An icy chill set in around Maria as she walked along the beach, biting at her with a fierceness which she had learned was not uncharacteristic of this stretch of the Dorset coast. She was returning home from one of the walks she often took, and the weather was becoming more unfavourable by the minute. The once-clear beach was now being overtaken by fog, closing in slowly from every direction and hindering her view of the distant coastline.
But she didn’t mind too much. Maria looked forward to her walks because they gave her time to meditate and sort out her thoughts; days spent catering to fools in a crowded office rarely afforded such leisure. By the time evening came, she needed this relaxation. It placated her soul to hear particles of sand grinding almost inaudibly beneath her feet, the roaring of the surf, and to see all the variety of colours in a landscape that people so often deemed as “grey.” She loved the ocean....always churning and uncertain of where it wanted to be, cold and bleak yet by turn warm, blue and inviting.
Maria gazed up at the clouds. She often found herself captivated by them for reasons she could not fully explain. She liked to think of them in the way Victor Hugo had described them: “The only birds that never sleep.” They were a constant element of the coast and its' landscape, but they still never ceased to fascinate her.
Amidst her wondering, Maria began to notice the mist thickening rapidly around her. She soon could barely see three feet in front of her, but she wasn’t overly concerned. She had been in deep fog before. Her house wasn’t much further now, and she had left the kitchen light on in case something like this were to happen. She had learned from experience that the seafront was ever-changing, and you could never count on it to behave as you expected.
Maria spat against the brackish saline taste in her mouth and rubbed her arms in attempt to ward off the chill. The temperature was dropping fast, making the air seem studded with slivers of ice in the fog. She scanned her eyes in front of her in hopes of seeing the warm light of her kitchen, but rather than light, she noticed a darker patch up ahead and to the left, at the point where the water met the sand. She imagined it was only an old fishing boat, or some driftwood washed onto shore.
The darkness stirred.
Maria froze mid-step and stared. The beach was usually abandoned at this point in the evening. And beside, the shape did not resemble anything familiar......and almost certainly nothing human.
There it was again......not a large movement, but a slow, gliding motion, much like a ship moving steadily upon the water, sporadically hitting a wave and causing a slight shift in its fluency.
It was advancing, slowly. Marias' hand twitched nervously. Her intended path would take her within a few feet of the darkness, and though she was not afraid, she considered veering away in order to avoid confrontation. She had heard stories from locals....bone-chilling stories about terrible manifestations appearing on beaches....which she did not particularly believe, yet did not care to have them proved correct either.
Maria made her decision; she turned to her right and quickened her pace ever so slightly. But the blackness sensed her movements through the dense fog and anticipated them, stretching and flowing as if to cut her off.
This couldn’t be happening. Maria didn’t know what the thing was, but she was beginning to think she didn’t want to find out. For a girl not easily rattled, her steel nerves were beginning to quiver.
The advancing darkness now split into two, approaching faster and more menacingly. Maria was now becoming seriously frightened, and she burst into a run. The daunting pitch-dark mass swarmed toward her with incredible speed, reaching her just as she could discern her solitary beach house and the obscured light of the kitchen window in the distance.
Swirling, tumbling, reeling, the oppressive blackness enfolded her, incapacitating her and knocking her to the ground. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think, only lie there and feel the thing pressing down upon her, eternally increasing weights upon every inch of her skin.
Faces materialized inside the inky blackness and began circling all about her.....grisly, angry faces, long-dead and twisted with the agony of ages. The soulless eyes bored into her very core, sucking the life-force right out of her. She was spinning, floating, with no control over her body whatsoever. The darkness wanted her, she could feel it, pulling and tugging at her soul. She was trying to resist it, trying to gain control, but it was like fighting to keep the ebbing tide on the seashore. She was weak, her feeble movements making no difference in the one-sided struggle, and detachedly Maria felt herself letting go..............
It departed from her.
She perceived through half-closed lids the blackness sliding backward, withdrawing to the bitter depths from whence it had come. Its movements were once again slow and tranquil, as unthreatening as they had been at first sight. She squeezed her eyes shut and lay there for what seemed like hours, praying that the ghastly entity had gone forever.
When Maria finally opened her eyes, the fog was lifting. A slight breeze had begun to stir, and the familiar brisk salinity of the sea overwhelmed her. She could see her home not one hundred yards down the shore. She stood, and it felt as if she were supported by two single feathers rather than legs. With more energy than she thought she had, Maria dragged herself to the front door and staggered inside.
With the very last of her strength, she locked every window and door, only pausing when she was finished to watch the receding fog from the warm security of her kitchen. There was no sign of blackness now; only the nebulous beach, stretching infinitely down the coastline.
And the sea.....ever shifting, ever changing, flowing yet separated by the occasional peak of a wave—concealing such secrets in its depths as man has never known, mysterious and horrible and rarely seen upon its' earthly shores. Its misleading serenity provides a sense of false security to mortal hearts, luring them in until the unfortunate souls are seized by its hell-furies.....and taken down, down, never to be seen again.
Until they come from the darkness of the ocean looking for kindred souls to join them in the depths.