Manitou Island: Part 3
The Story Of An Island
CHARMIAN STOOD STARING at Miss Anne for a long while, speechless, before realizing that her voice was working again. She coughed slightly, clearing her throat, just in case it decided to give out on her again.
"S...story?" she stammered, and hated that she did so.
Miss Anne tilted her head just a bit, as if indicating the picture. "Behind that. The picture you hold. Everything has a story. That picture has a most intriguing one."
"Really?" Drake this time; once again, Charmian had forgotten he was even there. What was it about him that made him so forgettable when he was so annoying? He took the picture from Charmian's hands and held it out at Miss Anne, as if he were a policeman showing her a composite drawing. "How's it go? What do you know about her? Who is she, anyway?"
Miss Anne smiled slightly. "Please, bring those stools over here and make yourselves a bit more comfortable. I'm afraid they're not that much to sit on, but it's better than standing all day."
The two teenagers did so, dusting the seats off and sitting down while Miss Anne sat on an old chair near the corner of the room. There was hardly any space for sitting, and Charmian assumed the stools must be meant for reaching the higher shelves. As soon as they sat down all three of them fell silent, and the only thing Charmian could hear for several moments was the faint humming of some machine far back in the store. She'd never noticed the sound before, but then again, she'd never heard the store so quiet as this. She supposed it was the anticipation.
Anticipation--? She also suddenly realized just how interested she was in learning about the mysterious red-haired girl. Why should a mere photograph pique her interest so much? Didn't she have better things to do than spend her time pondering over old pictures? Still, she had to know. She told the practical part of her mind to shut up for once and sat forward on the stool, waiting for Miss Anne to begin.
The woman started out by nodding at the picture again. "That girl there is an Indian. Native American. That is a very old photo, from the late 1800's, yet she lived even before that time."
"Huh?" This from Drake. Though at the exact same moment he'd said it, Charmian herself had been thinking, Huh?
"It's rather difficult to explain," Miss Anne replied. "That young woman and her...tribe...they lived in the 1700's, from what I know. This photo however must have been taken in the 1800's, as there were no cameras before then, not that I know of. Plus there is a date scribbled on the back, under the frame; I believe it's post-Civil War." She folded her hands on her lap; the sunlight shining through one small high window cast orange and yellow patterns across her dress and the floor, as if some of the autumn leaves had been spilled at her feet. "But the person who took the photo gave it to its previous owner in the 1900's. Less than a decade ago, in fact."
"Huh?" Charmian this time. She was beginning to think Miss Anne had gone completely nuts.
"Ma'am, that doesn't make any sense," Drake elucidated. "I mean, that would mean it had to have been taken in, like, three different centuries...and...well, that's not possible, is it? I mean, unless you mean something else, I'm confused..."
"No, I mean exactly what I said." Miss Anne cleared her throat. "Perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself. I'll begin from the beginning, at least, what I know of it." She glanced up at the window as she began to speak.
"The young woman in that photo is named Red Bird. I've already told you she's a native. She comes from an island--you both know it as Mackinac Island, but for her it has a different name."
Charmian noticed the verb tenses Miss Anne was using--they were present tense. If this girl lived a century--or TWO centuries--ago, why would the storekeeper speak thus?
"What different name does it have for her?" Drake asked, obviously eager to know more.
"Manitou," Miss Anne replied. "For her, it is known as Manitou Island. From the name they give the spirits that wander about the place. Not to be confused with any other Manitou Islands in this area or any other."
"Spirits?" Drake looked ready to fall off his stool.
A slight smile. "Don't allow me to get ahead of myself again. Red Bird lives--yes, I said lives, Charmian--on this Manitou Island, with her family, her tribe, her companions. She has lived there all her life and never been to the mainland. Her people are very secluded; only very few have ever made it back to the mainland, and it's never the mainland that you and I know. It's the mainland the way it would have been hundreds of years ago, before many even lived here. The explanation for how this photo could have been taken in the eighteenth, the nineteenth, and the twentieth centuries all at once? You'll probably believe me crazy for telling you this, but I think it's a bit too late to go back now. Manitou Island does not exist in the same reality that we know, the same reality that we call our home. It exists in a different reality--or rather, several different realities. Manitou Island is a little piece of land caught between different dimensions."
"Dimensions?" Now Miss Anne really had Drake's attention.
A nod. "That's the best and only way I can explain it--though I'm certain the natives would have a better, more appropriate explanation, it just doesn't translate into our language very well. But it's close enough. Manitou Island simply doesn't exist in our reality. When you get on a ferry and take the trip to Mackinac Island, on any ordinary day, that's precisely where you'll end up--Mackinac Island. One of Michigan's greatest tourist spots. But there are...certain times...when the dimensions...the realities...are aligned differently, and if your timing is just right, you'll end up in a completely different place. That place is most usually Manitou Island."
Charmian held up her hands--one to silence Miss Anne for a moment, the other to press to her temple, which was suddenly starting to pound. "Hold on a sec. Let me see if I've got this straight...it sounds like you're saying, that Mackinac Island, and this Manitou Island, well, they're both in the same physical place, but it's just different dimensions? Like, one day when you head out for Mackinac Island, it's there, but the next day, Manitou Island is there instead? Like, they switch places or something?"
"No...you were correct to begin with. They do not switch places; they are both there, occupying the same space. Only in different times, different realities. While you walk around on Mackinac Island, you walk also on Manitou Island, only you are in a different reality, our reality, so all you can see is the reality that you already know."
"But, two things can't occupy the same space..."
"Not within the same reality, no. But here we are talking about two completely different dimensions. You may be walking through infinite spaces and realities every day of your life. When you sit at your desk in school, another person may be sitting in the exact same spot. As long as the two of you are in your own realities, you would never even realize the other exists."
"So...if this island is in a different...'reality,' then how do you--how does anybody know about it? How does anybody even get there?"
"I've already said, it depends on when you set out for the Island--our Island. The timing has to be just right. A sort of...tear, for want of a better word...opens up between the realities, and allows people from both sides to pass into the other reality. Red Bird and her people could make it here, if they wished, and we could make it to their dimension." She paused. "Only these tears are very dangerous and unstable. At least, on Red Bird's side they are. It seems so much easier for us to make it to her side, but her people, on coming here, always seem to make it into a different time..."
This was getting to be far too much for Charmian to handle. Miss Anne had evidently lost it long ago. "I'm sorry, but...well, this is REALLY beyond weird, if you don't mind me saying so."
Another smile. "I know. I realize how odd it all sounds, and I don't mind if you don't believe. However, the photo has a story, this is it, and I thought you should know." Her glance fell on the picture, still in Drake's hands. "Perhaps I should let you know all that I do. You're curious about the picture, that much is true; maybe it means you're the ones to carry out the task he has in mind."
"He?" Charmian echoed.
Miss Anne didn't elaborate. "I'll need to keep the rest of this short. You two will have much ahead of you, if you decide to follow my advice. That woman in the photo--Red Bird--she has much ahead of her as well, much to do, but also much danger. There is little or nothing her own people can do to help her--for she is the one who must help them. She can't, however, if anything happens to her. There are some...creatures...who would much like to do away with her, before she fulfills her mission. If none of her own people can help her, it means outsiders must do the job. That's where you two come in."
"Us?" Charmian loathed how she could only seem to speak in monosyllables, and mere echoes of what another was saying at that, but she could think of nothing else suitable for the situation.
Now Miss Anne looked directly at her. Her stare was penetrating; Charmian actually had to look away to avoid squirming. "The ferries are still going out to Mackinac Island daily. It's not yet too late. I have a feeling the timing will be right soon; he told me, that he has the power to influence things to make it just right for your arrival."
"On Manitou Island." Her eyes gentled and her smile grew wider. "If you'll allow me to be even more melodramatic for just a moment, you and your friend, if you wish to save Red Bird and her people, are going to have to set sail pretty soon...and the port you sail into isn't going to be a very friendly one."