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Lieutenant Jones in: The Alternate Universe--The Exciting Conclusion!

 

It was the sleeping couple from the park!  So the cry probably should have been ‘People Overboard!’ or ‘Couple Overboard!’ or maybe just ‘Overboard!’  The two had dozed off again, in a clinch as usual, and apparently just rolled right off the side of the raft into the briny deep. Naturally the other sailors all rushed over to where they’d been last seen and tried to fish them out, but this tipped the raft dangerously, so they all backed off to the other side, which tipped the raft the other way. This cycle continued for some time, the raft rocking back and forth on the ocean as all aboard kept moving to and fro until someone got the bright idea to just stand in the middle. By this time they were several nautical miles from where the sleepies had gone into the drink so rescue was impossible.  A solemn moment of silence was undertaken.  Then Lt. Jones noticed that the couple’s bag was still sitting there untended.  He took it upon himself to open it and what do you think he found?  Lock-picking tools, a spyglass, a compass, a notebook written entirely in code, a camera hidden in a boutonniere, and a shoe with a hollow heel. Now what earthly use did this stuff have?  Unless...that’s it!  The two who fell overboard must have been spies!  Perhaps they were in support of the occupation of the Sandwich Islands, perhaps they were opposed to it.  No matter.  They were on the bottom with Davy Jones’ locker and that was that.  

Day after day they rafted on.  Sometimes they drifted in the wrong direction. How were they ever to get to Hawaii if they couldn’t steer?  Finally, Jonah had everyone take off their shoes and use them to paddle due west.  

At last!  Land Ho!  A breeze lifted the fragrances of the Islands toward them and all the rafters simultaneously took a deep, cleansing breath.  When they all exhaled, that propelled the raft the rest of the way to the shore where they were met by a welcoming committee.  A strange mashup of pretty Polynesians in hula skirts and leis along with odd hunchbacked creatures and one old gentleman dressed in a pirate suit. Cutlass, eyepatch, and what was apparently a stuffed parrot on his shoulder.  He was the first to speak.  ‘Arrh! D’ye be comin’ in on a raft?’  Jonah looked around, unnerved, and took it upon himself to be spokesperson.  ‘Of course we did, you just saw us float up.’

‘Arrh!  That we did, lad, that we did.’

Lennon said, ‘You gonna invite us on shore, then?’

‘Arrh!  Come ahead, come ahead.’  And so the ragged band of rafters slowly trudged to the shore of the island paradise.  And paradise it was!  Warm, fragrant breezes carried the essence of the Sandwich Islands to and fro across the land masses, while the tall trees provided handy shade which was especially welcome to the travellers who hadn’t had any in quite some time.  They sought a shady spot and were brought refreshments by some of the diseased-looking people who looked for all the world like they’d been turned inside-out by a twist of fate.  And so they had.  The Lieutenant could see that they suffered from leprosy which was probably why they had been remanded to these remote parts. One of their number was larger and rather better put together than the others and he spoke up.

‘Stop staring at us!  We’re people just like you!’

‘You’re people, all right, but you’re not just like us, are you?’ replied Lennon.

‘I am Dolan. We are the descendants of the original inhabitants of Molokai, the leper colony. We are not contagious, so there’s no need to stare or shun us.’

‘But then why do you look so funky?’ asked Jonah.

‘We have some of the regressive traits of the disease, which unfortunately includes some abnormalities of the skin.  We simply ask to be left alone to live out our lives on our ancestral lands.’

So this is the hideous occupation, the Lieutenant mused.  No wonder the tourists and the army folks want to get rid of them!  Why are people so easily frightened by anything that’s different?  He spoke to Dolan.

‘Sir, I believe if the people on the mainland knew the truth about you, public opinion will turn in your favor.  As it is, you are being portrayed as lawless thugs taking over a region that should be reserved for the elite and the military!’

‘We have no objection to sharing the Islands; we only want one small one for ourselves upon which to live in peace.’

‘That is very reasonable. When and if we return, I will personally see to it that your message is heard,’ said the Lieutenant.

‘That is very kind of you, sir,’ said Dolan.

‘What d’you mean, IF we return?’ demanded Lennon.

Lt. Jones explained.  ‘I’m sure you noticed that the current that carried us here was going in the opposite direction that we need to get back to the mainland.  I’m afraid paddling with our shoes won’t do.’

This news was not met with stone-faced equanimity from Jonah.  ‘Yaaah!’ he shouted. ‘Owwww! My toe!’  He’d stubbed his toe on a rock on the beach. Hopping on one foot and holding the throbbing big toe that he’d smashed, he was a comical sight, but what happened next wasn’t so comical. He rushed over to one of the hula-skirted women, grabbing her by the lei and shouted, ‘I’m staying!  I’m one of you!  You can’t get me back on that thing!’ indicating the raft.  

Dolan shrugged.  ‘So stay.  No one will force you to do anything.  It’s the Sandwich Islands, live and let live!’

‘Arrh! The Sandwich Islands is home to all!  Arrh!’ put in the pirate.

His drama deflated, Jonah and his inamorata wandered off to learn one another’s names and life stories.

Meanwhile Lennon had struck up a conversation with one of the other inhabitants. A young man with a mop of dark hair and an infectious grin, the two seemed to be getting along famously.

Lt. Jones had salvaged the satchel that the couple that went overboard had left and was rooting around in it.  He came up smiling, holding a small pouch.

‘Look what I’ve got!’ he cried.  Everyone gathered around to see what it was.

‘It seems our drowned friends were agents of some foreign or domestic power and were carrying implements of their trade.  See here?’ And he yanked on a lanyard. In moments a large inflatable lifeboat took shape, plenty big enough to carry them back across the sea.  And look!  Here was an inflatable motor!  Now they wouldn’t have to paddle with their shoes, which was a relief.

‘Arrh!  It’ll be a bon voyage you’ll be havin’!’ yelped the pirate.

‘Where did HE come from?’ asked Lennon.

‘No one knows--he just kind of showed up one day.  Must have drifted here like you did,’ said Dolan. ‘But you have the means to get back.’

But did they even want to go back?  Remember, time itself was damaged.  How could they repair the rend and set everything right again?  But that was a discussion that could wait until tomorrow, for it was getting dark, and the travellers and the Islanders gathered around a fire and had some roasted vegetables and some mushed up roots that the natives called Poy and which tasted like library paste.  John Lennon, restless as always, wandered off with the genial young man, who introduced himself as Paul and said he’d been accidentally stranded here after a holiday.  ‘Look what I’ve got!’ he cried.  ‘It’s not a lifeboat, but it’s still pretty good!’  He came to the bonfire with two small wooden boxes with wires across the front and called them ‘Yoo-ka-lay-leez.’  He handed one to Lennon and started brushing his with his hand.  John picked up the technique quickly and joined in, the two making a most pleasant sound.

All at once the music started to grow until it surrounded everyone, even blotting out the bonfire and the sky. It grew and grew like a living thing, you could even see the notes and the colors made by the music.  Everyone joined in wordless harmonies as the visuals shimmered and shifted.

Next thing, the Lieutenant was right back where he started, face down in bed in a hotel room in Dubai.  He rose and looked out the window.  Pollution, traffic jams, meanness--it was all here!  The past had been repaired!  How lucky they’d been to escape another perilous sea journey!  Now the folks still on the Islands could use the inflatable boat & motor to leave, if they wished.

Hmmm, mused the Lieutenant.  John and Paul were nice chaps.  I wonder whatever happened to them?



Alternate histories are fun!

It's the mid-sixties, twenty years after Germany won WWII. When a high-ranking official of the Nazis turns up dead, it opens up layers of intrigue that threatens to bring down the Third Reich once and for all!




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Questions/Comments/Yoo-ka-lay-leez? mike@mysteriousbookshop.com

 

Written by Ian Kern — March 16, 2017

Specializing in Mystery Fiction and all its subgenres, including Detective, Crime, Hardboiled, Thrillers, Espionage, and Suspense.

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