Authors: Joseph Kiel
The Tale of the Soul Searcher
By Joseph Kiel
Copyright and Legal Notice
“Dark Harbour: The Tale of the Soul Searcher”
Copyright © 2016 Joseph Kiel and Richard Dutton
Cover design by Richard Dutton
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
The book you are about to read was discovered several years ago in the Lincolnshire market town of Sleaford, England. It was lying on a table in a quaint coffee shop as though it had been forgotten, the inside page inscribed with a message that said: ‘Bringing this tale to another dimension - JK, traveller’.
The setting and the events described in this book are the first true insight into alternate realities existing beyond our own.
Prologue: Jeremy and the Black Widow
There’s a peculiar place in England that you’ve never been to. It’s tucked away in that distant corner of the country that you’ve always thought about visiting but never got round to.
You’ve quite possibly travelled up and down these roads, amongst the clouded hills and satanic mills, and concluded that you’ve seen all there is to see in this green and pleasant land. But when you next have the map book opened up on your knee, try having a look for this particular town.
Once you’ve found it, you’ll wonder why you’d never heard of it before. Some things only come into your awareness when the time is right though, and here the universe has brought you to this very moment where you’ve picked up this book and for some reason the town of Dark Harbour wants to make itself known to you. Perhaps it knows there’s already a part of you here.
There are things you’re going to read about this place that may surprise you. Certainly you can come here for a seaside holiday of sitting on a deck chair in a cool breeze while you lick ice cream and watch Punch and Judy, but this book isn’t a tourist guide.
There are many colourful tales to tell about these murky shores, beyond the red and white curtain of the puppet show. Visit a pub and the locals will enchant you with many delightful yarns - tales of sea monsters and outlaws, stories about the mysterious characters that have come and gone over the years. Spooky stuff too.
Perhaps the most well-known story concerns a group of pirates that once set out for a faraway land to search for treasures. Many a child has been kept amused by this tale at bedtimes and a common playground game is to re-enact how these pirates struck misfortune as they sailed back to the harbour in their ship. In a thick fog, the helmsman became quite disorientated and was unable to find the lighthouse. The ship cut into some rocks barely covered by the waters, and the hull was torn open. Some of the pirates managed to swim back to shore. Most of them drowned.
Certain mischievous children here receive the lecture about the wicked creature Night Shiner (or Old Shiner as he’s come to be known) in an attempt to keep them in line. ‘Don’t stay outside too late else Old Shiner may get you,’ is a line often heard from worried parents. It’s good advice really, for it is said that the creature liked to tear the skin from your face while your shrill screams woke the entire town. Reports of encounters ended many years ago, and so his devilish legacy of fear is now unfortunately dwindling.
There is one story that you probably won’t be told about in the pubs these days, certainly not in much detail. It might be worth reminding the locals about it because it was quite big news for a while, as stories of missing children often are. The child in this case was a boy called Jeremy, an outsider like you.
His tale began a couple of decades ago but it isn’t so clear where it all ends. Some individuals know what became of the boy and, quite rightly, they’ve kept the secret to themselves. But even they don’t know everything. The abject morbidity of it all. The devastation.
Jeremy remembered his arrival very clearly. He was only six years old on that grey day, sitting on the back seat of his grandfather’s beat-up Volvo, action figures clutched in his clammy hands.
He and his brother were on their way to start a new life after their mother had lost her battle against pancreatic cancer. She’d managed to hold on for a remarkable amount of time, adding over a year to the doctors’ best prognoses. The outcome was inevitable though, no matter how much willpower Jeremy had put into sustaining her life.
The orphaned child found it a struggle to get his head around this matter, that he would never see his mother again. She was dead forever and forever was a very long time. For a short while after her passing, there had been some uncertainty about who would look after them. That responsibility had eventually fallen to their grandfather though, as he was the only known living relative they had.
Being the eldest brother by a clear seven years and four months, Simon sat in the front passenger seat. His seniority over Jeremy apparently gave him such privileges but the junior sibling was not one to argue. Simon knew best. Simon knew a lot of things, in fact. He was the first person to go to whenever Jeremy had a question, and even though he would reply in an irritated tone of voice, Simon was always forthcoming with explaining things to him.
There hadn’t been many questions on the journey so far as none of them was feeling talkative. As the car began to reach the edge of a mist, the passengers’ thoughts were being projected towards the unknown future ahead.
Jeremy decided to break the silence: ‘How many more miles is it, Granddad?’
‘Oh, not far now.’
Simon tutted. ‘Didn’t you see the sign back there? It said it was only two more miles!’
‘Missed it,’ Jeremy replied.
Simon glanced over his shoulder and then rolled his eyes at the fistfight that his little brother was orchestrating between Han Solo and Darth Vader.
Jeremy had lost Han’s blaster the other day. The things were so small and so easy to lose. Vader still owned his lightsaber, however, and just as he was retracting it from his arm, Luke Skywalker intervened in the nick of time to block Vader’s swipe. He could really do with Yoda’s help right now but unfortunately the Jedi Master was stuffed in a box somewhere in the boot of the car.
‘Playing with his toys again,’ Simon said.
‘They’re not mine; they’re yours.’
‘Yeah, well. I’m too old to play with them now, aren’t I?’
Simon was a teenager now, had been for the past two months. Arriving at that milestone evidently meant that you were no longer able to play with your action figures. These days Simon had advanced onto comic books and had an unread edition of
The Incredible Hulk
resting on his knee. Jeremy would possibly follow that same progression in seven years’ time.
‘Damn coastal weather,’ their grandfather muttered as he flipped on the wipers, driving them into a murky drizzle. Ulric Tuckwell never spoke a great deal, as he wasn’t the type to exert his tongue for the sake of filling silences. His grandsons could often tell there was something going on in his head but he would rarely let them know what. He was talkative when he wanted to be though, and especially when he’d had one or two whiskies.
Simon and Jeremy were often entertained when his mouth got going and he spoke of his past, of the times he skipped school and stole apples from the orchard. Or his times in Europe when he’d shot at Germans and dodged bombs on the docks. So far on this car journey their grandfather had seemed like a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Or maybe he’d just had a bad day at the bookies. Either way, the boys wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference.
The ethereal mist fluttered by the windscreen like a legion of ghosts. By the roadside, what looked like cloaked figures would slowly blur into view before manifesting as old, crooked trees. It almost felt as though they’d somehow veered from the roads of reality into a supernatural vortex, sucking them into another dimension.
And even though it was misty, it was still very dark, unnaturally dark. So much so that as Simon finally looked down to read his comic book, he couldn’t see any of the words.
‘I guess they don’t call it
Harbour for nothing,’ he said, feeling that his comment was rather clever.
The other two people in the car failed to acknowledge his wittiness. Jeremy was too busy saving the galaxy in the back, and his grandfather just sighed wearily.
‘You haven’t heard the start of it, my boy.’
Ulric Tuckwell had moved to the town only eight months ago. He had some friends here, and one of them had recommended a retirement flat in a quiet part of the town. It was just what Ulric was looking for, not that he was getting old. At sixty-eight years of age he could still get up at seven each morning and drink until it was light. He wasn’t buying vests and thermal underwear from Marks and Spencer just yet.
If anything, it was now a case of having to reign in some of his energy. It was time to live a bit more modestly, amongst the pension-collecting bingo players of his new neighbourhood, amongst people who didn’t
how to spend a lot of money.
Ulric had been there when his daughter was suffering. He was the one who’d finally taken her to the hospital where she’d withered away in a bed of blood and vomit. He’d been at her bedside when the feeble rise and fall of her bed sheets had finally, and mercifully, stopped.
He’d then found his grandsons in the waiting room, Simon’s protective arm around his little brother, yet both the poor boys fast asleep. He’d woken them up and told them that she was gone. As Simon had wept, Jeremy had looked out of the window towards the heavens with his big, brown eyes. Looking for a passing angel.
At that moment it hit Ulric that he was going to have to get rid of social services and take on the guardianship of Simon and Jeremy himself. What else was he supposed to do? Let them be fostered or abandon them to an orphanage? Ulric wouldn’t have dreamt of it.
During those painful days, the memories of which he now had to choke back, Ulric had decided to accept his responsibility. It appeared that it was something he was doing a lot of these days. The only thing was that at this particular point in his life, it wasn’t a brilliant time to be bringing them into his fold. Given his circumstances, was it really the right thing to do? Of course it was. Ulric definitely wasn’t going to abandon his grandsons when they needed him most. No, this was definitely the only choice he had.
Jeremy looked out of the raindrop-mottled window. Whilst he saw the road sign that welcomed his arrival to Dark Harbour and knew that the car journey would soon be ending, in many ways he knew that this was only a beginning. As they drove into the town, Jeremy put his action figures aside and peered closer.
This place usually makes a strong first impression on people, but it isn’t really anything you see here that makes this impression. You’ll know that
has hit you but you won’t know what it is, no matter how hard you look for it.
What most people eventually put it down to is the town’s atmosphere, a brooding yet seductive ambience that pervades every corner you tread. You can literally feel it in your footsteps, as if you’re walking over tombs as you anticipate the zombified hand that will burst upwards and drag you down into its abyss. Oozing out of the pavements are the painful thoughts of citizens long since departed, ghostly whispers still carried in the wind, the presence of dark muses that influenced the gothic architecture floating around you and drawing your reflections inwards to the more morbid and bleaker corners of your soul.
Sloshing through the drenched streets into the heart of the town, it almost felt as though this
was waiting for Jeremy. He felt an odd buzzing sensation after they turned each corner, as if the thing he was looking for would suddenly reveal itself to him.
‘Ah, cool!’ Simon chirped, wide-eyed. ‘You’ve got an amusements arcade here!’
‘Oh yes,’ Ulric replied as they drove along the seafront. ‘Plenty to keep you two occupied. I’ll take you there this weekend.’
Jeremy looked the other way and saw the jaded lights of a seaside playground: a big wheel spinning into the soaked sea air, the twisting slide on the helter-skelter that stood like an alien temple, the tortured face of a cadaver as it burst through the wooden sign on the ghost train. It reminded him of the Land of Play in
, and Jeremy feared that he might turn into a mule should he be beguiled by the promises of pursuing these wayward pleasures.
Beyond the amusements he saw the wild waves that crashed against the promenade, the edge of another world where sea-swallowed skeletons might dance by their graves. The place seemed peculiarly familiar to Jeremy.
‘Where’s your house, Granddad?’
‘I don’t live in a
Simon tutted again. ‘He lives in a flat! He told you that!’
Jeremy now remembered and felt a bit silly for having asked his question.
‘Yes, Jeremy must have forgotten. It’s just up this road and up the hill a bit. Near Moonlight Cove.’
‘What’s Moonlight Cove?’ Jeremy asked. That was a safe question. He wouldn’t be shot down for asking that one.
‘Well, then,’ Ulric began, ‘Moonlight Cove is a bit of a beauty spot. It’s crescent-shaped. You know, like the moon.’
Jeremy listened in fascination.
‘Quite a magical place, so I’m told. It’s a place where unhappy people go to.’
‘Why’s that?’ Jeremy asked.
‘There’s a legend, you see. You’re supposed to go there at midnight, stand in the middle of the cove and watch the moonlight dancing on the waves. If you look into the reflection of the moon, then the spirits will appear to you and reveal how to find the things you dream for.’
Simon rolled his eyes and turned away to look out of the side window. He wasn’t going to be taken in by a story that was quite clearly for kids.