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The Blackhouse


It wasn’t the screams he remembered most, although they crashed to shore inside the howling, furious wind and ricocheted for hours around the high cliffs above the beach. It wasn’t the storm or the roaring, foaming waves that carved great snaking wounds through the wet sand and stole its shape from under his feet.

It wasn’t the dark or the flashing torchlight. Or the frantic hours of men pushing boats into the wild surf: motorboats, fishing boats, even old wooden sgoths. All to be smashed into the bay’s high headlands or hurled back onto the shore like stones from a slingshot.

It wasn’t the long, tired wails of the women whose silhouettes stood in a clifftop vanguard ahead of the silver-starred inland sky. Nor those waving white arms out on the rocks, which became slower and less frequent as the screamed chorus grew quieter. And it wasn’t the wondering about which of those arms, those bobbing heads that disappeared and sometimes reappeared, belonged to his father.

It wasn’t even the eerie silence that came after. The exhaustion of energy and grief and hope. The exhaustion of wind and rain and thunder and sea.

It was the tide bell out on those rocks. Its low, heavy ring growing ever more muffled under the weight of water and all that time.

And it was the black tower casting an invisible shadow over the sand and bay and calming waves.

They were always what he remembered the most. Sometimes they were all he could think about.

The tide bell. And the black tower.

And knowing that every man on those rocks would never come back. Because of him.

Because of what he’d wanted. Because of what he’d done.

The Blackhouse
by by Carole Johnstone