Looking out across the miles of ocean, Edmond Morgan breathed in the fresh air and sighed aloud, stood atop one of many sand dunes at the rear of a small beach. He smiled. It was nice to come here every so often and take in the view, away from his family, away from work. He somehow felt he needed to do this every so often, just to be free from civilisation. If he could stay here and never turn back then he would not mind as the place was virtually a second home to him.
His wife had threatened him with divorce three times throughout the year, saying she would take the children. He didn't care, she could have them. Two overweight, idle sons he could do without if they were to separate. He was happy here, but knew it couldn’t last forever. Sometime he had to go back and face the rest of the world.
Turning, he walked across to his bike and walked it across to the path where he began to ride towards the town. On his way, he came to a crossroads with a signpost staked to the ground on one corner. There was something different about it this time.
There was an envelope attached to the wood with his name on it. He took it off and opened it. A small card was inside with a written message: 'Follow the path to the right and find the stone with a cross'. That was all it said. Edmond frowned. What was this? he thought. Some sort of game? Oh, well, might as well do it, I'm in no hurry, he reasoned with himself. No need to re-enter the stressful society just yet.
He got back onto his bike and rode along the narrow path. Both sides were flanked with bramble and dead leaves with high bushes which protruded sharp twigs. He was careful to avoid these, yet kept an eye out for the stone. Eventually, he spotted a rock nestling amongst the leaves. It had a white cross painted on it. He rode to a halt and stepped across, lifting it to the side. He saw there was an envelope underneath bearing his name. Upon opening it, it read: 'The nearest house to this point. Don’t knock on the door, the milkman has been'. He smiled. This was some kind of game he didn't mind taking part in. One of his friends playing tricks on him. The thing was though, none of them knew he was out here, and none of them he guessed were the type of person who would do this.
He wondered what the prize would be if he completed it, if there was a prize, or maybe it was leading somewhere where he was wanted.
He carried on riding along the path until he reached the end where it joined a pavement. Houses lined both sides of the road and Edmond looked across to the nearest one. It was derelict and boarded up. He left his bike against a street-lamp and walked across to the rusty gate. The path was overgrown with weeds and he walked towards the red painted faded and flaking door. He looked around and found that on the step was a milk bottle. It had no milk inside, instead, there was a note. Picking it up, he read it through the glass: 'The nearest open place of leisure has a bush especially for roses, choose one’.
Placing the bottle down, he turned and walked back along the path to his bike. He figured out the quickest route to the park and made his way there within two minutes.
Riding along many of the paths, he searched for a rose bush but could not see one. After five minutes, he rode alongside a large pond and saw that behind a bench, was a white rose bush.
Leaning the bike against the bench, he examined it and saw a card wedged into the petals of one of the flowers. He picked it up and read it: 'Your namesake has passed, don't pray when you pay your respects’. A cemetery, he thought, where was the nearest one around here? He realised that there was only one locally, and that was around the local church which was a few minutes ride away.
It was empty in the small graveyard. It seemed that no new graves had been dug for years, and he doubted there were many mourners left to pay their respects to those that were here.
It didn’t take him long to find the next message, and when he did, he wondered just what on earth was going on, and he seriously doubted whether or not he should continue, whether he should just get on his bike and ride as fast as he could away from here.
The next message was etched into a gravestone, and looked as aged and worn as the others, as though it had been there for over a hundred years.
‘Edmond’ it said, ‘Your next task is to go back to the beach near your first message, and stop the girl crying’.
Edmond simply stared at it for a while, confused, but he slowly walked back to his bike, and slowly rode back to the beach.
There was nobody there. A cold breeze had whipped up and a few seagulls circled around above. He wandered slowly along the shoreline and soon found himself walking on stones with smooth rocks near a cliff face. It was then he heard a whimper, a snivelling sound coming from behind a large rock. He cautiously made his way around and saw, sitting on a large stone, a little girl in a white dress. She looked to be around five or six years old. She was crying. Edmond walked across.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” he asked, and she looked up at him, tears streaming down her face, and pointed towards the entrance to a large cave around fifteen metres away, a cave he had always been aware of, but never ventured into.
“My doll,” said the girl. “It’s there, in the dark. Mother said I should never go into the dark on my own”. Edmond walked a few steps towards the cave and saw that in the gloom, there was a rag-doll lying on its back staring up at the cave ceiling.
Oh, he thought, smiling slightly, she’s scared of the dark and wants her doll. That should stop her crying.
He walked across to the doll and crouched down to pick it up. It was then that he felt a draft coming from within the cave. He frowned, looking deep into its black depths, then back at the girl, who was standing there grinning at him with a white face and black eyes. The draft became a breeze and he looked back into the cave and screamed.
The little girl looked away, at the ocean, and could hear Edmond’s skin being torn, and his bones being crunched, and the splattering of blood against the rocks, as so many others had before him.
After a few minutes there was silence, and she walked across to her doll, looking into the depths.
“Don’t worry,” she said, “You know I’ll keep feeding you these humans”. She turned and walked back to the rock, wondering about the next victim. She smiled again, became a normal looking girl again, and looked back out across the ocean.