This is the fourth of the stories in the first Chronicles book.
THOUGHTS OF NORTH MOOR
It was the type of day Phil called “A typical Mark Johnson day.” The wind was strong, the tide was running hard, the gulls were swooping and cawing as they dived for fish in the bay.
As expected, Mark was out on the cliff tops by the old house he and Annette had used as home for the last five years. After every call out since North Moor, Mark had returned here. He felt at one with his spirits and could get his thoughts collected for what was to come. Usually Mark and Annette would rise early and breakfast together, discussing their plans for the day. However, today something was preying on his mind. He had got up a lot earlier than normal, stayed quiet and gone out, hardly giving her a hug or kiss.
Annette had a feeling from their time together that Mark was having doubts again. To try and get him out of this state was of no use; he had to come around at his pace and in his own time. Sometimes, it would be just a few hours; other times, it would be days. There was no use rushing it. Annette knew he would go for a long walk to think things over; she knew where his favourite spots were and what they meant. Each had its own memories and he could sit and think of how he was affected by the events that had occurred there.
There was one case that had no spot though. North Moor did not need a special place as it was always with him and always would be; Mark was certain of that. The terrors of North Moor held Mark in a grip. When he thought of them, he usually had the shakes as he fought to consider what had gone on that day.
Not being able to see him, Annette called out the back door, “Love, are you all right?”
There was no answer.
At first this did not worry her unduly. Mark could be deep in thought or out of hearing range. There were a lot of factors to be taken into account, so she went back to the kitchen to put the kettle on for tea. Time passed. She completed unnecessary chores, and now she was really worried. Mark had gone out without a flask of coffee or even a quick snack, and he had been gone for hours, something she was not accustomed to.
Worry sent her upstairs to get the binoculars. Going from room to room Annette could see all areas of the cliffs, but she could not see Mark. She went back downstairs into the main lounge and there she found his phone. Annette now knew he was in a state and probably didn’t know what he was doing out there. This scared her even more. He had had many bad days since North Moor. Their friend Phil had told her. But Mark always stayed in contact. Annette knew she had only one choice now.
Unable to get Phil on the phone, she left a frantic message on his answerphone, “Phil, please get back to me as soon as you can. I am worried sick about Mark!”
While she waited, Annette paced around the house, waiting for him to return her call. What she didn’t know was that Phil was out of the office and wouldn’t be back for two hours.
“Annette, what’s the problem?” Phil said when he picked up the call. “Sorry I couldn’t get back to you earlier, I was working out.”
“It’s Mark. He went out early this morning. Didn’t give me a hug or a morning kiss. He hasn’t got his phone with him and didn’t even take a flask. I looked all around from upstairs but cannot see him!”
“I know how much he loves you, Annette, and would never think of worrying you like that unless he was really upset about something.”
“I know, Phil, that is what is so worrying. We know his private places, all of them can be seen from here, and he is not at any of them.”
“This is new to me and somewhat concerning, especially as he has no phone with him. I will be over as soon as I can.”
“Thanks so much!”
Half an hour later, Phil’s car pulled up the dirt road that led to the old house. The bumpy road made Phil think of Mark’s history and the knock backs he had suffered before meeting Annette.
“Do you know when he left?” Phil asked.
“It must have been before 8:20. I was up then and there were no signs of him. I didn’t worry until I saw he hadn’t taken any coffee or the phone. Phil, has he done this before? You have known him longer.”
“I know he has his off days, but usually he would make sure he took a phone, especially since North Moor, but he never got this bad.”
“What DID happen there, Phil? He won’t talk about it, even to me.”
“He only ever talked to me about what happened outside the house and down the caves. He never said what happened inside and I think that is the scary part for him. He thinks by not talking about it, he will get past it, when all he does is repress it.”
“Do you have any idea, where he might have gone, Phil, or how we can get to him in this state of mind? I am worried for his sanity.”
“The only thing I could suggest is for you to take your car along the north cove road and I’ll take mine along the south. After a few miles, the edges turn in and we will have most of the cove in sight then.”
As the cars left the house, neither Phil nor Annette knew if they would find Mark or even if he wanted to be found. After a short while, Phil stopped to check the cove from his position on the headland. All he saw was the tide flowing, the gulls cawing and a mass of seaweed.
From her viewpoint on the north-cove headland, Annette could see nearly all the cove and yet there was still no sign of Mark.
Annette rang Phil to check if he could see anything. “Phil, from here I have most of the cove in sight and I still can’t see him, can you?”
“No!, I have drawn a blank as well. There is only one thing to do now. We have to go search the cove ourselves. Meet me at the café just past Harrison’s potteries.”
“On my way now.”
The drive to the cafe only took a few minutes. As Annette pulled up in her car, she was greeted by Phil. “Phil, this is so worrying.”
Phil’s voice stuttered as he greeted his friend. “Hi, Annette, I hope he isn’t hurt.”
“We couldn’t see him from either side, which leaves one option: he is in the caves,” said Annette.
“Yes, I agree.”
“Can you clear something up for me, please?”
“I can try,” said Phil.
“If, as we think, he is down in the sea caves. why did he go there? By his own admission, the caves at North Moor are his worst fears come true.”
“I have an idea. The sea caves here are not going down in the ground. He feels safer and more secluded as he knows he will never defeat his fear of that day. He went to the caves to get as close as he could to the real thing. The first thing we have to do is find him. We don’t have time or light on our side now!”
With their torches in hand, the pair set off down to the caves. The cove was small and well overlooked by the cliffs above but had many small caves that a person could crawl into. Another thing they had to think about now the tide had turned was that, according to the coastguard station, they had a maximum of two hours before the caves started to flood.
Phil and Annette approached the various cave entrances, stopping to see if they could see a light deep inside or maybe hear Mark chanting to himself as he did when he was worried about something. At every cave, they were met with silence, not a sound nor sight of Mark.
“This is really scaring me now, Annette. I have only known him do this once or twice before and both times I got to him just in time to save him from his terrors. Now we have so many problems, with the tide coming in and no idea where to look or how far to search inside. We also have to consider our way, and don’t forget, the deeper the cave, the smaller they get, and they will fill faster.”
Annette looked anxious and said, “I know, that is the most worrying part of all, that in his state of mind he could have walked in and not realised how far.”
Phil looked at his watch and said. “According to the coastguard, on today’s tides, we have about an hour left before we HAVE to get out or risk being trapped here. He said the tides here can fill these caves in under twenty minutes with the ledges and dips creating rips and swells.”
Slowly inching their way across the entrances, the pair moved from one cave to another and were just about to give up the search, hoping Mark would be safe, when Phil stopped in his tracks, head tilted like a dog on the trail. “Listen to that!” he whispered.
Barely audible was a faint chanting noise. “Mark! Can you hear me mate?” Phil called out.
Phil got no reply from his friend. “I have to go get him out, I know he is in there.”
“Just be careful, Phil, we don’t have much time left!”
Phil slowly moved from ledge to ledge, desperate to get his friend out before the tides came in. Breathing was becoming harder as the air grew stale and the roof closed in. Phil crawled along the tiny ledge of the small cave. Where the noises had been coming from, all he heard now was silence and his own breathing. Then suddenly, ahead on a small ledge, Phil could see his friend. At first he thought he was just in a deep trance until he realised he was hardly breathing.
“Oh God!“ Phil cried. “Don’t die on us now, we will miss you so much!”
When Phil reached his friend, he could see that he was lying face down, unconscious on a tiny ledge, and very cold. With all his muscles tense and aching with the pain and strain of dragging a much larger man, Phil slowly inched his way back to the entrance. Each painful pull of Mark’s body was made worse as he felt the water rising and knew time was running out. By the time they were half way out, Phil had another problem: he had to make sure his friend’s head stayed above the water. As they exited the cave, Phil yelled, “Give him CPR quickly, or we’ll lose him!”
After about three minutes, Mark came around.
“Nice to have ya back, mate!” Phil quipped.
“Nice to be back Phil, thanks for the helping hand,” Mark said, relieved to be safe again.
“It was touch and go for a long time. You had us worried going off like that. Even I haven’t seen you that bad!”
“Sorry about that. Talking about North Moor brought it back in focus and I freaked out, I didn’t mean to upset you, love,” Mark said as he hugged Annette.
Through tears of relief Annette said, “I am just glad that we found you in time. Now we have found you, can you tell us what it was all about?”
“I guess after this I do owe the two of you an explanation. Phil was half right when he thought it was what happened inside the house that scared me. It was not what I saw, more what I did not see.”
“Can you explain, please?” they both said as one.
“I’ll try to. All things exist in a place and time but when I opened the bedroom door at North Moor, there was nothing there, no walls, beds or even a room. Just a multi-coloured swirling mass with tentacles and barbs that somehow latched on to your fears and made them real. The only way I could see of containing this essence was to burn a cross on the door, in the hope that the cross would bar the essence from crossing again. Then I saw the trail on the ground.”
“I was there with you and never saw a thing!” Phil said.
“You had to have been inside the room to see the trail, as it existed in an alternate dimension where time, matter and form are in flux. I could feel the essence pushing me to the entrance of the pothole. Knowing my claustrophobia, it was dragging me to my worst scenario. As I went down, all I saw was an endless blackness. They say if you fall in dreams, you will never hit the bottom as the shock could kill you. That is exactly how I felt when I was in the cave at North Moor. I felt that if I fell, there would be no stopping me.”
“That was a terrible thing to see, love!” Annette said as she hugged Mark. “Can you tell us why you came here? Was it to get near the centre of your fear as Phil thinks and to get seclusion to be able to think?”
“I felt it was wrong to let you suffer what I had witnessed that day. I had to try to beat my terror alone. Good job I have such good, close friends or I would not be here explaining things.”
“You should have said something; there is no need to fight alone,” the two friends said together.
Phil looked at Mark with a worried face. “Do you think you contained it?” he asked.
Mark looked at his friends. “I hope so - only time will tell!”