First Night: The Conflict Between Hope and Cynicism
Story by Dr. Lee Brazil
Foreword and Epilogue by:
Written by Ron Breazeale, Ph.D.
All Rights Reserved
ST. GEORGES, BERMUDA
December 22, 2019, 8:35 A.M.
Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing can be made
~ Immanuel Kant
The cave was cold, and the air was damp and smelled of the ocean. The narrow trail opened into a large room. As Lee’s eyes adapted to the dark, it was clear the ceiling of the cave was eighty to ninety feet from the rock-strewn floor. The large room opened onto the ocean on its north side. At high tide, Lee imagined that entrance from the sea would not be possible, even in a small boat.
“This way,” yelled David, over the roar of the water. “Here’s a torch.” He handed Lee a small flashlight. The two walked into the dark. In back of the cave, there was an old boathouse, a very old boathouse that Lee imagined had seen many a storm.
David unlocked the padlock and pulled the chain away.
“Come help me with our transportation. Here, hold the torch while I open the doors. We’ll slide her out and run her down the traces to the water.”
The doors swung open and the light revealed a Boston Whaler.
“How old is the boathouse?” asked Lee.
“Well, it’s younger than I am. I built it the first year I was on the island,” commented David.
“It’s got to be older than twenty or thirty years.”
“Oh, it is. Here.” He handed Lee the light. “There is something else I want you to see.”
David walked to the back of the boathouse. He unlocked another set of double-doors.
“Hand me the torch.” He moved the light across the bow of a wooden boat much older than the Whaler. Covered in dust, sand and cobwebs that appeared to have not seen the sea for many years.
“This was my transportation to the island.” David waited.
Lee said nothing.
“A lifeboat,” said David.
“I don’t know very much about these things, but it looks like a very old one.”
“Yes, and a very special one.” David’s light fell on the words Carol A. Deering.
Lee squinted. He moved closer. He mouthed the words Carol A. Deering again.
“No. No, I don’t think so.”
“You know the story, don’t you? I would assume many people in Maine do. She was built in Bath. Built for the Deering Company of Portland, Maine.”
“Yes,” Lee added, “in the 1920s.”
David nodded and continued. “She was a fine schooner. She was returning from Rio in January of 1921, sailing light, no cargo, bound for Norfolk, Virginia. We had last made port in Barbados.”
“Storytellers call her a ghost ship,” said Lee.
“Oh, I know the story,” said Lee. “The Coast Guard found her grounded in Cape Hatteras in early February. The crew wasn’t aboard. She had been abandoned and the captain’s log and all her papers and instruments had been taken.” David nodded again.
“Most ships run aground when they have no direction and no crew,” said Lee.
“That is correct,” said David. “A ship is like a person. If they have no direction, they will be lost.”
“They never found the crew or the lifeboats?” Lee asked.
“No, they never did, and no wreckage ever washed ashore,” added David.
Lee looked at David again.
“You may not know, Dr. Brazil, but most of the crew consisted of Danes and Finns and . . .”
Lee cut him off. “I know, one black man.” Lee closed his eyes. “And I suppose you’re that man.” David nodded again.
“So that makes you a hundred and twenty years old.”
“Uh…a hundred and twenty-two, to be exact,” said David.
Lee turned around to face David. His face was bright red.
“Enough,” said Lee, with force. “I can take a joke. I can deal with a smartass computer that does tricks, but you don’t look…” “My age,” said David.
Lee took a breath. He had moved closer to the boat. He rubbed at the paint.
“Gently. She’s an old girl. And as you can see, the paint isn’t fresh. Do you want to hear the story of the Carol A. Deering that you don’t know?”
“Yes, I suppose I do.”
David pointed to an equipment bench. The two sat down. “We have time now. Edward tells me another fogbank is rolling in, so we should be fine.”
David began. “The Carol Deering sailed light from Barbados on January the 9th, 1921. The weather was good, the wind strong. The days passed quickly and were uneventful. We sailed easily by the Cape Fear light ship off the coast of North Carolina on the 23rd. What happened next I will try to describe.”
“I’m sure it will be hard, since you couldn’t possibly have been there,” said Lee with a smirk.
“Dr. Brazil, you said you would hear me out.”
Lee nodded, “Yes, I did. And I will. Continue.”
“It was on the evening of the 24th, most members of the crew were in the main cabin. They had just sat down for dinner. I was standing watch with the first mate. Captain Wormell was in his cabin. It was just after sunset. The sky was clear. The last light of the day disappearing in the West. The wind, which had been strong, suddenly died away. The water became still and calm, and we slowed to a stop. There was a quiet that came over the ship and the sea. And then we saw it. Off starboard. A bright, metallic blue light. It became brighter and larger as it approached.” Lee crossed his arms and sighed.
“Something few know is that there was a passenger aboard The Carol Deering, a young priest, Father Michael Lawrence.”
“Yes.” Lee looked stunned, remembering his dream.
“He was bound for Portland, Maine. What he was doing in Barbados. I don’t know. I believe he had some connection to the captain, Captain Wormell.” David paused, “What kind of connection, I never learned. He was on deck when the light appeared. He seemed to be waiting for it.” It had been hard, but David had gotten Lee’s complete attention. What had happened in Winterpool just a couple of weeks before. His missing patient, the fire, the strange circular patterns in the grass, the melted car, and his obsessive dreams about the ships. But there was more. Lee was remembering a time when he was sixteen. Out with friends camping, a light had approached the campsite. When Lee and his friends attempted to approach the light, it had quickly moved away. Over the next week, the light appeared a number of times. Just after sunset and just out of reach, and moved away quickly when approached. It appeared for seven nights. On the seventh night, it disappeared and did not return,
“Are you listening, Dr. Brazil?”
David continued, “We watched the light without speaking. There seemed to be no reason to speak. I sensed that we were not alone in the wheelhouse. I turned, and a young man who I had never seen before, was standing behind us. He was blond, dressed as a seaman, but he was not a member of our crew. Without words, he asked us to follow him. To abandon the bridge. We complied.”
Lee was now mesmerized by the story. The young seaman in his dream with the bright green eyes.
“The crew had left the main cabin and were on deck, beginning to lower the ship’s lifeboats. Captain Wormell was loading his charts and instruments and the ship’s log into a lifeboat. The young man again, without words, asked for our first mate to assist him. He complied.”
Lee interrupted, “What do you mean, without words? Why are you telling me all of this?”
“You will understand later. I can’t explain now.” David continued, “We knew what he was asking and we knew we should follow his direction.”
“Jeez Louise,” mumbled Lee, looking away.
“Father Michael was still standing near the bow, staring at the light. The light had not moved. The young man asked me to follow him. He took Father Michael by the arm and led him to a lifeboat. We were the only ones left on the schooner. He handed Father Michael a small gold cross,” he gestured, “with seven green stones embedded in it. And he ‘told’ me to lower the boat into the water and join Father Michael. I did.”
Lee said nothing.
David continued, “The lifeboats all were now away. Suddenly, a heavy fog rolled in from the west and then from the east.” David again motioned with his hands, “One by one, the lifeboats were swallowed up by the fog. The young man was still standing on deck watching our departure as the fog rolled over The Carol Deering. Not a word had been spoken by him or any of our crew.”
Lee shook his head in disbelief, but there was no eye rolling. This was Lee’s dream.
“I could see nothing in the fog but the cross. The stones gave off a strange greenish light. It seemed to be directing the boat through the fog. I lit a lantern. There was a compass in the lifeboat, but it was of no value to us. Its needle just spun wildly. Father Michael and I took turns rowing.” He paused, “But our efforts were not what propelled us across the water. When daybreak came, we were just a few hundred yards from here.” David shook his head and looked away. “How we had crossed so many miles of ocean in just a few hours, I do not know.”
“What happened to the crew?” questioned Lee.
“I do not know.” David shook his head again. “I was told they were safe and that no harm came to them.”
“The Carol Deering was not grounded until early February. It was sighted two more times off the Carolina coast in late January,” Lee stated, “Yes, I know.” David hesitated, “I have no idea what use they had for the ship or why they wanted the crew to abandon her.” David paused appearing unsure of his next words. “They have never told me.”
“They? Who are they?” Lee’s anger flashed.
“Someone who you will meet later this morning may have more answers than I do. I don’t know who they are. I did not encounter them again until after the war, World War II. Father Allen told me they returned because of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.” David waited. “Apparently, our first steps into space were also alarming to them. And now they have returned again out of concern.”
“Out of concern.” Lee repeated, “Why now?”
“I’ll let Father Allen explain. It was to Father Allen’s church, an Episcopal Church, old St. Paul’s, is where the cross led us that morning. The church helped me find work in Bermuda, and I helped Father Michael get to Maine. I married. My wife and I had two children.” David sighed, “I have outlived all three of them. Life extension was their gift to me, and the cross was their gift to Father Michael.”
“Wait a minute. So this young man you mentioned, the one without words, was Edward?” asked Lee.
“Yes . . . it was many years before I encountered him again. It was in the early Sixties.” David again appeared unsure of his words. “Edward — I know it may sound strange — needed my assistance with another ship, The Enchantress, a yacht also built in Bath, Maine, in the mid-1920s. A beautiful ship. Fifty-nine feet. Teak decks, mahogany trim. She fell on hard times and was bought by a millionaire at auction in the Fifties and refitted.” David began walking toward the bow of the whaler. Lee followed.
“On her maiden voyage, she ran into a gale off Florida. The Coast Guard could not reach the family, a father and mother and two young boys and the small crew in time. But they were saved.”
Lee was remembering the dream he had in London a few days earlier.
“The official report was that the ship and the crew and family were lost.”
“No, they weren’t lost. They are safe!”
Lee said nothing. There was a pause in the conversation. Finally, Lee spoke, “Why did Edward the genius computer need your assistance?” His skepticism was back.
“I helped him disassemble the ship. My father was a shipbuilder. I had learned the trade before going to sea. I actually knew a few things that Edward didn’t know. My last encounter with Edward is the present one. You will talk more with Father Allen. He may answer your questions.” David motioned to Lee, “Come help me get the boat into the water. We must go now.”
When they were at the water, David helped Lee into the boat and started the small outboard motor. The boat slipped out into the fog in the direction of the Village of St. Georges.