REDEMPTION ISLAND - An Iraq War Veteran's Journey
The Iraq War draws Justin Caden, twenty-three, into a dark psychological abyss. Home in Mid-America, he confronts the life he had left behind. He wanders in reflection, introspection, and surreal encounters. Combat episodes emerge in recollections and nightmares. Fragmented stream-of-consciousness plagues his days. . .
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Justin Caden recalled his grandpa’s tale of Redemption Island, that mysterious rock-lump in the sea. Its legacy reached back to before Europeans set foot on the continent. In ancient times, great Mi’kmag warriors endured, survived the big granite shrouded in thorny shrubs and vines growing out of its cracks. The rock was a monstrous whiskered wart in the ocean. More recent times, only several survived its forces. Some who had gone in there never returned. A few came back deranged, mad, and had to be put away, not counting those who committed suicide. Others who treaded its tunnels, stayed a few days, and rid themselves of demons. In one of his sermons, the Chebec village’s priest had called Redemption Island the Purgatory, and another time, a Gate to Hell. The local inhabitants never questioned the island’s properties. Near its shore, compasses, global positioning systems, internet communications, radar, radio signals, telephones, satellite waves go awry, berserk. However, the giant rock served as a shelter to much smaller Escape Island across a channel. Because of Redemption Island’s steep cliffs and treacherous climb, no one had ever made it to the top. At the base, a cave opening, passage that led deeper into the rock and entry permitted only at a certain low tide level. They said, inside there were no days and nights, and time was not measured by man-made clocks. Implanted in Chebec’s citizens’ minds is that a few hours in the guts of Redemption Island felt like eternity.
Low tide, on the dock Justin eyed Redemption Island across the channel. Entry hole gapped like a huge jaw. He descended to the dory, jumped in, sat, dropped the oars in the oarlocks, and began paddling away. On a mission to enter Redemption Island, he did not think of the consequences.
Arm and leg muscles tight, with long strokes, he rowed and reflected on when the journey began in Iraq.