Published on January 10th, 2016 | by Keith McClellan0
In Deep Water – A Caribbean Ghost Story by Barbara K Harris
It was dusk. The Caribbean full moon silvered an eerie pathway across the water.
In a slender dory hitched to a pole 200 yards from the caye two boys sat fishing.
The Carib boy, Ceesto, was apprehensive.
“Let’s go. Fish no’ bite”
“Not yet” his fair-haired companion said. “Wha’ happen, Ceesto, you ‘fraid a duppy?”
“Fish no’ bite” Ceesto ignored Max’s teasing, scanning the water anxiously. Not a nibble, sure sign of big fish around even danger. He was uncomfortably suspicious that Max had broken the strict rule that somebody must always know where they were. especially if they were out in a boat. Dare-devil Max was always up to something. Ceesto sighed, but heeHeH was devoted to Max and wherever Max went, he went.
The breeze blew softly, the water gleamed inscrutably, the sky was pinpointed with stars.
“Ceesto!”” Max hissed suddenly….”Look!”
Ceesto’s scalp tingled at the creepy tone of the other boy’s voice.
“What you see?” His throat felt tight.
Max was leaning forward, his body taut, both hands grasping the rim of the dory.
“There!”……over by the cemetery…….see?” Max turned, face pale, hair silver in the moonlight. For a moment Ceesto took courage from the familiar laughing eyes, narrowed now with excitement. He forced himself to look. There was something – something grey – over by the island cemetery. He went cold all over. So that was what Max was after! They were on a ghost hunt! No wonder he wouldn’t say why they were going fishing after dark! They’d both heard about the Lady in White. It was said that her husband had disappeared night-fishing at full-moon, his boat found drifting capsized. His wife had died soon after. The story was that every full-moon her ghost arose to wait for him – and there she was, wavering translucently against the dark graveyard pallid tombstones gleaming like ghostly figures adding to the macabre effect. Ceesto was thankful they were safely out at sea.
“Let’s go!” Max reached for his paddle.
“Go in? You crazy?” Ceesto’s skin prickled. His mouth felt dry.
“No such thing as duppy” Max muttered, trying to convince himself, never mind Ceesto.
“There’s got to be an explanation and we’re going to find it. Loose the painter Ceesto”.
Ceesto’s heart was hammering. Max leaned forward, eyes on the apparition. Reaching reluctantly for the rope, Ceesto glanced down and his stomach gave a sickening lurch. He uttered a queer strangled sound. Max swung round. This time it was Max who froze, Max who was aware of icy fingers playing a tattoo down his spine.
Less than six feet below the dory was a vast, dusky grey, eerily luminous shape – a huge shark! The boys sat suspended in fear, conscious only of the need to keep absolutely still and quiet. The shark lay directly beneath them. So close was it that they could see the barnacles on its back. No wonder the fish had made themselves scarce. Too old to move fast its best hope was sleepy shoals of small snappers. One nudge from its vast bulk and the dory would be over. Max swallowed hard.
“Nobody knows where we are!” flashed belatedly into his mind.
Then he noticed Ceesto’s hand moving almost imperceptibly towards his belt. With a slow, trancelike movement he pulled out his fishing knife and cut through the fraying rop.. Scarcely daring to breathe Max watched. One by one the strands of fell away until the last one parted and they were loose. Slowly, the dory drifted shorewards, distancing them inch by inch from the predatory horror. When at last they reached shallow water the boys swung round to face each other, sweat glistening on their foreheads.
“That was a close one!” Max grinned. He was himself again. Ceesto said nothing. His heart was still jittering but he wasn’t going to let on to Max – no sir! In spite of Max frightening him nearly out of his skin with that White Lady he’d managed to keep his head. Thank goodness his knife had been razor-sharp.
What a night. Now that they were safe they looked towards the cemetery. The White Lady had vanished. There was nothing there except the gently-stirring fronds of a young coconut three. The White Lady had been nothing but a trick of the moonlight.
“So much for duppy!” Max, glancing over his shoulder, realised that Ceesto was staring at him very oddly. All Max could see were the whites of his eyes.
“You all right Ceesto?” he asked, genuinely concerned. But Ceesto, it seemed was not thinking about the White Lady..
“You see the size of that shark? You see the barnacles on its back? You know ‘bout Sapodilla Tom?”
Max stared back, his attention riveted. Sapodilla Tom! The legendary whale-shark! The fishermen all had stories about him. But he hadn’t been seen for ages………
Everyone thought he was dead.
Max exploded with excitement.
“Ceesto! You’re right! That’s exactly what it was! And that was no ghost!”
*duppy = ghost