It was the type of British coastal 'tourist' town where you see children bored out of their mind trekking behind their holidaying parents. Some of you reading this will know the sort: old, grey and windswept. I wouldn't come here except on business; even as an adult I didn't find it that interesting. There was very little to actually do, so I was glad I'd be working for the week. Underneath an overcast sky and amongst the racket of seabirds floated a long line of dirty unimpressive boats tied to the marina. Looking down at them from the seawall, I picked out the one which would be mine for this trip. Marine blue with a deck covered by tarp and makeshift scaffolding, bizarrely accented with ornamental snakes and owls. Personally I see little point in owning a boat like that, and after this particular stay, I never want to be on board one again.
First impressions were bad. It wasn't that the boat felt unsafe, more so when I first got aboard and figured out how to move the wood and glass slats pretending to be a door out of my way, all I said was:
'Fucking hell, what a Shit-tip.'
You'd think an ex naval rating would have enough pride to keep their own boat from getting into this state, or at least 'do it up' tidily. But instead loose tools, exposed wiring and half-empty bottles all made it look like a bomb had gone off inside. I had even been told that the owner took their own family out in it. Sighing, I put my stuff down and decided I'd go get my bearings. And maybe a drink, if the trip was headed the way I thought it was.
I took to the streets. I was right about the town, even saw some of those poor kids, away from everything that'd usually keep them happy. I had no sympathy for the bratty ones, but my heart did go out to the ones who just looked terrified: perhaps of the noise or the birds that were huge compared to them or maybe just of the sea. A few were happy, skipping along, talking about seeing mermaids and the like. I heard some little girl telling her mother that she was worried sharks were going to eat her. I smiled at that, my thoughts wandering to a point between John Williams and the poor sods aboard the U.S.S. Indianapolis, so I missed what the pair said next and only noticed that the mother seemed a bit too angry at such a rational fear for a child to have. Sharks are the boogeymen of the sea, after all; they are many people's first step in learning to respect (or fear) large bodies of water.
I began to feel a bit more positive; I did like to travel so spending a few days somewhere new wouldn’t be awful, and it wasn’t as if I had to do anything aboard H.M.S. Shittip but sleep. I was also being paid to be here, so I took full advantage of this by ending up in a pub. In truth it was just the bar above the sailing club’s clubhouse of which the captain of the good Tip was a member, but it provided what I needed: drink and Wi-Fi. Whilst there I got myself sorted for my time in this town: confirming with my workmate (whom I’ll refer to as ‘Liam’) that he could pick me up from the sailing club’s carpark (I doubted he could get his van on the narrow wooden walkway outside my humble abode); learning where I could spend my time when I wasn’t working and getting to know the codes I needed in and around the site.
The codes worked the gates and doors of the sailing club: there was one on its front door, cheaper than issuing keys to everyone, I supposed. A couple were used for getting through the gates that led to the back areas where the bins and such were. Finally, there was a gate on the jetty before the moored boats. It served as an added security measure, but I couldn’t help laughing a little at the logic of it: you couldn’t really scale the gate itself or the seawall off to its side, but if you were determined enough all you had to do was swim a few metres to get around it.
The first night did little to help me feel better about my floating accommodation. It was very good of the owner to put me up so I didn’t have to pay a thing for a roof over my head, but work could have at least told me there was no bedding apart from a barely covered foam mattress and a couple of screwed up sleeping bags. Arse of me for assuming, perhaps, but certainly an arse of them for telling me next to nothing about where I'd be staying. Lying there curled up in my makeshift bedding, I hoped I wouldn’t need to relieve myself during the night. Because there wasn’t a working toilet aboard, the nearest ones were inside the sailing club. But I didn’t want to have to get up, remove the slats, walk along the jetty, open the Snorlax gate, head up the ramp and key in the code to the sailing club. Rolling over, I decided if push came to shove I’d piss in the ocean. Far worse things ended up in it anyhow and I doubted I'd mutate a fish into something H.P. Lovecraft might wank over.
The only real odd thing I noticed that night was these strangely loud footsteps on the wood outside. Maybe it was just the contrast between the night being quiet and the new noise; the jetty did amplify the sound of your footsteps. But these seemed like they were amplified again, as if the person walking was either stamping along or wearing heavy boots. Probably just some drunk patrolling his patch, or a pensioner thumping about with a walking stick taking in the night air. I wasn’t curious enough to get out and have a look, however, and the footsteps never got too close to where I was. So I ignored them until I managed to get to sleep.
I hadn’t woken up feeling seasick since I spent a night on a waterbed, but sure enough I felt nauseous when I got up and ready for work. I was living out of my suitcase still, because there was so little room to put much of anything anywhere. I decided I might tidy it up later, but then again I didn’t want to ruin the owner’s complex system. God forbid his rusted saw got moved to a place where it couldn’t slice your foot open and give you tetanus. As I got ready, I tried to keep my spirits up, telling myself that if anyone could force me to enjoy something, it would be me.
Work was a welcome distraction. My co-worker got to the sailing club ok, van already loaded for the job. I work as part of a company that does large-scale lighting for events: car-festivals, birthday parties for the insanely posh, things like that. When I say I work with lots of cable at a time, I mean literal kilometres stretching over fields. I won’t say much about the event I was working on, but I will say it wasn’t without reason we’d been contracted. You have a lot of time to think and talk on the job, as generally you keep going until you run out of things you can do each day. As we were unwinding and screwing lightbulbs into a length of festooning, I was telling Liam about the boat.
‘Bloody Hell, don’t envy you there.’ He breathed, a little short of breath from lugging the heavy cable. ‘Still, like you said, at least it’s not setting you back anything. How do you know the owner?’
‘I don’t, really.’ I replied ‘Mate of the bloke who organised this:’ I gestured all around, ‘something like that. Ex-navy, so full respect to ‘em, but you’d think they’d been taught how to keep a boat... you know.’
‘Ship-shape?’ my colleague offered.
‘Ship-shape.’ I agreed. ‘Spending as little time as possible there, but the town’s a bit dead, which doesn’t help.’
‘What town is it again?’ As I told him, he let out a breath, ‘I’ve heard that it’s a bit rough,’ he said ‘some gangs have jumped people down there apparently?’
‘I don’t know, not been there long to be fair, but I’ll let you know if I get stabbed.’
He snorted: ‘You best not! I’m on derig, and it’ll be hell without you.’
‘Nah, I’ll come in even if I’m bleeding out, take more than a few chavs with knives to stop me!’
It was pretty late when we called it a day. By the time I was dropped back off, the sky had grown dark not just from the setting sun, but also from the thick clouds that had gathered and already begun lashing the ground and sea with cold rain. Swearing under my breath, I braced myself against the weather and hurried down the jetty, trying not to slip on the wood in my haste. I had to pull my hand out of the warmth and dry of my pocket to fumble with the keypad on the Snorlax gate. Knowing that now I couldn’t avoid getting abjectly drenched, I cursed the mechanism as it swung slowly outwards, glancing at the sea as I did so. The rain pelted the black water, causing thousands of tiny ripples and plumes, like it was experiencing the world’s most intense midget artillery barrage. Caught in a trance by the horizon, my mind was drawn to the vastness of the ocean and what lay beyond it and how very foreboding it looked as it’s opaque mass spread further than the eye could see. I almost felt a sort of call to the void in front of me, a desire to know the unknown.
A great shiver ran up and down my spine from the chill of the water and my thoughts, jerking me back to action. I could now make it past the gate and so I continued on to get out of the storm, now aware that I felt watched. I could practically feel a pair of eyes, or was it several, boring into the back of my neck. I knew that I had just been knocked paranoid by my discomfort and underlying fear of the open sea, but never the less I was especially relieved to replace the last part of the ‘door’ behind me. Having shut out the howling dark, I stripped off my wet things and lay them out to dry. The boat shifted slightly beneath me due to the tide as I hoped the weather would calm down soon.
I've since found out why on the boat there were little plastic snakes and a decidedly larger ornamental owl; my much-hated seabirds were put off by them, and as such didn't redecorate the vessel with their liquidy shit. I was finding out their downside every time the wind blew the owl such that it slammed against the mast over and over, adding to the cacophony of the storm outside. Overall the noise was tremendous, leaving me to find sleep even more elusive than the night before.
I don’t know whether I was just about to drift off, or just coming back round when I was startled awake. There came a new noise, one uncomfortably close and intrusive. What caused me to sit up suddenly and look all about was a series of thuds travelling over the hull and roof of the boat. I held my breath, brain frantically trying to work out what it was as the thuds passed over me again and made me flinch. Could be birds landing in a flock? Too heavy and sparse for that. Maybe a group of kids were throwing stones from the seawall. Just as well it wasn’t my boat, those little arseholes would get what was coming to them, rough town or not. As the noises persisted, however, a horrible thought came to me. They were rapid and followed on from each other in a pattern, almost like... like something was scuttling, clambering over the roof. I couldn’t shake the feeling, and I debated whether I should investigate. But going outside meant either an opportunity to get pelted with rocks or to come face to face with... someone or something that liked to crawl over boats in the dead of night.
I picked up a screwdriver and watched the entrance until the noise stopped. When I finally slept, I did so fitfully.
The next night, I did away with coming back at a reasonable hour, throwing caution to the wind as I ended up in a local pub with the latest closing time I could find. The drink in my system helped ward off the chill and I felt reasonably cheerful as I strolled back to the boat, thinking that sleep would come much easier tonight. It wasn’t until I made it to the jetty that things started to wrong.
First came a sound carried along on the wind. A weird, lyrical yet deliberate noise, I had no idea what to think of it. In my state I couldn’t tell where it was coming from, until I got closer to my boat. Stood there on the walkway right at the bow of the vessel was a figure. I stopped, blinking at this stranger who was seemingly whispering to my humble abode. As I focused, I realised that she (as they certainly looked feminine) was the source of the noise. She was singing. Singing in a language I couldn’t make sense of, the melody haunting, yet if it had a meaning it was lost on me. I realised something else, my brain being slow on the uptake really not helping matters. She was completely nude. But more than that, her skin looked slick and had a blue-grey tinge to it. Probably because it was freezing out by the water’s edge, I thought. She had to be drugged up to be serenading half a marina in the dead of night. But what were those in her neck? She looked like she’d been cut, but there was no blood. I was trying to think of what I should say to her, because I still needed to get past her to get to bed.
The decision was taken from me, as she noticed me before I could say anything. She stopped singing and snapped her head towards me, staring intensely. Unable to look anywhere else, I looked her in her eyes. They looked awful, more than bloodshot to the point that even the iris looked red and they were bulbous, nearly bulging from their sockets. Her dark hair was sopping wet and unkempt, about as slimy as the rest of her form. As she stared, her lip curled into a sneer, revealing a row of pointed teeth. Wordlessly, she turned away from me and calmly slipped into the water with practised grace.
I bolted. I ran as hard as I dared back the way I had came. That look, that look she’d given me was one of pure hunger. Given the rest of her feral appearance, I did not want to wait around to find out that I was right. Sure enough, where I'd just been standing the girl, creature, whatever it was broke the surface, screaming when she found it was empty jetty and not me that she’d pounced on. The wet slapping sound she made as she crawled along after me confirmed that she was the thing that had been scuttling a mere metre above me the night prior. I was in full flight mode now, nearly losing my balance as I took rounded a corner to see my escape route blocked by that damned gate.
I reached the gate and hammered on the button to open it, pleading with it to go faster. The creature had disappeared from sight, but I had no doubt it fancied its chances in the water. It was again too dark to see even an inch into the depths that surrounded me. All I could hear was the whirr of the gate and my panicked breaths. The gate was almost open enough to squeeze through. Suddenly my pursuer burst from the water beside me, grabbing at my ankle and trying to snatch me off my feet into the icy sea. Just in time I was able to grip the gate, saving myself from the plunge that I’m sure would have gotten me ripped to shreds. My foot flailed in an effort to escape, and I must have caught the thing in the mouth with my boot, because I felt contact and she snarled and retreated back under the water again.
Not wasting anymore time, I sprinted along the rest of the walkway and flung myself up the ramp, my panicked mind deciding that the safest place to go would be the clubhouse. I couldn’t tell whether the pounding in my ears was my heart or the creature gaining on me. I stumbled in through the door of the clubhouse, slamming it behind me. Wanting to know if the creature had followed me up the ramp, I cautiously peered out the large windows of the cafe that sat on the clubhouse’s bottom floor. Turns out she had. She stood in the car park, scanning her surroundings. Another look revealed the gashes on her neck were sucking at the air, three on each side like a shark’s gills. All her skin had that strange blue tinge, including the webbing between her splayed fingers and toes. The frills on her joints and behind her ears were flared.
‘Merwoman.’ I breathed.
As if she’d heard me, she noticed me staring, red eyes narrowing and sharp teeth baring in a scream. She began to run full tilt at the window straight at me. I stumbled back into some chairs, not knowing if it would break through. I got my answer as it lunged forwards, but thumped against the glass, landing awkwardly on the ground. With a final snarl of frustration, she turned and scurried back to the sea. I lay there, stunned.
I was still panting for breath when the staff that lived in the clubhouse came to investigate the commotion. They found me collapsed in a pile of chairs and smelling of alcohol. Needless to say they were not impressed with my clumsy, breathless explanation and frenzied insistence that I would not return to my boat. Noise complaints from other punters sealed my fate in the morning, and I was asked to leave. I refused to gather my things, and they threatened to call the police, but luckily Liam then appeared to pick me up for work. The situation was half explained to him, and he agreed, although somewhat bemusedly, to come down to the boat and get my stuff with me.
I wish I could say that was uneventful, but the moment I removed the lid to the boat’s door, I knew something was wrong. The inside of the boat reeked of fish, and I became more anxious as I noticed that the floor was wet through, and everything had been disturbed. I took in the strewn mess that was the contents of my suitcase, cursing the boat and its owner that it didn’t have a lock. The damned creature or merwoman or whatever it was must have figured out how to make its way into the vessel. Unless it always did know, I thought as the pair of us gathered my belongings back into my now sodden case. Chills ran up my spine at that. It must have been trying to lure me out last night, failing that it probably would have made its way in. My insides seized in fear as I thought about what might have happened had I been asleep when it came. That’s when I heard Liam cry out.
I whipped around to where the he was, by the bed at the end of the narrow interior. In the pile of sleeping bags were two distinct, angry red eyes. Liam fell back as the merwoman scuttled to its haunches atop the foam mattress, glaring and snarling at us both. She must have decided against taking on two people at once, because she darted past us and out of the boat. We heard her dive into the water as we stared at each other in shock. Trying to gather his composure, Liam, still dumbfounded on the floor rather eloquently asked:
‘What the fuck was that?’
‘More than a few chavs with knives.’ Was my only response. We quickly threw the rest of my belongings into the case and made it back to high ground as fast as we could.
I stayed in the same hotel as Liam for the rest of the job, and didn’t see the ocean again as long as we were there. I still haven’t willingly gone closer to the sea than necessary. We explained to our boss that it had been a gang that jumped me and chased me into the clubhouse, so as to smooth things over with both him and the client’s naval buddy. I still have my job but take work that’s as inland as possible. I don’t know exactly what that thing was, whether she was a merwoman or a sea-witch or what. She might have been trying to get rid of me so she could use the boat as a nest, or hoping to make it my tomb. All I know is that the stuff they say about the ocean holding thousands of unknown horrors is true.
So even if you don’t believe in fish-people, or underwater demons, at least take my warning to be careful around the ocean, and don’t go alone. And for the love of Cthulhu, make sure your boat has a lock on it.
Spelling and Grammar Issues: Use quotation marks around quotations, not apostrophes.
Plot issues: You joke around a bit throughout the story (the last line "And for the love of Cthulhu, make sure your boat has a lock on it." is the worst offender) which makes it hard to take seriously. The story is slightly slow, we don't get to the horror part until halfway through which by now the readers may have already given up. The first half mostly feels like filler and can be easily cut down. In my opinion, the scary parts themselves aren't even that scary, they feel like they belong in a fantasy novel rather than a piece of horror literature.
Cliches: "my workmate (whom I’ll refer to as ‘Liam’)" the whole protect-the-identity-of-a-fictional-character thing is well over used at this point that it belongs on the cliches list. "I could practically feel a pair of eyes, or was it several, boring into the back of my neck." I think I speak for all of us when I say the I-felt-as-if-something-was-watching-me trope has been done to death by now. "make sure your boat has a lock on it." It might just be me, but I think the whole end-the-story-with-a-warning thing has become cliche. Almost every other Creepypasta ends with it.