His voice frightened me to death, where on earth did he come from!
Yes, it was a dim evening, dark clouds drifted by, the wind gained in strength but still the visibility was good. And I know for sure that he was not there when I arrived. Neither did I smell the tobacco smoke from his antique clay pipe.
Antique pipe??? The sailor looked if he was from a completely different century....
The look on my face amused him: "Don't be afraid of me, I will not hurt you. But...." and he took his pipe out of his mouth and pointed the stem at the old derelict building I wanted to explore: ".... be aware of the ghosts in there."
I wanted to ask why but not a sound came from my mouth. Instead I obeyed the silent order in his beautiful grey eyes and walked to the old bench to sit down next to him. How could he be so old and still so young? Like a a strong healthy man in his thirties. If this whole moment wasn't so extremely surreal, I would admit I felt attracted to him.
I sat down and for a short while we looked each other in the eyes. There was a swift recognition and for a second I saw a very strong emotion in his face. Then he smiled again, looked away from me and talked; his deep and warm voice resonated in my chest:
"The wind howled and the people of the village of Thrusk knew this was not going to be a usual night. They were used to storms and learned as children how to recognize the signs. You had to, being a fishing community so close to the ocean. Too many lives were lost at sea, too many widows worked twice as hard to support their families.
But not only adults never returned from their journeys, also children from the age of 12. An age you were supposed to work and help the fish and money getting in. You left school and life educated you.
John was one of these boys. But John wanted more from life.
He loved the sea, he loved the trade of many generations before him, he never wanted to anything else than being a fisherman.
But he wanted to learn to write and read properly. Not just what he learned at school.
The headmaster recognized his intelligence but his parents said he could not be missed at the boat. There were too many mouths to be fed, every hand, even at the age of 12, was needed.
This night the sound of the arriving storm, straight from the ocean, outvoted the sound of the high waves battering the coast and that of the window shutters, rattling a tune of fear and danger.
The wind blew down the chimney, the flames of the open fire danced fanatically round the kettle with the stew. The delicious smell reached John's nose but not his stomach.
He survived a severe storm, one of the very lucky few that night. He knew about the fear, the struggle, the will to survive.
A stirring feeling in his stomach told him somewhere out there people were in danger. He was extremely restless and when the church bells rang later that night, he could not even remember what he ate. He rushed outside in his rain coat, hat and wellies and joined the other villages on their way to the beach.
The following day the bright sun revealed the debris of what was once a beautiful small boat. The only survivor, a young woman, was taken to the doctor. She was heavily traumatised and only mentioned one name 'William'. They assumed it had to be her husband who was never going to be found. The woman, they called her Mary, stayed in the village, never spoke, never smiled.
But she helped families, cleaned houses, looked after the small children and cooked meals.
Also for John and during the months following the shipwrecking, John developed feelings for her he never experienced before".
The sailor paused, his hand rested on mine and I folded my fingers around his. He tightened his grip as if my hand was an anchor. An anchor for his emotions. He raised my hand and held it against his wet cheek, it was only then that I noticed my own tears.
"Although Mary did not speak, John noticed that she was aware of his feelings for her. He knew he could not rush her, he needed to be patient, to show her to trust him. He wanted to protect her, shelter her, to reach her heart which he realised, still belonged to William. His love for her got stronger and stronger.
One night, when he could not sleep, he heard her footsteps, the sound stopped in front of his bedroom door. He imagined hearing her breath, he listened, not sure if he wanted her to go away or to open the door to let her in. But she did not walk away. John got out of bed and opened the door.
The look of her slim body, her long hair and her dark brown eyes, made his heart stop beating for a second. He took her in his arms and carried her to his bed.
He woke up by the sound of the thunderstorm. The lightning illuminated the bedroom, the wind blew the rain through the open window, the curtains waved. He reached out for Mary, knowing she would be frightened but she was not there. He called her name but she did not answer.
He went out of bed and went to her room but it was empty. He looked downstairs but could not find her.
Like the night of the storm where she was found at the beach, he put on his rain suit and went outside to look for her. Once in a while he stopped to shout her name. He went down to the beach and walked and walked, desperately calling 'Mary!!!' until the thunder storm calmed down and the rain stopped. The sun tried to warm him but he remained cold. Without Mary he would never feel warm again.
A few days later, someone knocked on his door. John knew instantly that the body of Mary was found. They had taken her to the mortuary and begged John not to go and see her. But no one could stop him. The crowd parted when he approached the mortuary and the villagers stood in silence when he closed the door behind him. But they stayed, to comfort him afterwards.
John was never the same again, he occasionally smiled but never laughed. He drank his weekly beer in the Pub but never joined the group of fisherman. His bright eyes turned hazy grey. Although still attractive to the unmarried women in the village, he never married.
John passed away at the age of 76 and was laid to rest beside Mary. Nobody realised it was the same date of the shipwrecking 35 years before; March 26, 1819.
That very same evening, a shivering cry was heard from the mortuary. The voice of a woman begging William for forgiveness because she betrayed him. The sound sent shivers down the spine of everyone who heard her. The grief ended with a whisper: "John....."
The mortuary was never used again. No one was near it on this particular date in the following years.
|Photo:@yorkshire_womble (Instagram) @|
His pipe fell in the sand, he was still holding my hand but loosened the grip, his other hand touched my face: "You returned, I have been waiting for you, Mary. Follow me." I did not ask him how he knew my name, I did not question the recognition earlier tonight. Instead I followed him and together we entered the mortuary. It's rusty hinges, etched by the salt of the ocean, obeyed without any resistance. The moist smell faded and a light glowed when the door closed behind us.
A police officer who passed by, noticed a soft light behind the broken windows of the mortuary and drove his car up the hill, got out of his car and checked the large wooden doors of the derelict building. They were firmly closed by two rusty locks.
He climbed on top of a few crates against the eastern wall to look through the broken windows but the soft light was gone. He used his torch to explore the interior but did not see anything alarming, just an empty building with a strong smell of decay.
Just as he wanted to step off the crates, he heard soft whispers and gentle laughs of happiness.
He wrote in his report it were definitely the voices of a man and a woman but there was no one in the premisses. Signed: constable Wilson. Date March 26, 2019.
Word of thanks: the photo of @yorkshire_womble (Instagram) inspired me to write this story and I was given permission to use it as an illustration for which I am very grateful. Thank you so much Ali, luv yah Lass X
Links: please visit the beautiful Instagram account of @yorkshire_womble
Note: the story is pure fiction! A figment of my imagination!