The Spot Writers – “Land’s End” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. The July prompt: a character finds an object that had been lost. (In this tale’s case, a person!)

This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Her first novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, is available. https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/

***

Land’s End by Cathy MacKenzie

 Annie dashes across the jutting rocks, her flowing gown clotted with crimson, and pauses to catch a breath. A menacing black ceiling threatens to descend upon her. She balances precariously on tiptoes to grab the sole gleaming gem. The wind hurls wet hair across her face, jarring her to reality.

She glances around. Adam might be following. She shudders in the cold before continuing her trek.

A few more feet. The cave lies ahead, and Adam isn’t aware of it. She told no one about the cave, knowing she might need its shelter and protection against an evil that might befall her someday. 

The cave was her discovery—and her secret.

 ***

Sherry scanned the newspaper article about the discovery of a human bone washed upon the shore at Land’s End the previous day. The beach had been aptly named since it was the last beach of five heading eastward. Steep cliffs and boulders sheltered each individual beach, making them private. The remains of several dilapidated and almost-non-existent huts dotted the landscape. Although one had to be careful traipsing in the brush, that area was half a kilometre from the beach, and most beachgoers remained on the sandy side.

She had trampled through the brush section many times but had never stumbled upon anything of importance nor had she fallen down abandoned wells. She figured the gossip about sightings and strange occurrences were based on legend and folklore.

She usually frequented Turtle Bend, the beach adjoining Land’s End, but the previous day an unknown force had lured her from Turtle Bend to the other area, which was when she discovered the cave. She hadn’t had time to enter it, which gnawed at her. What lay inside?

“Corey, I’m running out for a bit.” She placed the newspaper on the table and waited for an answer. Had she yelled loud enough?

Corey, glued to the TV, relaxed in the den down the hall. If he hadn’t heard, she could leave and return before he even knew she’d left.

If she had more time, she could walk the thirty minutes to Land’s End, but it was almost eight o’clock. She needed to get there and return home before dark.

***

 Shrouded in darkness, Annie crouches on the rocks. Though the night transformed the bloodstains into a patterned fabric, she feels dirty. She allows the soaring waves to rush over her.

Numb from the rawness of the chilled water, yet refreshed and clean, she creeps along the cliff’s edge. Once she reaches the cave, the storm will shield her, and she’ll be safe. The ocean will be her protectress from evil.

If Adam frequented the beach as she did, he might have found the cave, but he doesn’t enjoy the ocean. Despite living near the water, he never learned to swim, but he assured Annie he would be able to save himself if the need arose.

 ***

Sherry traipsed from her car to the beach. The wind had picked up since she left home, but the sun hadn’t fully set. In the distance, black symbols marred the glaring yellow police tape that cordoned off a small rectangular area. The words CRIME SCENE, DO NOT CROSS designating the area where the bone had been discovered became clearer the closer she approached. When she neared the ocean’s edge, she turned left and scrambled over the boulders. She hadn’t gone very far before the water lapped at the rocks. Spray spit at her legs. Salt coated her lips. Just a few more feet.

Exhausted, she finally faced the cave. She dug her feet into the sand, thankful she could do so. The wind had blown her about like a rag doll. What a foolhardy decision. Would she be found if she had an accident? Several times she had almost fallen.

She gathered her damp, tangled hair into a ponytail, wishing she had tied it back before she left home. She searched her pockets for the penlight flashlight she had grabbed before leaving and switched it on.

She shuddered at the eeriness of the cavernous hollow. She advanced a few steps and shone the flashlight, the thin beam threatening to rip apart the abrasive walls. Water, reminding her of tears, dripped hesitantly over the uneven surface. She wiped her face with her sleeve.

She continued toward the back of the cave, where the light illuminated scattered bones. She had never seen human bones previously, but that’s what they were. They had been gnawed and chewed by wild animals.

The longer she stared, the more her tears flowed. Flashbacks gripped her in a vise; her body winced under the pressure. Her own bones constricted, about to snap like frozen vines. She clutched the flashlight, afraid she’d drop it and become stranded as Annie obviously had—Annie from her dreams. Sherry hadn’t known her as Annie then, merely an unnamed female bearing innocent features.

Until the bone washed up on shore. And then Sherry’s dreams made sense.

The remains were believed to be that of Annie Creamer, who had disappeared in 1892. The story still spewed from people’s lips, everyone craving an unsolved mystery. Back then, the townsfolk had accused Adam of her death, but he had denied it. Everyone knew he had beaten his wife on more than one occasion. Everyone knew, but no one had done anything to stop it.

***

 Annie curls up on the cave floor. She ignores her tears. The enormity of what she did unfolds before her as if watching a play at Ulysses Theatre. Is Adam physically able to search for her? Can she return to face her fate? Surely once the truth is revealed, the noose won’t be looped around her neck. Or would it?

What is the truth? Will anyone believe her? Wives are supposed to obey their husbands, no matter what torment men bestow upon them. Will females forever be treated as chattels? Will a day come when women can stand alongside men to be treated as equals? It won’t happen in her lifetime, but she often dreams of herself in a future time.

She falls asleep, hugging herself in the dank cavern.

***

Sherry followed the flashlight’s beam while leaving the protection of the cave. When she emerged, the wind rushed at her face. Glad she had donned a windbreaker, she pulled up the hood before clambering over the rocks to the safety of the beach. While the wind howled like a tormented soul and pelted harsh shards of salt water onto her face, she gazed across the endless ocean.

“Annie. Annie, where are you?” The voice, distinctly male, came from far away, the words fading as quickly as Sherry heard them.

Sherry stood transfixed. Though she wanted to run, she also wanted to stay. Despite her confusion, she remained rooted. What lay below the wet sand and how far could she sink? If she dug her sodden sneakers into the darkened mass, she could disappear into its depths, never to be seen again. She had always felt conflicted about her lapses into the past. Had she lived a prior life? Her confusion intensified after discovering the cave, and the washed-up bone added more mystery.

Having lived in Briarwood since birth, Sherry grew up with the knowledge of Annie’s plight but had always considered the dreams as a result of being aware of the legend. Until that moment, standing before the ocean’s passion and madness, she hadn’t realized she lived the legend.

The moon illuminated wild whitecaps rushing across the vast expanse. Sounds swept in off the water, the waves unleashing pent-up emotions and hushed voices.

“Sherry…Sherry…Sherry.”

A white form appeared. Corey’s unruly hair sprouted from the top, and brown eyes glowed from its centre.

Corey?

Fear coursed through her. No, it was Adam. Adam yelling for Annie. Adam searching for his wife in the dark.

“Annie…Annie…Annie.”

Waves thundered against the boulders, obliterating further sounds.

The ghostly image exploded into red splatters.

Sherry touched her chest. Blood? She couldn’t determine for sure, not in the dark, but an acrid smell wafted into her nostrils.

She stumbled, her feet slogging into the sand.

“No!” Her voice echoed, startling her. Had she yelled that loudly? She must get back to her car. Needed to get away from the voices. Needed to see Corey.

When she reached the car, her heart stopped its incessant pounding. She stood on solid ground again. She swiped her hand across her brow. Had she smeared blood on her face? She unlocked the door and jumped in. After the engine roared to life, she turned on the interior light and pulled the rearview mirror toward her. Her face, though ashen and wet, wasn’t smeared with red. Her hands were clean. No blood on her clothing.

With a fervour she hadn’t experienced while on the beach, a pleasant warmth flowed through her. Corey. She couldn’t wait to see him and regretted not having told him she was going out. If he had discovered her absence, she hoped he hadn’t worried.

She headed home to Corey, who loved and treated her as a man should. Now that Annie had been found, both Annie and Sherry could rest in peace.

***

 The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.ca/

 

 

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