Tick Tock

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I usually spend the days after the storms searching the beach below the cottage. I'm a bit of a collector, of unusual things. The odder the better. Sharks teeth, ammonites, whale bones, I lovingly retrieve from the surfs fluid tentacles and take home to hang on the walls of my little cottage above the wind swept cliffs. There we can both sit together and admire each other like old lovers recently reunited. 

Bleached white rubber ducks, a box of surgeon's instruments, small pieces of scrimshaw with delicate etchings of whaling ships from times gone by cut into their surfaces. I have a place for them all.  

A ships figurine carved in the shape of a mermaid, her skin tanned deep brown by the elements stands in my front lawn and judges the occasional passer-by with her beautifully sad face and simmering golden eyes. I don't sell the things I find, that would be rude, they have traveled so far to find me. Why would I when they have been so lovingly crafted by the elements. The tumultuous sea, the ravaging sand, the blanching of the sun can turn something quite ordinary into a thing of uncommon strangeness? I once found ball of ivory ambergris washed up in the foam on the water's edge, the vomit of the whale so prized by perfumers. I still have it, tucked away in the one of the drawers in my bureau. 

Sometimes when the storms rage I stand on the beach watching the brooding ocean, my coat flapping angrily around my ankles, listening to the shrieking of gulls lifted high by the winds. Sprays of surf roll off the towering waves, wild horses trying to break free of the surface only to come crashing down in giant plumes of spray and be dragged back kicking frantically into the torrid green depths.  

The locals must think me odd but it's what I do. It interests me. 

The beach here shelves off deeply. Dulgot's Trench lies but two hundred feet out. Named after the man who first surveyed it, Dulgot lived in my house. He spent his life mapping the trench, working up and down the coast in a weathered old trawler, with nothing but a sounding line in his hand and the voice of the sea whispering in his head. The trench is too deep to dive. We have travelled into the moon, mars, visited inhospitable planets and reached out to touch the distant realms of space but still our oceans evade us.  

When he was too old to take a boat out alone he used to walk the beach like me, collecting. The locals left him alone, after all it was his trench. They say he went mad, driven so by the outlandish things he used to collect from the beach and nightmares bought on by the thoughts of what might lurk down there in the trench. He was taken to the sanatorium over on the moors and buried at the church at St Mawkes amongst the bent trees and wilting flowers. It is a bleak place. I have looked, there is no tombstone for him there but it is a tale as folks around here would have you believe. 

Yesterday a storm brewed up from the west and came down upon us like the ancient furies. Torn from their chthonic world they raced along the shore crying vengeance and havoc.

Barely had they left and I'm scouring the foreshore for finds. I pick up an ancient shell from the water's edge, thrown up by the recklessness waters. Oval, black, glassily green, to most it's nothing special but I have an eye for such things. It's deceptively heavy, as I walk back up the beech I spin it in my pocket and test the surface, round and smooth. 

At the cottage I check it carefully, it has a small hairline crack in it, the merest chink as I run my fingernail across it. It was not there when I picked it up. Perhaps it's a dragon's egg. The thought makes me chuckle to myself. I caress it for a few moments then lay it on the rug in front of the crackling fire.  

I stoke the fire, make some broth and sit and watch my new find. Outside it's getting dark, I dose off in to a fitful sleep crowded with dragons and mermaids.  

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