The first one was discovered when it bit a child. Such a thing was not unheard of. Children often tugged and poked and got themselves bitten or kicked or nipped at. But when this little boy’s mother came to pick him up and check his wound, she found something far more insidious than broken bleeding skin and a crying child. The gash was deep, the flesh shredded, and it bubbled and festered with a foul odor, as if the flesh had been rotting for days, though it was only freshly wounded.
The bear bore down on a wide-eyed little girl who swept a cloak of feathers over her shoulder and seemed to vanish. She didn’t really vanish. The little girl, whose named was Turtle, had transformed into a little blue bird that darted out from under the massive girth of the lunging beast. She swooped around and flapped and rose up into the air. On one side, the bird saw the silver harper playing her enchanted harp, trying to sooth the savage bear. On the other side was the giant, wider than three strong men, taller than a cornstalk. He wasn’t always so. He wasn’t always a giant. He was once a scrawny young man. The harper was once a traveling songstress. The bird-girl was once just a girl. All three were as they were now because of some magic beans.
“Have any of your heard of the Song of Stars sapphire? “
The question was posed—as such questions usually were—by Cecil. We were having drinks on the back patio after dinner and admittedly the conversation had grown somewhat dull. But Cecil was no storyteller. His mention of this exotic-sounding sapphire most likely had intentions beyond livening up a chat among friends.
The island was uninhabited. It had been on the maps for decades, lying somewhere in the South Pacific Ocean below the Pitcairn Islands, but having no name, no accessible valuable resources, or signs of previous habitation, or even signs of pirate visitation. The only visitors over the years had been the occasional research team or wealthy patron looking to buy and develop on the lush but inconveniently located and somewhat small isle. But whom to buy it from? Claims on the island were disputed, but not fiercely. There was no place to land a plane or helicopter. Flyovers showed a mountain range circling the interior of the island, and within that circle, dense canopy under which, no doubt, a rich menagerie of creatures happily lived out their lives without any knowledge of the wider world.
Detra had come a year prior. She’d been warned by her mentors that there was nothing to find on that forsaken island. She’d used money borrowed from a wealthy friend to finance the trip. Her friend and his companion frolicked on the beach for a week, while Detra did as much surveying as she could. She took myriad pictures. She didn’t have an expertise yet. She knew a little about a lot. And she saw birds, insects, and fish that she’d never seen before. They might be new species. They might be known ones. Once, she thought she saw a tortoise basking in the sun beside a pool. It was far away and could have been a trick of the eyes. But on her second-to-last day on the island, she found the strangest land animal she’d ever seen.