Phyllis sat on her widow’s walk with a heavy woolen blanket draped over her legs. She placed a thermos filled with hot chocolate on the small bistro table before her.
The soft crush and rumble of breaking waves drifted upward on the salty breeze. The cawing of seagulls filled the air and the hubbub of traffic below her was winding down as the street cleared of cars. Rush-hour was ebbing, and this was Phyllis’s favorite time of day.
The weather chilled days before and brought an abrupt end to summer with its frosty wind. Even the sea breeze, once musky with brine and heat, was now crisp with a stinging bite.
Phyllis watched the long shadows of the pavilion as they stretched over the sand towards the glimmering water in the waning sunlight. The sound of the breaking waves and the soft twilight glow cast a mystical spell over the beach.
Phyllis’s gaze turned to the island shimmering beyond the bay. From her vantage point, she saw the crumbling buildings of the old town.
Phyllis reminisced about her childhood trips to Motherpearl Island on her father’s boat. He claimed its anglers caught the best lobsters, and there were none so tasty in the universe.
Motherpearl Island had once been a thriving community despite its isolation. Thunderous waves broke over jagged rocks all around it; the only means of communication was a long, man-made wooden pier which jutted out from the island’s single, tiny, and pebbled beach. The settlers had built their homes and businesses, a church with pealing bells, and a clock-tower on the grassy meadow that stretched beneath a towering forested hill. A lighthouse stood atop the hill’s barren peak. Beyond it, nothing but rocky cliffs and crushing waves.
Phyllis recalled the strange iridescence of the rocks that gave the island its name. The entire island seemed to shimmer with a gossamer sheen of sparkling color, much like a dragonfly’s wings. Memories of Motherpearl Island evoked happiness and contentment; a simple and magical life. Her mind flooded with sun-filled days sitting on the jagged rocks, eating lobsters with Daddy, then hiking up to the lighthouse, and sailing home upon glimmering sunsets.
Then, the paradise crashed down during a wild, raging night. A storm wiped out the village on Motherpearl Island, scattering its inhabitants over the bay. Phyllis shuddered at the memory of bodies floating upon the water, day after day, for weeks. The storm also took Daddy’s boat and all the wonderful weekends at sea, the stinging breeze playing with her hair, and the waves lapping at the hull. Daddy never replaced the boat.
Good years mingled with harsh years followed, and throughout, Phyllis watched the island from her widow’s walk and through Daddy’s old binoculars. A ghost town with decaying buildings; unreachable as the once sturdy pier now lay at the bottom of the sea.
Over the years, through the ancient lenses, Phyllis bore witness as the once-thriving town gave up the ghost and crumbled to the ground like sandcastles vanquished by a raging ocean. The clock in the old clock-tower had stopped with the storm, its hands suspended in time for years. Until one day, with a gasp, Phyllis had seen it crash to the ground. The church-tower ceiling tumbled inwards, buckling under the weight of the bells as they collapsed into the nave with deafening and discordant clangs. The lighthouse, severed in half, hunched on the hilltop; its light, fallen beside the stumpy foundation, pointed toward the sky.
The sun had set, and the world was turning blue. Blue sky, blue sea, blue air, like the cyanotype Daddy once showed her of the beach she had lived by every day of her life, but had never known.
There had been an amusement park, Daddy said, and people flocked to it on the weekends for popcorn and lobster. But no lobster as delicious as those from Motherpearl Island.
The first stars twinkled in the sky and the blue darkened into black, as if black ink spilled on blue paper, oozing and blending over the world.
The seagulls quieted, and only the thunderous waves rumbled. All cars had gone home, and the cold settled over the widow’s walk. Phyllis stayed, draping another blanket over her shoulders, as crisp stars sparkled one by one to life over the dark inky waves.
Phyllis sipped her hot chocolate, and a smile dawned on her lips as her eyes fixed on the long-abandoned island.
Bling! A light sparked on Motherpearl Island.
Bling! Then another and another, until the abandoned island was aglow with tiny pinpricks of light, like a fairy village at night.
Phyllis grabbed her binoculars and lifted them to her eyes.
Only during these hours and through these binoculars, Phyllis became a distant witness to the town’s severed heyday. Through the lenses she gazed at the clock, now back on its perch on the tower, and ticking away. The lighthouse, now tall atop the hill, shone its round, revolving beam over the breaking waves. On the soft breeze, Phyllis perceived the faraway peal of the church bells as they chimed in the shimmering reminiscence of glory days long gone.
Daddy was right, Phyllis never again ate lobsters as delicious as those on Motherpearl Island.