The message had been secured to the underside of Lee’s beach chair with string which–on closer inspection–was actually braided strands of fine threads from a sheet or blanket. He hesitated; there were plenty of other chairs about on the island beach, and an inviting day of gazing out over crystal-clear azure seas beckoned. Picking anything up, much less reading it, seemed like an unfathomable bother.

But curiosity got the better of him, and Lee retrieved and unfolded it. The writing looked faded and weathered in the tropical sunlight but was easily legible.

“Try to remember last week.”

Lee smirked. Of course he could remember last week. He’d swum out to the sandbar with Claudette, and…no. That had been two days ago. And the sand castle building…that had been last week, hadn’t it? No…the long lazy days and nights seemed to stretch out and contort in time even as Lee thought about them. The sand castles had been only three days ago. Lee felt a mild chill go up his spine.

He couldn’t remember last week.

The note continued. “Didn’t think so. Check under the bed in the empty room at the end of the hallway.”

“Grandpa,” Jimmy said. “Kids are always daring each other to go out to Old Town Island to bring back the ‘Feynola Siren.’ What do they mean?”

The old man leaned back in his rocker. “They say the old Feynola City Hall had a warning siren put on it during the war to warn citizens of a U-boat attack.”


“In late August of 1951, the siren blew for four and a half minutes at 10:23 am, causing many of the 3000 residents to take shelter, despite clear skies and nothing ill in the forecast,” Grandpa continued. “It was written off as a fluke until the following week, when the siren rang out again at 10:23 and lasted four and a half minutes. Maintenance crews could find nothing wrong with the siren assembly, but it continued to sound once every week, always at 10:23, always lasting four and a half minutes. During the last week of September, the siren was finally disconnected due to complaints.”

“What happened then?”

“The following week, the siren somehow rang as usual. Many have speculated how it managed to do so while ostensibly disabled, but one thing was clear: the siren was heralding a massive Category Five hurricane that was bearing down on Feynola, having suddenly deviated from its predicted course. The storm surge was so fierce that is created a new tidal lagoon inland from the city, trapping most of the residents. Nearly 2500 died or disappeared that day, and the survivors declined to rebuild thereafter. And do you know what?”

Jimmy leaned in. “What, Grandpa?”

“The hurricane had struck at exactly 10:23 am, with the fiercest part of the flooding and destruction lasting only four and a half minutes.”