The Eagle in the Night

Dark clouds and crashing ocean waves during storm

Scene 1

Music: Verdi – Dies Irae

On a stormy night, far out to sea, brightly lit from above by a full moon that shines silver through a gap in the dark roiling clouds, a Sea Eagle skims low over choppy waves. The raptor is tired from battling the gale that has carried it far from the familiar skies of its awakening. Now, lost, confused and close to exhaustion it is nearing death. Desperately it seeks clean air from which to launch a final effort to gain the height that will take it beyond the grasping fingers of the white caps. But there is no relief to be found.

The eagle’s pinions dip to touch the surface spray, leaving silver vortices in their wake. Wild, rain-laden gusts, batter its feathers, making it difficult for the bird to maintain level flight. Lightning flashes and thunder roars, simultaneously blinding and deafening the storm-ravaged creature. On some level, the eagle senses that these will be its last moments, but still, it clings tenaciously to life.

Soon though, it knows, the storm will overwhelm it and send it crashing to the icy waters below from which there will be no return. Yet still, its indomitable spirit drives it on, hoping against hope for an unlikely respite from the uncaring elements that know no mercy.

Almost, almost, it surrenders to its inevitable doom but then, far ahead, the bird’s keen eyes pick out a rock, limned in the moonlight and an argent spray that comes rushing up from the cold sea to dash against its shoulders. Beyond is another phosphorescent glow, signalling more rocks and, far in the distance, the dim outlines of cliffs silhouetted against the night sky.

Summoning the last of its reserves, the bird turns towards the unexpected haven and with a mighty effort heaves itself upwards on leaden wings. Behind, the storm seems to roar in anger and double its efforts to pluck the once predator, now turned prey, from the sky.

As the eagle approaches the high cliffs, that stand defiant of the waves that crash against their shins, it instinctively senses yet another challenge. If it merely lands on the clifftop, the winds and freezing rains will still claim it before the sun rises on another day. This, it knows for sure, subconsciously informed by the ancient instincts of its kind, will inevitably be its doom. The eagle needs shelter and warmth to survive this night, but the besieged rocks and cliffs offer neither. So much easier to succumb to its fate.

Then, just as last hopes fade, far along the bay, its supra-natural eyesight picks out a single light at the very top of a steep bluff. A familiar yet indefinable presence calls to it, from a place shrouded in the misty memory of a forgotten past. Summoning the very last of its will, the eagle dips its right-wing and flees eastwards before the storm and towards the light.

Scene 2

Music. Katherine Jenkins – Abigail’s Song

Curled up, feet beneath her hips, in the firm embrace of an antique leather armchair in the large sitting room of the old Victorian house at the top of the cliff above the bay, Caterina watches the approaching storm through the picture windows that extend across the whole of the south wall.

Despite its remoteness, on a point at the southern edge of the island, she has always loved Frenchman’s Cove, with its large rooms, quirky corridors and stunning views from every aspect. She especially loves the wild nights like this, when storms roll in from the sea and thunder followed by driven rain rattles the windows in their frames.

She doesn’t remember getting out of bed and coming down here but the extraordinarily powerful emotions that the dream aroused, still reverberate strongly in the echoes of her imagination. It is the same dream she has had for what seems like forever. Ever since the night he was so cruelly ripped from her.

In her mind’s eye, she pictures the little boat tossed to and thro’ by the unremitting fury of the waves. She can hear his voice, made desperate with love and fear in equal measure, calling out to her before it is snatched away by the howl of the wind. The roar of driven water, a crash of thunder, and then the link that had been so strong is gone. With its passing, she knows their life together is over, and her heart breaks. She has failed him. She feels that the failure was hers and hers alone, but it was the storm that stole away her love and cast darkness upon her soul.

The besieging winds beyond the glass howl denial of her self-imposed guilt but she ignores them. The blame was hers, and she in her extremis knows it. Her love for him was not enough, and now she must pay the price for her failure. In her heart, she welcomes the catharsis that acceptance of that undeniable fact will bring but still she fears, deep inside, what she knows she must do and trembles at the thought.

In between the intermittent flashes of lightning, we see the tears flowing down her cheeks and know that her spirit is forever broken. It should not have ended that way. Both she, and now we, know it.

But yet, sitting here in the pre-dawn hours listening to the approaching storm she can sense his presence more intensely than she has since the cruel sea parted them on a night and in a storm much like this.

“A sudden squall” the investigation decided. “Most unusual for the season, it said.” “A once in a hundred-year event, never to be repeated in a human lifetime.”

The words of the official report are no comfort to her tormented soul, for he is gone and she is alone. Despair engulfs her, and we know that her soul is forever darkened and crippled beyond hope of redemption. Her life has no meaning, no joy, no worth. Life is cruel, but death is crueller still, yet, she would, she will, welcome its cold release.

She rises from the chair and walks across the lounge, looking left and right as she goes, taking in the accumulated memories of their life together.

There, on the shelves and alcoves above the fireplace, the photographs recalling shared experiences of travels and memories of family. A near lifetime together recorded in static instants of captured light etched on glossy paper.

Here, in the display cabinet, the golden camel that he bought for her in the souk on their first trip to Dubai. Next to it the antique silk fan they discovered together in a back street souvenir shop in Kyoto. The small crystal elephant from Delhi, inexpensive in financial terms but priceless for the memories it evokes. A host of memories, emotions and loving thoughts, from all the corners of the world.

There, in pride of place upon the mantelpiece, the exquisite Crown Derby statuette of a Peregrine Falcon. It has always been her favourite. A symbol of their shared affinity with hawks and raptors. Now, it merely reminds her of him and the love she has lost. In a fit of pique, she picks it up and hurls it against the wall. The delicate porcelain shatters into a hundred pieces that scatter and slide, spinning, across the polished hardwood floor.

Looking down at the debris field, she can almost picture his face in the random patterns of destruction. The eyes are full of accusation.

Careless of her bare feet, she walks across the sharp splinters and through the open doors of his study. From eyes blurred behind a waterfall of salty tears, she imagines she can see him there still, sitting behind the big antique desk, pumping the keys of his old fashioned typewriter. Forever the optimist that somewhere deep within him lay the opus magnum that would be his gift to the world.

On his desk, a digital picture frame plays out the sequence of their days and times together. Their first holiday together; their wedding day; their first house; the children when they were young; the later years when the chicks had flown the nest and so much, so very much more. The sequence ends with photos of Frenchman’s and the little sailing dinghy they had purchased when they first moved to Capri. The chain then repeats, measuring the pace of their life together in minute instalments of frozen time.

Momentarily, she smiles at the memories, but then her mood darkens as the realisation of her loss seizes her in its grip once more, and the all-enveloping cloak of her grief returns tenfold.

“Oh my Giovanni, where are you now, my love?” she sighs. She listens as hard and intensely as she can, desperately hoping for a reply, but no answer comes. It never does, and now she knows that it never will. There is no-one there to hear.

It is too much to bear.

It is time to set aside these dark thoughts and forlorn hopes for a future that will never be. She walks back into the lounge and throws open the French Windows. The wind ruffles the curtains and a swirl of rain sweeps across the floor darkening the wood.

Barefooted, she walks out into the storm and down the path to the cliff edge, leaving the doors open and banging in the wind behind her. The storm whips her sheer negligee about her, and the rain lashes her long golden hair, plastering it against her face and bare shoulders. For a brief moment, she pauses on the cliff edge, staring out to sea, still hoping to see lights, signalling him returning home. But, in her heart, she knows that will never be. Despair takes her, and with an anguished cry, she leaps outwards and downwards to the rocks below. She will welcome their sharp embrace and the blissful oblivion that lies beyond.

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Scene 3

Music. Coldplay – I will fix you.

It is early morning, and the storm has passed. The old man, broken on the rack of his grief for his lost love, sits weeping at his desk. He has had a disturbed night dreaming of his Caterina. Woken at dawn by the banging of the French windows he had hurried downstairs to his study and tried to capture the dream on paper before the after images could take flight and be lost forever, but they had swiftly slipped through the careless grip of his conscious memory.

Frustrated, he had dressed and gone outside to follow the cliff-side path and watch the new sunlight up the bay, now calm and swept clean by the storm of the previous night. At that early hour, the moon had still been visible low in the eastern sky, and a strange peace and acceptance had come to him, as parts of the dream had returned.

Now in the first light of a new day streaming through the windows, he listens to Coldplay’s “Fix You” as he reads again the words he can’t remember typing after returning from his clifftop walk.

Last night I dreamed again of my beautiful, golden-maned Eagle silhouetted against the silver face of the full moon. 

When I awoke, early this morning, the moon was still visible low above the sea cliffs to the East of Frenchman’s Cove, while to the West a Sea Eagle was beginning its lazy spiral skywards from the bay.

It was then that I knew that your indomitable spirit, loving heart and gentle soul are with me still and will forever light my way. Our love goes on. What was promised, is still, and will forever be.

Till kingdom come.

There had been more, so much more, to the dream, but this was all he had managed to record. All he could recall, before grief, had once more seized him and stilled the muse that inspired his soul. Tears roll down his cheeks, and the paper trembles in his hands. The dream had been so vivid he had been sure that it had been a genuine sending. She had been here. He knows it! Knows it for a certainty that that still reverberates in every fibre of his being. They had been together in the dream.

In his dream, he had sensed her close as they walked, hand in hand, amid the forests of their memories. He had felt her soothing whispers a breeze upon his neck. Her caring touch a gentle caress upon his skin. Time had ceased to flow, and they had passed eternities together, lost in a loving, blissful embrace they both knew would last forever and beyond. But now the night has passed, and with it the dream. All that remains are echoes of a never-ending life together that never was and now, will never be.

Angrily he crumples the paper into a ball and hurls it across the room where it falls, rolls a few times, then lies still amidst the wreckage of a Falcon that, veiled behind tears, his waking eyes do not see.

“Foolish old man” he berates himself. “She is gone. The sea took her and what the sea takes it keeps. It was just a dream, only a dream, and now it is gone.”

“Oh my Caterina,” he whispers, “If only I had never taught you to sail. If only it had been me and not you that took the boat out that day.” His head sinks to his hands, and he sobs uncontrollably.

Then, looking up, he notices for the first time the bloody wet footprints on the hardwood floor and the shards of the shattered falcon, Caterina’s Falcon, spread out in a hundred pieces. In the pattern of the shards, he imagines he sees her face and the love in her eyes.

Now he smiles. In his eyes, we see that the sadness and despair of the moment before have departed. For now, he senses the truth, and the fury in his heart is stilled. He has his answer and we, in turn, have ours. What was promised, is still, and shall always be, forever and beyond compare till time itself shall cease. This, in his heart, he knows, and so his pain is excised. His soul set at peace. He smiles, closes his eyes and follows her on.

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Scene 4

Music. Free Spirit – I will always love you.

Out to sea, a pair of Sea Eagles, their manes made golden by the rising sun of a new day, soar and tumble above the waves. A hope and a love once lost, is now regained. Life moves on, and all that was good with the world is restored. They are at peace, joyous, and together. As one they throw back their heads and shriek their sheer joy for life and their love upon the winds.

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