Email 14

Subject:  Re: Question about pictures
Attachements: There are 2 attachments

I took the photo early one morning, off the coast of Tanzania.  The previous evening, I’d rented an old boat from a local fisherman who told me I could catch yellow-fin tuna a few hundred meters offshore.

I paddled out to a small reef and cast out a couple of lines.  They weren’t in the water ten minutes when a heavy bank of fog rolled in.  Before I could even pull in my lines, the fog had cut off my view of the shore and I was completely disoriented.

I didn’t dare try to paddle back to land because I might end up heading out to sea instead.  So, I spent all night using a rusty coffee can to bail water from the bottom of my leaky old boat.

Sometime past midnight, I first heard the whispers.  For a moment, I thought it was just the waves lapping at the boat. But that wasn’t it.  Someone–or something–was whispering my name.

I stopped and looked around.  Somewhere overhead, the moon seemed to be shining, but it was so dark and foggy on the water that I could barely see the end of my boat.  So, I went back to bailing.

The whispers persisted.

I stared into the darkness.  Perhaps the fisherman who had rented me the boat had come to check on me.  Maybe he was just out of sight.  Maybe he and one of his sons were playing a joke.

I called into the darkness, but no one answered.  No one was there.  At least, no one I could see.

I began to wonder if I was hallucinating.  Maybe I was just reacting to the stress of being tired, lost, and trying to keep the boat bailed.  But when I put my hands over my ears, I couldn’t hear the whispers any more.  They weren’t coming from inside my head.

A couple of times during the night, the fog seemed to thin and I saw lights in the distance.  I thought they might be fires burning on the shore, so I began to row toward them.  But the lights always winked out before I could get very far.  I was left in the darkness wondering, again, whether I’d even been paddling in the right direction.

Finally, after a long and sleepless night, the sky brightened and the fog suddenly lifted.  I glanced around in surprise.  In the distance, I saw another small boat.  It held two passengers.  They sat very still, as if they were surprised to see me too.

I hailed the other boaters, but they were already paddling away.  I clearly heard the splash of paddles as they turned their boat and retreated.  Twice more I called out, but they didn’t even look back.

I turned my own boat and headed for the beach.  Before long I reached the breakers and the waves carried me ashore.  With a sigh of relief, I dragged the boat out of the surf and looked around.  The beach was deserted.  No people.  No animals.  No sign that anyone had ever been there.

Except for one thing.  Trailing off through the sand, beginning where my boat had just beached, was a very unusual set of tracks.


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