A Ghost Story

Entry by: stevemar

26th May 2016
Spirit of the Place

“Rory! Rory!” she called after the busy little Jack Russell as it scurried to and fro, chasing nothing. The quick little terrier didn’t have to go far for its small, white body to disappear into the murky fog.
“Bloody Wales!” she snapped to herself as she strained to see through the swirling, ethereal mist which surrounded her, before relaxing slightly as the little dog appeared to her left.
It had been sunny when she began her climb but “sunny when I set off” could provide a fitting epitaph for many a Welsh hill-walker. The wickedly capricious weather of the north Wales coast can quickly transform a tourist trap into a… well, just a bloody trap; leaving lonely hikers to stumble blindly back and forth on grim and sullen hillsides, their cruel crags waiting unforgivingly to punish the fog-frightened traveller for a single misplaced footstep.
“Stay with me, you little beast!” the woman commanded. Her voice strained in its attempt to sound authoritative, but a slight pleading tone betrayed her loneliness and her fear of being alone in what had become a chill and inhospitable terrain.
She strode on purposefully as if determined to take control of the situation. Everyone had read about foolish tourists who scaled the imposing Mount Snowdon in flip flops and T-shirts; only to be shocked at how severely the fierce mountains could chastise when their fickle moods changed and the spirit of the mountain filled with menace. But this was only The Great Orme; more a rock than a mountain and rising a mere 700 feet above the bustling seaside town of Llandudno. In the summer months, its summit was awash with tourists who’d taken the cable car or tram to its summit. A few brave souls even walked up.
But when the sea fog enveloped this rocky headland, its features changed as the sun disappeared and cold air blew in from the grey Irish Sea which surrounded and battered The Orme’s cliffs on its three exposed sides. The true spirit of the place then emerged as the picturesque gorse and heather became harsh featureless tangles, stretching into the distance and giving no hint of safe direction to the confused traveller. The sullen crags and rocks that rose out of the thin soil bashed shins and tripped the feet of lost, stumbling walkers as if resentful of their presence in this now sombre place while the scudding clouds left dark, spectral shadows roaming the moor.
The Great Orme had been christened by long dead sailors who, seeing its strange, stony face rising out of the sea, named the headland the “Great Worm” or “Serpent”. But then, sailors can always spot danger where the land-bound see only scenery. This was a bleak and eerie place and even the building of the Victorian resort below could but thinly disguise its desolate soul.
“Rory! Come here! Put your lead on!” The woman pulled the brown lead from her coat pocket and held it up as if the hateful snare was some kind of enticement to the little creature. “Rory! Damn You! Where are you?” The little animal came but ran around just out of reach, far too skittish to surrender to the proffered noose.
“Oh, do what you want!” There was a sob in the woman’s voice as she stalked onwards, angry and frightened.
Abruptly, she let out a piercing shriek, the quick, sharp sound dissolving into the porous grey gloom. A sudden apparition had materialised out of the fog and waited, silent and still before her; an unkempt white figure topped with two huge twisting, tortured horns. The creature stared at her as she stood, frozen and shaking.
She moaned in desperate relief as she recognised the shape as that of one the many, wild Kashmiri goats that roamed the mountain; exotic imports marooned on this rocky, Welsh outpost. There was a bark from Rory and the creature stared haughtily at the dog before calmly turning away and dematerialising into the haze.
The woman laughed out loud, as if trying to convince herself that she hadn’t been alarmed by the beast’s appearance; but it was a shrill, staccato-like laugh that betrayed its falseness. She fell into silence and stood motionless, a worried look replacing the fake grin. She shivered in the cold that had enveloped the land now that the sun had disappeared. The top of the headland spread away on all sides, acres and acres of grass and stone, although she could only see a few feet in each direction. She thought she knew the approximate direction in which to go to retrace her steps and so set off decisively.
The dark, patient sea encircled the Orme round three of its precipitous sides. She needed to find the one side that would take her down to the hotels, the shops and the warm, welcoming busy streets below. She strained to hear the sounds of the town but the silence was broken only by the banshee-like shrieks of distant gulls.
She hurried on, but an unseen limestone rock caused her to trip and fall. The lost walker sat on the ground and finally burst into tears, pushing her dog away angrily as it scampered over to investigate. After a couple of minutes, she pushed herself up and carried on walking; and the cold sea still waited quietly below as she veered unknowingly to the cliff edge.
Like the small stone she’d tripped over, The Great Orme, itself, was one huge limestone rock – a whole mountain made out of the skeletons of millions upon millions of ancient sea creatures - a place of death, a mountain of bones, a Golgotha; its decaying insides eaten out by networks of primeval caves and abandoned mines.
The ground started to slope downwards and she followed it, limping slightly with her left shin still painful after her fall. She had no option, really. All lost walkers think that, as long as they head downwards, they’ll eventually reach safety.
“Rory!” The shout brought the little dog towards her, bouncing happily down the heather-haunted hill. “Stay with me, okay? The last thing I need is for you to disappear.” She continued downwards; the thick fog hiding the sheer drop at the bottom of the slope where hilltop met clifftop and where the vast, unfeeling sea waited far, far below.
Only the lonely figure wasn’t alone. I was there, standing on the other side and, when the little dog noticed, it sprinted towards me, barking excitedly as I moved away, drawing it back up the slope.
“Rory! Rory!” The woman looked blindly into the fog, but the terrier’s muscular little heart was pumping blood and adrenaline through its body and, too excited to listen, it disappeared into the thick, grey air.
“Rory!” She stood shouting and squinting into the mist. “Now what’s spooked that little beast?”
“Rory!” she cried forlornly. Then sighing, she turned and walked slowly uphill after her pet; away from the cliff edge and the surf-smashing rocks below… those cruel, jagged prehistoric teeth that had ripped my body to pieces before I’d been dragged out to sea.
The sea had kept me for a few days, its remorseless currents dragging my broken corpse wherever they wished. Then, like a child bored with a new toy, the ocean had dumped my corpse on a lonely Welsh shore, blue and swollen and friendless; leaving my earthbound soul to wander the fogbound Orme, warning lost walkers away from my pitiless doom.