Welcome to Mewlips Country - 03 - The Osier
An original horror short set firmly in the world of HP Lovecraft, and with a nod toward John Wyndham; it was originally going to be a tale told as part of The Horror Below (HP fan fiction - in my Unfinished Journeys, Untravelled Roads file). Ongoing warnings for smut, language, character death, bashing, torture, mutilation and reader brain-damage. Brain bleach recommended.
While this file contains (semi-)original works (Copyright by myself), I cannot guarantee the originality of all of the plot elements - having read so much over the years, some of it is bound to come bubbling out again.
Welcome to Mewlips Country - 03 - The Osier
A lot of families lost people in that debacle of 1804 - and clans lost families, too.
Hell, not just north of The Border, either. There's a reason why there are abandoned villages on the moors here - and nothing to do with the Black Death. No, another kind of plague entirely.
No one speaks of those dark times - just days or weeks when the horror was upon the outlying villages, and then nothing.
Inglesea-on-the-Solent is a mute reminder of those times - you can still make out the shapes of the ruined buildings at the low Spring tides. No one from the area ventures there, no one fishes there and those few foolish visitors who do go come back ... changed. Haunted. Hollow, somehow.
Inglesea was a tiny fishing village perched on an islet, the Least Holme, not a quarter mile from the beach. The island was a full fathom above the spring tides, although a storm would flood the village as often as not. At low tide, the island could be reached on foot across the sand flats, or by cart on the causeway. At high tide, a tall man might wade the distance safely.
That all changed on the night of the fifth of April.
There's no one left but a few old worthies who still tell the tales in the Ropewalk or the Chandler's Arms now, but as a teen, I heard those tales - even as far away from Inglesea as Priddy's Hard, in The Keelhouse, they told the stories in whispered words and only then when the lamps were lit and the fire roaring - and a ship's candle on the table burning as bright as they do.
It was early morning when distress flares were lit on the hard at Inglesea and the maroons were fired. The tide was high, it being a spring tide, but the weather was set calm. Two gigs were launched from Hill Head, one bearing the local doctor, it being assumed that there was a medical emergency on the island. Shortly after their arrival on the island, further flares were lit and maroons set off.
Making her way into the Solent water was the merchant vessel, the Osier. The twenty three men from Priddy's hard made way to the island and made land.
By four of the clock, there were no lights burning on the island, and shortly after four, the screaming started. Cries of fear and agony ripped the peace of that April night - cries that were each cut off suddenly.
The beach at Hill Head was filled with people waiting to aid any who made it to shore, but none did.
When the dawn light broke, of the village and the island, there was no sign, just floating timbers and other flotsam, and the lifeless hulk of the Osier drifting on the tide.
That doughty vessel was towed to beach by the men of the Lee gig, and when boarded, two living men were found. Both were injured - one most grievously, the other less so. The latter regained consciousless first, and the poor soul was unhinged from reality - raving about monsters, of The Scylla and of The Great Leviathan. Never more did he put to sea, and he died, still raving, in the care of a Captain Smollett in Winchester.
The second man, one Jacob Barnes, remained in Priddy's Hard once he recovered. Never more did he take berth at sea, but ever worked in the Ships' Chandler's on The Hard. His limp was well known, and none made comment about the scars he bore from that night - deep, rope-like furrows across his face and arms, each bearing a double row of disc-like impressions. It was he who first related the story of Least Holme, and how he and one other managed to escape the horrors of that night.
The Osier was left abandoned on the beach, but once Barnes' story was told, the boat was blessed, doused in holy water and burned with sacrifices of rum and salt pork on the beach at low tide before being left to Neptune's mercy. One part alone of the ship was washed up undamaged, and that ship's rudder now hangs on the wall of The Keelhouse, burned into it are the names of the twenty-three men from Priddy's Hard who went to offer succour to the poor souls of Inglesea. Of those twenty three, all are now passed, along with all of their generation, but the story lingers. The back side of the rudder bears a double-row of circular depressions reminiscent of those betentacled things from our darkest nightmares.
No one from the town will ever name a boat 'Osier' again, in memory of that dark time when so many died or were driven insane, and an island was sunk with the community on it.