Chapter 24: The island
The young woman stepped carefully off the hydrofoil craft which rose and dipped and swayed against the mooring. The dock felt solid under her feet and she was thankful for that. The lanterns made yellow cones of light in the heavy darkness settled over the curling wooden plank boards between where she stood and the lights of the village square. She squared her shoulders between the straps of her backpack, picked up her duffle bag, and started walking quickly steadily toward the lights of the square, to fend off the leering shadows that would grab anyone walking without a purpose and pull her into the night, never to be seen again in the light of day. She reached the cobbled pavement of the square and passed the old fountain in the middle, walking purposefully toward a brightly lit public house. As she approached the clatter of dishes and the noise of talking and laughter reached her ears and crescendoed, but when she entered the open doorway the noise and clatter died down to an expectant silence. She scanned their empty faces until she saw the old woman drying drinking glasses behind a long counter. The young woman walked between the tables over to the counter and laid her duffle bag on the floor beside her feet. She pressed two hands together next to her face and tilted her head slightly. The old woman nodded her head and smiled toothlessly. The young woman raised five fingers of her hand and the old woman brought out a pad of paper from behind the counter and wrote a number on the blank page. The people sitting at the tables nearby strained to hear the young woman’s voice for a familiar or foreign word or accent, but there was nothing to hear since she did not speak their language and the old woman only knew the local tongue. The young woman nodded her head, took out a wad of local currency, and counted out the faded paper onto the counter. The old lady swept up the paper with a heavy hand and reached under the counter, slapping a thick key on the countertop. The young woman nodded again, put the key in her pocket, picked up her duffel bag, and walked to the staircase by the far wall. After she reached the top step the noise and clatter resumed. She found her room without much difficulty, opened the door with her key, and turned on the light. She closed the door behind her, locking it with her key, and tossed the duffle bag onto the only chair in the small room. She opened the window looking down at the fountain in the square. A cool breeze moistened by the saltwater rippled the gauze curtains and lingered on her skin. Ellen turned off the light, lay down on the bed, still in the clothes she had worn that day, and fell into a deep sleep.
Chapter 25: Morning
The dream had begun to evaporate from the crevices of his brain. He became vaguely conscious of the lightening violet of the inside of his eyelids. He opened one of his eyes directly into the full volume of the sunlight flooding through the gap in the tree line and squinted. His head ached terribly as though some angry god had thrown a house at him. He stood up on wobbly legs and steadied himself against the back of the couch. He scanned the room in the morning light. His eyes settled on a cupboard next to a kind of stove in what must have been a kitchen of sorts. That’s where I would put the coffee, he thought to himself. He walked over to the cupboard, opened the door, and looked from the bottom shelf to the top one and back down until he saw it. He lifted the heavy paper bag to his nose and inhaled the rich deep odor of coffee beans. There were cuneiform markings on the paper bag, but he could not make any sense of them. He rummaged through the cupboard until he found a brown stained iron grinder and cupped a handful of coffee beans into the grinder, turning the handle around and around. The smell of ground coffee beans rose to his nostrils as the coarse grounds fell out of the grinder into his cupped hand. He dumped the coffee grounds into a dented metal pot. He took the pot outside behind the cabin and with one hand raised and lowered the water pump handle and with the other hand held the pot under the gushing water. He returned to the kitchen, lit a fire in the stove, and put the pot on the fire. While waiting for the water and coffee grounds to boil, he went back to the cupboard and found an egg. He cracked the egg shell over the pot, so the thick raw contents slid into the boiling water, immediately congealing into a white and yellow disk. He took the pot off the fire and found a ceramic cup. He poured the scalding rich brown liquid into the cup while the grounds stayed behind the egg. He drank the bitter-rich coffee, hoping the pain in his head would diminish somewhat.
He walked around the cabin with his cup of coffee, surveying the rooms. He saw a low cot with a blanket and pillow, a cabinet with a wide bowl, and a broken mirror hanging from a wall just over the wide bowl. He looked at himself in the mirror, but the man who peered back at him from the other side of the glass was most definitely not himself.