It was tomorrow, and it was another roasting July day in the metropolis of Port-au-Prince. Pierre sat at his desk, and as he sipped on a cup of milky coffee and flicked through his e-mails. The apartment where he lived was stylishly sparse, mostly white, and there was not a spot of dust or dirt to be seen. The air conditioning kept Pierre cool and refreshed, and he knew better than to open the sliding glass doors that led out onto the balcony even though he enjoyed the sounds of the city. It was best not to let the heat in he found.
He felt a brush against his legs, and looked down into the eyes of a hungry cat.
“Eco, I fed you already,” he muttered. The aging Siamese cat let out a yelp, but Pierre paid him no attention despite the feline’s stare. There were 9 new e-mails, and after the first couple he got a good idea of what the rest contained.
I’m not one to judge, being somewhat timeless myself, but it is not often that people forget their own birthday. But that is exactly what Pierre had done. He felt quite foolish, but as he skimmed through the list of senders there was a noticeable absence.
It had been three months since he had heard from her. She had been offered an opportunity of a lifetime, a year in West Africa working as an archaeologist on a recently discovered temple complex built maybe by a previously unknown civilisation, and Pierre could not stand in her way despite his reservations. She had promised to keep in regular contact, but since the teary departure there had been not even an e-mail, let alone a phone call. Pierre had contacted the University, but had received reassurances that everything was fine, and the dig was continuing as planned.
But then, he thought sadly, beautiful Marissa Yaroslavich could be very focussed. But even so, not hearing word even on his birthday could not help but set the alarm bells ringing. She
wouldn’t have forgotten surely. He sighed, and wearily flicked through the other mails. They were all rather standard happy birthday messages, from his parents and some other people who actually remembered, except for one spam e-mail offering something Pierre knew he did not need.
The last message was from Stephan Neumarche, Pierre’s oldest friend.
Hey happy birthday! Now well and truly in the wrong end of the twenties, lol! I’m gonna be spending some time in the St. Peter Café at the Hall of Records, got some reading to do, if you come along I’ll buy you a coffee. I’ve also got something quite interesting to show you. Come along anytime from one o’clock.
Pierre stood up, intrigued. Stephan had a way of understating things, so Pierre knew that when he described something as interesting then it was completely fascinating, to him at least. He gazed out of the glass doors over the pristine city of Port-au-Prince, his eyes could not help but be drawn to the Hall of Records. The towering structure was mostly an enigma, the only part of the building being open to the public being the ground floor, which contained a maze of arcades containing shops, cafes, the Haitian Library and the National Museum amongst other things. Since its construction it had become the hub of city life, but despite that most of the building remained strictly off limits for the majority of city-dwellers. He often dreamt of sneaking inside, of looking in the fabled Secret Vault, but knew he never would. He was also very confident that he would never steal any dusty, yellowing manuscripts with crucial pages removed written by eccentric academics. It was strange, but the building had a way of getting under one's skin, it seemed to seep into one's soul.
Pierre checked his watch. It was a while till one, so he fed Eco and had a nap.
While Pierre sleeps, let me tell you about something interesting about Haiti. It has been established that a hundred years of Haitian history is missing, but what of the history we do know about? Well, let me tell you.
The island of Hispaniola was originally inhabited by Taino Arawak people, until the arrival of Europeans. The western part was taken by France, and the east was Spanish, and had an economy of sugar and coffee, driven by the labour of West African slaves.
The French Revolution led to much upheaval, and this period saw the rise of Haitian national hero François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture (whose name literally translated as “all the saints awakening“, incidently), but it was Jean-Jacques Dessalines that defeated the French at the Battle of Vertrieres and secured Haitian independence. Initially it was divided into a kingdom in the north and a republic in the south, but the island was united by Jean Pierre Boyer who also conquered the Spanish part of the island. It is during Boyer’s long reign as dictator that the historical record comes to an abrupt halt at the end of 1835.
It resumes in 1936, with Haiti as a prosperous, industrialised regional power.
As Pierre slept, a young pilot in the Haitian Airforce out on a routine patrol spotted a lone, lifeless rowboat drifting in the Sargasso Sea.