Normally I can see for miles. But a chilly, pale grey sea mist, cover’s almost everything this morning. And that, I have to say, is very worrying.
I stare away from the land upon which I stand, and observe with childlike wonder, the surface reflections of the cold, clear and near brackish green, of the North Sea.
Tiny waves wrestle within waves; as they reflect, refract or absorb the near pale morning light. The sea reminds me of time…in fact, it becomes time... For both sea and time swirl in constant eddies of hidden currents that then ebb and flow about my prescience… I have to say, that even when it appears at peace, its’ only an appearance. Its near fibrous form is always restless; flexing its surface membrane, of translucent tender skin, around an invisible, yet very powerful muscle… and always its mysterious…always it keeps its real presence and purpose hidden from view.
Yet time, like the sea, leaves traces of itself... like worn pebbles in the sand. It skins our much loved and tenderly kept linear memories; and with cold calculation, slowly wears them away, as wave after wave, removes year upon year from the flesh of our souls… leaving nothing but bare bones....and dry shallow dust of or physical form.
I slowly sit down upon the hard brown rock of "the point". I shut my eyes, and beg to listen to those tiny waves within waves, as they gently collide against each other; so near, yet not near enough to my pale, almost numb, naked feet.
Yes...There is something mystical about the slapping, sucking sound of this near silent sea... I hear in its motion the delicate echo. It pings, like a solitary sonar note, deep within; and as it bounces back, from some black hidden depth, unknown to me. It brings to the surface of my mind, images old and new. While I, in a steady stream of partial, near dream, consciousness; try to clasp hold of these tiny stones of thought; these surface waves of the years long past, and of the years yet to come; roll over, over and ever over, onto my steadily clearing mind. And as I start to absorb all the emotions connected to them; I realise that these images of recollections past and yet to come, are not buried or forgotten by time, as they haphazardly collide upon one another. I bear witness to something greater… I perceive that they being gathered together, before being slowly, and delicately, led away from me, by something greater than mere I
I open my eyes once more to watch the waves, silently slide away from me. They finally writhe, almost snakelike, upon the long arc of the sandy beach, that rests ever languidly in the pale grey, middle distance; about fifty feet away. Beyond the grey sandy shore, there rises the grassy bank and the collection of wind twisted sand dunes. I can just see them, picked out in an almost ethereal light; like a series of sharply cut lines, made by a coarse knife, into shades of black steel and cold iron grey.
It's out of the dunes a see a shape take form. It’s a dark shadow, that slowly becomes... becomes... no! I shut my eyes tight so tight it hurts. I punch the cold cracked ground with my now hard fists causing shards of pain to slam up my arms. I hear a sound. I slam my hands over my ears. I don't want to see. I don't want to feel. I want to forget! Forget! Forget!
I turn around, so I know I am not facing the beach. I remove my hands. I open my eyes; making a brief note of the blooded blistered skin now covers my sore knuckles. And I look up. The sun shines a dull grey though the mist. But I can’t see it completely; it's blocked from direct view by the dark shadow that stands over me. It’s the shadow of our home…St Mary’s lighthouse. It stands tall and proud, upon the edge of Whitley Bay. I recall my Dad and Mum bringing me here, long before "They" came.
The first thing I recall is my inner excitement.
Of the trip, I recall the strange burning smell of electricity and the old oil that mixed badly with the stale cracked leather interior of the dark green Morris Minor he owned, as it battled down those narrow roads that surround “the point”.
As I close my eyes, I can still see my Dad gently smiling down upon me. His skin had a reddish leathery quality, his face round and large; his gentle eyes a chestnut brown, alive, yet almost hidden by his thick bushy eyebrows. His voice a mixture of warmth, yet carrying a heavy thick grizzled bear tonal quality to it; as he spoke grandly about the history of the Lighthouse. While my mother sat next to him in the passenger seat. Not so silently clock-watching. Her narrow, bird-like body, forever, it seems to me, tightly wrapped up in her dark turquoise raincoat. Her tightly rolled auburn hair was always hidden from view from the outside world, by a tightly drawn yellow and red paisley scarf around her narrow head. Her pale blue eyes never shone, and her face, would be forever pinched with lines of tired careworn bitterness; as she spent her time complaining about the weather, the trip, or her marriage to a man she never really loved… or that I would probably puke before we got there….and… I have to say… that occasionally… and out of an act of malicious spite... sometimes I did.
I'm brought back to the present by hearing Alice as she staggers over the rocks. I gently smile as I see her staggering towards me with her scraped knees and scuffed hands. I see no tears upon her face. Tears are for those who are lost to us. Not for blisters, scabs, scrapes or scuffs. These external marks remind us of how lucky we are… that we are still alive… that we still breathe; and that when we look up we can still see the stars at night and don't feel fear when we do. And, despite their arrival and everything that's happened since; we still can fight. Fight with all the heart and passion that rests within us.
I see him in her face... Gaz... I blush as look down and away from her, as, I recall his gentle muscular body; his red tousled hair fading to a wispy grey on his sideburns. The kind, yet penetrative stare from his large blue, green eyes… I think of the feel of his stubble around his narrow square jaw... I recall how itchy it felt, as well as the tender touch of his hard calloused skin from his large well worked hands, as they slowly and very gently... stroked my cheek, as our bodies gently entwined together, in the tender, yet urgent need for intimacy.
‘-what is it dear?’
There is a long pause.
‘ I had the dream again last night.’
‘ –We’re safe here.’
‘-But, what if they can-‘
I reach over and hold her tightly, and then pull her back to stare, as sincerely as I can muster, into her beautiful green eyes, that shine so very brightly.
‘I promise you… ‘ I say, feeling unsure that I believe it myself. ‘…That...they can't get us here.’
I feel the anger begin to build. I feel Anger, at being left to fend for two girls and a baby boy on my own. And anger at Alice. Who has no idea what sweaty, blistered scab, she has innocently scraped off. I want to scream and yell, instead I say something else. Something far worse.
‘Gaz is dead!’
It comes out with too much force, and I instantly regret it. Alice looks at me with sad pain-filled eyes; and she pulls away.
‘I know what you’re thinking.’ She starts to shout. You blame me!’ she screams, as she falters as she steps back. ‘You think it was my fault.’
I shake my head and try to reach for her, to hold her close, not so much for her, but for me. But she fights me off and runs to the safety of the lighthouse; leaving me with my ever present memories flooding past my defences.
We called them "They" because we honestly didn’t know what else to call them. After all; what can you call the un-nameable..? 25 years ago, on the twenty third of December twenty twelve, the earth world was burned. An asteroid, simply called “Prissy 7” impacted with the pacific ocean.
The incident caused unprecedented damage on a global scale...and left countless thousands dead, but mankind survived, however, that was just the beginning... because something was in that rock that crashed into our planet...something... vast cold and unsympathetic… as Wells would say… something that interacted with our planet's ocean species...causing the species that lived within it to change… or evolve.
it began with fishing boats far out at sea, then, our nuclear submarines... within months Our coastal cities fell one at a time, as they came out from the sea, devouring humaniity, with their huge hideous saw shaped teeth that grated in their vast circular holes for mouths, their wet blubbery flesh seems to have the appearance of leather, yet still had the power to absorb everything we tried to kill them with... I can recall seeing T.V footage of bullets bouncing off the side of the creatures manking thier flesh wobble like heavy blubber, that then burst open to allow spores of huge insect like creatures, to fly into the sky... like locusts they devoured the inland towns ... so we hid underground in the cellars or in the sewers... and for an age unknown we waited...
When we returned to the sun; we found a world changed beyond all recognition. Now They stalk the land on enormous tendill legs, they stride over the decimated cities that we once prided ourselves upon; or they writhe snakelike, through the ocean virtually unseen; pulling people from the beaches with enormous slavering tentacles; while they fly far inland, bombarding us with an acid from thier tails or burn us with flames from their huge triple jointed mouths.
Mankind now is their fodder, and they are lords of the land, sea and sky...
But we fought back...and we found their weaknesses....Our means of defence, small to medium calibre weapons, and a solar charged battery cell, that when linked to fiberous lines of copper cable, creates huge electro-magnetic shields; that, when turned on, rise up about us like huge almost invisible domes. They protect us from their hideous advances; but… we’re now caged... like animals in a zoo.
I enter the old fisherman’s cottage through the back door, and walk into the large white walled kitchen. I am met by the warm welcoming odour of freshly baked bread. It almost hides the stale smell of the decaying vegetables. In the background I can hear baby Si’, screaming for attention and for food. Rachael has her back to me, but I can see she is making soup. Her long black hair falls around her shoulders in shiny, spindling ringlets.
‘Our supplies are low.’ she says with her back to me. Her voice sounds cold and as sharp as a razor blade.
‘-an’ the lines need bringing in-
‘-yes, yes ok!-’ I feel tired and put upon.
‘-Just for Christ sake, shut up!’ I shout savagely; as I leave the kitchen and go through the narrow hall, to the front room, where Si’ is lying on the white rug; his pen surrounding him. It doesn’t take him long, a cuddle and a suckle, settles him quick. I look down and see in his eyes Gaz staring at me. As I sit in the rocker by the window, words start to fall from me like the heavy summer rain.
‘Why… why’d you have to do it? Be the selfless hero… when we need you… when I need you… There’s so much to do… so much to sort out…
‘Si’ looks up and gurgle’s sweetly; his round face and blue eyes shine, his toothless mouth white with milk and spit. I smile down, unaware of the footfall in the hall.
‘Jane.’ It’s Rachael. ‘Alice is upset. Why did you have to say that?
‘-We’re safe here.’ I can hear the lie in my voice, I know its insane to stay, but I just can't let go...
‘-Who says?’ She asks. Her voice sounds clearly hostile; and that hurts me. ‘You know ‘ow we’ve done it in the past; Alice ‘as the dream an’ we move on. That’s what we’ve always done since...’ She doesn’t finish the sentence but the air is heavy. ‘…Gaz would want us to move on. Staying ‘ere is suicide.’
‘-Gaz isn’t here.’
‘-An’ don’t we know it…’ She replies tersely. ‘…They are real and they are coming…’ Her words echo about the large living room, like a dark prophecy. ‘…You might want to stay ‘ere an’ hold on to your memories, your dreams, an’ your youth. But we, the rest of us... need to live.’
I don’t look up; I only hear her feet slowly walk away upon the red flagstone floor.
I hear a clatter of pots from the kitchen, and feel my face blush with guilt and shame. I look to the cot, but Si’ is asleep. So I turn in my chair to look out of the cracked window. The green sea is flat and seems to go on forever. The sky, a stone grey. The fog has lifted. I only wish my mind was as clear.
Night has come. The fire licks orange-yellow flames up the chimney, and leaves the room feeling warm. Si’ has been taken from my lap, and placed in his crib. I look across the room and see the heavy sofa. Oh how I wish he was here, holding me close, telling me what to do.
But he died six weeks ago, while Alice was building sandcastles on the beach…
That’s what we are; and that’s what we made for ourselves.
The problem with sandcastles is that the tide turns and washes them away.
We came because our settlement had been hit, and I knew of nowhere else to go. It seemed at the time the safest place to be; the sky open for miles, the rocks stopping the subs, and the ground flat so we would spot any tripod before it spotted us.
It took us weeks to get here, moving on if Alice had any bad dreams, overloaded with what supplies we managed to scrounge.
When we finally arrived, we improvised an EMF shield; that shorted occasionally, but for the last four months we’ve been safe. Life became a routine of hiding in the shadows, laying lines for fish and keeping the shield operational… until a week ago.
I was in the kitchen preparing breakfast, while Gaz stood in the doorway, looking out towards the beach. We had been up for about an hour; I was feeling sleepy warm, ruddy and tender from our love making.
I looked out of the window across the tiny bay to where a wet Alice; her blonde hair dark, tousled and full of salt; had started to put sand into the small round yellow plastic bucket by her knees.
Then the alarm sounded. Instantly, we stared at each other. Nothing was said. Our eyes wide open simply met; while my heart began thumping with a black panic.
Then he ran as fast as he could down the narrow path that led back to shore. It didn’t take him long to reach the beach; or the heavy black junction box that we had improvised as part of the EMF shield extension. He quickly ripped the lid off it; before, as gently as he could, so not to make her panic, call Alice over to him.
It was a sunny day… the sky was unusually blue and clear from the swell of grey cloud that normally came from across the sea.
It seems amazing that I didn’t see the raised antenna, or the tentacles that followed, until it was too late.
I screamed as I saw them snake up the beach. Rachael saw them next. She ran from the lighthouse picking up the rifle that was resting by the kitchen door. I saw her wave frantically, before charging down the narrow path. Her body jarring as she sped. She stopped as she reached the beach and managed to get two shots off, as the tentacles silently sped towards them.
It was enough for Gaz to see what was coming. I saw him click something. The alarm suddenly died, and then, instead of running towards us, with Alice in his arms…he ran the other way…leaving Rachael and Alice to run towards the safety of the newly functioning shield.
It only took a second… hundreds of tendrils wrapped about his body; lifting him up high into the blue sky. And there he hung for a moment, like a twisted puppet, his arms outstretched, screaming; before he was suddenly dragged down at a lightning speed, swallowed by the green swirling sea.
‘Gaz…’ my voice sounds dry and cracked. I close my eyes and shut out the candles, the fire-place and the near silence of the room. But the room isn’t empty any more.
The room is a blur; a swirling wash of orange embers, mahogany and candlelight.
I wipe my eyes and stare across the room.
He sits there sweetly, that smile upon his face; as if he’s never been gone. Doesn’t he know what he’s done to us? Doesn’t he care that we have had to cope without him?
Gaz…He sits in front of me, wearing that blood red jumper. I shake my head, not knowing what to do, not knowing what to believe.
‘Jane my darling, you have to leave here. Alice and Rachael are in real danger.’ He speaks, in urgency, yet in a voice that I find hard to grasp. ‘The old ones are coming here. They know you’re here. Jane…please listen to me.’
‘Where have you been?’
‘Jane I know how much this place means to you, but you have to leave.’
Suddenly I’m in the open! There is a screaming whine of an insects wing, followed by the clacking of hideous alien voices , followed by a loud whump; as their heavy feet made of constantly winding tendrils tie themselves about each other, giving strength to the whole form as it staggers upon the land, with a hideous slouching gait , its single yellow eye ablaze with insane victory as it screams in an unearthly triumph; all the while more huge fibrous tentacles are reaching out for me, smothering…smothering my face.
I scream awake. Baby Si is in Rachael’s arms. I feel a little jealous that he is resting in her arms, but I try not to let it show. After all I love her as if she is my own.
‘I’m sorry ‘bout yesterday.’
I find a smile upon my face and hope that it isn’t fake.
‘-It’s… just that I miss-‘ I can see her pain and her strength.
‘-I’ts ok. You’re right. It’s not safe here any-more. We’re leaving, get Alice.
With a smile on her face she speedily turns and leaves the front room.
The sky is full of slate black raging clouds that boil and curl over a violent pale green sea. The wind is beginning to rage too. That’s good because it means the insects can’t fly. Also with the electro-magnetic energy the land monsters will be stuck too. That only leaves they from the sea.
Breaking camp is very painful but very necessary. The memories fill, and wash over me... I almost feel haunted, though not by the monsters… For I have lived two lifetimes here. Not bad for a woman in her late fifties...
I look at the lighthouse and I see my father speaking in an age long past, about a time now gone. I see my mother, her dedication to the seventies written on her narrow face, as is her longing not to be any where near here... And finally, I see Gaz...the man who kept me sane and us together… The Father of Alice and Simon, and the Brother of Rachael... and I know that it’s ok to say goodbye.
We get into the screen cracked land-rover. It’s weighed down with supplies and the four of us. I turn the engine over and see that the tank is half full. That’s ok, because I also know that we have a spare tank of fuel in the back… we are ready to go, And not before time.
As we sit in the car, we watch silently, to see huge leathery tendrils come out of the broiling sea, we hear a hissing scream as they wrap themselves about the buildings; and monstrous howls as slowly the buildings are torn to shards of rubble iron and glass; the towering light, broken into bones of iron and lumps of powdered stone. Where are we going? I am not sure, south... I think... and back to the tunnels.
I look back at the ruin of the lighthouse; our home for so short a time is now a broken shell. I look at Alice and she smiles for the first time in an age...and that is nice to see... Yeah… it’s time to move on.