Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Tide (a short story)

I mentioned in an earlier post I have joined a creative writing group the meets at Waterstones. As a result of that I have attempted to do a bit of writing, although it's taken a bit of a back seat recently because I have been concentrating on wood carving. In April there was a chance to enter a short story to the Fowey Festival (DuMaurier Festival). So I thought I would have a go. The had to be called Tide, and no longer than 1500 words. I wrote a story and sent it in and didn't even get a mention in the final results, which may not surprise you when you read it. I struggle to stay within the word limit, and I was unhappy with the ending. But, I have put it here for you to read:

I'm scared.
I was scared when I joined the Lodge; as I stood blindfold, not knowing what was going to happen; when I repeated the penalty for sharing the secrets.
I was scared when the Master called me in to the anteroom, and asked me to bring my regalia case with me.
I was scared, as I sat on a rock and waited for the tide to come in.
When I went into that ornately decorated room with its beautiful furniture, and comfortable leather chairs, the junior and senior wardens were already there with the master.
“Come in John, take a seat. We've asked you to meet with us because, as Junior Deacon, we have an important task for you to perform.”
There was only one seat that I could take; they had obviously arranged it so that I was facing the master with the senior warden on my left and the junior warden on my right. The chairs were arranged around a beautiful walnut table. The chair was very comfortable, but I felt very uneasy.
The master continued. “You may be aware that in these days some brothers are not as protective of our secrets as they once were.”
“I’ve heard it said, yes.”
“Good. Well we, that is the Past Masters and myself, decided it was time to do something about it. We believe we should invoke some of the original penalties for divulging our secrets. So, we made it a priority to ensure that people with the skills required were placed in senior positions within the lodge. As you are probably aware Robert, the junior warden here, is an undertaker, and Charles, the senior warden is a very accomplished butcher. I myself was, in an earlier time, in the Special Air Services. You were chosen because as a surveyor you have skills in measuring etc. So the team is complete, and ready for action.”
Ready for what I wondered.
“The senior deacon is also a surveyor, with many more years experience than I have.”
“That is true, but his skills may be needed for more senior brethren.”
His eyes were fixed on mine as he spoke. I knew he was referring to me if I decided not to comply.
“We believe you are the right man for this particular task.”
He continued.
“You will remember Mike, the young man who joined the lodge at the meeting before last; you escorted him around the lodge.”
“Yes, I remember.”
“Unfortunately, Mike chose to approach the editor of a local paper, wanting to expose us. He, though, was unaware that the editor is also a brother. They arranged to meet in one the Editors' empty holiday lets. What Mike did not know, was that we three, (he pointed to himself and the wardens), would be in an adjoining room, listening to the conversation.
Last evening we met and listened to him spill our secrets to the editor. So, having all witnessed that, we decided to carry out the penalty.”
I could not believe what I was hearing, I sat opened mouthed, listening and unable to speak.
“You will recall what the entered apprentice penalty is for revealing our secrets.”
His eyes seemed to glaze over at this point.
“…under no less a penalty, on the violation of any of them, than that of having my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by the root, and buried in the sand of the sea at low water mark, or a cable's length from the shore, where the tide regularly ebbs and flows twice in twenty-four hours.”
“Yes, I remember it very well.” God, what was he going to say next?
“We three have already carried out most of the penalty on the aforesaid brother.”
He couldn’t mention Mike’s name now.
“We let him spill the beans, as it were, and then as he was about to leave I rendered him unconscious, the senior warden carried out the butchery part, and the junior warden has disposed of the body, apart from the tongue, which had been skilfully removed and retained by the senior warden.
That's where you come in”
I was beginning to work out where this was going.
“Your task is to bury the offending tongue in the sand of the sea, yours can skill be used in pacing out a cables length from the shoreline. We thought Chapel Cove would be a good place to carry it out. It is very secluded and low tide tomorrow is around sunset. I’m sure it will be quiet enough for you to do what you need to do.”
He was talking as though he was sending me out to buy a bag of frozen peas, completely unaware of the seriousness of what they had done, and of what they were asking me to do. Surely he could see I was shitting myself. But, he just carried on.
“The senior warden has bought the miscreants’ tongue with him for you to take with you today, you’ll need to keep it in the fridge overnight.”
I couldn’t believe they were serious; I quickly racked my brains to make sure it wasn’t 1st April. It wasn’t; that was days away. They meant this!
The senior warden took a small plastic storage box from his case and handed it to me. I tried not to look as I took it from him and quickly slipped in into my regalia case.
“We’re also going to give you a silver trowel to use during the ritual.”
Ritual, ritual? This wasn’t ritual it was murder and I had just become an accomplice.
The junior warden handed me the trowel, which I also put in my case.
What could I do? I could leave here and take the tongue straight to the police station, but most of the local police force were members of our lodge or related to someone who was. Or, I could do what I was tasked to do, and keep quiet about it.
I was scared about what would happen if I didn’t comply with their demands.
I was scared about what would happen if I did. But, at that moment I felt I had no choice. I had to do it.
The master spoke again: “Well I guess that’s it John, unless you have any questions.”
“No, no questions.” I was too gob-smacked to say anything.
“Good. Oh, just one more thing, don’t forget to let the senior warden have his box back, his wife uses it for his sandwiches.”
I had to suppress a laugh when he said that.
With that we all stood up. All three gave me the entered apprentice handshake, I picked up my case and left.
I was very aware of what I was carrying on the short walk home. Hoping the police had not started a stop and search policy.
Nothing happened.
When I got into my flat I was relieved that I was on my own, there was no one to go poking around the fridge. I put the lunch box in the fridge without looking at it.
I was working the next day so I left it where it was until I came home that evening. When I got in I didn’t feel like eating, so I got myself ready, took the tongue from the fridge. I put the lunch box and the trowel into a plastic bucket that I had decided to take with me, so it looked as though I was digging for bait or something.
The beach was quiet when I arrived; no cars in the car park.  I found what I thought to be the shoreline (these things aren't always easy), and quickly paced out a cables length (608 feet), carried out the deed, and walked back towards the rocks. Then I sat and watched the tide wash over the spot where the tongue was buried. It didn't take long; the tide was on the turn. I was still feeling scared as I sat there. It took about twenty minutes for the water to cover the freshly dug patch of sand.
When it did the sense of relief was amazing.
As I walked back to my car eight or nine laughing faces appeared from behind the rocks. Brethren from the lodge were in hysterics and there in the middle of them was Mike, he who’s tongue I thought I has just disposed of.
He spoke, so it obviously was not his tongue:
“Why did you bury a piece of Pork Fillet in the sand?”
They all continued to laugh. It seems they had plotted this together, because I had played a practical joke on one of them a while ago.
I was annoyed, but relieved.
We went to the pub together and enjoyed the joke over again.
Later, the master, who had been amongst the group, made his apologies and said he had to leave. As he was leaving he shook my hand and whispered to me:
“You’re ready.”

I’m scared.

1 comment:

Niky Sayers said...

Fantastic and I loved the ending!