I know I said that I would post new chapters to this story mainly on mondays, but in order to get it off the ground (and because I already have quite a few of them lined up) let’s do another one right now.
Here we go.
Oh yeah, if you haven’t read the first chapter you can find it here.
Winston was careful balancing his weight on the branch with the saw in his hand. Testing the branches he had been satisfied that at least the bottom two would be able to support him and since the fourth one from the bottom was a bit tricky to access he had climbed up to stand on the bottom one and, having carefully cut away a bunch of the smaller branches, was resting his hip against the third one, reaching out to saw off the fourth. It was farther off still than he had anticipated and even standing on the branch he had to get up on his toes and really stretch out his full length.
Placing his right hand a bit out on the branch to steady it he had the saw ready in his left to cut through it right in by the trunk, but as soon as he had transferred just a fraction of his weight to his grip in order to support his movement he heard a rumbling sound from inside the tree and immediately knew he was in trouble. Next thing he knew, the branch shattered into a cloud of dust and tiny fragments of dried bark and wet rotten wood, and with nothing to hold on to, to support his upper body, he pivoted around his hip against the third branch, like some kind of accidental gymnast, and crashed to the ground, landing flat on his back.
The wind completely knocked out of him, it was a minute before he fully realized what had happened and as he started to come to the first thing he noticed was the saw, still in a firm grip in his hand, and he was thankful he hadn’t seriously injured himself. The next thing he became aware of was an unpleasant crawling feeling making itself increasingly unbearably known along his legs and, managing to sit up and take a look, he realized to his horror that the rotten branch had been home to an army of ants that had now turned into an aggressive invading force of his nether regions. Filling his drained lungs back up again with one big gasp, he flew off the ground and had his pants off faster than ever before in his life, doing a no doubt silly dance and swinging them around like a pathetic pantomime impression of the majestic windmill standing on top of the hill behind him, proceeding thereafter to slapping his legs with them in order to fight off any remaining annoying little enemy soldiers.
When finally confident to have successfully upheld the sanctity of his bodily territory, he bended over, resting his hands on his knees, to draw his first sequence of controlled and regular breaths in what now seemed like a rather long time. He had just settled back into his normal rhythm and was about to break out laughing when he saw it. In the commotion he had forgotten all about it and the sight of it snapped him back into the apprehension of where he was and why. There, on the ground, among ants and bark and rotten wood was a note, a neatly folded piece of old brown paper.
Winston could hardly believe his eyes and would probably have rubbed them had his hands not been so dirty from his falling out of the tree. He carefully picked it up and his hands were actually shaking as he started to unfold it. It was damp and had it been left inside the branch for another decade or so it would probably have started to face the same destiny as the rotten wood it smelled like, but it held together and once unfolded the writing on it was still clear to read.
The note consisted of a body of text, written in what looked like black ink by a hand that he did not recognize to be his grandmother’s, and at the bottom were four different signatures, written in red with what he with a chill thought could in fact be blood. It said
We hereby solemnly swear,
in our heart of hearts,
to always remember but never speak of,
to the end of our lives and beyond,
what happened on Black Reef Island in the summer of 38.
Alice & Wilma
Robert & Erik
The first thing that jumped at him off the paper was the names, one of which was entirely expected while the other three were surprises that all somehow made sense, some in ways that he himself couldn’t make sense of. The one he had expected to find was Alice, the name of his grandmother’s mysterious friend and the name that had frequented her stories by far more often than any other, and Wilma, although not at all expected, he quickly identified as referring to his grandmother. Winston had always known his grandmother’s name as Mina and had it not been for the knowledge of his own name having been chosen for its matching initial letter he might not have ever known that her full name was actually Wilhelmina, but, as it was, he did know that and it wasn’t a stretch that she would instead have gone by Wilma in her youth. The two male names he had not expected to find in any shape or form but looking at them where they stood he could after all produce possible subjects for the both of them. Winston had never met his grandfather, and knew that his father hadn’t either, but the one and only thing he thought he knew about the man was that his name was supposed to have been Robert and he remembered, from a long time ago, his father a few times mentioning the existence of an uncle Erik.
Having examined the names individually the next thing that caught his attention was the ordering of them on the paper. From the placement on separate lines and the presence of the “&” symbols it seemed clear that the names had been specifically ordered in pairs with the girls’ names in one and the boys’ names in the other. Given what he thought to have figured out about the identities of the people involved he got the feeling there might be some significance to that fact that he was, as of yet, entirely unaware of, and it sparked his interest.