John is a poet and short fiction writer who enjoys collaborating on stories with other writers, and partaking in challenges.
The Beginning: The Inspiration For This Story
This story had its beginning through a word prompt "treasure" offered to us by Brenda Arledge through her Word Prompts Help Creativity: Week 47.
Along with a couple of poems using "treasure" as the theme, this short story started as part of my response, in my article The Treasures That We Seek. I had intended to write it as a short flash fiction piece but I was unable to condense the story successfully to suit that format...so it has developed into a short story.
I have included the opening of the story here as well so you don't have to bother finding the original article to read first.
The Treasure of Calibishie
Smoke rose from between my fingers, and I suppressed a cry of pain, as the golden doubloon smouldered and burnt into my closed palm.
Looking back, it all seemed like a dream or a scene out of a pirate movie. Treasure Island was one of my favourite stories as a child and I imagined myself as the young Jim Hawkins, but that was just an adventure novel, and this was real-life.
How did a mild-mannered accounting student come to be standing in a cave and in possession of a veritable King’s ransom in treasure? I still have trouble answering that myself, and coming to terms with it being cursed is even harder.
I guess the obvious place to start is at the very beginning…
I arrived at the Douglas-Charles airport on the northeastern side of the island of Dominica. This was a much-anticipated vacation and as soon as I alighted at this tropical island retreat I was sure I'd made the right decision. Collected my luggage I then boarded a shuttle bus to the seacliff cottage I had booked in the quiet fishing village of Calibishie.
The shuttle wound its way through the rainforest and past a mosaic of steep coastal cliffs. Multiple small waterfalls could be seen spilling over the slopes and crashing directly into the sea, and beautiful palm-fringed beaches completed the idyllic scene. If there was really a paradise on Earth, this would be it.
...the story continues...
Arriving at my destination, I thanked the amicable driver and alighted the small bus with my luggage. After checking in and collecting my key from reception, I did a quick tour of my allotted cottage and immediate surrounds. Suitably impressed, I then crashed on the comfortable bed to rest after my long flight.
Wakefulness occurred sometime mid-afternoon and, donning shorts and a pair of sandals, made my way down to the nearest beach. Gentle waves lapped at the white sandy beach and I waved to the small number of others I encountered as I walked. I smiled when some even returned the greeting.
Making my way across the sand to the base of the cliffs, I cast my eyes over the impressive expanse. Ridges and tracks were apparent that looked wide enough to walk along, and there were caves and crevices here and there. I couldn’t see what was behind the waterfalls, but when I had more time I would check that out… maybe tomorrow. For now I just wanted to dive into the crystal clear waters and wash away what still remained of my jet-lag.
Back at my cabin I noticed the new addition of a local attractions flier on the wooden deck table. I flicked through to the dining experiences section and ‘The Escape Beach Bar and Grill’ caught my eye.
The best part was that it was located within walking distance. So, with my food and drinks sorted for the night I sat down with my diary and began an account of my first day in paradise.
The Escape Beach Bar and Grill was your typical tropic oasis. It was verging on dark when I arrived but it was surrounded by palm trees and torches on bamboo poles lit the way to the entrance. I browsed the menu board as I sat down at the bar and ordered a Rum and Coke. I always feel weird drinking alone, and if in that situation I find it best to sit at the bar. Ultimately, you will strike up a conversation with another patron as they order drinks, or at worst you have a captured audience in the bar person who is stuck there to answer your questions and humour your small-talk.
Fortunately, the barman, Joseph, wasn’t subjected to my ramblings for long before a particularly well-dressed man of dark complexion sat on the stool beside me. We soon began talking, introduced ourselves, and even shouted each other drinks … a few too many I venture to add.
The man told me his name was Ostin Rodriguez, and I offered my own, Shane Watson, in return. I soon became enthralled by his conversation, much of which centred around the history of the island of Dominica, and of Calibishie village itself. He told me he was a native of the island but had only just returned after years of studying and working in England.
What intrigued me the most, however, was his revelation that this had once been a haven for pirates, as had many other locations throughout the Caribbean. He said the many secluded coves around the coast, particularly at Calibishie, where a coral reef offered additional protection, provided perfect places to moor their vessels. The numerous caves and grottoes in the red cliffs were also ideal hideouts from which to launch any land-based activities.
I was so enthralled by his tales that I even invited him to share a table and meal, as my hunger pangs had kicked in telling me that I desperately needed to stop drinking and eat something instead.
I woke the next morning, my head throbbing slightly from my night of overindulgence. I poured a glass of water and popped a couple of paracetamol, then sat in the shade on the deck until my head cleared and I felt like embracing the day.
Ostin Rodriguez had been such an engaging character, and one particular story he told was embedded in my mind. He said locals had always been convinced there was still a pirate treasure in one of the caves or grottoes in the cliffs nearby. They say that many have looked, and some even found it, but those unfortunate souls had never been seen again.
Legend has it that this treasure belonged (or was the ill-gained proceeds of looting) to the English pirate known as ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham, and that when he finally faced the hangman’s noose at Port Royal, he placed a curse on his treasure so that no one other than he would be ever able to retrieve it.
I was sure it was just imaginative folklore, especially the cursed treasure, but I have always been a sucker for swashbuckling pirate stories. If anything, it made me all the more determined to explore those cliffs … as soon as I felt up to it.
...to be continued...
The Curse (the conclusion)
© 2022 John Hansen