01 Feb Dark Circles in the Ocean
It started three months ago. The dark spots in the water.
I’m residing at my sea side cottage, my own personal getaway that I purchased three years ago. The back deck looks out on the sound, along the shore of the Outer Banks in North Carolina. It’s always been one of my favorite vacation locations and when I published my third book last year, the royalties allowed me to buy this cottage.
I don’t have any neighbors. I specifically wanted it that way. I planned to write my fourth book here and wanted to ensure peace and quiet while I worked away at it. There’s a little pier that stretches out into the sound from beneath my deck. The sound of the water gently slapping against the wood stimulates my creative mind like nothing else can.
I was sitting on the dock a couple days ago when I noticed it for the first time. The dark spots in the water. They were circular and about four feet in circumference. I counted four of them, about twenty feet from where I stood at the end of the pier. The sun was setting, strips of blank cloud colored by scars of brilliant soft orange. The water caught the light and made it sparkle, a twinkling of stars on the gently surface.
Except for the circles of black. Those patches seemed to absorb the light, sucking it down into itself. It was curious and I speculated that maybe the water was just deeper in those spots.
I sipped my glass of water at the end of the pier, the ice clinking against the rim like muffled bells. I didn’t know what to make of my discovery. Instead of dwelling on it any longer, I went inside, determined to finish another page of my book before I went to bed.
Outside, the water filled with two more dark spots.
The next day the sky filled with angry storm clouds and I sat by the big bay window, clacking away at my keyboard as the rain crashed into the ocean before me. Most people don’t like rainy days, but as I writer I feel they are my most productive. The cozy atmosphere, the steady pitter patter of rain, the rolling thunder, all these things spark my creativity and the words just come pouring out like the water from the clouds above.
I was watching the waves, circling the next scene of my book and thinking, when I spotted the dark circles again. One of them was right at the end of the pier, another five spread around it. I idly tapped my finger against my desk, watching them. They had moved since yesterday. I discarded my theory of depth change and instead wondered if it was a school of fish. It didn’t explain the way they sucked in the light, but I wasn’t an expert of the ocean and its many workings.
I stood up, allowing myself a brief break from my work, and went to the door. I opened it, the overhang shielding me from the rain, and breathed in the wet air. The air was fresh, smelling of new rain and ocean salt. I breathed it in and then winced, the wind suddenly carrying a new odor. Something foul and sharp, burning my nose with its repulsive aroma.
I covered my face with a hand, trying not to gag. It was sharp, like vinegar almost, and I felt my eyes water. I slammed the door closed and retreated back inside. I went to my desk and took my seat, wiping the remains of the smell from my nose. I looked out onto the water.
The dark patches of water had moved closer to the house.
That night I couldn’t sleep. I had awoken only an hour after going to bed and couldn’t will my mind back into sweet slumber.
I went to my back deck and stood in the darkness, watching the water, letting the repetitive lapping of waves slow my mind. It was something I had done before when I couldn’t sleep, my mind still buzzing with ideas and worries. The wind whipped my hair across my face, a warm breeze filled with ocean scents.
The moon spilled its white light onto the water and lit the tiny peaks of rolling waves. I listened to them smack against the pier before me and breathed in the atmosphere.
And that’s when I heard…humming.
At first I thought it was just the wind, but as I trained my ears, I realized it was coming from the water. It was soft, but there was a definite melody to the low rise of deep vocals. It almost sounded like chanting.
My eyes settled over the dark patches of water. I hadn’t even noticed them there in the night, but when I actually looked, I could see the light of the moon around the edge of their murky perimeter. But no light filled the center, instead it remained as black as the deepest corners of space.
And the humming was definitely coming from the ebony patches of still water. Something about the ominous sound chilled me to the bone, a slow sad tune that carried in the wind with haunting purpose. It raised the hair on the back of my neck and I leaned down over the railing to get a better look.
The circles were close to the wooden edge of my house, where the water met a wall just below my deck. The pier stretched out from that wall, resting on the surface of the sound like a red carpet.
I took the steps down my porch and walked under the deck to the pier. My bare feet padded across the wood and the sound of the humming became more pronounced. I looked to my right and saw a few of the circles slowly moving back and forth like they were being carried on the tide.
What the hell, I thought, staring out.
And that’s when something stirred the surface of the water. It came with a sudden splash and a slice of white froth. In the center of each of the circles, something emerged for a split second. It was so sudden and the darkness so deep that I couldn’t see what it was, but it scared me half to death.
It had all happened seamlessly and in sync. At the exact same moment, they all had mirrored the exact same action. I didn’t know what it meant, didn’t know if I was dealing with animals or nature, but I knew I was suddenly feeling very uncomfortable.
I raced back to the deck, my ears filling with the strange sad humming. As I was about to go back inside, I was slammed with the awful stench again. I retched as the wind carried it down my throat and felt my eyes tear up. I grabbed the door and pulled it open, desperate to get away from the horrific smell.
I stumbled inside and slammed the door shut.
I stood against it, breathing heavily.
And then I heard something heavy THUNK! onto the pier outside. It came in a rush of water and weight, a loud exclamation in the night.
Eyes widening, I turned to look out the sliding glass door.
In the moonlight, I saw the source of the dark circles.
It stemmed from a huge conch shell, the walls of its curling spiral so dark it made the night glow around it.
Worming out of the opening was a long coil of pink flesh, shining with dripping water. It was thick and oozing, like an infected tongue, and at the end of its two foot span was the torso of a person. It grew out of the pulsing, shimming muscle and its face was bloated and water logged. Its eyes were black and a smile ripped up its face like a deep gash on its nose-less face.
And it was humming. The notes carried in the night air and filled me with crippling dread. It was a song of death, a prelude to carnage.
It pulled itself along the pier towards my house on long finger-less slabs of squirming flesh. They smacked wetly along the wood as it dragged its huge shell behind it, the grating sound screeching in my ears. Even from behind the door, I could smell the creature. It was the same awful reeking plague I had smelled earlier.
As I watched in horror, another one pulled itself out of the water, humming and grinning, hoisting its giant shell out of the water like the hull of a ship. Water spilled over the pier in great waves as it followed the first one.
The humming continued, gaining in volume, and I suddenly was overcome with an urge to just stand and listen. The notes churned my stomach, but I had an unexplainable urge to wait for the creatures to reach me.
Suddenly, the horror of the situation crashed down around me like a wave at high tide. I snapped out of my trance and slammed my hands over my ears. I couldn’t let them get to me. I had to get away, if they reached me I knew I wouldn’t be alive come morning. I didn’t know what these things were, what they wanted, but terror rose like bile in my throat.
I grabbed my car keys as another one pulled itself up the barrier beneath my house. I could hear it flopping onto the strip of sand beneath my deck and I knew I didn’t have long.
I practically kicked my front door open and raced to the car. I jammed the key into the lock and twisted, throwing the door open.
I heard something crash from inside and realized that the first one had just broken in. The thought of the monster pulling itself through my house sent a bolt of adrenaline coursing through me. I dove into the car and started it, slamming the gears into reverse.
I turned on my headlights and my heart thundered in my chest.
One of them was in the open doorway, its worm-like arms sliding along its frame. It was grinning at me, a deep hum echoing towards me.
For a split second, I almost pulled back into the driveway, but the fresh adrenaline was enough to force reason upon my confused mind.
I gunned the engine and raced towards town.
To this day, I had no idea what those things were. I told the police and local wildlife rangers about my experience but they don’t believe me. To them I’m just a new resident, unused to the ways of the ocean.
I put the house up for sale and haven’t returned to it since. I don’t dare.
I tried talking to the local fishermen about the dark circles in the water, but they cut me off as soon as I mentioned them. They told me I shouldn’t talk about such things, hushing me with a quick wave of their hand. They get a look in their eye that scares me, but also tells me I’m not insane.
I don’t know what I’ve witnessed, what those creatures were or what they wanted. Just thinking about it terrifies me.
I know one thing though…I’m never going near the ocean again.
Something tells me I’d hear humming.
Something tells me those creatures would return to catch the one that got away.