The Horror of Herring Hill
The Horror of Herring Hill
THE HORROR OF HERRING HILL
By Frederick Louis Richardson
Copyright© 2012, All Rights Reserved
In the year 1750...
For the priest the deadly shoals of Mal-de-Mer was a Godsend -
A coastline too treacherous to navigate with a coral reef submerged and commonly regarded as "the doorway to the deep." As usual he came armed with musket rifle and flintlock pistols with wadding and cartridge. His leather pouch brimmed with ammunition: musket balls that he used by design to scare and scatter. He would fire birdshot to wound without doing serious harm - not to murder or maim but simply to frighten and discourage.
A former British buccaneer for whom religion was the last refuge of a scoundrel, Thomas Southard now propagated (to some degree) reverence for the sanctity of life. Unlike the Jesuits who operated The Mission of St. Mark, he lived outside the monastery. Not closeted therefore not inclined toward monastic thought and introspection... even so, he cheated no man; neither did he stint on favors. Nothing tampered with his mind but the straw hat worn on his head.
St. Mark's hilltop sanctuary overlooked the archipelago where Thomas fully expected to spend the rest of his life. For him the sun would rise on what suggested more the working of some miracle - an accretion of gigantic rocks and deserted atolls amounted to seventy miles of geographical happenstance. This nominal collection of "small islands" along the eastern frontier of the West Indies had an oddly shaped emptiness between abundant coral reefs sundered from mountainous slabs of towering boulders; however the chain of coral did find thirty-six square miles of terra firma at its most southern reach. The so-called "big island" of Queensberry prospered as a port city settled by the British and sutured to an isthmus, its passage leading to New Afrika - a humble village clinging to a mountain of volcanic rock that the English laughingly called "Herring Hill."
Thomas Southard had left the Mission en route for his appointment with the Governor. He rode the hard back of a mud-colored mule pulling a small donkey wagging its sad little tail. The burro now carried the satchel with Siata scrunched inside. The bag had been intended for "souvenirs." Riding the desolate beach that rung the northern reach of the island, the priest had come to the cove in search of "mementos" where once he had uncovered a bag of gold from a sunken pirate ship.
Typically after a shipwreck he would tread the wrack line collecting broken lumber, usually wooden beams or the strake gone from the hull. He would also gather such "relics" as gold coins plucked out of the sand or maybe a saber caught up in a tangle of seaweed. The William George had gone down in the night and he had come to comb the beach for whatever the sea may tell. And he knew the sea had a long memory.
The William George was the ship and all else was the sea.
As ship's watch Faisal would commonly scamper up the riggings to be struck by the glamour of the wind, and roost gladly in the crow's nest to worry over the weather and those matters of seagoing concern. But tonight he leaned on the taffrail well on the watch - not for high winds or any rise in the sea but for any fresh evidence of the vampire !
From inside the wicker basket on the platform near the top of the mast he would keep a keen eye on the vessel's stormy pitch across a wildly vast and implacable sea. Nearer the helm where sharp flickers of light glinted upon a golden bell, circumstances had stationed Faisal on the poop.
Despite the icy chill he stood near the wheel where it was impossible to stand without holding fast. The current smashing solidly against the boat with every