"s 2015 Horror Write-off:

" The Wall of Concrete Beach "

Submitted by Joseph Hartman (

"In those days, this place was still a seaside town. Sure, the city itself was grey, and so was the sky, nine months out of the year. But when the sun was out, you can bet that we treasured those days more than any other. So, we strapped on our bathing suits, and went to the beach.

"Eliza was my nickname back then. Terry brought the raft, Simon brought the snacks, and Renee came along for the ride. It was a fun, uneventful day at the beach. We swam, ate marshmallows, romance blossomed, and so on and so on.

"…That's what your father would want me to tell you, Joshua," His grandma whispered in his ear. The boy grinned, but Eliza stood up, creaking and cracking. She opened her hand, and Joshua took it. "Let's go for a walk, shall we? I can show you around the town." 

She retrieved her cane, and Joshua opened the door. The sky was grey and cloudy. The Seawall was greyer still, and it towered over the town, dwarfing the hills that bordered it. From certain angles, it was difficult to tell that anything at all existed outside the city limits.

"Concrete Beach was never the safest town, Joshua. Even before the wall,  before it was even a town. You can see the remnants of the navy base over by the wall. Bunkers meant for war. Big, grey, square buildings that the whole city was modeled after. I could tell you about the war, but what is there to tell? Ships sank, people died. I'll spare you the dull details. No, what you're interested in is the wall.

"You probably asked your parents about it already, and got a reasonable answer. To keep out the water, to keep out the storms. But if you're going to be living here from now on, you've probably already got some burning questions in your heart, haven't you? It's much too high for the waves, much too low for the sky… why exactly did they build the wall? What exactly are they trying to keep out? After all, that's why people build walls, isn't it?

"You could accept that its to protect this stone town from natural disasters, and in a way, you'd be right. But I can see lightning in your eyes, boy. You aren't the type to accept happy fantasies."

Joshua shook his head, his smile gone, and his grip tighter. From alleyways, people with hats but no heads watched. Across the street, a girl played with her friend. Her friend lacked bones, and flopped around like a ragdoll. Eliza righted his gaze with a rough twist of her hand. "Eyes forward, young man. Bright eyes, bushy tail. That's how you survive in this town."

"Now, where was I? We were at the beach, yes? With my two friends, Simon and Renee. It was a cloudy day, but we were determined to have fun anyway. Maybe one of us should've questioned why we were taking an inflatable raft out so far into the bay. 

"It was an adventure at first, but we all fell silent before long. Concrete Beach was a dot on the horizon, and yet we kept moving, pushed by hands, pushed by currents. It felt like we were soldiers, deployed for war, waiting to wash up on a wartorn shore, half-naked and without weapons.

"Terry brought diving masks. That's right, Terry was with us, too. He slapped one on and dove in. He didn't come back up. There were no ripples, no waves, no gas masks. Excuse me, no diving masks. In fact, there was no Terry anymore. I found it odd how my friends so quickly forgot him, but even now, I find it difficult to remember…

"It's a good thing that ship was there. What were we thinking, swimming out so far without lifejackets, or even so much as a raft? It was a large ship, very large, like one of those military patrol ships. There was a rusty ladder on the side, and we climbed it, careful not to cut ourselves.

"We were aboard, but no one else seemed to be. The vessel smelled like rust and salt, and creaked as it rocked back and forth. Renee was creeped out. She wanted to find the lifeboats and leave. Simon agreed, but suggested we ask for help. But of course, yours truly, the bravest, wanted to get to the bottom of all this…

"No, that's a lie. I was just as freaked out as the rest of them. But I was curious. And curiosity is the first step, Joshua. Towards what? Towards many things, but you never really know which one until you take that first step. That's curiosity for you, hm?

"But, curiosity kills the cat. And sometimes, people have reasons for building walls."

They passed beneath the shadow of the wall. For most of the day, it covered at least half of the city. Joshua could detect the faint scent of salt, mildew… and rust? It seemed to loom higher and higher as they approached, a monolith that curved over the sky, obscuring it more than the clouds ever could.

"When we entered that rusty corridor into the rusty of the ship… well, I can't remember what happened next. But I know Renee cut herself on that rusty ladder, and you must know what rust does to iron, yes? Always remember that there is iron in blood, and iron can always rust.

"Why did me and Simon go out there alone? Why did we continue down those stairs, overgrown with rust and coral, careful not to trip, to slice our bare feet open? Or rather, why did I continue to push him beyond all reason, creeping by hatches, with rusty hands reaching out? I guess I was curious.

"We started fleeing. And in response, we were pursued. Further and further down, through black corridors, but when we went through that last door, we were back on deck. Strange, isn't it? We didn't question it.

"We dove off the deck. We swam. Our arms and legs were numb halfway through, but still we tore through the water. Sometimes Simon was in front, and I could barely keep my eyes on him in the rushing water. Sometimes I was in front, but worried that I was so far behind that I couldn't see him anymore.

"A storm was brewing, but we knew that when we left. I didn't bother to bring sunscreen. But at some point, we made it to dry land. Back to the shore. Back to Concrete Beach. Something else came, too.

"Silently cleaving through the waves. A reddish stain on existence, a boat the color of old iron. It approached, full speed ahead, crew manning the deck, just as rusted over as their ship. And below them, the waves receded. Ships sunk, during the war, coating the seabed, rising up.

"It was too late to run. And where could we go? Such a huge thing, such a swift and terrible thing, I don't think anyone could escape from. So, I didn't try to escape. I stood up, and looked at the thing straight on."

Eliza placed her old, wrinkled hand on the wall. Joshua did the same. It was warm.

"It was here. Here, the rust crashed into nothing. As if there was a huge wall, in that space between the earth and the sea. That conjoined leviathan, it barreled into that barrier, exploding in a shower of dust, painting the ocean red. Not a single mote touched the beach.

"Me and Simon weren't the only ones to see it. They built a concrete wall. 'The ocean is no longer safe', they said. We weren't inclined to disagree… but what did they think a big stone wall was going to do? It didn't help at all." 

She wiped a tear from her eye.

"I was nineteen, then. Now, I'm one-hundred and thirty, and show no signs of stopping anytime soon. Simon, you know him as your grandfather, climbed over the wall fifty years ago, and I haven't seen him since. Things have gotten strange around here, since then."

They left the wall. Others were there, picking at the wall, leaning against it. Children playing games. Things that looked like children, laughing among them.

"If you ask me, we didn't need a wall. Not this wall, not the wall that was there all along."

They walked in a straight line down an unfamiliar street.

"Those rusty men, I saw their faces as they came back to the shore. They didn't want to hurt us, though I know they would have. They just wanted to come home."

They ended up home again. Eliza stood in front of the door, hand on the knob.

"Concrete Beach isn't the safest town, Joshua. But it's home, and that's what counts."

The next day, Joshua went out and spoke to that girl with the boneless friend. He said hello, and shook her hand.