IRISH BLUE 2 THE SONG OF THE STONES A novel by Sheila Willar Copyright 2016 Sheila Willar ISBN 978-0-9867101-4-8 You are living stones, being built up into a spiritual house … 1 Peter 2:5
CHAPTER 6 ............................ THE SCROLL
The air outside was cool and the sky was a pastel blue when Erin and her family and friends arrived at the harbour. The wind was calm and there was the promise of a smooth launch from the dock.
“I had no idea!” exclaimed Erin when she saw the cruise ship. “I thought we were travelling by freighter.”
“Is that why you were acting so weird?” asked Matthew.
“I thought we were going to have to cram into a barge,” she explained. Erin had seen it in her dreams and assumed that they were going to cross the Atlantic on a small ship.
“The SOVEREIGN III,” sighed Kelly as she scanned the length of the vessel. "She's beautiful!”
“One of the largest cruise ships in existence,” added Peter, whose brother, Alexander Mancinni, had commissioned the ship to carry the Irish Blue Chapel back to Ireland.
“We have to change for dinner with the Captain,” announced Fiona.
“Philosophers don’t dress up,” replied Matthew.
“I agree,” said Erin, who had nothing special to wear.
The three friends hurried to their cabins to get settled away and then took a tour of the ship. The SOVEREIGN III was enormous and had every convenience and luxury. There were restaurants, theatres, shopping and art galleries, and all were open for the Mancinni Group, even though they were the only passengers onboard.
As they made made their way into the Grand Dining Room for a reception, Astor waved at Erin.
“Over here, dear,” she called and then introduced Erin to the captain. “Howard, this is the girl I told you about, Erin McBride.”
Erin blushed. She did not like a fuss.
“It’s a pleasure,” said Captain Loran. “I hope you enjoy your stay.”
“Howard dear,” began Astor. “Before we send off, I would like to visit the hold to see the chapel.”
“Certainly,” said Howard. “I shall take you there myself.”
“Come with us Erin,” commanded Mrs. Mancinni.
Astor motioned to Alexander, who called his team, and they all followed the captain to the elevator. Astor chatted the entire way as they descended elevators and meandered down narrow corridors. They stopped in front of a heavy metal door and one of the captain’s aids opened it so that the group could enter the storage area.
“Watch your step,” cautioned the captain.
The stone from the chapel had been crated into one tonne units that had been distributed into alcoves along the walls of the room. Alexander and his team inspected the pallets and the floor chains that held the crates in place. Everything looked secure.
Erin scanned the room and had the strangest feeling that she had been there before. She recognized the bluish hue from the fluorescent lights and the bumpy grey enamel paint on the walls. Even the smell of the pine boards on the crates seemed familiar.
She noticed that the others were leaving and felt a hesitation to go. She wanted to stay and sit with the stone, as if it were a friend, but she felt ridiculous for such a notion.
“Howard, do you have an extra key for this room?” Astor asked the captain.
“Absolutely,” answered the captain as he ordered his aide to give Mrs. Mancinni a key.
“I already have one mother,” explained Alexander, as he reached into his pocket.
“Not for you dear. For Erin,” insisted Astor.
“Here you go then,” said the captain’s aide as he gave the extra key to Erin. “Look after that,” he added.
The group made their way back to the reception and the captain excused himself so that he could get the ship under way. He had to clear the Brooklyn Bridge on low tide, and get ahead of a tropical storm that had formed in the gulf of Mexico. The SOVEREIGN III had proven herself in rough weather, but the captain did not want to test the limits of the ship. His crew had calculated a sea path that skirted the South of Newfoundland along the edge of the Grand Banks, and then out across the Atlantic just ahead of the storm.
Later that evening, the Mancinni’s, their family, guests and employees, celebrated a commemorative dinner with the captain. However, it was the head of the Mancinni Corporation, John Sr., who captivated the small audience. He told the story of how he had fallen in love with the little chapel many years ago, and had it shipped to New York as a gift for his wife. He said that he was sad to see it leave their property, but was also convinced that returning it to Ireland was the right thing to do.
Erin and Astor exchanged awkward glances, because for them the “right thing to do” was to have the stones stop singing their haunting songs.
Erin spent the next three days on holiday. She enjoyed buffets, and attended classes on painting and ice sculpturing. At night, she, Kelly and Matthew lounged on the deck chairs under the stars, as if their ship was floating through the milky way.
On the fourth day at sea, the storm was close on their heels, and the ocean waves and wind grew stronger, so much so, that the captain asked everyone not to use their balconies. He extended the lateral stabilizers on the hull of the ship to counteract the heaving and pitching motions, but it still did not keep the rolls of bread from rolling off the tables.
Alexander and his team constantly checked the stone to make sure that it was secure, and hoped that the storm would not follow them to Ireland. The only thing that could go wrong, he thought, was the weather. He had prearranged for a barge to meet the SOVEREIGN III just North of Kinkerry, where they would offload the stones and return them to their original home. He was just about to call the owner of the barge to make sure that everything was ready, when he received a call from Ireland.
“Hello,” answered Alexander.
“Hello. My name is Patrick Morgan. I’m calling to see if we could discuss some business in Ireland.”
“What kind of business?” asked Alexander.
“I’m interested in the old Irish Blue quarry in Kinkerry. I understand that you recently purchased it,” began Patrick.
“I would like to purchase the distributing rights for the stone,” explained Patrick.
“How did you hear about us?” asked Alexander.
“I’m from Kinkerry. I'd like to establish a new business there and create jobs.”
“I will be there in a few days. If you are nearby, I could meet with you then,” suggested Alexander.
“I’m in Kinkerry right now,” explained Patrick.
“Great!” answered Alexander. “However, I can't make firm plans because I'm not sure exactly when we'll arrive. I’m on the SOVEREIGN III presently, and we’re planning on offloading to a barge just outside of Kinkerry in a day or two,” he added. “Perhaps you will see the ship from shore.”
“That will be an interesting sight,” mused Patrick. “My wife always wanted to go on a cruise,” he said as he reminisced about Kerry, knowing full well that she would not like to be referred to as his wife.
“Yes,” agreed Alexander. “My wife loves cruises. We’re crossing with some family and friends. Some of them are from Ireland. In fact, some are from Kinkerry,” he added. “You wouldn’t happen to know Kerry or Erin McBride would you? There is also a Mrs. Finola Morgan onboard who is also from that area.”
The phone went silent. Patrick said nothing. He didn’t know how to tell Alexander that he had just spoken the names of his wife, daughter and sister. He didn’t want to explain that he hadn’t seen them for many years.
“I’m sorry Alexander, but I have to go,” said Patrick suddenly.
“Yes of course,” replied Alexander.
The two men agreed to meet as soon as possible and ended their calls. Alexander looked out the window of his cabin and thought that the weather had become a little worse. Patrick looked out the window of his boarding room towards the open sea, and scanned the darkening horizon for a ship.
Erin said "good night" to Kelly and Matthew and settled down to read a book from the library. After a few chapters she drifted off to sleep but awoke in the middle of the night. For an instant she forgot where she was, and knocked the book onto the floor. She pulled the covers back, swung her feet around, and in the dim light, reached for the book.
Erin stared at the emblem on the cover. It was a picture of a bell tower, just like the one that she, Father Michael and Cleary had tried to repair at the cathedral in Kinkerry. It made her lonely for home and lonely for the stones that sat in the hull of the ship, as she had the overwhelming feeling that the chapel was calling out to her.
Erin tried to ignore it but the notes flooded her room, and rang out as if each note was a bell blowing in the wind. The pattern was captivating and the notes seemed a little cheeky as if they knew they were waking her from sleep.
She reached for her satchel and the key to the storage room, dressed quickly, and left her cabin to follow the string of notes through the hallways to the holding area at the back of the ship.
She put the key into the lock and opened the heavy metal door, which took a lot of effort. As she stepped inside, it closed on its own behind her, as it swung with the motion of the ship.
Erin laughed nervously as she walked along by the side of the crates and told each one the same thing, “You’ll be home soon, and you'll be home soon.”
She felt silly being there alone and decided to do what she saw Alexander and his team do earlier. She walked around the crates, inspecting them and giving the stabilizing chains a tug to make sure they were secure.
However, as she tested one of the chains it broke, and some of the stone fell onto the floor.
“Oh! No!” she gasped.
Erin hurried to examine the damage. She wanted to fix the problem, but the stones were too big to lift back up onto the palette. She looked around for a lever or a ramp that could help, but there was only a forklift which she didn’t feel comfortable using. She walked back to where the stones lay on the floor, when suddenly, a small scroll rolled out from under the pallet and up against her foot. She caught it just before it rolled back underneath, and went to get a better look at it under one of the hanging lights.
Erin gently unfurled the wrinkled parchment, and when it opened, a rush of wind brushed by the back of her neck. She felt as if someone was standing behind her, and she heard a crystal clear voice say:
“Guard the scroll,
With all your might,
Guard it till,
The time is right!”
Erin held her breath and turned around, but no one was there. She was just about to look at the scroll again, when she heard voices outside the door. It was Alexander who was putting his key in the lock, so she quickly rolled the scroll back up and tucked it under her jacket before the door opened.
“What are you doing here?” asked Alexander in a not so pleased voice. The captain had told him that the security officers had seen a young woman on the surveillance cameras enter the room.
“I just came to check,” she answered timidly.
“You shouldn’t be here by yourself,” cautioned Alexander.
“What’s happened here?” asked one of the engineers.
“Some of the stones shifted and broke through the crating,” explained Erin.
Alexander and his team immediately went into action and put the stones back into their packaging. They also added a new set of chains to the palette.
“Let’s go,” urged the captain as he ushered everyone outside. He gave Erin a cautionary look and discouraged her from returning to the storage room on her own.
The captain’s aide escorted them back to the main deck where Erin promised to “stay put” in her cabin for the rest of the night. However, as she walked into her room, the notes reappeared and danced around her head. They seemed almost jubilant that she had found the scroll and couldn’t wait for her to examine it. In their elation, they played the most enchanting song that Erin had ever heard. It seemed to ping right through her heart.
Deep in the sea, below the SOVEREIGN III, a military submarine passed beneath the ship's hull. Fathoms below, an officer sat at his station, monitoring the sounds of the ocean. He smiled to himself as he heard the familiar resonance made by the great ship. The echoes that came from the propellers of the SOVEREIGN III were unique enough that the officer could identify it immediately.
However, he also noticed that there was something unusual about the signal. He checked and rechecked the wave pattern on his computer screen. He filtered it and tried to decode it, but none of his software programs could solve the staccato like rhythm.
The officer concluded that the sound he heard, must have been generated by advanced technology, but what he did not realize, was that the sound had come from a very ancient source.