Island Day One
I have made a camp in a sheltered hollow overlooking the lighthouse. I like to see the light at night. Today I found all that I need: sweet water from a spring, a prickly yet delicious fruit that I picked from a grove of trees and two fish that I caught with my bare hands (you see, my time spent fishing in the Moat was not wasted!). And, best of all, I discovered this ship's logbook washed up on the beach, which I shall use as a diary. Soon, Julius, I shall Call my Dolphin and return to you, but first I wish to recover my strength and enjoy this beautiful place, which is full of song. I sing.
Island Day Two
Today I explored further. I found a beach hidden below a tall cliff, but I did not stay long. A cliff rears up behind, and I had a strange feeling of being watched. I am very curious about what is at the top of the cliff - I feel there is something beautiful there. Maybe tomorrow I shall climb the hill with the trees on the top and see what is there. Come to me.
Island Day Three
This morning I was awoken by the sweet voice calling me. I followed the song and, strangely, it led me up the hill and through the trees, where I had planned to go today. Beyond the trees, on the very top of the cliff, I found a lone tower. There is an entrance, but I saw a Darkenesse across it. I watched it for a while until I felt it Drawing me too close. Now I have come safely away to my secret place in the sand dunes. I shall not go back to that tower again. Tomorrow I am resolved to Call my Dolphin and depart for the Castle. Julius, how I long to see your smile when I walk through the great silver doors of the Wizard Tower once more. Never more.
Island Day Four
Today I awoke outside the tower. I do not know how. I have never before walked in my sleep, but I believe this is what happened. I am thankful that I awoke before I walked inside. I ran away, despite a beautiful voice begging me to stay. I am back in my secret place in the dunes and I am afraid. I Called my dolphin, but she has not come. She will never come.
Island Day Five
I did not sleep last night, for I was afraid where I would wake. Still my dolphin does not come. I shall not sleep tonight. Sleep.
Island Day Six
Last night I stayed awake again. I am so tired. It is as if I were on the Questing Boat once more. Soon it will be nightfall and I am afraid. If I fall asleep, where will I wake? I feel so alone. This book is my only friend. Tonight you shall come to me.
"It's horrible." Jenna shivered.
"It gets worse," said Septimus. He turned the flimsy page and, with a sense of foreboding, Jenna and Beetle read on.
Island Day Seven
Today I awoke in the tower. I cannot remember who I am. I am Syren.
"Oh," said Jenna. "Oh, that's awful."
The diary ended there, but there was one last legible page, which was grubby and worn with use. This was where the book naturally fell open. At first it looked like a child's writing exercise repeated over and over, but instead of improving each time it became increasingly disordered and defaced by another script. I am Syrah Syara. I am nineteen years old. I come from the Castle. I was the ExtraOrdinary Apprentice of Julius Pike. I am Syrah Syara. I am Syrah Syara. I am Syrah Syara. I am old. I come from the Island. I am the . Island. I am Syrah Syara. I am Syren.
I am Syren I am ageless. I come from the Island. I am the Island. I am Syren. I am Syren. When I call, you will come to me.
"She's gone," whispered Jenna, shaking her head in disbelief. Septimus watched her turn the pages, searching for Syrah's neat, friendly writing. But there was no more. Nothing but cold, precise copperplate detailing complex signs and symbols that none of them could begin to understand. Jenna closed the book and silently handed it to Septimus.
"I feel like we have watched someone being murdered," she whispered.
"We have," agreed Septimus. "Well, we have watched someone become Possessed, which is much the same thing. Now do you believe me?"
Jenna and Beetle nodded.
"Beetle," said Septimus, "I'll take the first Watch and you can do the second. I'll wake you in two hours. Jen, you need to get some sleep. Okay?"
Jenna and Beetle nodded once again. Neither said another word. Septimus chose a place a few yards from the hideout, in the dip between two dunes, which gave him a good view of the beach but provided him with cover. Despite the unknowns of the night, he felt alive and excited. Now he had the support of his friends, and whatever was going to happen they were in it together. Septimus hated to think how Syrah must have felt, alone with just her little blue book for company. Septimus sat stone-still, breathing in the cool air, hearing the distant sound of the waves as the tide retreated. Slowly he moved his head from side to side, watching the tops of the grasses for signs of movement, scanning the empty beach before him, Listening. All was quiet.
Hours passed. The air grew cold, but Septimus stayed still and watchful, almost part of the sand dune himself. The unearthly glow from the Sphere of Light lit the sky to his left, and as the moon began to rise and as the tide drew ever farther out, Septimus watched the glistening white shape of a sandbar appear. The sounds of the waves quieted as the water receded, and in the silent space Septimus heard something: the distant cry of a gull - and the deliberate step of bare feet on wet sand.
Chapter 38 Projections
Silently, like a snake through the grass, Septimus wriggled down the sandy dip between the dunes, pulling himself forward with his elbows. In the dim light of the rising moon his hair was the color of sand and his cloak the dull green of the grass above - but his movement had not gone unnoticed.
In the sandy darkness of the hideout, Beetle was suddenly awake, listening hard - something was wrong. Beetle edged out from under his HeatCloak, got to his feet and automatically ran his hand through his hair. He immediately wished he hadn't - his hand was now covered in a sticky mixture of hair oil and sand. Stooping awkwardly, for the hideout was not quite high enough for him to stand up, Beetle looked out through the narrow slit of the entrance. To his concern he saw Septimus slowly edging down the slope toward the beach. Beetle squeezed out of the hideout, dislodging some sand, which just missed Jenna's head.
Inside, Jenna slept on, dreaming of Nicko on his ship.
More like a turtle than a snake, Beetle set off down the slope toward Septimus, who had now stopped at the foot of the dip and was peering onto the beach. Beetle joined him in a shower of sand. Septimus turned and put a finger to his lips.
"What's up?" Beetle whispered.
Septimus pointed to the left, along the beach. Silhouetted in the glow from the Light, Beetle saw two figures walking, boots in hand, along the line of the outgoing tide. They looked, Septimus thought somewhat enviously, as though they did not have a care in the world. As the figures drew nearer, it became clear that one was a boy and one was a girl. And as they drew nearer still, Septimus had the oddest feeling that he knew who they were.
"It can't be," he muttered under his breath.
"What can't be?" whispered Beetle.
"It looks like 409 and Lucy Gringe."
"You know. Wolf Boy."
Beetle didn't actually know Wolf Boy, but he did know Lucy Gringe - and he figured Septimus was right.
"But...how could they possibly have gotten here?" Beetle whispered.
"They haven't," whispered Septimus. "It's a Projection. The Syren is trying to lure me out."
Beetle was skeptical. "Hey, wait a minute - how does this Syren thing know about Lucy and Wolf Boy?"
"I was so stupid," Septimus said. "I thought about them when I was doing my MindScreen."
Beetle and Septimus watched the Lucy and Wolf Boy figures draw nearer. They stopped by the edge of the water and stood looking out to sea.
"They're very realistic," said Beetle doubtfully. "I thought people were hard to Project?"
"Not for the Syren," said Septimus with a shudder, remembering the Beetle Projection begging him to wait. "Beetle, get down."
Septimus pushed Beetle down. The two figures had turned and begun to walk up the beach, heading toward the very place from where Beetle and Septimus were now rapidly retreating.
"Get back in the hideout," Septimus hissed.
A few seconds later, Jenna was covered in an avalanche of sand.
"Wha..." spluttered Jenna, suddenly awake.
"Shh..." hissed Septimus. He pointed outside. Scared, Jenna got to her feet and looked out.