It occupied a corner of the attic, waiting. Once long, long ago it had been more substantial but now just a shadow remained, a chill in the air, a feeling of being observed, of threat and dark malevolence. Shipmates had lived as he had but they were gone now. It was alone. In a dusty corner time had stood still for longer than a lifetime; longer than four lifetimes. All it had was patience, it could wait.
The rum-sodden buccaneers had long gone, as had the malarial swamps, the slaves and the ever-present lash. Today the isle is a place of sunshine, lightness of spirit and glorious tropical beauty.
Mike and Sally were on their fifth vacation to San Juan when they decided to buy a place of their own. Mike came back from the agency with some brochures. He laid out some purpose-built properties for Sally to look at.
“Hey Sally, I thought you were keen? You don’t seem very interested.”
“Aw Mike, you know I love this place but those aren’t really what I had in mind. The old town is so picturesque and I really wanted to paint it, but I want to capture its moments; the way the light changes. Could we find somewhere there do you think?”
Mike sighed. He would have been very happy with a beach-front place but Sally was Sally. She was born to paint. Still, he could take Dan swimming and sailing while Sally captured the views she loved. He went back to the agency.
“But Señor, we have these lovely houses, why do you want an old building? Is not good as new and you cannot park.”
“I know, but my wife wants to paint and she wants an old house in the old town.”
“Señor, maybe you should rent first, then if you want to buy OK but I don’t think you will like it there.”
“Good idea, maybe I can convince my wife. Thank you Señora.”
It was a pleasant walk back from the agent’s office in the sunshine. The light between the buildings was so bright it almost hurt his eyes, despite the sunglasses. He dodged into one of the alleys which housed the kind of property Sally was seriously looking for. Tall, shabby old buildings sprang upwards like trees towards the light, leaving narrow shady passages. It was relatively easy to find his way back to the hotel, Mike thought; all he had to do was keep going downhill. His way was hampered here and there by incongruously-placed churches which blocked every straight route downhill, but he skirted these and kept his feet heading down. On the coast road, he was surprised to find himself a mile away from the hotel but he plodded along the front and came at last to glass doors which slid open at his approach, giving a pleasant foretaste of the air conditioning inside. He found Sally with Dan by the pool.
“All I have is these addresses and a map of the old town given to me by the agency. The rents are really low so you shouldn’t expect too much. Let’s take a look.”
“OK, but Dan wants to go to the Pirate Experience tomorrow morning. Can we go after that?”
“I’ll check with the agency.”
The agency were happy to oblige with three viewings, starting at 2.00pm. Mike thought that there was just a chance that the afternoon heat and the lack of air conditioning in old buildings might change Sally’s mind, so he was as optimistic as he could be that he would end up with a beach-front house.
They were met by a lady who introduced herself as Isabel. She seemed unenthusiastic as she let them in. Sally ran straight upstairs to look at the view from each high window.
“This is not for me Señora, I want to paint the views but they are not right.”
Mike tried not to show his relief. The place was old, very old and very shabby.
They trooped to the second house where Mike and Dan followed Sally patiently from room to room as they progressed upstairs to the attic. The house was just as old, if not older than the first one. The attic window was filthy but Sally swept away the cobwebs and cleaned a patch of glass with her handkerchief. She could see over the rooftops towards the sea and she could even see into some of the dark alleys from her vantage point.
“Mike, the view here is wonderful. Do you think we could get the place cleaned and furnished?”
“Yes, I suppose so,” said Mike, trying not to sound too disappointed.
Mike turned to his son.
“And what do you think Dan?”
Dan was seven years old, dressed in a striped T-shirt, cut-off beach trousers and still wearing the cardboard tricorn hat from the Pirate Experience.
The shadow had seen him. The boy was unaware. Its time had come.
Eyes from three hundred years ago looked back at the man who thought he was its father.
“Anything you say cap’n.”