sábado, 17 de octubre de 2015

The man of Pearl Island

   The island called Pearl had only one small settlement that covered one third of the island. The rest was jungle and the beautiful beaches that many tourists visited often in the summer. The rest of the year, Pearl Island was only attractive to the seekers of new marine species or people looking to score big by finding a sunken treasure. Many years had passed since anyone had discovered any of those, but people kept trying, as legends were abundant in the island. All children knew stories with mermaids, colossal creatures that lived in the sea, the god of the ocean and so on. That’s why the souvenirs in the summer were such an important source of income for the people of Pearl Island. Everyone wanted to be part of their heritage and the residents liked that.

 One of the many stories involved the old town of Saint Mary. The new Saint Mary was the only settlement in the island and was located in a small bay in the west end of the island. The old Saint Mary was on the west, on the side the first people to arrive to the island had landed. There, in the middle of the jungle, they had built a very modest town, which they abandoned years later due to the dangers of being so close to the wild and also because this side of the island flooded when hurricanes passed over it. So people eventually moved and they had remained in the same spot for many years. The ruins of old Saint Mary could still be visited on trips to the jungles and it even featured one home that was almost untouched since the days of the first settlers.

 There was a story too involving the migration of people from one town to the next and it was the one that would haunt the island and the tourists for a while. It was said that of all the families and people that lived in old Saint Mary, only one man refused to leave his house. Coincidently, he lived in the house which was untouched today. He had decided he would not leave because he had built his home himself, with his hands, working every single day since he had arrived to the island. The houses were made of stone and a kind of glue they had discovered in the jungle. It was very resistant and, at least at first, the hurricanes were unable to knock any house down.

But with time, the floods came and some people went missing, which of course worried many. Then the hurricanes became stronger and one by one, the houses ended up being just a pile of rocks. That’s how the migration to the bay began but without one of the residents, who blatantly refused to leave his home. He had also being affected by everything, even one of his sons had died in a storm once, but he didn’t think running away was the answer. His wife thought he had gone mad, so he left him there in the jungle without ever looking back. He never knew, but she remarried and had a very good life. They never knew this either, but they died the same year, her first. He had always been more resilient.

 Or maybe he was stubborn. He attempted to rebuild the hole old town but it appeared that nature only wants his house to be there, not anyone else’s. So after a while, he stopped trying to revive the past and decided to just give up to the forces that controlled the place. The rainy months were harsh, and he would often have to make small works on his house, but the whole time he remained inside, writing on a diary and smoking on his pipe. That was the way he spent his days on the house in the jungle. He also did some walks around the trees and discovered many animals that people had not seen by that time, or so he thought. He drew all of them and described them properly on his diary.

 Eventually, he died because a very dangerous spider that lived there, and that he had never seen, bit him. As no one was there to help, he died in the place where the spider had bitten him: his bedroom. So it was quite a shock for many, several years later, when they rediscovered the house, checked his room and saw a perfect human skeleton laying there, as casually as it could be. The first tourists to go to the house had the chance to see the skeleton and that’s how the stories began to develop. Some said he had died because of a course, some thought that sorcery had been involved and others that he had been killed by a mythical creature called a basilisk. There were all great stories to make people come to the island and they all worked perfectly as the tourist numbers rose every year.

 But eventually people that descended from the old settlers, specially those that were related to the man, asked for more respect to the body and asked the council of the island to remove the skeleton from the house and bury it nearby, where he would have love to be for the rest of his life. The relocation of the body was a huge media circus, filled with sensationalists reporters and tourists that had come only to see how they took the skeleton from the bedroom and put him in a hole by the house. Many took pictures and, without proper context people started inventing their own stories even before the skeleton had been fully covered by dirt.

 In some circles, the man was thought to be a vampire, one that had left the old continent in order to survive the extinction of his race. Somehow, he had arrived to Pearl Island and had lived there in the shadows for a long time until he died because he had forgotten to close the windows at night and the sunlight toasted him. Others said the man was a sorcerer that cursed the people that had left him behind. That’s why many of them, according to the story, had developed bites all over the body and why the women weren’t able to bear child for many years. That story ignored that the settlers were not very clean and they had ticks all over their clothes and that women were infertile due to a fruit they stopped eating eventually.

 Although the ruins were not the mot visited place of the island, the beaches were much more attractive, many still visited in order to learn about the history of the place. Eventually, historians discovered that the house of the man that was buried right there was the only one still on foot because of one simple reason: he had been the only one to built it correctly. It was a much less interesting reason than expected, as many still thought of him as a sorcerer, but that was the truth. The first settlers were very lazy people and had not worked hard to build their homes. It was their children who eventually went serious when they decided to build a town for others to visit and for them to be proud about. Only that man had understood that many years ago.

 Even if children still told stories about how his skeleton wondered around the island on Halloween, some scholars wanted to rescue his name and his effort to preserve a lifestyle he deemed the best. He learned many things about the island and its ecosystem, which they discovered when reading his diaries. So many decided to know more about him but they stumbled against a wall as there was no manifest of how many people had first arrived on the island and what their names were. Of course, so many were known because of their descendants but there were a large minority. So it was impossible to know who that man was. At least, judging by his diaries, they learned he was a very intelligent person.

He didn’t seem to be a scientist of any kind but he did the right things when listing animals and plants. His writing was correct but he had made lots of orthographic mistakes, not uncommon for people of his time. Maybe he wasn’t very educated but he had wanted to become more cultured while in the island. The diaries told a very different story than the ones people had created around him. He seemed to be lonely and, at times, a very hurt man. But he was also brave and honest and eager to share his thoughts. It was obvious he had been hurt when people left but he kept working for the future inhabitants of the island and for anyone that would fall in love with Pearl Island, as he did.

 Eventually, a large party was organized were the mayor of the island unveiled a monument in honor of the unknown man from the jungle. The monument was just an eternal flame, that wanted to symbolize the debt the islanders had with this man but also to all others islanders who wanted their tiny piece of land to be a paradise for everyone in the world. People cheered and the square were the monument was built became a hub for tourists coming in and out of the island, as it was located in front of the marina. Some thought of taking the bones of the man from the jungle to the town, but then realized he would never want to leave his home.

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