∴ A Wicked Tide ∴
It is the owl that first alerts you. Not the rounded, woodwind hoot of the copper-feathered birds who nest in the foothills, but the brighter screech of something that does not belong on the island. Not an owl then, but a human call. A secret signal in the dark.
Nervous now, you edge to the bow of your beached fishing boat and grope for your machete. You remember your brother’s tales of smugglers in this cove, their craft lightless and silent, carried by a phantom tide. Knife in hand you pull yourself to your knees and stare out to sea for a sign of the ghost ship, but the moonless night gives nothing away.
A sudden rush of foliage snaps your attention to the swampland at your back. A raw yet rhythmic slashing as green wood meets metal, and the crackle of crushed mangrove roots. Heart pounding, you dart toward the pile of nets beside the boat, hoping to conceal yourself. Your passage is blocked by the shock of cold steel skimming the skin of your throat. A scream lingers beneath the blade – you open your mouth, but no sound escapes.
“Quiet now lad,” sounds a wicked hiss in the darkness. The shutters of a lantern slide open, bathing the blade in sudden candlelight. Wide and pleading, your eyes follow the curve of single-edged steel, past the flash of copper at the guard and the spiralled leather of the grip, to the grinning face behind it.
Your fear finds its release, not in a scream but two whispered syllables: