Don't Come to Coastal Virginia - Chap 2
My heart pounded at the question. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what was happening. Samantha was now standing at the door.
“How…how did you know that?” My voice quivered. I heard nothing on the other line. Finally, I heard Nord sigh.
“Get some sleep. Come to Cove early tomorrow morning. I get in around 5. Just you.” Nord hung up. I went back out to the living room with Samantha close behind me. Carl and Deb were still outside on the balcony.
“What happened? Why did you call Nord?” Samantha was insistent. There was no way I could convince her it was nothing. I related to her the events from the dog park. She seemed confused and skeptical but was still concerned. She knew I was not dramatic, or superstitious. I don’t even believe in the supernatural, at least I didn’t. Whether it actually happened or not was less relevant to her, she knew I believed it did which was enough to scare her.
We joined Carl and Deb on the balcony. There were several boats parked close offshore, and several more that we could see down near the nature reserve. All with flashing lights. It was the same on the bay side. There were patrols of what seemed to be police removing the night fisherman and ghost crab hunters from the beach and escorting them either back to their vehicles or their condos. We could hear the irritated voices from the balcony, very little was being explained. Carl and I decided to walk down to the beaches edge.
We exited the front door and almost jumped out of our skin. Ghost crabs. Thousands of them. Scurrying from the beach inland with a fury, their tiny translucent bodies moving with unbridled panic. An officer walked up to us as soon as we exited the door. He was dressed like SWAT but had no insignias or patches that I could identify. They simply had a patch with white text that said “NURO”. He had what seemed to be an M4 strapped to him as well as a side arm. He was dressed for a fight, not the typical search and rescue guys we saw.
“Please go back inside.” The officer was short and provided no explanation.
“What’s going on?” I asked. I thought about mentioning what had happened earlier but decided against it. I wanted to talk to Nord first.
“Boating accident, we’re searching for missing persons.” It sounded rehearsed.
“We can help, we know the area really well.” I took a step. He put his hand against my chest.
“Sir, in your own self-interest, go back inside. The beach is closed, no exceptions.” I was irritated but not willing to test my luck. Another helicopter flew overhead as we went back inside. We returned to the condo and sat on the porch until around 1. The road by the condo leading to the nature preserve was locked down. A few armored police vehicles blocked the way. A few said VSP (Virginia State Police), one said NURO. I laid down in bed and set my alarm for 4:30.
The night was restless at best. Helicopters and police vehicles went back and forth all night, interrupted now and then by police chatter or arguments with residents and tourists. The alarm was a welcome reprieve from the restlessness. I walked out on the balcony to drink my coffee. By the time I got out there, most of them were gone, though the road was still blocked and being patrolled. At 4:50 there was a surprise knock at my door. It was Bethany.
“Nord’s at Cove.” I put on my shoes and followed her.
I walked down the steps and across the street to Cove. Nord was at the bar. Bethany told me to go sit at the corner booth, Nord was expecting another visitor. She asked if I want breakfast. I said yes. She headed to the back. Bethany was in her 20s and had been working at Cove since she was 16 or so. She had dirty blond hair, and the tanned skin you get from living by the ocean. A tattoo of a… mermaid?started at her calf and wound its way up her leg to her thigh. It was hard to tell exactly what it was. Some kind of woman by the sea.
I sat and waited for my breakfast, nervously bouncing my leg, jiggling the corner booth. Nord was cleaning glasses at the bar and hadn’t said anything yet. He just stared at the glass. Most of the restaurant still sat in darkness, only the bar light and one of the dining lights was on. It was still dark outside, and a thick fog from the bay covered the area. Bethany brought out my breakfast. They call it the “Irish Breakfast”, the standard eggs over easy, potatoes, bacon, and a stack of pancakes. I couldn’t believe I was hungry.
I started to eat and was interrupted by the door opening. A tall man walked in. And when I say tall, I don’t mean “taller than average”. This man had to stoop to get in the door, which was large itself. He had to be almost 7 feet tall. His very presence sent a shiver down my spine. He wore a long oilskin coat, almost touching the floor, and a dark, wide brimmed hat. With the shadows I could hardly see his face. His hands were a sickly grey and his fingers seemed too long. He wore tall, dark cavalier boots. Which knocked loudly against the ancient oak floors. Besides his immense size, his very existence made me uneasy. As if I was witnessing a being out of his own time or plane. A being that felt more at home in the dark corners of the sea and was uncomfortable with his current journey into the land of the living.
Nord looked up and nodded at the man, who sat at the bar. They spoke quietly, but deliberately. I strained to hear what they were saying before realizing it was in a language I did not recognize. The man pulled something from his pocket, a small box. And placed it on the bar. Nord took it and placed it behind him. He pulled a bottle out from under the bar and handed it to the man. It looked to be made of a dark ceramic. A tall, thick bottle with a short neck, closed with a cork at the top. The man looked at the bottle and rubbed the dust off of the label, which seemed to be handwritten. They finished their conversation. The man got up slowly, turned, and slowly walked toward the door, his face still invisible under his dark hat.
Nord put the small box under the bar and walked over to my table. He sat down with a loud sigh.
“How’s breakfast?” He obviously wanted to delay the coming conversation as much as possible.
“Good, thank you… Who was that?”
“Some family in town” Nord said flatly. I was growing impatient of his shortness.
“What the hell is going on? The thing last night… it did try to sound human. I couldn’t see it though. What was it? And what is NURO, who are all the police?” I rapid fired questions at him, hoping to draw at least a few out of him. Nord just stared at me for a moment. Twisting a bracelet on his wrist. The bracelet had runes carved into it. It was a single piece of metal which bent around his wrist, almost connecting in the middle. The two ends had wolf heads on them.
“NURO is a government agency, it stands for National Underwater Reconnaissance Office. Believe it or not, it’s one of the only agencies in your government that actually matters. They do a good job of staying invisible. I’m sure by now your TVs, internet, and phones are all useless.” I quickly looked at my phone, he was right, I had no service at all.
“What you saw last night doesn’t have a name in English. NURO calls them “Eels”. They’re becoming more frequent though, and bolder. NURO is here to figure out how to contain them and understand what they are, but more than likely, they won’t be able to. These things have existed for much longer than your government. They’ve tried for years and made some progress, but they cannot fully understand.”
“How do you know? Why is NURO talking to you?” He just stared at me. The oil lamp in the middle of the table flickered in the silence. I continued.
“We will just leave; we’ll head home today.” Nord shook his head.
“By now, NURO and the police will have blocked all roads in and out under the guise of a gas leak or natural disaster, or something. Your best bet is to stay here and stay inside until it blows over. This is not the first time this has happened, but each time is a bit worse. “
“I have NEVER heard of anything like this, this can’t be real.”
“It’s been a long time. Probably not in your lifetime. And like I said, they hide it well. Besides, they are not the most dangerous part of this, though I wouldn’t trifle with them.”
I didn’t want the answer to my next question.
“What is the most dangerous part of this?” Whatever the hell this. Nord just stared again, twisting his bracelet.
“It is different each time. I’m trying to figure it out. The Eels are harbingers. Scouts. They usher in something much worse. But I’m not sure what yet.” I was angry. This sounded like complete nonsense. Nord was clearly just screwing with me.
“Bullshit man come on. It was just somebody screwing with me last night, and you’re screwing with me now.” I stood up to leave, Bethany stopped me.
“Logan. It isn’t bullshit, we can’t keep you safe if you don’t listen.”
“We?” I just stared at her. She stared back, unblinking. I sat back down and glanced outside. It was so dark. As if all light had been pulled into a void. The streetlights were out. The clouds and fog removed all possibility of starlight, and it was still to early for the sun.
“You still haven’t answered my question. If this is real, why do you know all of this? And why can’t NURO figure it out themselves? And don’t bullshit me about that guy earlier, who is he really?” Nord’s face twisted into a saddened frown. But he didn’t answer.
BANG. A shot rang out from down the street, near the blockade. Followed by several more. I jumped up and grabbed for my phone. I forgot it was useless. There was a small delay and several more shots rang out. My heart threatened to jump out of my chest. Samantha and our friends were still back at the condo. What if these things were headed there? I made a mad dash for the door but was intercepted by Bethany. She grabbed me and put her finger to her mouth. I froze. Nord had quietly made his way behind the bar.
“Sit down in the booth.” Nord said softly. He had one hand resting on the bar, nervously tapping his fingers. One hand sitting below.
“Samantha and your friends are fine.”
I obeyed. My whole body shook. Bethany looked out the door. All fell silent. No shots, no talking, no sirens. Nothing. Suddenly, I heard sand shifting outside of my window. I turned my head sharply to see…I don’t know what. It’s dark form was barely visible. But certainly there. It stood almost as tall as me. It had two legs two arms and long spindly fingers that seemed to be connected by webbing, but it was hard to tell. It didn’t matter, this is what I saw the other night. I just knew it. Even though I could only see its shape through the fog, that same fear gripped my stomach that gripped it last night. That grip you only get when you are being hunted. I jumped out of the booth and backed up, gasping for air at the sudden shock, my chest pounding. It didn’t move. It just stared.
“Hi”. I heard, muffled through the window. It still didn’t move. It still sounded…wrong. It backed up, still facing the window, disappearing into the fog. I looked at Nord, on the verge of tears. I tried to speak but nothing came out. He looked at Bethany and nodded. She walked to the door. And unlocked it.