For many years, locals and visitors to the village of Heysham have puzzled over the mysterious labyrinth pattern carved into the rocks on the rugged shoreline. Theories stretching from the paleolithic to the modern era have been proposed but to this day, its precise origins and meanings remain unknown.
The Heysham Labyrinth
by Ella McTigue
Nervously, I finger the black obsidian necklace I’m wearing. It’s meant to give protection, but I don't feel very protected right now. My wide skirt is splayed out on the log I’m sitting on, and the corset I’m wearing draws in my breath, making me tense. Worst of all, there’s nothing to shield me from the onslaught of harsh winds coming in from the sea, teasing my hair out of its plait. The trees around here are wisps; their remaining branches permanently bent to the will of the wind. It’s a bleak landscape, even for England.
I passed through the village of Heysham on the way here, just to get an idea of things, and keep an eye on the newspapers. I got one from a paper boy, and it seems the news of my disappearance has reached all the way out here already. That doesn’t bode well. Luckily, I don’t intend on hanging around this lonely village for long. There was even a reward if someone managed to find me! Well, I’m not going back, no matter what. No one in Britain will ever see Elora Cawdor again.
It’s freezing, so I decide to get up off the log and move towards the sea. I should’ve spotted the boat by now- maybe it isn’t coming? That won’t do. That won’t do at all. Promptly, I hurry off to the beach that the locals call “half moon bay”. When I face the tranquil ocean, I can see jagged cliffs to my right and a small port to my left. I believe the rocks are where the boat is meant to signal from, so I walk in that direction, the heels of my boots sinking heavily into the sand.
At first, the stone gradually slopes upwards, and it’s easy to keep my balance. Around the corner, large boulders cling to the edge of the cliff, their angular tops creating a narrow path. This is going to be a challenge with my stupid heels on, yet I didn’t expect running away to be easy. Gritting my teeth, I carry on, hitching up my skirt to avoid tripping and falling, likely to my death. I take steps slowly, considering every minute detail about where I’m going to put my foot next. The physical and mental effort makes me ache and sweat, and after what feels like ages, I’ve made it around the next corner, where a welcome expanse of flat, grey rock greets me. Thank God. Looking for a place to rest, I see a small crevice in the rock. Perfect. I head in, but there’s signs of life. A ragged old blanket lies abandoned on the floor, and next to it, a small penknife. I leave the old blanket, after discovering upon closer inspection that moths have eaten several holes in it, but I pick up the knife and twirl it around in my hand, feeling its power running into my palm from the ivory handle. I press my thumb into the blade to check it’s still sharp, and pull away; a fat droplet of blood tracking down my palm. I smile with satisfaction.
Suddenly, I hear a rustling behind me. Maybe this cave isn’t so abandoned after all. Brandishing the knife, I move outside slowly, seeing no one. Perhaps it was just the wind. Then, I feel a heavy weight coming down harshly onto my back, and I shriek. That hurt. I swing the knife back behind me, hoping to catch whoever this person is in somewhere extremely painful. I think I swipe flesh, and it’s confirmed when I hear a deep grunt from behind me. So it’s a man. The idiot probably saw the reward, and thought he’d kidnap the first solitary, out of place girl he saw that somewhat fit my description. Just my luck that he actually caught me.
Scrambling, I move away from him, and turn to face my would-be kidnapper. Oh no, I kick myself when I see the dropped knife. Dammit. I try to get it back, but he mustn't be hurt very badly, as he lashes out just as I’m reaching my shaking hand towards it. This time he brandishes it at me, and I get a good look at him. He’s wearing a black hood, like he’s in some sort of cult, and patched up trousers with a brown overcoat. His feet are bare, and overlaid with little cuts and scratches. I can see him holding the knife in his left hand, presumably because of the crimson blood running down his right arm and elbow. I brace myself, but he doesn’t attack. Instead, he bends down, and carefully scratches lines into the rock. It looks like a circle with a cross in it. Strange. Could it be a map of sorts? A drawing?
He finishes etching into the rock and looks up, his face grave. I want to go further back, but behind me is nothing except an uninviting drop onto the rocks below, seaweed clinging to their surfaces, much like the way I’m clinging to the hope that the man won’t take me back to London, or worse, kill me. Hang on, he’s looking confused at me, at the look of terror on my face.
“You are the girl who's paying me to take her across the channel, right?” he asks in a surprisingly polished voice, for someone without the decency to wear a pair of shoes. Then I almost laugh out loud to myself at how stupid I’ve been.
“Then why on earth would you jump out at me as though you were trying to kidnap me?” I question, still slightly anxious.
“You see that cliff top up there?” he points about a metre above him, “well, it’s very slippery and I fell. By accident,” he states in an honest voice. Great, now I feel like even more of an idiot.
“Oh, sorry, for that cut I gave you as well,” I say, trying to sound nonchalant. I get a grunt in answer. That definitely must’ve hurt then. He takes a couple of strides away from the marking he made on the floor, then turns back to look at me, “I’ll be taking some of the payment now, by the way.”
“I told you in my letters that I would pay you after the journey,” I state. “And I like to take a little deposit,” I can’t see it, but I can tell that he is definitely smiling underneath his hood. It’s a miracle that it hasn’t been blown down in these winds.
“How about that pretty little necklace of yours?” I glance down at it. The black obsidian is like a night sky without stars, and it has often felt like a metaphor for my life. This is worth it, though, and I should get it back afterwards, shouldn’t I? Without thinking about it any more, I unclasp the necklace and hand it over.
“What’s that for?” I gesture to the circular marks he made in the rock. “I like to leave a mark on where I've been. You could almost call it a map. A treasure map."
"And where have you been?" I can't help asking. "That doesn't matter. The wayfinder is what matters." He says it like he's so clever, but it reminds me of someone else who is equally arrogant, and that makes my blood boil.
Then he starts walking off, presumably expecting me to just follow him, and I do, but only because that is my only option. He walks further along the rocky path, then descends, so that he can get closer to the sea. Now I can smell the distinct aroma of salt that only comes when it has been there, lingering, for a very long time.
On the choppy sea, a small wooden boat is visible. This man must be a very experienced boatman to have successfully navigated the treacherous rocks that I know lurk beneath the surface of the water. Even though it seems flimsy, even though every instinct in my body is telling me not to go into that deathtrap, I smile grimly and brace myself for the journey.
Hello, new life.