Burnt Haunting – Hometown – Chapter 1

Maria.

Gloomers Bay – everything happy, sunny and wonderful (I wish)! Yet a place like no other. Rude tourists and melting ice creams were just the daily expectation at any seaside but there is a reason why it was given its name. A five minute walk from the beach was the corner shop, as every 'real' town should have. Painted in a colour somewhat similar to khaki it held many dark secrets, that I'm sure of. The windows covered in cobwebs making it unable to see inside, the dust increasing. The real mystery though, is who knows the answer? There's got to be someone or why such a name to a place so beautiful. So, anyway...

After a series of roads, bus stops and private parks you would come to a dozen blocks of flats. Every one different, similar in only one way – treated with pure solid negligence. Paint peeled from the stone cladded walls with windows following in single lines. There was no flat that didn't have a story to tell. Every window had a mark, crack or hole of some description. An old brick or a rotten egg had been thrown, which was failing to be cleared – the smell disgusting. The doors were the same – the wood splintering, the locks hopeless. Wires sprawled out across the hallway creating an accidental death trap. Door bells were useless, leaving a short buzzing noise quickly followed by a power cut to the whole block. The 'ding dong' noise we are all so used to surprisingly non-existent.

However opposite this tragedy was my treasured private school. It was spotless in every way. Bloomfield High – 'the place for nerds' so the locals called it but it was a category less than familiar due to my old high school habits. The so called high class gangsters and regular holiday makers were so sure of themselves, 'well they should know me' I often thought to myself. My retaliation towards those idiots was endless. Who would holiday in this dump anyway? People ask. Why not take a trip to Hawaii to snack on pineapples or hula dance on some fancy private beach? It's simple. Behind all the rotting and the grime, bursting to be revealed was something amazing.

After all the pedestrian crossings, bus stops and heavy traffic something was calm – Gloomers bay itself. The pebbled shoreline ran along for miles, sand providing a thick blanket for the earth. Yet this wasn't the only thing keeping something warm.

The holidaymakers smothered the beach like a squirrel to a nut they were hungry for a taste of what up until then had been such a dump. Tents and colourful costumes covered the land. Some were enjoying the cheap non-melting ice creams in the non-existent sun while others were purely enjoying laying there, watching the tide racing and breaking as it tickled their feet. Apart from all that though, there was one great luxury. The seaweed didn't cover there like it did most others, just washed back and forth in the enormous waves the surfers loved like nothing else could take them away but life itself. Just as eventually, it would.

The surfers were unusual, genuine. They were after little more than some exuberant fun to spice up their lives a little; caring about the place they lived – for selfish reasons? Maybe. But they were honest; loyal, unlike those who believed they were 'it'.

The high school GG's were the worst – the Gloomer Gangs. Black hoodies, trackies, sunglasses, multicoloured trainers and the old cool bling was the big thing for those guys. "Thugs" were the only possible way a stranger could describe them. It didn't take an idiot to work out their next plan; it was obvious one day they had to get their comeuppance but no one knew when.

People often remind me of the time when I was one of them, alone and afraid, it was a lifeline on my doorstep. It was never refused. It was a way to fit in, 'make something of your life' so the crown jewel told me anyway. Their leader was a devious man, secretive in an attempt to keep his plans under wraps he would do just the opposite. His name was James Scott. He was a past lover of mine; I was stupid not to notice he had been with every girl, women, or victim that had ever arrived there. It was a game. The hurt didn't matter to him – the greed, I somewhat escaped that. 'You're lucky' they tell me – 'Yeah right!' is the usual reply but I know they're right. They always are.

James had recently been expelled from school; his usual tricks had stopped paying off. His mother sent him away. Supposedly anyone would learn a lesson from being turned away from home – not him. Staying? Not a term anything would make acceptable. No one could tell him what to do; it was an extreme dare – the forfeit, a compromise. People rumoured about what was driving him, his father. A previous gang leader himself locked up for life, a role model to James, somehow providing a ridiculous excuse. Nothing was surprising.

That was the problem with the people those days – too smart for their own damn good. Local libraries were struggling to keep books in store; there was a thirst for knowledge. Not all of which did them good.

Their high noses were quenched for a smell of local gossip (anything which would allow revenge). It wasn't 'sweet' for them like it was supposed to be. Instead they suffered a permanent pain in the butt. Often there was someone who was set up to find out your latest secret, the latest make-up, break-up or local fling. Desperate housewives in reality, who would've thought it? I know I wouldn't.

Predictions: some people have guessed correctly before – it was a rare occasion, unpredictable in itself. People had come up with several theories as to solving the mystery, which steadily, one by one, would be proven wrong. Sequences of events were unfolding.

It was uncommon for anything unusual to occur in Gloomers bay – apart from the obvious issues with the locals, it was a holiday town like any other. Everyone was questioning if something would happen, to everyone – but it was a question of when, other than if. Strangely though, this wasn't at all frightening. What and if, are as unthreatening as words can be, but putting them side by side, 'what if' sent a shiver to the spine. Worse than this; so many combinations of words, actions, which could follow simultaneously would leave no time for breath. Air diminished in the misery.

I was always sceptical yet I never really believed in anything but the peace that for a time filled my soul. So therefore you can see, my views, my sight, my thoughts were limited. There was so much beauty you couldn't deny it if you tried, uniqueness blossomed. Normality – invaded.

Charlie.

How do I begin to explain? The impossible happens, might be a good start. In other words, we find out it was possible all along. I don't believe in ghosts, never did, and probably never will. It's a safe bet. Maybe that's why I saw her, the mind playing tricks, convincing you to see what was never there in the first place. The problem though, she is.

What do you see when you look in the mirror, when you put your make-up on or shave that tiny bit of stubble that somehow managed to grow overnight? Beauty, masculinity, hatred, whatever one you see – I couldn't. Instead, I saw her, the one who reoccurs in every dream, every nightmare. Silky long black hair floated to her shoulders, her fringe hid the truth in her eyes. Her eyes as dark as night, innocence radiated her face, it was a girl who needed some kind of rescuing, from the mirror? I didn't think so. She left me clueless, with no such way of saving her.

Whispered words constantly filled my head; 'I'm here' they'd say, 'who?' I would ask yet I never received a reply- just emptiness, of some kind. Whichever type it may have been it was surreal - unimaginable.

As time grew on I got to know her, I knew I could never touch her or hear her reply, but all along she meant something to me. Was I going insane? Was I completely out of my mind? My brother thought so.

Mike was his name; he died in some dodgy car accident a few years ago. Some drunk driver ran through a red light, in a BMW of a reddish colour with a beaten up front; the wheels needed replacing both ends. The local engineer was the best at these kinds of things; Kwik-Fit was old news. There was nothing he couldn't be sure of. 'John Taylor – best in the country!' they'd often repeat to him after his last repair. Beaten up trucks, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, flash stretch limos, he'd seen it all.

He said he'd seen that girl once, not that I believed him. 'Mysterious' he exclaimed to me 'nothing but trouble' and I couldn't help but think he was right. Whatever I thought, I couldn't get her out of my head.

Disbelieving him I questioned him – his answers were straightforward, words of truth.

"What was she wearing? Tell me as much as you can remember"

"I'm not sure this is good for you ya kn…'

"I don't care, tell me!" I insisted, my typical response to the unknown. Not that it mattered. I couldn't remember half of what I was so intrigued to find out, straight in one ear and out the other – so they say. 'Black hoody, baggy jeans, Bacco Bucci trainers' looped round in the non-filled space of my mind. It took me forever to work out what I should do, - well it felt like it.

After my visit to the garage, the Internet would've have been the best option – If, I had lived somewhere different. We had one of those old Windows ones, me my brother and I, clearly not up to date, the t, h, a, w, right arrow key and question mark were all missing. I didn't mind though. I had spent most of my childhood trying to memorize the old-fashioned keyboard, which you can no longer see through the dust, I was determined to touch type and that, I did. I couldn't bear to watch anyone who refused to do anything other. Typing with one finger was tedious, stupid, and time consuming. 'A trip to the library would have been quicker than that' I'd say to myself, saying it to my parents was how do I put it? Not worth doing. The breath it took to mutter those words would end up being beaten out of me; it was the usual from my father.

It wasn't that he didn't love us; he told us often how proud he would be of our latest achievement whilst my mother rolled her eyes with a sarcastic grin pinned to her face. She was the perfect image of my personality, without the softer side I had to hide. Temper was on a short fuse, tension always ran high in our household (especially with my dad's hobbies) yet there was always some time for fun. Monopoly was the addiction. In every game there's always something every player hopes to get; the airports were in big demand, unlike the reality. In that respect, every game was identical. My father was a competitive character, losing was not an option, yet he would never play anything but fairly. Tactics and strategy was his mastermind subject, nothing got past his eye. Every move was easy, at beginner's level to him, despite being a game of pure luck he knew what to do. I admired that about him.

Our house was certainly nothing out of the ordinary. A couple leather sofas met in the corner, large scratch marks ran down the arms from where the cats had made their leap in an attempt of insistence for attention. The TV was thoroughly undusted, covered with soot from the open fire. The flames and original stone work was the only real attraction to be found anywhere in the living room.

"It lights up the room like a smile on a Monday morning, not that we get many of those, eh?" my father would utter being typically unhesitant.

"Leave him be" my mother would reply, she couldn't take his smart side any more than I could – that was saying something. So called insignificant arguments were often over 'silly little things' (which was common between those two). But these were so important, to anyone other than myself? It's doubted, is the best answer I can give. Yet I'm the only one who can answer anymore.

Unfortunately I'm not a big believer in happy endings, still praying I'm in the middle of one - a pessimist at heart. This never stopped Gloomers Bay being like a football pitch to most men, something they really love, to me.

With every person I passed on the dying streets, I was searching. 'Black hoody, baggy jeans, Bacco Bucci trainers' repeated again. I swore once I saw a glimpse of her but those she was with somehow captured my mind, purposely trying to distract me. Am I paranoid? The answer was unknown. Still one thing stuck in my mind.