Authors: Amy Cross
Copyright 2015 Amy Cross
All Rights Reserved
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, events, entities and places are either products of the author’s imagination or are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual people, businesses, entities or events is entirely coincidental.
Published by Dark Season Books
First published: June 2015
This edition: June 2015
“Know this. That the living shall not interfere with the world of the dead. For if they do, they shall bring upon themselves a great plague…”
For many years, there have been sightings of a mysterious, unmarked ferry that sometimes appears briefly off the British coast. No-one has ever been able to make contact with its crew and no-one has ever been able to get on-board… Until one night a huge storm strikes, and the ferry gets into trouble.
Woken from a nightmare, Sophie Carpenter realizes that she has a chance to answer the questions that have been haunting her for the past five years. What she finds, however, is something more horrifying than she could possibly imagine. The ferry carries a dangerous cargo, but when part of that cargo gets washed ashore, Sophie finds herself heading out to the stricken ferry, where she discovers the terrifying truth about the vessel and its captain.
The Ferry is a horror novel about a ghostly vessel that has eluded capture for generations, and about the two people who finally manage to get on-board.
“Know this: that the living shall not interfere with the world of the dead. For if they do, they shall bring upon themselves a great plague. And if that plague is unleashed, it shall never be cast off and the world of the living shall become as the world of the dead.”
Extract from the Myrkia, a book of the dead.
Five years ago
They’re still screaming, which means they’re still alive in there.
Which means I still have a chance.
“Sophie, no!” Mark shouts as I jump. “Stop!”
Almost slipping as I land on the other boat’s upturned hull, I drop to my knees but quickly steady myself. Rough waves crash against us, lifting the damaged cruiser for a moment before pitching it back down, almost knocking me clean off the side. At the last moment, I’m able to grab one of the broken fair-leads and hang on, although the sheer force of the storm quickly slams me back against the hull, knocking the air from my lungs.
Somehow, I manage to hang on.
“Sophie!” Mark shouts again, but this time I can’t make out any more of what he says as the howling wind steals his words away. It’s not hard to guess what he wants, though: he wants me to go back onto the rescue boat, he thinks I’m taking a huge risk. He thinks it’s too late.
A flash of lightning fills the dark sky, followed less than a second later by a rumble of thunder.
Scrambling across the slippery hull, barely able to see as rain pounds down through the night air, I almost lose my footing several times, but I’m able to hold on and keep myself from slithering down into the freezing, storm-lashed sea. I know I won’t have much of a chance if I go overboard, even with the life-vest I’m wearing. The waves tonight are huge, stronger than anything I’ve ever seen around here, and they’d easily smash me against the hull of either the upturned cruiser or the rescue boat, most likely shattering every bone in my body. This is one of those storms that’ll go down in the history books, and I’ll probably be telling my grandchildren about this night.
If I live to have any.
Hearing a sudden thumping sound, I realize that someone’s frantically banging on the inside of the upturned hull, beneath my feet. I can hear cries, too, muffled but urgent. Ignoring Mark’s calls for me to return to the rescue boat, I edge my way along the capsized cruiser until I reach the aft end, where -
Suddenly a huge wave pitches the boat several meters up, sending me crashing back down until I land hard against the hull and slither straight down into the water, ripping my life-jacket in the process. There’s just time to hear Mark shouting my name before I slip underwater, and when I open my eyes I immediately see the lights of the rescue boat above, and the looming dark shape of the upturned cruiser. The whole scene flashes for a second, followed by roar, and it takes a moment before I realize there was more lightning and thunder. Getting my bearings, I start to swim back up, before spotting a faint light on the cruiser’s side.
And three faces.
I swim closer and find a small window, with three people frantically banging on the glass from the other side. There’s water up to their chins and I can see the fear in their eyes: the father, using the base of a fire extinguisher to try smashing the glass, which is never going to work, not with the pressure; the mother, watching and begging for a miracle, and shouting as she sobs; and the little girl in her arms, looking out at me with a strangely calm expression, as if she has already accepted what’s about to happen.
going to happen.
We’re going to save them.
Banging on the glass from the outside, I point up, trying to make them understand that I’m going to get help. The man freezes for a moment, as if he only just noticed me, and then slowly he nods. The woman shouts something, although I can’t hear what she’s saying, not from this side of the glass. The kid just stares. Finally, running out of breath, I start to swim up until I break the surface, gasping to get air back into my lungs as the heavy waves toss me from side to side, briefly banging me against the side of the wrecked boat. Slipping under again, albeit briefly, I take in a mouthful of water and feel it slipping down my throat, before I manage to get my head up again, coughing and spluttering.
Suddenly I feel a hand on the back of my neck, and a moment later I’m hauled up onto the rescue boat. There are disorientating lights everywhere as I land on the soaking deck, and I’m immediately rolled onto my back as Mark leans down and puts his lips against mine. I try to push him away, to tell him that I don’t need his help, but he gives me the kiss of life anyway, and a moment later I roll onto my side as seawater bursts up into the back of my throat. I start coughing again, barely able to catch my breath, and when I try to get to my feet I feel a sharp pain in my gut, forcing me back down. I immediately recognize the feeling of cracked ribs.
There’s another flash of lightning, and then a looming roll of thunder that ends suddenly. For a moment, I can’t see anything, before my sight comes back and I find myself face to face with the rain-soaked deck.
“Sophie!” Mark shouts, barely able to make himself heard above the howling wind. “Are you okay?”
I nod, unable to get any words out.
“What the hell were you thinking?” he continues. “Do you want to get yourself killed?”
“They’re -” I try to say, before coughing again and bringing up more water. I lean forward, desperately trying to get it all out at once.
“Leave her alone,” another voice says nearby. “Jesus, Mark, now isn’t the time.”
“She put herself at risk,” he replies. “She put us
at risk, she -”
Before he can finish, I pull myself up. With waves tossing our boat, everything seems to be swimming around me, and I almost fall back before steadying myself against the rail. I look over the edge and see that, if anything, the storm has become stronger in the past few minutes, but when I try to spot the upturned cruiser, I can’t see any sign of its damaged hull at all. Pushing past Mark, I make my way to the other end of the boat, but there’s still nothing.
“It’s gone!” Mark shouts, hurrying to join me.
“Where?” I croak, my throat feeling harsh and sore.
“It’s gone, Sophie.
I turn to him. “Where?” I shout again. I can taste blood now, but there’ll be time to rest later. Adrenalin is pushing me to keep going.
“It’s too late,” he continues, more firmly this time. “They went under.”
“No,” I tell him, pushing past and trying to see the upturned hull, even though there’s no sign of it anywhere. “There are three of them! They’re still alive down there! I saw them just thirty seconds ago!”
“What are you talking about?”
“I saw them just before you pulled me up!”
“You blacked out,” he replies, hurrying after me.
I turn to him. He can’t be right.
“After we pulled you up,” he continues, “you blacked out. You fell and hit your head on the railing. It took me almost two minutes to bring you round again.” He pauses, as rain continues to drive down all around us. “I’m sorry, Sophie, but the cruiser sank, it was already too badly damaged. There’s no way anyone can still be alive on there, not now.”
I stare at him for a moment, trying to work out why the hell he’s saying these things. There’s no way I blacked out, I stayed conscious the whole time, I
I did. Turning, I look at the rest of the rescue crew for a moment, as our boat is pitched against the crest of a wave. Somewhere in the back of my mind, there’s a growing sense of nausea.
“Diving gear,” I whisper finally, stumbling toward one of the storage holds. I know it’s a long-shot, but I’m not giving up, not yet. “We need diving gear!”
“They’re gone!” Mark shouts, hurrying after me. “It’s too late! We have to get you to a hospital, you might be concussed.”
“It’s not too late,” I reply, fumbling with the latch on the hold. I have to squint, since my vision’s getting blurrier by the second and I feel as if the whole world is starting to pivot around my eyes. “For God’s sake, there’s a kid down there! We can’t leave a kid to drown!”
“I’m sorry,” he continues. “They’re already gone, you know they are. All that’s left is to recover the bodies and the wreckage when the storm dies down, and figure out what hit them. We did everything we could, but we don’t have any other -”
“They’re still alive!” I shout, turning to him, incensed by his refusal to act. For a moment, I see two of him, before squinting again, trying to get my vision under control. “Don’t you understand?” I stammer. “They’re still alive down there and we can still -”
Suddenly I freeze. The boat is still rocking, tossed by the high waves, and Mark is staring at me with an expression of frustration, but behind him, on the dark deck, there are three extra figures. A moment later, a patch of moonlight reveals their faces and I realize it’s the people I saw trapped in the boat: the man, the woman, and the child. They’re staring at me with blank, expressionless eyes, and when another flash of lightning streaks across the sky, I see that their skin seems blotchy and swollen, as if they’ve been in the water for some time.
“Sophie?” Mark shouts. “What’s wrong?”
Thunder rumbles above us.
Holding onto the rail, I slip past him, making my way over to the family. They’re still staring at me, and I can tell from their stares that they blame me for the fact that they went down, trapped in their boat as it sank.
“Please,” I whisper. “I tried everything…”
Slowly, the little girl opens her mouth, and seawater starts to dribble down her chin. Now that I’m closer, I can see that both her eyes are gone. Eyes are always the first to go when scavengers get hold of a body.
“I tried,” I whimper, with tears in my eyes as I kneel in front of her. “You have to believe me…”
“Sophie?” Mark says, putting a hand on my shoulder. He sounds worried. “Who are you talking to?”
“I tried!” I shout, as I scramble closer to the girl. There’s a hookworm wriggling through the skin of her right cheek, its pointed little tail poking out as it feeds on her flesh. “I swear,” I continue, as another high wave hits the rescue boat, almost knocking me over. “I did everything I could. It wasn’t enough, I know that, but there was no way to break the window, not without the right equipment, and -”
“Who are you talking to?” Mark asks again. “Jesus, Sophie, you’re bleeding. That cut on your forehead must’ve reopened. We’re getting you to hospital.”
“It’s my fault,” I whisper through the rain, as I stare into the dead little girl’s eyes and see pure hatred staring back at me. “I should have found a way. I should have saved you.”
She pauses, before slowly opening her mouth. Fleck-worms are already wriggling through her tongue, eating their way up into her cheeks and chewing her flesh from the inside. All I can do is watch in horror as a section of her face sloughs off in the driving rain, revealing the worm-covered skull beneath still staring at me with cavernous, hollow eyes.