Welcome to FROST HARROW, my new modern (1990s) gothic horror series! If you’d like to support this and my other work, go to www.CushingHorrors.com and become my patron! You may also enjoy the Scribe Award-Winning MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE – In print, for kindle, and for all e-book formats. And check out my retro-horror-comedy classic CANOE COPS VS. THE MUMMY as well as my other books. Now… On with the show!
TWO – BEYOND THE SEA
Ivy woke to find herself walking on a deserted shore. To her left the wine-dark sea stretched off into infinity. To her right, jagged red and purple mountains climbed into the heavens, reaching up higher than she could see. Overhead, the night sky burned with pale stars and orange fire. She could feel fine sand under her bare feet.
Looking down, she realized she was nude and wondered briefly where her clothes had gone.
At least, she thought, it isn’t cold.
The warm moist air clung to her naked body. Just a hint of a breeze caressed her skin. A tepid surf lapped gently over her feet, pulling the soft black sand out from beneath her toes.
Am I the only one here? she wondered.
Behind her, the ebony shoreline stretched off into the endless distance. Ahead, she thought she could make out some rocks reaching out into the dark sea, like a breakwater or quay. The rocks looked a long way off.
As she listened, soft music drifted to her from beyond the sea. She couldn’t make out the words, but she recognized the artist: Bobby Darin. The song struck a chord of familiarity within her. Where had she last heard that tune?
How did I get here? she asked herself, trying to take in her surroundings. Everything seemed strange and surreal. The mountains appeared too difficult to climb—especially without clothes to protect her from scrapes and bruises. Behind her, the vast landscape stood devoid of features, just endless lines of sea, shore, and sky.
She decided to make for the rocks. Perhaps from there she could gain some better perspective.
She walked for a long time. She couldn’t say exactly how long, for there seemed to be no way to measure time in this place. The dim constellations overhead never moved. The waves in the sea and the fires in the sky washed forward in endless, serene rhythms. The song never changed, either. It just repeated itself infinitely in calm, caressing tones.
How nice it is here, Ivy thought. How peaceful. I wonder how long I have been here and how long I shall stay? She recalled only vaguely ever having been anywhere else.
She peered at the rock jetty. Yes, that’s definitely what it was. It looked closer. She’d made progress.
Ivy licked her lips and, though they were not dry, decided a drink would be in order.
She knelt by the water, scooped some into her hands and put it to her lips. It tasted warm and vaguely salty—like blood. She shook the remainder from her hands and began walking again.
After a time, the rocks became clearer. Ivy could see the surf breaking on them, throwing pale geysers into the still air. Was that someone sitting on the point?
Yes. She felt sure of it now. A person was sitting on the end of the rocks, facing out to the sea.
Overjoyed, Ivy began to run along the shore. Her feet skitted across the damp sand, kicking small black flecks into the air. The grit struck her thighs and buttocks, but she felt no pain. Her breasts bounced with each long step but produced none of the familiar tugging across her shoulder muscles. She felt almost weightless—as though she were nothing more than a dream, dancing across the shore. As she ran, the waves erased her footprints behind her.
I’ve no past, thought Ivy, glancing back, only the future.
When she reached the base of the rocks she stopped. The contours of the jetty obscured her view and made it difficult to discern the person seated on the point. Through the spray, Ivy could see only long jet-black hair fluttering in the wind.
It’s a woman, thought Ivy. A nude woman sitting on the rocks. She wondered where the wind blowing the woman’s hair came from. On the shore where Ivy stood, the air hung silent and heavy.
Ivy briefly considered swimming out to the woman, then decided against it. She didn’t know what currents might surround the rocks. Perhaps they were treacherous—the kind that pulled unwary swimmers to their doom. And perhaps there are sea monsters, she thought; then immediately chided herself for it. Only children believe in monsters.
Ivy gingerly put one bare foot onto the nearest of the rocks. Though the stones appeared rough, she felt no sharpness, no pain. Of course they can’t be as rough as they look, she said to herself. If they were, how could a naked woman sit on them?
Still, she walked cautiously for a few paces, lest the first rock she picked should prove to be a fluke. Thankfully, it wasn’t; though they looked coarse, the boulders felt as smooth and gentle as the sand. She grew bolder in her exploration, first walking briskly, then fairly bounding over the stones of the breakwater.
As Ivy drew close to the end of the jetty, the naked woman turned her head and spoke to her.
“You shouldn’t have come,” the woman said. Her voice sounded warm and placid; her lovely face betrayed no emotion. “It’s not your time,” she said firmly.
Ivy realized with a start that she knew that face. It belonged to her mother, Roxanne Silverstein.
“Mom!” blurted Ivy. She ran forward and threw her arms around the woman. “I thought you were dead! They told me you and dad died in that train accident.”
Roxanne returned her daughter’s embrace, stroking Ivy’s wavy black hair. “We are dead, honey. But you’re not. Not yet. You shouldn’t be here. That’s why you have to go back—while you still have time.”
Ivy broke off the embrace and looked into her mother’s blue-grey eyes. “I don’t want to go back. I’ve missed you and dad terribly. Things have been pretty rotten for me since you died. The Frosts… I may have their name, but I’m not one of them. I never have been. I think I should stay here with you.”
Her mother smiled gently, sympathy flashing in her eyes. “I told you, Ivy. It’s not your time. A storm is coming for the family. The Frosts will need your help to get through it.”
“But, Mom, they don’t even like me. They never accepted you into the family. They’re still mad that you didn’t change your name when you married dad. And they practically disowned us all when we moved east. To them, I’m just a reminder of you—the woman who stole Edward Frost away from them.”
“Some of them like you,” said her mother, “more of them than you realize, I think. Tony likes you. He’ll need you most of all in the time to come. There are others who’ll need you as well—people who mean the world to you, as well as some you hardly know yet. You’ll see.” She looked at Ivy and smiled.
The smile brought a pang of memory and loss to Ivy’s stomach. She returned the smile, though she felt she might cry doing so.
“I miss you, Mom,” she said sniffing back a tear. “I’ve missed your voice, the smell of your hair, the music you listened to.”
“You still have all of those things, Ivy. You will as long as you remember us. You can hear the music even now if you listen.”
Ivy listened. Yes. Of course that’s what the music was: Bobby Darin. Her mother’s favorite. Ivy always thought of Mom when she heard him. The songs gave her strength. How appropriate that she should find this music here. Did her mother bring it with her? Ivy wondered. Hadn’t she heard a Bobby Darin tune somewhere else recently? Had her mom been responsible for that, as well?
“You still have work to do,” her mother continued, “things you must sort out—things you can’t even begin to guess right now. Your father and I love you and you must believe us—believe me: This is not your time. It’s dangerous for you to stay here.” Roxanne looked away from her daughter and gazed out over the vast ocean.
On the horizon, a storm brewed, lightning flashing from the dark water to the fiery sky.
“My God,” she said quietly. “He’s coming!”
Ivy looked from her mother to the sea and back again. Now she could feel the wind that tugged at her mother’s hair—a cold wind blowing in from the deep waters. “Who’s coming, Mother?” she asked. “Who?”
Roxanne stood, her muscles tensing, the wind whipping her dark mane across her face. “You must go now,” she said, urgency tingeing her voice.
Ivy stood as well. “What is it Mom? What’s wrong?”
Roxanne looked at her daughter and Ivy could see fear in her face.
“He’s found you. He can see you here. I can’t protect you much longer. He’s coming for you, Ivy. If he catches you, all is lost. He’ll destroy you. He’ll destroy us all. He corrupts everything he touches. If only you hadn’t come!”
Roxanne embraced Ivy fiercely, then held her daughter with her blue-grey eyes. Roxanne’s eyes said more than her words ever could. She uttered one urgent, word, her voice hoarse and barely above a whisper: “Run!”
Ivy tried to hold onto her mother, but Roxanne pushed her away.
“Run, Ivy! Back the way you came!”
Ivy could hear the fury of the storm now—the terrible rumbling voice of an angry deity. It obliterated her mother’s soft music completely.
She turned from her mother and dashed back down the breakwater toward the shore. The rocks felt like daggers on her bare feet. Ivy wondered if she’d ripped all the skin off, but she didn’t stop to check.
Glancing back she saw Roxanne standing on the jetty, her arms outstretched as if to ward off the storm. The churning clouds raced closer, reaching out to embrace the older woman.
Ivy ran. The sand smashed into her feet, tearing at her tender soles. Ivy fought to maintain her balance.
Rain began to fall. Not a cooling, gentle rain, but a harsh, driving downpour, like liquid fire. Ivy screamed. Every step was agony. Still, no end to the shore came into sight.
She could hear the storm behind her, rolling and booming. It sounded like the breathing of a monstrous dragon.
Ivy’s own breath came in ragged gasps now. Her breasts ached with the exertion. How much longer would she have to run? Perhaps it would just be easier to let the storm overtake her.
She looked back and saw a fiery face in the boiling clouds—an evil face with blazing red eyes. It fixed her with a malevolent glare; the wind whispered her name: Ivy Frost…!
She tore her eyes away and ran. Ahead of her the landscape grew dim. Is the rain in front of me now, too? she wondered, fearfully. Has the storm surrounded me?
She realized she had no choice but to go on. Pain and exhaustion clung to her body like wet rags. She could feel the hot breath of the typhoon on her neck. The eyes of the storm burned into her soul. The rain tore at her naked body like claws.
She stumbled. The harsh black sand rushed up to meet her.
Then lightning struck.
The electricity coursed through Ivy’s body.
And a man’s voice she didn’t recognize.
“Okay. We’ve got a pulse. She’s breathing again.
“Good work, people. I think she’s going to make it.”
TO BE CONTINUED…
Read my FREE Frost Harrow Halloween stories:
“The Weeping Ghost” (2012), “A Trace of Violet” (2013), “Lunchroom Zombies” (2014), “Omens & Visitations” (2015), “Fata Morgana” (2016), “At the Appointed Hour” (2017), and “Devil’s Lake” (2018).