Chapter 4

Moon Fish - Derek Fish and the Surprise, a Children's Book

Grandfather Fish shuffled across the pub’s bar, collecting glasses from the now-vacated tables. Plonking himself down on a stool, he sighed and stared into the frothy, beer-lined glasses. Hearing a noise, he looked up.
‘Derek! What are you doing up?’ he asked, as Derek peered into the bar, looking puzzled. ‘And what’s happened to your hair?’
Derek looked confused. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Take a look,’ said Grandfather Fish, gesturing towards a nearby mirror.
‘Where is everybody?’ asked Derek.
‘Long gone. I’ve been clearing up for the last half-hour.’
‘But I heard ….’ he stopped mid-sentence as he caught sight of his hair. It was standing on end, just as if he’d touched one of those static electricity balls you get in most science museums. He looked a real sight – like a crazy scientist minus the white coat!
After discovering the shimmering page in the journal, Derek just simply had to show his Grandfather. Barely able to contain his excitement, he’d crept out of his room, passing the bedrooms, being careful not to wake anyone. He was conscious of Granny Fish needing her sleep and conscious of the trouble he would be in if his parents found him in the hallway. An electric tingling prickled his body as he passed along the dark panelled hallway that led to the pub. As he approached the Captain’s door he heard the sound of loud voices, singing and shouting. A beam of light stretched out from under the door, flickering and dancing, as if in rhythm to the singing. Derek paused and listened. Heart beating, he reached for the handle. A spark of static electricity jumped from the handle and connected with his finger, causing him to jump backwards. Then the voices were gone. All was silent except for the sound of clinking glasses. Derek nervously reached for the handle again. He was sure he had heard voices, voices from behind the door. But this time there was no surge of electrical energy and he twisted it, quickly opening the door. He hadn’t really been surprised to find the brick wall.
‘…I heard voices, Grandad!’ Derek continued as he tried to flatten down his hair. ‘From behind the Captain’s door. Singing and laughing. It was really weird!’
‘There hasn’t been anyone in the pub for a good half-hour, Derek,’ the old man replied. ‘Not sure what you heard but it definitely wasn’t voices.’
‘It was, I’m certain of it – and they stopped the moment I touched the handle and got the shock.’
‘Shock! What shock?’
‘It was like lightning jumping from the door handle. Really big, it was. Didn’t hurt, though. Just tingled. It must have been that shock that did this to my hair.’
‘I’ll take a look at that in the morning. Can’t have you getting shocks! Just make sure you stay away from the door until I’ve taken a look. Now off to bed with you before your mum and dad find you down here.’
‘Just a minute, Grandad. You’ve got to see this!’ Derek raced over to the old man and took his arm. ‘I’ve found something,’ he continued, leading his grandfather to the nearest window. ‘It can only be seen under moonlight!’
‘Derek,’ replied his grandfather with a tone of disbelief.
‘No honest, I have. LOOK!’
Derek had swept the curtains back and placed the journal on the windowsill, opening it to the strange pages. He smiled triumphantly as the pages began to shimmer, just as they had earlier.
‘What am I looking for?’ asked Grandfather Fish.
‘Can’t you see that?’ said Derek, glancing up at the old man. ‘There’s words on the pages. Look here.’ He pointed to the shimmering words.
The old man shook his head and smiled.
‘It’s time for your bed, young man. Come on.’ He closed the journal and tucked it under his arm. ‘Imagination’s a great thing, Derek, but not at eleven-thirty at night when you’re supposed to be asleep!’
‘It needs the full moon to properly read the words,’ explained Derek, desperately trying to convince his grandfather that the magical pages existed. ‘Erasmus had been putting clues in his other entries. The full moon’s tomorrow night!’
The old man was having none of it. ‘Sssh,’ he said, guiding Derek into his bedroom. ‘I won’t mention this to your mum and dad, and I’ll put this somewhere safe.’
He recalled his own father’s concern about the journal. ‘I don’t see any harm here, Derek, not like my father did. It’s just your imagination running wild, but it’s not a very good time to indulge in such fantasies. You can have it back in the morning. Now, get some sleep.’


Derek had a sleepless night mulling over the fact that his grandfather couldn’t see anything on the page. By the time daylight’s fingers crept under the bedroom curtains, he’d even begun to doubt himself. Perhaps his imagination had been playing tricks on him, just as his grandfather had said? So Derek decided not to say another word until he had proof.
As soon as he heard the noise of breakfast dishes chinking, he raced downstairs, gobbled down his breakfast and virtually tore the journal from his grandfather’s hand, promising ‘no funny business’. A moment later he was back in his bedroom examining the journal. There were no signs of the mysterious pages, none whatsoever. Had he imagined them?
Night-time took an age to arrive. Long before the sun had gone down, Derek had taken up position in front of the chest of drawers that stood beneath the window, the journal open, waiting for the moon’s appearance. Unfortunately, it was a rather cloudy night. Not one single moonbeam was strong enough to penetrate the thickness of the clouds. Derek began to feel sick. According to Google search results, a full moon only lasts two days, so if the cloud cover remained for another night, he would have to wait an entire month for the next one. The weather forecast had said that the cloud would eventually disperse as the evening drew on, but the accuracy of weather forecasts was always a subject of hot debate.
Deciding to take photographs as evidence to prove to his grandfather that it hadn’t been his imagination, Derek stood, iPhone in hand, darkness all around. It was at ten thirty-five that the moon began to peep out from behind the fluffy extremes of a rather large cloud, causing the page to shimmer, just as it had done the previous night. As the moon rose higher and higher, so the page shimmered more and more and Derek’s mouth became drier and drier.
But no words formed on the page.
Finally, the moon emerged from behind the cloud in all its majestic glory, casting the full force of its beams upon the journal. The shimmering on the page stopped and letters began to materialise, first forming words, then whole sentences one after another, as if Erasmus were writing at that very moment.
Derek began to read the words aloud, stuttering and stumbling as his excitement got the better of him.

My Dearest Son, Jeremiah

I fear that the rascal One Eye has discovered the secret of the Jolly Roger. The Cad has requested I meet with him at noon upon the morrow. His note is clear and precise ‘bring your largest chest of treasure and the Jolly Roger’.
I fear that he will use you and Molly as ransom. His knowledge of your whereabouts in England is of great detail and he goes to vast lengths to inform me of this. Your safety is my priority and so I shall attend the meeting, although I doubt I shall have a safe return.
I write these final pages using the sap of the Pimento tree. It has a remarkable quality about it that renders the written word invisible. It can only be read under the light of the full moon, which, of course, you already know, because you’re reading this page. Well done, my son!
It is the only method I can employ to protect the secret of the Jolly Roger from prying eyes. One Eye will be sure not to tell, for his great fortune, under my flag, is just upon the horizon.
This journal will be placed in the hands of my trusted friend, Striker John, who will see its safe delivery to England and to you. I pray that one day you will discover the secret that lies within, and perhaps retrieve my treasure and avenge my name.
In hope of this, I will endeavour to explain how I came to have, in my possession, the greatest gift a Privateer could wish for.
Upon one of my many trips around the Spanish Main, a great storm tossed and blew the Surprise for four days and four nights. When it stopped on the fifth day, we chanced upon an island. It was uncharted, unknown to me. We landed to replenish our stocks of water and food, and to find timber to repair the poor Surprise. As we trekked into the island’s interior, we happened upon a native tribe steeped in magical powers. They appeared from nowhere before our very eyes. Unknown to us, they had witnessed our arrival and inquisitively moved amongst us, cloaked in invisibility. They had never seen a white man before and thought of me as a god. The chief of these people wished to become my brother. I was wary of this tribe and, fearing for the safety of my crew, I agreed, and undertook an elaborate ceremony, where the palms of our hands were sliced open, so that the blood flowed freely between our bodies. We remained in this posture for what seemed like hours, whilst drums rang out and the natives danced, trance-like, around a large campfire. The dancing became frenzied and I felt their excitement prickling my entire body. At the same time I found myself shading my eyes from the blazing bonfire, as the light from it disturbed them immensely. The excited figures became blurred and I felt drunk, drunk like never before. But this was not enough to dampen the pain from the wound on my hand. It seemed to creep up my arm, reaching deeper into my body. I struggled, wishing to break this trance, but the Indian chief held firm.
Then I passed out, only to wake a few hours later with the face of the chief pressed hard against mine. He was sniffing deeply, taking in the odour that came from my mouth. Eventually he jumped up, did a short, circular dance and waved triumphantly at me. His large upturned banana of a smile told me that whatever had happened was successful. I cupped my hand against my mouth in an effort to smell my breath. It seemed the same as usual to me. Then his men raised me above their heads and carried me to the beach, where the Surprise was anchored. The chief pointed to the Jolly Roger and asked for it to be brought to him. I think that he believed it warded off evil spirits, and the gist I got from his strange mutterings was that he wished to charm it, giving me further protection. And so it came to pass that when the Jolly Roger was flying, I and all that sailed aboard the Surprise could do so under the protection of invisibility.


Suddenly, the words began to fade as a cloud passed in front of the moon. Derek cursed and tapped his fingers impatiently, willing the unwanted obstruction to pass by quickly. Eventually, as the final wisps of the cloud passed, the words reformed on the page.

And Erasmus went on…

But there was another charm that he placed upon the flag, a charm that he granted to me as a brother. If I, or any of his or my kin – for it was only the mixed blood of our family lines that the charm would work for – were to wrap the flag around our bodies, any wish we so desired would be granted.
No one but the Chief, myself, and now you, Jeremiah, knows of this second charm.
I do not intend to surrender the entire Jolly Roger to One Eye, in the hope that you can use its magical powers and right the wrong that will surely arise by the end of tomorrow. I have removed a small portion of the flag, ripped it from the top edge – so it appears to be damage from musket fire – and hidden it. A clue to its whereabouts is in this journal!
Although this portion only contains a mere fraction of the magical qualities of the Jolly Roger, it will be enough to lead you to the Surprise. Once reunited with its bigger part, it will enable you to settle the score and claim back the Surprise and my fortune.
It is with a sad heart that I now sign off this letter.
Now is your time to shine.


Your loving Father,


Erasmus Fish.


Derek was stunned. Unable to move, he stared at the last page of Erasmus’s secret entry. Jeremiah couldn’t have read this, he thought to himself. If he had, he would’ve avenged Erasmus, and the truth behind his disappearance would be known. The same could be said for any of Erasmus’s descendants, his grandfather and father included. A strange sensation prickled Derek’s skin as he realised that he may be the first Fish to set eyes on Erasmus’s invisible entry.
His thoughts turned to the piece of the Jolly Roger that Erasmus had hidden. If nobody had read the entry, then perhaps it had never been discovered.  A clue to its whereabouts is in the journal! That’s what Erasmus had said.
This was so exciting, unbelievable.

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