A ‘Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons’ short story for Halloween
It was not yet the tourist season and the seaside town was just about deserted once night fell.
Captain Blue wasn’t sure why he had decided to stay the night at the plain but tidy motel in the heart of the small holiday resort. True, the clouds were an ominous grey, but he wasn’t bothered by the promise of a little rain. I guess it reminds me of happier times - before the Mysterons, he thought.
He had checked out yet another alleged sighting of Captain Black - without result - and he knew he should have taken the shuttle to the nearest airfield and organised his return to Cloudbase, but the town’s simple casual air was irresistible and he had deliberately missed the shuttle. Captain Blue was heartily sick of chasing after shadows which was how he’d begun to see this futile search for Black. Fortunately, just as he was wondering how to explain to Colonel White why he wasn’t on the next flight back to Cloudbase, he received notification that there was yet another supposed sighting in a nearby town.
Uncharacteristically, Captain Blue decided that even though he had already secured a vehicle, he would stay another night and check it out in the morning. Besides, the locals had assured him traversing the steep and winding road over the mountain between where he currently was and where he had to be was not something he would want to do at night. Hairpin bends and a steep gradient admittedly didn’t sound too appealing, Blue reflected wryly, so much so that he had been very easily persuaded to delay the trip until the next day. He steadfastly ignored the tiny voice of his conscience reminding him he’d driven in far worse conditions – in an SPV no less.
Captain Blue had a late dinner at the small restaurant adjoining the motel and returned to his room just as the storm broke. He listened to the rain with interest. Cloudbase was too high up to be subject to rain though he had seen the marvel of lightning fork above the clouds during many fierce electrical storms. But here and now it had grown cold and wet and it was pleasant to just lie in bed listening to the wind come up and the rain patter against the bedroom window. He gradually drifted off to sleep.
The storm increased in strength and the loud whistling of the wind was joined by the crash of corrugated iron, torn from a nearby shed and hurtled into a bank of trees planted some decades ago to act as a wind break. Another loud crash and Blue was awake and alert.
The steady murmur of waves lapping the shore was completely masked by the sound of the wind and rain and, he quickly realised, hail. Captain Blue listened intently and could just make out the siren of an emergency response vehicle in the distance. He wondered if he should volunteer to help so he got up and was just about to get dressed when there was a knock at the door. Blue hurriedly pulled on a dressing gown and opened the door cautiously, keeping a firm grip on the outer flyscreen which threatened to be blown off its hinges.
The motel proprietor, wearing and rainproof hat and a battered old oilskin coat pulled over his night clothes, nodded an acknowledgement. “Just wanted to let you know everything is under control and it’s best you remain in your room.”
“If I can help...” began Blue.
“It’s not necessary sir. It’s better you stay here,” the proprietor repeated.
Blue shrugged. “What about that crash I heard - and that piece of metal stuck in those trees?” He stared pointedly at the iron sheeting stuck fast in the grove of tall evergreen alders bordering the property.
The proprietor rolled his eyes. “I’ve been telling Davo for years he ought to do something about that dilapidated old shed of his. Should have been pulled down long ago. Well, it looks like Mother Nature has finally done it for him.” The motel owner looked around and listened intently, “It appears the storm might be dying down a bit - well it’s stopped hailing, anyway. Emergency services will take care of those old sheets of tin. Don’t you worry sir, everything is under control.”
“All right,” Blue replied. “Keep me in mind though. If the storm causes any more problems I’ll be glad to help out.”
The motel owner nodded, and after bidding goodbye, walked slowly back to his office, hugging the brick walls of the building to try and keep out of the worst of the rain.
Captain Blue closed the door to his room. He cautiously pulled back the faded curtains a fraction and gazed out towards the beach. The storm was dying down. Gradually the sound of the sea reasserted itself, though perhaps a little louder than before. Blue went back to bed and allowed the whoosh of the waves and a calmer wind lull him to sleep.
…he was outside in the worst of the storm. The wind was fierce and the hail pelted down, striking him over and over. He was trying to get to somewhere. Find something… What was it? The cold made him shiver. The Spectrum captain tried to get his bearings as the lightning cast deep shadows on what seemed like an alien landscape. He could see something in the distance that he felt he should recognise… Blue realised with a shock that he was dressed only in his pyjamas and his feet were bare. What on Earth am I doing here? Where am I going? he wondered. Inexplicably, Blue felt drawn towards the sea, and he began a steady walk down to the beach. There was no moon and the foaming waves held a deadly secret – a strong undertow that had claimed many lives. As a keen surfer, Captain Blue recognised the danger but still he walked on. The wind increased in tempo and he began to feel extremely cold. Chilled to the bone in fact.
Having reached the breaking surf, the Spectrum officer felt the current try to pull him further out to sea. Once again he wondered what had brought him to this place. Why do I think I need to be here? Suddenly it became harder to keep his balance. Captain Blue tried to tuck his frozen hands into the thin sleeves of his pyjamas as he dug his feet firmly into the sand, but the undertow was stronger than he’d anticipated and he felt himself begin to fall. He gasped as he lost his balance and took in a mouthful of salty water. Finally as the water retreated, he managed to stand up. Captain Blue wiped the sandy and very salty water out of his eyes and…
…he was sitting bolt upright in bed, the covers pulled almost up to his chin. Blue blinked in confusion. It was only a dream. It felt so real though… Outside the wind was again blowing a gale and the rain had returned. That must have been why I was dreaming about the sea, he reasoned. He listened to the steady tap-tap-tap of... What? Blue realised it was only the screen door of his room rattling in the wind so he decided to ignore it. Nothing to worry about, the proprietor said, he reminded himself as he settled down and tried to get back to sleep.
As the waves rolled in Captain Blue stood above the shoreline staring out towards the sea, watching a lone beachcomber walking near the rocky outcrops. It’s not the same beach as before, he realised. It was still very windy, but the skies were a fraction lighter with clouds a deep blue-grey that heralded the likelihood of the return of the storm. The beach had a strange desolate feeling as the wind whistled plaintively through the tall lilly pilly trees. It seemed to Blue as though they were whispering among themselves - whispering secrets that no human being could understand or, in fact, was even meant to hear. Blue thought it gave the whole place a strangely ethereal air. He turned his attention back to the figure on the beach. The storm had washed up driftwood and seaweed and the stranger seemed to be examining the flotsam.
Curious, Captain Blue cautiously made his way through the trees and down towards the water's edge. The waves were much rougher than the section of beach he could see from his motel window, however it had no dangerous undertow and Blue was sure that wherever this place was, it was probably a popular surfing beach. He paused to watch the white foam of the crashing waves…and soon became aware he was being observed.
By now the stranger was standing at the edge of the shore, the water lapping at his feet, and he was watching the Spectrum captain with an expression that could only be interpreted as malevolence. Moving as though in slow motion, the stranger bent down and picked up something… What was it? Blue wasn’t sure until it seemed as though the stranger’s actions suddenly speeded up and he felt a sudden pain on his cheek as a piece of driftwood struck him. A second well-aimed rock sent him looking for cover. Keeping the dense but spindly trees between him and the beach’s only other occupant, Blue cautiously edged nearer to the shore to get a closer look at the man.
It couldn’t be! It couldn’t be Captain Black. Why would he be here? And where was here exactly? He was stunned at this unexpected development. The rain of missiles abruptly stopped and Captain Blue moved purposefully towards the shoreline, but it seemed to him that he didn’t seem to be getting any closer to his quarry at all. It was as though Black was aligned with the tide which was steadily going out, and the space between them both somehow continued to remain equidistant.
This was crazy. Blue wished he had brought a gun. Even a conventional one might slow Black down, if it really was Black, which he began to doubt. Determined not to give up, Blue kept moving and was soon up to his waist in foaming surf when he realised he could no longer see his quarry. It wouldn’t be the first time that Captain Black had vanished into thin air, he thought crossly. Looking around, he took another step and felt himself drop into a deep trench. As Blue struggled to keep his head above water a huge wave reared up and he knew he had to act fast. The Spectrum captain took a deep breath and tried to dive under the wave. He felt it pull him down then drag him towards one of the rocky outcrops. Captain Blue felt the sharp edge of the submerged rocks scrape his leg as he desperately tried to regain control and he winced as his feet made contact with a hidden jagged ledge. If this is real, I am going to have to be more careful, he thought worriedly. Redoubling his efforts, he swam as strongly as he could away from the rocks…and it worked. Captain Blue experienced a deep sense of self-satisfaction as he made his way back towards the shoreline. A mere hundred metres to go and he’d be again among the thicket of whispering trees.
He was back in the motel room. What the hell was going on? Captain Blue’s puzzled gaze took in the four walls of his room, when was he expected to see was a grove of ghostly rustling trees. He was cold, having tossed off the bedclothes, but he was completely dry and there was no pain caused by sharp rocks or flying projectiles or anything else. Blue began to wonder if this crazy nightmare would ever end. With only a few hours until dawn, he decided he would stay awake until it was time to depart. He lay on his back and absently counted the lapping of the waves on the nearby beach, knowing every seventh wave would be stronger than the others. It was very soothing and it reminded him of many beachside vacations he’d taken in the past.
Captain Blue woke suddenly. Damn. I must have dozed off… He thought he’d heard footsteps but, truthfully, he didn’t feel he could entirely trust his senses, given recent incidents. Still… What was worrying was he thought he could feel a ‘presence’ in the room. An evil malevolent presence. Blue lay completely still, listening intently, but when he tried to move, to his alarm he found he was completely paralysed. The footsteps came closer and the room suddenly seemed to close in around him. He redoubled his efforts to get up but he still couldn’t move. Then even more ominously, he felt pressure being applied to his throat. Captain Blue could hear himself gasping for air. He tried desperately to regain control but he found he couldn’t seem to open his eyes or move his limbs. Why can’t I stop this happening? He couldn’t even cry out though at that moment he desperately wanted to. It seemed as though he was struck dumb. Blue felt a rising sense of terror as he fought to rationalise what was happening. It’s another dream. This is not real. It’s got to be another dream. He still couldn’t see what was going on but he knew the pressure on his throat and upper chest was increasing and he began to hear a rushing in his ears and a strange ringing sound.
The phone was ringing. Blue gasped, and suddenly free from restraint, he rapidly sat up and gulped in more air. After a couple of seconds he answered the phone – it was the early morning wake-up call he had asked for when he had booked the room.
Fully awake at last, Captain Blue reflected on his apparently over-active imagination. What part of the night had been real? There had been a storm at least, hadn’t there? Captain Blue looked cautiously out the window. There was no sign of the twisted sheet of metal that he remembered seeing in the copse of trees. That didn’t mean anything though, he reasoned. It could have been removed. Then Blue noticed the ground was wet and water droplets shone on the surrounding shrubs in the early morning light. It had been raining after all, he thought, glad his memory hadn’t been wrong on that account.
But the rest?
What about the feeling of oppression, of being trapped and unable to move? He snorted, suddenly realising what it was. A touch of the night terrors – and sleep paralysis no less. He’d even read about it years ago – some kind of waking nightmare. Feeling foolish that he hadn’t recognised the phenomenon, Blue decided this was one experience he would keep to himself. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood up, stretching his limbs in an almost catlike movement, before he calmly strolled into the bathroom.
Captain Blue stepped into the hot shower and was surprised to feel some discomfort as the piping hot water poured over him. The room was soon full of steam as the jet of water fell directly on his face and the foggy conditions meant visibility was not the best. Puzzled, Blue turned off the water and quickly stepped out of the shower cubicle. He stumbled over to the vanity unit, at the same time groping for a towel. Having found it, he wiped his eyes then flicked on the combination light and demister positioned above the mirror. With visibility effectively restored Captain Blue caught his reflection in the mirror and his eyes widened in disbelief.
Bruises. He could clearly see bruising across his chest. No wonder something felt wrong, he thought. And there was more. A tell-tale discolouration around his throat – and it looked suspiciously like finger marks.
That last incident… It was just a dream…wasn’t it?
T H E E N D
If there is a real place called Surfer’s Cove this story isn’t about it, though it is an amalgamation of holiday places I had stayed at when I was a child.
Thanks to Marion for her support and encouragement and to Chris for a website that inspired me to try writing. And special thanks to my Mum who painted the original picture I have used for the ‘postcard’.
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