• jacquelinebruce

The biggest story of our lifetime: Sunset at the EPHO Sanctuary

Updated: Mar 5

“Have we got her yet?” Emma stood staring out over the ocean as the sun started to set on another day at the EPHO Sanctuary.

“Almost. She’s 20 miles off the coast of Madagascar. Looks like we were right to think she was heading there. The influencing must be working. Why would she go there if it wasn’t?” Noel was sitting in front of a wall of screens. Some with numbers ticking upwards, others with GPS trackers and a mix of different coloured arrows, emotional barometers rising and falling, browser information and much more. It was everything they needed to keep track of what was going on.

“I hope you’re right.” He always is, thought Emma. Please don’t make this be the one time he isn’t.

Emma and Noel met when they were at high school. When TV programmes were shown in black and white and the world was at war. Again. They had bonded over a shared love of nature. They would meet after school and weekends to head off on adventures, scrap books, and pencils placed firmly in their satchels. They would wander and wonder at the splendor of flowers, bugs and animals. The years drifted by and high school would come to an end. But their friendship didn’t. They vowed to keep in touch as they parted ways to find their path in life. They gifted each other a writing set and became the best of pen friends. Long letters replaced their adventures as they regaled tales of their new lives discovering their own different world.

That was 1943. They wrote to each other every month for 50 years. Even when email came along they agreed putting pen to paper, writing an envelope and sticking a stamp was much more joyful. As the years went by their letters turned from stories of how much they were enjoying their individual adventures, to becoming more concerned at what they were seeing unfolding before their eyes. The last letter they ever wrote to each other was to arrange to meet up. In1997.

“Got her Emma.” GPS has pinpointed her position. She’s on land now. Her browser information is starting to come through too.” Noel couldn’t take his eyes off of one specific screen which was conveniently placed in front of his eye line. The screen was moving. Information was beginning to appear. Soon they would know if it was working. Seven long weeks had led to this point. But it was really the culmination of 24 years of work and dedication. And it was here.

Emma continued to stare across the calm waters. Her feet stuck to the floor like heavy wooden door stops. The sun had dropped behind the horizon. The golden heat of the day had turned to a copper tinted dusk. This felt like a moment in her life that was worth remembering. She hoped, for the right reasons. She waited. Waited for what Noel would say next.

Emma was that someone her friends would go to for help and advice. She was the friend who listened. She was caring, conscientious and always knew when to say the right thing. And when it was time to say nothing. Her mind started to wander. Back she went to 1997 when she and Noel had decided to meet for lunch. She remembered the smell of coffee and home baking wafting across the cafe. They had met to talk about what what they were seeing. And what they should do. And how. That day, they could only have imagined this moment would arrive.

As the screen filled up with more and more words, Noel looked down at his hands. He noticed every wrinkle, every vein, every mark. They had travelled all over the world. They had touched things no human being would ever touch again. The fingertips that had traced a line across a beautiful Golden Toad. They hands that had taken photos of the Caribbean Monk Seal. And the hands that had reached out to a gorgeous gorilla. As his screen filled up, so too did his eyes. He felt Emma’s hand on his shoulder, “Are you ok?”

“Yes, I’m fine. I’m fine. It's all quite overwhelming.”

“It is.”

They were interrupted by the sound of the door opening and laughter bouncing through the air.

Emma turned around, “hey everyone. You’re here just in time.”

Stef, Jilly and Carrie were back from their assignment. They’d been a breath of fresh air at EPHO Sanctuary. Emma and Noel knew from day one they couldn’t do everything on their own. They would need to get help. Stef and Jilly were perfect. Neither of them had any idea just how perfect they were for the job. And they wouldn't know the full story until the time was right. And Carrie? Well. They felt like they had known Carrie forever. But they didn't find her. Carrie found Emma and Noel.

“Just in time for what?” Carrie sat next to Noel and the penny dropped. “Ooooohhhh. It’s here? That’s today already?”

And just then, before anyone could say anything else, the big green box started ringing. They stared at each other, stomachs churning. Hearts racing. This was it.

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