(From Shadow Island: A Spooky Tale of Lake Superior by Raymond Bial.)
Standing alone on the cabin porch overlooking Lake Superior, Amanda was certain that someone was staring back at her across the waves, now edged in silver.
“Who are you?” she whispered. She did not believe in the supernatural, yet there was so much in the world that was beyond explanation. And she was tangibly overtaken by a premonition regarding Shadow Island.
Easing the screen door shut behind her as she slipped out onto the porch, Roxanne whispered, “There you are, Amanda. I thought you’d wandered off somewhere.”
“Is everyone asleep?” Amanda asked.
“I think so.”
Without another word, Amanda crept quietly into the cabin and returned in a few moments with her telescope, which she had brought along to do some stargazing in the northern sky.
“What are you doing?” Roxanne whispered.
“There’s something I have to find out,” Amanda whispered back as she spread the tripod legs on the porch floor. She aimed the telescope across Lake Superior and bent to squint into the eyepiece.
Rising out of a jagged clump of silhouetted pine trees, the gray hulk of the Stardust Hotel filled the lens.
Roxanne squirmed. “What are you looking for?”
“I see something!” cried Amanda. “I think . . .” She peered through the telescope—at a light that pulsed as delicately as a firefly in the August night.
Roxanne gasped, “What is it?”
“A light!” Amanda whispered. “From an upstairs room in the hotel.”
Roxanne’s mouth dropped open. “It can’t be. Nobody would dare go out on that spooky island.”
Amanda became very quiet.
“No way!” Roxanne cried. “I know what you’re thinking! You want to go over there and explore the hotel.”
“Of course not,” Amanda assured her. “But . . . we could go out in a boat for a closer look. I can’t see too well from here, not with all the trees in the way. We’d have a much better vantage point on the open water. You and I were taking turns rowing with my dad this afternoon. It’ll be easy.”
“We were only in the inlet,” Roxanne said. “Remember what Mr. Willoughby said? There could be dangerous currents around the island. And the weather can turn in the blink of an eye. Besides, it’s after ten o’clock. I know you have more sense than to go anywhere near a deserted island in the middle of the night.”
Amanda debated whether she should tell her friend about the strange feeling that someone was watching her, but decided that Roxanne would only become upset.
“We’ll just be out on the water for a few minutes. And we’ll be sure to wear our life jackets.”
She added, “Aren’t you the least bit curious about the island?”
Licking her lips, Roxanne asked, “May I please have a look?”
Amanda stepped aside, and Roxanne squinted into the telescope. Peering across the water that had a bluish-purple cast in the deepening night, she wondered out loud, “Who could be out there?”
Amanda’s eyes brightened. “There isn’t anyone over there. Unless that island really is haunted.”
“Amanda, you know as well as I do that ghosts are just make-believe.”
“Down at the bait shop they said the island is inhabited by the ghost of that old lady. What was her name—Ruby Shaw?”
“They also said that nobody who’s ever gone over there has come back alive,” Roxanne reminded her.
“Mr. Willoughby was just trying to scare us. Besides, I thought you didn’t believe in ghosts,” Amanda scoffed.
“Well then, there’s nothing to be afraid of.”
Roxanne thought of the old man with his one bright violet eye and white handlebar moustache. Was he just telling a whopper to the gullible visitors from Illinois, for the benefit of the locals who knew better?
Both girls stared across the dark waters at the Stardust Hotel. Of palatial elegance, the hotel had a wraparound porch as broad as a promenade. Each of the upstairs rooms had its own balcony, and on the southwest corner rose a high turret.
Of Victorian design, the old hotel had lavish gingerbread trim. The first floor windows had long since been boarded up. But the rectangles of the upper windows were as black as velvet.
Except for the one with the faint yellow light.
Shadow Island (excerpt)
by Raymond Bial
copyright 2013, Raymond Bial. All rights reserved.
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