tagErotic HorrorA Voyage into Night Ch. 01

A Voyage into Night Ch. 01


It was not until her third night at sea that Isobel met the dark woman for the first time. Well, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that she merely saw the woman on the third night of the voyage; they would not actually meet until later, by which Isobel had betrayed everything she had ever believed in.

On the third night of the cruise Isobel had broken away from her fellow colleagues to find some solitude. Not an easy task on a ship carrying over 60,000 passengers and crew but quiet places were available if you knew where to look. Usually she would have depressurised after her shift in one of the many bars scattered around the many levels of the ship but today she was simply worn out. She had briefly considered returning to the gym, but then she remembered she had been put off on her last visit by an overenthusiastic gym instructor, a sickeningly cheerful Canadian called Kira whose mantra had been 'no pain no gain'. Not in Isobel's experience.

Her job, as one of the many ships doctors, was usually hectic but today had been something else; a long, incessant stream of patients complaining about runny noses, stomach bugs and all manner of petty, uninteresting ailments. When her shift had finally ended the last thing she had wanted to do was surround herself with people. But she hadn't wanted to give up on the day either by retiring to her closed, windowless cabin buried deep in the heart of the ship (balconies, after all, were for paying customers).

So instead she had found herself here, at the very stern of the ship in a roped off lower level only accessible by members of the crew. The area was bare apart from a table set to one side. Here she could cloak herself in the gloom and gaze out over the ship's wake, a bright, white highway leading out into the darkness. This far out from the mainland no lights were visible except the sole red glow from a trawler somewhere close to the horizon, so far away it may well have been a star. Here, far from the bustle and noise of the passengers it was peaceful, the only sound the deep, heavy hum of the engines, and the continuous shushing sound of the water far below her. A constant rush that gave Isobel the strange feeling that, if only she listened harder, concentrated more, she might just be able to detect a pattern, even a message.

It was while she was standing there, peering into the foaming water beneath, that she was suddenly overtaken by the feeling she was not alone. She had experienced the feeling before of course, particularly in the months following the death of her parents; standing at the sink, or hanging washing on the line, she had been struck with the thought, the near certainty, that if she turned around her mum and dad would be standing there, as real and as natural as she was. Whenever she did look, of course,there was no one there, just her small bare kitchen, her empty garden. So this time, when she felt the hairs back of her neck bristle and rise, she was expecting nothing as she instinctively looked away from the sea to peer into the gloom behind her.

The woman was standing at the guardrail on the level immediately above her, gazing down at her from the darkness. The light of the moon appeared to shine full on her face, and only on her face. That was the only thing that could explain the pale luminosity of her features, the brightness of her eyes. For a moment Isobel was speechless, lost in the shock of someone actually being there. When the feeling subsided it was replaced by other emotions; she felt suddenly nervous, apprehension spiked through with a vein of excitement. The woman was beautiful, her pale features exquisitely framed within a dark hood, her full mouth as dark as the ocean. But it was her eyes that held Isobel's attention. She had overheard talk amongst the passengers as they boarded the ship, bad taste jokes about shipwrecks and icebergs. That is what she thought of now, as she stared into the eyes of the woman above her. She thought of icebergs, cold and captivating under a clear night time sky. She thought of drowning in pure, ice cold water.

Neither of them moved. There did not seem to be even a breath of wind. The noise of the engines, of the waves, faded as though the air itself was being drained away leaving them in a still, soundless vacuum. The woman was the first to move, an almost imperceptible shift of her gloved hands on the railings, but it was enough to bring Isobel's heart into her mouth.

A moment later the sound of reality came crashing back in as a small crowd of partygoers came bursting through the hatch beside Isobel, all drunken laugher and screeches. Isobel jumped with the shock and, by the time she returned her gaze to the level above her, she was not surprised to see it empty. She ignored the prattle of the invading drunkards, trying instead to make sense of what had happened, and why, above all else, she felt overcome with a sense of loss.

It seemed to take Isobel an age to find sleep when she finally returned to her cabin. At first she had tried to read but found that she kept rereading the same page without once taking in the words. When she finally did succumb, it was to lose herself in dark, unsettling dreams of dark waves, seen sometimes from above, where the emptiness of the ocean appeared to roll back to infinity; and sometimes from below, where the hushing sound of the sea seemed distant, as though she was miles below the surface. Above her, far away above the water, a figure could be seen standing on a rocky shore, a silent shadow standing out as a deeper darkness against the night sky. Isobel felt herself rising, being drawn towards the figure, the shore. As she neared the surface she sensed a wave of need coming from the figure, of hunger, desire and an almost dizzying sense of power. Just as Isobel neared the surface, her lungs bursting, the figure raised gloved arms as if to welcome her. It seemed, for a moment, that the moon burst from behind a cloud, for a pale light fell on the woman's face; beautiful, fierce and utterly terrifying. She smiled, and Isobel had a momentary glimpse of sharp, white teeth before she broke through the surface...

Her eyes opened to find the ceiling of her cabin. As she sat up she noticed that her sheets were sodden with sweat. The dream lingered in her mind for a moment, then submerged again, leaving her to wonder why it was that her hands were shaking and why her heart was beating so very fast.

The next day Isobel struggled to keep her mind on her job, something which she would have previously considered unthinkable. Professionalism was something she regarded as an absolute minimal; she held herself to high standards and had little patience with the sloppiness of others. Nevertheless she found that her mind drifted, time and time again, to the previous night, and the woman. As well as her professionalism Isobel also took pride in her rational outlook on life. She enjoyed a good horror novel as much as the next person but she scoffed at any suggestion of the uncanny when it came to real life. She simply had no time for it. When it came to the woman she had seen the previous night this level-headedness wobbled somewhat; as much as Isobel tried to explain it away she struggled to understand her own reactions, both at the time and since. The image of the woman's face was forever waiting whenever her mind drifted, when she closed her eyes. And with the image came the same feelings of unease, uncertainty and, far below in the depths, an awakening need to see the woman again.

As soon as her shift ended she took the opportunity to wander around the ship; she took her time, methodically starting on the lowest decks and making her way higher. She visited all of the bars, even drank in a few; all the time studying the passengers for a recognisable face. After all, she told herself, the encounter had happened at night, maybe the woman looked completely different in the clear light of day. Maybe this whole thing was simply the result of her over-tired brain overreacting, turning an attractive woman out on a night time stroll into... what exactly? What exactly did Isobel think she had seen gazing down on her from the level above? A ghost? Something else? Isobel pushed the question to one side. She was being silly. And the woman, whoever she was, did not seem to be out and about in any of the places Isobel looked. Maybe that was for the best. After enjoying one last lager in the Concorde Lounge, she retired to her cabin.

Once inside she shut out the world, and ran the shower. Stripping off she stepped under the water, turning the heat up high as if to burn away the frustrations of the day, her skin turning red under the assault. Once again, she found her mind drifting back to the woman, the image so clear that she felt her body reacting, a rising heat to match the near-scalding attention of the shower. Instinctively her hand drifted down her smooth, flat stomach to the dark patch of curls between her legs, her skin hot and slippery with soap suds. With one arm bracing herself against the wall of the cubicle she allowed the fingers of her other hand to press in, seeking her clit. Her fingertips brushed against it and, her body immediately spasmed, not in pleasure but with shock. The image of the woman again appeared in Isobel's imagination, but this time with an intensity that shook the legs out from under her and sent her collapsing to the floor. A mental scream that left her gasping and blinded by the water. Shaking, she managed to reach up and cut off the water. The vision had been so clear: the woman's face. But this time, it has not been seen from a distance but close, close enough for Isobel to be lost in the intensity of the woman's eyes. She knew where to go, where the woman would be. Waiting for her.

She dressed quickly, only pausing to pick up a book as she left the cabin. If anyone questioned her she could simply say she was someone seeking somewhere secluded to read. Then, leaving the cabin, she made her way to the stern of the ship, to the place where she had seen the woman.

The ship was less active and she was able to avoid anyone that might delay her. As she neared her destination, she became aware of how truly, desperately nervous she was: her heart was beating unnaturally loud, pounding her chest and her hands were shaking. There was a dull ache in her chest and she had to concentrate to keep her breathing regular and even. This was absurd, she told herself, if she didn't get a grip what the hell would she be like if she ever had to talk to the woman. This brought her up sharp. The idea of talking to the woman was unthinkable. What then, did she want?

The air on deck was almost balmy as she mounted the steps to her destination. Again she was struck with the feeling, no the certainty, that when she reached the top the woman would be there waiting for her. This conviction drove her to take the steps two at a time in a frantic rush... only to find the area, where the woman has stood before, empty. The disappointment was as powerful as it was unexplained. What had she wanted? What was she even doing here? The night time breeze blowing in from the dark ocean beyond offered no answers and she slumped on a nearby bench. Taking her book she attempted to carry on where she left off, but again the words danced around on the page and refused to cohere in any meaningful order. She had brought the book, a collection of Edgar Allen Poe short stories, purely to explain her presence here. Now she had no interest in even keeping up the pretext.

To add to her frustration she heard laughter coming from below her, in the same place she had stood the previous night. Two figures moved out of the shadows to stand by the guardrail overlooking the sea. Isobel put down her book to watch. Her position, high up and off to the side, gave her the feeling of having a box seat at the theatre. She saw no harm in taking in a little of the show. Placing her book on a nearby chair, she moved closer to the guardrail seeking a better view.

Isobel recognised the man as a bartender from the Phoenix Bar. It must be his night off. The girl who was with him was also familiar, and it took Isobel a moment to recognise Kira from the gym, now dressed in a black jacket and dark jeans. She was pretty enough, maybe early twenties with her long blond hair caught back in a ponytail. They gave the impression of having just finished a session at the gym, their faces flushed and sweating. It occurred to Isobel that maybe their exertions had been of a more intimate nature. They were clearly lovers. Isobel had guessed that even before the man, (Tony, was it?) caught the Canadian around the waist and pulled her in for a long kiss. The girl responded enthusiastically, wrapping her arms around his neck and Isobel saw that she was holding a bottle.

It occurred to Isobel that she should leave before she was spotted, it would not do for one of the chief medical practitioners on the ship to get the reputation of being a peeping-tom. She was about to rise from the bench when something drew her attention back to the couple below her. At first she thought there had been movement but then she realised it had been the opposite. The couple had stopped moving. They appeared frozen as statues gazing, not at each other, but at a shadowed area beneath the stairs. Isobel felt her skin begin to prickle even before she noticed a curious, and familiar, thickening of the atmosphere.

A moment passed in strained silence where no-one moved. Then another. And then the dark woman stepped out of the shadows into the moonlight before the dumb-struck couple.

Isobel brought her hand to her mouth to stifle her gasp. The nerves returned and she sat mute while a storm of emotions raged inside her: fear, excitement, relief, and above all a fascination with the events unfolding below her.

The woman was dressed in a long black dress with a hood thrown up over her head. What was more, she now wore a veil over her face obscuring her eyes: only her mouth, full and dark against her pale skin, was visible. She was smiling.

The first to respond was the man. Clearly sensing some threat, and possibly the opportunity to play the hero, he positioned himself in front, almost pushing the girl behind him. The woman made no further move towards them, but Isobel sensed that, if anything, the woman's smile widened almost imperceptibly. Keeping himself between the two women the man took a hesitant step forward. He even, and Isobel had to give him credit for this, attempted a smile back in return.

'A little early for Halloween isn't it?' His voice, a passable attempt at confidence. Isobel guessed he was fooling no-one. When his joke was not met with any response he tried another tactic. Reaching behind he took the bottle from his date and, taking a step forward, held it up to the silent figure in front of him. 'Fancy a midnight drink?' This at least triggered a response as the woman moved forward, closing the distance between them. Her movements were unhurried, graceful, as, instead of reaching for the proffered bottle, her gloved hands reached past to grip the man's wrist. The movement was done with such little effort it was a surprise when the man let out a gasp of pain, the bottle sliding from his fingers to smash on the deck, the sound unnaturally loud in the hushed atmosphere. The girl took a step back, shocked by the sudden violence. With a sudden, snakelike, movement the woman pulled the man sharply towards her, seizing his throat with her free hand. The man struggled weakly in her grasp, his strong build apparently making little effect.

They stayed like that for one, timeless moment. Timeless, at least, for Isobel, who was devouring every detail from her vantage point above. The woman appeared to study the man in her grasp, she tilted his head one way, then another, like a connoisuer holding a glass of wine up the light. The movement caused more moans of pain from the helpless man. Then the woman moved her head and, although Isobel could not see the woman's eyes beneath the veil, appeared to look past the man directly, towards the young woman who was fearfully backing away.

Without a word being spoken, a decision was made. Then, in the silence, came a soft, dry crack, as of a branch being broken underfoot. The man went limp and then fell bonelessly to the floor. Kira began to moan, a frightened whimper as she backed further and further away from this nightmare before her. The woman stepped over the crumpled body of the bartender as easily as stepping from a kerb; with one hand she pulled at the fingers on the glove of her other hand, pulling the garment off to reveal exquisite hands with nails as black as night. She then reached up and pulled away the veil from her face. Her eyes were revealed, as deep and as bewitching as Isobel had remembered. At this Kira's moans subsided as she watched, horribly fascinated now, at the woman coming towards her.

Only it wasn't so horrible, not for Isobel watching. The sight of the woman's face, beautiful and terrible at the same time, had driven the breath from her. Isobel knew she had just witnessed a crime, an appalling, cold blooded murder. But she could not have moved even if she had wanted to. Again, her heart was sounding as though it wanted to burst from her chest and she could feel her sex beginning to throb and grow wet. She had the urge to touch herself, but she resisted.

As the woman closed the distance between them the young assistant straightened up from her cowering posture, meeting the woman's gaze. Her eyes were wide and her breath came in short, fast pants. As she moved closer the woman removed her other glove, again letting it fall to the floor unconcerned.

Kira seemed lost, entranced at the vision before her. Somewhere, in the back of Isobel's mind she had the image of a cobra: powerful, deadly. Hypnotic.

Though Kira herself did not feel hypnotized, she knew what was happening, how much danger she was in. She just didn't mind. The woman was so beautiful. Her eyes burned with a hunger, a need. And this desire only heightened Kira's uncertainty. When the woman's hand, cool as a midnight breeze, reached out to touch her cheek Kira leaned in, pressing her face against the woman's palm, smiling sadly.

Isobel continued to watch from above, frightened to move in case she was seen. Also, she did not want to make any disturbance that would interrupt the scene below her. She watched as the dark woman slowly unzipped the younger woman's jacket revealing the simple black t-shirt beneath. Kira shrugged the jacket to the floor, then returned her hands to the rail behind her, supporting herself. It was as though she was frightened to touch the woman herself.

This close, the woman was intoxicating, her mouth so close to Kira's and yet, when Kira made a move to close the distance, the woman merely smiled. Then she let her hand travel the length of Kira's body before settling on the buttons of her jeans. Kira made a small sound, almost of protest, but one look from the woman quieted her. The woman's fingers made light work of the buttons and, leaning in close, she pressed her hand inside the woman's jeans. Kira let loose a long outtake of breath as she felt the coolness of the woman's hand against her own raging heat.

The kiss, when it came, was soft and gentle and Kira parted her lips willingly to accept it. The woman's mouth was as cool as her hand, sending a delicious shiver down Kira's body. She leaned back against the railings as the kiss became more insistent and she felt herself melting at the first, tentative touch of the woman's tongue. She was still afraid, deep down, and she knew she should fight to get away, that she was in danger. But not yet. Not yet.

Kira cried out for the first time when, breaking the kiss, the woman reached around to her ponytail, looped it around her hand, and pulled sharply back. Kira found herself looking upwards towards the multitude of stars above her, so clear and bright that she almost believe that, were she to stretch out her hand to touch them, her fingers would be burned. Then, all thoughts of stars disappeared as she felt the woman's mouth move down to her outstretched throat.

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