Some of the locals still called it “Fort Manning”, though it had been hundreds of years since the British evacuated the settlement in 1779. The fort, perched strategically on towering granite cliffs, now lie in ruin. Undergrowth enveloped the eight unused concrete gun batteries, choking sunlight from the fort’s innermost corridors. Once a training center for German prisoners during the Second World War, the settlement fell into disrepair and grew more desolate each year that slipped by.
Those who lived nearby concluded the old fort was unusual for several reasons. After the war ended, strange voices seemed to radiate from the bowels of the artillery rooms. Bursts of cruel light illuminated the frigid waters once a month at low tide and couldn’t be explained by passing ships. The villagers avoided idle gossip, but sixty years ago, a local fisherman vanished while leaving the fort’s stronghold on the treacherous coastline.
The police responded to the disappearance as soon as the local milkman noticed three untouched milk bottles in front of the fisherman’s cottage door. Three days missing. They were already thirty-six hours behind.
The case looked exceptionally bleak. No witnesses and no evidence. The authorities assumed the boat washed out to sea.
The entire village held its breath after hearing the news. Within a few hours, the milkman quickly rose to fame. He recounted his testimony that night at the pub to anyone who would listen.
“So I goes up to the door, ya see,” the milkman said to a hushed crowd. “And I see three bottles. Full! Firs’ thing I think is, ‘well, wutta a waste’. This guy n’er leaves ‘is milk out. So I walk up to the window and try ta look inside…but ‘issall dark. I knock and nothin’.”
He took a hearty swig of his pilsner, greedily eyeing the small crowd of villagers.
“What happened next, Bill?” Cried one of the barmaids. Several of the other patrons nodded eagerly and looked back at Bill.
Bill dramatically lowered his glass. It wasn’t often that he captivated audiences like this.
“I says to myself, ‘that’s weird’. So I up and call the police.”
“And…?” The barmaid asked hopefully.
“Well, they still haven’t found ‘im. But I ‘erd ’is boat washed up on shore las’ night…looked like it took quite a beating, it did. Mighta’ hit a reef er somethin’. Nothin’ found onboard ‘cept a couple ‘a fishhooks.”
The crowd began muttering to one another.
“…never knew the poor soul, did ya, Barry?”
“Saw ‘im once and awhile at most, Marianne,” said Barry as he exchanged a dark look with the barmaid beside him.
After a few weeks, the police had yet to unearth any clues regarding the fisherman’s disappearance.
Months passed and the village slowly forgot about the fisherman.
“It’s hard to justify looking for someone who is missed by no one,” Chief Lutz sighed as he shuffled through the fisherman’s case file. “Something tells me he didn’t want to be found.”
Months passed and turned to years. Years turned into decades. Few villagers remained from the rainy night Bill told his story at the pub. Memories and rumors intertwined to form local lore. No one was quite certain where fact deviated from fiction.
Years later, the milkman was well into his nineties. He still recounted his story many times, but never spoke about the oddest part of the day he stopped by the fisherman’s house:
call him crazy, but he was certain he heard hundreds of whispering voices seeping out of the fort’s inner chambers that morning. Though he still did not know what the voices said or even what language they spoke in, he left a changed man. He couldn’t explain it, but he was unable to shake off an overwhelming feeling of uneasiness in his bones for the remainder of his life.
So when death approached him later that night, he readily collapsed into its arms, able to find peace at last in a burst of cold, violent light.
A special thanks goes out to my mom, Karen Hovie, for guest editing this post. Though this is not a finished product, she has helped with the fine tuning of what I’ve written.