The Monster of Dover
One after another the barrage of family sedans, high-earning dumbasses in BMWs and Audis switching lanes on a whim, as well as the great big trucks racing down the motorway side by side at 45 miles per hour, descended into the town, towards the port. There was a loud noise, a shrivelling bass scream—the alarm signifying the ferry’s successful docking. Just as swaths of cars poured out of its insides, a fresh swarm of ready-to-leave passengers in their multi-horse-powered machines lined up in a mandatory neat queue, awaiting their entry. Waves crashed into the bow of the ferry, reverberating a constant splashing noise that echoed in the night.
Another cold night in the port town was almost over. The wind didn’t howl, instead it was a muted whisper, a hush that made every breath of a living being visible as a dioxide puff. Cheeks were bright red. Glasses were foggy.
The grey sea waters crashed and foamed against the sides of the ferry while a mist rose up, engulfing the ship it canopied almost the entire town. After about an hour the ferry sailed away, though to anyone standing on top of the pure limestone cliffs, it looked like the ferry was gone long before then.
Dawn approached, and while the people yawned and readied themselves for the long drives and diversions past renovating motorways, while some snoozed their alarms for just five more minutes of peace and quiet, while others were taken by the peaceful slumber after a long night shift, dawn approached. Three of its rosy-fingers, rays of golden and red hued light, pierced through the heavy slow clouds: one shone on the ragged white cliffs, one illuminated the dark rectangular walls of the castle glooming over the port, and the third stretched out to the sea. When the waves beat against the pillars holding up the piers and the port, when the water level rose and flooded the sidewalk. Once the roads became as rivers thrashing in violence, most of the cars driving through were swept away. The port town suffered a flood. Until, hours later, the waters receded. Out of the swampy fields and out of the canals that only yesterday were roads, the water returned to the sea from the town’s every nook and cranny. There, by the side of the road near the rocks, what out of the frothing foam came forth a body of scaly shining black, reflecting the incoming headlights driving past in a soft gleam. The sea brought something to the port town. A gift, or perhaps a curse.
One pair of headlights stopped by the washed up remains. By those shining black rotten-meat smelling remains, stopped to the side of the road. Headlights left on, engine left running, the car door opened. Was it simply a driver satiating their curiosity, maybe? What was seen was the sleek indents on what possibly could have been its back. It had a pair of what looked like arms with five stripes of long finger-like protrusions growing out of each one. It had two legs, one which oozed with dark vile blood spilling into streams of scarlet against the granite rock of the roadside. Its head was the colour of its body, black, shining against the bright yellow hues of the unnatural headlights. The angles of its arms and legs suggested it lied face down. When the driver propped its head up there was a face in the colour of pale white inside the glossy black outer layer. The face was covered in a mask obfuscating its eyes and mouth. The portion covering the eyes might have at some point been see-through, like glass, at least hinted by the misted frosty texture of it. The lower portion of the mask looked like some sort of an appendix to help it breathe. The driver took the mask off and uncovered the face completely. It was a human face. With lines on the forehead and a great big red nose, cheeks and chin blistered in blue and grey. Eyes of a fish, dead. The body was that of a man, a diver. But the thing that bit his leg? What could that have been? Those marks of a wide saw-like maw. Buried into flesh, it tore and ripped the muscle as if it had to stop itself half-way through its meal. As if realising what kind of morsel its prey had been. The teeth, those fangs they must’ve writhed as it struggled to let go, to release. The only thing anyone could do if they saw the victim of such a thing, that mangled body part, was to stare and gawk and thank the heavens they were not the ones who lied upon the rock, that they were not the ones whom the waves of a receding sea beat against their lifeless shell of a body, and whom did not face whatever thing did something like that.
A piece of a tooth, triangular and sharp, poked out of the gaping wound, anyone looking from a distance might mistake it for a bone simply sticking out of the victim’s leg. But in the gushing red blood and greenish pus, next to the withered dirty bone the tooth was pearl white.
Several days after the fog, after the flooding had gone away, there were many sunny days that brightened up the grey waters blue. Those days brought with them an all so important blood flow of commerce to the port town: tourists. But the people did not flock to Dover to travel to Dunkirk, neither were they on their way to Calais. And the tourists did not visit the great castle upon the white cliffs, nor the sandy beach. They did walk on the beach though. They left their cars on the road, hundreds of people, and they walked across the sands to the sea. People tried stopping them, police set up barricades, but then a policeman himself broke it down and let the tourists through. Why? He couldn’t be questioned; he went into the sea along with them. All those who walked into the water from the once quiet port town were gone. Their bodies washed up on the shore after a few days. If that had been the only wave of men, women, children, entire families that had gone, maybe eventually it would have been nothing more than a horrifying memory, propped up by some virtuous monument; a monolithic testament to those mysteriously swept away by their own will against better judgement and survival instinct. But on the next day a fresh batch of people arrived at the quiet port town. Abandoning their cars they walked into the sea, only to be washed up after a few days.
In all that stirring, the papers and the media had to just sit back and let the stories write themselves. The anger at the traffic due to the sheer amount of roads blocked by abandoned cars, the strangeness of the whole thing with no end in sight, and most of all the complete and utter failing of the council, government and the police department to prevent such a thing from happening day by day. First they had boats patrolling the coast, but they only ever managed to fish people out after they had already drowned. Second, they tried to raise a barricade by the beach, which would then promptly break, whether by someone on the inside or by a truck driving through and crashing, letting the swarms of people climb on top of it, on top of each other, over the barricade. The ferry that had disappeared in the fog weeks ago, the authorities knew it never reached either Calais or Dunkirk, but by the time the searches commenced, nobody cared. They said they did, but the craze of suicidal swarms must’ve been a more pressing concern, no resource could be spared.
Yet every day the toll rose, and it didn’t look like it would stop.
Scientists wrote papers, published studies. Philosophers contemplated the mass exodus from life by the tens of thousands, but none could find a link between the victims, or why they did what they did. Celebrities had their hot takes; on whatever platforms they could scrounge the most attention on. But that was all those were, frivolous grabs for the limelight. It got to the point that the government could no longer avoid addressing the issue. Politicians had to put aside their squabbles, which they appeared to have done, and come up with policy.
The port of Dover was closed off.
Then a great wall, not just a barricade, was to be built by the beach, but during the days and nights of construction the people passed through into the sea. And the scientists and philosophers, and even the celebrities did notice and bring to the public’s attention the strangeness of all those suicidal people, some travelling from as far as Scotland, to the south coast, only to walk into the sea. Travelling all that distance, on an island surrounded by the sea.
Yet in the end, the analysts and advisors prognosed the wall to be a failure before it was finished, thus from the sea if one would look towards Dover, one would find the typical white cliffs, and then a dull grey wall, still with scaffolding and stray building materials placed here and there. And if the coastal patrols were late, piles of bodies washed up beneath the wall. Instead, the government decided a different measure had to be taken. Someone influential had an idea: if the people could not be stopped by the water, that maybe they could be prevented from entering the town in the first place. Maybe if all those without a reason to go into the town were stopped, seized and examined, and after all the necessary security background checks and information was extracted—for their wellbeing—they could be taken back to their homes, wherever they originally came from.
At that point, the public would have agreed to anything, and only trucks and vans carrying the base necessities, goods such as food and medicine, including rolls of toilet paper, were allowed to pass across the perimeter of the town. The perimeter was under heavy surveillance of cameras and drones and patrols, the military even threw in a couple of tanks. All this to show that the government was serious about preventing this epidemic.
One could imagine that such a drastic lockdown made it difficult for people to commute to work if their workplaces were outside of town.
After unemployment quadrupled and prices of everything in the town soared, one would expect riots on the streets. But people simply left. No one forced anyone to stay. A few months later the suicides stopped being reported, the virtuous media moved on to the next outrageous thing that some man said on television about something completely unrelated. The town was left a husk of its former self, filled with those who didn’t want to be there but couldn’t afford to leave, and those who didn’t want to be anywhere else though could afford to live comfortably. It only took a couple of days before a robbery went on without any consequences, the robber simply walked into a person’s home and looted everything not bolted to the ground. It didn’t matter that the home belonged to an elderly couple. The only policing force was patrolling the perimeter of town. Everything else was fair game.
She gasped, as if struggling to breathe. Her eyes opened to the visage of wrinkled leather hands still clutched together, for a moment she forgot they were her hands. Wrapped around both of those, was the holy rosary. She felt each bead pressed heavy against her skin. Then she remembered the prayer, and she laughed but cursed at the same time for dozing off, for snoozing while asking God for a favour. And she cried.
‘What’s wrong Marie-Ann?’ a withering roar of a voice echoed throughout the house.
The man who spoke stopped, as if in surprise at the echo bouncing off the empty walls of the atrium, kitchen and living room.
She heard footsteps behind her approach.
‘I’m going to fix this.’ he said.
She turned to him and dug her head into his shoulder, into his breast and cried. He held her and they sat on a sofa—it was about the only thing to sit on now in the living room. And he rocked her back and forth, whispering sweet memories of their youth and their dreams. Her sobbing calmed somewhat; she’d correct him on the things he recollected.
‘That wasn’t the way it happened.’ she said, ‘there was never a fire in the church during our wedding.’
‘Are you sure?’ he asked. ‘Your ass looked fire.’
She would have slapped him, had she the energy. She knew what he tried to do, and though it was not enough to make her laugh, it was just enough. She held him tight.
They looked at each other, into their eyes, and it was as if they hadn’t aged since the day they met when they were 19. He took her upstairs into the bedroom, as if it were their wedding night.
But at dawn of the next day, she heard the squeaking of floorboards. Looking up she only saw his silhouette, then the door shut behind him. When she rushed out of bed the front door was slammed. After putting on some clothes and running down the stairs, she heard him walk outside and by the time she herself made it out, he was already gone down the road.
Marie-Ann ran after him, her heart racing with confusion. Is he abandoning her? Has she not been good enough for him? There were so many questions. Each one zapped across her mind before she managed to define it in her head. With heart jumping like a hare in a frenzy through the roads and past abandoned cars, she saw the back of her husband’s head disappear into a junction. As she reached it, the dark clouds overhead dimmed all the morning light outside. At the end of the street she saw him. He didn’t even look back. But now she figured out where he headed. She knew where he was going some time ago, while chasing him down another street, yet couldn’t bring herself to believe it. She didn’t have to see him running down the road away from their ransacked home to know his destination was the beach. There were no other thoughts in her mind, she ran through a shortcut knowing it would take her straight to the seafront, without even thinking about anything other than her husband. The fear that he’d do something stupid and leave her would have paralysed her, if not for the hope she would get there just in time to stop him.
Running past abandoned cars, dodging empty fast-food bags and leftover clothes, baby shoes, Marie-Ann saw her husband on the beach, the sands of which looked morbid grey that morning. He took off his jacket, then by the time his feet hit the water, he took off his shirt. She ran after him, and the tide must have been coming in as after only a few steps down the sandy beach the water reached up to her ankles. She grabbed him by his broad shoulders, but he shrugged her off. She fell into the shallow cold water, and like a turtle on its back struggled to get back up. The waves beat against her entire body, she cringed when some of the saltwater fell into her mouth.
Getting back up on her feet, drenched and tired and with a racing heart after almost drowning, Mary-Ann cried couldn’t find her husband anywhere. She could spot his clothes floating in the water where it was deep blue. She walked to the shore, to the pavement and sat on the ground, crying.
What were her prayers for?
GRUESOME ANIMAL ATTACK IN DOVER
A headline such as the above appeared in the papers a few months after the perimeter around town had been established, after it had already decreased the number of suicides from thousands to null. Just when things in the port town looked like they’d return back to normal, or at least approached something vaguely resembling it, a man was found dead in a gutter between a closed shop and a shut pub. Out of the mangled remains, even the victim’s skin colour couldn’t be distinguished, it was all red minced pulp. It was almost comical. The clothes of the victim were shredded completely, the only thing in his possession that survived was a scrap of a driving licence photocard. It was enough to identify the victim as a man, a working-class entrepreneur praised by the media as a national icon, especially in light of the October historic celebrations. To the locals he was known as a well-established thief and looter. While there was never a police report, the neighbours phoned into the media to complain about screams of a mad man in the ungodly hours of the morning, somewhen from 3 am, until 6. For three hours a man was heard screaming, and no one felt the need to step outside and investigate. But what could have been expected of people, the only ones that were left in the town were those too afraid, and those that knew better than to follow the screams of someone, even if they were crying for help.
Afterwards, the military had a more “hands on” approach when it came to policing the perimeter and the town. They were mandated by the government to carry out patrols across all neighbourhoods. Public opinion on such a move was split amongst those who decried the descension into what amounted to as marshal law and an exercise in establishing a police state, while others sang songs of justice and prayed that at long last the anarchy will end in their once quiet town. The tourist attraction that was the Dover Castle and its tunnels, the same fortification that during the Second World War was first converted into an air-raid shelter, then into a command centre for the military, became a headquarters for the now special group—a unit which had been so secretive, no one knew their name—that the government created and funded, supposedly to deal with these rumours and reports of some wild “beast” scavenging through the gutters and outright killing any and all who crossed its path.
As such, the castle was off limits to the public. Not that anyone wanted to visit it anyway, but now even if someone wanted to, and if they really wanted to so much that they’d sneak in, they’d end up with a bullet in their head. That special unit had signs posted all around any road markings directing people to the castle, and on the fences that were propped up around it. Those signs warned anyone that they will be shot if sighted on the other side. Needless to say it was not a good public-relations strategy by the government.
But after a couple of weeks of peace and quiet, time gave further credence to the speculations that the rumours and reports of multiple deaths as terrible and bloody as the one prior to the special unit’s inception, were in fact false.
Still, there was nobody insane enough to go and sneak into the castle. When there were no killings by a rabid animal, nor any shootings of curious pedestrians as a result of breaches into the no-go area, the public at large was once again outraged by something someone famous said on the internet.
Julia didn’t believe when one of her friends told her about a fallen section of the fence. The one surrounding Dover castle. But at midnight she couldn’t help but check it out, not out of her natural disposition for curiosity or out of some toxic peer pressuring from Sally and Molly, but out of a desperate need to know what happened to her father.
People told her, months ago, that he had walked into the sea along with the others. But she knew they were lying! They took him, those men and women with stern faces and guns. And there was only one place that they could’ve taken him to. People said its where the military took all people they didn’t like; her father being a prominent representative in the town council always going against the actions of the government, the mandated lockdown and the setup of a perimeter around Dover. She knew they were responsible, and she knew where they took him. Like with any person they didn’t like, they took her father into the castle. And tonight, around half-past midnight, she’d go in and rescue him.
She crossed a road—not that it was a busy one anymore even at night—and after a hike up a hill made it to the torn down portion of the fence. That metal thing looked as if it were cut or snapped down its height, then the gaping wire bent in an outward shape as if it were pushed by someone or something from the other side. There were bushes and trees on her side, so that she had cover before actually going through, not that she was worried of being spotted. She went across, and up more cliff and hill. There was so much more to climb, so much more than she expected that simply looking at it in the darkness made the hill look as if it would go up and up into the sky, and she feared that her mission will be an eternal one.
But she persisted, and even though her foot almost slipped, her ankle almost twisted, and she almost lost her balance, she got up to the top of the hill.
Though she was surprised nobody heard her yet, she was more astounded by the fact nobody patrolled the premises, at least not from where she emerged. From up here she saw the car park, some buildings to the left near the abbey, and if it were day she knew she’d see the blue humming sea and its horizon to her left. The castle was to her right. All of these buildings, including the roads, were lit by plain white bright lamps, creating circles of light on the ground and tarmac. She was happy to stay off the road and paths, it was muddier on the ground where she stood and where she’d have to sneak her way through, but it was also dark. In that darkness she crouched, and then walked while keeping herself in that low position until the back of her legs ached with pain. The thoughts of her father made it somewhat easier to deal with—she was in pain for a reason. She was going to save him. It still hurt and standing up after only making it half-way to the castle gave her legs a needed respite at a cost. Standing up straight made her easier to spot, even in the darkness. But there were no guards, not even by the lights, nor by the road or the carpark. It was so quiet, when she stepped on a patch of grass that was more of a puddle left after a rainy day, she was shocked by the slapping noise her boot made.
It was the dead of night. Even the wind was silent, even the sea hummed quieter than usual, as if not wanting to disturb. Her step into the puddle echoed across the walls of the nearby buildings. They heard her—they must have heard her. But if they had, wouldn’t they come out with their guns up and scream at her? Wouldn’t they take her into the castle, where her father waited for her to rescue him?
She looked around.
There was no movement in the area except for some birds up in the black sky.
She was alone. Sliding her boot across the puddle, slow, articulate, every inch of movement with purposeful silence, she made it to the other side without making any more noise.
She thought about running back, up the way she came from, down the hill, through the fence, back to her home. This was too much for her, even if she got to the castle gate, how would she get inside? The door was closed—she could see it from where she stood now, so close to the road leading up. Indecision froze her until she heard a click behind her head.
Her whole world spun. The light from the lampposts mixed around with the darkness where it did not reach, for a moment Julia saw nothing but the dazing bright balls of white light blinding her. She realised she lied on the ground, and trying to sit up, her head felt so heavy that it dropped. Trying to sit up again caused a strange yet painful sensation at the back of her head, as if the rear of her brain slapped against the back of her skull. But having looked up for the second time, she could make out the shapes in the darkness and the light. While her eyes adjusted, her ears rung with screams and crunching of bone and gunshots. The muzzle blasts from the weapon blinded her for a second, but she could still make out the broad shoulders, the shape of a man who shot at the other, much larger shape.
The other was a scaly black thing almost twice the size of the man. The muzzling flashes struck its sleek hide, but it did not flare up its eyes—the eyes which were vile wells of darkness that absorbed in any and all light. The beast, it did not even flinch, instead its maw latched onto the man’s neck biting down through the collar bone. The rows of pearl-whites stained with red. It’s webbed fingers and arms grabbed the man’s hand still clutching the gun, and along with the entire arm ripped it from the body and threw it away. The man stopped screaming, and the thing took him and ran towards the sea, away from Julia.
Her heart raced as if she ran a marathon.
She saw the beast’s body, it’s entire being, as it ran through the lamppost lit car park, kicking one or two cars out of the way before it disappeared down the cliff, down the horizon of darkness. Even though she saw it, her mind did not know how to process the information. A headache had made it difficult to think at all, and when she managed to get up on her feet the dizziness made her almost fall again. There should be tears flowing down her cheeks, but for some reason Julia could not bring herself to cry. She wanted to, seeing the man’s arm ripped away from him with the cracking of bone and the tearing of cloth and skin, that image burned itself into her psyche, it haunted her even mere moments after it happened, before she processed everything.
She wanted to go home.
There was a great big flash of light from the heavens, and a thundering roar shook her to the core. And she cried, as the sky cried. In the deafening rain beating against every surface, be it cobblestone, tarmac, grass or mud, she ran back the way she came.
But she couldn’t run very fast, and it wasn’t until she got home that she realised why: her leg had bled from a gaping wound running from her shin up to near the back of the knee. Trying to wash herself, to clean the wound in the bathroom caused great burning and pain, as if the water she used to clean it was acid. Her heart still beat too fast for her to cry, to feel anything other than pain and the immediate need to close the wound. When she tried disinfecting it with whatever she could find in the bathroom drawers and cabinets, she screamed, waking the entire house up. Her mother knocked on the door, knocked and knocked again asking Julia questions. Where had she been? Why is she screaming? Her mother wanted to be let in, but Julia said she was ok, that it was just a minor cut.
The gaping wound, she dared not look at it too long for she thought she saw a pearl white thing deep within, was it her bone? How did this happen to her? Will she bleed to death? Her thoughts rampaged as the rain outside beat against the bathroom window.
Cringing her face she prepared for more stinging pain when she submerged the wound and her body in the overflowing steaming bath. However, the wound did not hurt.
She felt fine. Better underwater, even.