Authors: Simon Clark
Tags: #Fiction, #Horror
Clark - NAILED BY THE HEART
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©1995 by Simon Clark
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Janet, my wife. Her hard work and dedication made this book possible.
they sink through the sea they shall rise again; Though lovers be
lost love shall not; And death shall have no dominion."
Look! I'm flying!"
six-year-old boy came bounding down the beach, kicking up gouts of
sand, scattering white shells, the light breeze blowing out the
Superman cape behind him like a bright red tablecloth. Every
half-dozen steps or so he would make a determined leap.
Stainforth called back to his son: "If you do take off, don't go
too far. Just circle the seafort a couple of times then come back."
ran along the beach, which lay deserted apart from the pair of them.
He turned, almost slipping on some strands of kelp, and came bounding
back shouting in a breathless voice. "That's our seafort now
... isn't it, Dad? We bought it."
sure did, kidda. All ours." Well, truthfully, thought Chris,
they owned around five percent of the thing outright and the rest was
shackled to a gigantic mortgage.
stood, his feet firmly planted in the sand, and gazed at the
nineteenth-century seafort. Cut from a stone the color of butter, it
reared up from the sands like a beached battleship. This morning it
seemed to shine in the warm April sunlight. Around its flanks the
advancing tide swirled and foamed in a shining pool.
was his castle.
can we go in the swimming pool?"
hasn't been built yet, David. In fact there's still a lot of work to
be done before we can even move in."
want to move in now. It looks ace."
too. But we'll have to be patient."
looked up at him, his blue eyes twinkling with that laughing look he
had when he was excited. The sun had brought out across his snub nose
a spattering of freckles that looked as if they had been sprayed
there by aerosol. His grin grew wider.
me what's going to be in there, Dad."
Stainforth smiled warmly. "Well, you know it's an old seafort."
It was put there to stop an enemy attacking us from the sea. And you
know we're going to convert it into a hotel?"
people pay to stop there?"
Nan and Grandad?"
They'll come and visit us for free. We'll have our own apartment.
Your bedroom window will look out over the sea."
a swimming pool?"
hurled himself at Chris, punching him enthusiastically in the
clutched his stomach and fell convincingly to the ground.
... I'm Zorgon the Disagreeable, and Superman is beating me to a
bloody pulp. Help! Help! Ouch ..."
threw himself onto Chris's back with enough force to drive the air
from his lungs and ram his face into the beach.
little lad wasn't so little anymore. Six years old and he could pack
quite a punch.
I kick you in the head now, Dad?" asked David politely.
you can't." He laughed. A long, hearty laugh that had its
origins deep inside. He'd not felt this good in years. The plan to
convert the old seafort into a hotel was a dream come true. From now
on he would be his own boss.
and son rolled about the beach getting sand in their hair and
David collapsed giggling into a sitting position on the beach. Then
he asked if his mum was coming down to join them.
She's back at the hotel. She's got to phone some plumbers, some
builders and some other people. The seafort needs lots of work."
That's why we're going to see the man in OutButterwick about that
can we look inside the seafort? I want to see the gun."
tomorrow." Chris smiled until his cheeks ached.
David the excitement became overpowering and he raced off down the
beach once more, leaping from one patch of shells to another, the
cape shining a brilliant red in the sunlight.
sat on the beach basking in the warm sunshine.
gulls hung like scraps of white paper against the sky. Most of them
wheeled over the hulking shape of the seafort. The mass of masonry,
heated by the sun, produced a thermal of warm air on which gulls rose
until they were high in the sky. From there they would launch their
forays out to sea in search of fish.
breathed deeply and closed his eyes. The air was fresh and smelt
faintly of kelp. Why were people locked away in factories, deafened
by machines or offices that reeked of overheated photocopiers, for
nine-tenths of their lives? Here he felt truly alive.
shells, shells! Here's your bloody shells!" David's sing-song
voice cut into his reverie. He opened his eyes to see the boy's
impossibly wide grin.
how many times have I told you? Don't swear."
not swearing." David's amused look intensified. "Bloody
hell, I only said here's your bloody shells."
slapped a handful of cockleshells into his father's hand. "These
shells are dead, dead funny. They've got pictures of men's faces on
them like pennies. But not really like pennies. Because you can see
their eyes and mouths and things and--"
that's nice," murmured Chris without listening. He slipped the
shells into the pocket of his jeans.
we build a sandcastle now?"
we haven't got--"
all right, a quick one." Ruth would have disapproved. She always
accused him of being too soft on David.
began to pile sand into a mound with his hands. Here above the
high-tide mark it was loose and dry. Easy enough to dig with your
then life for the Stainforths had become uncannily easy. Within a
week of advertising their old home they had found a cash buyer. The
property developer who owned the seafort jumped at their offer,
which was nearly a quarter below the advertised price. Property
conveyancing, usually a tortuously slow process, ran smoothly. Within
six weeks he and Ruth were sitting in the solicitor's office signing
the transfer deed.
days ago, Chris had driven his family out of their old home town,
where a dozen generations of Stainforths had lived. It had been
raining. The shops, warehouses, and acre upon acre of cheap post-war
housing looked dismal--a wasteland of red brick.
the edge of town they had passed the iron-fenced cemetery where
generations of Stainforths lay buried. Chris had acknowledged it with
a tiny nod.
they travelled, the rain eased off, the cloud thinned, and by the
time they had covered the seventy miles to the coast the sun was
paused to survey the results of his digging. Without realising it,
he'd raised a huge mound of sand nearly to his waist. "How's
that, then?" Chris found himself panting. Hell, he'd have to be
fitter than this when it came to working on the seafort. He couldn't
allow illness or any other distractions if the hotel was going to
open in time to avoid instant bankruptcy next spring.
watched his father at work. The sandcastle was going to be enormous.
When it was high enough he would run and dive into it. Maybe with his
Superman costume on he'd be able to dive that bit further.
still hoped that one day he would be able to jump high enough to
actually take off. Then he would soar away like that white seagull he
now saw skimming over the waves. He would find an old cup--no, a
bucket--fly low over the water, scoop up a bucketful and
fly--whooooosh!--up the beach and tip it all over his dad.
bet his dad would laugh his head off. He'd laughed a lot lately now
they'd come to stop in the hotel. Mum too.
was waiting to be explored. The beach-- miles and miles of it. The
funny dunes that were like little hills. The marshes behind the
dunes. They were all lumpy with lots of long grass and muddy pools.
that big enough for you, then, David?"
rose, wiping his hands on his legs. He breathed heavily; sweat rolled
down his forehead.
more he found his gaze being drawn back to the seafort. His plans
ran through his head, as they had done ever since he had seen the
place. Cut through the seaward wall, install windows, triple-glazed,
giving guests panoramic views of the sea. On the landward side guests
would look over the dunes toward the marshes. A birdwatcher's
paradise. Ideal, too, for the stressed business executive craving a
get-away-from-it-all holiday. The coast here was a slice of ancient
wilderness. A gritty no-man's land between dry land and ocean.
he mentally began adding up the cost of the conversion works. It
would be expensive. If the venture failed it would mean financial
They're in the water! They're in the water!"
came running back up the beach in long, leaping strides.
in the water?" Chris looked back at the incoming tide. "There's
no one there."
looked up at him, his blue eyes serious. "They came up. Then
there was one. Then there was two. Then there was three!"
saw people? Swimming?"
... I can see people. With faces. Standing in the water. They are
know that. But these men had"--he held his hands within a few
centimeters of his face while making a rotating motion with his
fingers--"faces. Funny faces."