TAC Table of Contents
Moose Island, located about 5 miles off the Downeast coast of Maine, was always a bleak, desolate place. And it had not changed much since the last time that Jimmy Olsen had visited it. Covered almost completely by dense forest, at one time there had been a small village on the island named Rockport, located a short distance inland from where the rickety boat dock to the mainland was now. But Rockport was a ghost town now. Like many other once-robust island populations off the coast of Maine, Moose Island had suffered from the proliferation of the motor boat in the early 1900s, which allowed fishermen to live farther away from their catches. As an earlier generation of lobstermen had died off, one by one the local families had sold their island properties, leaving most homes in the village vacant and dark. Eventually, only Jim's Aunt Louisa and her husband, Captain Horne, had remained behind.
Then, one night during a terrible storm (which was a frequent occurrence around Moose Island, especially in the wintertime), Captain Horne's fishing vessel had sunk less than a mile offshore, leaving Louisa and her young deaf-and-dumb housemaid, Alice, to carry on alone. Even the small lighthouse on the island, built back in 1855, had been abandoned, after becoming automated in the mid-1930s by the U.S. Coast Guard. By 1950 the light had ceased to work, and it was deemed too expensive by the U.S. government to bother refurbishing it. Thus the Coast Guard had permanently closed it down. But it, and the small lighthouse keeper's cabin located next to it, still stood, a lonely, dark sentinel on the jagged, rocky coastline of Moose Island, a grim reminder of better days on the island.
After many years of not seeing his Aunt Louisa while he was growing up, Jim had recently started visiting her on the island. A year ago he had come to see her for the first time -- but in the process he had inadvertently ended up being involved in a smuggling operation aided and abetted by a former housekeeper of his aunt, and her wayward son. Jim had almost lost his life in that encounter. But with the help of the Coast Guard -- and Superman -- the operation had been closed down, and Jim had been rescued.
Now here he was, a year later, visiting his Aunt Louisa again. It was early Fall, and after the motorboat from the mainland had dropped him off at the island's only dock, he had made his way up to the small house where his Aunt Louisa lived. After greeting Aunt Louisa and Alice (who were both very happy to see him again) and settling once again in his uncle's old bedroom, Jim had decided to take a leisurely walk through the lush pine woods of Moose Island before dinner.
Jim had to admit that it was certainly very peaceful here on the island. He didn't quite understand though why his aunt and Alice wanted to continue to live here through the harsh, cold winters that could be very long, and very lonely. And yet he had to admit that the island did have a certain calming effect on one's nerves. So far the only sounds here were the gentle sighing of the wind through the treetops, and the rhythmic lapping of the waves on the not-too-distant seacoast. It was certainly a pleasant place to get away for a few days from Perry White's constant barking, and the frantic pace of the Daily Planet city room.
Before long Jim found himself on a rocky hill overlooking the island's seashore. Just down the coast he could see the shadowy outline of the island's lighthouse sticking up in the fading light. Twilight was settling in, and there was a slight mist forming down on the island's beach. Darkness always came quickly here this time of year, and Jim knew that soon the entire seashore would be enveloped in a thick fog, as the sun went down behind the trees and the temperature dropped.
He stared at the darkened lighthouse for a moment, remembering the adventures that had taken place there a year ago, and how Superman had rescued him from drowning in the labyrinthine caves located beneath the structure.
He turned to head back to his aunt's house. He was a short distance from the seashore when he first heard it. Initially it sounded like the wind whistling through the trees, and around the rocks. But then it became more persistent, more audible, more perceptible.
It sounded like a low moan -- the moan of a creature in extreme, unrelenting agony.
Jim stopped. He turned and looked back at the rocky headland he had just quit.
The hair on the back of his neck stood up as he saw what appeared to be the silhouette of some strange, hulking creature up on the top of the promontory, its outline barely visible against the rapidly darkening sky. The creature -- whatever it was -- shambled along, dragging its misshapen body along like some malformed slug.
Jimmy found himself rooted to the spot he stood on. Unable to tear his gaze away, he watched the strange creature as it slowly moved along the promontory. Presently it began to shrink. Finally it disappeared altogether. The moaning sound that had accompanied it slowly faded into the distance.
It was gone.
Jimmy suddenly found himself running back to Aunt Louisa's house as fast as his legs could carry him.
"But Aunt Louisa, I tell you saw it!"
"Tish-tosh, Jim!" Aunt Louisa chided. "What you saw was probably a trick of the eyes caused by the fog and the darkness! I've been living here on Moose Island for, oh, going on 67 years now, and I've never seen anything like what you described!"
Jim quickly realized that he wasn't going to get any sympathy from his aunt concerning what he saw, not without some solid proof. Aunt Louisa brought some of her good home cooking over to the kitchen table, and Jim, his aunt, and Alice set about eating their dinner.
"Aunt Louisa, why have you stayed here on this island for so long?" Jim finally asked between mouthfuls.
"Land sakes, Jim. This is my home," she replied. "I was born here, over in Rockport when it was still a thriving fishing village. I grew up here, got married here, and lived here for many years with your uncle until he passed away, bless his soul. I've never known any other place but this island. Why would I want to leave here now?"
"But, golly, doesn't it get lonely here, especially during the winter?" Jim replied.
"Well, sometimes. But I have Alice to keep me company. And your cousin Chris comes to visit from time to time. And once in a while I go over to the mainland to shop or see a movie. But overall I'm content to live here on your uncle's pension, with the peace and quiet the island gives me."
“How did Alice first come to live here?” asked Jim.
"Well, she's been deaf and dumb since she was a little girl. She lost her hearing when she was very young due to a bout with fever, so she never really learned how to speak. I knew her parents, and they didn't really know how to handle Alice. And she got a lot of teasing from the kids on the mainland. So I offered to bring her out here to live with me as my housemaid. Her parents have since both passed on. But ever since then she has been content to continue to live here with me, and enjoy the peace and solitude that the island provides. And we both read a lot!"
Jim smiled at his aunt, and then at Alice. Alice smiled back, although she had no idea as to what was being discussed.
After dinner Aunt Louisa sewed for a while, while Jim and Alice read. Fortunately, Aunt Louisa's pet parrot Peter had passed away since Jim's last visit, so this time he didn't have to listen to the bird's incessant screaming "I'm drowning! I'm drowning!" in that weird voice of his. Jim was grateful for that. Remembering the bird's cries could still send a cold chill up his spine.
Jim had picked out a book about seafaring from his uncle's extensive library, and enjoyed reading the tales of action and adventure on the high seas. But every once in a while his thoughts drifted back to the strange sight he had seen out on the windswept seacoast of Moose Island. What could that hulking shadow have been?
All of them retired early, as was the usual custom on Moose Island. Just before he climbed into bed, Jim peered out of his bedroom window at the island's lighthouse that he could see standing silent guard on the coast. But this time there was no light; the beacon remained dark.
Jim smiled to himself as he got under the covers. There were no smugglers secretly operating on the island ready to kidnap and kill him this trip.
Always the explorer, the next morning Jim was able to talk Alice into taking a walk with him over toward where the empty buildings of Rockport still stood. He was able to make her understand through gestures what he wanted to do, and Alice was excited to explore the old village with him. She rarely went over to that part of the island.
"Just don't be gone too long," Aunt Louisa cautioned. "We're supposed to get some bad weather later this afternoon. Radio says a nasty squall is moving in from the ocean."
Jim assured his aunt that they would be back before then.
The pair made their way through the woods. Before long they came to the outskirts of the ruins of Rockport. But now it was only a few overgrown dirt streets, with some crumbling wooden buildings scattered about that had long since been abandoned.
Jim shook his head as he walked along, marveling at how a once-thriving little seaside village could become, in only a few years, a deserted ghost town. He wondered if there might be a Sunday Supplement story for the Daily Planet here. He was sure Aunt Louisa could tell him many stories about Rockport's heyday, and how it had slowly died out.
There was something unexplainably creepy about this deserted town. As he walked, Jimmy couldn't shake the feeling that someone was watching him from somewhere in the crumbling ruins.
It didn't take the pair long to reach the other side of the village. There they came across a small weed-infested graveyard. Jim entered the cemetery and began to walk among the crumbling tombstones, looking at the inscriptions on them -- but Alice elected to stay behind at the graveyard's entrance. She did not like cemeteries.
Jim stopped at one particular gravestone.
"Look!" he exclaimed over his shoulder to Alice, forgetting momentarily that she could not hear him. "Here's the marker for my uncle, Captain Horne!"
It was not actually a gravestone, as Captain Horne's body had been lost at sea. It was a memorial marker to the long-lost sea captain.
Realizing that Alice could not have heard his exclamation, he turned toward the graveyard's entrance.
But Alice was no longer there.
Puzzled, Jim went over to where Alice had stood just a moment before, and looked around. He could not see her anywhere nearby.
Suddenly a cold shiver went down his spine. Alice would not have just up and wandered away from him. And she certainly would not have been able to get out of his eyeshot on her own that fast.
Then what had happened to her?
Knowing that shouting for her would do no good, he began to circle around and search for her. The sky was starting to darken now, and angry-looking clouds were beginning to swirl overhead. Apparently that squall that Aunt Louisa had warned them about was moving in faster than expected. He could see a wall of very dense, dark clouds hovering out over the ocean. He knew that a nasty storm would be hitting the island very soon.
He searched as long as he could, while the wind continually picked up speed. Then the rain started to fall. He knew that the so far infrequent drops would end up turning into a torrential downpour very quickly. He looked for a reasonably sound shelter on one of Rockport's narrow streets, and pushed his way into a small ramshackle cottage just before the deluge hit.
He stooped down in a small corner of the structure, pulling his jacket up around his face as the rain began to fall in buckets. He remained mostly dry, but some water did manage to drip down on him from the weather-beaten roof of the cottage.
Wherever she was, he hoped that Alice was somewhere out of the worst of the storm.
Back at the Daily Planet in Metropolis, Clark Kent watched the teletype weather report for the northeastern coast of the United States, knowing that Jim was up there visiting his aunt. The teletype reported that a large storm that had blown in from the ocean was heavily buffeting the eastern shoreline of Maine and New Brunswick, causing widespread damage.
As he watched, another news report came in: a 186-foot-long fishing trawler named the John B. Caddell had been caught in the worst of the storm, and the surging tides had forced the ship to run aground on the eastern shoreline of ... Moose Island, Maine! The report stated that the ship was now trapped there, unable to get back out into the ocean. Experts predicted that it would likely be days before the crew could be reached with any kind of assistance on the remote island -- or the ship could be towed off the island's beach back into the water.
Kent was a little concerned about Jimmy and his aunt being right in the path of the storm. The beached ship now provided him with a perfect excuse to check on the status of the young cub reporter.
Kent left the city room and strode down the hall to the nearest storeroom. As he opened the storeroom's door, he began to loosen his tie. He disappeared within.
Seconds later the herculean figure of the Man of Steel launched himself out of the storeroom's outer window.
Cape flapping wildly in the wind, Superman shot through the air. In seconds he was up over the cloud cover that had been hovering over Metropolis all day, and he headed north.
The crew of the John B. Caddell did the best they could to batten down the huge ship while the storm continued to rage. But none of them could get off the trawler, as the ship's deck was a good 35 to 40 feet above the beach. It was too windy to throw any ropes or netting over the side to climb down on. They would just have to wait until the storm abated before they could abandon the stuck vessel.
Suddenly, one of the crew members on the ship's deck, dressed in a plastic raincoat and fighting the wind and rain, pointed skyward.
"Look!" he shouted. "Up there!"
The small spot he pointed at grew bigger.
"Hey!" another crewmember shouted. "That looks like -- Superman!"
Indeed, it was Superman. Within a minute the caped figure landed on the ship's deck with a thump. The crewmen that were on deck rapidly congregated around him.
"Listen!" Superman told them. "I'm going to shove your vessel back into the water! Everyone -- prepare yourselves!"
With that he turned and leaped over the side of the ship.
The crew members scrambled to find places where they could secure themselves. As they did, Superman landed on the beach below. He stared back up at the huge ship towering above him.
Rubbing his hands together in preparation, the Man of Steel then wiped them off on both sides of his hips, and then placed his palms firmly against the bow of the vessel. He bent his knees, and planted his feet solidly in the sand.
Then he pushed with all his titanic strength.
The ship moved a foot. Then another. As Superman continued to shove, the vessel started to slide back into the water.
Superman waded into the surf, pushing the trawler until the water was up to his chest before he finally let go. The ship continued out into the ocean.
Cheers broke out among the crewmembers on the ship's deck. They waved as the ship slowly moved back out into the shipping lanes. As Superman slogged back to the beach he turned and waved back.
Once the ship was safely underway, Superman headed off toward Jim's aunt's cottage.
"Land sakes! Who could that possibly be in this weather?" Aunt Louisa exclaimed, as she hurried to answer a knock on her kitchen door. "Come in! Come in!" she shouted at the same time that she opened the door. She quickly shoved the door closed against the wind and rain after her visitor slid inside.
Once the door was shut she turned and stared at the brightly costumed figure standing next to her. "Oh my!" she cried. "Aren't you that Superman fella that Jim is friends with?"
"Yes, Mrs. Horne," Superman replied. "I had an, uh, errand to do nearby, and I thought I'd come by to see how he is."
"But he's not here!" Aunt Louisa told him.
"He's not here?" Superman asked, puzzled.
"No! He went out a few hours ago with Alice, my housemaid, over to where the ruins of the village of Rockport is, to explore. Neither one of them have come back. I'm quite worried for them, with this storm and all!"
"I'll look for them," Superman responded. "Which direction did they go?"
Mrs. Horne gave him directions.
"Thanks!" Superman said. With that he went back outside. After securing the door again Aunt Louisa quickly went over to her kitchen window and peered out. She watched in utter amazement as she saw Superman take a few steps in her front yard and then leap up into the air. Within seconds he had disappeared into the downpour.
"Good Lord!" she muttered to herself.
Superman shot through the air, the rain pelting his face and the wind whipping his cape into a flapping frenzy. Within minutes he was over what was left of the village of Rockport. Using his x-ray vision, he scanned the town's crumbling buildings as he flew over them. Momentarily he spotted Jimmy, huddling in one particular structure. He banked downward.
Jimmy started when Superman came crashing through the wall of the wooden building he was hiding in.
"Golly! Superman!" Jimmy exclaimed. "How did you find me here?"
"It's a long story, Jim!" Superman replied. "Where's Alice?"
"I don't know! She disappeared a while back, and I don't know what happened to her!"
"I didn't see her anywhere nearby when I was searching for you," Superman told him.
"Then where could she be?"
"There's only one other possibility on this island, other than the open woods," Superman said. "The lighthouse!"
Jim's face lit up. "That's right!"
Superman scooped Jimmy up in his arms and draped his cape over the cub reporter's head.
"This ride is liable to be a little on the wet side!" Superman said.
"So what! We've got to find Alice!"
With that, Superman leaped up into the air.
It seemed to Jimmy like it was only seconds before they landed. Superman set him down, and he immediately headed toward the door of the lighthouse.
"No, Jim, she's not in there!" Superman told him. The Man of Steel pointed toward the small keeper's house that was attached to the lighthouse.
Superman headed toward the house's heavy wooden front door. It was padlocked, but that did not stop him in the least. He yanked the metal padlock clean off the door and kicked the door open. He stepped inside. Jimmy followed close behind him.
There were no lights on inside the structure, and the interior was shrouded in gloom. But that did not prevent Superman from being able to see Alice sitting forlornly against the room's far wall. Her wrists were chained to that same wall.
With a look of anger and disgust on his face that anyone would treat a poor deaf/mute girl in such a fashion, Superman strode over to Alice and forcibly ripped her chains out of the wall. Then he broke both manacles off her wrists.
"Stay where you are, or I'll blow us all up!" abruptly came a low voice from out of the shadows.
Both Superman and Jimmy turned. A bent, hunched-over figure shambled out of a dark corner of the room. The dim light coming in a window barely illuminated him.
At first, Jimmy winced at the sight of the twisted figure. But then a look of recognition crossed his face.
"Hey -- don't I know you?" Jimmy asked.
"Yes -- it's the sailor named Mac," Superman announced. "The one that helped Mrs. Carmody and her boy smuggle contraband in through the caves under the lighthouse last year."
Superman took a threatening step toward the bent figure.
"Stay right where you are!" Mac ordered again. He held up a small device in one hand that was attached to a wire that ran along the floor and disappeared under a plank. "This detonator is attached to a coupla sticks of dynamite hidden under the floor!" he continued. "Last year, that nosy newspaper reporter Kent and his Coast Guard buddy didn't get all of the dynamite we had hidden here! I know this stuff can't hurt you, Superman -- but it'll be a different story with the kid and the girl!"
"What happened to you?" Jimmy asked, looking at the man's bent, twisted body.
"Oh, you've noticed I ain't quite right, huh?" Mac answered. "Thanks to your friend here" -- he indicated the Man of Steel -- "I fell off a cliff down by the water last year. The fall onto the beach didn't kill me, but I broke my left arm, my right leg, and threw my hip out of joint. While Carmody and her son were being arrested, I managed to crawl off into the bushes so the Coast Guard wasn't able to find me. I've been living here in the lighthouse keeper's place ever since, surviving on berries, plants and small game as best I could. I even stole food from Mrs. Horne once in a while, when I could."
"But why didn't you give yourself up so you could be treated by a doctor?" Jimmy asked.
"Yeah, sure!" Mac grunted. "And spend the rest of my life in prison? No thanks. I'd rather be like this and be free, then live in an eight-by-ten prison cell for the next forty plus years!"
At this story the anger left Superman's face. Even though Mac had tried to kill him a year ago, and he had kidnapped Alice and was now threatening her life, Superman was finding it hard to be angry at the pathetic, pain-wracked figure.
"Your injuries are treatable," Superman said. "There's no need for you to live like this."
"I don't care!" Mac shouted back. "I ain't gonna be locked up!"
"But why did you kidnap Alice?" Jim asked.
"She saw me over near Rockport. I wasn't gonna risk her telling anyone about me!"
Superman once again took a step toward Mac.
"Don't!" Mac said. "I'm warning ya!"
Superman continued to move forward. When he got to within arm's length of Mac, Mac pressed the switch in his hand.
Superman calmly took the device from him. "While you were talking, I used my heat vision to cut the wire," he explained. He stared downward and located the sticks of dynamite under the floorboards with his x-ray vision. Stooping, he ripped a couple of boards up and retrieved the explosive.
"Golly -- that was a close one!" Jim exclaimed, wiping his brow.
# # #
Some time later, back at Aunt Louisa's cottage, Jim asked: "Will Mac get the medical help he needs?"
"Of course," Superman told him. "They'll have to re-break his bones in order to re-set them, but by the time he heals he'll be pretty functional again."
Jim shook his head. "It's a shame that he was so willing to let himself deteriorate physically like that rather than seek help, living like an animal all those months."
"There's no understanding the criminal mind, Jim," Superman replied. "Mac could have had a good life if he had just followed the straight and narrow from the beginning, instead of throwing in with people like Mrs. Carmody and her dishonest son. But it was his choice. Now he has to pay the consequences."
"Yeah, I suppose so."
They were all standing in Aunt Louisa's living room. Alice shyly offered her hand to the Man of Steel.
"She wants to thank you for what you did for her," Louisa told him.
Superman took Alice's hand, and politely nodded his head to her in response. She smiled back at him.
"Land sakes -- she doesn't smile much," Louisa said. "But that's the brightest smile I've seen from her in a long time!"
Superman smiled back at Alice.
"Well, I must be going," he said. He turned to go.
"Oh no you're not!" Louisa suddenly snapped.
Superman stopped dead in his tracks.
"You're not leaving here without a good home-cooked dinner first!" Louisa announced. "And besides, it's not a fit night for man nor beast out there!"
Superman contemplated for a moment.
"All right, Mrs. Horne," he finally said. "I think I will stay. Jim's told me how good your cooking is!"
That settled, the three of them headed out toward the kitchen together.
March 2, 2013
"Like The Only Real Magic -- The Magic Of Knowledge"