The Sound from the Sea

Submitted into Contest #119 in response to: Start your story with an unusual sound being heard.... view prompt

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Horror Mystery

“What was that?” The salty wood of the cliff side cabin creaked as the wind sliced around it, pushed in by the dark sea below and beyond. All candlelight in the cabin had turned to slow rising smoke in the now blackened house. A fisherman who was brought to his knees and elbows in shock peers through his window facing the vast stretch of water. He holds himself still waiting for an answer to come to him for what has brought him terror in his own home. Carefully peering through his window facing the ocean the fisherman's eyes scan the horizon. He could only see so far out, the moon being the only source of light. The fisherman methodically moved his hand to lift the window open to listen intently. Sliding it up just enough to place a book under to keep it from closing, sea seasoned air pushed through the gap. The only sound to be heard was the ocean's constant battle with the rocky beaches below. The sea’s sieges on land were always more violent at night, the two elements being near equals in strength and persistence, it wasn't a war to be won in time for any human to see. For now, the thunder of the oceans charge and the beach's defense was all the fisherman could hear. As brutal as it was, it was nowhere near to what had brought him such fear out of his lifetime of stoic foolish courage. After giving his twisted beard a quiet scratch he mustered a small amount of his pirate-like audacity to arm himself. Crawling on the ground to his desk close by, he pulled out the bottom drawer and sat it on his lap to look through. Inside was a well kept pistol and holster that was immediately attached to his belt. Placing the drawer back into the desk he started to move towards the door. Halting in his tracks he rushes back to the desk and lifts the bottom drawer out again. Moving aside letters, clippings, and a mess of navy medals to reveal a removable plank in the bottom of the drawer. The fisherman opened the compartment to remove an ornate flask loosely full of prized gifted whiskey. Now he was ready. 

Equipt, the fisherman set out into the night. Foredune grass hidden in the dark can be heard dancing in the wind atop the cliff. The pale moon illuminating the way to the rocky shores below, each stone step carved out of the cliff being taken with care. Reaching the beach the fisherman has to find his footing on the sea rounded rocks dimly exposed by the moon's light playing with their glaze of salt water. Looking out to sea, a great fog had snuck across the horizon and was lurking closer to shore. Not wanting to be caught in such a ghastly shroud the fisherman stealthily and quickly headed towards the docks and hopefully still open tavern and local hub. The tavern's beacon of life shone through the dark. Fog rolling in to muffle its shape and light. Nearly avoiding losing his balance with each step he hurries to get off the beach and reach warmth, light, and possibly answers. The steps leading up to the dock were lit at its half way point by a gas lantern, just below the hissing flame in its case was a sign. “The Oyster Shell, spirits and boarding”. Climbing the splashed wooden steps the fisherman stops under the lantern, he can’t help but notice the feeling. Eyes, wherever in the veil of fog locked onto him. The waves' crashes splashing the bottom steps, leaving them soaked and covered in foam. Droplets of rain tap on the fisherman’s shoulder, he turns slowly to glance at the edge of the water meeting the shore. The waves had fallen silent, though the rain continued, tapping on the rocks and dock above. A sea bird called distantly, soon after sweeping through the fog and into the embrace of land’s threshold. Heavy globs of rain followed rushing the fisherman up the stairs and out of view of what lurked beyond a thin grey plain. 

The Oyster Shell had made a name for itself standing the test of time against the constant assault of the furious waves that would break on its cliff foundation. Stumbling through the door, a wet mess produced by the weather outside, he made his way to the bar. Clothing squished under him as he sat down on a stool. Water ringing out to dribble down the stool onto the floor. The usual bustle of the tavern continued, the sight of a soaked traveler in the night was nothing new. The bartender approached the fishermen asking “Care for something wet while you dry off?”. The fishermen reaching into his coat to pull out the beautiful flask and grabbing a glass within reach responded “Did any of you lot hear that?”. Pouring a thin liquid line into the glass he waits for an answer. Looking around the tavern to address all with his eyes the same question. “You must be deaf, no artillery known in my time has startled me such, but that, that had me diving for cover in my own home.” swallowing the thin line of whisky. No one answered him, they all stared blankly without explanation or concern. “Quite the storm out there, maybe ye should stay here, those rocks can knock the sturdiest of men off their feet in the dark.” the bartender tried to persuade. Uneased by the silence in the tavern the fishermen placed the glass onto the bar’s long table and left more trusting of the lightly salted rain outside. Outside of the tavern he paused to think if he should tavel home above on the cliff away from the sea and uneasy path, once again taking out the flask now shining in the rain and tavern light, he drank a hefty gulp in honor of his unsafe choice to travel by the sea. Managing his uneven path home, he ever so often glanced out to sea, untrusting of that horizon and what he knew threatened him. Something remained faceless behind the storm churning all around, but for now it’s eyes were not on him. The thought that he knew to distinguish when such a thing was beset onto him left him questioning his own experience. All he knew that was true was his own sensation and experience facing death in its many forms and stocking eyes. 

The roaring waves beside him whose broken bodies spat at him in the dark were ignored by the fisherman. He was within himself, gambling the possibilities and betting on his own sanity. Reaching just below his cabin, he found a boulder on the stone beach to rest. He didn’t feel safe in his home for now. He thought of lighting the candles only to have the same malignant voice find him and his peace to take pleasure in feasting on. Forgetting for a moment, he found ease in the pattern of rain aiding the ocean in its war on dry land. Creating small pools in the many dips of loose stones. His peace found in drenched familiarity, bringing to mind images of long expeditions on navy vessels braving the harsh void of the sea’s hostile empire on Earth. He remembered journaling thoughts in storms survived “We share this planet with an unforgiving neighbor. She takes our young and old as a toll to cross the edges of her violent crushing darkness. Through chance and the humor she finds in toying with the lives of sailors do we find ourselves ashore, dry, safe, unhunted, and at the very least in an environment that we have a say in our own fate. We crawled out of her womb in the early dawn of this rock, and ever since she’s wanted us back. By any means.” Adrift in thought the fisherman slowly comes back into himself to notice a glow in the pools scattering the beach. Supports crackled above and glass shattered, his cabin was a blazing pyre. Figures danced around it in the rain, hollering curses and phrases the fisherman could not understand. Unholstering his pistol he stuck to the side of the cliff to not be seen. With the sound of the rain falling he escaped further down the beach quickly knowing his footsteps were muffled. Soon the sight of his burning cabin was a small flicker. Continuing down the rocky shore the storm had subsided and violent waves calmed. Looking back the faint glow of the cabin was nowhere to be seen. There was no way to get up the cliff and off of the beach so he kept moving forward hoping to find an escape. But the beach stretched on. Tired and thinking this night would never end he found another large rock to rest for a moment. Hidden in the darkness a faceless figure, unable to go home, confused, and knowing he may hear those devilish chants again he took out his flask once more. Rubbing his thumb over it’s design and stamped naval crest. It reminded him of braver times in his life. Even so, he was alone now, there wasn't much an act of drunken bravery could do him. Perhaps it was the only thing he could do whatever end it brought him. He opened the flask and stared at the liquid within. In it’s little waves of an alcoholic sea he could see the moon had risen high above him now. He thought for a humorous moment he could drink the moon and have this cursed night be over. Closing his eyes, he lifted the rain chilled flask to drink. Suddenly, from the unseeable horizon swallowed in unknowable darkness and cold stretch of the ocean was a sound that can only be described by its effect: at once you are helpless, drained of your bodily heat, instincts scream from hunted ancestry telling you to hide. Opening his eyes, the darkness ahead had him in it’s grip. It was close. He could smell it. A wreaking odor he could only prescribe to that of a decayed body he had no choice to be near many years ago while in service. But this stench smelled of countless aging corpses. It was getting stronger. Something, whatever made that hellish sound was coming. The same devils, probably from the tavern, who had burned his house down with such joy and ceremony stood atop the cliff and had begun to chant those twisted noises. He knew they were there but he dared not take his eyes off of the sea. The stench grew, and now he could hear the sea split for something incoming quickly. He remained seated and took that sip, swallowing the moon that swam in his liquor. The fishermen waited to face that horrible sound that came from the sea.

November 13, 2021 03:23

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