Approaching Hellshire’s coast, I notice changes: unfinished housing schemes and a gutted high-rise hotel. There are no signs leading to the cave. Derek’s ’91 Honda performs heroically, backing out of narrow, dead-end roads, until someone finally gives directions that bring us to the site. The gate is locked; across the road, teenagers sit around an old car. “Governmen’ close it down,” one of them says, watching us peer through the barbed wire fence. There’s no watchman. We climb over the gate.
The cave itself is enclosed in scaffolding, the viewing platform in disrepair. At the bottom there’s black water, and, as hard as I try, I can’t see the petroglyph. Derek walks over to a building, presumably where the gift shop was located, and finds a plaque telling the story we read earlier about the sisters. The plaque hangs lopsided, and he secures it using a rock as a hammer. I wonder how much of the story is true and whether they were African slaves or Taino girls centuries earlier escaping from conquistadores. Maybe they survived the ordeal. We walk to the edge of the cliff, looking in vain for a cave opening to the sea, trying to retrace the sisters’ path of hope.
Back in the Honda, we continue searching for the bay. Even in these altered surroundings, I still see what drew me here—limestone against sea and sky, a ruggedness that saturates everything. We end up on a steep road that looks familiar. But it leads to a military range, and we turn back.
My thoughts return to the cave drawing. The Taino believed the world originated from a single cave, one from which twin gods, the sun and moon, emerged. Marocael, a mortal, was given the task of guarding this sacred cave. One night he returned late to his watch and, as punishment, was turned to stone. From then on, the Tainos drew a face at the mouth of caves, perhaps to make an example of Marocael, the negligent watchman.