Rosemary and the Shipwrecks

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This photograph, entitled Shipwreck - Fraser Island - Australia is by NickSS and is used according to his Creative Commons license.

We’re in Lincoln, Nebraska, now, having stopped briefly in Omaha to see Vivian’s godmother, Therese. The drive was uneventful, though it felt long and tiring. I’m grateful we decided against driving all of the way here from Kitchener, even if it was a bit more expensive.

We’ll be here until Sunday. The memorial mass is this Saturday, and I’ve just helped with the booklet. We passed the Holy Family Shrine on the way. It shone in the twilight. It’s a beautiful spot; a perfect final resting place for Wendy.

Vivian is teething. We can see two teeth coming in on the bottom, and possibly two on top. Liquid baby Tylenol helps, but Vivian’s still quite uncomfortable, and only slept through the night this past night. Poor girl. Though I must say, she’s taking it better than I thought she’d take teething. We’re still pretty tired, however.

So, until Saturday or Sunday, I leave you with another segment of Rosemary in the world of the Sirens, carrying on directly from the last installment

That woman had pulled her out of a lake. Not the same lake Peter and Rosemary had fallen into, but a lake nonetheless. And that woman had stepped back into that lake before leaving. Then there was the path the woman wanted her to take, without Peter. The direct opposite to that path was the lake.

That settled it. She had to get across that lake.

But how? A boat?

Wait a minute: what bell?

How about the boat that just passed in front of her?

Rosemary perked up and stared.

It was a three-masted schooner in full sail, growing larger as it moved along the black and blue horizon. Its tolling bell echoed across the waves and off the cliff face behind her.

Rosemary staggered to her feet. “Hey!” she croaked, waving her arms. “Over here! Help!”

The ship did not stop or alter course. It passed her, on a diagonal course, making a beeline for shore.

“What is it doing…” Rosemary began. Then, shouting, “Hey! Stop! Watch out!”

The ship buckled like a wounded animal. Wood crunched against stone. There was a snap of ropes and the plosh of objects hitting water. The masts toppled with the sound of timber, and Rosemary heard the distant screams of men.

Rosemary set off at a run. The rocky beach played tricks on her and she fell more than once, until her knees and palms were slick with blood. Finally, she clambered over a rise, using the cliff-face to hold herself up, and stopped dead.

The stone beach was wider here, with rocks poking out of the water well out into the lake. It was obvious the shipwreck was here, and that it had taken place years ago. Snapped masts at an angle; the ribcage of the stern poked toward the sky. The waves had broken through and had scattered the planks across the shore. Boxes, some made of wood and others of corrugated metal, lay among the rocks, broken open and spilling their contents. There were no bodies.

Rosemary drew her arms around herself. Her teeth chattered. She took a step, tripped, and fell on her face.

What was wrong with her? She struggled to her hands and knees, as her legs wouldn’t hold her up. Her fingers were numb. Her teeth were chattering so hard, she could hardly breathe. It was so cold.

Cold. With a gasp, Rosemary looked at her fingertips. They had gone pale.

Hypothermia. The wind was strong and bitter. Worst of all, she was soaking wet. She needed shelter, dry clothes and a heat source. Now.

The gully looked very tempting, but to go along it meant leaving Peter behind forever. Besides, she doubted she could make it back to Clarksbury before she passed out. The means to save herself had to be here.

She stumbled among the wreckage, pulling aside planks, looking into crates. She fell several times, once into a tide pool. Each time, it was harder to get up.

“P-p-please,” she gasped. “I c-c-can’t have survived that fall only to die of the c-c-cold. There has to be a way out of this!”

Her hand fell upon something soft and she pulled it out. A blanket fluttered in the wind. She wrapped herself up, but it was too little, too late. Her fingertips were blue.

She peered into box after box, casting aside food canisters, boxes of nails, more blankets. Then, as she was about to toss aside another can, she stopped and stared at it with shaking hands.

The writing was decades old, though the metal shone like new. The words made Rosemary gasp with new hope.

“S-s-st-terno!” Canned heat. She was halfway to being saved. Her eyes darted from container to container, looking for… oh, to be this close!

She let out a shuddering yell of delight and stumbled to a crate whose contents had spilled out and broken open. Thick wooden matches lay scattered about. She scooped up a dry box.

The beach had cut into the cliffs, and one could sit on stones beneath a rocky overhang, out of the wind. Rosemary ducked underneath. Using a nail, she pried open the can of Sterno and placed it on a dry stone. Her fingers could hardly hold a match, let alone strike it, but desperation drove her forward and she finally lit one. The can flared up in blue flame.

Rosemary breathed a shaky sigh of relief. She placed the flaming can just outside the overhang and started putting wood over the flames. The wood sputtered and smoked, but finally caught. The heat singed her cheeks, but she couldn’t stop shivering. Her clothes clung to her and felt like icepacks.

“I need dry clothes,” she gasped. “Or I need to dry these clothes.”

She stood up, almost bonking her head on the overhang. With no thought of modesty, she threw her windbreaker, jeans, cardigan, t-shirt, shoes, underwear and socks in a damp pile beside the fire. Soon she was wrapped in her blanket, wilting toward the heat.

As her shivering ebbed, her eyes cast along the overhang, and fell upon a place where the cliff had collapsed, crushing the stones beneath. She felt the weight of the rock above her. She bit back her claustrophobia, and spread out her clothes to dry faster.

The wind whistled over the stones. The water rumbled.

Later, dried, warm and dressed, Rosemary stepped from a broken container at the waterline, opening a keyed can of preserved meat. She wrinkled her nose, but dug in her fingers and nibbled at the pasty contents. Beside her, the bonfire waned.

That’s one crisis dealt with, she thought. Now what do I do?

Look for Peter, obviously.

How, she wondered. How do you search when you don’t even know where you are?

She looked up and down the beach again. Her eyes fell on the broken cargo containers. Curiosity twigged, she stepped forward for a better look.

Picking up a fallen plank, she stared at the letters printed across it. It read: “USS Lorilei”.

She blinked. “That was over a hundred and eighty years ago!”

This box had been the one with the food.

“Ugh!” She cast the container aside, then picked it up again and stared at it. The tin gleamed in the twilight as though it had been made months ago, not centuries. The meat did not smell appetizing, but it didn’t smell rancid, either.

Moving to another container, she shoved some broken pieces of wood aside and opened up one of the smaller boxes within. Her eyes widened. They contained nails; old iron nails of the sort made before mass production, as shiny as the day they were made.

The container next to it was made of metal, with corrugated sides that were well beyond the 19th century.

“This is a graveyard,” she muttered.

Cargo containers decades apart, smashed against the rocks, but showing no other signs of decay; food that should have been rotten but was edible (she hoped).

“We’re not in Clarksbury anymore,” she said. “I’m beginning to think we’re not on Earth.”

Then her eyes fell upon another container further out in the water. Glass was scattered over the protruding stones. They were the remains of bottles, of a sort that Rosemary had only seen in the antiques market. Some of the bottles weren’t broken.

She hopped from rock to rock, keeping an eye out for broken glass underfoot, and picked up one of the unbroken bottles. It was filled with a white liquid. “Milk? Well, here’s a test.” The lid was made of foil, and she peeled it off using her fingers and her teeth. She sniffed the contents, then took a tentative sip, then gulped it down and stared at the empty bottle. “I’m standing in the middle of the best refrigerator ever made!”

She tossed the bottle back inside the cargo container with a clink. “Neat. Now what do I do?”

Go find Peter, she thought.

“Where?” she muttered.

I don’t know, but I’ve found all I can in this spot. It’s time to go somewhere else.

“Let’s take along some supplies.”

She wrapped some matches and some cans of food and Sterno in her blanket and stuck one of the bottles of milk in her pocket. Turning to douse the bonfire, she stopped and noticed, for the first time, the thick black smoke that curled from it, up the cliff face and into the sky.

“Hmm.” She stuck out her lip. “Here I am. Come and get me.”

What an odd thought. Other than that sea-woman, I haven’t seen a living thing since I got here.

A splash brought Rosemary’s attention around.

The waves were a distant rumble overpowered by the gentle lapping against the stones nearby. The sound was small and close by, like a pebble dropped by a child.

Rosemary looked. In a still area of the cove, ripples reached out along the surface of the water. She could see nothing that could have caused them.

There was another splash, to Rosemary’s left. Another set of ripples, closer, fanning out against the shore.

Rosemary backed away.

Another splash, another ripple. This time, she caught a glimpse of a small, black shape as it slipped back into the water.

Then something flew at her.

She swung up her pack instinctively. Something bounced off it and fell with a splat onto the rocks.

Rosemary lowered her pack and stared.

The creature was an eel with legs and a tail, covered in scales that glistened with water. It had a huge unhinged jaw with many long and pointed teeth.

It rounded on her with the speed of a salamander when she dared take a closer look. It opened its jaw and let out a venomous hiss.

Rosemary scrambled back, barely taking it all in. What was this creature? Was it a fish?

There was another splash, and then another.

Rosemary had a nasty thought. Fish sometimes travel in schools.

Something leapt at her out of the murk. Rosemary screamed and swung her pack. A long-tailed shape sailed out past a far tide pool.

She only just saw the other shape out of the corner of her eye when it sank its teeth into her forearm. She cried out and swung it against a rock again and again. The creature squealed, but it did not let go, even when it stopped moving.

Other shapes leapt forward and Rosemary ran for her life. Behind her, the sound of splashes became like applause, growing to an ovation that paced her along the shoreline.

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