eloise nodded, and he released her.  “Good.  You have done well to find your way.  Your Aunt would be proud.  You are now ready to learn why you have come.”

Chapter 30

by

Kathy Gori

“Eloise! Eloise!” The call seemed to come from far away, the voice fading in and out of the rising wind.

Chokeche froze. He looked up quickly, alarmed.

“What? Chokeche, what? What is it time to learn?”

“Eloise! Eloiiiiiiiiissseeeeee!” A long drawn out call but louder now. Definitely louder. Whoever was calling was closer. A lot closer.

Chokeche took a quick step backward, so quickly that before Eloise could even turn to ask what was happening he was out the door and vanishing into the fading light.

“Chokeche, wait! What am I supposed to learn? What is it my Aunt Ling wanted me to learn? Chokeche, please!”

She ran to the door trying to follow, to catch sight of him. She stumbled in her confusion and tumbled out through the door.  A dark form blocked her fall. Strong arms supported her.

“Chokeche?!” She looked up. The eyes that looked back were Chokeches eyes, the same rugged face,  the same long dark hair, though now neatly tied back. There was a small silver ring through one ear lobe.

“Mrs.Everling?” He was quickly stripping off his sheepskin jacket, wrapping it around her.

He looked back into the hallway at the torn painting, the broken frame.

“Jeez, did you do all this?”

Eloise nodded.

“Shit you really busted the place up.That’s US Park property.”

“I was looking for it, but it wasn’t there.”

“Yeah, I can see that. You’re soaking wet!” He looked her over. “What have you gotten into? Your hands are like ice.” He chaffed her small hands, fumbled in his pocket and slipped a large pair of fleece lined gloves over them.

“We’d wondered where you’d gone off to . Everyone’s been looking for you.You were supposed to stay with Mrs. Kauffman.”

As he talked he was swiftly moving her out of the house and down the gravel path. Half carrying her as he hurried her along.

He laughed,

“You really freaked me out. I know it’s close to Halloween, but  are you trying to give me a heart attack?”

She looked up into his face searchingly. The face was the same, but somehow this man didn’t look like anyone who was going to be revealing any esoteric mysteries anytime soon.

He flipped a cell phone out of his pocket and pressed a button as he hurried her along.

“It’s Danny. Yeah, I got her.  No, she was in one of the old houses.” He squinted at her, “ I dunno, she looks okay. Cold though. Like ice. We’re heading for the dock. Better have a blanket ready. It wasn’t my fault bro.”

Eloise looked up , “Chokeche?”

He sighed. “No Mrs. Everling, Danny. You know me.” He was waving with his free arm and shouting to some others, below them on the path.

“Hey, dude! Wanna give a brother some help here! Get Mrs. Downey! Stat!

Two others hurried up toward them, young men. They quickly scooped her up, they were flying down closer and closer to the dock at Ayala cove.

The Ferry, engine thrumming rocked, gently bumping against the dock. Eloise was carried aboard to applause and cries of “Finally!”

She was set down carefully on a banquette.

“Okay, everybody’s here, let’s get moving.”

Inside, it was warm, almost too warm. Her eyes watered in the change from the cold air. Things swam a bit before them in the brightly lit main cabin. With a lurch and a creak, the ferry set off from Angel Island. Eloise glanced around her bewildered. Who were all these people who acted like they knew her? She seemed to have landed on some sort of seniors’ cruise. It didn’t look like there was anyone under the age of 80 on this tub. Everyone was bundled up within an inch of their lives. They looked like a bunch of wrinkled, poorly wrapped packages.

Eloise quickly found herself swaddled in a bright red blanket. The gloves were striped off and a cup of something hot and steaming placed in her hands.

A smiling young woman, this must be Mrs. Downey, knelt before her.

“Eloise, you really gave us a scare. That was very naughty of you.”

“She was bad. She ran away.” A chubby little woman in her late seventies who’s too made up face looked like a late Picasso, pulled at Eloises’ blanket.  Eloise slapped her hand away. Who the hell was this hag?

“Okay Mrs. Kauffman, that’s enough.” She nodded toward a young Asian man.

“Geoffery, why don’t you get Mrs. Kauffman some cocoa.” Geoffery stared at Eloise vacantly.

“Didn’t she have a coat? What’s she been doing with her hands?” He nodded  toward Eloises’ grimy, broken nails.

The young woman gave him a pointed look. “Like now, Geoffery.”

“Sure. Uh, okay. C’mon, Mrs. Kauffman.”  He reluctantly helped her up and they moved back toward the rear of the cabin

Mrs. Kauffman turned back and stuck her tongue out. “But nothing for Eloise, ‘cause she’s been bad.”

“Yeah, right. C’mon, Mrs. Kauffman.”

“What happened to your coat, Eloise?” asked Mrs. Downey kindly. “You were supposed to stay with the group. Did you get lost?”

Lost? Lost was an understatement.

“My husband…. Stiles, he’s dead.”

“Yes, I’m afraid he is dear, for some time now”

Danny leaned in, “She kept calling me Chokeche. When I found her she didn’t seem to recognize me.

“How could you let this happen, Danny? I mean really!”

“Hey, it wasn’t me Mrs. Downey. She was sitting at the picnic table with everybody else and I turned away for one minute to get old lady Kauffman a Diet Coke and she was like… gone. She don’t look like it, but she’s fast. I dunno how the hell she got up toward those houses. She trashed one of em pretty good though.” Danny sounded slightly admiring.

“I’m going to have to call her daughter,” Mrs. Downey sighed.

“My daughter!” Eloise whispered. “She’s alive.”

Mrs. Downey gave Danny an “Okay, now look what you’ve started” look.

“Yes, dear. She’s fine.

Under the blanket Eloise clasped her hands over her belly. Rocking herself gently. Yes, her daughter. Her daughter, Stiles daughter, their daughter was alive.

“Yes, We’re going to call her down in Santa Monica when we get back.”

Eloise turned her head away and looked out over the darkening water. Angel Island was receding in the distance, floating like a ghost over the lights of Sausalito. Glittering ahead was an image. Caught in the glass was the face of a wraith. Damp grey tendrils of hair strayed out from under a red blanket. Eloise leaned toward the glass. She leaned her cheek against the wraiths’ and closed her eyes. A tear rolled slowly down their face.

**********

Eloise opened her eyes and glanced into the gently smiling eyes of her husband Stiles. He seemed to be wryly amused by her predicament. She remembered that day, she remembered taking the picture. They were standing on a rocky outcropping in the Yosemite and it seemed like their whole future was before them. Eloise sighed and passed a tired hand over her eyes. She didn’t remember the ride back in The Villages’ bus. She didn’t remember how she got  back to her room or into bed that night, but of course there was a whole hell of a lot she wasn’t remembering lately .

She rolled onto  her side and wearily sat up. She threw the blankets back and stood. Reaching out to the bedpost for support, she walked stiffly over to the window. She slipped behind the curtain and looked out into the morning sunlight. Below her the bay sparkled blue, sailboats scudded before the wind. The Marin side of the Bay was always sunny but today even San Francisco was enjoying a lovely late fall break from the fog. But Eloise found her eye drawn away from The City. In the distance a little white ferry  moved toward Angel Island.

Chapter  31

By

David  S. McDonald

Business was bad all over which was the start of the bad ideas.

The mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Oldsom, had assigned committee leaders to devise a way of raising revenue for the cash strapped metropolis and raising it fast.  Later on when the fog had lifted from both the streets of San Francisco and the minds of San Franciscans and all had clearly seen the catastrophe for what it truly was then it wasn’t fog but certain fear which had rolled in and swallowed the city’s administrative heads, and consequently, heads were going to roll.

Not that anyone in particular should (or ever would for that matter) shoulder the entire blame for The ‘Great Tragedy of Angel Island’, ( A tag which would endure for many years to come and later on became as infamously associated with the little island as ‘The Fall Of The Twin Towers’ had to New York City) but when things go wrong—as  wrong as they had on that Halloween  in 2010—well, plain and simple, somebody had to pay and pay dearly, they would.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” Mayor Oldsom again replied; exhausted, tired and beaten; a shell of the man he had been before it had all happened just three days ago. As the hearing continued he had actually fallen into using the phrase quite repeatedly as a kind of a knee jerk response to the seemingly endless badgering by District Attorney Bill Schloss. Schloss had a reputation for toughness and tenacity. He looked older than God and most supposed he probably was. He was like a living, moving petrified tree that was already dead and simply didn’t know it. Fact was, he was just too ornery to die. He was encouraged to continue his verbal assault upon the poor mayor in no small way by the angry mob who had packed themselves into the San Francisco City Hall for the open hearing. Nearly every one present had just suffered the loss of some dear loved one and none were in any forgiving humor.

Mayor Oldsom was a nervous wreck, profusely sweating and constantly wringing his pudgy hands. When pressed for answers he didn’t have he would sob uncontrollably and sweat even more until he looked like a fountain spouting water in fine mists and from all sides. He groped helplessly for the right words. They wouldn’t come. His weary eyes searched the crowd, looking for a single, sympathetic face among all the ethnic groups represented. There were none. His heavy jowls fell hard into his large, soft hands and he began to cry, making strange little clicking noises in between each breath.

Ashamedly and pitifully he finally gathered himself together enough to stammer, “I tell you, we were all in agreement—every committee head, the Chinese Culture Center. We were all agreed. We’re we not?” he asked, looking for support from his former friends and colleagues seated to his left and right behind the long table—now, all fellow sufferers—all being harangued in this so called hearing.  Fearfully, they ignored his plea for support, staring dazedly down at the table at their notes, hoping to somehow disappear into some mercifully black and bottomless well to be forever forgotten. “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” He murmured, his soft, blue eyes, surrounded by webs of engorged veins, pleaded for understanding. They were met by the hard, unyielding eyes of the three judges seated to his right and the steely gaze of District Attorney Schloss.

“Mr. Mayor,” Schloss continued, ignoring the poor man’s obviously distraught state, “over one thousand  people—that we know of so far and the numbers continue to rise as the bodies continue to be recovered. Who knows where it will end? God help us!” he emphasized the point holding his hands upward to the heavens. And,” he continued, “more than half of these poor innocent souls were under the age of ten—mere babes who were brutally murdered. Why, some were even burned alive! Many!” he slammed his hand down on the table in real Clarence Darrow style, startling the mayor and causing the other committee members to jump out of their black wells and back into their seats.

“ Many,” he repeated, “were  hacked into pieces! The coroner is still uncovering all manner of death. Why, the foul waters surrounding that accused piece of burning Hell are still red with their blood! Blood shared by these who you now, so cavalierly, look into the eyes of! And you!” he turned rapidly upon the mayor pointing a long, bony finger in his face, “have the audacity to sit there and smugly reply—repeatedly, I might add—that it seemed like a good idea at the time?” It was a stinging barrage of highly effective words. The crowd was on their feet shouting obscenities, near riot. “Sir!” he continued, pausing for a moment while turning to the crowd with the subtlest  of bows. Smiling appreciatively, he motioned for them to take their seats. “We, the citizens of San Francisco—no, we the citizens of the world—” he hotly declared, playing to one of the two camera crews allowed in the room, “demand that this story be told! Indeed! It must be told if ever things are to resume any semblance of normality for these dear people who have suffered so.”

Schloss turned on his heel and in a moment was back in the face of the mayor, nose to nose. “An answer, Sir!” he shouted.

The crowd flew to their feet once again with cheers and angry shouts, shaking their fists at the heavens.

A hot flush of blood coursed through the Mayor Oldsom’s face as the blood-curdling screams of his dying six year old daughter pierced through his mind, drowning out the raging hate filled shouts of the mob.  Slowly, he stood shakily to his feet moving away from the D. A. and over closer to where the three judges sat. Indignation ran throughout his body causing it to tremble all over. Accusingly, he lifted his hand, pointing his finger at the crowd and moving it in a slow arc over all their livid upturned faces.

“You so called citizens of San Francisco.” Disgust and outrage filled the tenor of his voice. “You are  horrific aberrations of true citizens. You clamor for balanced budgets and, yet, you will not tolerate a cut nor decline in any civic services nor shall you suffer any rise in your precious taxes. I and my constituents thought long and hard for a solution to our city’s budget crisis. And we discovered it as well.” Sudden grief swallowed up his anger and weakness shook him to his bones. “How could anyone have known what the cost would be,” he whispered.

The crowd mumbled and squirmed in long rows of steel chairs creating a sickly sort of growling, slurping noise. Mayor Oldsom shuddered at the sound. “My precious baby daughter…” his voice sounded like an ancient sarcophagus, suddenly opened, releasing its stagnant winds in a sudden, malignant whoosh to the unsuspecting earth above, blowing through the hollow bones of hundreds of warriors laid to rest with their Warrior God and Mighty Conqueror. His strength failing him, he staggered back to his seat and more fell into it than sat. His hands grabbed hold of the arms of the chair, gripping until his knuckles turned white, “she was ripped apart before my very eyes.” One could almost see his life force draining away as he labored to continue. “My wife, I saw turn suddenly insane—by God only knows what. Using just a cake knife,” he shook his head at the impossibility of the thing, “she viciously slaughtered four children before she, herself, was killed by what appeared to be a living, moving limb from a huge Black Locust tree. I witnessed,” he could hardly say it, “some devour one another—several  jumping upon one at a time like a pack of wild coyotes and devouring them. They looked up at me with their blood stained faces, flesh dangling from their teeth; their eyes staring wild and mad while the victim screamed madly, slowly dying as pieces were ripped from them. My hair stood on end—on end I tell you. I was petrified, I could do nothing.”

A sympathetic hush had fallen upon the crowd.

“You’re the one who is mad!” D. A. Schloss shouted.

“ You weren’t there…You have no idea of the horrors which I have seen; horrors that plague my mind continuously, robbing me of any respite, tormenting me endlessly in my dreams. I am one of five left alive—five, do you here me? Five, of well over a thousand souls. Five and five only escaped Angel Island. Two of these are here at this table with me; Julie Moffitt and Annah Deluca-Scully.” Both women stared blankly down at the table as if their spirits had been blasted from their bodies. “If you can call what we are now alive, or presume that we have actually escaped anything. You condemn me and my colleagues for the loss of so many when the ones who approved the Carnival and fair booths along with combining the traditional Halloween festivities with that of the Chinese Festival of The Hungry Ghost and holding them on that accursed spit of dirt are seated right here in this very Hall. By referendum it was voted through. Each of you must share in the blame.”

The crowd began to shift in their chairs again, mumbling amongst themselves.

“You question the dubious wisdom of my self and the several committees I appointed who—I might add—painstakingly conducted exhaustive studies of the project from early July unto the first of October before finally approving it. Also, the Chinese Culture Center Of San Francisco headed by Julie Moffitt, Tom Misnik and Annah Deluca Scully who—as you know—are all experts in coordinating Chinese cultural events with other city events—enthusiastically agreed to forgo holding the Chinese Festival of the Hungry Ghost which usually occurs in mid July until October the thirty-first—Halloween. Mr. Misnik seated at the end of the table and who so serendipitously,” pausing, there was undisguised, bitter resentment in his voice, “avoided the island will confirm.”

Mr. Misnik merely nodded.

“You say it was ludicrous to hold an event involving such a large crowd upon an island historically known for its many tragedies and horrors. And yet, this very civic center—this  Hall—in which you have decided to hold this sham of a hearing is built upon an enormous graveyard. It is a tourist site, itself, for ghosts and all kinds of paranormal activity. Nightwatchmen have reported all kinds of other worldly sightings and many refuse to work here because of the ill-reputable nature of this place. Why, we just had our ghost walk this past twenty-ninth of October with the Hall being a major attraction along the way. So, don’t you dare lecture me—Mr. Schloss—about ignoring the infamous reputations of legendary haunted places!”

Schloss stiffened, bristling at the remark, but offered no retort. The crowd fell into an angry, even buzz, sounding like devil bees with poisonous tongues, full of woe and curses, filling the Hall with the sounds of alien madness.

“Quite! Quiet!” Judge Frank Coffey shouted while angrily banging the gavel down. “I have been patient, allowing for certain expected emotional outbursts after such a tragedy has occurred. But, any more and I will close this hearing and clear this room if you people can’t control yourself! Am I clear!” he shouted. Calming himself, he continued, “may I remind each of you that this is not a trial nor is anyone being accused of anything. This is merely a hearing. The sole purpose of which is to simply find out what happened on Angel Island three days ago on this Halloween of 2010.”

The world looked on shocked and sympathetic through the probing eyes of the two cameras; nevertheless, pleasured some how in the depths of desperately, despicable souls; gorging themselves upon the misery of their less fortunate fellows.

Suddenly, the two large doors of the Hall burst open, slamming hard against the door stops despite the pneumatic hinges. A strange gust of wind swept swiftly through being followed by a creeping, sluggishly moving vaporous fog. Every head turned quickly to see. Cameras spun toward the entrance. No one was there.

“I am Michael, Prince of Mykarteh of the nation of the Star People,” came a rich, vibrant voice from the right front of the room. It was a commanding figure that all eyes turned back around to see. The crowd gasped in awe. Standing over seven feet tall, dressed all in white and wearing what appeared to be some unusual sort of armor, he was a most striking and fearsome looking man. Across his shoulder was slung a folded, brightly-colored blanket. D. A. Schloss who was nearest to the man was startled by his sudden inexplicable presence and stumbled back a couple of steps.

“Good heavens! Where did you come from?” Schloss exclaimed.

“Angel Island,” said Michael. “I’ve come to give you wisdom and understanding; to tell a mystery that must be told so all may continue along its course until the next appointed time.”

No one spoke, no one moved. Even breathing seemed suspended.

“Angel Island is an eternal gateway joining three worlds. Yours, mine and Hell. The lighthouse was built upon Jacob’s ladder ascending to Heaven. It is my abode and the abode of the Mykarteh, lords of order, and is the place of the everlasting throne of the Supreme and Glorious Father. It is on the south side and is the positive pole. The other side—the north side—where the cannery was built has a ladder as well, leading ever downward to misery and despair where many Sthutah, lords of chaos lie bound in chains. This is the negative pole. All the earth and its inhabitants were kept in balance—the principle of Tao—by this one lone island, the navel of the world. Even the coyote, raven, raccoon and serpent animals are important.  Lucifer, the Great Dragon, rules the remaining lords of Sthutah who are free  and who were not bound in the first war. One ladder up to Heaven and one ladder down to Hell. I did dispute with the Great Dragon myself for a while. He and I alone stood upon the  Island of Angels. Arguing by reason, I attempted to hold a truce with him until the first appointed time. That time was three days ago and for now warfare has ceased.

Three days ago all the furies of Hell were loosed in the armies of the Sthutah. I gathered my armies, the Mykarteh, as well. We fought, sword to sword, we did battle fiercely. If I and my armies had lost then the Sthutah would have swarmed over the Earth as great stinging locusts leaving not a living thing nor blade of grass standing. When they saw that they prevailed not against us they did evilly enter into the humans knowing that the Mykarteh are their created protectors and, therefore, could neither do them harm no hardly bare to see any harm come to them. Lucifer hoped to confuse us as we looked helplessly on while human slew human being possessed by the evil Sthutah, lords of chaos. Yet, when the bodies fell we slew and bound those evil spirits immediately. Their strategy of possession was their downfall for when they were loosed from the destroyed human corpses we were able to attack them before they could fully adjust and regain their power. But, without the help of the Warrior Lady of the Tangs, Pleiades, who is also of the nation of the Star people, we still would never have won. Albeit, Lucifer, the Great Dragon, and a small troop of devils escaped us to flee to the uttermost parts of the earth. There is much more to tell, but others must speak their own part. It all must be told for things to resume  toward the predestined course.”

Schloss had stood silently by during this narrative but finally spoke. “Are you claiming to be Michael the Archangel of God, himself? Why, you’ve mixed Judaism, Christianity, Taoism and Miwok Indian systems of belief together with no telling what else to come up with some sort of surprise stew of religion,”  Schloss objected.

“Did Jacob called Israel not wrestle with the angel of the Lord until he was blessed? Where did Paul first go when he was converted to Christianity?” The Great Angel asked.

Schloss opened his mouth to speak, but decided better and quickly shut it.

“Did he not study for seventeen years in the east before ever beginning the preaching of the gospel? Did Paul not say while yet alive, ‘I am with you always beholding your order.’ Did Jesus not walk on water or read the thoughts of the hearts of humanity or pass himself through a crowd unseen. Did he not witness Nathaniel beneath the tree ever before he saw him, saying an Israelite in whom there is indeed no guile? Was Philip not transported miraculously to another region?

Each race, each culture, each religion sees a single facet of a great diamond and argues that theirs is the only side. Nevertheless, so that you all may believe that I am who I say that I am and that all I’ve spoken to you is true, I now pray, may the Lord of Heaven and Earth open your eyes.”

The people gasped in terror as all around them lining every wall were suddenly the great soldiers of Mykarteh, the lords of order. With swords drawn they lifted them to heaven shouting in an unknown tongue fierce words of battle and victory and then like smoke in a breeze their terrible and brightly shining visages drifted out of sight just as the Hall doors slammed shut.

“Did you get that?” shouted a reporter to her cameraman.

“Got it!” he exclaimed.

A small Chinese boy sitting near the Hall doors stared up at his mother with mouth opened wide. Held in his hands was a new, brightly colored blanket. His mother’s eyes widened in disbelief. She had always thought the story told to her by her family of a mysterious guard who worked the detention camp of Angel Island around 1900 and who gave a great uncle of hers a blanket just before his death was only a legend. Her mouth remained open until D. A. Bill Schloss spoke.

“Uh, well,” he said nervously clearing his throat. “It seems the mayor was correct in his assertion that this old Hall is haunted; though,” he paused searching for another line of thought, “an explanation of mass hysteria would, I’m sure, most probably fit. Sure, it is simple,” he said regaining his confidence and Darrow showmanship, “oxygen deprivation due to the thick fog and  large crowd along with the enormous stresses of what we all have shared has simply supplied our already active imaginations with some lively scenery.”

“Mr. D. A.” Megan Warner, reporter for ‘Endless Stories’, said with a sly grin, “Take a look at this. Seems our camera is suffering from the same condition.”

The cameraman, Dan Dillard, turned the viewer toward him. Schloss grabbed hold of the table struggling to keep his feet as he watched the playback on the camera. Michael’s mighty angels of Mykarteh were there and then they weren’t. It was that simple.

**

Schloss had just turned from gray to green when the thickening fog that had rolled in began to change taking on another quality—not that which is usual to the Bay area but that which is usual to horror movies. The crowd noticed it and began to talk nervously with one another.

Suddenly, a low menacing growl could be heard coming from somewhere down deep in the fog of the center isle. Donna Marie Nowak who had headed the committee in charge of overseeing the newly renovated Hall stood up from the back row and screamed, “something hairy just brushed my leg!” Then growls could be heard reverberating up through the floating mist in several places throughout the Hall. Many stood, panic stricken and started to make their way quickly to the safety which lay through the doors when a loud rapping came echoing through, the sound of tapping as if on chamber doors, stopping them dead in their tracks. The growling stopped.

“Please, everyone,” Judge Terry Stonehouse stood and spoke for the first time. Her voice was strong and even. Everyone’s head jerked to see the source of this unusually calm voice. “Resume your chairs and let’s not let our fears get the better of us. We’ve come together to get answers concerning the Tragedy of Angel Island. Let’s see this through.”

Again came the knocking from some intruder outside…pecking as it were—loudly and unkind.

“Would someone near the doors open them, please,” she asked.

No one moved for a few moments then a young girl, Morgan Rolland, strode confidently to the large entrance way and casually opened the left door. In flew a large black Raven and with one heavy downward stroke of its wings sailed effortlessly toward the front of the room. Angry howls and snarling growls came bellowing up from the mist. The door slammed shut. All eyes followed the noise.  Morgan tried to open the left, then the right.

“They’re both locked!” she yelled.

The crowd turned and started for the exits near the front when a sight stilled them, frozen in mid-stride. The Raven was just finishing its transformation.

“I am Chokeche, I am Shaman of the Miwok.” A well defined man stood there as golden as a sunset, muscular, young and strong, but with the wisdom of ages imprinted upon his face. He looked into their minds and answered the question of their hearts. “I and the Raven are one now as in the beginning when we were born together of the mud left by the receding waters of creation. Olette, the Coyote and Supreme Chief of the Miwok and one, himself, of the great nation of the Star People roams in the mist at your feet. Any who rises will be slain.”

Heads turned slowly looking one to another as terror stilled their minds. A woman sitting near the main isle with her crying infant had been rocking him back and forth to try and calm him. She could bear it no longer. Suddenly, she jumped up holding her baby close to her bosom and made a mad dash for the door.

“No!”  Hank Sawyer who had been sitting next to her shouted. He reached out trying to stop her, but it was too, late.

She had almost made it when an enormous, growling coyote leaped out of the gloomy fog now three feet deep. His jaws closed upon the back of her neck. The bones could be heard breaking and splintering a second before a wash of blood fanned across the Hall doors. The infant’s cries died out a moment later. Two more bone crushing bites could be heard and then all was quiet beneath the swirling, red mist. Shocked crying of women and children could be heard throughout the hall.

Chokeche resumed apparently unaffected.“I have returned from Ute-yomi, Land of the Dead, to tell the Miwok story so that all things may follow their course until the last appointed day. We were made to be the Equalizers of all the Earth and of all its peoples and nations!” He said this with great passion. “And so we were until three days ago when the Star People, our Lords, discovered cruel vengeance long hidden within us and have placed us for a short time in Ute-yomi. The Star people are the first people and they taught us of the significance of Angel Island. That it was the source of all balance between good and evil throughout the earth. As High Shaman of my people I was forced to decide who among my people were of which stock.  It was a most grievous burden to sacrifice both good and evil in order to keep the balance of the Tao in yin and yang. Many times the ghosts of the slain refused to go home to Ute-yomi. But, as ghosts they were neither alive nor dead and so balance remained. Balance, however, had to be kept not only between the good and evil but between the dead buried on the island and the living. So, always it was that for every living one there must be one who is dead and for everyone who died another must be born.

I cried unto the Star People, questioning the goodness of it and begged them to release me from this burden. But, they told me it was my destiny and that it was not an evil to save so many at the cost of so few. But, I knew not these others whom they spoke of and could not see how they were worth the blood of my people. Then one day there arrived the hair-faces with their long knives. They took away our Great Chief, Olette, the Coyote, a Lord among the Star People and taught us of another whom they said was superior to Olette and that this new God would not be pleased to govern with Olette. Nevertheless, the Star people taught us the peace that exists among the Gods and so we believed.

The whites taught us their language calling it Spanish and we learned their language and their customs, their religion and their diseases. After a time and for a short while we were freed from the missionaries and held our own native lands once again. But, in less than two decades our sacred ground was confiscated and we were made little more than slaves for the plantations. Soon, we were but a few—ten chiefs, forty braves and fifty women and children; though there were more Miwoks scattered throughout California only one hundred remained on the coast. More whites of other nations came and people much as ourselves, but yellow of skin instead of red. Two of the yellow nation washed ashore one day. They were an omen of the end of the Miwok. But there was one among the yellow skins who later came and became as my son. I taught him the way of the Miwok and he taught me the way of his ancestors. We learned together in the time warps of dream and real time for we lived at different times.

The Star People told me in a waking dream how we were to save our nation. Being lead by Ponponio, a great chief and leader of Los Insurgentes, we fought our way free from the Spaniard’s plantations and fled their missions in the north and gathered all our people upon the Island of Angels. We knew we had little time for soon they would find us. It was an elaborate ritual of herbs and spells held secret by the Coyote and Silver Fox. ‘We will sing the world, anew.’ they proclaimed. We played our drums, our flute, we all spoke the magic words given us by the Star People, Olette and Silver fox. The ceremony was to prepare us for our waiting place until the first appointed time which was three days ago. The animals from which we came were not to be our waiting place, but the old trees of the island long held to be sacred.

Our ten great chiefs passed over first. I saw the spirit of Chief Quintin enter an old Douglas Fir near the sacred path. Next, went the spirit of our greatest chief, Chief Marin into a Black Locust at the end of the sacred path near the waters edge on the north side. One by one, the bodies fell dead of our great chiefs, our warriors, our women and children and, one by one, they entered into the old trees that line the sacred path which snakes its way through the island’s center. I, Chokeche, Calistro and Initia were the last to enter the trees.”

“So it was the spirit of a Miwok held in a tree that Mayor Oldsom witnessed murdering the people on the island on Halloween, as you have murdered two of us just now,” Judge Stonehouse said her tone still even and cool.

Chokeche looked hard at Mayor Oldsom. “The woman and her child disobeyed and suffered for it just as we, the Miwok, were disobedient to the Star people and now suffer for it. We are, or were, the Equalizers. We slew our own to maintain the island’s balance how much more readily would we slay one of yours to keep it. Now, for nearly two centuries we have persuaded the minds of the residents of Angel Island to do the same. Balance on Angel Island means balance throughout the world for the island is the gateway. It is the perfect circle. But, now it is destroyed…it is wu ji ‘the empty circle’. And, yet, there remains that of which the yin and yang may rebuild. The island is still doing it’s job.”

“How, may I ask, were you disobedient?”

Chokeche stared hatefully at her and then allowed his eyes to flow over all in the room. It was a long moment before he spoke. “You stole from us all that we were or shall ever be. Our lands, our traditions, our hunts and migrations—our freedom. You separated us from our children and made us to work hard our own soil for your gain. You took our faith and beliefs, our thoughts…you took our very soul. The Star people endeavored to teach us of forgiveness and gave us long upon the island to learn it. But, our hearts could not forgive. We hated you and killed as many of you as we could. When the appointed time came three days ago, we rebelled against the Star People and became confederate with the Sthutlah. We had hoped to cause imbalance on the island and then on the world, loosing the evil lords of chaos upon all and destroying you all as you had destroyed us. The Sthutlah promised us our lands  and our way of life to be restored to us in return.”

“But, the Sthutlah lost and so now the Star People—whom we just met and as you’re religion proclaims must come before you—are now punishing you—how?” Judge Stonehouse asked.

With a voice as resolute as iron, Chokeche replied, “We go to Hell…”

Suddenly the room was filled with the hundred Miwoks who had rebelled; the chiefs, the warriors, the women and children. The words were just out of his mouth when the Great Coyote, Olette of the nation of the Star People rose up from the mist with many large, snarling coyotes and carried the Miwok to Angel Island and to the mouth of the gateway to Hell where they were cast into a lake of fire that torments, burning always.

The fog had been swept away with the Miwok leaving a crowd of people bare—stripped to their soul by what they had seen. A shrill scream sounded at the rear of the room. Ironically, it was Robin J. Cody, famous San Franciscan author of many horror stories. Some turned to see what was the matter while many simply continued to stare straight ahead at the place where the Miwok people had stood.

“Someone get a cloth of some kind and cover the body,” Judge Stonehouse replied. When no one moved she called on, Jeff Ferrell, a nightwatchman, at the Hall to do it.

“Well, that’s a wrap as far as I’m concerned,” replied Ms. Warner

“Me too,” replied Dillard as he began to sack up the equipment.

Will Newell of the San Francisco Post along with his cameraman Jason Hewlett stared at each other as if they were going to follow suit. The matter was resolved for them.

Judge Patrick J. Power who had remained silent through it all finally spoke. “No one is going anywhere until we get to the bottom of this. I don’t claim to understand all that has transpired on Angel Island—yet!” he emphasized, “but it is clear that whoever or whatever it is that is willing to enlighten us wants all of us here. Now, I can issue an order and have the police barricade the doors and arrest whoever incites a riot that would obstruct the official business of this hearing or you can willingly fulfill your destiny—even if it is no more than to be an  exemplary citizen of San Francisco.” Everyone but Judge Power looked at Mayor Oldsom who, visibly flinched at their heated stares. “Not to mention the rather obvious point that these so called Star People are able to make things hard on those who resist. Nevertheless, we have our own reason for wanting to know what happened to our loved ones.”

The crowd mumbled in reluctant acquiescence.

***

“I took something from the island.” The voice seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

“What was that Mr. Mayor?” Judge Stonehouse asked.

“I took something from the island,” he repeated it, sounding as if he were confessing to a spree of murders. His hand trembled as he reached into his briefcase beside his chair and withdrew a book. It reads, “’Angel Island: A History’. See,” he said holding it up for all to look at. He held it reverentially and fearfully at the same time much as  Dr. Rappaccini must have held his daughter, Beatrice. “I’ve been reading it for the last three days—studying it actually—fascinating stuff. Really…” he added as he realized he had been speaking more to himself than to others. “Also,” he said reaching down in his case and fishing about until he pulled out an old worn notebook. “I have a journal here. I like to think of it  more as a diary. Just seems more personal. He briefly held it up for all to see. After what we’ve witnessed and heard here today, I believe these two together will go a long way in clearing up the mystery of Angel Island.”

“Are you kidding me or what?” objected H.C. Hush, editor in chief of the San Francisco Times. Standing to his feet, he threw his hands up exasperated. “We have a dead body—without its head attached, I might add—lying covered by the door. We have been witness to two separate mind-boggling visions both of which are beyond the scope of any rational explanation and, therefore, cannot be accepted in any case. Judge Powers here has taken it upon himself to declared martial law and hold us captive against our will—Sir, I’ll have your skin once this is over—” he inserted threateningly, “and now, his honor, the mayor, who has obviously lost his mind entirely wants to show us a primary school history book and read some ‘he said, she said’ bologna from some irrelevant diary! Am I the only one who sees something wrong with this picture? Have I missed anything?” he said in a huff.

“Just one,” Judge Powers replied, searching the Hall until his eyes landed on off duty police sergeant, Bill Bronson. “Bill, you got your weapon with you, right?”

“Always,” Bill replied.

“Good, go and sit beside Mr. Hush.” Bill began making his way over. “Mr. Hush, you are under arrest for inciting a riot. Formal charges will be pressed against you when these proceedings are over. Bill if Mr. Hush doesn’t hush you have my permission to shoot him. If we have to we’ll blame it on the ghosts later on.”

No one laughed.

“Do we have any other police officers with us?”

“David  Russell, judge,” said a big man standing up about middle way on the right side.

“Good, Officer Russell, if you would be so kind, please go and guard the main hall entrance doors.” Russell made his way toward the rear where the dead body still laid covered by a painter’s drop cloth used in the recent renovation.

“Officer Brian James Lane,” a young man said standing on the left side near the front.

“Officer Lane, cover the doors  leading out of the Hall into the adjoining areas.”

Lane had just taken a step when a woman stood up seated near the front, “Officer Christine Richman your honor.”

“Splendid,” Judge Powers said without enthusiasm. “Ms. Richman, please be so kind as to watch the doors here behind us.”

“That’s Mrs. Richman or Officer Richman if you don’t mind judge,”she said as she passed by.

“Duly noted,” replied the judge with a slight smile..

Mickey Bonura, assistant to the D. A., stood up to let sergeant Bronson sit down who by now had made his way over.

“Mickey, is that you,” Judge powers asked.

“Yes, judge.”

“Well, you may need to come and assist your D. A. here. He isn’t looking so good.”

“I’m fine,” Schloss sternly replied.

Powers motioned for Schloss to come to him. When he got to the table Powers motioned him down close with his finger. “Listen Bill,” he whispered, “I know you and how you are and all; and I know you got a job to do.” Schoss started to speak, but Powers cut him off. “But these people have been through enough. So, get your facts, but lighten up.” Schloss started to speak again “It’s not a suggestion, Bill,” he said flatly. Schloss stared at him a moment longer before leaning slowly up and stiffly walking away.

“Tell us about your books, Mayor” Judge Coffey said.

He picked up the book ‘Angel Island: A History’ and carefully opened it. “It was written by a man named Harold Gruenwald,” he began. “He was a Chinese sympathizer and his book uncovers much that bothered  some—especially some—who would later kill him for it. It begins with the gold. We all know that gold was discovered in 1849 in California and as a result Chinese immigrants began to  migrate here in large numbers landing on the Pacific coast. They—like everyone else in the world—wanted a better life and like so many others thought that life could be found in America. Some worked the mines while others fishing, or the farms, and of course the railroads. They were willing to work longer and harder and for less wages than others.

Those others were mainly the Irish who had landed on the Atlantic shore and came through Ellis Island. After receiving citizenship with little or no trouble they proceeded to settle down and take jobs in the various industries. Many, though, moved west building the railroads and as the Chinese, they were hungry for gold. As a matter of fact, it took the fierceness of the Irish to defeat the Indians of the Appalachian mountains, so that other Europeans could spread westward. The trouble began once these two groups began competing for the same jobs in the west and particularly in California.”

Schloss could contain himself no longer, “Mr. mayor, please! What, relevance has any of this to the issues at hand?”

“Please, mayor, if you would be so kind, could you quickly show the relevance,” Judge Powers said.

“Well, in a nut shell great conflict arose between the Chinese and Irish over the jobs. The nation had just crawled out of a deep depression following the Civil War and jobs were scarce. The U. S. government was pressured to pass laws which slowed the flow of Chinese immigrants into the country. Thus, Angel Island which had formerly been a military post for the Union under General George Wright became a detention center under his grandson General Roger Wright and also Captain Stiles Everling. It was called the Ellis Island of the west. The correlation was far from exact.

It was also a disease control center and was actually quite effective in the prevention of widespread disease. Sometimes, as many as fifteen ships a day would pass through Ayala Cove and be scourged from bow to stern. Problem was, though, it was also a fine excuse for holding the Chinese longer than they should. Complicated laws arose which determined exactly which Chinese could or could not enter the U. S. or come back if they left. An entire underground market arose where fake papers were made and sold to Chinese immigrants at exorbitant prices. Those without the proper paperwork were deemed paper people, often paper boys and girls.

However, the Irish didn’t think the laws passed went far enough to protect them, so they formed a secret organization called ‘The Order Of Ghanghis Khan’. They chose that name because of the wholesale slaughter Khan was known for in his conquest of China. The Khans carried out many clandestine operations against the Chinese in California and throughout the west. The Chinese in order to protect themselves also formed an organization known as the Tangs—named after the greatest period of prosperity known to the Chinese people. It’s all here in the book,” the mayor insisted.

Schloss was livid.

“Please, Mr. Mayor connect the dots for us,” Judge Stonehouse said, noticing Schloss’ increasing impatience.

“It is simple. The Khans set up shop on Angel Island in 1910 under the direction of General Roger Wright and Captain Stiles Everling. Twenty five people living on the south side by the lighthouse. They were there to make it as difficult as possible for the Chinese to gain citizenship and to kill as many as they could without too much attention being drawn. The Tangs countered to protect their people by setting up on the north side near the cannery where they also worked. The Miwok whose spirits lived in the trees, but weren’t especially bound to them manipulated the two groups to keep balance. Remember, the dead couldn’t rise with an imbalance and the Miwok wanted the dead to rise so that the evil plan of the Sthutlan to annihilate all could be put into motion.”

“So, were the Khans good because they lived where Jacob’s ladder was for God’s angels and the Tangs evil because they live by the gate of Hell?” Schloss asked.

“Right the opposite, actually. The Miwok thought it would help to block the two gateways until the appointed day arrived—the negative energy of the Khans blocking the good Mykarteh and the positive energy of the Tangs blocking the evil Sthutlan. What actually happened was many murders occurred at the lighthouse and at the cannery as these opposing forces sometimes clashed. The Miwok didn’t mind these outsiders killing one another in the least bit. But, a strange thing happened. Most all that died on Angel Island stayed there restlessly haunting it. Since they were neither ‘fully alive nor fully dead’ (the Chinese number for which is 5354) the balance stayed even. That is until the number of ghosts grew large enough to began to upset balance on the island and to distort time.

“Distort Time?” Judge Coffey asked questioningly.

“Yes, one Chinese detainee wrote, ‘Angel Island is a world between worlds where time ceases to exist’. It was the increasing presence of ghosts on the island which came to twist and warp time so badly.

“It, also, seems that those who came to live on the island were people who had ancestral roots there. They were drawn there by these forces we have witnessed today. Subsequently, they would become lost in time warps swapping places with their ancestors and living out portions of their lives before returning to their time. The effect was so strong that it is actually what started it all.

“How so?” asked Schloss.

“Chokeche, the Miwok shaman was pulled one day in a waking dream from his time of the early 1800′s into the present where he interacted with the writer of this diary. He did no less than to save her life from the evil Sthutlan. What he learned was enough to make him institute the ceremony which drove the Miwok from their bodies and into the sacred trees which line the path of Tao which runs through the island’s center.

I said earlier that it began with the gold and in a sense ends with it as well. I find it ironic that even today we went to the island to make money,” the mayor managed a small sardonic smile. “Pirates used the island for a short time before the Spanish arrived. They buried hundreds of bars of gold stolen from Spanish galleons not far from the lighthouse. This gold was known of by many and the island was always being searched for it. Both the Tangs and the Khans claimed it and so it was another fuel of the fire that kept their hatred for one another burning. It is believed that General Roger Wright discovered it, but was unable to retrieve it.

The story goes that he brutally assaulted and raped the mother of  Ohn Ling, a Chinese boy who had searched the treasure out and found it. Ohn’s mother committed suicide just after by driving a chop stick through her ear and deep into her  brain. When the boy found out that the General had killed his mother he attempted to kill the General, but killed Captain Stiles Everling by mistake. Ling was later hanged for it. But, legend has it that before that happened he learned the ways of the Miwok by the shaman Chokeche. As such, he became a very powerful shaman in his own right. He was later hanged by General Roger Wright for Captain Stiles death, but by that time Ling had learned to pass between time and the worlds freely. He took the secret of the gold’s whereabouts to his grave.

But, also, Ohn Ling’s mother had given birth just before she died to a boy named Henry after the desire of his father Captain Everling. Henry Ling and Ohn Ling’s life were forever mixing and changing places especially toward the end when the time warp grew so intense. Soon, though half brothers, they were one spirit. Ohn Henry Ling was supreme leader of the Tangs and held the highest place as a Miwok shaman. Ling also was the only one who knew exactly where all fifty graves were because he is the one who buried them. Bizarre isn’t it. He alone knew where the gold and the dead were buried on the island. Needless to say, Ling was a force to be reckoned with.

And another interesting fact” he hesitated for a moment trying to believe himself what he was about to say. “Every building, every house, the detention center and so forth were made of wood from the island. Many were built from a single tree, so that for each building a single tree had been used.” He let his words hang to see if any would see where he was going with it.

It was Judge Terry Stonehouse who saw it. “All the buildings were haunted by Miwok Chiefs who had been placed in the trees from which the buildings were made. I’ll bet that made for an interesting stay, very creepy,” she replied with one eyebrow raised.

The mayor smiled. “Are you familiar with Chinese numerology? I mentioned it earlier.” The mayor’s question was rhetorical and was taken as such. “The number five is associated with the five elements of the earth that are believed to be necessary to keep the earth in proper balance. What the Chinese call yin and yang. These elements are earth, water, fire, wood and metal. If you will think about it Angel Island now has them all. It is surrounded by water and is fed by underground streams; it has earth; it has been burned from one end to the other—and continues to burn, I might add; it as one lone tree, a Black Locust, which is left standing near the path’s end on the north side where the cannery once stood; and as long as the gold remains untouched, it has metal. You see, balance even in the island itself and if Angel Island stays in balance then so does the rest of the world.”

Officer Russell had stepped forward a few feet from the door, but even so was still straining to hear all of what was being said. Consequently, he didn’t see the body that was under the drop cloth suddenly sit up. The cloth feel down revealing the stumped, bloody torso. It felt around for a moment and then finding what it was searching for grabbed its head by the hair and slowly stood up. The eyes turned wildly from side to side.  A diabolical sneer spread across its now inhuman face.  The small hairs on the back of Officer Russell’s neck stood up. His heart almost stopped. He could feel complete evil standing behind him. Slowly, he reached down, unsnapped his revolver and easily lifted it out. He quickly turned ready to fire just in time to look straight into the dead, yet living, eyes of the woman’s severed head as it was swung hard toward him, hitting him square in the face. He was out cold on his feet before he ever hit the floor. Everyone turned around at the loud thud of the officer’s body upon the floor. Screams filled the Hall…

With the left arm stretched out long in front of it, holding the head by a matted, bloody tangle of hair, the body started walking down the isle. It jerked spasmodically like a puppet in the hands of an unskilled puppeteer. “We are Sthutlan, lords of chaos,” spoke the head. “Upon your souls we lay our curse, history repeats itself, growing ever worse, until the day which shall be ours, live in fear of the coming hour! You can never defeat us!”

It was Officer Christine Richman who pulled of nine rounds in a perfectly grouped pattern—four to the head and five to the heart. The abomination fell dead to the ground—this time for good.

****

Judge Terry Stonehouse declared a recess allowing for people to go to the restroom and to try to regain their composure after what all they had seen. Protestant ministers, David and Faith McDonald, moved among the people, comforting and consoling them, praying with those who asked and respecting the wishes to be left alone by those who had little respect for prayer. It was some time coming before everyone was ready to continue. But, it seemed, that all finally realized that the only way to get out of this mess was to go ahead and get through it. An hour or so later, the mayor was encouraged to resume.

He picked up Eloise’s journal, marveling at its simple appearance and gave it a firm, reverent squeeze. “Now as to the diary. It is written by the heroin of this story without whom we would all be enjoying the prolific horrors of Armageddon today being savagely eliminated by Lucifer and the Sthutlan, the lords of chaos. In other words a whole lot more of what we just saw. You heard Michael, the archangel refer to her as Pleiades which literally means Star Woman. She is written of in the legends of the Miwok. Don’t ask me how—” he said holding up a hand. I know she wasn’t born then and all that. But, time is a funny thing and not near as linear as we have been lead to believe—especially when it comes to Angel Island and those who are associated with it through ancestral heritage. And, as I said, the ghosts of Angel Island are what caused the time distortions.

Okay,” he said taking a deep breath, “we need a kind of who’s who of the island if we are to make any sense out of what happened there. Let’s begin with our heroin, Eloise Everling. She came to the island on October the first with her husband Stiles Everling who was to be the new Park Ranger of Angel Island. They were a newly married couple. Eloise seems to indicate in her diary that they didn’t really know each other that well. For sure, Stiles Everling didn’t know that his wife was three months pregnant at the time of their arrival. She was waiting on the opportune time to tell him, she wrote.

As I said, the forces of the island drew ancestral lines there to balance and to fulfill destiny. Stiles Everling was named after his grandfather Captain Stiles Everling—the one accidentally killed by Ohn Ling and he was father to Henry Ling. Eloise’s connection to the island was this: her grandmother was sister to Ohn Ling and Henry Ling’s mother—the Chinese woman whom General Roger Wright had raped and assaulted just after she delivered Henry Ling. This made Henry Ling first cousin to Eloise’s mother.

Stiles was to replace a Mr. Curtis Gruenwald who unlike his father, Harold, and who—as I said, wrote our little, primary school, history reader—hated the Chinese and was a high ranking member of the Khans. She wrote that he could communicate directly with the Miwoks at will. He was beyond doubt one of the most brutal of the Equilizers used by the Miwok.

But, her first encounter with anyone of the island was with Mr. Ling—Henry Ling. I mentioned him earlier as the half brother of Ohn Ling, though, by this time they were one in the same. Outwardly, he worked as a volunteer on the island. But, as I said he was much more than that. He was a severe Equalizer for the Miwoks on the side of the Tangs. He had been a paper boy as a child and was held on the island for many years. When the balance was off the Miwok would require him as Supreme Equalizer to hurriedly supply a replacement or to come and live for a while on the island as a sort of substitute until a permanent resident came. He was feared by all human Equalizers for his skill and fierceness answering only to Chokeche. He is the one Chokeche speaks of as his protege.

There were other Equalizers, two in particular, who, though, not as brutal as Mr. Gruenwald were more active in keeping the counts even; a  Ms. Beth Kauffman and a Dr. Cargrave. These two seemed to be the primary ones used to actually kill the populace, so as to keep it in balance. It is noteworthy that while Dr. Cargrave was human, Ms. Kauffman seemed to be a sort of shape-shifting aberration vomited up by some malignant, black hole sitting in the center of an alternate universe. Eloise doesn’t attempt to hide her utter hatred and disgust of the woman. Ms. Kauffman certainly seemed unique and quite unlike all other creatures of the island.

Another key player was Joe Brewer, keeper of the lighthouse and a very high ranking member of the Khans. He followed in a long lineage of Khan members (pictures of whom are in the Angel Island history book) and was not above taking advantage of the excuse of the island’s equilibrium to murder the Chinese. His wife, Lillian, however, was a Chinese sympathizer and member of the Tangs. Joe was brutally murdered by Ms. Kauffman when an imbalance had to be corrected. She let him know that she could have chosen others, but had chosen him. She was sadistic to say the least.

After Joe Brewer’s death, Curtis Gruenwald began to make visits to Lillian, supposedly to check on her. He had had his suspicions about her involvement with the Tangs. It was as good a reason as any to one day rape and kill her.”

“How was Mrs. Everling able to find all of this out?” interjected Judge Stonehouse.

“She observed, she investigated, she studied the history book of the island. And more…” the mayor paused for a moment remembering Eloise as he had last seen her on the island—glowing…radiant. “She suffered horrible visions, spirit journeys with beings that would blast the sanity from one’s mind; lost all she had to fulfill her destiny and,” he paused again, “she did it to survive. And, judge, she found out much, much more…she found a way for us all to survive.”

*****

“What exactly did happen on Angel Island on Halloween,” Schloss asked with all the theatrics absent from his manner.

The mayor’s face clouded up as quickly as Angel Island was prone to do. “Before I tell you about that horrible day it is necessary to tell you more of Eloise’s diary. According to the diary, upon their first night there, Curtis Gruenwald struck a deal with the Miwok to set right the imbalance caused by the couple’s arrival. If he did so, he could forever leave the island and that was something that once the island had its hooks in you rarely happened. But, he had to kill two asians to be able to leave. He killed Henry Ling and dumped his body in the bay. Burying him would have upset the balance.”

“Wait,” Judge Stonehouse said throwing up a hand. “Why would the Miwoks want Henry Ling dead who was considered one of them and was Supreme Equalizer?”

“Ling was good and would never have gone along with the rebellion the Miwok were planning against the Star People. Chokeche knew this and so betrayed his friend in order to satisfy is his lust for revenge. After killing Ling Gruenwald went to the house of Eloise and Stiles Everling to kill her. But, things went wrong. Stiles was murdered instead saving his wife. But, the Mykarteh with the bloody finger of her husband left her a warning. It was in Chinese numerology—number seventy-eight—and translated to ‘Beware devious fortune and the undead.’ They were letting her know the gold lay at the heart of the conflict—a conflict which continued after death—and must forever stay hidden in the belly of the island. But, there was a deeper meaning to the number seventy-eight that she was to discover.

After her husband’s death and Ling’s death these two also became ghosts of the island. Then time really twisted itself into knots, overlapping and mixing up past ancestors with present ones. Eloise stayed for weeks in a waking nightmare, but to her it seemed as though it was only a few days. She even writes of  a vision she had of herself. In it she was an elderly lady with dementia who had returned to the island many years later by ferry on a senior’s day outing. In the vision she had never solved Angel Island’s dark mystery neither had she lived an extraordinary life. Rather, it had been a broken life and one without reverence. In this evil possible future she was too feeble of mind to know that the very teens who were employed by the home to care for her and watch out for her while on the outing were actually making wise cracks about her behind her back. She was an object of ridicule while all the missing pieces of the mystery of Angel Island still swarmed about in her elderly, confused mind.

It was a prophecy and it was a lie straight out of the heart of her biggest enemy—this she knew. Who would attempt to plant such a dismal destiny into her heart? She didn’t know, but she was sure going to find out. The truth being that it was a great destiny which lay before her;she knew it, she felt it calling to her in every fiber of her being. She writes very passionately of the feelings she has about it, though, the calling still was so nebulous. Yes, she had a great call of destiny and one that wouldn’t leave her in peace until she fulfilled it. Nevertheless, it was also in that confused time that she was given the keys to break the centuries old deadlock and allow the island to be re-birthed in a new yin and yang from the empty circle of wu ji.

The Mykarteh were guiding her thoughts, leading her to walls, walls, walls was what she kept feeling. She soon began to realize that the so called ‘death prayers’ which had been carved into the walls of the detention center were the key. This detention center she chillingly noted was made from the very tree containing Chief Quintin—as in San Quintin.” He let the import of his words soak a moment before he continued.  At the beginning of this extreme chaos of time she went to the detention center to try and read the prayers, but it was no use. Being American born she had never learned Chinese. But, being led she found a parchment beneath a floor board with a prayer on it she could read. But, it had to be more than read; it had to be solved. I will read the rest from the diary as she wrote it:

Everything in her told her that this death poem was the unluckiest of all. She had dabbled with Chinese numerology as a teen and it had stuck with her. Fourteen is the unluckiest of all numbers. It also means certain death. She quickly went through the poem underling every fourteenth word

Poem One:

On this night

Fog creeping

Meadow releasing

A steady stream

Evil taking flight

Perversity uninvited

Swallowing, reaping

Ever increasing

Twilights final gleem

Danger///it so excites

Cemetery fenced in 

Keeping death at bay

But as the mist

Envelops our lives

Death,yes death

finality..finally arrives

We are unable to resist

Devouring us whole

Morsel by morsel

Drawing us into the fold

Through the portal

To sights unseen

For us to never behold

But as a lonely figure in

Dante’s scene

Our world remains unconsoled

So in the night

When all alone

Despair thee not

For you are at home

The door is opened

As it closes again

History..it repeats

Destiny so arcane

Awake from the dream..

Sleep to the nightmare

Follow the theme

Too late to beware

The night it extends

Centuries blend

Nowhere to run

He is always aware

I looked at what I had. It was no good. It made no sense at all…Perversity fenced yes by us remains are destiny too us…Then I saw it. The words were there, but out of order just like everything else on the island. I worked with them and soon the right order showed itself:

Remains are fenced by perversity

Destiny, too, is us

Yes,

But, what could it mean and why the word “yes” hanging there as if something else is to follow? That’s it! Something else is to follow. More death poems, more decoding them until finally I will be able to come up with the entire message. The message that will tell me how to stop the madness and chaos of Angel Island. But, where is the next poem. I looked at the old Chinese prayers carved in the wall, knowing I would not be able to read them without help. Mr. Ling was dead and unless he chose to help me from beyond the grave then I’ve little chance of ever learning the secret. Walls, walls, walls! I feel so frustrated! Then I realized the truth. My mind is stopping me. It is in the wall of my mind that the next poem has been written upon and I will have to break downwalls of unbelief which keep me from being able to see it. I believe. I am beginning to see where I had been when the poem came to me.The lighthouse railing…The words of the poem came flooding back to me washing my mind with renewed hope. The railing…falling…falling…falling, lucky, fortunate, destiny…These are the warm feelings about the poem that flooded my mind as I remember the words:

Poem Two:

“The tactility as my hand

Feels the pain

Embraces emotions..

From seemingly …

Meaningless walls

I endure..as so did they

Those who came before

Though..what’s in store for me

We….me…us

The chosen..”

“The blood of the many

Forever protect the few

Tonight is the night

As is every night

Will this end still

I remember that the Chinese number for good luck, fortune and destiny is eight. I’m underlining every eighth word.This time there is no need to rearrange the words.Something must be wrong. How could these words be lucky? Oh yeah, the second half. “Not Lucky” is for the second half of the poem and the number which means “not”is five. So it is the first fifth then each eighth word following. I’m underlining them. The whole message runs…

Pain endure before me many night still…

Soon after this Eloise documents another severe time warp where she actually relives her arrival on the island. It is, however, a perverted version of her first real arrival. But, in this sort of parallel universe  everything is the same and yet uncomfortably different…off, somehow. Now, she has gained the ability to read the walls for herself. She had never learned the language of her ancestors.  But today it didn’t matter.  She understood each character, each word each poem…

Poem Three:

“Alone…

In this overcrowded room

Barely protected from

the elements

Walls preventing my escape

Though walls….

these walls

Allow our, my story to be told

It unfolds///

For I am here to die

My soul to be immortalized

Perpetually in verse

My destiny…my ending..

Enveloped by the curse

He…mentioned then and now

He..the bastard that ..

created us

Denies us

Escape from this Hell

This Hallow’s Eve

Balance is to be set

Culling has begun

Never ended

He…………….

I feel now that I am close to understanding what I am doing on this incredible and powerful island— a place where anything seems possible and a place that makes all things possible throughout the entire Earth. This poem is about the glory of royal destiny—mine. The number for destiny, for everlasting fortune is nine.It is also the number of the Emperor and of the  Star People—Star People? How do I know of them? Quickly, I went through and marked every ninth word.

The walls unfolds to ending, now escape to________

Where! It ended! I must find the next poem and solve itquickly! Oh my God,  I’ve gone through this before! The next poem must be under the loose board of the floor. Oh my God—it is!

Poem Four:

“Left for dead

Demons dancin’ in my head

Beloved has betrayed me

In the medallion

lies the key

To get me home

Home safely

Free from this Island

The Angels haunt

Free from this Island

I am destined to haunt

I’m reading feverishly through, seeking a feel for it. What is it saying to me? Is it positive, negative, good, bad?What number fits here?  My head is spinning. I can’t concentrate.Does it mean that Stiles is against me? It says I can be free from this island. It has to be eight!I underlined every eighth word:

Head lies safely free haunt

Poem Five:

“Arrival to a new dream

With my love

Life is renewed

Most beautiful scenes

with my love

I am consumed

Blessed Angels

Protect us from all

Feel the safety

that surrounds

Though Angels fall

I fear not

Evil may abound

But I am safe in the

Arms of He

He who vowed to love me”

Without a doubt the number is nine. My time when I will forever be with he who loves me. I feel soothed by the poem I wrote just before we packed all our meager belongings and had moved from Redding, California to Angel Island. Now, thank God,  I’m finally on the ferry and leaving this accursed place. Underline every nine…

Life I feel, fear in love.

Fear in love? What could this mean? Oh, dear Lord!The ferry Captain just said the weather is to bad to chance it. We’re heading back to Angel Island. I’m looking up at the five different coded messages found in the poems of death. I’m reading them all together now.

Poem Six: The secret poem

Remains are fenced by perversity.

Destiny, too, is us.

Yes , Pain endure before me

Many night still…

The walls unfolds to ending.

Now, escape to head…lies safely free.

Haunt life I feel, fear in love.

This is amazing! It has all worked out to reveal a secret poem—one which will empower me to win this battle.The ferry is back on Angel Island and now I see many people dressed in Halloween costumes and there is a carnival and fair booths. Unbelievable, I must have beenon this wretched island a month!

I just realized something. The first poem says history repeats and is solved by fourteen. Repeats! 1414, the unluckiest number doubled. God no, that’s how many people will die here today! Poems two & three are solved by five, eight and nine which means not lucky destiny. Poems four and five are solved by eight and nine which means lucky destiny. 1414 people will die on angel Island today and it is up to me if the final destiny of all is unlucky or lucky.  That’s what the numbers mean, but what does the poem mean?

Remains are fenced by perversity.

Destiny, too, is us.

Yes , Pain endure before me

Many night still…

The walls unfolds to ending.

Now, escape to head…lies safely free.

Haunt life I feel, fear in love

An evil force holds the mortal remains of the dead and

living in balance.

We are the point of it all.

The pain will not end for me

For a very long time

The answer is the poems on the walls and they must be

ended or finished. That’s right! There is an empty place

on the wall for one more poem to be carved!

Head? The medallion had an emperor’s head on it. I see

it. I must wear the medallion around my neck for

protection as I carve the secret poem on the wall in the

empty place.

I am to become a spirit…a spirit afraid of love…

There it is, all clear enough. Carving the secret poem will stop the pain of the island. But once I have done it, my child and I will become spirits forever trapped on Angel Island. We must become the restored soul of Angel Island. One thing more, though—what of page seventy-eight?

“That is all that is written,” the mayor said quietly and then gently closed Eloise’s journal.

“So, was the mystery of seventy-eight ever solved?” Judge Stonehouse asked.

“Yes, and that brings us now to the horrible events of three days ago when we, unknowingly—but foolishly, combined Halloween with The Hungry Festival Of The Ghost. The combination proved to be a potent catalyst for what was to come. You know now that I think of it even the two festivals were an act of balance. Halloween lending to the traditions of the Khans and The Hungry Festival Of The Ghost to the Tangs. Anyway, I and my constituents seated here beside me arrived on the last ferry—the four o’clock—to Angel Island. The day was bright and sunny, although cool and the carnival was already in full motion. The vendors who had set up their tents all around the rides seemed to be doing excellent business.

I can remember feeling the broad grin on my face as I stepped off the ferry and onto the dock of Ayala Cove.  It was a huge success or so it appeared. There appeared to be well over a thousand people there. Of course, now we know the exact number—fourteen hundred and fourteen dead with five survivors. 1419 souls all told. Do you know what that number means?”

“What?” asked Schloss.

“It means ‘certain death turned to the strength of the Emperor’ and that happened in large part because of Mrs. Eloise Everling, the Star Woman. I saw her right away, you know. Of course, I didn’t know her or dream of her significance to all that was about to happen. She had been on the ferry with us and had abruptly jumped off as soon as we docked. I watched her—wondering where the fire was, so to speak—dash through the crowds and run up a winding path in the woods toward a house whose top you could just make out through the trees.

It was then that darkness fell as suddenly as if a light switch had been turned off. People looked up wondering what had happened. The carnival lights and lights about the vendors tent were switched on and nobody seemed to think much of it. I mean the sun can set quickly around here and, besides, we had much to distract us from such a seemingly small thing. We were at a carnival and were making money hand over fist off of the heavily taxed merchants.

All about were people dressed in Halloween garb and in the traditional costumes of The Hungry Ghost Festival—even the vendors. It seemed from the smallest to the oldest all wore a mask and the clothing of some ghoulish monster, witch or superhero; or a dragon or ancient spirit of evil.” The mayor stopped his narrative, staring blankly ahead.

“Mayor?” Judge Coffey said.

It was Annah Deluca Scully who spoke. “And then it just happened. I saw a mother holding her child next to the long line of tables adorned with all kinds of food and beverages. The child couldn’t have been older than four. I think it was a he,” she said wonderingly. “Oh, I suppose it doesn’t matter.”

People in the hall looked from one to another with the quizzical  expression of ‘is she insane or what?’

“He was dressed like a ghost. As his mother was speaking to a lady friend of mine, Kathy Gori, who was working the buffet tables, the ghost leaned down and grabbed a knife from the table. He quickly swung up, laid the knife to his mother’s throat and cut her from ear to ear. She was dressed as the witch in the Wizard of Oz. Her head fell backwards on her back. The witches hat and the child hit the ground at the same time. I stared dumfounded as the woman’s body stood for a moment longer, clutching empty air with frantic fingers in front of it—much like the woman here,” she said surprised as the similarity struck her.  It then fell forward upon Kathy soaking her in blood. I watched, horror stricken as the ghost ran through the crowd slicing people in the legs. People were screaming and falling as he cut a trail through them.”

“The Ferris Wheel has always been my favorite ride. But, not anymore,” Julie Moffitt said. Her voice sounded like it was one she had borrowed from somebody else. “Round and round it went, the lights were so beautiful…red, blue and green…yellow,” she said as if envisioning it in her mind. Then the colors turned all wrong, mixing together into a sickly sort of brownish blur. Then…each time as the wheel hit its apex people would jump from their chair. Some screamed madly as they fell to their death while others laughed. Phil Posner who worked for the city and was dressed as Freddy Krueger ran to the man dressed as Jason Voorhees who was operating it. He tried to stop him, but was unable. That settles the dispute once and for all. I guess Jason can beat up Freddy,” she managed a small chuckle. The sound made all in the Hall nervous. “Jason Voorhees looked on expressionless through his hockey mask as each group of people jumped. Some of them landed in cars that were rising, knocking them out on the way down. Thankfully, the Ferris Wheel was emptied in a matter of  only a few seconds.

I turned and ran back to the ferry boat. No one was on it so I jumped on board. I didn’t know how to operate it so I was forced to hide. I found the door to the hold below and hid in the lower section of the stern and covered myself with an old tarp. It was completely black. I sat and listened to the screams of the dying and of the maniacal inhuman laughter of the  murderers. It all lasted  for what seemed to be about an hour. But, who knows how long it went on. I stayed there until we docked again at Tiburon.”

“Mallory Lauve, Sonora county commissioner and Rich Orth, Director of San Francisco Fine Arts Museum were the best of friends,” the mayor said. “They went as Laurel and Hardy—both of them had a great sense of humor. It certainly was a very fine mess they had gotten themselves into,” the mayor mused then realized that he and his two friends were using humor as a coping mechanism. He determined to control himself. “I saw a group of teens—you could tell they were teens by their build and agility—dressed as Goth rockers chase Mallory and Rich down to the waters edge. I swear, I saw them all turn into a pack of coyotes and devour the two, ripping them apart, slinging pieces in every direction.

Limbs from a giant Eucalyptus grabbed up Iron man (it was really Woofer McWooferson, owner of the number one Toyota dealership in San Francisco and Daniel H. Ingraham, a student, in a Casper costume) and then smashed them together. They exploded like two tomatoes being thrown at one another.

And this…I now know that the Miwok were balancing the battle as the evil Sthutlan in the humans fought Michael and the Mykarteh. Being careful to maintain balance because The Dead of Angel Island  still had yet to rise. Keeping balance from moment to moment made it sometimes  necessary to resurrect one of the slain. I saw these murdered, butchered corpses stand upon their feet and kill again only to be killed again.

Everywhere those of The Festival Of The Hungry Ghost fought those of Halloween slaying one another without mercy while the Miwok and Sthutlan killed all. The only way one could tell that Michael and the Mykarteh was there was as he said. As each human corpse fell the Sthutlan forces of evil seemed to grow weaker.

Malcolm Orrall, a dear friend to this city and one who has done so much to revitalize it saw Annah and I just standing there frozen in place. Running to us he shook us into action. ‘Run!Run, for the houses up on the—’. He never got a chance to finish his sentence being whisk instantly from the ground and thrust high up into the air by a Douglas Fir nearby. We then saw him hurled far out toward the blackness of the sea. All around people were being wholesale slaughtered in deviously creative fashions.

Then, that we saw a sight worse than all. In all kinds of places, secret and open the ground began to push up. The earth exploded upward raining down a mist of dirt and gravel. And out of the filth of the grave climbed creatures the likes of which I have never seen. Their eyes shown through the blackness of night with a dull glint like the color of blood on the moon. Their bones nearly fleshless popped and clacked together like bamboo sticks being pounded together as they moved. They carried in their hands swords they had been buried with in preparation of this very night. They were a military unit. Quickly they formed ranks. Those to the south wore the medallion of the Khans while those who formed ranks from the north wore the symbol of the Tangs.

‘The gold! The gold!’ I heard them shout.

By this time the slaughter of the humans was nearly complete. The Mykarteh had defeated and imprisoned all but Lucifer and a few of the Sthutlan who fled the island. But the dead—the unstoppable Dead of Angel Island—stomped toward each other, sabers rattling chanting war cries in other languages, clamoring about the gold. I grabbed Annah by the hand and ran in the direction I had seen Eloise run. We entered that house, but she wasn’t there. We ran again outside. Down the hill the armies of The Dead were locked in fiercest battle. Then we saw her.”

“She was a lady made of water,” Annah said dreamily.

“She was an asian Woman of Water.” Mayor Oldsom said answering their questioning looks. “She stood upon the winding tail which snaked its way through the woods, motioning for us to follow her. She shimmered like a flowing waterfall cascading down a wall of gold. She lead us to a very old, two story, wooden building where we quickly climbed the stairs and followed the Woman of Water inside. Eloise was there, sitting in front of a wall covered with Chinese markings, rocking back and forth, crying and with a sharp knife in her hand. Eloise looked at the Woman of Water and said, ‘Auntie Ling,  I don’t know what to do! I thought that I was supposed to carve the secret poem into the wall, completing the Death Poems. But, each time I lift the blade something inside tells me not to.’ She continued to rock back and forth, crying.

‘Stop that crying, child!’ Aunt Ling commanded. And then in a steady, coaxing voice she spoke the words ‘Pu, Wu wei wu’ and said ‘the nothingness of page seventy-eight.’

“I saw Eloise instantly stop crying,” the mayor said, “then an amazed look of understanding shone upon her face.”

Smiling gently, she laid the knife down. ‘Of course, Pu’ she said.

“What does Pu mean?” I asked.

“Uncut wood,” she replied.

“Well, what the devil does that mean?” I screamed. “Is what you’re doing going to stop the madness that’s going on out there?”

‘Pu means I will not cut the prayer in the wood and I will stop the madness out there by doing nothing,’ she said.

“By doing nothing! “ I exclaimed.

‘Wu wei wu means action through inaction,’ she explained. ‘It is to accomplish great things through small, simple ways. It is to walk the Tao—the path where all power resides in the universe. Joe Brewer was of the Khans and tried to confuse me by making me believe that something must be done about page seventy-eight. But, page seventy-eight was blank for a reason. It meant “wu wei wu” –I should  cause effect without action. But, the Mykarteh had warned me by the hand of Stiles and in his blood, ‘beware devious fortune and the undead.’

Then she smiled at her Aunt Ling and said, ‘we are ready, little Eloise and I.’

‘Place the medallion of the Khans about your neck. They will not attack you with it on. The Tangs know you and also will not attack you. Go my child and know that though you lose your physical life and that of your child’s along the Tao, you and baby Eloise will forever live as Star People. From this time forward your name shall be Pleiades.’

Pleiades placed the medallion of the Khans about her neck and kissed her Aunt goodbye. ‘I will see you very soon Auntie Ling,’ she said and walked out the door of the detention center.

Aunt Ling looked at Annah and I and said, ‘you have been spared to tell this story. If it isn’t told each year at Halloween then the next appointed time will swiftly come bringing Armageddon with it. Do you understand?’ We both shook our heads that we did. ‘Good, let us go quickly now, for the island shall be burned with fervent heat.’

Pleiades feet floated along the Tao—the path that had gracefully arced its way across the island from time immemorial. She sang the secret poem to the song of the Miwoks, the Ollette and the Silver Fox.

As she passed over the ground the earth burst into flames. The warriors of the Dead, the Tangs and the Khans ceased their fighting and stepped aside as she passed between them. They groaned in agony as the purifying flames scourged the island of them once and for all.

Aunt Ling, the Woman of Water, picked us up and carried us over the burning forest to Ayala Cove. The Spirits of the Miwok could be heard screaming as the flame twisted them from their wooden homes in houses, buildings and in trees. The detention center died. The place where so many atrocities had been committed; where so many prayers were offered up in hope of the coming of a Star Woman who would free them and make safe the world; prayers made by those with big dreams were carved into the very skin of Chief Quintin, himself, of the great Miwok Indian nation.

Malcolm Orral had survived his being hurled through the air and landing nearly a quarter of a mile out to sea. He swam back to the Ferry boat and was waiting for us when we arrived. Quickly, we pulled out of dock and headed for Tiburon. Julie came up when she felt the boat began to move. We looked back as the island burned fiercely. Smoke poured up in huge plums mixing with the already thick fog. We could see that all the island was in flame—all but one lone tree, a Black Locust, which stood on the north side very near the water and away from the rest of the trees.”

“So, who is the other survivor?” asked D. A. Schloss.

“Pardon me?” the mayor replied.

“You said Eloise or, excuse me, Pleiades said five people had survived. There is you, Julie, Annah and Malcolm. Who is the other survivor?”

“Why, I don’t know,” the mayor said, “I haven’t really thought about it.”

The smoke and fog had saturated the air all around Angel Island as the mayor and his few friends that had survived ‘The Great Tragedy Of Angel Island’ set off for Tiburon. It was little wonder then that they missed a small, yellow kayak being paddle through the choppy waters by a large framed, elderly doctor and one who many considered to be a madman.

The End


150 Comments

  1. Here’s a link to the profile that should work…

  2. Here… maybe this link will work… i havent done the website thing in a long time… just facebooking…;)

  3. Hey guys! I’m in… Feel free to “friend” me over at my facebook profile…\m/

  4. Where does one sign up for this? Excellent!

  5. David McDonald says:

    To whom it may concern: Since the story went no where here. I’m publishing my chapter (31) in a book of short stories I am near to submitting to my publisher. As Terri Castle told us all in the email describing our rights as authors-we may do with it as we wish.

  6. Um. I wanna do another one! Keep a guy in the loop!

    • William Castle says:

      Be careful what you wish for!!!

  7. Mickey Bonura says:

    When are we going to do this again? I cant wait!

    • William Castle says:

      Thinking about starting a new story soon. You in?

  8. Mickey Bonura says:

    I love the book. The best I have read in a while.

    • William Castle says:

      Thanks. Look forward to doing the next one.

  9. Way to go! Enjoying this. Curious as to where the story is heading.

    • William Castle says:

      Thanks. I’m so proud of my writers.

  10. rich orth says:

    Thanks to my good friend, Master Skeleton aka Dave Nocturne for an amazing Angel Island graphic! He never disappoints me!

    • William Castle says:

      Yes. Thank you Dave! You gave our story the finishing touch!!!

  11. Hope all enjoyed the ending. You all gave me such rich story lines to draw from, thank you. Just to let you know I had no system of putting each of you in the story. If you were killed off–so sorry–nothing personal. I just went back to the story and grabbed a male name if I needed it or a female name. The one exception was Morgan. It certainly doesn’t mean you won’t be in the next one. You’ll just be like our wonderful host Mr. William Castle. Now, that you have our Frankenstein monster, Mr. Castle, what shall you do with it?

    • William Castle says:

      I am thinking about what to do next. This is worked out wonderfully. I will be in touch.

      • William Castle says:

        Indeed. Bravo!

  12. Loving the Angel Island graphic. What a great story! Bravo everyone!

  13. ANNAH says:

    Wooooo! What an ending! Love how you included all the wonderful writers as characters. I survived and promise to tell the tale on each Halloween!! And I am so thrilled to see my crazy doctor paddling away, in his yellow kayak, in the end…fade to black. LOVE IT!!

    • William Castle says:

      You lived to tell the tale next year.

  14. Bill Bronson says:

    Well, that was wild … I’ll read again in the morning. What an amazing turn of events and all tied together. Murder and mayhem on all saints day and the story must be re-told each year or the world ends.
    All of the authors named in the last chapter another interesting touch.
    Great stuff.

    Thanks

  15. Malcolm Orrall says:

    Terrific chapter!…This opens up a whole new realm of possibilities…can’t wait to see where this leads! Great job Kathy, great job everybody…:)

    • William Castle says:

      I have no idea where David is going to take this tale. And I can’t believe we have had 31 days of deliciously sweet horror.

  16. Bill Bronson says:

    Malcom,
    I listened to “Peyote Healing” as I was reading and I truly got shivers up my spine … I thought that was just a saying.
    The effort you put into pulling all of this together is amazing, I really love the parallels between cultures you touch on, smoke, water, burial rites and so on.
    Wow!

  17. Wow! Chapter 29 was fantastic! Great work Malcolm. I love what’s happening with my character Chokeche!

  18. Malcolm, you’ve gutted me! What an unsettling and beautiful read this is!

  19. ANNAH says:

    Wow! This is too cool. Truly exciting storytelling. Bravo!!! So proud to be part of this great adventure.

    • William Castle says:

      I can’t wait until tomorrow at midnight.

  20. Larry Binder says:

    Great Chapter. The story is coming together. Can’t wait until tomorrow. What a fun concept. Next time can I write?

    • William Castle says:

      I am very excited about all of this. And I agree this chapter pulls the story together.

  21. Bruce Adams says:

    I love where this is going!

    I particularly enjoy the yin-yang and the numbers. Superstition makes for great horror! I am eager to see how everything is tied together.

    • William Castle says:

      What will happen tomorrow?

  22. Martha Lewis says:

    This story is really good. I didn’t think it was possible with so many voices but it is coming together and Chapter 29 really pulls it together.

    • William Castle says:

      I know. Talented living writers, aren’t they?

  23. Bill Bronson says:

    OMG this was an awesome chapter, “it’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine” to paraphrase REM.

    Thanks,

    • William Castle says:

      Isn’t it fantastic, Bill. And the best part is you helped set it up. Wonderful work all of you!!!

  24. Mickey Bonura says:

    I really love the story! Cant wait for more.

  25. mallory says:

    Wow Christine did a really great job

  26. Wow, how far this story has come. What an exciting month of October! I can’t wait for ending!

  27. mallory says:

    My chapter fits very well in this story

    • William Castle says:

      Thanks so much for your terrific contribution.

  28. mallory says:

    I hope everyone will enjoy chapter 26 I wrote it

    • William Castle says:

      I know everyone will love it!

  29. mallory says:

    Hey when is my chapter gonna be up

    • William Castle says:

      Tonight at midnight…(ET)

  30. Patrick Power says:

    Ah, the story takes another dramatic shift! Where to next?

    • William Castle says:

      Oh that is the question. And how will it end?

  31. I like where it’s going :) Like a do-over, but is everything reset? The bump on her head says no…

    • William Castle says:

      You are a difficult act to follow. And yes, the bump on her head says no! At least to me. I perhaps to someone else she could have gotten the bump before the story began.

  32. Very cool idea, and some amazing stories!!

    • William Castle says:

      I hope you are enjoying them. It should be fun to see who our writers tie the whole story together.

  33. christopher ford says:

    this story is so good…very good flow n great use of poems also! wanna see more

    • William Castle says:

      Thanks so much. It was great fun to write.

  34. rich orth says:

    what a great way to carry the story Bill…..it was if you had my thoughts and yours intertwined …….Wonderful writing…..

    • William Castle says:

      Great team–one alive and one dead.

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