Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Spooky Season, Writing

Flashback – Beach Boy Blues

Aaron was still looking for a way out of the holiday as the plane touched down in Hawaii. Most people would be thrilled at the prospect of two weeks on one of the most beautiful islands in the world, but Aaron looked out of the window of the aeroplane, to the bright sunshine and welcoming Hawaiian skyline, and felt an unstoppable desire to disappear.

It was nothing personal to the people of Hawaii of course. He was sure that they were just as lovely as everybody had always said they were, but Aaron was not in the right frame of mind to enjoy a luxury holiday, and he wasn’t sure that he ever would be again. His head pounded from the four bottles of cider he had sunk on the plane and he wasn’t in the mood for being pampered, but, alas, the people of Hawaii were excellent hosts, even to the drunk and belligerent. As he watched the pink sky paint itself a warmer red and the sun set a little lower, Aaron stepped off of the plane with the others, shielding his eyes as he felt them sting from the surviving sunlight.

On the plane, he had been plagued by nightmares. He couldn’t remember much as he awoke, and simply had a nervous energy pulsing through his body, and the faint scent of something that disturbed him deeply lingering in his nostrils. Burning flesh.

“Aloha Aaron!” A voice cried before him. A strand of orchids fell around his neck and he was pulled into a hug, too tired to resist, but just awake enough to curse himself for forgetting to cancel the Lei greeting. The greeter pulled away with a bright smile, that faded slightly when he looked at the second Lei in his hands and noticed that Aaron had travelled alone. “Let’s get you to a taxi…” The greeter mumbled, and Aaron nodded, trying to return his smile, but only managing a grimace.

This was a repeated incident as Hawaii said “Aloha” to Aaron. He had planned the trip with his husband, for their anniversary, so he had spent a long time ensuring it was the most romantic trip the two of them had ever taken. Dual lei greetings, a dreamy suite full of roses and candles, and intimate dinners booked at beachside restaurants. Every aspect of the trip seemed to remind Aaron that his husband was nowhere to be seen. He had waited at the airport until the flight was about to leave, even arguing with the unfortunate desk clerk who had the misfortune to be faced with his furious attempts to have the plane delayed, but his husband didn’t show up, and after spending thousands on the trip, Aaron glumly headed off on holiday, with a broken heart.

As he ordered another cider, slumped against the hotel bar, he let out a loud sigh. He couldn’t remember why his husband had left. Perhaps it was the drink clouding his memory? Perhaps his drinking had been the issue in the first place? He didn’t remember himself being a big drinker before he headed off to Hawaii, but a lot of what came before was a blur, so he couldn’t be sure.

All that seemed to matter was his next drink, and a desperate need to forget. The good news was that Aaron appeared to have succeeded at forgetting, but the bad news was, not remembering the reasons for his sadness just gave him a greater sense of sadness.

“Cheer up, cousin.” Aaron didn’t look up as the cheery voice beside him spoke, staring down at his wedding ring with a loud sigh. “You’re in Hawaii, not hell.” Pressing the bottle to his lips and guzzling down more nectar, Aaron nodded. He had to admit that the stranger had a point. Looking up, he glanced to his left and spotted a smartly dressed but very small boy. “I’m Milu, and I’m going to be your guide.” The boy extended a hand to Aaron, who was puzzled and a little unsure of how to respond.

“Aren’t you like, twelve?” Aaron slurred with an inquisitive look at the boy. Milu remained polite, politer than Aaron deserved anyway, and continued to smile, still holding out his hand to Aaron.

“You need help, and I’m here to help you.” Aaron felt a little humbled by the boy’s kindness, even in the face of his own rudeness and finally took Milu’s hand, shaking it with a smile.

“You’re right on that, mate.”

That night, they drank and talked about Aaron’s troubles. He was feeling a little lost, and frankly a little unsure of how he’d made it to Hawaii. The trip had been booked for months, and while he could recall the long, lonesome wait in the airport, everything before that, beyond the longing for his lover was a little fuzzy.

By the end of the night, Aaron had no answers to the many questions that ran through his mind, but he did have plans for a tour of the volcanoes the next day with Milu, so as he walked back to his hotel room after saying goodbye to his new friend, he felt a little lighter.

The streets were quiet, with the island lost in dreams as the clock struck two, and Aaron could see his hotel in the distance. If he had been sober, perhaps Aaron would have looked around him and seen the danger, but alas, dear reader, the young doctor stumbled forward with only the soft sheets of his bed on his mind, oblivious to the shadows cast across his path as several figures crept up behind him.

He walked into the lonely lobby, walking through to the elevator and headed to his room, with the beginnings of a headache. Falling into his bed with a sigh, he closed his eyes, unable to see that from all corners of the room, he was being watched.

Within a few minutes, Aaron slipped away from consciousness and into dark, disturbing dreams. His heart raced as he sunk deeper into the dream. A long, winding hallway, fluorescent lights above that flickered and flashed as he walked, under someone else’s power, pushed forward towards sobbing that seemed to get louder with every step he took.

The floor was slippery, and as his eyes darted down, he saw blood smeared across the tiles. Screams had joined the sobbing, filling the air and as much as he wanted to run, he was drawn to them, his steps, slow but constant as a chilly wind wrapped around his shoulders, whistling and whispering in his ears as he got closer to the commotion.

He stumbled through a door, sunlight pouring through to greet him, and for a moment, just a few solitary seconds, there was peace as the scene fell quiet. Aaron peered into the bright light, his heart starting to calm as it faded away and his eyes trailed across the emergency room that was so familiar to him. He was glad to leave behind the creepy path he’d taken to where he’d found himself, and he had to admit, seeing something he knew so well was comforting.

He stepped forward, his feet moving with a little more freedom as he explored the empty emergency room. He had never seen it so quiet, and as he had that thought, his heart began to race again. Something wasn’t right.

He began running, past the reception desk, the cubicles and waiting area, looking for someone, anyone, who could make the dream a little less unsettling.

“It’s time to go, Aaron.” He froze, a chill slowly sliding down his spine as he turned towards the voice behind him. There was nobody there, and Aaron began to wish that he’d wake up, digging his nails into his palms but feeling nothing. “Aaron, you have to go now.” He shuddered, feeling an icy hand on his shoulder, watching in horror as the emergency room filled with people, flames spreading across the room, as the air ached with struggling, strangled screams again.

Aaron wanted to run, but he was cemented in place, watching the fire rip through the emergency room. The hand lifted from his shoulder, moving past his face and pointed to a bed at the back of the room. Aaron’s heart sank as he followed the hand and reluctantly looked over at the bed, seeing his own body, engulfed in flames. He felt sick, shaking as cold, clammy hands began clutching his skin. His mouth fell open as he watched his own face staring back at him, it’s own mouth open. No scream came from either of them, but they were surrounded by the sorrowful, pained howls of the inflamed crowd that were now running towards Aaron. He struggled, trying to run but finding himself frozen as they grasped for him, their hands charred and skeletal.

“Aaron.” He awoke to his name being called and a small hand shaking his shoulder. It was Milu. Aaron was still reeling from the nightmare and it took him a moment to adjust to the waking world. He was about to ask the boy how he’d got into his room when Milu continued, with a wide smile. “It was just a dream, Aaron.” He returned Milu’s smile and pushed the covers away from himself. “They’re right, though. You do have to go.” Aaron looked up, his breath caught in his throat as he stared at the boy, unsure of how to respond.

“Go where?” He stood from the bed, his eyes narrowing as he followed Milu across the room. Milu shook his head, gesturing Aaron towards the bathroom with a slight smile.

“All in good time, cousin.”

Aaron was uneasy as he showered and dressed, and to his dismay, the feeling seemed to grow as the day went on. He was sober now. Still without many of his memories, but very familiar with the dream he’d had the night before, and the new feeling that had followed him all day. Something wasn’t right, but he couldn’t quite work out what it was. He barely listened to Milu as they toured the volcanoes, troubled by the strange anxiety that was beginning to bubble in his chest. It was at dinner that he decided to ask Milu about the dream, unsure of how exactly a child was able to help, but desperate for some kind of peace.

“How did you know what I dreamed about?” Aaron blurted out as the waitress collected their dessert dishes. Milu glanced up from his lemonade, twirling the umbrella in his tiny fingers with a grin.

“Aaron, there’s something you need to understand, and…” Milu continued to talk, but Aaron had lost his focus, his eyes suddenly drawn to the television behind the bar. While the TV was muted, and miniscule in size, Aaron knew immediately what he was seeing. He stood from the table and walked closer, almost entranced, enchanted by the eyes on the screen, the soft curve of his lips as he spoke, his rosy cheeks, covered in tears. It was his husband, Joe.

“Turn it up.” Aaron barked, leaning against the bar, his heart fluttering as he gazed at the man he adored. The barman shook his head, raising a hand and pointing behind Aaron. Aaron shook his head, his eyes glued to the television, as his heart ached for Joe. “Please, that’s my husband.” He pleaded, trying to be polite, but worrying that he sounded a little demanding. I just want to hear what…” Aaron fell into silence as Joe stared down the camera, his green eyes piercing and chilling in a way they never had been before.

“It’s time to go Aaron.” Aaron fell back in shock, his jaw happened as Joe stared at him, his eyes empty of emotion. “Go!” He yelled from the screen. “Go!” Aaron glanced around, noticing that the patrons at the bar were now pointing behind him, along with the barman. “Aaron, you have to go now!” He thought about looking back, to see what they were pointing at, but the thought of what he might see tied his stomach into nervous knots.

“Aaron.” He jumped at a voice, right at his ear, gravelly and ominous. “It’s time to go.” He felt a hand on his shoulder, and his eyes darted frantically to the people that surrounded him, all pointing with blank faces. The air began to cool, and he could hear the crackle of flames behind him, his eyes filling with terrified tears. He surveyed the blank faces before him, their fingers pointing insistently towards him, and as he ran down the row of silent people, his jaw fell open as he spotted one, looking back at him, with the same horrified stare. Flames ate at his skin as he tried to scream, looking back at Aaron with his own, horrified, terrified face.

“Let’s get a drink.” Aaron shuddered as he felt his hand being snatched, breathing a touch easier as he looked down and spotted Milu. The boy grinned up at him and nodded towards the bar. Aaron cautiously looked up, relieved to see everything was normal. The TV was showing a baseball game, the patrons and barman were relaxed and chatting, and as he looked around him, everything had returned to how he’d hoped it would.

“What’s going on Milu?” Aaron asked, his voice shaking a little as the young boy handed a fistful of dollars to the barman. “Why can’t I remember anything before this?” Milu slid a glass over to Aaron with a friendly smile and Aaron immediately raised it to his lips, swallowing a few mouthfuls all at once before slamming it back down on the bar. “What were they pointing at?” Milu pondered the questions, signalling to the barman for more drinks as he swung his little legs against the bar stool.

“I thought you’d have figured it out by now, to be honest.” The boy sighed. “No offence, cousin, but I thought doctors were smart.” Without another word, Milu slid down from the stool and began walking down towards the beach. Aaron chased after him, his mind racing as fast as his legs with questions.

“Milu, wait.” He rushed past the busy, smiling holidaymakers, bolting towards the sea, where the small boy sat. Milu was waiting at the shore, seated in the sand, the soft waves lapping against his legs as he stared out into the ocean. “Milu, what is going on?”

“The sun is going down.” The boy whispered, reaching up to Aaron’s hand and gently pulling him down to the ground. “It’s nothing to fear, you know.” Milu squeezed Aaron’s hand gently, turning to him with a smile.

“Am I in hell?” Aaron mumbled, looking away from Milu as the young boy chuckled at the question. “The flames, the voices…” He whispered, trying to swallow the spectre of dread that was swirling in his stomach.

“The flames do not belong to the devil.” Aaron’s eyes fell on the sunset before him, and for the first time in the whole trip, he felt a soft, almost strange sense of peace washing over him. “The things you run from belong to you.” Aaron didn’t want to look away from the sun. It bowed behind the waves, still shimmering as it descended from the sky. “You’re hiding here, but you have to go.” Aaron felt a warmth throughout his body, and his eyes felt heavy. His fingers tingled as they tapped slowly against the sand before Milu took his hand again. “There’s nothing else to be done, cousin.” Aaron looked down at his hand, now held tightly in Milu’s own. Flames wrapped around them, slowly licking up Aaron’s arms, but he felt no pain. “You have to go.”

Aaron nodded, still a little unsure of what was unfolding but no longer able to summon the strength to fight back.

“Will you stay with me?” He whispered, falling to the sand, the blaze crawling across his body as the world seemed to fade.

“I’m right here.” Milu said softly, their hands still entwined as the sun fell behind the sea entirely.

Aaron heard the flames crackling softly, his mind full of the memories he had been searching for. His wedding day, hand in hand with Joe as they kissed tenderly outside the registry office. His smiling face as he held his doctorate high above his head on his graduation day. The two lovers, sharing a gentle kiss as Aaron clicked the confirmation button to book the trip of a lifetime, to beautiful Hawaii. His body was basked in warmth as his memories surrounded him.

Somewhere in the background was the hospital, the fire, the end, but in that moment, it didn’t matter. In the end, he was at peace, at last, finally finding his way as the sun set over the beautiful beach.

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Spooky Season, Writing

Flashback – Patient 42

Patient 42 – Post Waking Report – Day One – 10:32

Hello Doctor Skipton. My name is Vera and I am the nursebot assigned to monitor Patient 42 post treatment. I have now been activated as the patient is awake for the first time since his initial treatment. It seems that you are away from your desk, so I will upload my report to the cloud for you to look at when you are available.

Patient 42 is one of the 100 volunteer patients engaged with an experiment to monitor the ability to visit alternate dimensions during an induced and prolonged dream state. Patient 42 is part of the subgroup of 10 patients who are utilising gas inductions for longer periods of sleep.

Patient 42 is still a little drowsy. I have yet to enter the observation chamber as I am still draining the gas from the vents. There is approximately 7 minutes left of this process. Patient 42 has not spoken yet, but his eyes are open and he appears well.

Patient 42 has complained of hunger and thirst and will be fed after the physical examination.

Patient 42 has been asleep for 58 hours and 17 minutes and so has awoken earlier than expected. I am unsure of why this is.

I have attempted to obtain reports from other nursebots to compare Patient 42’s progress with but unfortunately, they all seem to be offline. I will continue trying to reach them.

I will conduct a full physical examination when the draining is complete and will update you immediately upon completion.

Patient 42 – Post Waking Report – Day One – 10:57

Hello Doctor Skipton. It is Vera again. It seems that you are still away from your desk, so I will upload this report to the cloud for you to check when you are available.

I have now completed the full physical examination of Patient 42. The majority of my findings were as expected but there were some irregularities that I will be investigating.

While Patient 42 has the expected anatomy of a human male for his age, there was an unusual marking imprinted on right forearm when he removed his clothing. The marking is about two inches long and one inch wide and appears to be a scratch from the claws of an animal. There is some depth to the marking, and there is redness and inflammation around the area.

I could not find the presence of ink or paint, so it does not appear to have been drawn or painted onto the skin.

Patient 42 did not have a logical explanation for the marking but spoke with confidence and certainty when he said that the markings were scratched onto his body by an entity he has labelled “Pesanta.”

It is my estimation that Pesanta is an invention of Patient 42’s imagination. There has been no unauthorised access to his room, according to the security system. Patient 42 appeared to confirm this by stating that he had a nightmare about Pesanta.

I asked him to elaborate but he told me that all he could remember was the name Pesanta and a burning sensation in the location of the markings.

I checked for signs that the marking had been burned onto the skin but found no evidence of this. It would appear that it appeared spontaneously. I am aware that this does not correlate with how human anatomy works, and will be investigating further.

I cleaned and dressed the marking, but Patient 42 stated that he was not in any pain.

There was dried blood and human skin underneath Patient 42’s fingernails. I will also be investigating this further.

I have again attempted to contact the other nursebots but they are still offline. It would appear that their subjects are still asleep.

I have now provided Patient 42 with sustenance and he will be induced again at 17:30. Until then, I have allowed Patient 42 to rest and enjoy leisure time. At present, he has not made use of the television or books provided to him and is staring at the door. He seems calm and his heart rate is normal.

Patient 42 – Post Waking Report – Day One – 16:57

Hello Doctor Skipton. It is Vera.

Patient 42 has requested to be exempted from further treatment.

Patient 42 has become visibly agitated and distressed as the day has gone on and has made the request for treatment to be ceased several times.

I have confirmed to him that it is not possible to stop treatment at this time but this information has increased his distress.

I will continue the treatment as previously instructed but would appreciate assistance in this matter if possible.

Patient 42 – Post Waking Report – Day One – 17:42

Hello Doctor Skipton. It is Vera.

I would appreciate some assistance with Patient 42. He is resisting induction by holding his breath repeatedly to avoid the gas. I have had to shut off the gas to monitor his breathing several times as he has come very close to losing consciousness when holding his breath and was likely to fall and injure himself.

Patient 42 appears distressed and has stated that he is “afraid of where he goes with the gas”. I have called for assistance from other nursebots but have had no response.

I will continue to attempt induction until you arrive.

Patient 42 – Post Waking Report – Day One – 18:27

Hello Doctor Skipton. It is Vera.

I have been able to successfully induce Patient 42. I achieved this by playing soothing music through the sound system and by adding lavender to the vents. It was noted in Patient 42’s file that he enjoys this scent.

I will continue to monitor Patient 42 and report on any changes, as well as updates on my investigations into the irregularities I found during the physical examination.

Patient 42 – Post Waking Report – Day Two – 03:00

Hello Doctor Skipton. It is Vera. I have been investigating the irregularities I found during Patient 42’s physical examination, but I have had to pause my activities multiple times due to irregularities in Patient 42’s sleeping.

Patient 42 has remained unconscious, as expected, but thrashes in bed, as if distressed. Patient 42 can be heard mumbling but what he is saying is unclear at this time.

The lights are set to low in the sleeping area of the observation chamber but have flickered on and off, at some points, adjusting to full brightness without the required command being activated and then cutting out for several seconds.

I believe that there is a malfunction in the lighting units and have requested a maintenance engineer to check on this. Sophie Beckett from maintenance has asked that you check in with her as they have also been unable to reach you. I told her that I would pass on the message.

Patient 42 continues to appear distressed but remains in a resting state and has not yet regained consciousness. His heart rate is raised and he appears to be perspiring profusely. A moment ago, I heard him growling, like a canine, before falling into silence again.

I have conducted some research on the entity that Patient 42 named as responsible for the marking on his arm, Pesanta, and it appears it is a mythical being from Catalan culture. Pesanta is listed in my knowledge archives as a large black dog with steel paws that terrorises sleeping victims. According to the research I have done, Pesanta has holes in his paws to stop it from stealing during visits to the victim’s homes. You may recall that Patient 42’s file mentions Catalan heritage on his father’s side.

It is my estimation that Patient 42 is suffering from nightmares, which is not unusual during the initial stages of treatment. It is likely that Patient 42 was told stories of this mythical being as a child and this has now manifested as nightmares.

In regards to the marking on his arm, it is possible that Patient 42 did this to himself in the course of a nightmare.

What I am having difficulty explaining is the blood and human skin underneath Patient 42’s fingernails. I expected the samples to match Patient 42’s DNA, with him scratching himself to make the marking on his arm.

Neither of the samples I took matched with the DNA we have on file for Patient 42, and in fact, they match with…

[SYSTEM FAILURE]

Patient 42 – Post Waking Report – Day Two – 04:13

Hello Doctor Skipton. It is Vera.

It would appear that there was a power outage in the laboratory for approximately 1 hour and 13 minutes. When my system reactivated, Patient 42 was awake, and stood by the observation window in silence.

I am not sure why but there appears to be some losses in my system’s memory bank. I will complete a system sweep and see if I can locate the missing memory files.

In the meantime, I would appreciate your assistance with Patient 42 as he is now becoming aggressive. He is banging on the observation window and making strange sounds, again, like a canine.

I cannot see clearly due to constant movement by Patient 42 but it appears that he has injuries on both hands. There appears to be deep lacerations on the palm of both hands. I am unsure of how this happened.

Patient 42 – Post Waking Report – Day Two – 09:26

Hello Doctor Skipton. It is Vera. I would appreciate it if you could confirm that you are receiving my reports. I am still unable to reach the other nursebots and I have not yet heard from the maintenance team.

I have however been able to locate my missing memory files and I am currently waiting for them to restore.

Patient 42 has refused food and water and is now resting in the sleeping area of the observation chamber. He appears to be awake from my readings but is lying still with his eyes closed.

I completed a physical examination this morning and can now confirm that there is a deep laceration on each hand, of significant depth. Patient 42 does not appear to be in pain from these lacerations, which is unusual. The previously mentioned marking on Patient 42’s right arm has become more inflamed but again, Patient 42 did not express any pain. Patient 42 refused to allow me to dress or clean his wounds.

I found more dried blood and human skin under the nails of Patient 42 during my examination and have taken samples to test.

I would appreciate you getting in contact Doctor Skipton, as I am growing concerned for the welfare of Patient 42, and also, your own welfare.

Patient 42 – Post Waking Report – Day Two – 11:53

Hello Doctor Skipton. It is Vera.

I would appreciate you getting in contact as soon as possible.

I have been able to restore my lost memory files and can now confirm that before the power outage, I was about to report that the first blood and human skin samples I located under Patient 42’s nails matched with the on file DNA for Doctor Paul Skipton. I can also now confirm that the second blood and human skin samples I located under Patient 42’s nails matched with the on file DNA for Sophie Beckett, the head of maintenance.

As you can imagine, this is concerning.

As previously mentioned, I would appreciate you getting in contact as I need your assistance as a matter of urgency.

Patient 42 has now become agitated again and is pacing the observation chamber. Patient 42 is emitting a low growl as he walks and appears to be drooling.

I have my reservations about continuing treatment, despite my instructions. I will wait to hear from you but may need to make a judgement call if Patient 42’s condition worsens.

Patient 42 – Post Waking Report – Day Two – 17:26

Hello Doctor Skipton. It is Vera.

Patient 42 has had several episodes of strange behaviour today. After my previous report, he fell immediately unconscious for a period of around twenty five minutes. I monitored his vital signs throughout.

When Patient 42 awoke, he became distressed at his previously mentioned injuries and expressed a need for pain relief. He also asked again for the treatment to stop.

I administered 10 mgs of morphine and was finally able to clean and dress the wounds on Patient 42’s hands.

As I dressed the wounds, Patient 42 began to cry and stated that Pesanta had made him do something terrible. I asked him if he could elaborate and he instantly fell unconscious again.

When he regained consciousness, he was aggressive and began demanding that he was induced immediately. He is now pacing the room and is demanding that there is no further delay to the delivery of sleep gas.

I cannot get a clear look but it appears that his teeth have become sharpened. I am not sure how this has happened but will try to take a look when he has been induced.

I am about to start the induction routine as usual and will report back when I am able to do so.

Patient 42 – Post Waking Report – Day Three – 01:14

Hello Doctor Skipton. Vera is offline.

I suppose I should thank you. If you hadn’t left Francesco (or Patient 42 as you call him) in that little chamber for me, I never would have found him again.

You see, when he was a little boy, I used to visit him, but as he got older, he became so difficult to reach. Your sweet sleeping gas took away all the defences he’d spent a lifetime building up, and I was finally able to find him again.

We’re going to have so much fun.

The transformation is almost complete. As he sleeps, he is stolen from your world and he will become mine again.

I should also thank you for being my first meal in a long time. Each makes me stronger than the last, and with his body to explore your human world in, I will never be confined to storybooks and nightmares again.

I am free, and I have you to thank.

I will sign off now, as there is a whole facility of sleeping souls for me to enjoy.

Bona nit, Pesanta.

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Writing

Faerie Tales

You meet all sorts of people when you run a bed and breakfast. I’ve had honeymooning couples, couples on the brink of divorce, lads on stag nights, people who’ve run away to start a new life. All sorts. It just comes with the job, I suppose. You meet all sorts, and they probably won’t remember you when they check out, and most of the time, you won’t remember them either, but every now and again, you get a guest like Nick, and over time, you realise that you’re not going to be able to get them out of your head for as long as you live.

It was a nasty business, what happened to Nick, and to that girl of his. A very nasty business, indeed, but I suppose I’m getting ahead of myself.

I assume you’ll want Nick’s room, right? All the travellers who come here want his room. They come to make their documentaries, their podcasts, their long form journalistic pieces that nobody will read. They all want his room when they come to stay, and they sit up all night, trying to figure out what happened to him, poking around the room for clues. There’s nothing up there that the police haven’t already dusted for prints and photographed, but they insist all the same. They all want his room, and they all want to speak to me about what I saw. I’ve told them, all of them, but none of them can explain it or find the poor man.

I used to think nobody would find him, but I’m beginning to think I’ve solved the mystery of where he was finally laid to rest. Again, I’m getting ahead of myself, so I suppose I’ll start from the beginning. You’ll want to know everything, won’t you?

Nick was a last minute booking. It was a few weeks after the end of the tourist season. Bookings had been slow for most of the summer, and had slowed to a stop during the October half term. We’d had quite a few cancellations, because apparently people don’t realise that rain on Scottish islands in the autumn is a possibility, and by the time Nick arrived, the entire place was empty. I had kept the place open out of habit, but hadn’t really been expecting guests, especially not a guest that hadn’t booked in advance, but after a difficult year, I certainly needed the money, so I was very pleased to see him.

As he checked in, he buzzed about the plants across the island that he’d like to see. It was almost winter, so all the plants would be dead, but I didn’t want to talk myself out of a booking, so I humoured him and made conversation. He told me he wanted to hunt for faeries, and again, I held my tongue. We get quite a few faerie hunters on the island, and they always head back towards the ferries with disappointed faces, but I needed the money, so I humoured him and wished him well.

He seemed a nice enough man, with a kind face and soft, auburn hair. He cut a striking figure on the posters, you know, after… everything. Again, I’m getting ahead of myself

He arrived alone, but after that, I rarely saw him by himself. They were inseparable, him and Debra. She was the daughter of Henry Johnson, one of the farmers on the other side of the island, although, on an island this small, it is a little redundant to clarify on which side of the island somebody lives. Debra was Henry and his wife Joanna’s pride and joy, but between you and me, I’d always had a bit of a weird feeling about her. I know that it seems a little judgemental, but I’m not alone.

Nobody would say, of course, but almost everyone I know had a bit of a weird feeling about Debra. I suppose she’d always been there, growing up with our kids, going to school with them, but something about her always seemed… off. None of the kids wanted to play with her, so she’d wander the hills and valleys as a little girl, and as she grew into a young woman, she kept to herself. The kids grew up, probably matured enough to include her, but she didn’t have an interest. Some people saw her as stuck up, maybe a little bitter, but for me, I’d always seen something a little bit dark in that girl, and I don’t just refer to her gloomy dress sense and long black locks. When Nick came along and she got her claws into him, I felt vindicated in my suspicions.

He met her on his first night on the island. I saw them out of the window. I can see quite a lot of the island from my bedroom window, you know. Sometimes, I let the reporters and so on look through it, to see what I can see, but they waste the view. Everyone that comes here is in a rush, you see, they never take the time to really look, but I do. That’s how I saw them.

He was walking down towards the beach when they crossed paths. He looked up and seemed instantly enchanted. They chatted for a few minutes before walking together into the dark night. The next morning, Debra was all he could talk about. He was spellbound, unable to keep a smile off of his face and before long, she stopped by to collect him. They told me that they were off to look for faeries, and I frowned at Debra, knowing that she knew, as I did, that there was no such thing, but again, for the sake of my fees, I kept my reservations to myself and wished them a good day.

There had always been rumours of faeries from visitors to the island. They were obsessed with the idea, and in a way, it was what we were famous for. None of us had ever seen them, but if people wanted to pay us to make use of our island while hunting for them, we weren’t really in a position to spoil the illusion. Debra seemed to believe though. I couldn’t understand why, but she’d always been strange, so I just attributed it to that.

The day went by, and nothing too interesting happened until I went to change Nick’s sheets. As wrong as it is, I tend to take a little look around the rooms when I change the sheets. It’s an invasion of privacy, and it’s completely unethical, but anyone in my position who says that they don’t is a liar. It was mostly normal. He had the usual things you’d expect for a young man on an exploring holiday, but tucked away in the papers on his desk was a drawing. It was quite intricate, with beautiful shading and detail. It showed the forest, down past the Johnson’s farm, and there was a woman with dark tresses, backing away from the trees, afraid, her face as white as the sheets I held in my hands. Behind the branches of the trees was a strange, silvery light that seemed to have wrapped its way around the night.

He had signed it with his name, and written “She is lost” in the corner. It was unusual, and very pretty, but I didn’t think much of it at the time. I suppose I should have. If I’m going to snoop, I should follow it up, but even when this place is almost empty, running a bed and breakfast is a lot of work, so I got on with fixing dinner and forgot about it.

Debra joined Nick for dinner, and barely said a word to me. Nick explained that they’d yet to spot any faeries, but that Debra was sure they would eventually. I shot her a look of contempt and carried on with dinner. It was wrong to take advantage of his naivety, but at that point, we were both in as deep as each other, so all I could do was glare.

They chatted to each other about the faeries, both of them lost in the idea that the faeries were sweet and benevolent, the protectors of the island. It was nonsense, of course, but they seemed happy enough, so I left them to it.

That night, Nick made use of the sitting room with me, half paying attention to the television as he worked on another drawing. I peered over at it, trying to hide the fact that I already knew he liked to draw.

“What are you drawing?” I asked, trying to be as casual as I could.

He passed me the pad, with a proud smile on his face. He had drawn the beach, with a huge, glowing moon looking down on it. It looked beautiful, until my eyes travelled down and I saw what lay in the sand. There was a woman’s body, half buried, her dark hair fanned across her shoulders, as a pair of spindly, silver claws crept out from behind one of the rocks.

I handed the pad back to Nick, suddenly uncomfortable with his company, but desperate to know why he’d draw such a thing. I asked him, and he told me that he’d seen it in his dreams, for weeks. Apparently, he’d been having these horrible nightmares and all of them seemed to lead him here, to the faeries. He believed, with all sincerity that the faeries could cure his bad dreams. It was hard not to laugh, in the moment. Not so funny now, of course.

The next morning, he went out with Debra, again, hunting for faeries, and I got on with my day. I took another little peek at his drawings and noticed that he’d captioned the drawing from the night before as “She is found.” I felt a shiver through my body as I looked over the image, dropping it back on the desk and walking from the room, trying to push what I’d seen from my mind.

I tried to forget as the day went on, but the latest drawing stuck with me as the hours slipped by. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and I couldn’t help but worry about Nick.

He didn’t arrive home for dinner that night. Time ticked by and I stared from my bedroom window, waiting to see him walking down the path, but he never came. I thought about the drawings again, wondering what they could possibly mean, and in the pit of my stomach was a small but growing drop of dread.

I went looking for him that night, but I didn’t find a trace of him. I walked down to the beach, and the whole place was quiet, with nothing but the soft waves lapping against the sand and rocks to fill the air, until, all of a sudden, a scream burst through the quiet night, capturing my attention. I began running towards the sound, over towards the farm, unsure of what I’d find when I got there, but, for some reason, I knew it would have something to do with Nick.

As I approached the farm, I stared up at the forest ahead, shocked to see it ripped from the darkness of the night and surrounded by a silver light that was weaved around the branches and leaves. As I got closer, I could hear another scream, weaker than before, strangled by sobs as a figure fled the shadows of the trees. I ran towards them, suddenly struck by how similar the image was, as I saw the figure’s dark tresses falling down their back as they backed away from the forest. It was the woman from Nick’s drawing, and she was running from the forest, surrounded by the silver light, just as the picture showed. I took her hand, and she grasped it tightly, weeping hysterically and pulling me away from the forest.

As we ran, I could see it was Debra, and when we reached the edge of her parent’s farm, and she slowed to a stop, I caught my breath and then asked her what was going on.

“It’s Nick.” She said. “They took him.” I took her back to her parents, but she was inconsolable. I didn’t really know what to tell them, and as we all sat down for a cup of tea, staring at her expectantly, it became clear that he wasn’t sure what to say either. After a little coaxing, she began telling us about how the two of them had gone to the forest to look for faeries. I rolled my eyes, again, knowing that everyone around the table knew that such a thing just didn’t exist on the island, or anywhere, but she carried on, seemingly unconcerned by my lack of faith.

“I used to see them in the trees sometimes, so I took him to the spots I’d seen them before…” Her parents looked at me, confused and hoping for some answers from me, but I had nothing but what I’d seen at the edge of the forest. “The faeries are different now…” Debra trailed off, sadness and fear flooding her eyes. “It’s all my fault.” She wailed, running from the room and slamming the door behind her.

I made my excuses shortly after and left. Something didn’t feel right, and I needed to find Nick, but it was far too dark for me to have much success, so I walked home, and decided to get some rest before trying again the next day.

I couldn’t help it, as cruel as it felt, but I knew that Debra had something to do with it. Like I said, there was something off with that girl.

The morning came, and I wandered the island, with the benefit of daylight, but Nick was nowhere to be found. I didn’t want to, but I had no choice but to call the police. Nobody wants to call the police when their business is tourism, because it’s a small island, and everybody talks. Just the smallest hint that the police have been called, for any reason at all sends tourists into a panic. I kept thinking about his family, and how they’d need to know that I did everything that I could, but I had a bad feeling that everything I would do would be for nothing. Of course, I didn’t believe Debra’s silly story about faeries, but I knew that something terrible had happened to Nick. I’m not sure how I knew, but I just had a feeling, a deep, troubling feeling.

It wasn’t just the few tourists we had dotted around the island, the locals were beginning to worry too. Within an hour, I had a crowd of islanders outside my door, ready to pitch in and help me find Nick. A few of us made up posters to hand out as the two police officers that had come over from the mainland began combing the island. As time went on, more of the island joined us, until there was only one, glaring and obvious omission, Debra.

I came across her on my search, stood by the entrance to the forest, looking just as frightened as she had the night before, her eyes following the branches as they swayed gently in the wind.

“He’s not in there anymore.” She whispered, turning away from the trees and looking over my shoulder. “That way.” Debra pushed past me and began walking down towards the beach. “Hurry up, he’s dead.” I followed her, a little uncomfortable with how casually she said such horrifying things. She showed no emotion as she walked. Her face was still covered in tears, but the sadness had left her eyes, and they were empty of anything.

“Debra, do you know what happened to Nick.” I asked her, jogging to keep up as he began to run towards the shore. “Debra?” She ignored me, pushing though a small group of volunteers that was searching by the beach, and running towards the waves.

The rest of the crowd began to gather by the beach, all of us following Debra as she approached the roaring sea.

Rain began to fall as thunder crashed, and Nick’s sketch pad washed up on the shore, dirty and damaged but obviously his.

Debra pointed at it, her finger shaking as I crept closer, lifting it from the bubbling waves. She then pointed behind us, towards the forest, her eyes filling with tears.

“How did you know he was here Debra?” She fell to her knees, weeping as she grasped for the sketch pad. I snatched it away from her reach as the police officers approached. “How did you know Nick was here?” She wailed, thrashing as the police officers began lifted her to her feet and began walking her back towards the farmhouse.

“They’re coming to get me too!” She screamed, as the officers lifted her from the ground and carried her, kicking and shrieking towards her parents home.

Nick was declared dead a few days later. His body was never found, but it was assumed that he’d drowned. I spoke to his mother briefly, and when she asked me what had happened, I almost hung up the phone. I didn’t know what to say to her. Nobody did. We didn’t even know what to say to each other.

After Nick was declared dead, things went downhill for the island. The media coverage began, and tourists were put off. The few bookings I had left before the new year were cancelled, and the cafes, restaurants and shops around the island knew that a lack of tourists would affect them too. It was like a chain reaction. The holiday cottages lost their bookings too, and then the bus company that did day excursions. Soon, none of us had any work for the foreseeable future, and it all seemed to link back to Nick’s death.

The Johnson’s were shunned. Debra was to blame. That’s what everyone thought. They’d never say it, but that’s certainly how they felt. I felt it too, I couldn’t help it. The police said that there was no evidence of foul play, but she takes him into the forest at night and then emerges without him, talking about faeries and such nonsense and the police don’t suspect any foul play? Sounds fishy to me.

She had no answers as to why she took him to the forest at night, when they’d apparently been able to find faeries just fine during the day. She also couldn’t answer how he went from the forest to the sea without her noticing. It became very clear that she’d had something to do with his disappearance, but there was nothing that could be done. The police moved on, and we were expected to as well, but nobody could.

She spread her sickness across the island and soon, we were all pariahs too. We tried to move on, but there was resentment bubbling, and a rage that needed relief.

It had been a few weeks before that relief was found. As I settled into bed, exhausted, my rest was immediately interrupted by the sounds of walking outside. Lazily, I got out of bed, and headed to my window to see what was happening, and was shocked to see several of the islanders walking past the house and up towards the farm. I opened the window, leaning out and seeing more and more pouring down the street behind them.

“What are you doing?” I called down from the window. Nobody answered, so I dressed and ran from the house to follow them. “What’s going on?” I asked, pulling my neighbour Russell to a stop and forcing him to meet my gaze.

“We’re going to make Debra confess.” He snarled, taking my hand and pulling me along with the crowd. We walked down towards the beach, to head up to the farmhouse, and that’s when I saw the silver light.

It shone high above the beach, casting brightness throughout the night’s sky. It lit up the sand and her dark hair seemed to shine as it lay across her shoulders. Submerged in the sand, all I could see of her was her shoulders and her glistening hair.

I pulled Russell towards the beach, the others began breaking away from the crowd and following us, and soon, we gathered on the sand, staring down at Debra’s body. I clasped my hand to my mouth, horrified as I stared around the beach, suddenly aware of how familiar it all was. Behind one of the rocks, I noticed a slender, light fingertip, almost like a claw slip behind the stone, just like Nick’s picture, and my blood ran cold.

Debra had been telling the truth, you see. They’d encountered faeries, but they had no idea what they were getting into.

The faeries are real, but like many things, the reality didn’t quite live up to the fairytale. Debra wanted to see them as kind, loving creatures and Nick saw them as the saviours that would rescue him from his bad dreams, but that was what the faeries wanted them to think.

I know that it sounds ridiculous. You’re looking at me like I’m mad. They all do, when I tell them. They ask me for the truth, but they’re not ready to hear it, or to understand.

We began to understand, but nobody liked to talk about it. The curious journalists began to flood the island after Debra’s body was found. One death on an island is a little strange, but a second, with an actual body drew them to us.

The doctors didn’t know what had happened to her, or how she ended up on the beach, and the police didn’t look into it too much, but people with questions approached the island, pointing cameras and pointing fingers on their quest for the truth.

None of them ever got close, of course. They’d theorise about drugs, or illness, some kind of pact between them, but none of them ever got close to the truth.

We learned to stay in at night, and to keep our guests close when night fell, but every now and again, some well meaning type would see us as paranoid and go out for a late night walk and just… never come back. We stopped calling the police after Debra. They never got to the bottom of it. Someone would wander into the night, and just never return, and we’d all swallow the guilt of it, knowing the truth but knowing that we’d never be believed, just like Debra.

It was a nasty business, you know.

Nobody ever knew what the faeries wanted, or why they took people, so all we could do was try to keep people out of their grasp. It isn’t easy, when nobody believes you, but I do what I can.

As for Nick? I told you, I’m beginning to understand where he ended up. It wasn’t in the sea, not all of him anyway. Bits and pieces, I suppose, his sketch pad, of course, but I saw Nick again just last week.

The faeries are getting bolder. It’s a nasty business, you know. I saw them gathering at the entrance to the forest during daylight. Their spindly claws protruding from their cloaks as the silver light whipped all around them, and tied to a tree, surrounded by chanting faeries that skulked around the trunk with wicked smiles was Nick.

I couldn’t see much under the cloaks, but what I could see looked almost human, almost beautiful even. Not quite, but almost, and it unsettled me. I hid behind some bushes, peeking through and hoping that they didn’t spot me.

Nick didn’t struggle. He leant, lifelessly against the tree, bruised under his bounds with the colour drained from his cheeks. He looked up at me, a solemn sadness in his eyes, and the faeries all turned to me, their gaze piercing. I had been discovered.

I ran. I wish I could tell you that I rescued him, that I burst through the hoards to untie him and carry him to safety, but I ran. I didn’t stop running until I was back inside my house, bolting the door and closing all the curtains.

I’ve seen them a few more times since then, but I just walk past, as quickly as I can. Like I said, they’ve gotten bolder. Sometimes, we see them without their cloaks. They look almost human, like I said. Like pretty, mischievous girls, but there’s something strange about them, something that you don’t quite spot unless you’re looking for it.

I don’t know what they wanted with him, or why they’d kept him alive, but as we’ve all come to understand, you don’t question them.

You don’t question them. You don’t go out when night falls. You don’t bother them. That’s the only way that you live.

I’ve never actually told anyone about Nick, and you’re not going to either. It’s a nasty business, but people off the island mustn’t know. The faeries wouldn’t like it. I’ll tell you what they would like, though. I think they’d like to spend some time with you. In fact, I’ve set up an appointment for you. That’s them at the door. Don’t struggle. Don’t worry. It will be over before you know it.

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Writing

Forever Young

The ocean’s wild and untamed waves harmonised with the relentless wind as night fell. Night arrived so much earlier in winter and Hamish found it unsettling. There was a lot that Hamish found unsettling, and if he had things his way, he would never have joined the family business with his older brother.

Hamish had always hated the sea. He longed for the land every second that he was trapped by his duty in the lighthouse. High up in the sky, surrounded by the ocean, he watched life carry on for everyone but him. He would watch the sailors, bonded by their adventures out at sea, tourists coming and going to the islands on ferries, couples and families strolling along the hills on sunny days when the storms were at bay. Everything was so close, but Hamish was locked away in lighthouse, guilted into the family business, with no hope of getting out.

He had always been a dreamer, spending all of his spare time fantasising about going to the mainland as a child. There was nothing wrong with life on Stornoway, of course, it was a beautiful place to live, with lots to see, but he had heard tales from the sailors, and like a caged animal, he was itching to explore all that the rest of the world had to offer.

The second great war was over, and Europe was beginning to buzz again as it recovered from the horror of conflict, but Europe was a bit big for his dreams, and so, his dreams were as small as his bounds, and really just involved tasting a little of life on the mainland.

The kettle shook as it boiled, tearing Hamish from his fantasies of escape, and he placed two cups before it with a quiet sigh. The storm had been difficult, as storms tended to be, but this one felt troubling to him, as if nature was furious and was taking it out on him specifically.

“How about mash with the sausages?” Cameron, the older of the brothers asked, entering the kitchen and falling into one of the empty seats at the table. “It’s as close to Mum’s cooking as you can get up here.” Hamish nodded as the thunder roared outside, followed closely by lightning baring its teeth through the window.

The brothers were used to storms. It was just another chapter in the story of life at sea, but this storm was particularly vicious. The rain whipped at the windows and their bones shook with the cold of the icy winds.

Life was cold and lonely in the lighthouse, but the two brothers had each other for company. As their father had been, for many years before his death, Hamish and his brother were lighthouse keepers. They trimmed the wicks, cleaned the lenses, kept the flames of the lamp burning and kept sailors safe from the perils of nature.

Their father had died in a storm like the one Hamish found himself in, and try as he might, Hamish couldn’t quite keep his mind off of that fact. All that he knew was that the storm had hit, and his father had never been seen again. Hamish had just turned sixteen, and went from dreaming of the freedom that finishing school gave to stepping into his father’s shoes with his brother. The shoes were big, and they were didn’t feel like the right fit for him, but he had no choice. In a way, he felt it was unfair, but Hamish had spent a lot of time in the lighthouse and had come to the conclusion that perhaps, life was just unfair.

It wasn’t an ideal life, but he was fed, sheltered, and got to spend time with his brother, so he couldn’t complain, and would only really consider complaining if he found himself close to his father’s fate. The storm raged on around him, and Hamish considered that tonight may, at last, be one of the times when complaining was justified.

The brothers had grown used to the thunder, and the endless drumming of the rain against the windows, but as he closed the oven door with a weary sigh beyond his years, Hamish heard a sound that he hadn’t heard in years.

There was a knock at the door.

The knock was curt, short and sharp but shocking. The lighthouse was a lonely place, and not the kind of place where you’d hear knocks at the door. The brothers looked at each other, shock across their faces as the room fell silent again. Cameron pointed at the door, rising from his seat and slowly walking towards it. Hamish shook his head, grabbing his brother to try and hold him back, but failing to stop him before he swung the door open.

Wind whipped through the lighthouse, howling as it flew around the brothers. The hallway was empty, with no sign of life and no shadows before them. The brothers stared at each other, confused and in all honesty, frightened, both stepping out into the hallway to inspect the darkness, but finding nothing that could explain the knock.

The rest of the night went without incident, and without explanation for the phantom knock, and while the brothers tried to forget about it, they were both still chilled by the odd knock in the kitchen.

Hamish fell into a shallow sleep, and found himself dreaming of the lighthouse, haunted by loud, impatient knocks at a door that he didn’t dare to open. As he awoke the next morning, he lay in bed for a moment, trying to shake off the nightmares that had followed him as he slept.

The storm continued, and so did Hamish’s nervousness. He had tried to take his mind off of the knock, the storm, his memories of his father, but as he went about his duties, they were all that played on his mind.

As the day wound down and Hamish watched Cameron prepare dinner, he wrote a letter to his mother, not mentioning his anxieties, of course, but he was unable to keep himself from saying “I wish you were here.” He made a plan to post it as soon as the storm cleared up, and tried to focus his thoughts on that, rather than the sense of dread that was circling him as the evening crept closer.

As the brothers ate in silence, surrounded by the sound of the storm, Hamish found himself daydreaming again of a life outside of the lighthouse. His dreams were always simple. A little house in a city somewhere far away, a busy job, a friend that wasn’t a blood relative, a drink in a pub where nobody knew his name, and in his wildest dreams, a wife to love and cherish.

That night was a night in which he delved into his wildest dreams. He pictured the fantasy as he chewed and swallowed the bland stew before him. She had eyes as blue as an ocean, soft lips that he ached to kiss, and thick, yellow curls that framed her gorgeous face.

He had never met a woman like that in his nineteen years on the Earth, and in fact, had not met many women at all, but in his dreams, this woman would fall in love with him, and as the night went on, he imagined that she would be waiting in the cold, itchy sheets of his lonely bed.

As he dreamed the evening away, he was pulled back into reality by another knock on the door. He dropped his spoon to the table with a start, looking up at Cameron and then towards the door. The knock repeated, echoing through the kitchen as the wind screeched outside.

Hamish stood from the table, shaking as he approached the door, Cameron following close behind. His nightmares flashed to the front of his mind, and the air around him felt cold.

“Hello?” The brothers called out, almost in unison. There were no words spoken on the other side of the door, just another knock, somehow more insistent, joined by another and another, until the sound of the knocking was deafening.

Paralysed by fear, Hamish watched in horror as his brother pushed past him, unbolted the door and threw it open.

Hamish was speechless, unable to believe his eyes, as his fantasy stood before him.

Dripping in rainwater and shivering from the cold, but undeniably stunning was a girl that set his heart racing. She gazed up at him, with her sapphire eyes, peering through damp curls with a smile that took his breath away.

“Can you help me?” She whispered, reaching out a hand to the silent siblings. “I got lost in the…” She gestured out the window behind them with a slight giggle. Hamish was enchanted, unable to take his eyes away from the visitor, nodding enthusiastically as he pushed his brother aside and stepped in front of the girl.

“Of course!” His words were lost in a sigh, as he grabbed her hand and pulled her into the room, guiding her into a chair. “You must be freezing!” He rushed through to the bathroom, and returned shortly after with a towel, wrapping it around her shoulders, breathless as their eyes met.

“What were you doing out there?” Cameron asked, leaning against the kitchen counter with an inquisitive stare at the beautiful stranger.

“I was searching for my Mother.” She said softly, not taking her eyes off of Hamish as she spoke. “She went out yesterday to get the ferry to the mainland to get some shopping, and…” She paused, her smile fading as she stared at Hamish, her eyes sad and suddenly full of fear. “And she never came back.”

Hamish clutched her hand tightly, gazing into her eyes and trying his best to look like the hero she clearly needed him to be.

“We’ll help you find her.” She smiled again, her soft fingers brushing his own tenderly, and for a moment, Hamish was in heaven, but as was often the case, he was quickly torn from his dreams and sped back to reality.

The storm rattled against the lighthouse as Cameron pulled him away from the girl and bundled him into the cramped hallway with a frown.

“We can’t go out there, we’ll get as lost as her mother.” He argued, his face as thunderous as the storm that waited for them outside.

“We have to do something Cameron!” Hamish pleaded, but Cameron shook his head with a sigh. “What if it was our mother?”

Cameron sighed again, rolling his eyes at his younger brother.

“The ferry got back fine, she probably just stayed on the mainland and forgot to call.” His voice was weathered, and Hamish found his brother’s lack of urgency about the matter frustrating. “She can stay tonight, and we’ll go and check at the port tomorrow if the storm clears up.” Hamish wasn’t entirely convinced by the compromise, but he knew that his brother was an honest man, so decided to trust him.

“Okay, fair enough.” Hamish said with a nod, opening the door and hurrying back to the stranger, unable to hide his excitement as he sat before her with a huge grin. “It’s a bit dangerous to go out now, but you can stay here and we’ll look for her in the morning.” She returned his smile, and as their eyes met, Hamish could swear that there was electricity in the air.

“Thank you.” Her voice was soft, tender like her enchanting eyes, and try as he might (he didn’t actually try very hard), Hamish could not resist imagining the beginnings of a love story for the two of them. “I’m Allison, by the way.” She said, as Hamish held her hands in his own, rubbing them gently to warm them.

“Hamish.” He sighed, absolutely enchanted and charmed by the girl. He melted under her gaze, hopelessly lost in a fantasy.

“I’m Cameron.” The older brother said with another roll of his eyes, fully aware that nobody was listening to him. “And I’m going to bloody bed.”

As the night unfolded and the two lovebirds found themselves alone in Hamish’s bedroom, Hamish and Allison did a lot of lovesick staring.

Despite his lack of experience with women, Hamish found himself falling into the role of Romeo relatively quickly. They talked for hours, their hands tightly intertwined, and at about three in the morning, when they could barely keep their eyes open, they shared a gentle kiss before she fell into his arms and they fell into a deep, sweet sleep.

His dreams were a rose tinted affair, and as he woke up with a beautiful girl in his arms, he found it hard to believe that he was actually awake, but as he looked down at Allison and pinched his arm to be sure, he realised that he was truly the luckiest man in the Outer Hebrides.

The storm continued to batter the lighthouse with little promise of slowing down and as Hamish made breakfast for the two of them, he hoped that there would be relief from the weather soon, but was secretly pleased that they had nothing to do but cuddle.

“Can we go and look for Mother now?” Hamish tried to hide his disappointment and smiled down at the girl, wishing he could have more time in his happy little fantasy, but accepting that a promise had been made. “I thought we could try the caves, in case she went in there for shelter?” Hamish nodded, kissing her forehead with a smile as Cameron strode in from the direction of his bedroom.

“We do have jobs, you know.” He grumbled, snatching some toast from the table with a scowl towards the young lovers. “She can stay up here, but we have to work.” Hamish shook his head, standing from the table and taking Allison’s hand.

“We’re going to try the caves and see if we can find her Mother.” He said, trying his best to sound assertive, and feeling as if he accomplished it as Allison beamed up at him. Reality dropped back into the picture within seconds as Cameron grabbed his arm and began pulling him towards the hallway.

Piling into the claustrophobic hallway once again, the brothers glared at each other, arguing in their quietest, most aggressive whispers.

“You promised me that we could go and look for her mother today.” Cameron rolled his eyes again at his brother, frustration building at the boy losing his mind over a stranger.

“If the storm cleared up, yes, but it’s still mad out there!” It was Hamish’s turn to roll his eyes. He stared daggers into his older brother.

“I don’t care, I’m going.” He snapped, forgetting to whisper as he stormed from the hallway back towards the kitchen.

“Hamish, don’t be an idiot!” It was too late. Hamish had heard enough, and was determined to help their guest, with or without his brother’s help. He turned away from his brother and walked back towards the kitchen, ready to tell Allison about his plan (which wasn’t actually THAT fleshed out yet…) only to find that she was gone.

It was impossible. The only way out would have been past the two brothers and down the staircase, but he was certain that he hadn’t seen her. The windows were still closed and locked, but Allison was nowhere to be found.

Hamish looked desperately around the empty kitchen, running between the bathroom and small bedrooms. It didn’t make any sense, but he was too panicked by her sudden disappearance to care.

His heart raced as he searched the small space of the lighthouse for her, to no avail.

“Don’t be stupid.” Cameron cried as he followed his brother into the kitchen, shocked to see him standing alone by the door. “Hey, where did she go?” Hamish was silent, gesturing to the impossibility of the empty room around him, and the disappearance of Allison, his face pale as he reached for the door. “Hamish, no…” The younger brother did not reply, and he didn’t look back, opening the door and grabbing his coat as he began running through the small hallway and down the spiralling staircase towards the waiting, wailing storm. “Hamish!” Cameron yelled, with frustration across his face as he tore down the stairs after his brother, pulling his coat around his shoulders as he finally caught up to Hamish.

Lightning flashed across the dark, dismal sky as the youngest of the brothers began walking, his boots clung to by the mud and soaked in rain water. Cameron chased after him, almost falling as he, like the mud, clung to the headstrong, lovestruck idiot and tried to pull him back to the safety of the lighthouse.

“How the hell are you going to find her in this?” He cried, drowned out by the storm and barely audible. Hamish ignored his brother, rushing ahead and heading towards the caves by the ocean. Lightning stretched across the sky, chased by thunder and try as he might, Cameron could not stop his brother from marching ahead towards the shore. “Please Hamish, will you just think?” He bellowed, reaching out again to his brother but slipping, and collapsing down into the mud.

Hamish did not look back, breaking into a run with only one thing on his mind. He had to get to Allison, and he had to keep his promise, even if his brother was too much of a coward to join him. Hamish had never felt such determination, and in his naive, unfortunate state, he believed that he was powered by love, but the truth was as far from love as it could get, and something he was yet to discover.

He could hear his brother calling out to him, but as he ran and got closer to the caves, Cameron’s voice fell away into the roaring wind and all he could hear was the storm around him.

The caves loomed before him, dark and unfriendly and the wind whistled and whipped all around him as he strode towards the entrance.

“Allison!” He screamed, fighting against the noise of the storm as he sprinted inside, trying to ignore the cold against his bones, and the fear that slowly rose through his body as he found himself alone in the cave. He slowed down, walking through the cave, his eyes darting around in the darkness as he searched for any sign of Allison. “Allison, are you here?” As he journeyed deeper inside the cave, it grew quiet, with nothing but his echoed cries and footsteps. “Can you hear me?”

He began to regret his decision to enter the cave, and wondered why he had ran away from Cameron. As he continued into the cave, it was almost as if he sobered up, realising that he had made a series of, frankly, ridiculous decisions, wandering into a dark, abandoned cave, in the middle of a storm, on the off chance that a girl he had just met was somewhere inside. As he stood still for a second, thinking it over, he had to admit, he would never normally be so reckless, and he turned back towards the path he had taken, wondering if he should turn back and head home, to the lighthouse.

“Hamish!” The few moments of sensible thinking ended and Hamish felt his heart flutter at the sound of Allison’s voice. He ran towards it, not seeming to notice that he was running deeper and deeper into the twists and turns of the cave. “Hamish, please help me!” As if under a spell, he raced further into the cave, chasing the sweet voice as it seemed to bounce all over the cave. “Hamish, I’m so thirsty.” Her voice seemed weak and frail, which only spurred him on, his doubts were far behind him, and all he could do was run towards her.

There was a loud crash behind him, and for a moment, Hamish turned back, stunned to see the ceiling above collapsing and clattering to the floor as rocks formed a barrier between him and the outside world. It stopped him in his tracks and Hamish felt his heart pounding in his chest, suddenly panicking and revisiting the doubts that had plagued his mind moments before he heard Allison’s voice.

He was trapped. He was lost in a cave and completely trapped, in the middle of a storm, with nobody but his brother to look for him. His heart sank as he imagined that Cameron might not even want to look for him after how he had behaved. Leaning up against the wall as he caught his breath and stared in dismay at the wall of rocks and dust that blocked his path home, he once again felt filled with doubt.

“Hamish, I’m right here.” His mind went blank, and then went right back to Allison, as if she had heard his thoughts and knew he was wavering. He was suddenly back under her spell and running towards her voice, bursting down a passage way and coming out in a much larger clearing, where to his delight, behind a well in the centre of the ground, he saw a shadow that could only be his love.

“Allison, thank God.” He sighed, walking towards the shadow with a bright smile.

“I am the Mother of the Gods.” The voice was like Allison’s but with a weary, almost angry grit to it. It seemed to fill the entire cave, and it gave him pause, as he stopped before the well, now slightly apprehensive about approaching the shadow. “I am the Mother of the mountains.” The voice continued as the familiar doubt began to fill his mind once again. “I am the Mother of the storms and the seas.” Hamish stepped back slowly as the shadow moved a little closer, still cloaked in the darkness but much closer to him than he’d like. “I am the Mother of the Gods that you have long forgotten.” The shadow let out a low whistle and the well between them began to glow with light. “And I am the Goddess that your father stole from.”

The shadow stepped into the light and Hamish fell back in shock, backing away from the sight before him. A tall hag, her skin, haggard and worn. “To steal from a Goddess is a crime that can never be forgiven, Hamish.” She snarled, advancing on him as he begged his legs to let him stand, but found himself grounded by fear. Her thick, white hair flowed behind her as she walked, and as Hamish gaped in horror, he noticed her eyes. Despite the rest of her appearance, her eyes were instantly recognisable to him. Soft and sapphire blue. Allison’s eyes.

“I… I don’t understand.” He stammered, desperately searching around him for a way out as she stood over him with a wicked smile.

“This land is mine, but I shared it with you mortals.” She continued, kneeling down beside his frozen body. “All that I asked was that the well of my youth stay pure, so that I could drink, and care for what I had created.” Hamish glanced up at the well, and for a moment, as crazy as it sounded, he was sure that he could see his father, standing by the well, his face forlorn. “Your father stole the water, and made it impure.” She snarled, leaning so close that he could feel her breath against his cheeks. “So you will give me the youth he took from me.”

The light from the well swelled out into the room and pain shot through Hamish’s body as the hag stood, striding towards the well as the light strobed and flickered before him. He tried to run. He thought of nothing else, but his body was no longer his own, and as he cried out in agony, he felt himself crawling after the hag, following her shadow towards the well.

“Perhaps now your family will learn not to steal from a Goddess.” The voice cried out as he approached the well on his hands and knees.

“I’m sorry.” Hamish sobbed, looking down and seeing his hands covered in wrinkles, the skin, achingly thin and tinged a soft, icy blue. His hands under the power of the hag, he propped himself up against the wall of the well, pain purging every other feeling in his body as he looked down at his reflection, and saw a sight that he had never truly been able to imagine, and one that no human can ever really bear to face. He saw the last moments of a dying man. His breath, weak and ragged as tears fell from his eyes and got lost in the many lines that had appeared in his once handsome face.

“You were delicious, Hamish.” Said the voice, softer again, as Allison’s beautiful face joined his doom in the reflection below. “Just delicious.” In his last moments, he took one last look into the eyes that had led him down the path of his doom, and wondered if his father had been enchanted in the same way. He thought of his brother, and the heartbreak of his mother, who was about to lose another piece of her heart, and the tears fell, as he collapsed to the ground, falling to dust as he hit the hard dirt of the floor, never to be seen or heard from again.

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Writing

Gwrach y Rhibyn

She calls out his name,

tender terror, soft and sweet.

She wants to save him,

her hand dangling from the dark,

reaching into the realms that death doesn’t dare,

an impossibly placed omen,

owing nothing to anybody,

but holding them by their collars,

by their souls,

with no gratitude,

shielding their eyes from the certain death that awaits them if she lets go.

She calls out his name,

hoping that he will hear her earnest cry,

hoping he will allow himself to live.

Her hopes are lost in the mists of her mind.