This is the second part of a story – read Part 1 first!
The sea sparkled bright and clear from our high vantage and we were perkily alert for more anomalous monsters. However, the only shadows that marred the water were those of ordinary fauna: shoals of Goading Fish and the huge but harmless Rooted Jellyfish which are common in the Aberrian shallows. As we flew over the picturesque reefs and atolls our pilot grunted (more than he had so far uttered) and said he couldn’t get through to island control. This was unusual enough to set him grumbling about the safety of his “bird”. Our intention had been to set down on the farthest island and work our way back using the endless string of hotels and rustic ferries for transport and comfort. But the crackling radio and Bob’s rising anxiety about the silence from the islands prompted a reluctant change of plans.
Harvey, Maxwell and I held a brief conference. We agreed that we ought to proceed, but with perhaps a mite more caution than usual. Accordingly we requested that Bob set us down near the middle of the archipelago. That was when we caught our first glimpse of the thing that had casually snapped the head off the Ultrashark and spat it onto the sands.
We were passing over one of the larger islands with an apparently jungle-themed hotel dominating the shoreline, when fire erupted out of the complex. Billows of thick black smoke rose upwards as Bob banked the plane sharply to avoid being blinded. The smoke obscured our view but between the clouds we could see movement – a huge shadow within the murk darting back and forth across the island. We circled it, trying to get a clear view of the animal but it plunged back into the sea as the smoke began to blow away. Its length was swallowed by the deeper water.
The fire was short-lived, burning itself into a blackened smear. We could see no one on the beach, not even people running from or to the hotel. It seemed that our investigation might not be as merry or straightforward as we had hoped. But we are scientists (with the exception of Maxwell; he is an enthusiastic amateur) and mere discomfort would not impede us.
We chose the beleaguered island for our beginning (which Bob informed us was named after a local saint – St Balm’s). Although this appeared wildly foolish to our pilot we had our reasons. We knew the beast had been there so physical evidence ought to be widely available. There was also a good chance that it would not be returning if it had already denuded the island of life, and we would be able to pick up its trail. Clearly the creaure was dangerous and carnivorous and we preferred to be behind it than in its path.
I referred to my holiday guide. St Balm’s was the second largest island and sported two hotels: the beach front jungle-hotel and another set into the lightly forested centre of the island. There were also cabins dotted about and a range of recreational activities. It sounded lovely although none of it gave the impression that it would withstand anything with more teeth than the rain.
Bob touched down lightly on the sea and we splashed awkwardly onto the shore. We prepared for our expedition by piling Harvey high with the bags and packs Bob hurled from the plane. Bob declined the opportunity to wait for us and was in the air again almost before our feet left prints in the sand. He had promised to stay near the radio though and would keep an ear open for our inevitable cries for aid. We gave him an optimistic wave as he vanished into the distance.
Part 3 coming soon….