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Old 10-02-2016, 02:08 PM
Daniel Hayes Daniel Hayes is offline
Little Boo
 
Join Date: Jun 2015
Location: East Mercia
Posts: 7
The Old Man of Queensport

Hello all. This is the first of two new works I've recently completed. Let me know what you think. Cheers.

The Old Man of Queensport

Today the town of Queensport, to be found on the windswept coastline of north Norfolk, is a quaint and unassuming place that hosts a healthy stream of visitors in summer time. However, at the turn of the twentieth century it had an altogether darker reputation and was shunned by most right thinking folk. It was a place of moulding roofs and twisted spires where dank sea mists swept in and stayed overlong. Its roots were deep for there was evidence of Iron Age people and practices, especially of the ungodly rites by which men were fed mistletoe then buried in bogs, like the ones just west of the town. Moreover, beneath the site of the former abbey, wrecked during the dissolution, in a moss swathed cavern reachable only through a perilously narrow and steep tunnel could be found an ancient menhir. It was wrought from a stone not to be found for hundreds of miles and visited all that looked upon its surface a queer sensation, that of being spied upon or followed that would only diminish with the passage of days. So, Queensport was a place shrouded in fearful suggestion and ill-omen, but what of the people that lived there? All things considered, they were a welcoming and cheerful folk. Their ways may have seemed archaic to outsiders and they liked to keep their own company, but only an uncharitable observer could say that their character was mirrored in their dreadful town.

The same could not be said for one individual, though it was highly unlikely that anybody not of Queensport had ever heard of the Old Man. If he had a name, or if it was recorded anywhere, none knew of it or had ever spoken it. For generations it seemed the Old Man had been old, and since no one had ever exchanged a word with him or could recall a time when he was anything other than the Old Man, none could say exactly how old he really was. What was known for certain was that he occupied a dishevelled hovel on the edge of town, overlooking the North Sea, from which it seemed he never departed. Only children dared on by their peers ever got close enough to describe certain details. From such witnesses rumours had spread about a house crowded with antediluvian treasures: bowls, books, masks, materials, statuettes and a host of other out of place exotica. As for the Old Man himself, only one child admitted to having seen him. Feeling especially brave he had, at dead of night, crept up beneath a back window. There he had heard a muffled tone from within, a voice as though in conversation, but with only a single audible participant. Then the boy had been distracted by a glinting on the ground, something caught in the light of a harvest moon which leered from behind a bank of cloud. It was a little disk which, after a moments study, revealed itself to be a great golden coin of some antiquity. The boy gasped perceptibly at his discovery then froze. The sound of speech from within the house ceased and the night became frightfully still, except for the staccato rhythm of the little boyís trembling heart. When nothing happened after what felt like an age he slowly got up and padded away, walking straight into the Old Man. The harvest moon illumined a dreadful face that was networked by scars, rendered cyclopean by an empty right socket and was weathered like a wind-scourged cliff face. The boy ran screaming into the night, only able to regale his fellows and folk with the terrible tale after the onset of daylight. As proof of his story the boy produced the gold coin. The parson, who had been trained at Westcott House, identified its provenance as Spanish, likely washed ashore from the sunken wreck of an Armada galleon. Soon all of Queensport was talking; exchanging rumour and gossip as country folk are want to do. But they reckoned that since the boy was not harmed and was, after all, trespassing, that they would leave the Old Man well alone.

This the natives resolved upon, but there was among their number that day an outsider. A recent arrival to these shores, travelling out of London, he had been drifting here and there in such of a living, for the attainment of which he would utilise all means available to him. The sight of the gold coin had inculcated a desire in him that could not be shaken. Could there be more? A whole hoard perhaps? And what about the other reputed treasures? All that stood between him and these rumoured riches was an old man holed-up in his derelict dwelling. The allure was too great and the outsider made his preparations, steeling out the next night with plunder his purpose. A great gale blew in from the sea which cast furious waves against the bluffs but the outsider was not deterred. He approached the hovel which he could see was dimly lit from within. Once he saw just how isolated the place was and how the storm had driven the townsfolk indoors he grew in boldness. In the end, it was only the old man in there. The outsider stalked to the front of the house and peered inside. The panes of glass were warped and grimy with age, but sure enough, he could see that the interior was a mess of unfathomable things with no living soul in sight. With a stiff shoulder to the mouldy door it gave way, the wind howling in through the aperture like a vanguard driving ahead of the invader. It swept up loose leafs of time stained parchment and throttled lighted candles that refused to go out. In stepped the outsider brazenly. Even in the wake of the sea-born squall, the atmosphere was stale, like the air imprisoned within an ancient tomb, pregnant with the promise of long dormant dread. Through piles of artefacts the outsider rummaged and pawed, mounds of treasure heaped up like the grave-goods of an ancient king. There were scrolls crawling with indecipherable characters, lofty tomes sealed with padlocks and multi-limbed statuettes painted in gaudy hues. The interloper pocketed a few small items then produced a sack he had brought along and set to work creaming off the most valuable looking objects. Many a curious volume of forgotten lore seemed merely quaint to the outsider who pushed great stacks of them over in his frenzied searching. They fell like the cyclopean pillars of a forgotten race, succumbing to the irresistible onslaught of entropy. Scores of pendants, bowls and stones were stuffed into the intruderís sack after only a few minutes of grasping and groping. But gold, in coin, bullion or crafted form eluded him and a fire of ruinous need burned in his soul, driven on by the siren song of imminent and illimitable riches.

It was at that moment that the thing caught his eye, the thing which had seized the wits and sealed the doom of dozens of adventurers in its time. Amidst a drift of lesser things there glinted a gore red ruby. The outsider stretched forth his hand and clasped it. It was an idol of jade, wrought with sumptuous skill into the sinuous form of a serpent with heads at both extremities. In place of eyes there blazed rubies of astounding brilliance. In gaping maws teeth of pearlescent ivory gleamed with predatory promise. The quality of the idol smote his senses and numbed him to all extraneous considerations. If he had an eternity to consider its every characteristic he would have considered it too brief. However, an uncanny impression brought the outsider nearer to the surface of sensible consciousness. There it was again; a dim pulsating and a feint signature of heat emanating from the snake idol. A subtle movement, of contorting scales and delicate writhing caused the man to shriek in alarm. It was at that moment that the invader became aware of the presence of the Old Man. Except that in the dim light and through the lens of perception overawed by terror he was not old at all. This young manís face was a mask of sheer menace, twisted by a horrifying grimace that betrayed yellowing teeth, whilst a single eye burned with baleful purpose. It was a face that belonged to another age, an older time and a place far away. Alas for the outsider, it was the last face he ever saw.

...
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  #2  
Old 10-02-2016, 02:09 PM
Daniel Hayes Daniel Hayes is offline
Little Boo
 
Join Date: Jun 2015
Location: East Mercia
Posts: 7
...

The next day was bright and the late September winds had died down to a gentle yet still palpable autumn breeze. The folk of Queensport emerged from their houses cautiously. Could those inhuman cries they heard during the night have been the storm after all? When all appeared at first glance to be as it should, they steadily went about their business. About midmorning one of the citizens was taking a brisk walk along the shoreline when he saw what looked like a trunk of driftwood caught in a swell. On closer inspection it was a body. The police were called in and the corpse identified as that of the outsider by the family with whom he had been lodging in Queensport. They were initially held under suspicion of the murder until certain facts came to light. Principally, a closer inspection of the body revealed certain inscrutable details. Whilst the outsiderís back had been broken by a fall, or push, down the cliff, this was determined by the pathologist not to have been the cause of death. That was attributed to two deep puncture wounds to the throat, made as if by fangs of some enormous beast. Suffice it to say, the case was never solved. Gradually the whole affair dimmed in the collective memory of Queensport, though the same could not be said for the individual recollection of those that had seen the victimís face at close hand, frozen as it had been in a singularly contorted grimace of terror. As for the Old Man, no lights were ever witnessed burning at his hovel again. Reconnoitres by certain of the bold children reported that nobody was present and that the once easily perceptible mounds of trinkets and detritus within were plainly absent. In time, as the already dilapidated building crumpled into final oblivion, others struck up the courage to draw near and all concluded safely that the Old Man of Queensport was no more. Soon after, the unsavoury aura that had suffused the town began to dissipate, withdrawing into the shadows from whence it came. The bogs were drained and the ancient menhir was sealed off forever after a mudslide buried the entrance tunnel. Visitors began to trek the coastal paths and see the sights of an ancient and pleasant corner of the country. But one must be careful not to scratch too much at the surface of things that are strange and that you do not understand, for few can divine the doom to which you may become destined.
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