As the autumn leaves dance through the air and I, once again, turn to my favourite jumper, I think about my beautiful holiday. At the very end of summer, I returned to my favourite destination: Whitby. This North Yorkshire coastal town calms my very soul. I feel better. I sleep better. And I am always inspired to write something when I am there. The views and the atmosphere are so incredibly rousing if you have a creative mind. My first two novels are set here.
Once more, Whitby Holiday Cottages provided me with a perfect base. I stayed in a gorgeous cottage, on Cliff Street, named Abbey View. The booking process had been simple and easy. On arrival, we were greeted with a tray of complimentary drinks and biscuits. Fresh flowers were in several rooms. I knew that I was going to have a brilliant week.
Whitby’s magic had me enthralled immediately and we did so many fun and interesting things over the course of those wonderful seven days. And when it grew dark and we all started yawning, we headed back to Abbey View with smiles on our faces. The view from the living room window was exquisite. I miss that view and I think of it often. I also miss taking my cup of coffee and writing pad out into the front yard in the morning, knowing full well that words would find me and they would soon be caught on to that blank page. And it didn’t take long.
One morning, I looked up at Whitby Abbey and it began to disappear as a fog seemed to descend from nowhere. It appeared rather spooky and my head was coming up with all kinds of ghostly notions. I thought of Bram Stoker and some of the key scenes of Dracula that were set on those winding hundred-and-ninety-nine-steps. As a fan of horror, I quickly came up with an idea. And I scribbled and scribbled away until I had finished.
As it’s almost Halloween, it seems the ideal time to share this with you. Here is my short Whitby story, very much inspired by my stay at Abbey View. Thank you, Whitby Holiday Cottages, for another marvellous holiday.
As the bells rang out from St Mary’s, deep into the night, the creatures of the darkness were summoned from their hiding places. Fog circled the Abbey, concealing the dramatic ruins from view. Snow-white seagulls soared through the ebony sky; so starkly bright that they almost appeared spectral. Even the buildings huddled together, over on the east side, as though they were conspiring to veil some ancient secret. Old whisperings crept along thin ghauts, leading into the still harbour and high up into the clifftops.
Rain splashed the cobbled streets. The narrow strips of pavement glistened along Church Street. This street attracted masses of tourists by day; it embodied the notion of the hustle and bustle of a popular seaside town. Though, it stood eerily empty and silent by night, and it was an entirely altered place by midnight.
The humans inside the cottages slept soundly and could not be roused from their deep slumber. Come the morning, they would comment upon how well they had slept and proclaim that the sea air had been responsible. They never knew or understood that the sea air had so little to do with it and, in fact, they had been under a Whitby spell; a deep-rooted and profound trance. The creatures of the darkness could run amok these antiquated streets with wild abandon, and after hearing the proud chime and cry of the church bells, they stirred from their ramshackle graves. Arms outstretched and the low hum beginning, clawed hands scratched and scooped at the soil. The awakening had begun.
Hums became chants, quiet yet strong and purposeful; a synchronised rumble of growing noise. Tales of former glories, a pretty face and maritime adventures. Bodies emerged, in varying states. Skin was gashed open, revealing bone. In some cases, limbs were lacking. Clothes were tattered and spattered with blood.
The rhythm grew stronger, louder, much like the beat of a heavy drum. As Whitby slept, the creatures marched down the hundred-and-ninety-nine steps. The chant became a roaring sea shanty and it lost its echo to a past well-lived and it became a despairing sonnet of recollected pain. A ballad of anguish and agony that had long been forgotten. But they remembered. The creatures. They both recoiled from the harrowing flashbacks and embraced them. They were important. Lives had been lost, so many of them, and although the horror was relived on a nightly basis, it could not be accepted. So, they lingered, night after night, repeating this haunting process with no closure to end their suffering. How could they move on? They hadn’t found him. He didn’t have a final resting place as they did, and it simply wasn’t right. Not for a lad so young.
His father, the captain of a once great ship, lead the line of ghostly sailors. His pale blue eyes were drowning in melancholy, but a flicker of determination still resided there. He hobbled along on injured legs, and his remaining arm swayed at his side. A long, cruel gash ran down the length of his torso, but he didn’t appear to feel the physical pain. He only felt the eternal love in his heart and the sickening loss of losing his precious son. And he felt the guilt, always, it burned his soul and swallowed him whole. He never should have allowed his only child to step aboard that ship on that fateful evening.
The captain thinks of his poor wife. He imagines her all alone, consumed by grief, and he vows to find her. It’s the same sorrowful story each night. But he never finds her. She’s long gone. Shuffling along the deserted streets, the captain’s hefty, black boots stop dead on Grape Lane. The others stop too, leaving a respectful distance between them.
His timeworn eyes leak tears and they race down his weather-beaten, gruff face. What was once his home, is no more. The building remains, and when he closes his eyes, he can hear his son right there on the street. He’s laughing and playing; he’s full of life. He can hear the sweetness in his wife’s voice, as she gently guides him back inside the house in time for supper. As he opens his eyes, they are gone, and only some kind of shopfront looks back at him. He peers closer. Books. It’s a bookshop. And he cannot fathom how this could be. Where is his wife? And where are the remains of his dear young son?
An ear-splitting, pitiable moan roars from his throat and into the cold air. He cannot rest until he finds them. Though, he senses that this will not occur tonight. It’s late, and now his bones are beginning to ache. So, on he goes, bypassing the other men as they fall into an orderly single line behind him. The ballad of torment builds once more. The sonnet of memories plays as they stride back into the hush of Church Street. The chanting grows stronger as they ascend the many steps, slowly fading to a hum as they climb back into their aged graves, covering themselves up with the earth.
The captain takes one last glance out to sea. It faintly shimmers, though it’s nothing but a blanket of thick, black darkness out there. He too settles back down, deep into the ground, as the boisterous gulls shriek overhead; the only witnesses of the ghostly sailors and their tragic, nocturnal mission.
You can book your own fabulous Whitby holiday here: Whitby Holiday Cottages
My first novel, set in Whitby, can be found here: Black Eyed Boy
The sequel can be found here: Green Eyed Girl