Tag Archives: haunting

The Curious Experience of Isaiah Vates

           The sea and the sky are the same, the old man always said. At the time he had laughed, but looking out that morning—the cold sea-mist clinging to his naked torso—he knew the old man was right.

            The sea-mist transformed into an unbroken wall of sea-fog which possessed both sea and sky, morphing them into one. Yet, perhaps, the warm glow of the morning on the water of the sea and the water in the sky played tricks on his sleep-deprived eyes.

            He stood. The slick rock cold beneath his feet, he rolled back onto his heels and then forward onto his toes, feeling every ridge and rise. Behind him, invisible in the sea-mist, a path meandered by only ten feet away, back up a narrow trail through the underbrush. The sound of feet, but far too light, caught his ear. He whirled toward the path. Nearly losing his footing, he caught himself, stood upright, and strained to peer through the thickening sea-fog.

            A fog horn, hollow, deep, and long—like the wail of a mourning father—broke the silence between him and the path.

            “Goodbye,” He said, turning again and leaping off the cliff edge.

            In the timeless moment just before his body cracked off the rocks and sunk into the water, he heard from out of the morning fog the voice, fickle as a wisp of smoke in a rain storm, “No.”

———

            Her grandpa always enjoyed the morning. It gave him wisdom, he would say, that brief moment when the sun is just awakening, darkness begins to give way, and the voices of nature are in harmonious arrangement before the chaos of humanity is unleashed with the savage squawking of alarms and the growl of car engines.

            Despite how lightly she tread, it always sounded as though someone was raking the loose, lighter gravel over the heavier base layer. It sounded like rain in some way, but yet different in some other way. Lately, her mind had been foggier than usual.

            She stopped and looked out over the sea. The clear morning allowed the rising sun to warm the inbound waves. She saw a man’s back, hidden partially by the foliage, but she knew him to be standing at the cliff’s edge. She blinked and found herself locked in place with his blue eyes. Their cold gaze contrasted with the warm glow of the sun which framed his naked torso, glistening with water droplets. Tearing away from his gaze, she heard a ragged cry as though a mother was mourning her newborn child dead in her arms.

Looking back again, she saw him, as if through a haze of heat, leap from the cliff, the obscuring foliage gone. “No,” she cried before vaulting the railing and running toward the cliff edge.

———

           Isaiah Vates never enjoyed his Samhain morning walk. It was, however, necessary; and he would not abandon his duty. Tightening his grip on the worn, raven’s skull handle, he leaned heavily upon his bronze-capped walking stick as he limped up the gravel path into the darkness—away from the warm, glowing safety of his hut where his wife sat by the window holding a candle, awaiting his return with nervous hands and eager, tear reddened eyes.

            It would be wrong to say it was cold as Isaiah moved up the path, but it would also be wrong to say the morning was warm, yet neither was it in between; a more accurate description would be that it was in between the in between. It would also be wrong to say that the light morning fog felt clammy on his exposed hands, because it also felt warm as if it was smoke from a great fire, and yet neither.

            Isaiah set himself down in the ruins of an old house. He knew its owner—or had in what seemed a lifetime ago—he could not remember. Taking knitted gloves from his jacket’s oversized pockets, he encased his trembling hands in them. With a groan, which immediately died moments from his mouth, he stood. Leaning upon his walking stick, he used his right hand to pull the bill of his cap further down toward his round spectacles to shield against the misty sprinkle that had come when the fog had dissipated; though its disappearance, so sudden, would incline the mind to believe it was called away.

            Then he saw it happen. He saw them. He knew what they were and he started forward toward them. A young woman stood on the path gazing out across rock wet with morning dew. A young man stood on the edge of the rock, perilously perched at the cliff edge. No wind blew—and yet strong waves, tipped with green foam, crashed against the rocks. The young man turned his back to the young woman and cast himself off the cliff, but as he fell his face turned toward Isaiah, causing the old man to stumble back.

            Shaking, Isaiah Vates clung to his walking stick and pulled himself up from the ground. He should have remained down. He should have kept his eyes closed. For there at the cliff edge, looking accusatorily at him, stood the young woman with the face of his long-dead granddaughter, Maria Vates.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under 1000 word limit, General, Short Stories