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Isles of Bones - Part Four
by Steve Finbow

Read Part One | Read Part Two | Read Part Three

    The boy anchors the boat and Edward jumps into the waves. The warm water reaches to his armpits and he wades through it oblivious to the fish scattering in his wake. On the weed-strewn shore, he drops to his knees.

    Fuck this for a lark, he says and looks over his shoulder, You coming? he asks the boy.
    Stay here, the boy says.
    Wait for me, Edward says, or no Pepita.

    The boy grins, stretches out on the boat, closes his eyes.

    Edward sits on a bleached and fallen tree trunk, takes out a glassine bag and extracts two sheets of paper the old map and Edward's meticulous detailing of the island.

Within the pale-blue grids representing each yard of the island, Edward has noted trees, bushes, shrubs, boulders, and man-made structures. On the reverse of the map, a subterranean version, listing things he has found in the undergrowth, beneath the earth, in old wells, and traps pottery shards, an old sword, clay pipes, and animal bones. He started excavating at the island's centre where the old map fingered the position of the "treasure." He dug for days, not finding a thing, and thought that maybe with the drifting of the sands, the influence of the tides, the coming and going of storms and hurricanes, that the thing he sort most in the world may have shifted, found someplace else to hide.

The search has become the thing itself. Edward first had dreams of doubloons and pieces of eight, diamonds and rubies, crowns and coronets. Later, he thought that maybe the map led to other maps, the map of maps, the key and clue to a treasure beyond treasure the holy grail, the philosopher's stone. But now, after all this time, after all these searches, it would be enough to find an inked X marked on a piece of rock the sign being the prize itself, an ending, a closure. Edward stands, takes his knife from its sheath and starts along the path he cut nearly a year ago.

A knock. Pepita dries herself with a rough towel, throws on a thin cotton robe, looks at her face in the mirror, grimaces, and walks through the small room. She opens the door, facing her is a young boy, head bowed, hands clenched in front of his crotch. His body tanned, his eyes dark, and his hair powdered white with salt. Pepita cocks her head to the side, lifts her chin.

    Señor Eduardo say for me to come see you, señorita.

    Pepita hears laughter coming from the street.

    He did, did he? says Pepita. How much?

    Diez, the boy says.

    How much? says Pepita.

    Cinco, says the boy.

    Pepita walks along the corridor to the balcony, looks down at the men standing around drinking beer, eating paprika-dusted oranges. She spits and her saliva pools golden in the yellow dust.

    Come, she says to the boy, Come.

Edward double checks his map. Checks again. A square on the grid southeast from the centre is empty. What he thinks is a symbol for a tree T and a pottery shard ~ is, when he wipes it, an eyelash. Edward lights out to the location, his heart and head thumping. The ground, weaved with thick grass, comes up in clumps. Tree roots knit and switch within it, and Edward pulls at them, bloodying his fingers. The sand, cooler as he digs down, turns from white to orange to a deep brown. Edward sits up, cries out. Two fingernails hang, torn on something hard. He paddles the earth from around the object. Edward lifts a small wooden box into the mottled light. Opens it. Inside, a pouch made of animal hide tied with hair. He slips his knife under the knot. The surrounding trees hold their breath and exhale in a whisper. Edward falls forward. From a cut to the top of his skull, blood arcs over his head. Then another blow to the side, smashing his nose and cheekbone. As he tastes the wet sand and slips into unconsciousness, his shirt is removed, then his sandals, and then his trousers. A tree frog rolls its hand over a bulging red mucous eye and Edward kisses the darkness.

About the author:
Steve Finbow lives in London, very close to King's Cross Station. Next year he will live in Tokyo, very close to Shinjuku Station. Is this a terminal addiction? You can find out here and here

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