TIMEGHOST: Chapters 2-5 by Leo Penazzi
The auction in one of Geraldton’s oldest houses goes on for the rest of the day; for Gene and his father it is time they went home. Having bought what they wanted there is little reason for them to stay and see the rest of the sale.
Once home Gene rushes to his bedroom; it is a room decorated with posters to do with pirates and buccaneers, from movie posters to a black and white flag of the Jolly Roger. The interest of the young lad is taken up by the lore of the sea.
Throwing the box of goodies onto his bed, Gene is about to open it when he hears the front door opening. Leaving aside the duty of holding his newly acquired booty, he makes his way to the kitchen where his mother and his younger sister are talking with his father.
‘I managed to buy the old chest of draws, and for a good price to,’ Peter tells his mother Corrina.
‘Bargain of the day, was it?’
‘For us I think so, now the spare room is finished, we don’t need any more period furniture.’
‘And what did you buy, Gene?’
‘A box of Nintendo games,’ Gene answers excitedly.
‘What did you buy for me?’ Gene’s sister Dru demands to know, sensing she was left out of something she demands her newly assumed rights.
‘There was nothing there for you sweetheart, we had a good look before the auction started, but there is nothing there you would have liked,’ assures her father.
‘Aw, but dad.’
‘So, you bought a box of Nintendo games.’
‘With my own money, mum.’
‘And how much did that set you back?’
‘I’ll show you.’
Rather than reveal the price of his purchase Gene is away to his room. He returns a moment later with the box and places it onto the kitchen table.
‘Here, see mum, I brought all of these for twenty dollars,’ the boy says with pride.
‘Twenty dollars for this, really?’ Corrina takes the games and has a look at them in turn, like shuffling through a packet of cards.
‘I could have bought them for two but someone else bid.’
‘That’s the way auctions go, son,’ Peter rubs his son’s head.
‘It sounds like a lot of money for what there is,’ his mother replies.
‘Oh no, mum, they were cheap, really cheap, they cost fifty dollars each in the shops, and I bought a whole heap of Nintendo games.’
Gene is quick to try and justify himself to his mother, willing to change her mind as he claims a great victory.
‘Well, I don’t see why you want more of these, don’t you have enough Nintendos?’
‘I wanted these, they’ll go well with my collection, and I won’t ask for any more.’
‘If you do you’ll be paying for them.’
As if setting the seal to a hard won approval the games are handed back to the boy who spent the twenty dollars.
‘And you didn’t buy anything for me,’ sniffs Dru.
‘Sorry Dru, next time,’ promises her father.
‘What else is in the box?’ The young girl asks, but she already has her hand in the carton and pulling out the old hair clippers, ‘what are these?’
‘They were used to cut hair back in the old days,’ replies Peter.
‘They aren’t good for much, they look to be broken,’ observes Corrina as she takes the haircutters from her daughter.
‘I’m afraid so, honey.’
‘I take it the rest of what Gene bought is junk?’
‘Oh no, this is cool stuff, my friends wouldn’t have anything like this,’ assures Gene.
‘Even a rock?’ Dru picks out the Stonehenge bluestone.
‘Be careful with that, it’s a magic stone.’
Everyone laughs at the revelation.
‘It’s a magic stone is it? You really bought a bargain of a box then,’ a sceptical Peter replies.
‘You put this stone into the microwave, didn’t you?’ asks Dru.
‘Then why is it all warm and tingly?’
Corrina takes the stone from her daughter’s hand.
‘It’s warm and tingly?’
‘That’s how it felt to me, mum.’
‘I can’t feel it.’
‘Nor can I,’ adds her father as he takes the stone into his hand, ‘now whatever gave you the idea that this is a magic stone, son?’
Gene dips his head a little, as if ashamed of what he is going to say.
‘The old man told me.’
‘What old man?’ asks his mother.
‘The old man I met at the auction.’
‘What did he tell you?’
‘He told me the stone came from Stonehenge ages ago, and that is has magic in it.’
His mother and father share a knowing glance, while his sister looks on the stone with a greater degree of curiosity.
‘Now you know you shouldn’t talk to strangers Gene,’ his mother sternly tells her son.
‘I know, but he was a nice old man.’
‘I didn’t notice an old man at the auction.’
‘He was seated at the front of the house; he spoke as if he knew all about this rock.’
‘Hmmm, I’m sure, well, be careful when talking to a stranger, that’s all.’
‘All right, go and take your box of bargains to your room. In the meantime I want to have a look at this chest of draws and how well it looks in the spare room,’ Corrina double underlines her son’s escapade for the day.
Gene lies on his bed, complete with a pirate themed bedspread, looking at the bluestone. The Nintendo games are piled neatly on his desk where his schoolwork would be, if school days were still on. The boy appears to draw no end of fascination for the stone, far more so than the games he bought. It is as though the blue fabric of the rock were sucking him right into another dimension.
The mobile phone in his pocket lets out a tone. The mobile phone continues sounding off.
As if waking from a deep sleep, the lad reaches for his mobile and answers. His friend Langley has sent Gene a text which reads;
Meet U @ the Pir8 Ship?
Gene does not answer back immediately. Instead he hauls himself off of his bed, landing on the floor with a dazed thump before he wakes up. In the lounge room his sister is drawing on a piece of paper.
‘Sis, want to come out?’
‘Langley wants to meet us at the pirate ship, want to come?’
‘Will Jarvia be there?’
‘Don’t know. I’ll find out.’
Will yr sis b there?
Yes is the reply.
‘Looks as if she will be, want to come along?’
So with nothing else to do Dru agrees.
‘All right, let’s go.’
‘Going to tell mum?’
‘I’ll text her.’
Gene rushes back to his room and grabs his backpack. In it he shoves a water bottle; the Nintendo games and, after a couple of seconds of pondering what to do, shoves the Stonehenge bluestone into the bag also.
The two are away on their bicycles for a rendezvous with their friends.
With cycling helmets on their head the two children cycle their way along a gravel road into the scrubby bush-land that surrounds Geraldton and do no stop until they reach a track. Turning off the gravel road, the two children reach a track that curves upwards to a small ridge that appears to have a flag fluttering at the top of it.
On a closer approach the flag is that of the Jolly Roger, but of a different design to that in Gene’s bedroom. This is the black and white flag of the skull and crossbones complete with an eye-patch and swords. The pole on which the flag flies is more of a stout stick that is fairly straight, with the flag nailed at the top. The pole sticks up from a fallen tree trunk that has a naturally formed hollow in it. In the hollow of the log are toy swords, a makeshift cannon and black, three corner hats of the sort pirates and gentlemen used to wear a long time ago. This is the perfect place for an imaginary pirate ship to stay at anchor while children play around it.
There are already two children playing around it.
Leaning against the log are two bicycles, one a boy and the other a girl. Gene and Dru do not waste their time in adding their bicycles to the stack so there is a nice, neat little pile of children’s bikes in the bush.
‘Arrr there maties, what’s the parssword before ye board me ship The Grim Death?’
Popping up from behind the log are a pair of faces, two children are into the play acting spirit of pirates and the pirate age of Blackbeard and the Spanish Main. The boy, who is same age as Gene wears a pirate hat, an eye patch and waves a plastic sword in the direction of Gene and his sister. Beside him is a young girl of Dru’s age. She prefers a headscarf and a moustache drawn on her.
‘Password, what password?’ asks Dru, ‘We didn’t have a password.’
‘Arrr, we sure do, shiver me timbers, what is it, landlubbers?’
‘Nintendo,’ Gene chirps.
‘Hey?’ Langley drops the pirated accent.
‘Nintendo,’ Gene repeats.
‘That’s not the password, the password is fat blowfish,’ Jarvia stresses.
‘Well I have some new Nintendo games.’
‘Show us,’ Langley the pirate has found another interest.
‘Can we come on board, Master and Commander?’ Dru inquires.
‘Come on board the ship Saucy Sue,’ the temporary captain invites all aboard.
Both Dru and Gene heave themselves over the ‘rail’s’ and into the hold of their land locked vessel. Gene takes his backpack off of his back and from it takes the Nintendo games.
Langley is agog at the sight.
‘Where did you find all of those?’ he gasps.
‘Don’t know, tell me.’
‘From an auction.’
Langley has to take the game out of his mate’s hands and looks at the packages and then the games and their accompanying booklets.
‘This is so cool, how much did they cost?’
‘You had a brick?’ Jarvia does not believe that much.
‘Yes, I had twenty bucks.’
‘Where did you lay your hands on twenty smackers?’ Langley wants to know.
‘From my pocket money, and work around the house.’
‘You’re lucky; I’d like to have twenty bucks.’
‘Ask your dad or mum then,’ replies Dru, ‘I have thirty.’
‘Did you go to the auction at the haunted house?’ Javia fearfully inquires.
‘I would have liked to have gone, but my old man said they were selling a lot of junk that belonged to a strange, old man,’ Langley regretfully informs of the lost opportunity, one he did not want to let slip through his fingers, but had just the same.
‘It was so cool there, I liked it, and dad bought something too.’
‘Didn’t buy me anything,’ Dru is quick to emphasise.
‘Then you should have been there.’
‘Buy anything else?’ Javia politely asks.
‘Sure, look at this.’
As if saving the best for last Gene takes the bluestone from his bag and holds it up to the sun, where it positively gleams with a deep blue brightness.
At first Langley and his sister do not know what to make of the piece of geology.
‘It’s a stone,’ concludes Javia.
‘Where did you find it?’
‘I bought it at the auction.’
‘No one sells rocks at an auction.’
‘I found in with a box of other stuff.’
‘So what’s so special about a rock? It’s nothing to look at.’
‘This rock is special, know where it’s from?’
‘An auction,’ Javia helpfully responds.
‘No, it’s from Stonehenge.’
‘It’s a place in England.’
‘And it’s a magical place too.’
Gene lets the thought dwell on his friend’s imaginations.
‘So you’re saying this rock. . .’
‘Stonehenge bluestone,’ Gene hastily corrects Langley, fearful that if he calls the stone by anything but its proper name there will be punishment.
‘Bluestone then, is magic?’
‘That’s what I was told.’
‘By who?’ Javia asks.
‘By someone at the auction, he told me all about the stone and what it means.’
‘And you believed him?’ Langley puts the question mockingly.
‘I don’t know what to believe.’
‘Well, I think it’s a lot of bulldust if you ask me.’
‘But how do you know?’
‘Because magic doesn’t exist, it’s a lot of rubbish, as my dad says.’
‘Pirates existed,’ Javia happily informs.
‘That’s right, we’re here to be pirates, don’t worry about magic stones and let’s start with our pirate business,’ Langley slips on his eye patch and draws his toy sword.
There is no convincing him of enchanted rocks and spell-locked pebbles, there is the life of the pirate and adventures at sea. Gene shrugs and puts the bluestone, very carefully, back into his backpack.
‘What are we going to do today, captain?’ Dru perks up at the thought of playing at pirates.
‘We’re going to board some Spanish galleons and loot all of their gold, and then we’ll be rich and have to bury our treasure on a deserted island!’ declares Langley.
The promise of great gains helps Gene to forget about his stone for the time being as he also dons and eye patch, picks up a plastic sword and climbs aboard the pirate ship for daring dos on the high seas.
There is no lack of imagination as to what the children want to do when play acting as pirates, in this their secretive little grove near to the town of Geraldton. There is no one to interrupt them and tell them what to do, they can be themselves and do whatever it is that they want.
These kids, more so the two boys, are so keen on their play-acting that they engage in some rough and tumble. They are at one another with their swords and play-fighting, waging a battle among the rigging of antique sailing ships that have crossed the path of one another.
The playing goes a little too far when real blood is shed, not quite flowing as in the way of days of old, but there is blood.
While clashing swords it is Gene that falls off a stump and lands heavily on the ground. The boy lands on a bit of sharp rock that manages to stab him and cut him around the hand.
‘I’m hurt!’ he cries once he is on his feet.
‘Arrr me bucko, ye put up a good fight, but I’m the better pirate, arrrr,’ Langley boasts, but his friend is serious.
‘I’ve cut myself, look!’
Langley pays heed of the wound.
‘It’s just a small cut, it’s nothing.’
‘I’m bleeding and you say it’s nothing.’
‘Then you’ll have to go home to have it fixed.’
‘No, I have some band aids and stuff in my bag.’
‘My mum makes me carry them with me, just in case.’
‘Come on then, Dru! Javia, we need nurses!’
The four children are again assembled at the log-come-pirate craft. The bleeding has not stopped as Gene picks up his bag and, with his bloody hand the first object he draws out of his bag is the bluestone. As it is of little use in these circumstances he places it gingerly to one side and dives into his bag again. This time Gene draws out a small medical kit.
‘Here it is,’ says Jarvia, ‘now hold still and we’ll fix you up,’ she says like an administering doctor sure of the cure.
‘Well, come on then.’
Javia and Dru take care of the wounded boy’s hand. With the water they carefully wash the cut, then they apply the antiseptic with the cotton they have available to them. The last course to take is the band aid to dress the skin with.
‘There, you’re all done,’ Javia nods her head.
‘I’m fixed but I’m not better,’ replies the unhappy patient.
‘Then maties, we’ll have to drop anchor and call it voyage over for another day, but tomorrow we raid the town of Port-au-Prince, and steal the governor’s treasures!’ though Langley has to resign his commission for the moment, but tomorrow is a day that holds even greater promise.
‘Trust you to spoil the day,’ Dru huffs.
‘Come on then, let’s go home,’ her brother puts the bloodied stone into his backpack along with the medical kit.
Midnight is midnight everywhere around Western Australia, be it in Geraldton or be it elsewhere.
Midnight with a difference has come to one place in the Western state, the Fremantle Maritime Museum.
All is still, all is quiet and all is deathly in the place designed for visitors of any sort. When the town hall clock strikes its midnight chime there comes with it a bewitched change.
The cannons that are on display once more have their crews at them, loading and firing the ordnance in a battle that is both silent and full of hot fury. There are ghosts of merchants once again wandering around with their pockets filled with Dutch dollars and talking the business of the day; it is as if the Dutch East India Company is still running. There are spice hawkers, their sacks full of the precious commodity and ready to sell to those long-faced foreigners from the other side of the world. Glass merchants with new glasses are for sale for those wanting to add to their canteen, and there are pewter vendors also, wanting to sell their plates and cups to whoever wants to buy them. Pipe sellers ply their trade, encouraging the habit among men of means and those who have the means but not the leisure.
The television set on the wall shows pictures of a far more modern Netherlands, the Netherlands of today. With its fine roads and mixture of the old and the new it is a place that is urbane and sophisticated. Watching the parade of today’s Holland are officers, marines and naval officers, who are looking at a world they can hardly have known from that of centuries past.
The night watch makes sure no one disobeys the law of their world.
Even the remains of the hull of the Batavia once again has salt water lapping around it as it sets sail in a world of phantoms. Sailors call from somewhere above, as they once did on that infamous craft and the cabins are occupied by the officers.
One place that does sparkle and glow with the tinge and vibrancy of colours is at the display case where the skeleton from the Batavia shipwreck is housed.
Far from being a still and lifeless object the skeleton begins to reform itself as flesh is once again put to bone and sinews are back where they ought to be. Organs, skin, hair and teeth make the person, and they go into making the man that once held this skeleton before it met its untimely end.
The face is fully formed.
The limbs are well proportioned.
The body is that of a young man, a young man who has seen a hard, working life for he is well-muscled and toned by the time spent beneath the sun. His hair is long but well kept and he is clean shave. As he rises he dons the clothes of an early seventeenth century Dutch sailor, minus the dirk.
He rises but the skeleton remains behind.
Just at that moment a thirteenth chime is heard to ring out from somewhere outside, somewhere that is not the bell of the Fremantle clock-tower.
As the chime strikes thirteen all of the other fantastical creatures that are silently roaming the inside of the museum fade and the dazzling light that accompanied them vanishes, leaving the inner space as dark as before their sudden appearance.
What has not vanished is the man who climbed out of the cabinet with the skeleton stretched out inside of it. He stands on the floor and looks around him, as if assessing where he is, in a strange place and out of a stranger time.
Ghostly eyes adjust.
The displays of a more modern era of sailing draw the attention of the comer who is invisible to all alarms and beyond the standing of walls.
The glass cabinets with the remainders of machines seem to draw an interest in them, and for a moment, as he reaches out beyond the glass they are pipes that assume an almost new glow about them, as if they are only just come out of the machinist’s workshop.
The hand passes on and the pipes assume their corroded state.
Around the museum there are other displays amidst the phantom passes in and out of, reading their nature as if someone were reading a book about the past.
It is a nature that is not beyond the understanding of so ancient a mariner.
The books for sail flip open and their pages whir before they are closed shut. Instant reading has happened in a flash and their knowledge is absorbed in another, unknown realm.
A security car passes.
The vehicle pulls up at the front of the museum but no one steps outside of it.
There is no reason for the security people to come inside here and have a look around, so the motor revs up and takes off down the street as if nothing has changed in the least.
The stranger inside the museum’s confines pricks up his ears and knows; he understands perfectly what is going on; he does nothing.
The donation box with all of its coins inside has him running his finger through the glass and shuffling the coins about.
‘There is no silver, there is no gold,’ the ghost says to himself, ‘where are the silver and the gold of a civilised world? There are only imitations.’
The man seems to wait, and as he waits time moves on, restlessly, quickly.
There is another strike; a fourteenth is heard to chime.
As the fourteenth chimes he again lifts his head and listens to its sound.
As the sound fades away the ghost turns around to face north and, with purposeful and confident strides marches through the wall of the building.