Ben stood watching, spellbound. Something appeared on the windward side of the island. It didn’t appear to be a boat but a disturbance in the air just above the waves. It was ovoid and moving rapidly and seemed to be out of focus. Ben blinked a couple of times and then looked again to make sure it wasn’t some kind of floater in his eye. It was real. The disturbance passed in front of the island and grew larger as if it were approaching shore. Whatever it was, it was now transparent enough that Ben could see features of the island through it, but they were distorted as if he were looking through flowing water. The object, about the size of his minivan, suddenly lifted out of the sea and hovered just above the sandy beach. It was now transparent as glass! It would be totally invisible, except that the boundaries of the object were defined by the incoming waves that crashed into it and by the blowing gusts of spray that were diverted over it.
Then suddenly Ben thought of Kiri. She doesn’t realize the danger. She seemed frozen in her tracks. Ben got up to run toward her but he was too late. Instead of running from it Kiri walked calmly toward it as if it were the most normal thing. Then she was enveloped by it and disappeared.
He watched and waited. Ten minutes later the object, whatever it was, was still there. Then as easily as she entered Kiri emerged and the object quickly retreated out to sea.
This was something I was not meant to see, Ben thought. And this was something he surely did not want to believe. Kiri must not suspect he was spying on her. He had no idea how she would react. Ben made his way quickly back to the van in the dark, shaken. He turned on the CD again, as if he had never left, and waited. After a few more minutes he could see Kiri’s flashlight on the path.
“Hi,” she said as she opened the door. She acted as if nothing unusual had taken place. “I’m so glad you could bring me here. Something bad happened to my friend.”
Ben turned off the CD. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Is there anything I can do? Boy, I’m sure glad you’re back. I was getting worried. ”
She hadn’t fully latched the door and the light was still on in the van. She looked at Ben and could sense something was wrong. He was perspiring heavily, even though it was cool in the van.”
“What’s wrong?” she asked. “You look sick.”
“I’m not feeling too well. I think I’ve got a fever.”
She looked at him again. She said calmly, “You followed me, didn’t you?”
“No… No. I was just listening to music while you were gone.”
She looked him in the eye. He looked away.
“It’s all right, Ben. I half expected you to — trying to protect me.”
After a pause he looked up at her. “You’re really from away, aren’t you?”
“Yes. I am. I’m actually glad that you did follow me. We’ve wanted to trust you – to help you understand, but it’s so dangerous for us here. If anyone found out … Now we have no choice but to confide in you and hope that you’ll tell no one about what you’ve seen.”
Ben was quiet for a second, looking into her beautiful dark eyes. “I never would,” he said. “not even Jonathan – especially Jonathan.”
“Ben, now there’s someone you must meet so we can explain why we’re here and why we contacted you. He’s what you would call a recluse, but he’s very intelligent and very sweet. His name is Ding Xi. He speaks English much better than I do and can explain many things that you’re probably wondering about. Can you meet me at the café tomorrow as we arranged? We can talk for a while and then we can go to meet him. Is that OK?”
“Bring boots,” she said. “It’s pretty wet where Ding Xi lives. If we go there at low tide, about 10:30, we can take a shortcut to his house.”
They rode back into town in silence. Both were lost in thought. Kiri asked Ben to drop her off at her apartment near the café.
“See you in the morning,” she said.
“Yep, see you.”
Ben was strongly attracted to Kiri, in just the short time he had known her. He hoped she felt toward him the same way. He didn’t fully grasp what he had seen on the beach, but he would protect her secret at all costs.
When Ben entered the house Snooter didn’t meet him at the door, which was unusual. He looked around but could see her nowhere. “Greta … Greta!” he called. A few seconds later a suspicious noise came from the mudroom. If I’m not mistaken, he thought, that sounds like a large dog struggling through a small cat door.
Sure enough, in a few moments Snooter innocently appeared. Although she hadn’t noticed, her nose was all white. Ben suspected the interaction of super-clumping cat litter with a moist nose.
“Greta,” Ben said. “Been rooting for cat munchies*, I see.” She looked away.
“It’s OK, girl.” He knew she was very lonely when he was gone and couldn’t resist the temptation.
* cat munchies (I don’t think you want to know.)
(to be continued)
© 2012 Eric Lord Bandurski
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