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John Dyer Exhibition I Official Limited Edition Print I Art & Storytelling Competition
 

Hidden Ghosts by Sophie Deis Horton

As the night fell bursts of explosive colour erupted into the sky. The elongated shadows of prowling tall ships crept along the ichor, black sea; reached for the dinghies fluttering across the waves and sent splinters of wood into the oblivious crowd. The nights hunt began.

All around her Jasmine’s neighbours sent joyous screams and shouts into the heavy summer air. Enthusiasm reverberated through the crowd as everyone flocked to see the weaving boats.  In their delusional states the hunt was harmless fun. The sweet notes of her accordion shielded Jasmine from the glamour of safety and entertainment; she could see the hidden ghosts. Jasmine saw the rolling, out of control tall ships crushing dinghies below their bows; she heard the cries for help by those plunged into Falmouth’s unforgiving depths. Caressing the ivory notes of her oak red accordion kept Jasmine sane. That didn’t stop everyone questioning her sanity since her parents ‘disappearance’, how could the tall ships do any wrong? But the musicians knew. Anyone who played an instrument blocked the glamour but it made others look down upon them as insane ranting idiots that were trying to spoil their fun. Jasmine had long since given up trying to save people. No one listened.

Sat in her window playing melodic tunes and brushing her curling auburn hair behind her ears, Jasmin did everything she could to procrastinate before going to bed. With sleep came the mental torture of memories- flashes of the petite day boat, handmade bunting swinging from the mast, a curve of deep cobalt against the glistening green sea splintered beneath the ‘Royal Expedition’. Every image coupled with the doomed, despairing screams of a young couple. Jasmin’s parents, her parents who everyone said were just lost at sea like the dozens of others.

Drawing her hand across her eyes Jasmine awoke form her fitful sleep. She never remembered drifting off, she just assumed it was when the nightmares started but that would mean she had been asleep for the past three years. Pulling on her jeans Jasmine trudged down the stairs to make breakfast. Opening the fridge she pulled out a carton of milk with a few dregs left in the bottom and let out an exasperated sigh. She grabbed the keys off the side and slipped on her Converses.

Meandering through the tourist packed streets Jasmine succumbed to the scent of sweet pastries and took a seat on the quay. There used to be buskers and people selling odd trinkets but they were gone now, the strumming of a guitar a distant memory. Or a unique reality. Snapping her head up Jasmine locked eyes with the guitarist. She didn’t recognise him as one of the local ‘madmen’ but his sharp blue eyes held an age far beyond that of his face, an age that Jasmine saw in her own forest green irises every time she looked in the mirror. She reached into her pocket and drew out the last of that week’s wages, a couple of pound coins, and tossed them into his case. Then she rose and was about to leave when he called “You lost someone didn’t you, out at sea I mean” a pained breath escaped before Jasmine replied “I didn’t lose anyone they were murdered.” She turned and was about to stride off when he caught her wrist. “Sorry my mum was killed too, I didn’t mean to stir any memories”

“How did you know that you stirred memories?”

“Your eyes flashed and at the mention of the sea I always remember… everything.”

“Jasmine Struntle, what’s your name?” offered Jasmine, holding out a stiff courteous hand, she wouldn’t apologise properly until she trusted him. “Will Therismith sorry about before.” Will shook her hand and made his way back to his abandoned guitar which was already splattered by the seagulls in the scarce minuets it was unattended. “Do you have anywhere to go?” asked Jasmine the words tumbling out, “I mean us musicians need to stick together.”  She smiled what she hoped appeared friendly but the truth was she had no idea why she had made the offer, did she feel sorry for him? “If you’re sure, I can’t get a job and have no money to leave town so I can’t pay yo-“

“It doesn’t matter my parents left me the house so I don’t pay rent… just don’t make the hot water bill sky rocket.”

Trudging up the stairs, precariously balancing the mountain of bedding and towls she had just haulled out of the airing cuboard, jasmin wondered what she was doing. She had lived alone for three years and enjoyed her own company but she felt a pang of sympathy for Will and they both knew of the torment ocuuring in the harbour. Maybe he could help her carry out her plan to save Falmouth. She swept that thought away abruptly, better to set the trust in stone before she avalanched into her master plan. After knocking on the spare room door Will answered andhelp to make thebed. “I’m going to pick up some fish and chips what do you want?” inquired Jasmine, it was half six and cooking was a very unappealing task. Besides after going to the same place down the road at least once a week made it feel like a tradition she couldn’t shake. “Just a normal cod and chips please, do you want me to come with you?”

“okay, come on my stomache is going to eat itself and the rest of my insides if I don’t eat soon!”

After unwrapping the greasy paper andfinding two clean, usable forks they ate on the windowsill where Jasmine often played. “You get a good veiw of all the celebrations here.”

Jasmine managed a reserved agreement around a mouthful of chips, then added “But after four years fireworks loose their vibrant appeal.”

“Guess so… do you think there is a way to stop them, the tall ships, make everything normal again?”

“Yes.” Jasmines short reply made Will turn to look at her with an expression that said “go on explain.” Jasmine hesitated but thought he lost family just like me and I need the help. Before the mental batttle concluded she poured out the plan that her father died trying to enact. “There is a melody that confuses the ships and causes them to crash, when they have been sunk they rise again without their independent minds and actions. They become old lumps of wood again.”

“Are you sure it works?” asked Will a sceptive look contorting his face. Another succinct yes from Jasmine followed.” Will you teach me the melody so we can stop them?”

“Its not that simple you have to board the most powerful ship ‘Royal Expedition’ the others will crash first as they have the least power but when the mother ship sinks its likely anyone aboard will die.”

“I don’t mind, I would rather take the chance, I just want this to end.” Jasmine found herself unexpectedly shocked by Wills courage and for the rest of the night they played the saving tune, rehearing every note until their fingers flexed to the correct note until they had to engage their brains. This time tomorrow they would be dead or free.

The smell of pancakes and oranges woke Jasmine the next morning. She was surprised she didn’t remember the nightmares that must have taunted her last night; she must have been too tired or focused on today. After a brief shower jasmine entered the kitchen to find a mountain of pancakes stacked on a plate in the centre of the table. Halves of oranges were waiting near a bag of sugar and suddenly desire to devour the lot filled Jasmine. “You made breakfast!” asked jasmine “It looks great, thanks.”

“I wasn’t going o save te world on an empty stomache” stated Will a greedy smile stretching his face.

“Falmouth.”

“Huh?” asked Will his cheeks already stuffed with pancake.

“You won’t save the world, just falmouth”

For the first time that day Jasmine felt nervous, her stomache flipped and spun; she could have sworn she was bright green. Will returned with the keys to a hired motorboat and they paced the quay looking for their appointed transport. It was a small white motorboat with a stripe of green and several fenders adorning each side, it was tourist proof. They had planned to board the ship whilst it slept during the day and wait untill it stirred.

They were both silent as they approached the ‘Royal Expidition’  and the ship didn’t react as they clambered the slick rope ladder hung off the side that looked as if it were merely a knot of seaweed.Jasmine took the lead sat in the centre of the deck, took out her accordian and waited.

Hours passed until finally at sunse they boat groaned into life and set sail. The stars weaved around the top of the mast and together Jasmine and Will counted into their melody over the thunderous claps and screeches of fireworks.

Minuets after playing the high repetative tune several ships had succmed to the depths and were placidly lined once more against the harbour wall. Soon their fingers ached from the tunes intense technical demands and they were aboard the last rogue tall ship. ‘Royal Expidition’ swerved and ducked churning over and through waves spray dampened the guitar and accordian making them tricky to play finally the boat snagged into the rocks and began to go down. But it didn’t want to die. Caught like a rabbit in a snare the boat rocked and squirmed in an attempt to free itself.  Jasmine and Will clung to the deck in a desperate attemtp to escaape the churning reef. Then the boat began to fade. It was dying. Jasmine screamed, what about them? Would they die? Suddenly it disappeared and they fell into the jagged rocks piercing the air.

Water blurred Jasmines vision and she panicked disorientated but in need of air. She looked for light and kicked. Oxygen filled her lungs like a rush of pricless gold. But where was Will? With all her strength she swam for the shore and walked up the white shingle beach.A body lay face down, waves washing over its legs and a steady stream of red tainted the surrounding water. Jasmine sprinted kicking up stone as she raced to cover the distance between them. Then her heart stopped. The world froze, why, how, what? Questions swamped her mind but every thought was muddied. It was Will. She reac for his wrist. Thwere was no pulse. She was free but he was dead. Her only friend. Jasmine was more alone than ever. What would she gain from the victory?

-Ten years later-

Jasmine cast a reef into the rolling surf and played the melody that had saved her town. Then she bought a danish pastry and sat on the bench ,where she had first met Will. The fireworks pinwheeled across the sky and the crew artfully manned the tall ships in a harbour parade. Looking back she realised it had been worth it, everyone was happy and safe. But she would never forget Will.

 

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Artist Information: John Dyer I Joanne Short

 

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