Author: Roger Whittlesey
ISBN: My book has instead an ASIN: B00BKQE33I
Page count: 195
Genre: Young adult fiction
Roger Whittlesey has lived in the Boston area all his life. He writes young adult fiction, performs as professional musician, and has worked as an elementary teacher in Massachusetts for 15 years. He is currently finishing his second young adult novel–a historical thriller set in 18th century London. He lives with his wife in a city north of Boston.
Tell us about your book:
HOME TO OBLIVION is a story about friendship and survival, a supernatural adventure filled with mystery and suspense, and a tale of a boy who is forced to forge his way to a new reality under the most unreal circumstances.
The story leads the reader from a pivotal Revolutionary War sea battle to a mysterious island where time seems irrelevant. Narrator Prescott Fielding, a 12-year-old boy from the 18th century, is washed ashore onto a volcanic island, where he befriends Caleb Thompson, a seventeen-year-old Vietnam War era U. S. Marine. How can two people born 200 years apart exist together at one time? Are they living in a time warp? Outside of time? Or is it the afterlife?
Just as they work through their differences in perspectives, and as their friendship begins to flourish, a young World War I British Army code-breaker suddenly appears and upsets the balance.
A series of events–both natural and unnatural–convince the characters to travel inland to seek answers about the mysteries of the island. Prescott soon discovers the function of the island is far more dangerous than he ever could have imagined, and standing between him and his dream to go home is a powerful and evil force.
How long did it take to write the book?
I finished the first draft of the novel in 2003. Then I worked with a literary agent for a while revising it. The novel stalled for several years and that is when I began writing my second novel, which is currently nearing completion. In 2010, a publishing company showed interest in my book, and I did a great deal of rewriting, which improved the novel immensely. It has been a long process, and I have learned a great deal about writing and the publishing business in the process.
What inspired you to write the book?
I’m a fifth grade teacher, and so I read many young adult books. I have read some very good books over the years, but I have never found the kind of book that I most wanted to read–books that combine genres like mystery, survival, the supernatural, and history. I was inspired to create a book that was impeccably researched, involved elements of philosophy, and would keep the reader guessing until the very end. I was also inspired to create a novel in which the narrator is from the past and must try to make sense of his encounters with figures from the future., even if that future is the past to the readers.
Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?
I do have a writing routine. I write as often as possible, but make it my goal to write every day. I sometimes write on the computer, but prefer to write on paper and then transfer to the computer, editing and revising as I do. I am a firm believer in allowing the mind to lead the writer through the book; therefore, I do not plot out my stories ahead of time. I allow the story to lead me through to the end. I believe that, if I do not know where the story is going as I write it, then chances are increased that the reader will also be unable to predict the outcome. That is not to say that my novel is a twisting, divergent mess. It is not at all. It is tightly woven and all of the loose ends that are introduced throughout the book are neatly tied together at the end, although the ending does leave room for reader rumination and speculation.
I did a great deal of research for this book. It covers several time periods and some specific historical events, and so I had to get my facts correct to accurately write about them. The opening scene depicts the great Revolutionary sea battle between the Bonhomme Richard and the Serapis. I tried to present the battle, even though it is the backdrop to the personal action of my narrator, in a realistic way. I also have scenes from the Vietnam War and World War I in the novel. But there are also characters from the future, so I got the opportunity to invent futuristic time period details as well, which was fun.
What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
I hope that my readers will come away intrigued by the premise and characters, impressed by the writing, feeling satisfied by the ending, and eager to know and read more. In the books that I love the most, I often wish the story would continue so that I can spend more time with the characters. I hope that my readers feel the same way about the characters in Home To Oblivion. In addition, I hope the reader comes away with a strong feeling of connection and empathy for the characters, especially the narrator, 12-year-old Prescott Fielding.
Where can we go to buy your book?
The book can be purchased at Amazon.com.
Any other links or info you’d like to share?
I have a Facebook page, where readers can go to comment about the book. It can be found here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Roger-Whittlesey/104429829743395?bookmark_t=page
I also have a blog that I encourage readers of my book to go to to discuss themes, characters, and provide interpretations and analysis of the book. It is here: http://rlwhittlesey.wordpress.com/
Excerpt from book:
Rafferty Douglas clanged the ship’s bell and hollered, “An English fleet! Portside!”
I peered up at the crow’s nest and watched as Edward Taylor fumbled for and then gazed through his small, brass telescope. He then called out, “It’s the Serapis! And a fleet of smaller vessels!”
Sailors scurried down the ratlines, rushed up from below deck, and hurriedly set to work preparing the cannons. I stood at the center of this chaotic scene with my back pressed up against the main mast of the Bonhomme Richard, a French-made merchant ship turned American warship.
“All hands—man your stations!” yelled Commodore John Paul Jones in a hoarse, powerful voice.
I remained motionless, staring at a small crevice in the starboard bulwark, vainly wishing I were wee enough to crawl into it and hide.
“The convoy of ships has turned!” shouted Edward Taylor, now standing top deck portside. “They are escaping, Commodore!”
“Let them turn,” said Jones, dismissively waving his right hand. “It is the Serapis that I want.”
The turbulent North Sea slapped aggressively against the ship, its dark depths encrusted with yellow-white crests of foam and spray. Above, the slate gray sky was rapidly relinquishing itself to the deathly hues of night.
“Shake a leg, Boy! There is plenty to be done,” said a slump-shouldered sailor named Mason. “Take this.” He thrust a dirk into my hand and then hurriedly limped away to assist his mates along the gunwale. I examined the whalebone handle and the keen point of the knife, and wondered what he expected me to do with it.
My official duty aboard the Bonhomme Richard was as an apprentice to Doctor Nathaniel Becket, but I soon discovered my job responsibilities inclined more toward those of a ship’s boy. In my short time at sea, I had mostly labored shoulder-to-shoulder with the illiterate tars—mending sails, pounding oakum into joints of timber, and hauling supplies up from the ship’s hold. Though only twelve years old, I stood taller than most of the crew, so naturally the crewmembers, most twice my age, expected from me a man’s worth of work. There was no shirking duty during dull times, and now, with battle only moments away, I was expected to toil and die like a man, if death proved to be my destiny.
I can now state without reservation that sailing along England’s Flamborough Head on that September evening in 1779, I suddenly felt insufficiently prepared for combat and boundlessly afraid of dying.
“Are you preparing for surgery with that?” said a voice behind me. When I turned around, Edward Taylor smiled and nodded at the whalebone-handled dirk in my hand. “Or are you going to whittle yourself a coffin?” he joked, and then leaned over and picked up two cannonballs.
Taylor was apprenticed as a cooper before the war, not a tailor, as his name would seem to imply. The slightly built sixteen-year-old and I became fast friends in our short time at sea, no doubt gravitating toward each other because of our nearness in age. Taylor was a Connecticut Yankee much devoted to his family and eager to return home to his sweetheart, Constance—he carried with him everywhere a silhouette of her likeness, which he proudly shared with me hours after leaving port.
“Mason handed me this knife,” I explained. “What do you suppose I should do with it, I have no . . .. ”
The starboard guns thundered, and then blue-white clouds of gunpowder smoke filled the weather deck. The sailors raced to reload the cannons in preparation for another volley. The British warship, Serapis, however, unloaded what seemed like all of its 44 guns at once; cannonballs of different weights and circumferences raced through the air, whistling a tune I soon learned to associate with disfigurement, death, and pain.
The battle pounded on. We took great losses. I watched in horror as a cannonball decapitated a sailor, and then shut hard my eyes as his wriggling, blood-spurting body plunged into the murky North Sea. The sights and sounds of war encircled me: splintering wood, wails of pain, blood-red seawater streaming into the hold, tattered sails, and the deafening boom of cannon fire.
Shouts of distress came from every direction. Men cried out, “Doctor! Over here—hurry!” Amid the pandemonium, I recognized Doctor Becket by his blue waistcoat, and I rushed to his side to aid him in anyway I could.
Doctor Becket had to make snap decisions about where to spend his energies. He ordered those men who came to him with only superficial wounds back to their duties. The good doctor instantly prioritized the more serious injuries—detached and severely broken limbs, blunt force trauma to the head, wounds to the chest—as “likely fatal” and therefore did not bother providing medical care. Once, as I tended to a man who had been struck in the chest by a cannonball, the white bone of his ribcage exposed through his ripped and bloody uniform, Doctor Becket gently tugged at my collar and said, “We cannot waste precious time, Prescott, tending to wounds that will not heal.” A dozen or more men, after fifteen minutes of the battle, lay uncared for—convulsing hideously, twitching, shallow breathing, and then, mercifully, dying.
Later, after a piece of shrapnel struck Jonathan Pierce in the leg, Doctor Beckett immediately went to work removing the metal shard. Pierce, the ship’s cook, howled miserably as Doctor Becket probed his calf with metal tweezers. During this and other similar procedures, my job was to stand behind the patient and hold down the arms to protect the doctor from being injured by flailing limbs or purposeful angry attacks. Pierce initially resisted fiercely, but as the pain spiked through his body, he lost consciousness, and restraint became unnecessary. When Doctor Becket finally extracted the bloody metal fragment, he drew it close to his eyes, examined it, and then, seemingly unimpressed, nonchalantly discarded it over his right shoulder with a flick of the wrist.
The cook’s calf appeared like ground beef as the doctor hastily stitched the wound. This gruesome vision caused me to feel lightheaded. On the precipice of fainting, my ears rang and the room swam. I staggered a few steps away and turned my head so that I vomited without splattering the good doctor and the cook. My stomach purged, I soon regained my legs and composure, and moved up to the weather deck in search of men in need of care.
The Bonhomme Richard withstood the Serapis’ hurricane-like force, and then came the eye of the storm. All was suddenly calm. I again heard the familiar creaking of the wooden planks rocking on the tide and the whipping and snapping of the canvas sails filling and flagging in the fickle breezes. Of course, I also heard wheezing lungs, sickening moans, and the agonized screams of the suffering.
“Doctor Fielding!” yelled the first mate. “Young Taylor has been hurt badly.” He pointed to a body laying facedown on the deck, metallic rubble strewn about him.
I rushed to my friend and carefully turned him onto his back. I recognized agony and fear in his eyes. “You will be all right,” I remember saying over and over, as I peered down at his mangled body. Edward grasped my arm and tried to speak. His green eyes strained, bulged hideously in their sockets. His face underwent transformations of color—from ruddy red, to a sickly greenish hue, then alabaster—deathly pale. I watched as his trembling lips struggled to form words, then his grip weakened, and his hand dropped to the deck. His throat gurgled and his heaving chest ceased moving.
“Prescott, over here!” yelled Doctor Beckett.
I reached down and gently closed Edward Taylor’s eyes—shut those intelligent green eyes forever—and then loped over to where the good doctor tended to a wounded man.
The Bonhomme Richard was in terrible condition. I overheard a sailor shout, “We are taking on water!” Then the main mast splintered and crashed to the deck, just a few feet from where Jones stood.
“Have you struck your colors?” Admiral Pearson yelled from the deck of the Serapis, which had been purposely lashed to our ship with grappling hooks to eliminate the swift ship’s forte of maneuverability, and was therefore within shouting distance.
Commodore Jones, his boots stomping in huge strides along the main deck, raised his fist in the air and ordered each man to ready himself for the counterattack. “Struck our colors? Never! The Serapis has not seen what we are made of! Sir, we have not yet begun to fight!”
The crew rallied: there was movement again on the deck, and soon our siege guns pounded out new rhythms. Flashes of brilliant light offset the darkness, as the guns and grenades did their deadly duties.
I do not know the exact circumstances that led to my sudden fall overboard, but I do remember the stern side railing giving way beneath me as a great force hit my body from behind. I plummeted into the cold North Sea, and then screamed for help as I desperately swam back towards the Bonhomme Richard. But, in the disorienting darkness and the heaving swells, swimming became difficult, and I lost sight of the ship. I was forced to float on my back, rising and falling on the great dark waves, rapidly drifting away from the battle.
At that moment, I was certain my destiny was an underwater grave.
But there was nothing grave in what I found.
When something in the water brushed up against my head, I spun around onto my stomach and discovered an eight-foot piece of flotsam that could bear my weight and allow me to rest. I clung to this wooden mass for hours, bobbing on the waves; the whole time cursing my bad luck and speculating about what shape my imminent death would soon take. Would I drown? Would I starve? Would I become dehydrated? Would sharks consume my flesh?
As the sun began to rise, I inspected the surface of the great piece of driftwood to which I clung. Dark and pitted with age, consisting of several boards joined together, I concluded it was a small piece of a once larger construction. In the increasing light I noticed worn, golden lettering on its surface; however, I did not immediately decode it. It began with a capital “J,” written in cursive. Next, two letters swam together like waves, followed by “I-P-E-R.” There was a space and then a faded character, followed by two more letters that blended together, and a piece of another letter that ended abruptly at the jagged edge.
I pressed my face closer to the inscription and focused my mind on nothing other than the solution to the mystery words. And for a brief time, I dwelled not about the likelihood of becoming a skeletal relic on the ocean floor.
“J . . . I PER,” I said, aloud.
The mysterious letters that swam together in both words appeared to be the same, but they were faded and obscured under a thin layer of seawater. I shifted my weight on the board, brushed away the seawater with my hand, and concentrated more intently on deciphering the undulating shapes.
They could be “Ws” or a stretched out letter “Ns.” Then I realized it was a “U” followed by an “N,” a letter whose shape was actually a “U” turned upside down—capsized.
“JUNIPER,” I said. “…UN.”
The faded first letter in the second word was either a “B,” a “Z,” or an “S.”
“JUNIPER SUN . . . something,” was what I finally settled on. “What is a Juniper Sun?” I asked myself.
As if I had spoken the words Moses had used to part the Red Sea, the waves around me responded with sudden turbulence, and in a matter of minutes I found myself clinging to the driftwood with all my remaining strength. The heaving, perturbed sea seemed to plot against me, eager to separate me from the wooden board. I plunged downward suddenly from the apex of an angry wave, and lost my grip on the board. Another wave enveloped me and I was submerged, tossed about savagely in the roiling surge.
I swam a few strokes beneath the chaotic surface, and then came up for air. When I burst out into the sunlight, I found myself amidst ferociously pounding white-capped breakers. The waves violently flung my body in every direction. One moment I was beneath the waves, the next I was above desperately trying to gather a breath of air. And, just as my body could not take anymore I touched ground, though the tide continued to trip me. Each time I submerged, the roar of the waves became instantly muffled, and I would have felt as if I had re-entered the comfort of the womb if it were not for the terror of fearing I may never breathe again.
Then, in one final moment of brutality, the tide thrust my body over a bed of stones and onto a sandy shore. Fearful another wave would drag me back into the sea, I quickly scampered on all fours to a higher spot on the beach. I lay there several minutes and caught my breath. Then I weakly rose to my feet and had a look around. Sprawled out in front of me was what I presumed to be an island—tropical and mountainous—with a great volcanic peak at its center.
Black smoke gently rose from the island’s volcanic peak before sluggishly trailing west and then disappearing beyond the horizon. Gazing below the conical volcanic summit, the mountain became sheer; brown and craggy cliffs submerged, in my view from the beach, into giant palm leaves outstretched and basking in the equatorial sun. Trade winds blew in from the southeast, but provided little relief from the smothering heat. I turned my back to the volcano, bent my knees, and dropped onto the soft sand. Beyond the foaming six-foot waves that crashed vigorously onto the beach, the sea met the sky in every direction. From the vantage point of the gulls circling high above, I imagined I appeared like an inconsequential speck on a land surrounded by a boundless body of water.
Where am I? What have I gotten myself into? I was exhausted, weak, and hungry.
I must begin provisioning. The island would provide coconuts, berries, and sea animals—crabs, squid, fish, and clams—to eat. Perhaps I could hunt game—rabbits, wild pigs, and pheasants—in the jungle beyond the beach.
I stood up, turning my back to the sizzling surf, and focused my eyes on the forest twenty paces away. Large broad leaves hid any interior features of the rain forest, though I surmised that a short walk into the forest would reveal a shady, more comfortable, place to settle.
I glanced down at my feet, shod in a pair of dark leather shoes with square brass buckles, and noticed a familiar configuration of indents next to me in the sand—footprints. Made by an upright biped of considerable size—most likely a human—the biped was barefoot, which I inferred from the deep heel and toe indentations.
I followed the prints west for several rods until they suddenly disappeared, as if the pedestrian had been lifted in the air, or had climbed up into a tree. I looked up and saw nothing but blue sky intermingled with wisps of black volcanic smoke. Behind me, the surf pounded a bank of coral rock. In front of me, to my surprise, stood two stone, nearly identical, statues—round-bellied children with impish grins, distant eyes, and two loop earrings in one ear. One figure held a granite-carved human skull. The other held a flower. The gray stone had dark streaks running down it from what I surmised was from years of wear and exposure to the weather, sea, and sun. Two paces beyond the statues, dark green leaves hung from coiled vines. I held out my hand the way you do when offering a handshake, fished it through the hanging vines, and then brushed several of the vertical strings of vinery to the side.
The burning sunlight, which applied a nearly palpable weight upon my neck and shoulders, streamed in through the outspread vines and revealed a well-worn trail consisting mostly of hard-packed soil sprinkled with sand. Pedestrians had dragged the sand, I suspected, when walking in from the beach.
I stepped onto the path, letting the whorled vines fall back into their original place. It took a short duration for my eyes to adjust to the darkness, and when they did, I realized that the trail was long and straight—traveling for almost seventy yards before dipping over a hill.
My first temptation was to follow this trail, hopeful that it would lead me to civilization, but fears of unknown dangers overrode this urge. It was quiet in the dusky darkness, now that the occluding vegetation muffled the sound of roaring waves and whistling sea breezes.
No birds sang. No animals stirred in the bushes. I did not even feel the presence of insects slithering and crawling among the soil and leaves, yet I knew that for such a complicated ecosystem to thrive as this one did, all things absent to my senses were, in fact, only hidden from view. Experience taught me that creatures in nature would instantly disappear when danger was near. I had witnessed the forest of New England grow eerily tranquil when a large predatory animal arrived. I wondered if I were being perceived as that large predatory animal, or whether there was something else within proximity that could be construed as one.
The human footprints in the sand had to have been fresh, I conjectured, because any tropical rainstorm would eliminate them, and I knew that such a rainforest as this would not likely pass a day—several hours even—without precipitation. Therefore, I concluded—rather more quickly than it takes to illustrate in written form—that there were humans on the island. Upon making this observation, I began fleshing out my hypothesis. Are they natives of this island? Perhaps they are other survivors of the sea battle. Are they friendly? Are they my political enemy?
I pressed through the vines and walked out onto the warm beach sand. The sunlight beamed down upon my face, soon causing beads of perspiration to form on my skin. Surviving in this heat would be impossible without fresh water; however, I was not concerned about finding a water source, because the sprawling vegetation indicated an abundant supply.
To the east, approximately 200 yards away, I noticed a glint of reflected light. The white light blinked off and on—as if in some code. My pulse quickened, as I imagined my anonymity on the isle disintegrating. I also had fears about losing my life, especially if the signaling faction was unfriendly—British. These silver coins of light shot across the beach and deposited in my eyes. It was a message for me, I concluded, and required—demanded—my immediate response.
I began walking toward the flickering light. Travel was easier now that my clothing—long canvas pants, a white cotton shirt, and a blue waistcoat—were nearly dried. Within a hundred yards, I began to make out poles—at least a half dozen of them—sticking upright out of the sand. Only a couple of inches in diameter, the poles were as tall as a man. These shiny signals came, I could now see, from a pole centered within the rest. Something hung from it, something metallic or glass.
I moved away from the shore, near a sheer cliff that rose hundreds of feet above sea level. I walked stealthily along this great natural wall, and then kneeled on the sandy ground when within 10 yards of the poles.
The wind disturbed the metallic object hanging from the center pole and created a jangling sound. I screwed up my courage, scanned the area for other inhabitants—the owners of the poles—and slowly approached the jangling object.
A metallic chain—a necklace chain attached to two rectangular metal plates—hung on a small nub on the wooden pole. Stamped into these half-inch by one-inch-wide plates were English words and numbers. Each plate had the same information. Each read as follows,
I gathered the plates into my palm, raised them off the pole, and then placed them in my coat pocket.
“I’m not alone, after all,” I said aloud, as I stared out at the barreling waves.
“No—you’re not,” said a raspy-voiced man in an accent I did not recognize. The man was standing directly behind me.
I swung around and stood face-to-face with a young man wearing a forest green uniform. The young man, a Caucasian with spectacles resting on his straight nose, smiled broadly, revealing a remarkable set of pearly-white teeth. I surmised he was only a few years older than me, perhaps 16 years old. I stood, astonished, and unable to produce a word. This strange-looking young man wearing peculiar clothing (trousers with pockets along the sides, calf-high, black leather boots with laces down the front, and a time piece strapped to his wrist) continued to smile, and I soon felt very uncomfortable.
“Welcome to the island, kiddo,” he said, keeping his eyes locked on mine. “My name is Caleb Thompson; Private First Class; United States Marine Corps; late of Concord, New Hampshire, yada, yada, yada.”
He offered his hand and I shook it. Then he turned his back to me, took several relaxed strides toward the shaded section of the beach, beneath the jutting cliffs, and sat down on the sand, his hands clasped in front of him, his elbows resting on his knees.
“So what about you?” he said in a booming voice. “Why the costume? You an actor?”
I looked down at my waistcoat and canvas pants. There was nothing theatrical about the garments. I wondered if this strange man was jesting.
“Actor?” I uttered unconsciously as I ran my right hand across the breast pocket of my coat. “Why would you say . . .? I’m a doctor’s apprentice and a ship’s boy—at least I was until yesterday.”
“A ship’s boy, huh,” he said, taking out a cigarette, lighting it with a metallic flame producer, and then sucking in the tobacco smoke. “Are you part of a crew on a historical boat? I have a buddy back in New England who worked as a crewman on a tall ship.”
“The ship I sailed on is a frigate . . . now a warship.”
“Oh,” Caleb interrupted, “you were on a battleship—18 inch guns and all.” His face changed for a moment; it seemed to indicate that he was satisfied with this information. But then perplexity, furrowed brows, squinted eyes, made a statue of his face.
“Wait a minute,” he said, getting to his feet and walking toward me. “You’re just a kid. And your accent—British, right?”
“Yes; I suppose I am,” I stated hesitantly. “But I should inform you that I am not a loyalist.”
“Oh,” said Caleb, pulling one of the wooden poles from the ground. “I know where you’re coming from.”
“You do?” I said, pleased that he knew my origins, and hopeful that he would be able to provide me with directions back. It struck me that I might be home sooner than I thought.
“Yeah,” said Caleb. “It’s not easy staying loyal when there are protests back at home, people yelling at soldiers, and a feeling that you’re fighting a war that no one wants.”
“Where I’m from, in Massachusetts Bay Colony, I saw the protests first hand,” I explained, as Caleb pulled the remaining poles out of the sand. “After the Intolerable Acts, people changed their views on the Regulars, and I would say that many wanted to avoid a war with England—some remained loyal—but, I think it is an exaggeration to state that no one wants the war.”
Caleb’s mouth hung open in an exaggerated expression of bewilderment. He dropped six wooden poles to the sand, the cigarette fell from the precarious perch of his bottom lip, and then he seemed to study his boots before shaking his head and starting to laugh.
“Did you say England?” he said in a distant voice; an incredulous airy tenor replaced the booming bass voice. “What, are you a nut?”
“What do you mean?” I suddenly realized that Caleb had been asking all the questions. I suppose, out of politeness, I allowed him to lead the questioning because, after all, I had walked on to his island. However, I had some of the same questions to ask him—about his clothes, his accent (certainly not a New England accent), and his reason for being on this island.
“I get it,” said Caleb, with a look of relief on his face. “You’re joking with me, right?”
I didn’t know what to say. My silence affected his new joviality.
“This is getting stranger by the minute,” he said. “Listen . . . what the heck is your name, anyway?”
“Prescott Fielding,” I said. “Apprentice to the chief surgeon Nathaniel Beckett on the Bonhomme Richard.”
Caleb picked up the poles, walked past me, and with the wave of his hand, beckoned me to follow him. We walked east, for nearly a half-mile, before turning toward the center of the island and ascending a fairly precipitous path.
“Bonhomme Richard, Regulars, the Intolerable Acts,” Caleb said, as he grasped my hand to help me up a particularly difficult section of terrain. “I’m starting to feel like I’m back in tenth grade history with Mr. Egan.”
Caleb and I walked in silence for several minutes. In that time, we traveled west and continued—though more slowly—upward. Eventually, we walked on the craggy rock of the cliff that we had stood in the shadow of just 15 minutes earlier. There, imbedded in the leafy landscape was a shelter—a lean-to composed of wood sticks and roofed with layers of palm leaves over a green tarpaulin. The structure, about seven feet in height, was about 10 feet deep and eight feet wide. Inside the lean-to, Caleb had created a bed consisting of palm leaves, and there was a makeshift table made from a long flat rock that sat upon a small wooden case. Peeking beyond the hooch, which is what Caleb called this structure, I realized there was an eight-foot fissure in the giant rock on which we stood. The fissure plunged fifty or more feet downward. And from what I could discern, there was but only one way to get to Caleb’s hut, and that was by walking along the narrow path that we had traversed. Caleb had chosen his site wisely. From atop of this perch, he had a clear view of the ocean, the volcanic mountain, and more than a mile in both directions of the beach.
From this perch Caleb likely saw me as I floundered in the surf, walked onto the beach, and followed the footprints, west, along the upper part of the beach. He must have watched me enter the thick vegetation. Perhaps it was at this time when he descended and arrived on the spot where we me.
Caleb gently placed the poles next to his hut, and then sat on the ground, his back against an elephant-sized stone.
“Sit down, Prescott,” he said in that unusual dialect. “We have a lot to talk about.” Caleb pointed to a pile of palm leaves next to the hooch. It was a crude cushion—Caleb’s seat on this mysterious island.
Seated, I leaned my back against the trunk of a palm tree and felt my body relax, perhaps for the first time since before the battle against the Serapis. Caleb reached for a green garment, a shirt of several intermingled greens, browns, and tans, and lifted a pocket, pulling from it a banana, which he then tossed to me. I caught the piece of fruit and thanked him. It was a welcome feeling to place something nourishing into my body. I had not eaten a morsel since breakfast, which I estimated was 10 hours earlier in the day, even though the sun’s position in the sky did not agree with this estimate (it stood directly above in its lunchtime seat in the sky).
“Prescott, have you ever heard of the Vietnam Conflict?”
“I’m afraid I have not,” I said, somewhat embarrassed.
“Do the names John F. Kennedy or Lyndon B. Johnson ring a bell for you?”
“Ring a bell?”
“You know,” Caleb said, gesticulating grandly with his hands. “Do you know—or, rather, are you familiar with these names?”
“No; they do not sound familiar,” I said. “Are they friends of yours?”
“No, Prescott, they’re not.” Caleb’s demeanor grew grave.
“Is there something the matter?”
“I’ll answer that question in one moment, but please, Prescott, answer this one last question: What year is it?”
“Why—1779,” I said.
“Do you know what year it was when I arrived on this island?” Caleb quickly lifted his hand to keep me from responding. He then raised his forefinger. “Keep in mind I arrived only one month ago.”
Caleb’s awkward delivery, grave and dramatic, concerned me. I clearly understood that the answer to this question would be unusual. So, instead of stating the obvious, that I believed he landed here in 1779, I shrugged my shoulders.
Caleb stared into my eyes and then spoke slowly, meaningfully. “One month ago it was November 3rd, 1968.”