The Endless Black of the Sea
Submitted by Gareth Spark
Whitby, North Yorkshire, UK
This is a true story, from my time as a security guard, a few years ago.
This one night I locked up the container unit that served as the security firm’s office and headed out into the dark. The unit sat on the sea wall and a row of painted wooden chalets stretched half a mile ahead in a great curve below the darkness of the cliff. During the day they glittered in the sun’s light reflected from the North Sea, but at night they were shadow wreathed things, the gaps between them all too convenient for a thief, or something worse, to adopt as a hiding place.
It was in Whitby, North Yorkshire, the end of summer. I’d been out of work for a few months and when I’d spotted the position of security guard advertised in the local newspaper, I’d not thought twice about applying. I thought I could sit in the container, drink coffee, read the books I’d put off reading for years and work at that damn novel. Only I hadn’t considered the reality of being alone in the shadow of cliffs hundreds of feet high at 3 AM, with nothing but the dark waves and the mists that sprang from them for company. Tourists rented the chalets for the summer, left their valuables inside until they could return the next day. It saved them dragging bags and cases up and from the beach, I suppose, and my firm were there to make sure no hoodlums broke into them in the later watches of the night. I would set out every half hour with my torch, dressed in a large fluorescent jacket and peaked cap, search along the sea wall and the cliff path in a circle, then make it back to the container. The trip took a quarter of an hour and I was utterly alone after the last tourists left. I’ll never forget the scratching noise the sea made in the pebbles and stones as it dragged back from the shore, nor the distant melancholy lights of ships passing on the heaving, endless black of the sea.
I was 22 years old, fearless, as you are at that age, and I was singing something when I turned back onto the sea wall that last night. The beach at Whitby has been used for 2,000 years, by Celtic fishermen, Roman explorers, Saxon Monks and Viking raiders, smugglers and wreckers and killers and honest men alike. A lot of history, a lot of unknown misery, and who knows what drags itself up from those years when the lights are out, and the world sleeps.
I swayed the torch beam over the sea-wet concrete, whistling, and caught the figure of a man in the beam, seated on the wall, feet dangling over the edge, gazing out to sea. I was startled, as I was convinced I had been alone. ‘Hello, you all right?’ I said it automatically, without thinking, as one does. I can see the man now, long black hair, knotted and greasy, hanging down his back, dressed in an outfit of a rough, brown material that looked like sacking almost, like nothing I’d seen before. The hairs began to creep up on my arms as the figure turned its head to look at me and I saw, in the beam of the torch that where his eyes and forehead should be, there was nothing but a cavernous smashed-in crater. His lower jaw hung loose and wide and bore a short black beard. You might think you scream at something like that. You don’t. You freeze, your whole body becomes something apart from you, something that won’t obey the slightest impulse. Then he was gone, simply gone, as though at the flicking of a switch. I walked over, shone the torch down onto the beach to see if it was some joker jumped down onto the sand, but I was as alone as ever I had been and there was no sound outside the sighing of the sea. I left the job not long after that.
That’s my ghost story.