Hot on the heels of my character profiles of Esmeralda Avine and Fiona Noble as well as the main outline for The Cornwall Ghost Story I thought I would share an excerpt from my horror novel. This comes fairly early in the piece and involves one of Fiona’s first visions. In this one she finds out whether George Avine did indeed survive his capsizing ship and where he ended up if he proved successful. Here it is then. I hope you enjoy it:
Fiona had barely seated herself at the kitchen table when a dizzy sensation overpowered her. She shook this off, thinking it was just an after effect of the heat of the day. However, she couldn’t be certain on this account, not when there were so many unusual events going on around her.
Taking up the journal again, she opened it up by the bookmark where she had last left the narrative. It was a continuation of Esmeralda’s lament towards her husband and what might have become of him.
‘I wish I could know he was safe,’ she wrote. Fiona could almost sense the poor woman’s heart pounding away as she set this down in what looked to be a shaky hand. Certainly the handwriting was not nearly as concise as it had been several pages before when she had been blindly ignorant of what fate had befallen her darling George.
‘If only there was a way he could reach me,’ the journal went on. ‘It is so hard to be left in this hopeless state where I do not know whether he is alive or dead. I wish I could know one way or another.’
Soon Fiona found the page in front of her was becoming blurred. It was almost as if she could suddenly see every word twice. This did not last, however, as she sensed her chair beginning to rock from side to side unaccountably.
“What in the world?” she sighed in dismay. “What is this?” Soon it was not merely her chair which was moving in this erratic way. The table in front of her also began to sway from side to side. Soon the whole room was rocking from side to side as if it was in the middle of an earthquake.
“An earthquake in Cornwall?” sighed Fiona in confusion. “I don’t think so.”
No, there was no earthquake going on here. There was scarcely a breeze blowing outside. Fiona had the window open as it was such a balmy evening and there wasn’t a ripple on the curtains. So what was this, then? What was causing all of this disturbance?
As if answering her question, Fiona was pushed back in her chair by some unseen force and then a scene of unimaginable clarity reached her sight. Like before Fiona could see George’s ship but it was very different this time. Instead of the ship appearing within the pages of Esmeralda’s manuscript, it showed itself on the wall at the far end of the room.
“My God!” sighed Fiona in dismay. “I can see every detail of the ship. It’s as if it’s right in front of me. And it’s like before: it’s already beginning to sink. Look at all of those sailors trying to escape. But how many are going to be able to do that?”
These considerations slipped to the back of her mind for the time being, as her focus concentrated solely on one strapping young fellow who made his urgent way to the side of the ship. What caught Fiona’s attention so forcibly was the style of his clothing.
“That uniform he’s wearing doesn’t seem like common issue to me. There’s no way he’s a normal member of the crew. He’s an officer for sure and he’s young, around the age I would picture George to be. And he’s…”
Just then she took more than rapt attention on the young man. As had happened to her before, when she had read that heartbreaking letter and also when she had seen her first view of the ship going down she knew what was going on. Esmeralda was reaching out to her once more and telling her that this was not just an officer, but her very own officer, her darling George. He was trying to make his escape from the ship. The question was would he succeed?
Fiona felt her heart beating in the same way she felt Esmeralda’s had when she had set down those quivering lines about George in her journal. Had that taken place a few moments before or two hundred years ago? Fiona could not say for sure. What she did know was that she was hanging on George’s every move. ‘He has to get off this ship and swim ashore,’ she thought to herself. ‘He just has to.’
Before Fiona knew what had happened, George had dived into the raging sea. She watched as his body hit the surface of the water and then held her breath as, for a moment, he seemed lost without trace. ‘Oh, let him rise to the surface, please!’ she pleaded. Once again, she was reminded of that film ‘Titanic,’ a favourite of hers. She was thinking of the scene where Rose had to release the frozen Tom from her clasp and let him sink to the bottom of the ocean.
“I’ll never forget you!” she could almost hear Rose cry out, although she did not cry it out, she barely whispered it owing to her frozen state. This, however, was not the ending she wished for Esmeralda and George. She did not want the spirit of Esmeralda to have to cry out “I’ll never forget you!” in the same heart wrenching way. He had to live: he just had to.
Then, as if answering her plea, George did rise to the surface. Gasping for air he turned his head towards the distant shoreline and began to swim. Fiona looked on in awe as George discovered reserves of strength it seemed impossible he could find. Where was he getting this from? Fiona wondered. How is he able to swim through this surging sea and this violent storm? He must be so strong.
She watched transfixed as George continued to plough one arm in front of the other as he worked against the tidal wave which was now a sea out of control. She prayed he would retain his strength for long enough so that he could gain a safe shoreline.
“Almost there,” sighed Fiona. “Almost there. Just hang on for a few moments longer and you’ll be there. You can do it, George!”
A few moments more and he was there. He was completely out of breath, panting and spluttering as he lay on a rock which stood on the waiting shoreline. He would have quite a climb up an imposing hill to reach true safety but he was away from that raging sea and away from his ship which had now sunk below the water surface.
‘He’s okay,’ thought Fiona as a form of mild hysteria took over. ‘After he’s rested a while I’m sure he’ll be able to make his way up that hill.’ However, once again George surprised her. Without pausing for another breath he was clambering up that imposing hill and in a few more moments she could see him collapsing in a heap at the top of the hill.
‘So he’s safe for now,’ thought Fiona happily. ‘He managed to escape from the venom of that storm. The navy was right, though: they said there were very few survivors but I can’t find anyone other than George. Oh, wait: there are a few who’ve attached themselves to some driftwood. That must have become detached from their ship. So at least they have some sort of safety raft to hold onto. But the current seems to be taking them away from the shore George reached and onto somewhere further down the coastline. God knows where they will reach, then. But at least George is safe, that’s the important thing. Boy, I bet Esmeralda will be pleased when she finds out the good news.’