⠀ ⠀⠀Today marks the first anniversary of my grandpa’s disappearance.
⠀ ⠀⠀I hunched over to take a look at the place he was last seen: a picturesque island, remotely settled in the middle of nowhere. The mountains nestled behind the scenery with humility and the shore was coated with several of the sea’s filthy greens. In between the landscape, laid the ivory church, gleaming with elegance like an enchanted pearl.
⠀ ⠀⠀I rowed the oars as they wrestled against the calming, but rippling waves. My left hand held onto one with reluctance, being careful with my blistering wounds where all the splinters and the unpredictability are to blame for.
⠀ ⠀⠀As I landed near the bay, I hopped out of my boat. The island was blanketed with a phantom-like silence, not even a single bird was chirping from the distance. The only sounds I could hear were my boots as it makes each splash, and the creaking boat as it mimics the rhythm of the ripples.
⠀ ⠀⠀It has been a decade since I last stepped on this island.
⠀ ⠀⠀Back in my childhood days, this used to be the main locale for all of our family gatherings. Grandpa was a fisherman, who devoured an abundance of history books about the prominent people at seas. It was his dream of becoming a part of their history. He wanted to go on a voyage, to explore and inhabit unfamiliar islands. With that, he leaped a huge step when he discovered one during a dreadful storm.
⠀ ⠀⠀”An island would always be born when the rain begins to pour,” he once sang to me.
⠀ ⠀⠀The church was already there way back before grandpa’s arrival. He adored the construction and its petty flaws, that he would always be scrubbing the walls and sweeping the floors. Even though he wasn’t a religious man, he would still respect the church by sleeping in the van that was abandoned too.
⠀ ⠀⠀I don’t know what his other intentions were. He could be settling for investment or maybe he really did believe in God. There were a lot of things I don’t know about my grandpa– I wished I did. Walking around this island is the only way I could connect with him. I’d like to think that maybe he isn’t gone, he just became the island. The tranquility of this place is the closest I can get to grandpa’s embrace.
⠀ ⠀⠀Though, one thing is for sure: I know all of the best hiding spots on this island, especially inside the church. We used to play hide-and-seek, along with my siblings and my younger cousins, while the adults were busy barbequing and chatting near the dock. Grandpa would sometimes join in and play as the seeker. I usually get caught first, allowing me to just follow my grandpa around and observe him. He knew the place by heart, so catching all of us within twenty minutes was never a problem.
⠀ ⠀⠀When I pushed the church doors open, the aroma of old books began to trickle through my nose. I could see the sunlight entering through the stained glass, beaming at the specks of dust that were hovering in the air. I wavered my hands to prevent myself from breathing in the dust as I strolled my way around the building– Nothing has changed, as far as I’m concerned.
⠀ ⠀⠀As I walked near the altar, my nostrils were interrupted by a faint odor.
⠀ ⠀⠀”It could be the pests,” I thought to myself. I had a bad experience with a rat once while I was sitting at the pews. I could hear grandpa snickering as I screamed and ran outside.
⠀ ⠀⠀After much wandering, I had a sudden realization. Grandpa had a favorite hiding place back when I was young. It was near the altar, concealed under the wide carpets was a trapdoor. He told me about it because it was a two-man job, he needed help closing the trapdoor and covering the carpet as he makes his way down the staircase. This has always been my favorite secret between us.
⠀ ⠀⠀I’ve decided to explore that secret passage once again. I pulled the dusty carpet out of the way, then I carefully opened the trapdoor.
⠀ ⠀⠀The same smell greeted me, only this time, it has gotten stronger, it smelled like putrid meat. My intuition started to kick in. My legs became wobbly and I was hesitating a bit. After much contemplation, I forced myself to go down.
⠀ ⠀⠀That’s when I noticed a silhouette of someone’s feet, dangling in mid-air.