"A ghost?" John Taverner raised his glass while the youth looked on intently. "Well I've never actually seen anything, but I do remember some queer goings on when I was a teenager back in 1964. Yes, you can laugh! But I was a teenager once. I know you think you're plenty cool in your trainers, baseball cap and basin hair cut. When I was young a basin cut meant your parents were too poor to send you to the barbers. We grew our hair long and our parents used to moan at us. When I was a teenager you had to wear winkle picker shoes, denim jackets and parkas if you wanted to be fashionable. My friends had mod haircuts with their hair parted down the middle. I must have been a pathetic teenager. I spent much of my youth mooching around over girls who seemed to want my company like a dose of bubonic plague. I was fat and shy and had an inferiority complex a mile wide. I reckon that's why I joined the band. Ego. If I became a pop singer the girls would chase after me!"
That's how it was in the sixties. If you wanted to be 'with it' you played in a beat group - there were thousands of them then - spotty juveniles bashing out 'R&B' on cheap guitars and dreaming of being discovered like the Beatles or the Stones. We were no exception - there were three of us and we called ourselves 'the Groove'. We played our first gig at school, but it didn't go down very well. We had Lanky Lenny Smith on the drums, and he couldn't keep time for toffee. It was a disaster! My pal Donny and me were planning to jack it all in - but then we met Timmy Mc Donald.
Timmy didn't go to our school. We met him in a coffee bar in town. He was only four feet eight high, and had a snub nose, freckly face and a shock of curly, ginger hair. He had a new set of drums did Timmy, and he could ruddy well play them too.
Well, to cut a long story short, we used to practise in a dank, slimy cellar under a chiropodist's shop on Inkerman Street. Timmy's mum owned the adjacent house, and leased the shop to the chiropodist. He used to play hell if we rehearsed in the daytime, during shop hours. I think Timmy's mum encouraged us because, unbeknown to us, she had secret designs for turning the premises into a pie and pea shop.
It was a dark and rambling old house, I recall, and the street outside still had gas lighting. All the house wiring was iffy too. The wall sockets were fifteen amps and we needed special adaptors to plug the amplifiers in. Timmy's mum was like him with the addition of a wizened crones face and an impenetrable Glaswegian accent. She was rougher than a bear's arse. She would stagger home legless from the pub while we were still practising and insist on us playing 'I Believe' and 'Your Cheatin' Heart' over and over again until the small hours! When you consider that our idea of music was that currently being purveyed by the Who, the Kinks and the Small Faces, it's no difficult matter to appreciate what an onerous chore this was. She was a pain in the posterior - but it was her cellar!!
Timmy had a little sister, Jeannie, and an elder half-brother, Andy. Andy was a wagon driver with blue eyes and blond wavy hair, cut 'teddy boy' style. He was a habitue of numerous working men's clubs, and consequently offered to act as our manager. Thus it was that the 'The Groove' got on the 'audition trail' around the West Yorkshire club circuit.
It was on once such audition - at City NUR club, when we were playing between bingo sessions (second fiddle to a load of balls, as Timmy put it) that Andy broached the subject of the holiday...
"Week after next we're off to the chalet in Auburn for two weeks holiday". He turned to me and Donny - "Would you two like to come? There's plenty of beds to spare and loads of crumpet at the Beach Club - Are you coming?"
There was no question. I had never been on a holiday without my parents before, so I jumped at the chance.
Donny piped up. "Does your mum own this chalet then Andy?"
"You bet. It came with the house. The woman we bought it off sold everything, lock, stock and barrel. The house, the shop - and a chalet on the east coast."
"Very nice. I'm game. When you planning to set off then Andy?"
"Like I said- a week on Saturday. Get your togs together and meet us down at Inkerman Street at ten in the morning. Any change in plan and I'll let you know. We'll be playing together before then anyway."
When I got home, I asked my mum and dad if I could go. They consented readily, I bet they were glad to get rid of me and that bloody amplifier for a couple of weeks!
So it was that we assembled down at Timmy's and set off on our 'Summer Holiday' in the group's van, to the strains of Cliff Richard. What a vehicle that was! It was painted in psychedelic colours and had white handprints all over it - all this graffiti over a base of drab olive green. Mechanically, the old Commer van was a wreck, how Andy didn't get pulled by the pigs I'll never know! I can only surmise that in those days they weren't so keen as they are now. Anyway, at least on this occasion I did not have to share my seat with the p.a. cabs and the hi-hat cymbal; but I still felt my leg going into cramp as we crept along in one of those interminable traffic jams that beset the old coast road out of York in those days. By the time we escaped from the next snarl up in Driffield my legs were both cramped and crossed! Finally, we got off onto the back lanes and arrived in Auburn about one in the afternoon.
The 'chalet' was not what I had expected. I suppose I must have had in mind some sort of swiss log cabin with a verandah. Not at all, the Mc Donald's holiday abode was constructed from two old railway carriages joined together in a 'T' sort of fashion. One arm of the 'T' was the kitchen and the other two small bedrooms, toilet and bathroom. The long 'stick' of the 'T' was a single big bedroom almost dormitory-like in its length. The carriages that made up the chalet were unusually wide. This seemed strange to me at the time, but with hindsight, recollecting that the leather sash straps on the sliding windows were embossed with the letters G.W.R., it would seem that the carriages must have originated from Brunel's original wide gauge Great Western Railway, part of the rolling stock that was sold off when that railway converted to the standard gauge. The chalet had electric lighting, a bathroom and all mod.cons., but essentially we were staying in the shells of two victorian railway carriages.
How these old carriages came to reside in East Yorkshire on a lonely clifftop by the edge of the North Sea, would no doubt have made a story worth the telling, but at the tender age of fourteen, obsessed with girls, illicit smoking, drinking and rock and roll, such matters were of little interest to us, our attention being more directed towards the amusement arcade in the nearby village, the beach club on the nearby caravan site, and the swimsuited females that might be encountered sunbathing on the sands.
Indeed we spent most of our first afternoon lazing on the beach. The sun was beating down from a cloudless sky and the sea was like glass, it was a dream. Timmy had brought his tranny and we were tuned in to Radio 270, a pirate station broadcasting from a rusty old freighter somewhere out in the North Sea. OK, maybe it was very much a case of playing the same records over and over again, but at least they were all current chart hits - damn sight better than the crap on the Light Programme.
By five pm the tide was almost in and Timmy was getting peckish - so we headed for the chalet, ascending a stairway which had been cut out with a spade from the reddish brown boulder clay of the fast eroding cliff. For here at Auburn the sea was a voracious beast, every year devouring that little bit more of the flat Holderness boulder clay. Once there had been a another, older, village here, with a church and a smithy, but now it was lost beneath the great sweep of the rolling sea. Already a number of concrete bunkers, built as part of coastal defences in the war, had been swallowed up, and now lay silted and supine on the flat, ribbed sands, lapped by the incoming tides. Auburn, however, lying half a mile inland was quite safe... for the time being.
Egg and chips for tea- Timmy's mum had a Gorbals concept of haute cuisine - then out to the beach club on the site. As we set off down the lane towards Auburn, I noticed the weather had changed - a stiff breeze was blowing off the sea, which now stretched away white capped, grey and menacing beneath a leaden sky. By the time we got to the site, the wind was positively howling through the static caravans, rattling aerials and whipping up dust and debris in the shrubbery.
There was a band on at the club. A country and western group - teddy boys in cowboy hats. Timmy's mum and dad were in their element, but Timmy's request for 'owt by t'Small Faces' fell on stony ground. By nine o' clock we had had enough. Donny was falling asleep in his seat.... After all, it had been a long day. Timmy crossed the dance floor to his mum, who was gyrating drunkenly to the strains of 'Ghost Riders in the Sky'.
"Yippy I AYEEEE!"
"Yippy I O-Oh!"
"Whisht- whit are ye wantin' Timmy?"
"Key for the chalet - we all want to go to bed."
She fumbled in her handbag, swaying and screwing up her eyes.
"Here ye are laddie! If ye lose it all smash y'i'the heed!"
Timmy took the keys and retreated gracefully back to us.
"Come on lads, lets get going." He shook Donald awake."Come on Donny, bedtime".
We made our way to the entrance porch and out into the night. What a night it was. One or two electric lamps illuminated the carpark and the toilet block outside the club, but beyond was the kind of darkness usually reserved for victims of the inquisition. No moon, no stars, just stygian gloom and the wind howling along telephone lines. For me, long used to the orange street lighting of city suburbs, this rural darkness was both a surprise and a shock. It was inky black, and as we turned into the track heading for the clifftop we had to feel our way along the fence. After what seemed like an eternity bent double and struggling against the howling gale, we finally reached the garden gate and shambled up the gravel path that led to the dark silhouette of the chalet.
Timmy unlocked the door entered the kitchen and pulled the light switch. Nothing happened. "Oh bugger, the meter's run out, anybody got any change?" Nobody had, so groping our way as best we could, we crept into the long dormitory and clambered into our beds. Outside the wind was howling and we could hear rain lashing the window. Sleep was just starting to creep upon us when suddenly Timmy sat bolt upright in bed.
"Christ! did ye hear that."
Donny groaned irritably and turned over.
"What? I can't hear anything"
"Listen. I can hear someone moaning".
We strained our ears and listened intently. At first all I could hear was the wind outside, and the crashing of distant breakers, but then beyond it, a low moan made my flesh creep.
"God! I can hear it too! Where do you reckon it's coming from"
"It's not outside Timmy", said Don, who was nearest the door. "It sounds like it's coming from the other bedroom."
"Christ! This place must be bloody haunted. Pitch black, a storm, no electricity and it sounds like someone's being murdered!"
"There's a torch by your bed John," said Timmy. "Can you find it?"
I groped around and my hand closed over the torch. I switched it on.
"Give it here," hissed Timmy. "I think we'd better take a look."
"Well you're on your own." said Donny. I'm not stirring out of this ruddy bed."
Another moan, then a gasping shriek emanated from the far side of the chalet. It made your blood run cold.
"Alright then Timmy - but you can go first."
We crept into the kitchen, Timmy leading the way with the torch. Now the sound was even clearer, coming from the other bedroom at the far side of the chalet. "Right then," whispered Timmy, gathering up all his courage, "Here goes".
He flung open the door and shone in the torch.
"What the hell !"
The beam picked out the angry face of Andy, and beside him a blonde girl with the sheets pulled up around her, a look of stunned surprise on her face.
"Oh it's you silly buggers. Can't a bloke get a bit of privacy around here?"
Timmy stammered."S-sorry Andy. We thought you were a ghost!"
The frown widened into a broad grin. "OK lads, I believe you. Thousands wouldn't. I stayed behind to babysit our Jeannie, an' I just thought I'd invite a friend round." He turned to the girl. "It's alright love, it's my kid brother and his mates back early from the club. My dad and the old queen won't be back until after midnight. And as for you lot..... gerroutofit!!"
We shambled sheepishly back to our room, feeling silly. Once again we tried to settle down as the wind howled and the rain lashed, but sleep did not come easy. About a quarter after midnight the gale blew itself out and the wind subsided. Then we heard the crunching of the gravel on the garden path, the turning of a key in the door and the loud voice of Timmy's mum singing.
"I belong tae Glasgae dear auld Glasgae....."
"Will ye shut your heed woman, everyone's asleep in here."
"Don't you talk doon tae me Robbie Mc Donald. Ye think ye're somthin' special dont ye. But ahm tellin ye, yis nuthin, yis nae fuckin' guid at all."
"Shut your heed Maimie. There's oor wee Jeannie in there asleep. Ye dinna wanna wake her up when you're in drink."
I turned over wearily in my bed. Oh Christ! Not 'Your cheatin' Heart' again! A door slammed, and the argument faded away to the far bedroom. All was still. Then, like a thief in the night sleep crept upon me and I was borne away to the isles of the blest.
Sunday morning it was foggy. A fret had come in off the North Sea and hung languidly along the coastline. In the distance you could hear the mournful frrumph! of the fog horn on the Brigg lighthouse, sounding at regular intervals. The beach was out today so we would have to find other diversions. In Auburn Village a small shop hired bikes, so we resolved to go cycling for the day. Andy gave us a lift in the van to the village. He had to be back at work Monday morning and was heading for home. He informed us he would be back next Friday night.
The bike hire shop was a small cottage behind Auburn Chapel. With a red pantiled roof and walls made from cobbles taken from the beach, it was typical of the architecture of this part of East Yorkshire. Inside the adjacent garage was an array of folding bikes and tandems. We hired four of the smaller bikes for the day.
"Any interesting places to cycle to around here?" Donny asked the old man who ran the shop, as he adjusted the height of the saddle.
The old man scratched his head and peered over his glasses.
"You could go down to the Brough if you like. Its only a mile down the road".
"Yes. Auburn Castle."
"What you mean ruins and dungeons and suchlike?" beamed Timmy.
The old man smiled. "Not exactly young man. There's not much to see in that way. It was built by Count De Roos, one of William the Conqueror's followers. Only it was soon abandoned. He returned to Normandy under some kind of a cloud and was never heard of again."
"No-one knows for sure. It was said that he murdered his wife. They used to say that her ghost runs down Auburn Lane on wild nights, screaming and appealing for vengeance. She wears a white gown which runs red with her blood."
The lane was quiet and still as we pedalled through the fog, laughing and swearing as do all youths with pretensions of being adults.
"Do you reckon we'll see this soddin' ghost then?" said Donny.
"Don't be bloody silly".
"I bet she has red hair and sings 'Wee Dochin' Doris'! We heard her last night screamin' for vengeance. Just after last orders at the beach club."
"Oh very funny!" said Timmy. "That's my mam you're talkin' about."
"This old De Roos feller must have been a nasty piece of work. I wonder why he killed her?"
" I cant get no-o Satisfaction, I cant get no-o girl re-action. Cos I try... an' I try ... an' I try...."
"Alright" grinned Timmy. "So now we know!"
Auburn Brough was a disappointment. Two or three cottages by the laneside and a flat, marshy field out of which sprang a series of gorse covered mounds grazed by sheep. A Ministry of Works notice explained to us that here was the site of Auburn Brough- a Norman Motte-and-Bailey Castle. Still, at least the sun was out. This depressing sea fret seemed to hang only over the coastline. Here, barely a mile inland, the skies were blue and the sun was melting the tarmac.
We parked the bikes and clambered to the top of the great motte, sprawling out on the velvet turf on the summit. Normally you would be able to see the sea from here, but today all we could see was the white bank of fog hanging over Auburn. What weird weather! Timmy tuned his tranny as we lay there, bees buzzing lazily by and settling on the yellow gorse flowers as the Kinks played Lazin' on a Sunny Afternoon'. Only Donny was unhappy. He had sunk his cuban heel into a large steaming cow pat on the way up, and was grumbling irritably as he tried to wipe the stuff off the elastic sides of his Chelsea boots. Country life was not his scene, and he was pathologically terrified of anything that grazed in fields and had horns. All our efforts to explain to him that these animals were merely harmless Friesian dairy cows fell on stony ground. To Donny, anything with horns was a raging bull. So he cursed and grumbled as he wiped off the muck, while Timmy and I lay there in the sun, dozing in blissful contentment.
When I awoke I was alone on the top of the mound. I glanced at my watch. It was three pm. Down below I could hear voices. Two local kids had turned up with a football, and Timmy and Donny were playing them on the adjacent recreation ground. I got to my feet, and set off down the steep side of the mound. Halfway down the side of the earthwork was a small masonry platform. What it had once been was anyone's guess. I stopped to examine it, and in doing so I half turned. As I did so I had this sudden intense feeling that I was not alone up there. There was no-one in sight, just lazy insects and a light breeze rustling the gorse, but yet I had been aware of a fleeting shadow in the corner of my eye. It unnerved me, and I shivered involuntarily. I continued on my way, still feeling that someone-something was following me. Only when I clambered over the stile into the recreation ground where the lads were playing, did the feeling dissolve, and my self assuredness return.
Back at the chalet it was chilly and damp. Out to sea there was nothing but grey murk. After tea we returned the bikes, and while Timmy and Donny headed for the amusement arcades, I decided to take a walk along the clifftop.
I set out along a crumbling concrete road, which looked as if it had been constructed as part of the wartime coastal defences. I didn't get very far. After about a quarter of a mile this fine highway promptly disappeared over the edge of the cliff! The sea must have advanced somewhat since the forties. I scrambled down the brown, pebble encrusted muck until, in a flurry of loose stones I alighted onto the beach. Down the ways, a man was walking a dog, a distant silhouette fast disappearing from view around the curve of the cliff. Out to sea there was nothing but murk, the grey waters gently lapping the sand in a flat calm. When the sun shone this beach might smile on the babble of frolicking children, but today, with that distant foghorn echoing mournfully through a drab mantle of mist, the sense of gloom and loneliness seemed total.
I took off my shoes and socks, rolled up my jeans and paddled at the water's edge, my feet sinking in the wet, virgin sand, newly washed by the outgoing tide. For awhile I was lost in my own thoughts, then seeing an interesting looking black object in the sand, I stooped down to pick it up.
As I did so, that same unnerving feeling of presence that I had sensed before on the motte flooded my conscious thoughts. In the corner of my eye, momentarily, I thought I perceived a shadow, ragged and black, flapping in the sudden chill breeze that had whipped up unaccountably from that flaccid sea. I spun round to to confront an empty beach, stretching away interminably into the murk.
I was seized by a clawing sensation of dread. Suddenly I felt alone and helpless, isolated on a desolate strand with some unseen assailant dogging my footsteps. This was irrational and absurd. I yelled out loud. "Pull yourself together John you daft bugger. You're just imagining things." Shrugging, but still uneasy, I picked up the object I had seen and scrutinized it carefully. It was a small, black, ribbed and curving shell. But no! Closer examination revealed the 'shell' to be stone - some kind of a fossil. I put it in my pocket.
I gazed back along the beach. Stretching away, just beyond the reach of the tide line I noticed my footprints in the sand, marking the way I had come. They seemed to be spread very wide apart. Then it occurred to me that I was actually looking at two sets of footprints, my own bare feet, and, about a yard to the side of them, another set of prints which ended abruptly about three yards behind where I had stopped! 'Don't be silly', I thought, they must've been left by the man with the dog. But there were no paw prints. I turned round and looked towards where he had been. Ahead of me, stretching as far as the eye could see was nothing but clean, tide washed sand!
The full realisation of what this implied grasped my guts like a cold, clawing, hand and filled me with black dread. I ran - up the beach, up the loose soil of the cliff and back to the comparative safety of the concrete road. I didn't look back until I could hear the raucous and comforting jingle of the amusement arcade on the outskirts of Auburn.
Donny was watching Timmy on the pinball machine. He turned and grinned as I walked in.
" What's up with you John? You look awful."
I smiled weakly. "Oh, nowt much Donny, just been running that's all."
"You ... running? Don't make me laugh. I thought you hated running. You always manage to get out of it at school."
"Just a gentle jog that's all. Thought it might do me good."
Donny smirked disbelievingly. "If I was you I'd conserve my energies for the beach club tonight. It's talent night."
Timmy spoke to me without turning from the slot machine.
"Depends how you define talent Johnnie. There's girls to chat up on the one hand, and my mum getting up and singing on the other."
"Oh God! No!"
"I'm afraid so. She did it at Morecambe last year. It was embarrassing, they couldn't get her off the stage."
"So it's going to be an eventful night then!"
"Certainly is. Oh damn! That was the last ball."
We sat on the bench outside, drinking cans of coke. Sitting down, I felt something hard in my pocket. It was the odd black stone I had picked up on the beach. I fished it out.
"What you got there Johnny Boy?"
"Just a stone, some sort of a fossil it seems to me".
Timmy scrutinized it. He was unimpressed.
"Oh it's one of those things. Did you get it from the chalet?"
"The chalet? Well, no.... actually I picked it up on the beach. Why do you say that?"
Timmy shrugged. "Oh it's just that the old woman we bought the house from used to collect them. When we moved in the place was full of them, on the windowsills, the mantlepiece, in vases, behind doors, even in our practice cellar - they were everywhere. My mam threw most of them out I think. She thought the old girl must have been a bit dotty. She had another collection of them here at the chalet as well, that's why I thought you might have picked it up there."
"Oh I see. What an odd co-incidence."
We arrived at the club at eight. Timmy soon got his eyes set on a dark haired girl at the other side of the lounge, while Donny and I took advantage of an indifferent barman who would quite happily serve us, despite our being obviously under age. By ten o' clock we were feeling decidedly merry, too well oiled in fact to be embarrassed by the horrendous rendition of 'Wee Dochin' Doris' and 'I Believe' to which we were all subjected by Timmy's harridan mother, who swayed drunkenly against the mike stand, refusing, in decidedly colourful language to vacate the stage in order to give someone else a chance to sing. It was hot and stifling in the noisy, smoke-filled haze of the beach club, and when the shutters finally came down over the bar, we were quite giddy, and more than ready for a bit of mischief as we rolled home to bed.
Outside it was decidedly cool. The fret had retreated to the very edge of the cliffs, and the sickle moon and twinkling stars gave cold, silvered illumination to the darkened camp site. Donny could not see why these slumbering people shouldn't wish to partake of his joyous celebration of being young, alive, and well oiled. He burst into song.....
"There's a kind of hush.... all over the world, TONIGHT!!!"
"Can it you daft bugger! there's kids asleep"
"ALL OVER THE WORLD..... YOU CAN HEAR THE SOUND....."
Timmy grabbed his shoulder. "Will you shurrup! It's bad enough with me mam singin' an ' showin' us up. Me dad's just settled her down, she's only just behind us. You don't want to set her off again do you?"
It was midnight when the dark silhouette of the chalet appeared to us out of the odd mist that hung at the sea's edge. It was too late for supper. Once they had put Jeannie to bed, and locked up, Timmy's parents settled down for the night, leaving us teenagers playing cards in the 'long dormitory'.
There were five single beds in the room. Two down each side of the 'carriage', and a fifth, large, bed situated at right angles to them, blocking off a small, louvred door. Timmy's mum had opened this door when we had arrived. The small boxroom behind it contained cleaning utensils and bedding. After making up the beds she had closed the door and slid the bed back into position across it. Timmy had bagged the big bed.
After a few queries as to how Timmy had got on at the club with his new found female aquaintance, our talk eventually turned to the incident with Andy and his girlfriend.
"He's a randy devil that big brother of yours, Timmy", grinned Donny. "Should have realised he'd be up to something like that. All that crap about ghosts."
Timmy smirked. "Well, I recall you were pretty frightened at the time. At least I had the bottle to go and have a look."
"Oh yes. And to be mortally embarrassed in the process. Most uncool my son. Ghosts indeed."
I thought of the incident on the beach. "I wouldn't laugh if I were you, you never know what you might encounter in a dark, lonely place like this!"
"Oh come off it Johnny. Don't tell me you believe in ghosts?"
So here I was in danger of losing face. Better make a good show of it, I thought.
"Of course I do. Didn't you see that ghastly figure following us from the club."
"Course I did", said Donny. "It was Timmy's mum!"
A well directed pillow hit the side of his head. "That one's wearing a bit thin Donny!" He looked at me intently. "Did you really see something Johnny?"
I grinned wickedly at him. "Course not, you daft bugger!" Then ducked to avoid the next missile, as the room exploded in a rash of airborne pillows.
When we had recovered our bedding, Timmy, who was near the switch, put out the light, and we settled down to sleep. I was just starting to slumber when I was startled by an odd rustling sound at the side of my bed. I opened my eyes to see a dim, white sheeted figure hovering over me. Momentarily alarmed I lashed out at it, only to see it retreat away from me and then disappear from view with a resounding thud, followed by a muffled imprecation. The light came on. Donny had found the switch. There in the middle of the floor sat Timmy, hopelessly tangled up in his own sheet.
Donny grinned from ear to ear. "This your new stage gear Timmy? Or are you one of those things that goes 'bump' in the night?"
"Oh very funny! I didn't see his boots at the side of the bed. Bloody tripped over them didn't I?"
"Serves you bloody well right I said. Playing at Ghosties Indeed! You could at least try something really frightening - like eating your mam's pies and peas perhaps. Can we get some ruddy kip now?"
Timmy gathered up his sheet and crossed back to his bed. "Trouble with you lot, is you've no sense of fun," he growled.
"Well it is one in the morning," I said,"and the booze is starting to give me a headache. Time for shut eye I think."
Once again the light went out, and we settled down to sleep. This time slumber did not come so easy, mainly because of the headache and Donny, who was soon slumbering on his back and snoring like a pig. After about ten minutes or so, he turned over, and the snoring ceased. I felt myself slipping away into sleep and soon was walking on the beach, the sun hanging low over the rolling surf mist. Andy was beside me. He pointed to a small hut at the water's edge and began running towards it. I followed, but soon he was way in front and I couldn't catch him. He disappeared inside and slammed the door behind him. I tried to follow but it was locked.Then suddenly the tide was coming in around my feet, and I could hear Andy's muffled yells as the waves rose around the base of the shed. I could hear him frantically banging on the inside, clawing, desperate.... BANG! BANG! BANG! Then a loud, frightened yell shattered my dream, and I jerked upright in bed, a cold sweat on my face. BANG! BANG! BANG!
"What the hell!!" Then realisation dawned. I was awake, and the room was full of dank fog. Someone must have left the window open. My perception focussed on the source of the noise. No, it wasn't a flapping window, it was the louvred linen room door at the side of Timmy's bed. Our drummer was up to his tricks again. "Aw come on Timmy. One ghost's enough isn't it."
"But it isn't me!"
"Aw pull the other one. Its coming from the side of your bed."
BANG! BANG! BANG! "What on earth's that?" Now Donny was awake.
"It's gingernut here playing at ghoulies again."
"No it isn't! Look!."
Light flooded the room. Timmy had vacated his bed, and was sitting beside Donny, a wide eyed look of sheer fright on his face. BANG! BANG! BANG! The door behind Timmy's bed was visibly moving, and the doorknob turning from side to side. Now we were all shaken.
"Who's there?" I called. "What do you want?" There was no reply. Just the furious banging and shaking of the door.
Donny's voice trembled in near falsetto. "It's trying to get in! It's trying to get in! Lock the door!"
"But there's no lock on it" hissed Tommy. "and the door opens inwards".
BANG! BANG! BANG!
Gathering up all my courage, I dashed across the room, pulled the bed out from its resting place and heaved on the door. The banging stopped. We peered inside. There was nothing there but a bucket, mops and brushes, and bedding neatly stacked on two wooden shelves. I tried to push the door open a bit wider, but it resisted me - something seemed to jamming it. Donny bent down and pulled out a small object from under the base of the door. He laid it on the open palm of his hand. It was a little black pebble - a fossilised shell, just like the one I had found on the beach.
"Gryphea Incurva". The old man at the bike shop closed his book and raised his glasses. "That's the proper name for them - today their nearest living relatives are the slipper limpet and the deepwater mussel. The curving part is called 'the beak'.... that was where it hinged onto the other half of the shell. The 'ribs' on the outside were the growth lines on the shell when it was alive."
"When was that?" Said Donny.
The old man scratched his head. "Oh about five hundred million years ago. In what they call the Cambrian Period. A bit before your time I think young man."
"Gryphea....what? What did you say it was called?"
"Gryphea Incurva - its well named actually, it does in-curve. Of course the old farmers hereabouts didn't call them that, they called them Devils Toenails - black and ingrowing. They're quite common hereabouts.When they found them in the soil they used to say that 'awd Nick' must've passed that way."
"So they believed them to be evil?" Said Donny.
The old man smiled. "Not at all, Quite the contrary in fact. The locals used to polish them up and put them on windowsills. Folk believed they offered protection from Boggarts - sort of lucky charms."
"Yes. Dark elemental spirits."
"What? You mean ghosts?" Piped up Donny.
"No, not exactly. Rather more ancient and basic. The powers of nature - spirits of the air, the earth and the sea. You must understand that in ancient times people believed that every stone, river and tree was a spirit to be placated, and any unusual weather or natural event was seen as a manifestation of dangerous psychic forces. Witches invoke elementals, but are not always able to control them. My father studied these things, he used to say that you messed with such things at your peril."
"Where did you find these specimens?"
"Well one was on the beach, and the other where we're staying".
"It's just that these things still go on. Let me show you something."The old man pulled open a small drawer at the back of the shop. He pulled out a small box, and lifted the lid. Inside was a pile of the polished black shells. " I found these twenty years ago. They were laid out in a pentacle shape on the top of Auburn Brough. The night before there had been a devil of a storm - chimneys blown down and pantiles cutting loose. Old Uppiby's dutch barn was struck by lightning and burned down. And in the morning, out walking with the dog, I found these."
"And you think there was a connection?"
The old man smiled. "I don't know. Probably not. But someone was definitely practising witchcraft. It's all a matter of what you believe." He picked up the box." Here - you can have these if you like - they're no good to me anymore."
We thanked him and set off on the bikes. It was an idyllic day. Outside the sun was shining from a blue sky brushed with lazy flecks of fish scale cirrus cloud, while small boats plied a gentle sea. There was not a trace of the fog we had seen the day before.
Back at the chalet we sowed the fossils all over the place.
"Do you think seriously think this'll keep it away?" Said Timmy.
"If what that man said is true, yes, " I said.
"I suppose it's a bit like garlic and vampires" said Donny.
Timmy shook his head. "What superstitious piffle. What absolute bloody mumbo jumbo!"
"You didn't think that last night," said Donny, "you were as frightened as any of us."
"There has to be a logical explanation, Perhaps it was the wind rattling the door."
"Do you really think so? " I said "And was it the wind turning the doorknob?"
The outer door opened and Timmy's dad walked in. "Lads... I've got some bad news for ye - we're going to have to gae hame tonight."
Timmy frowned. "Why feyther? What's the matter?"
"It's Andy, lad, he's had an accident."
"Och he's alright. He's in hospital. Seems he had a bad fall at home, he's broken his arm, and has had a wee bit of concussion. We'll get tae see him tonight. But as regards your holidays - ye'll have to pack lads. We have to get the two o' clock bus to Bridlington so we can get a train back hame. Ye'd best get crackin' lads......"
So that was it.... the holiday that never was. My mum was surprised to see me home so soon. That night we went to see Andy. He was well enough, but because he'd been knocked out they were keeping him in for observation. A few days later, when he was discharged, he told us what had happened.
"I got home from the 'Queen' about 11 O Clock. I'd had a few and I cut home through the park. The stars were out and the moonlight was shining on the lake. When I got in I got my snap ready for work in the morning and then went to bed. I think I must have been asleep about two hours when I suddenly woke up in a cold sweat. I felt like something had been trying to stifle me in my sleep. Anyway, I pulled the sheets off my head and found the room was full of fog, and a horrible damp smell, like stale seaweed. Some beggar must have left the window open. Then I heard this knocking on the front door. It resounded all round the house. I pulled on the light cord but nothing happened. Power cut. And it was pitch dark out on the street - I looked out through the bedroom window. The gas lamps were out as well. Strange co-incidence I thought. And still this silly beggar outside, rapping on the door. I thought it might be someone from the electricity board, police or something, so I decided to go downstairs and answer it before they woke up the entire neighbourhood - I mean it was one thirty in the morning. Well when I got onto the landing I couldnt see where I was going properly and I slipped on the staircarpet. I fell down the stairs and knocked myself out. When I woke up the power was back on and I had a broken arm. I called up an ambulance - and well you know the rest."
"So you never answered the door then?" Said Donny.
"No when I came round, whoever it was had upped and gone. That wee sister of ours! Her name was mud I can tell you."
"Our Jeannie?" Exclaimed Timmy. "Why? What did she do?"
"It was all her fault, leaving her playthings on the landing."He fumbled in his pocket. "Just hang on, I'll show you what I slipped on."
He never got that far. I dropped one on the table. "Was it by any chance one of these ?" I said.
Andy gasped in surprise. "How on earth did you know?"
We looked at each other in silence.
John Taverner undid his tie and opened his shirt collar. Hanging around his neck from a leather thong the youth perceived a small, black object. He peered closer
"Is that a.....?"
Taverner nodded. "Yes....... Gryphaea Incurva. That's latin for a good night's sleep...........................................................