It was a bit before noon when I made my sojourn up Tyne Pass to the Lowry's homestead where I had found work for the summer. Sky was clear, too early in the year for westerlys, only a strong breeze to bend the tall grass, rippling it into waves. The rogue in me always leads me close to the edge of the chalk cliffs to look out on the ocean as I make this hardy walk which I do every day except Sunday.

First thing out of the ordinary was a lack of birds darting about.  Nesting season was over, yes, but there were always terns and gulls filing back and forth from the sea to their grottoes in the cliff face.  Now, not a single bird was to be seen from bluff to horizon.

There was also a quiet.  No hint of the ocean crashing against the rocks hundreds of feet below. Except for wind, there was an absence of the thunder, which always accompanies this tiny island.

I veered off the path and clambered over to Marry's Point to look down to the small, unmanageable bay, that is usually a treacherous piece of water with its waves, and craggy, hull splitting rocks barely hidden under the surface.  Any ship that sought rest here, found it on the bottom.  Oddly enough, there were no waves.  The bay was as peaceful as a bathtub.  Never had it been so calm. The entire force of the North Atlantic slams these shores and has done so for eons. All except for today.

When I tipped dangerously close to the edge so to take it all in, I saw it.  A silver ship.  Harbored where no ship of that size had ever been seen before.  The sun overhead reflected off its spotless surface. Nary a stain or patch of peeling paint or waterline mark marred its sides. Nor did it carry seams or a single rivet. It was more a smooth, living creature than something built by man.  Such a marvelous sight, I wanted to shout, point, share this vision with someone, but I found I was wholly without company.  The Lowry's would have to wait.  I would investigate and report back to the world what I alone was to discover.

It took over an hour to funnel myself down one of the narrow channels that empties onto the beach. Tis' a tough jaunt but I'm known as one of the best climbers of our community. I'm young, my legs strong and I'm just foolish enough to risk a broken limb or worse for a tad of adventure.

On the beach, I become overwhelmed by the majesty and breadth of this magnificent machine.  A three masted schooner.  How something of that size did not draw enough water to rake the bottom of the inlet was a total mystery.  Plus, there were no anchor lines to moor it. It sat serenely in place as if the shifting tide had no effect upon it. Glimmering, beaming, I felt an ache in my heart akin to longing for a beautiful woman. An unquenchable want. A desire too great to be fulfilled. At least on this side of heaven.

She carried not a soul on her deck. Nor a porthole, hatch, window or door. No engine hummed or pipe discharged. A chill ran through me. She was lifeless.   "Come aboard" was the last thing I heard before the spell was broke.  But, who shouted it?  And if it was a shout, it would have echoed back from the cliffs. It hadn't.  It was solid. Direct.   "Come aboard."

A matter of fact tone, as if I had been expected, as if I held a ticket in my hand.  I became as frightened as I had ever been which was uncalled for. I'm no coward. I've done much braver things than stare off at some foreign ship. But, never had I a voice other than my own, speaking from inside my head.

So, I ran. Ran off the beach, back up the channel, skinning and bruising myself the entire way. I didn't stop running till I burst into my home, throwing myself on the floor, sobbing as I hadn't done since we buried my mother on Winsley's Shelf.

I awoke to a pool of spit and tears. Kitchen curtains snapping with the wind. The westerlys had begun. I closed the window and spent the rest of the day indoors.

I found myself at my desk jotting down notes till late into the night. The first rains of the season had begun prickling and tapping at my bedroom window. The candle flame danced against the breezes that snuck into my house through old boards and twisted, ill-fitting windows. Though, neither door nor window will stop the emptiness in me that I swear will usurp my entire being.

"Next time."   That same, unassuming, reassuring voice comes up around me. Like a great blanket to stave off all the suffering the world can heap upon me.

"Next time."

I begin to cry all over again. But, these are tears of joy. Of heartache erased.  Because next time, I'll be ready.