fell over Foulweather Island. Inky clouds swelled up over the horizon,
bringing a persistent wind. The light weakened until only the sound of the
sea and wind remained--sound punctuated by the occasional shudder of the
very rocks as a massive swell smashed against them.
Mason had not come. The windows in my cottage did not have a clear view of
the lighthouse, and when I looked out my door there was no light visible
through the tower's glass dome. If the intruder--I thought of him that
way--was inside and awake, he was as unobtrusive as I wanted him to be. I
wished only for him to finish lighting the great lens and to leave. I felt
sure John Mason would not be back while the stranger was on the island,
and the feeling made me resent the intruder even more.
gave me a sense of safety and of belonging--to the sea, the island, to the
salt air and writhing fog that blurred the distinction between ocean and
land. He brought coolness and a sweet dulling of the everyday. He made me
forget my past and my fear of migraines.
part of me understood that John Mason did not exist.
the morning's downpour lost strength I pulled my coat back on and went for
a walk, settling finally on the northwestern rocks that formed the only
slope to the surging ocean's surface. The rest of the island dropped in
jagged cliffs, unguarded by railings.
was easy to imagine things in the water. Whitecaps looked like spouting
whales. Drifting logs looked like bodies. Fishing floats looked like
drowned divers. Flotsam in a kelp bed looked like flailing people
struggling to escape their gigantic net. And always, living beside the
overwhelming sea, I half-expected something monstrous to arise dripping,
hungry for dry land.
roiling, mysterious water was making me nervous. I clambered up the
slippery rocks and when my eyes rose above the edge, there were two boots
planted level with my face.
jerked me away from the boots. At the same time, the boots jumped back. As
I scrambled, windmilling, for a grip, my head dropped back and I saw the
face above the boots. His eyes were wide and his mouth open. In the second
before I fell, he lunged at me, shouting something I could not understand.
It was the intruder.
tide seldom reached the rocks I had been sitting on, but they were washed
with centuries of spray and their black surfaces were slick with slime and
water. They were slippery, yet cruelly hard. Another second passed in slow
motion as my legs and body and arms pounded on the rocks. I didn't feel
pain. I was too busy desperately scrabbling for a handhold. My hands found
only stone--then I clamped my fingers around a stub of a coarse plant and
I hung by one hand, feet digging into a crevice.
intruder's body stretched over the edge. He grabbed at my hand, but
couldnít reach me.
on!" he shouted.
I can't let go."
held both arms to me and told me again to take his hands, and I said No,
or meant to, but no sound came out of my mouth. Then my foot lost its
tenuous hold in the rock crevice and just as the woody stem pulled loose,
the boulder under my belly started to shift.