Teller’s Cove

by R.W. Van Sant

Chapter 26

Chapter 26

That evening the brothers laid all their equipment out on the living room floor and prepped. They inspected and cleaned each piece. Everything was ready. Ted brought out a box of shotgun shells and some nail polish.

“Three rounds each should be more than enough.” Ted opened the little bottle and brushed the fire engine red goop onto the bottom of the twelve-gauge shell.

“Okay,” Three was as good a number as any. Jerry doubted he could reload a shark stick under water in any case. Once they were out of the water, they would not need them again, except for trashing punching bags.  Ted finished coating six shells, setting each one on the table to dry. “I gotta go into town and make some final preparations. Do you need anything?”

“How about some more beer?” Jerry reached into his wallet and pulled out a twenty-dollar bill.

“Sounds good to me.” Ted took the money. “I’ll get something good. Be back soon.”

Jerry listened as the truck growled to life and the crunch of the gravel as it made its way down the driveway. Jerry did not like waiting; it made him antsy. He sat on the couch with the logbook again and began to read.

April 23 rd, 1877

Matthew Teller, Captain

Uncharted Island

The child was located. He fell into a sinkhole while looking for firewood. He was scared but otherwise unharmed. They were able to retrieve him with the use of climbing ropes and a pulley. Inside the hole, however, the search party discovered something incredible. A chamber carved out of the rock, older than recorded history. Hidden inside was some kind of pagan shrine. Mr. Carlo, our first officer, said it was older than even the Egyptian or Babylonian finds. However, he could not identify the culture. In this part of the world, it could be Asian or even Polynesian. In any case, it is a great discovery and merited that I look at it myself.

The whole cavern carved out of the rock. Whatever tools the builders used cannot be determined, as all marks have long since worn away. The walls are now completely smooth. The strange markings that cover them remain perfectly preserved, as if newly chiseled. I am at a loss for how such a phenomenon can occur. Mr. Carlow is a learned man, and I have seen many cultures on this world, but the markings, dear god, they are unlike anything either Mr. Carlow or I have ever seen.

At the end of the small cavern sat a giant grotesque statue, some ape person standing erect with an almost intelligent look upon its distorted face, most likely a shrine to a long forgotten god. The craftsmanship was almost eerie. I’ve seen some of the old Greek and Roman statues. None was as beautiful as the one in the cave. It was of a polished black marble. I couldn’t detect a single chisel mark. At its base is a large leaden box. The seam on the lid is barely perceptible. I find it hard to believe that this is the work of primitives.

Mr. Carlow has requested permission to study the site. I assented and have reassigned his duties. He headed back to the cave with two of the crew, lamps, and instruments. I sacrificed the new logbook that I had intended to replace this one once full.  To conserve parchment supplies, entries will be less frequent until I can reach port, but I feel this is a find of great importance.

April 24th, 1877

Matthew Teller, Captain

Uncharted Island

Mr. Carlow has been sketching the symbols and markings in precise detail in an attempt to decipher them, as he believes they are a language. His skill at reproducing the strange marks leave me to wonder if he hadn’t chosen the wrong career. He is a skilled artist. The book also contains the drawings of the animals he discovered on the island. He claims to have found over twenty new species.

The first mate’s excitement is contagious; he at first believed the box to be a sarcophagus. We thought to find the remains of a king when it was opened. It turned out to be something even more incredible, and I hesitate even to write it down lest someone at a later date read this account and think me mad, or exaggerating. Inside on a bed of soft earth rested a gem, a diamond the size of a cannonball. I have studied it extensively and can detect not the slightest flaw. It is quite simply priceless; kingdoms have been traded for lesser baubles. Although I have tried to keep its existence secret, Chinese immigrants were helping to open the box, and word has spread all across the ship.

We have a timetable to keep and cargo to deliver. We can spend no more time on this strange paradise. The ship is re-supplied, and the passengers are once again settled. The entrance of the cave has been marked with one of the ship’s signal flags. Mr. Carlow and I are already planning a return trip, a full expedition, as soon as we can mount one.  With this diamond as evidence, it wouldn’t be difficult to find backers.

The Sunshine will leave the Island with the morning tide.

May 3rd, 1877

Matthew Teller, Captain

Pacific Ocean

As if to apologize for such inconsiderate treatment, the weather has remained clear for several days. Cloud cover in early evening is light, barely obscuring the full moon, but getting denser. The passengers are growing unhappy with weather change, and see it as a bad omen. I grow weary of this superstitious rot. I will be glad to be rid of passengers.

May 4th, 1877

Matthew Teller, Captain

Pacific Ocean

The storm that struck late last night subsided with morning. Sky, however, is still overcast and dark. One of the Chinamen is a talented jeweler. He has agreed to repair the compass in exchange for a reduction of fare.

May 15th, 1877

Matthew Teller, Captain

Pacific Ocean

With the compass in back in working order, we have been able to stay on course even though the cloud cover persists. I have been piloting by dead reckoning longer than I feel comfortable. Occasionally the clouds thin enough to see a few stars and get a rough fix. As long as we can keep the passengers and crew well fed, and we stay on course, I believe we can keep the superstitious ravings down and avoid any serious conflicts.

May 30th, 1877

Matthew Teller, Captain

Pacific Ocean

The storm rose with renewed strength just before nightfall; the Sunshine has taken a good beating. Several crewmen have vanished. I fear the worst. I have heard talk among the passengers of monsters from the ocean, they speak of a demon walking the decks at night. They claim the monster took the crewmen. To my dismay, Mr. Carlow is among the lost. A bright and intelligent man, his scientific knowledge might have proved useful in calming the passengers. I believe that we will discover the truth of the disappearances when the storm calms. It is too dangerous to do a proper search above deck until it subsides. Crewmen Jacobs has volunteered to help me search.

May 31st, 1877

Matthew Teller, Captain

Pacific Ocean

Rumors of the demon have spread to everyone in the ship. It doesn’t help that one of the railings split during the storm, and the break looks uncannily as though jaws of enormous size bit it through the thick wood. I gave orders that it be replaced before the passengers see it.

 I went through Mr. Carlow’s personal effects; his notes may be of some use to science. I will donate them to a Maritime College in his name and plan name the expedition back to the island after him.

June 5th, 1877

Matthew Teller, Captain

Pacific Ocean

Today George Atwell, a man who sailed with me for years, and as sober a man as I’ve ever met, came to me with a wooden carving that one of the Chinese had carved. The said it was the demon, like most of their heathen gods, it resembled a stylized animal, a shark, with arms and legs. The minds of pagans never fail to appall me. Mr. Atwell told me that on the night of the storm, he and Mr. Carlow were battening down a hatch that had come loose. A thing moved so quickly as it came through the railing that bit into the first officer dragging him into the ocean before he could react.  He babbled a bit about moving with legs God never intended it to have. I inquired as to why he kept silent on this matter; he said he didn’t speak of it because he didn’t want to be mistaken for one of the lunatics in the hold. It had happened so fast that he tried to convince himself that it had been a hallucination brought on by the storm, or the native food. In a storm such as that, it was easy to believe that a wave had taken them. Never a religious man, the old sailor told me it looked like the carving and begged me to throw the idols overboard.

I went back over Mr. Carlow’s journals. Flipping pages in the light of a dim lamp. My finger flipped through pages of the unknown images until I stopped on a sketch that chilled me to my very soul. That is when I started to understand. The picture was of the diamond with beams emanating to the moon. Each storm had happened during the full moon. Another image showed the rays hitting animals, and then they became monstrous. I believe Atwell’s story entirely, though I fear to speak of it aloud, somehow the storm, the demon, and the diamond were all connected.

I called the jeweler into my cabin and showed him the drawings and markings that were on the marble box in the cave. I offered him a hundred dollars in silver to melt the idols into a lockbox for the diamond and engrave the markings onto it. Perhaps the ancient markings can once again contain its evil.

June 7th, 1877

Matthew Teller, Captain

Pacific Ocean

The idols have been melted, and as I write this, the jeweler is crafting the gold into a box. I hope to be able to recoup the gold cost later. The diamond is still beyond value, but can I morally sell such an item, which I believe to be demon cursed? If I do, will I pay with my mortal soul? I can’t sleep properly anymore. Evil images plague my dreams.

“He melted them!” Jerry yelled.

“Yes,” He had not noticed Ted come back in “To make a box to hold a flawless diamond larger than the Hope diamond.”

“You could have said something.”

“Would you have believed me?” Ted said. “Look, you had to read it for yourself. We are going after gold. It’s just around a large diamond.”

“What about the demon?”

“You can’t be serious. You’re a college boy; you studied science. Don’t tell me you believe all that.”

It was a superstitious time, and the trip had been difficult for the passengers and crew. The captain had just lost several close friends, he had found an unknown island, and even the Indian idols probably played upon his unconscious mind. Jerry could understand how even a stable, independent man could have become unhinged.

“No, I don’t,” Jerry said.

If his sociology classes had taught him anything, it was that mob mentality and illness influenced people. Besides, they were drinking unpurified water from a tropical island, eating the native food. It could have been contaminated, or hallucinogenic. A tropical disease spreading through the crew would account for men falling overboard and hallucinations. Maybe it was a case of mass hysteria, the desire to go along with the herd affected even the most intelligent people.

“Even if Captain Teller was wrong and it isn’t a diamond, it has to be some sort of large gem,” Ted said. “It’s in a pure golden box with writings on it that have got to be worth quite a bit.”

Jerry turned his attention back to the book.

June 29th, 1877

Matthew Teller, Captain

Sighted coast of North America, but unsure of exact location. The moon is full, and the storm is once again growing fast from the west. The crew and passengers are in the grip of fear. Chanting and the smell of incenses permeate the lower decks. Even the crew believes the gem to be of supernatural origin. I no longer have the will to argue. The box is finished, and I’ve locked it in my locker safe from the others, but still, the storm does not subside.

July 1st, 1877

Last Entry

I do not know to which God I owe my life. The Morning Sunshine is no more. She struck a reef and sank in a cove of the coast of California. I am the sole survivor. As the ship sank, the lost souls aboard her abandoned the decks as I did, in a mad attempt to make it to the safety shore. I’ve never seen so many sharks in my life. The passengers and crew were ripped apart around me. Why I alone made it to shore, I don’t know. Somehow, I floated ashore on my sea chest unmolested. As I stood on the coast I saw something climb the ship, using the legs that nature never intended it to have. The beast went on to the deck and ripped apart those too afraid to jump. All I could do was watch as the blood red surf lapped at my feet and I listened to the horrified screams, louder than the storm’s din. I dare not go back after the box. The creature has claimed it. It belongs to the sea, and the sea will keep it.

I will stay in this place to guard the wreckage that had long been my only home. No one must ever look for what was lost this night.

Matthew Teller, Former Captain of the Cutter Morning Sunshine. May she and those who went down with her know the mercy in death God refused them in life.

The next page was blank, as was the next all the way to the end of the tome. The remaining few pages showed only the yellowing of age.

“I can’t even imagine such carnage. It must have unbalanced Teller, some type of post-traumatic shock syndrome.” Ted’s voice startled Jerry from his trance. He closed the book. “He’d known some of those men for decades. It must have been horrible. I asked a marine biologist at a university how such a shark attack could happen. He said the ship had probably been leaking food as it fought the storm. The sharks followed the path. It was a freak accident.”

“The sharks could have been trailing behind the ships for weeks. The passengers were butchering animals for fresh meat. They would have thrown all the entrails and blood over the side.” Jerry mused. “I’ve heard that such incidents have been known to change shark feeding patterns, which is why sharks follow shipping lanes. The paths of old slave ships are shark infested to this day.”

“That is why I ordered the PODs.  It will keep away even a swarm of sharks.” Ted sounded pleased with himself.

 “We should get to sleep. Tomorrow will be eventful.”

“Yes. By tomorrow night we’ll be rich men.” Ted said.

Jerry went into the kitchen and returned with a beer. Popping the top, he raised the can high. “To the Morning Sunshine and all who sailed on her.”

Ted raised his can and joined the toast. “The Sunshine.”

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