Authors: Robert Lamb
The Plug at the Bottom of the Sea
To my daughter
CORINNA NATASHA ELIZABETH WITTMAN LAMB
Craig was already in the swirling water.
âQuick, Cindy!' he shouted to his sister. âJump from the boat before it's too late.'
Cindy, very frightened, lowered herself over the splintered side of their wrecked dinghy. They had crashed on the rocks and all round them the sea was black as oil. Above them lightning still tore at the night sky. Thunder cracked, rolled away, and finally drowned in the
of heavy rain.
The storm had crashed down on them just as Craig defied his father's command and left the harbour in Dorset. He had taken Cindy out into the open sea to frighten her a little and they were out of sight of any land when the storm came down. Their father, who was an ocean scientist, had warned them many times of sudden storms.
Violent winds had carried them for miles, for hours, in the darkening rain as night came on. The rudder had broken, the mast had snapped, great waves had tipped and pulled the boat till they had both been thrown on top of each other.
âCraig, I told you not to go beyond the harbour. You thought you were so brave. You're just stubborn!'
âCindy,' Craig shouted through the rain. âHold on to the sail.'
âI can't bail. It's your fault we're out here.'
âStop being a crybaby, Cindy.'
âI'm not a baby, I'm just scared!'
Suddenly the bottom of the dinghy was split open by a long sharp rock. Cindy was sure it was a shark with a thousand teeth, but it was only a wet rock glimmering in the dark. Wood creaked and scraped against the rock as waves twisted underneath the boat. They began to climb out of the boat and into the water.
Cindy was sobbing. âCraig, what are we going to do?'
Craig swallowed hard and, struggling through the water over slippery rocks, felt for Cindy's hand.
âIt's all right, Cindy, we're not far from that island over there and I think I can see a building on it. Someone will help us.'
âIt's just another pile of rocks or waves, not an island at all'
âPlease be brave just once, Cindy?'
They were both silent, pulling their way through the swirling black water and pouring rain. Cliffs rose up, black and jagged. They passed mossy rocks on either side. Lightning ripped ragged shreds of white from the night sky as thunder cracked through the rain and shook the earth.
In one flash Craig saw a building on the cliffs ahead.
âDid you see it?'
âSee what?' Their shouts were lost in the rain.
âThat.' He pointed and in another crack of blinding light they both saw a strange sea horse's head shape on top of a great building on the cliffs.
Wild broken sticks came out from the stone walls in all directions with ragged cloth attached.
âYes, yes, I see it now.'
Rocky cliffs rose above them like a herd of giant dinosaurs in the water.
Cindy rested on a rock, coughing water and staring out dizzily at the sea rocking like many roller coasters at a fair. Craig climbed over the rocks and clapped her on the back till she stopped coughing.
In a sudden blaze of lightning they both saw the sail frames of a strangely shaped stone windmill.
âIt's haunted,' she cried out.
âCindy, it's just a windmill like the one we have at home. Now come on.'
âIt has a sea horse's head on top. It couldn't be a windmill. No. No, I won't go.'
âIt'll be dry.'
âI don't care. It's haunted.'
âMummy told you there aren't any ghosts.'
âI don't believe in ghosts, it's just â¦'
âCindy, if you don't come I'll go alone.'
Craig did not want to go alone and he wasn't sure the windmill wasn't haunted, but his teeth were chattering again so he had to appear brave.
âC-c-come on,' he stuttered. His jaw was tight with the cold.
His rubber shoes squelched as he climbed the rocks. He didn't find a path over the cliff for some minutes, but finally he saw a rough set of stairs and a broken railing made of long thin stones, like spears.
At the top of the stairs he felt a hand on his back. The rain was so loud he had not heard anyone behind him. He jumped.
âWhat's the matter, Craig?' Cindy laughed.
It was only Cindy! Craig wondered for the first time if there really was any one else on the island. âShh,' he whispered, for they had reached the top of the stairs and found themselves on a rocky hill with short bushes growing up between the rocks. High above they could see the tattered sails of the windmill spread like a giant fan. As they groped through the bushes they could see that the building was made of great stones and not of wood at all.
âSo many sails,' Cindy said counting them. âTwelve. Three sets of sails.'
When they got to the top of the cliff they ran along to a large puddle in front of the windmill.
The puddle was very deep and the angles of the sails were very sharp, dark, and frightening. No lights were on inside and in the rain it looked gigantic and eerie. Only three small windows could be seen in the rough wall.
The wall of the building was round and very tall, like a fortress. One of the great sails was stuck in the pool of water and blocked the door.
âThis looks like the only way in, so let's push the sail,' cried Craig.
He waded through the puddle of water which came up to his knees. The blade of the sail was twice as wide as he was tall. It wouldn't budge. He felt with his foot under the rock.
âIt won't move,' he called to Cindy as she waded through the puddle to reach him.
âI'll help you to push,' and together they pushed. But it stayed in the crack in the rock.
âLet's see if there is any other way in,' said Craig. They waded around the great wall.
The puddle continued round and there was another dark doorway blocked by another sail, and further on still another, and none of them could be moved.
Reaching the doorway they had seen first, Craig noticed a long metal pole sticking out from a crack in the wall. âLet's try this.'
He could hardly lift it, but together they shoved it between the door and the sail frame. They pushed. The sound that came when they pushed the bar against the blade was not what they expected. It was not a crunch, but a clank, like a broken bell.
âIt's metal!' Craig shouted. âThe sail frame is metal. We'll never be able to move them.'
âWe'll never be able to?' Cindy was shivering.
Craig felt the torn cloth on the sails. âAnd these are leather! This is the strangest windmill I ever saw and it's the only building around.'
âI told you it wasn't a windmill at all.' Cindy began to feel she was going to cry again, but she controlled herself. âWe'll
be able to move them.'
âHow many times do you have to say that?'
Craig leaned the metal bar against the sail and Cindy helped slide it into the crack. They pushed it downâdeeper and deeper till it was below the bottom of the metal frame. They both pulled and pushed again but nothing happened. They were so tired they could not pull the metal bar out. They stepped back to look at the stone wall. They were standing on some slippery rocks when suddenly a crack of thunder shook the earth and at the same moment a blaze of white light split down through the black sky like a jagged finger and touched the top of the windmill. The whole building glowed. Then suddenly the iron pole became red hot. The puddle around the pole boiled.
There was a tremendous crash and the rock under the puddle split open so that the steaming water splashed out and made them jump back. Just before the lightning faded Craig saw the great metal sail begin to move.
Craig felt the hot water splashing onto him and the rock where he stood. His mind spun round for a split second. He turned and jumped across the water to another rock.
âNo, Craig! Don't!'
But Craig was already making the second jump, sliding between the next sail that was coming down and the door. He was inside. When he turned round he saw Cindy standing in the streaming rain.
âJump, Cindy!' he shouted. âAcross the crack to the stone by the door, then slip between the sails.'
Cindy was frozen. She couldn't move.
Cindy jumped across the stones. She landed on the slippery
rock just as the sails in front of her started moving faster. She could glimpse Craig between the spinning sails.
âNow,' Craig shouted. âWhen I count threeâjump over to me between those sails. One, two, three.'
Cindy closed her eyes. She could not see the moving metal or the rain. She did not see how narrowly she missed the swinging sails as they crossed the door like a propeller behind her. She had jumped, shaking with fright.
âWow! Just in time. It's going faster and faster now. The wind must have caught it and turned it round.'
âIt certainly is going faster,' shuddered Cindy. âWe could never jump back through now.'
They looked around and found themselves inside a tall, enormous cone with dark beams and holes in the walls high above, through which the rain was coming in. The light was very dim, even darker than outside. But gradually their eyes began to see dark shapes and stairs.
The sails moved past the lighted doorways so fast they blurred and Cindy could not make out one from another. There was a
sound as all the sails passed the doors. It became louder till Craig could not hear Cindy calling him. Finally she shouted in his ear:
âI'm scared!' and Craig felt her shaking fingers holding his.
The uneven stone floor was covered with water. Wading across the pool they saw there was no place on the floor they could sleep. There was a platform above their heads. Stairs led up to it, then went round and round up out of sight above it.
âThis really is a strange place.' Cindy coughed.
âIt's the biggest windmill I ever saw.'
Just then a flash of lightning lit the door holes where the sail spun so fast they were almost invisible. It also lit the holes in the walls making the sky look white.
âOh, Craig, I'm frightened. Maybe this place isn't safe. Maybe it's really haunted or something.'
âDon't be silly. It's made of stone and wood and up there
under those stairs it should be dry.' His voice quavered but Cindy couldn't tell whether it was from the cold or fright.
He pulled her along up the old, slippery stairs holding on to the wall. There was some straw under the stairs on the platform, and enough room for them both if they squeezed. Looking down they could see the dull reflection of the water on the ground floor.
âThis place looks O.K.' Craig felt the straw. âIt's dry and there's a window.' It was a window that became narrower near the outside so that only a slit showed the crashing sea.
âIt's like the window of a dungeon,' Cindy replied.
âWell, at least not much rain can come in through it. Now come on, lie down and don't be frightened.'
Cindy was still frightened, but she lay down. After a moment she felt something under her leg. A witch? A rat? She felt down with her foot. âCraig, look what I've found. A sail.' The sail was dry and would keep them warmer and keep off the rain from the walls.