|The Seven Sleepers||4|
ard was nine years old when the man came to the island to kill him.
He first saw the ship from a ridge above the cove. The sun was high and bright, but the ship was dark. It seemed to watch the island. He saw a rowboat leave its side and move towards the mouth of the cove.
He raced down the track, slewing down the steep parts carved by rain, grabbing at the tough grasses to slow his descent. The slope shallowed, then the path wound through some sheoaks, before finally emerging behind a shack. Ward crawled into the cool darkness beneath the shack. It had been built on pylons to survive extremely high tides, and its underside was home to a nest of bush rats called dore, snouty creatures with clever button eyes and clean brown fur, quite unlike the black snokeys that lived on sailing ships. Several dore scattered as Ward crawled toward the front of the shack. He stopped beneath the front doorstep and peered out at the beach.
The rowboat was already moored to the jetty. Something dark was clambering out of it, like a spider. The sand was very white in the glare, and the figure very black. Ward caught a glimpse of a face under the shadow of a hood – so it was a man after all, a tall, thin man. The breeze off the ocean worried at the man’s cloak, but it wasn’t strong enough to blow off his hood. Wavelets crumbled along the crescent-shaped beach, gulls cried, and a skrayl bleated like a lamb as it huddled on a pylon, its great wings tucked in to its body.
A bench, consisting of a plank balanced upon two pale blue rusted steel drums, stood at the foot of the jetty. Jaggles called it The Smoking Chair. It was upon this edifice that Jaggles himself now sat, his baccus poking from the corner of his mouth, a wisp of blue smoke curling into the air, tattering as it was dragged by the wind out to sea. The back of his neck was brick-red above the collar of a shirt that may once have been blue but had faded to the non-colour of the sky and sand. Apart from the redness, and an occasional hiss or puff of steam, he showed no outward sign of what boiled within the highly-pressurised confines of his body. For George Jaggles hated every living thing on earth, as well as any inanimate object that refused to bend to his will, and he had long ago perfected the art of appearing composed while seething like a volcano inside.