Eye on the Sky
by Mary Haynes
The turtle came by our boat again today, poking his big head up, observing me with wise but sad eyes. I wish I could comprehend his need to communicate with me. Perhaps he saw what happened, why Peter disappeared in the wee hours in the skiff, taking only his sextant.
The reality that Peter wasn't coming back was sinking in. No amount of staring out on the horizon or peering through the binoculars at the rugged shoreline was going to fix this. The Royal Bahamian Defence force said there was no sign of the skiff reported. They said they would update me if there was any news. Officer Saunders added that it was doubtful they would find Peter, given that it was two weeks ago now. At best, he's fine and doesn't want to be seen; at worst, he's no longer alive.
I checked the supplies, the water maker was working fine, thankfully. I still had plenty of various canned items, powdered eggs, butter, and cheese so I wouldn't starve. The rum situation was looking a little precarious. Our usual rum punch cocktail hour had been replaced by my solo attempt to numb my mind and fall asleep. Well, I can't be a proper "pirate lady" without rum, so a plan was needed.
'I wonder if Amazon delivers to a boat on anchor in an empty anchorage,' I mused. Since the answer was obviously no, I got on the VHF radio and hailed for boats in the area. SV Stargazer answered the call. I explained my situation that I was left without a tender, and I had to get to shore to find a new skiff or dingy. They replied they were anchored not too far and would sail over tomorrow to offer aid. I relaxed a little and poured myself a stiff rum punch. Peter's preference for finding quiet out of the way anchorages was romantic before he disappeared. Now it was just maddeningly inconvenient.
I fingered the hag stone on the chain around my neck. I remembered the day Peter found it on the beach. He was so excited when he presented me with it as if it was a precious diamond ring. Peter told me that it would always protect me and bring me luck. He passionately recited the history about them. They were also called witch stones, adder stones, hex stones, and fairy stones. The running water eroded a natural hole, and the stone retained the water's influence. Peter was convinced that it connected us to the fairy world and its protections. He said that people believed if you peer through the hole in the stone, you can connect to the world of the Fae. Since this was found at sea, it would connect to the "Merpeople." Hopefully, the one he wore protected him during his strange disappearance. I downed my drink and headed for the v-berth to try and sleep.
Kim and Dan, from SV Stargazer, arrived the next day, launched their dingy, and dragged a bright green double kayak behind them. They climbed aboard and presented me with a big crock of rum.
I laughed so hard that I started crying. "You are truly my heroes! Rum, and a way to get to shore." I managed to get out through my sobs.
Kim hugged me and said, "No worries, Kate, we never use the kayak, we've become too lazy, so it's all yours. And the rum? Well, after hearing a bit of your story, we figured you'd need it. Trying to buy a dingy and a motor in these out islands is tough! This will do until you decide to move on."
Dan grinned and handed me a big bag of fresh fruit and veggies. "We figured you might also need these by now as well."
Dan opened a beer and passed one to Kim and me. They listened as I explained waking up two weeks ago and finding Peter and the skiff missing. His phone and wallet were on the table. Sometime later, I realized the sextant was missing. "It was his prize possession, I explained. It was his grandfather's, and he spent hours learning how to use it. I often found him up late at night making notes as he measured celestial bodies and their position to the horizon. He was troubled if he couldn't identify a star. He would ask me, what if it's an undiscovered planet? What if it's a vessel from deep space exploring earth?"
Dan looked puzzled. "Sounds like a bit of an obsession to me. One came with our boat, but I've never used it. Paper charts and the plot charter work great. And as Kim said, we're lazy sailors."
Kim asked if I wanted to join them for dinner; I decided that getting off the boat and not obsessing about Peter's disappearance would be a good thing. Dinner was freshly caught Mahi from the local fishermen, yellow rice, accompanied by a salad.
It had been a long time since I had a fresh meal and longer still since I had a conversation with anyone but Peter. Dan ferried me back to my boat after dinner. He reminded me that they would only be staying a couple days because they had to make some distance before the next storm front rolled in. We planned to go to shore in their dingy so I could load up on supplies the next day. I immediately crawled into the v-berth and slept until I saw the morning light shine through the porthole.
I cried as I watched SV Stargazer pull up anchor and sail away a few days later. They assured me that they would always answer my call, and we promised to get together when I made it back to Florida.
Not long after they left, the weather front they were avoiding roared in. The anchorage was a reasonably safe spot with good holding, but the boat rocked so much I thought the mast was going to dip in the water. I realized that this was the first storm I'd ever been in without Peter. I eyed the bottle of rum, but I decided against it. If the anchor dragged, I would have no choice but to tether myself in the cockpit, start the engine and find a safe spot to re-anchor. It was an uncomfortable night, but the winds were manageable by daybreak, and the anchor held fast. I poured myself a shot of rum, tossed it back, and threw myself in bed.
When I woke up, I had my coffee in the captain's chair. I swiveled it around to face the outcrop of rocks next to the sandy beach. I sipped my coffee and absentmindedly played with the hag stone on my necklace. I held it up to my eye and peered through it. Something shone brightly just beyond the rocky shore. I heard Peter's voice in my head. "Kate, people believe if you look through the hole in a fairy stone, it connects you with the Fae world!" I couldn't ignore the sign, even if it turned out to be a discarded scrap of foil.
I launched the kayak, pleased that I still had my skills from years at summer camp and dates when I first met Peter. There was a whoosh in the water, and the sea turtle surfaced right beside me. He swam beside me for a while and disappeared under the water.
As I approached the sandy beach, I saw the turtle surface again, just offshore.
I beached the kayak and climbed out, securing it to a scraggly tree growing between two rocks. I walked into the scruff just beyond the beach, and I saw a flash again. I made my way over the rocky terrain and into the dense brush. My bare legs were scraped from contact with the bushes. I noticed a tall brasiletto tree and hiked toward it.
I was stunned to see Peter sitting under the tree, holding his sextant, and mumbling to himself. He was thin, and his eyes were wild. I slowly walked over and sat down beside him. He looked at me and said, "Oh, hi, Kate. Did you see the star and follow it too?"
I couldn't help it. I held Peter's face in my hand and yelled, "Peter, what the hell? You've been gone for over two weeks. You left me alone on our boat and took our only means of getting to shore. What is wrong with you?"
He blinked and started to cry, "You don't understand. I'm sure a spaceship landed here; it was communicating to me through the sextant. I know I'm close to finding them. All my life, I knew they were out there, and I'm finally going to find them.”
This was serious. I don't know what happened, but my husband was broken. I had to reach him somehow. I held him tightly and rocked, tears running down my face onto his bare chest. He brushed them away and kissed me.
"Walk with me, Peter, I said. I need you to see something important." He followed me on the path back to the shore. I asked him about the skiff.
"It floated off. I didn't secure it. I was following the longitude and latitude to the spot where I was getting the signal. It was so clear that I needed to be here when they came."
My stress and worry level were maxed out. I wanted to scream again; I wanted to smack him. I had so many questions. Peter was always quirky; how had I missed that he was fading into delusion? What did he eat and drink to survive this long? Had he stayed in the spot under the tree since he got here? I shook it off. I told myself to be steady, to be calm and loving.
We came out of the scruff and stood on the beach. Peter looked terrified as if the open water was a threat. He turned and looked ready to bolt back into the bush. I grabbed his hand and held it tight. "Peter, look at me. I need you to do something for me. I need you to take the hag stone that's on the chain around your neck, and I want you to put it up to your eye and look toward the horizon."
Peter looked at me and smiled. "The fairy stone, he said. The eye to the Fae world!"
"Yes, I said, that's right. I need you to face this direction and look through the stone."
Peter held the stone to his eye and squinted. He looked surprised, then he smiled. "There's a sailboat gleaming on the horizon. It's beautiful!"
"It's our sailboat, Peter; it's our home. You can see it through the fairy stone, so you know it's where you need to be!"
He nodded, and I led him to the kayak.
"Remember when we first met, and we would kayak every weekend. I'm so happy we can do that again. Let's go home, Peter.”
We were partway to the boat, and the sea turtle surfaced and splashed water on Peter. He laughed and said, "I think this guy is trying to tell me something."
I smiled and said, "Peter, you have no idea what this turtle knows!"
About the author
Mary Haynes splits her time between a romantic old sailboat in tropical waters and a beach home in Ontario. A wanderer, by fate, she embraces wherever she roams! Mary recently completed her first children’s book, “Who Ate My Peppers?”