My grandfather used to tell me tales of the sea whenever I visited him as a child. One I always remembered was of ships being pulled down to the seabed and the dead men returning as a kind of mermen to do the same to other boats.
He had been a fisherman for most of his life as had his father and his father before him etc but unfortunately the profession was no longer viable and he had to give it up. He spent the last couple of decades of his life living in that tiny cottage on his own, getting by as best he could. He used to grow his own vegetables and at one point even had a hen or two but it was a miserable life. My mother tried to get him to move in with us but he refused and the least said about a home the better. She did finally convince him to allow a 'Meals On Wheels' person visit and thank God for that, as it was she who found him.
I travelled down for the funeral and joined my mother and younger brother Kian in the small coastal town. If I am to be honest and as bad as it may sound, I was looking forward to getting away from London for a few days. I had just broken up with my girlfriend or she had broken up with me and a funeral was the perfect place to wallow.
The funeral itself was a small affair, other than the family there was just 11 other people, mostly old fishing buddies and a few other older people from the town. While the Vicar said a few words it was only my mother who said anything which could be described as heartfelt. She was the only person who seemed upset, although I suspect guilt was as big an emotion as grief. It's not that there was much she could have done. He wasn't sick per-say, no more than any other old person, but after my grandmother died five years previously, he fell into a depression and was never the same afterwards. My mother tried to help but as I alluded to before, he refused any.
After the proceedings we all went to a local pub for a few drinks. It was a typical rural pub, selling good old English Ale, where a lager would seem exotic. Two hours had passed since arriving when I requested to leave and go for a walk, maybe an odd requests for a 22 year old man but what can I say. I do have country blood in me.
After stating I was going for a 'short walk', Kian, probably bored, asked to come along. Our mother was OK with this so long as we kept safe and not out past dark. So off the two of us headed. Even though it had been 5 years since I was last in the town and maybe 10 since I last went for a walk or explored the area, there was an air of familiarity as we headed off up the hills. There was definitely and old timely feel to the place, a location the modern world had forgotten or didn't realise existed. Kian ran on ahead of me.
"Slow down, I am an old man now." I called after him but he pretended not to hear. Kian was not a normal teenager. He acted like the teens you read about in old books, those that went off to find adventure or to see a dead body. I myself had been the usual gloomy teen who ignored their parents and drank with mates in the local park.
"Come on." Kian yelled down at me as I moped along. The foliage was growing thicker here than before and I wasn't able to see where I was placing my feet when suddenly I felt a thug on my trouser leg and fell over.
Kian hearing me fall, ran back over to me.
"Are you OK?"
"Yes I think so." I replied as I got up off the ground but as I did I felt a pain in my left leg. I looked down and it was bleeding.
"Need to get that checked" said Kian pointing to it so the two of us headed back into the town and the pub where we had left them.
On returning and showing my injury I was brought to the local doctor. He was the kind of man who looked like a doctor from the 50's, bushy white beard and matching head of hair with a pair of thick spectacles on his face.
"There you go, young man." he said in a patronising tone after cleaning me up and giving me a stitch ". Don't go getting into any more mischief."
I assured him I would not and left the surgery somewhat embarrassed. That night like the previous one we stayed in a small B&B. While I quickly fell asleep, as I generally do, I woke in the middle of the night after a most unsettling dream. I was falling, falling deep into a dark void, screaming but not making a sound. I could hear something in the blackness however, a horrible scratchy voice whispering my name "Simon, Simon" over and over again. It left me feeling so uneasy that it took me a long time to fall back to sleep.
The following day and with little sleep I made my way back to London and my normal life and work. I had been working in a High Street bank for the last seven months, entry level. I spent most of the day explaining to grandparents how to use the automated machines. I was standing there politely explaining for the tenth time that morning how to check one's balance, when I heard a voice behind me expressing in a shocked tone that my leg was bleeding. I looked down and my trouser leg had darkened with blood which had started to drip on to my shoe and the floor. Alarmed, I rushed and got the first aid kit and examined my leg.
The stitch I had got must have opened as blood covered the side of my leg and seemed far worse than it had when I first injured it.
My manager came over and helped me clean it up as best we could but told me to go off and get it seen too. I spent most of the rest of the day in A&E waiting to be seen to. As I sat there I felt my leg get warmer and warmer, uncomfortably so, and by the time it was examined I felt a sheer burning pain all the way down my leg. The nurse who saw me said they could see no sign of injury other than the cut and sent me home with a couple of new stitches.
That night I had the same dream as before but this time much more vivid. I was falling down into blackness, screaming and trying to grab on to something but could not and the voice was much clearer, a frightening high pitched sound just shouting over and over again "Simon going to die, Simon going to die."
I woke up and as before, my bed was drenched in sweat. As I sat there in the dark a few seconds after waking up and still in a bit of a panic, I could have sworn I heard the same voice again whispering
" Simon going to die."
I shan't lie. I was startled and for the first time in many years I slept that night with the light on.
"You look wrecked." said my manager the following morning. I informed her that I hadn't slept well to which she told me to have a coffee and comb my hair as I was on counter duty. I was happy to be spending most of the day sitting. The day, in large part, went without incident until after lunch. A large queue had gathered and as I looked up from helping a man pay of their credit card, someone in the crowd caught my eye. That may be a bad turn of phrase as this person seemed not to have eyes at all or a nose for that matter but they did have a large, unnaturally large, grin on their face showing all their teeth. They were just standing there like normal, like the others but with a horrific uncanny appearance. I just stared at them for bit until the man I was helping interrupted me.
"I said, is that the right amount?" he asked
"Is the amount I gave you correct"?
"Yes, yes" I said sending him on his way. I looked again but the person or the face was gone.
I hurried home that evening deciding that I needed to sleep, to rest. I closed the door to my small one bed apartment and let out a sigh of relief. I sat on the armchair and turned on the T.V. I sat there awhile, hours it seemed and then I began to notice my head and back getting hot. I looked around and the back of my apartment was on fire. I panicked and jumped up and as I did, the chair caught light. The fire spread quickly and in a few moments the whole apartment was ablaze. As I looked around trying to figure out what to do, I heard a voice the same as before.
"Simon going to die"
I turned around to see where the voice was coming from. It appeared to be coming from the T.V but it was the same show as before. The voice repeated itself and I moved towards it. The picture jumped suddenly and for a moment I saw that face again, the one I saw in the bank and the same wide smile.
I jumped from the chair, I was awake. I looked around, everything was normal. It was a dream I reassured myself, however for the rest of the evening until I went to bed, I could swear I smelt smoke.
I went to bed again with the light on but had no more nightmares and slept peacefully, got up early showered and shaved and back into work.
The day went well as we all ticked down the clock till 5pm and the start of the weekend. After work a few others and I attended the Lady Hathaway Inn for Friday drinks. We sat in the same snug we always sat in and I ordered my usual beer. We all sat there talking about our worst customers of the week, the football game tomorrow and George went on as he always did about shares and where one should invest. (He always seemed to have less money than the rest of us though) and I sat there joining in on these random tit bits and supping my drink when I noticed it had begun to taste really weird. I looked at my beer and at the glass and it was a rosy colour, the colour of blood. I dropped the glass and jumped up, knocking the table over as I did so. All the drinks fell and the blood from my glass spilled all over the floor.
"What's wrong?" someone asked.
I just pointed at the ground and in a low tone and shaking voice just said Blood, Blood over and over again. The manager and staff had come over now and asked what the problem was. I repeated myself but as they and my colleagues gave me blank expressions, I looked down on the ground and saw just broken glass and spilled wine mixed with beer.
As the manager looked at us and demanded to know what had transpired, I just had to go, I grabbed my coat and while whispering sorry, ran out of the bar.
I ran home and after bursting in, went straight to the bathroom were I threw up.
I stared at myself in the mirror for a bit, wondering what an earth was happening. Was I going or indeed was I crazy.
My phone rang. It was Alice, probably trying to see of I was OK or get an explanation, I ignored it.
What was happening to me? Why was I having all these hallucinations, these dreams. Was it stress, what was I stressed about? It had come on in the last week or few days since my grandfather's death. Was it grief? Hardly, it's not like we were close. I knew I couldn't go on for long like this. I had to see someone, a shrink, get some pills, anything at all before I went completely mad.
It took a while to fall a sleep that night for fear of what it may bring. Eventually however my body inevitably lost the battle and my eyes closed.
I saw her, Laura my ex-girlfriend. She was standing like a vision opposite my bed wearing a white silk dress, her blonde hair seemed to be blowing about her shoulders. She just stared at me for a moment with the most beautiful look upon her face. Then slowly she moved towards the bed, crawling on top of it and then to me. She looked at me, our noses only a few inches or so apart. But slowly her face changed. Her smile, so radiant up till now, turned and twisted itself into that foul grin I had seen on the woman in the queue yesterday. Her eyes also seemed to bulge from their sockets as they fixed themselves upon me. I could not breathe. Then her tongue, like that of a serpent's, slipped from her open mouth. A long red tongue licked my face and it felt cold, wet and unnatural.
Then she whispered the same four words, "Simon's going to die" and I woke. I woke with a shudder but the terror was not over as peeping out over the top of my bed were two glowing green eyes and underneath them appeared again that hideous smile. I jumped out of bed and ran to put the light on. As the darkness vanished in artificial light so did that grin. I stood there paralysed for what seemed like forever before gaining some composure. I began to check the room. I looked under my bed, my closet, everywhere, but found nothing. Eventually I climbed back into my bed but did not sleep that night, or ever again.
The alarm went off at 8 but I didn't get up, just lay there fearful of what had happened and what could happen. What was that thing I saw last night, why was it haunting me, what had I done?. After an hour I removed myself from the safety of my sheets. It was all in my head I thought. I will make an appointment on Monday and get some help. It was a cool but bright winter's morning and after a very strong cup of coffee I decided the best thing to do was go for a run. So I put on my unworn tracksuit that I bought in January, not last January, and went for a run to clear my head.
The air of London felt cold and a wind was beginning as I slowly jogged through the busy Saturday crowds. I had not travelled far when my lack of fitness showed itself and I had to stop. As my jog turned into a quick walk and then a stroll I could not help shake the feeling I was being watched, not just by one person but that multiple eyes were on me, following me as I moved through Newgate. I called into a small cafe I knew and ordered a coffee to go. There was only one other couple there, two women in their 30's, chatting at a table. I added the milk and sugar to my drink and looked at the couple. The woman who was facing me seemed to be staring at me, her eyes fixed upon me. I looked back as I stirred my coffee. We both stared at each other but then she got up from her chair and walked towards me. As she approached, she placed her hands to the sides of my face and kissed me, a long kiss that left me quite stunned. When she pulled away she looked into my eyes,smiling as she whispered "Simon's going to die."
I yelled and fell back knocking the drink over me.
"You OK?" asked the barista.
I could not speak for a second and looked around, the women sat at their table looking at me.
"Yes," I muttered after a few seconds and making a quick apology left the cafe and returned home.
After entering the apartment I ran to the bathroom and splashed cold water on my face. I looked in the mirror. Large bags lay under my eyes, my hair was a mess and I looked awful. I turned off the tap and looking up again, screamed as there in the mirror was the face of some creature, a monster I had never witnessed before. Grey wrinkly skin, bald with piercing green eyes but most horrifying of all, that smile again, ear to ear grin as I had first seen in the bank and again and again around me. But this time it was accompanied with two rows of black rotten teeth.
I turned around quickly but it was gone.
Was I going mad?. Was I imagining all this and if so, why, why now. I was never really afraid of monsters when I was a kid, never read or was read horror stories or had many nightmares. Why now?.
I went back into the sitting room and there, over the T.V in black paint I saw written those words again. "SIMON'S GOING TO DIE" I could feel my blood pump from my heart and a sense of absolute dread over my whole body.
"Who's here?" I called out "What do you want?" There was no answer, no sound. "Why are you doing this?" I yelled again but still nothing, no sound in the room. I sat down and placed my head in the palms of my hands.
"Simon's going to die." was spoken into my ear. My head shot up and again. It was repeated louder than before and again louder still.
"How am I to die? When?" I yelled out. No response "Tell me." I shouted "What do you want?"
"You" it said, quickly in a sharp tone.
"What do you want from me" I called out again but no answer and then the whisper again,
"Simon's going to die.""Simon's going to die.""Simon's going to die.""Simon's going to die."
over and over again. I could almost feel the words smashing into my ears, one after another as the room spun around me and my heart raced.
"Simon's going to die.""Simon's going to die.""Simon's going to die.""Simon's going to die."
Again and again and again.
"Enough" I called out raising my arms up over my head "Stop."
It stoped and I fell down on the floor and the room came to a halt. I just lay there on the floor barely able to move but the voice and those words were gone. All I could hear was my heart beating violently.
An hour I lay there if not more, barely moving, unable to think straight, still hearing the words repeated over and over in my own head.
The presence of that wretched thing, that demon with its grin, returned to me again that night as I tried to sleep. It wasn't long after I had gone under the covers that I sensed it beside me. Indeed, as I slowly opened my eyes I saw it there, again its mouth open, looking at me, his green eyes wide and without lids. I lay there, still, looking at it, unable to blink and barely breathing.
After a few moments and in a calm voice I asked the creature again what it wanted from me.
There was silence at first. I could hear it breathe, almost gasping for breath. Then for the first time it answered me.
"Take me back." it said "Take me back home, where you found me."
"Where is that?" I asked
"Take me back home. Take me to the hills beside the sea."
His eyes seemed to change colour as he spoke, moving from green to white to black. His mouth however never lost that smile
"The sea" it said again, moving its face closer to mine.
"The funeral?" I questioned. It didn't respond.
"Can't you go yourself?"
It pointed its long bony finger at me.
"Need you to bring me back to the sea or I can not go."
This thing, this creature would stay with me, haunt me, until I brought it back from where it came, to those hills I had walked on after my grandfather's funeral. I agreed to this as what else was I to do.
It laughed and repeated again "To the sea, to the sea"
That thing stayed with me that night just staring at me, its foul breath upon me.
I did not know why it wanted to go back or why I had to bring it back but I had to do as the creature asked. In the morning I made my way to Paddington St and got the 07.30 train.
I sat on the train staring out as the day passed by. What was I doing?. What waited for me in my grandfather's old town?. Would I finally be free of this nightmare?.
It had been raining that day and the air was wet as I, we, left the station. The town was quieter than the last time, few moved around. As I walked through the streets I felt that those who were around were staring at me or talking about me, I felt uncomfortable.
I heard the voice of my companion guide me, telling me to go up into the hills to where I had gone before. I followed its directions and kept walking.
"Almost there." I heard it say but yet we kept going. We had moved past the point I had walked with Kian but still I was told to keep going. The land was looking more and more rugged, the grass was longer. I saw no one.
The day removed itself from the sky to make way for the night. The chill in the air increased as I made my way further along the hills. "We there nearly" said the voice again in my head "Soon".
"where do you want me to go ?" I shouted aloud but no answer.
I moved further and further into the wild. The lights of the houses vanished and no one passed me by. I kept going.
Fog lay on the path and I shivered. As I continued on this path for hours my body grew more tired, my feet ached and my head pounded but still I continued, the voice urging me on.
The fog increased, covering the moon and stars. A cold sheet wrapped over me as my lips turned blue.
I carried on, the blisters on my soles grew and my eyes began to close.
I could not take it any more, stumbling over, I fell upon the grass, motionless.
As I lay there I could feel it crouching beside me, its breath on my face. It said nothing for a long time but stayed there, staring at me and then as the icy air came over me it spoke one last time.
"Now it's your turn. You stay and wait. Stay in this grave for the next one."
And here I stay now on this hill, waiting for someone, another person to cross over me, another person for me to latch on to and drag down to my fate.