The storm clouds rolled in around ten minutes after we arrived at our holiday apartment in St. Ives, Cornwall. My wife, Jane, and I had been looking forward to this holiday for a while. Our jobs in London didn’t allow much time together so we really needed this. I actually didn’t care about the weather. All I wanted was some peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of city living. Jane, on the other hand, adored the sunshine. Any chance she got she was topping up her vitamin D levels.
I suppose we could have gone somewhere where the weather was more reliable but that would have meant flying somewhere. I hated flying. Everything about it. The queues, the people, the cramped plane, the smell, the tiny toilets, the food and so on. Jane reluctantly agreed that Cornwall was a decent compromise. We had used Airbnb before and saw no reason why not to use them again.
So, like I was saying, the storm clouds rolled in and within minutes had dumped more rain on this part of England than the past few months combined. It was truly spectacular and served as the first red flag that this holiday wasn’t going to be anything like our previous holidays.
Thankfully our apartment came with underground parking and access so we didn’t get drenched hauling our bags upstairs. Our black and white Citroën C3 Aircross was the only car in the garage.
As apartments go it was pretty decent and looked exactly like the pictures online. That was a relief. There was fresh fruit on the dining room table and the flowers spread liberally around made the place smell amazing. The rain beat heavily against the large sash windows through which we could see the dark, tumultuous ocean. The small boats in the harbour below were smashing into each other as the wind whipped up sizeable waves.
We unpacked our bags into the spacious cupboards and both took showers in the spotless, grey-tiled bathroom to freshen up after a long day of travelling. We had spoken earlier in the day about going out to dinner after we had settled in but the weather forced us to change our plans. Thankfully we still had a fair amount of travel food from the journey. Service station sandwiches, crisps and chocolate. The dinner of champions.
We decided to turn in early on our first day as there was not much else we could do. We didn’t fancy watching TV as our eyes were heavy after a long day. The rain and wind continued to beat against the sash windows throughout the night. The wind made the eeriest sound we’d ever heard.
Day two started much like the first. Jane turned to me in our comfy king-size bed and said,
“Rick. The weather app said that it was going to be sunny the entire week. What the hell is going on?“
“I don’t know. I suppose we’re just going to have to make the best of it.“
At around 10 am we dragged ourselves out of bed and got ready to go out regardless of the weather. We hadn’t packed appropriate clothing for the weather but the plan was to visit the nearest clothes store and change that.
Just before we left the apartment we were listening to the local radio station. The broadcaster seemed slightly flustered when commenting on the unprecedented downpour of the night before. She was just in the middle of apologising when the signal went dead.
This was a little odd but obviously not uncommon. I was just used to it while travelling, but not indoors. I tried to change the station to see if there was anything else on but it was totally dead. Not even static. Second red flag.
I turned the radio off and stared at it for a while. I don’t know what I was expecting and didn’t know what to think.
Shrugging my shoulders, I turned to Jane and said, “Well, shall we go?“
We headed down the tiled indoor stairs, through the garage and emerged onto the main road. I looked left and right but there was no one to be seen. Not a single soul. Once again, this wasn’t unusual considering the conditions.
Prior to our leaving the apartment, I had searched the Internet for a local clothes shop that might help us with our clothing dilemma. Unfortunately, there was no mobile phone reception so we were going to have to just wing it.
The rain quickly soaked our flimsy clothing as we walked down the cobbled pavement in the direction of the harbour. The wind howled around our ears as we walked as close together as we could.
At a small intersection at the bottom of the hill, there were a few shops to our left. One of them looked like a charity shop which seemed to be the best option at that point. We quickly ran across the road and entered the shop.
A little bell rang above the door as we closed it and shut the inclement weather out at the same time. We both shared a laugh looking at each other as we were soaked to the skin.
I turned to look for a shop attendant but no one came out to greet us. I walked to the counter and stood there for a few seconds hoping that the noise of us laughing would bring someone out. No one came.
I rang the small bell on the countertop. Again, no one came. One starts to rationalise things like this immediately. My thoughts were basically that this is a small town and perhaps the attendant had just popped out for a minute to get something.
There could be any number of reasons for us standing unattended in this small shop in the South West corner of England.
After around 15 minutes, we started to realise that no one was coming to help us.
We decided the best option was to look for the clothes that we needed and then put the money on the counter to pay for them. The only raincoat in the small charity shop was slightly too small for me but it was going to have to do. Jane lucked out with a brilliant matching anorak and Boot combo. We may or may not have tried other clothes on too just for the hoot.
Once we had paid for the items and left a little note to thank the owner, we ventured out into the storm once more and decided to look for a place to eat some breakfast. We found just the spot about 50 yards up the road. A small tea room called Tammie’s Buns.
There were only four tables in the small tea room. I was amazed they could fit that many. The wallpaper was a flowery abomination and decorated with shelves covered in various unmatched trinkets. Once again I found myself making my way to an unmanned counter. Once again my efforts to get attention were futile.
We looked at each other looking for answers that neither of us had.
“What the hell is going on?” Jane said eyeing out the muffins sitting seductively under a glass lid on the countertop.
“I wish I knew. I don’t think we’re going to have any luck getting a full English here. Do you want to try somewhere else?”
“I’m hungry. I need to eat. Let’s just do what we did at the charity shop and leave money on the counter.”
With that, we helped ourselves to blackberry muffins and tea from the kitchen. While we were tucking in greedily we heard a distant scream.
“Did you hear that?” I asked Jane with my mouth full.
“I did. What do you want to do?”
“Well, we could either mind our own business or we could go and see if anyone needs our help.”
We both stood up at the same time, grabbed our new garb and headed out, once again, into the downpour. There was no way of knowing which direction the scream came from so we decided to walk back up the hill towards our apartment and have a look around.
The first thing noticed when we got to the top of the hill was a child’s buggy abandoned on its side in the middle of the road. We looked around for any signs of the mother and child but there were none.
“Rick, I’m starting to get a really bad feeling about this. Maybe we should just pack up and go home.”
“We’ve been looking forward to this holiday for so long. It would be a shame to cut it short before it’s even started. I’m sure there’s a perfectly rational explanation for all this. Everyone is probably wrapped up warm in their homes. We’re likely the only idiots outside in this weather. I tell you what. Let’s go back indoors for a bit and wait for this weather to calm down.”
Jane agreed and we made our way back in through the undercover garage. We were surprised to see another car had joined ours. Not only that but they had parked our car in.
Up until that very moment, I thought I was doing pretty well with regard to our circumstances. This new development started to push my patience.
I just wanted something to go right. I felt responsible for all that was going wrong. I know it sounds ridiculous but that’s how I felt.
I marched up the steps towards the apartments. There were only four so it wouldn’t take long to find the person who had done this. I knocked on all three but didn’t get a response.
I felt my blood starting to boil. I had to calm down. Then I heard a sound from behind one of the apartment doors. It was like a low, guttural growl. I thought it must be a dog. What else would make that kind of sound?
All of a sudden the door swung open and there stood in front of us a tall stranger wearing black and green striped, long pyjamas with brown slippers.
He had the most piercing blue eyes with salt and pepper shoulder-length hair. He also had a massive smile on his face which was rather unnerving. I put him around the mid-fifties.
“Hi! How can I help?“
“Um… Well… Is that your car in the garage blocking ours in?”
“Oh is it? I’m so sorry! I was in a bit of a rush and obviously wasn’t paying attention. Let me get my keys and move it.”
He had a very posh voice which made him a rather comical character. With that the stranger disappeared into the darkness of his apartment, only reappearing a few seconds later with keys in his hand.
“Won’t be a tick.”
He shot down the stairs in his pyjamas. We could hear the roar of his engine from where we were standing in the corridor. About two minutes later he was back with us.
“Dreadful weather out there isn’t it? Would you like to come in for a drink?”
Jane nudged me in the back to say “Don’t!” but I thought that would be rude considering this was the first person we’d seen.
“We don’t want to be any bother.”
“Oh, not at all! It would be great to have some company for a change.”
“In that case, yes, that would be great! Thank you.”
Jane shot me a ‘look’ as we walked slowly into his front room. His curtains were drawn and the whole place smelled like tobacco.
As he opened the curtains more of the inside of his apartment was revealed. To say it was odd would be an understatement. There were African masks and exotic pictures hanging on the walls, stuffed animals on tables, various weapons hanging from nails all around the room and a massive disco ball hanging from the ceiling.
“The name is Garrett by the way.”
“Oh sorry. Of course. This is my wife, Jane and I am Rick. We’re just down from London for a short break.”
“Wonderful. Always great to have new blood in town. What’s your poison?”
“Whatever’s going, thank you. Jane?”
“I’ll just have a soft drink, please.”
“Coming right up.”
Garrett left the room and returned with our beverages. We all sat down on his generously proportioned lounge suite.
“Thank you. Do you have a dog, Garrett? It’s just that we heard a growl when we were outside your apartment.”
“Oh no! This place is too small for a dog. That would be cruel. Perhaps it was this ghastly wind roaring outside.”
I knew what I heard. It wasn’t the wind.
After a brief but entertaining conversation about the various trinkets he had accumulated over the years, I asked about the seeming lack of people on the streets and in the two premises we had visited.
After a pause, he said that it was no doubt due to the weather and exactly what we had thought about the proprietors heading home for lunch. I mentioned that it was early in the morning so perhaps too early for lunch but he brushed it off like it didn’t mean a thing.
“The folk are very trusting around here, you know. We don’t lock our doors and the police have a very boring job.”
We all laughed when I said that London was a totally different story. In that moment I caught a flicker of something in his eyes that I couldn’t place.
We finished our drinks, made our excuses and returned to our apartment. We realised then that we hadn’t bought anything for dinner so a second trip outdoors would have to be on the cards.
I suggested Jane stay in the apartment while I went out as it was no use both of us getting wet again. She agreed and in a few minutes, I was back out on the street.
It was pushing towards evening now and I would have thought that the street lights would come on. They stayed dark. Not only that but there were no lights on in any houses or shops.
I headed towards the local mini-market. Not surprisingly the lights were off in there too but the door was unlocked. Once again, there was no sign of life.
This was the moment when I absolutely knew something was wrong. As I said, humans tend to rationalise things like this with all the scenarios stored in their memory banks. It takes an extraordinary act or event to pull humans from their habitual states.
I walked into the mini-market using the light on my phone to navigate the aisles. After putting all the essentials in my basket I made my way to the till to leave the money owed. That was when something moved in my peripheral vision.
I swung around and shouted.
“Hello! Who’s there?”
Now I do realise that this is the standard response to the unknown in almost all horror films but it comes surprisingly naturally in real life. I wasn’t expecting a response. What I did next was not the standard horror movie response of exploring the dark aisles. I dropped the basket and ran as fast as I could for the exit.
When I tumbled out of the mini-market onto the street my adrenaline was pumping. I fell outside on the wet pavement, scraping my knee badly but didn’t feel the pain. I got to my feet and sprinted up the hill to the apartments.
When I swung open the door violently I must have looked a sight. Jane shrieked and obviously asked me what the hell was going on.
After a brief pause, her shock turned into laughter. At that point, I started laughing too.
“So, you saw a boogeyman and bolted, correct?”
The shame was real but funny at the same time.
“You weren’t there! It was scary and dark!”
“Okay, okay. Would you like me to go?”
“Could we go together?”
After an eyeball roll, Jane put her shoes on and out we went again for the third time.
The mini-market was still dark as was the entire town it seemed.
“Great time for a power cut. This just gets better and better.” Jane said walking slightly behind me so I would block the wind.
This time we were armed with two phones so there was no way we could get caught out by the boogeyman. On entering the mini-market I looked for the basket I had dropped, or rather hastily abandoned, on my way out. It was gone.
“It was right here, I swear!”
“So you’re saying that the boogeyman is doing cleanup on aisle 4 now?”
“Look, let’s just get the stuff we need and get out of here. I vote to head home in the morning.”
“You’ve changed your tune.”
“Well, sometimes being scared shitless will do that to a person.”
As I went to grab a carton of semi-skimmed milk from the cooler there was a massive crash towards the back of the shop. We looked at each other without saying a word. Jane mouthed “Sorry” without actually making a sound. Then we heard the same guttural growl that we’d heard outside Garrett’s apartment.
“Please tell me you heard that too?” I whispered to Jane.
“Yeah.” She whispered back. “What do you think it is?”
“God only knows!”
“Should we go and have a look?”
“Are you insane!” I said without raising my voice.
“Have you never seen any horror movies? That’s exactly what they do before being unceremoniously slaughtered.”
“Aren’t you curious?”
Jane had a point. This holiday had been truly bizarre so far so one more bit of weirdness wasn’t going to make things any worse.
That line you’ve just read, ladies and gentlemen, is the perfect example of the term ‘Curiosity Killed the Cat’.
We made our way towards the back of the shop. This time we decided that turning our phone lights off might be a good idea. Our eyes soon adjusted to the dimness of our surroundings. At the very back was a door with the word ‘WAREHOUSE’ emblazoned across it. We listened in for a while and could hear something stirring. There was definite movement.
“Shall we open it?” Jane whispered crouching down as if that was going to help.
“What if the boogeyman comes flying out and eats our faces?”
She smacked me hard on the arm with the back of her hand.
I stifled a laugh and regained my composure.
“Okay, on the count of three I’ll open it slowly. One, two, three…"
Surprisingly the door didn’t make a sound when I opened it. We leaned into the darkness and were suddenly startled by the smell and then the brightness as the overhead lights came on.
There in front of us on the massive warehouse floor was a pile of bodies. Hundreds of bodies. The smell was hard to handle. Jane puked instantly and I soon followed. Moving around and on top of the bodies were massive hounds. They looked like something straight out of your worst nightmare.
We turned to get out and there stood in front of us was Garrett, still in his pyjamas. This time he was brandishing the weapons that we had seen on his wall.
With an impossible smile and a glint in his beautiful blue eyes he said,
“As I said, always great to have new blood in town.”