When my father passed away; I received a journal given to us by our family attorney; stating that I was to receive this upon his death as stated in the will. Typical, I’m the only family member he has left and stayed in Valor Cove despite my desire to leave only because of dad and… Certain things that are out of my control; I opened up the journal to see that it had only one entry, and it was just this past month. I thought it was strange that my dad would be giving this to me, especially for one that barely even has a tenth of the notebook filled; but family is family, and according to the attorney, he explains that this journal was a way for my father to explain the things he was never able to explain while alive, and why I can never leave Valor Cove. As I opened the book and started to read; I started hearing the hymn that always played throughout the town, and always given sorrow to the townsfolk.
June 8th, 2009
My town has a very storied history that would certainly make a lot of historians beam with excitement; an important town in South Carolina during the days our country was collection of thirteen colonies, a battle site during the civil war in which the Unions drove out the Confederate forces with their tales between their legs, hell, it was even believed that pirates during the 17th century used the area that became Valor Cove as a hideout from authority. With that said, it often baffled my growing up here that the townspeople always given off the aura of uneasiness and sorry; like they wanted to leave this place but couldn’t.
As a twelve year old kid, I often took it as grown-ups being grown-ups so I never really bothered to ask why they were so gloomy. More often than not I would be playing at the local beach with the other kids and my younger brothers Reggie, age ten, and Warren, age eight, as there wasn’t much form of local entertainment that would keep us entertained outside of TV which our parents profoundly disapprove of. It was the sixties, so what constitutes fun was pretty limited. Reggie would often try to act all macho by being the star player whenever we play soccer with a few of the kids on the beach, always winning due to being bigger than the other kids, while Warren would simply just build sand castles. “Come on Clayton,” Reggie yelled at a distance, as I was sitting at a nearby table reading a book. “Put down that book and come play with us! We need one more man to play soccer!”
“Why don’t you ask Warren,” I responded with a sigh. “In case you haven’t noticed I am busy with something.”
“Fine bookworm; hey little bro, we need one more person, so come place with us.”
Warren doesn’t talk much since he’s always had bad social skills, but I heard the sounds of the children laughing and shouting goal a lot so I took the guess that Warren agreed to play with them. “Aw crap,” one of the neighborhood children cried out. “The ball is in the water!”
I looked over to the water and headed over to see what was up; apparently one of the neighborhood kids Olive had kicked it badly and it ended up a hundred feet away from the shoreline. “Sorry guys,” she said with a pout on her face. “I mishandled it.”
“No sweat,” Reggie responded. “We can just simply swim over to it.”
“Wait a minute Reggie,” another one of the kids said nervously. “Our parents never told us to go into the water, especially if we heard a certain sound.” I know what he was talking about; there’s an odd rule that the adults would always give the children when it comes to playing at the beach. Never go into the water when the hymn is heard, or you will be dragged to the bottom by nature stirred.
The hymn it refers to is something of a mystery to us kids but is known in the region; there will always be a soothing melody that is heard throughout the entire town as if the sound was being carried by the wind at random times, but nobody, not even the adults had any idea what it was… No, that’s not right; I always get the feeling that they know what it is, but they just simply refuse to tell us for whatever reason. “Oh come on, you actually don’t believe in that do you?” Reggie laughed; he, Olive and two other kids jumped into the waters to get the ball, though I think they only used that as an excuse to go into the water. “Shit it is freezing! Let’s just get the ball before I chatter my teeth into dust!”
It looked as though Olive and Reggie were the only ones swimming towards the ball while Tara and John were relaxing in the wave. Suddenly, we heard something that sent a shiver through my entire body. It was a song of sorts, but I couldn’t make out the words because the waves drown them out, but I can definitely hear its pitches. It was very soothing, yet at the same time filled with such sorrow; like the singers were filled with no hope. It mesmerized me to the point that I wasn’t even paying attention to the surrounding around me, and I think everybody was in the same boat. All of the sudden, I heard this scream piercing through my eardrums which snapped me out of the trance; it was Olive who made the scream. I darted my head in the general direction. Out of the four who went into the water, only Reggie and Olive were visible above the water. “What happened; where’s John and Tara?!” I yelled at the two.
“We don’t know; something pulled them under and now there is blood everywhere!” Reggie responded. I couldn’t see it, but I did notice that the water being washed on shore has a dark red hue to it now; my god, did a group of sharks wonder into the cove? Everything was all at a haze as I tried to make sense of what was happening. “Oh god I felt something rubbing against my leg!”
“We need to swim out of here before—“Just like that Olive was pulled under by something that we can’t see.
“Olive;” Reggie yelped, even though he was only fifty feet away from us, I won’t forget the look of sheer terror Reggie’s eyes were illuminating. I wouldn’t even begin imagining myself in his situation. “I’m going after her.”
“Are you crazy?!” I yelled at Reggie, amidst the chorus of the other children begging Reggie to not stick around and swim to shore. “If you try and play hero now you’ll fucking die!” Of course my words fell on deaf ears as he just simply dived. God damn it, that idiot. Why does he do this crap all the time, trying to act all macho and be the center of attention? We all kept screaming for Reggie to swim to shore; but no one volunteered to go after him as they didn’t want to find out what is hiding in the waters and be potentially eaten. Warren was completely panicking as the minutes basically ticked by; I was forced to restrain him, kicking and screaming to let him go as Reggie is still under there. I really didn’t want to believe Reggie could possibly be dead; but there is no way I would be risking Warren’s life, not now, not ever. I was able to calm him down for a brief moment, but then Warren gasped when he spotted something washing on shore. When I saw what it was, I can already feel my heart trying to burst out of my chest from agony.
It was a couple of sneakers, both completely soaked in seawater and having a lot of red splotches of blood on them. From the looks of it they came from two people… Oh god no; one of them was Reggie’s, I recognize that mustard stain anywhere and those doodles he did on his own pair. There was simply no point in denying it now; Reggie is gone. Whatever was lurking beneath the water killed my little brother and the other kids; I was so stunned that I completely lost my grip on Warren, he ran towards the sneaker crying and screaming. All the other kids came rushing to him; some of them crying with him, others looking like deer in headlights. I just stood there; everything around me was in a complete blur, I heard adults coming towards the beach from downtown, trying their best to console the kids. My parents came over; my father hugging me tightly while mother went to go get Warren. All the while I heard the same hymn that was being sung, but this time I can hear the words more clearly.
I wasn’t able to sleep for a second after the incident, but for some reason I don’t think it was due to the loss of my brother; there was something… Ominous, and scary about the words in that hymn; what does it mean by the phrase ‘by blood’, what was this wrath that caused a flood. But the most troubling question thing I kept thinking about was that last verse.
What were these soldiers; and what did it mean by taking our warm skin? I didn’t even want to think about it as I tried my best to close my eyes, my skin still crawling now that the hymn is playing in my head repeatedly like a broken record player. The whole town held a memorial for Reggie, Olive, John, and Tara at the beach, in which the parents talked about how much the kids were special and how losing them was such a blow not only to themselves by to the community. The Police Chief then got his turn to speak; like everybody else, he explained how much he’ll miss the kids, saying a special thing about each of the kids, but what caught my attention is that he said the kids were attacked by a Bull Shark, and that the local coast guard were able to hunt down the shark and kill it.
I had a lot of problems with that idea; there were no warnings about shark sightings on the radio, this town is nowhere near the known hotspot for shark activity Myrtle Beach, and how did they figure it was a shark attack anyhow? The police never recovered the bodies, so there is no way to tell how my little brother died. I would figure that my father would raise an objection, seeing as how he works as a local fisherman and knows a lot about these waters, so I looked at him. Not a single word escaped his mouth; he was even nodding in agreement with the chief. I didn’t understood it back then; why he was keeping silence about the obvious flaw with the Chief’s statements, but I was a kid back then so I really didn’t have much of a voice to object to.
For the next few years or so, Valor Cove tried its best to return to its form of normalcy; but I wasn’t being fooled, I can sense that the adults were hiding something about that incident but every time I brought it up they shot me down saying I should move on, even the now grown-up kids who were there with me on that day shot me down multiple times. Due to my sense of distrust with the community I started to become an outsider to them; they still talk to me and I do have friends but I know that my bond with the town was severely strained. Warren had it worse though; after the incident, it was like his state of mind had deteriorated, he never talked to anyone but me and our parents, he needed to get a lot of psychological therapy, and I thought he was going to go insane. He also had repeated nightmares that we would often talk to me about, saying they were real, of course I didn’t believe him but I really couldn’t blame him for thinking that way.
His nightmares would always involve beings that he called ‘Fish Men’, watching over him while he lay in bed. He told me he couldn’t see much since it was always dark; but he did explain that he always heard some sort of mumbling, like they were trying to communicate with him or with each other. I basically just took it as his mind slowly going over the cliff; he was there at the incident and saw them disappear with his own eyes, and he took it much harder than everyone else, even me. One day, five years after the accident while Warren and I were talking about the dreams at Hospitality, the local diner; a very clean cut guy who looked like came out of Ivy League basically butted into our conversation. “Uhm, can I help you sir?” I asked him annoyingly.
“Oh goodness me, I’m sorry,” he said while adjusting his glasses. I can already tell that this guy annoys me. “Where are my manners, my name is Claus Butler, I am currently doing research on urban legends and folklore in the Southeast, and I couldn’t help but hearing in on your story.”
“Uh yeah, it’s a pleasure to meet you Mr. Butler.” I responded. “I’m Clayton Roads and this is my little brother Warren; now if you don’t mind me asking, why does our conversation warrant your attention?”
“Your fish men story, I’ve heard a lot of rumors around the state about these creatures being seen along the coastline, but nobody seems to be able to bring forth much information about them, not even what they look like. A few people I met in Charleston suggested I should go here for my research; it’s a shame that so far I have come up with dead ends though, your dreams about these fish men are in fact the only clue I had.”
For someone who looks cut out for medical school, he sure does have an interest in boogeyman tales. Though I think he could be of some use in finding out some information about the hymn. I explained to him about the weird rule this town has and the hymn itself; though I purposely neglected to inform him about that attack on the beach, the last thing I want to do is to have my brother’s name be plastered in books about some urban legends. Of course he positively beamed about this new mystery. “Fascinating, very fascinating indeed,” he said while making notes. “I’ll definitely be staying here for a while to find out more about Valor Cove’s mystery.”
He thanked me as he left the diner, he explained to me shortly before he left that he’ll be staying at the local inn while he digs up for any info regarding this mystery, so if I ever wanted to make any inquiries I would know where he be. Of course; I never really took up on his offer as I didn’t consider the hymn to be that important, and more importantly, I didn’t think it had to do with what happened five years ago. Strangely though, despite him saying that he’ll be staying in town; not once have I ever seen him anywhere in Valor Cove; not at the café, not at the library, not even at the beach. I just took it as him being extremely busy and invested in his research, so I wasn’t bothered by it in the slightest. In hindsight that was a mistake.
Seven months after I first met Mr. Butler I arrived at the beach to pay my respects after I finished cleaning my dad’s fishing vessel; it was night time so I had to use my flashlight to illuminate the beach and see where I’m going. The memories of that day never leaving my mind for a second, not the attacks, not the blood soaked shoes, not that mysterious hymn. I was standing in front of the makeshift memorial statue that commemorates the lost lives of Reggie and the other three; it was a simple looking thing, the shoes being bolted to a large slab of rock and having a plaque. The slab was buried up to the top so only shoes would be visible –don’t ask me why they did that as I wasn’t involved with the construction of it-, unfortunately it resulted in a lot of rocks and pebbles covering the surface and the plaque, so I brushed them off to read it:
Ugh, again with the lord stuff. I know it’s referencing Jesus Christ, but thanks to that damn hymn I now associate the lord with something that wants my skin; in any case I headed my way back to downtown, the sounding of rocks scraping together beneath every step I took was permeating throughout the cove as if I were in an echo chamber. When I passed by the inn Mr. Butler was staying in, I noticed something rather peculiar: one of the upper floor rooms was lit up and the window was wide open… Wait, it doesn’t look like its wide open, it looks like it was broken into; was somebody trying to break into the inn? Against my better judgment I thought I should go take a look and see if something happened to Mr. Butler, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Doven; the couple had owned the inn ever since they moved down here from Virginia after Mr. Doven returned from the Second World War according to my dad, they were very nice people and always treated my little brother and I like we were their own grandkids.
When I went inside I noticed that nobody appeared to have been home; Mr. and Mrs. Doven are completely absent and the only sounds I can hear are coming from upstairs, so headed my way up there. There was this strange odor permeating the hallways, to best describe it was like a mixture of sea water and rotten fish, a smell that for those who never been on a fishing vessel would easily feel nauseated by. One of the doors at the end of the hallway is basically wide open; I really hope that isn’t Mr. Butler’s room, because it would mean that there really is some thief in here. Never the less, curiosity got the better of me and I slowly walked my way into the room. But before I even made a single step; a familiar sound came from outside:
God damn it not that hymn again, I tried my best to ignore it as I made my way in. The room looked like it had a major fight ravaging through the place; furniture thrown everywhere, broken glass on the floor, bed turned on its side, even scratch marks on the wall. That was the strangest thing about what happened in this room, if it was a simple thief, the state of the room would make me believe that some giant animal beast was in here. “Holy crap,” I silently whispered to myself as I inspected the main room to find any trace of life, “what the hell happened here?” As I finished looking around I heard sounds coming from behind the bathroom door; to best describe it sounded like loud chewing, gurgling, and twigs being snapped. My gut immediately told me that this was bad, something definitely ominous was lurking in there; I don’t know why I let my curiosity got the better of me, but I went to the bathroom and pulled the door wide open, hoping to surprise this bad guy and take care of him; what I saw in there immediately made all the blood drained from my body and made me frozen in place.
In the bathtub, there was a body that was completely opened up with its insides almost cleaned out, but I didn’t need to see the face to know who the corpse was laying in the bathtub: It was Mr. Butler, and he had the expression of seeing a terrifying monster, which was exactly what I was looking at now. It was something I will never forget. The thing standing in the bathtub with the body was this thing that can only be best described as a fish man; standing what looked to be over six feet tall, covered in scales that illuminated shades of blue and deep green in the bathroom light, webbed fingers with claws that would easily rip open my body if it wanted to, but it’s head… Oh god; its head. Going up from the upper arm, the scales gave way to exposed human skin, and its head looked like human being, but its mouth was replaced with wide fish lips that bared shark-like fangs, and its eyes were slightly misaligned. But that wasn’t the thing that made me horrified, what did was the face. I know that face from anywhere, even after all these years; I can never forget the face of my little brother.
Jesus fucking Christ; why does this thing have Reggie’s face? That question kept running around my head while I just stood there like a frozen idiot, its fish eyes staring right back at me, cocking its head left and right. It just stood there like it was scanning me or something, not even moving a muscle; I finally mustered up enough courage to have some word come tumbling out of my mouth. “R-Reg…Reggie?”
In an instant the thing immediately let out a bone rattling scream; without thought or reason I just bolted out of the room and down the hallway, all the while I can hear the thing chasing me; “Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit,” I cussed like a sailor having a heart attack. I nearly tripped on the stairwell and made a bee dash towards the door, bolting out and running towards my house without even glancing back to see if that thing was chasing. I was still cussing when I reached my house and immediately barged inside, slamming the door shut behind me and locking the doors. I collapsed onto the floor and vomited; of course all that sound I made woken up my parents and Warren, who basically came rushing downstairs wondering what the hell was going on?
“What’s going on,” my father asked sternly. “Did you cause some sort of trouble?”
“Dad,” I lost control of my volume at that point. “There’s a monster at the Doven in that ate a visitor from Charleston; we have to warn the sheriff about this!”
“What are you talking about,” my mother asked. “There’s no such thing as monsters. Wait a minute, Clayton, are you taking drugs?”
“I’m not taking any god damn drugs! There is this thing that has Reggie’s face and tried to kill me, we have to warn the sheriff about this before-.” Before I could finish, that thing burst through the doorways. I crawled backwards into the family so that I would not take my eyes off it. “That’s the creature with Reggie’s face! We have to go now!”
But I began to notice something’s deeply wrong here; mom, dad and Warren aren’t running away from the creature, in fact they were petting it like it was some sort of pet. “I’m sorry son,” Dad sighed. “I didn’t mean for Clayton to scare you.”
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing; why the hell is mom and dad treating that thing like it is Reggie? “What are you doing?!” I yelled. “That thing killed Mr. Butler!”
“We know,” Warren silently said. “He was killed as food for Reggie and the other soldiers.”
Soldiers; what did he mean by that? There is no army base anywhere near Valor Cove unless… Are they referring to the soldiers in the hymn? Oh good god, now I understood what it meant by taking our warm skin. “W-what are these things?”
“Hush boy,” my father silently scolded me, “these are our punishments from the lord for bringing destruction upon the seas centuries ago, and now we must stay here and protect them from escaping and being unleashed on the world.”
“You mean were basically prisoners to these creatures?”
“These are not creatures,” Mom said with a sunken look. “They are your brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents, lovers and friends that have lived in Valor Cove.”
That thing really is Reggie? No… I refuse to believe it, I just can’t accept it. But then the hymn started with my parents and brother singing that damn hymn, showing that they have accepted their fates of being prisoners to this town till they reach the grave; but I heard more of the hymn this time, as I only just realize there is a second verse.
Soldiers born from human and sea
I closed the book and let out a deep sigh; I never knew my dad had gone through this hell when he first experienced this. I always thought that he was just simply jaded without any good reason; but being raised with the customs in Valor Cove like I have at such an early age, I guess after what happened they decided to be more truthful with future generations about the soldiers we are bound to hold. I put the book down and looked behind me to see the corpse of some poor hitchhiker who unfortunately picked a ride whose destination was for this town. Ah well; better for the food to be foreigners then the townsfolk. The hymn was still playing from god knows where; meaning that it is feeding time, no doubt the other townsfolk grabbing the corpses of other people that are not from here. I grabbed the body and headed down the stairs and out the house towards the beach; thank god this corpse isn't heavy, otherwise I would throw out my back. Once I reached the beach there was a lot of people huddling together to see the corpses line up, about twelve in total; it looks like this will be able to least our soldiers for at least a year. I placed the corpse down and joined with the other townsfolk, waiting and watching as the fish men, carrying the faces of those they ate, started to come out of the water with their webbed feet splashing against the rocks and headed towards the corpses where they started to eat. Looking back on my dad’s journal entry, I have accepted that my fate is to remain here in this town till the end of my days, making sure to be the great cage as I watch Uncle Reggie and Uncle Warren eating the corpse I offered, knowing that if they were to leave and spread, humanity would end.