2001 by Barbara Davies.
story may not be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of it
may be made for private use only and must include all copyright notices,
warnings and acknowledgements.
story depicts a loving relationship between two consenting adult women.
If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal
in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it.
If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something
other than this story.
DATE TO REMEMBER
gazed up at the rusting metal structure towering 40 feet above her
then at the four massive, reinforced concrete legs supporting it.
"We must be nuts!"
spending Halloween aboard Shivering Sands wasn't my idea!"
Leigh tied off the rope mooring the motor boat and tested it. It held.
didn't say it was." Anxious green eyes glanced back at her. "Is it
tall brunette shrugged and gestured at the other towers (only six
remained - a ship had collided with one in the 1960s, apparently).
"It's the best of the bunch. They're all pretty run down - what can
you expect after over fifty years of neglect?" She tried to imagine
the WW2 fort when narrow walkways had connected its seven towers.
"I'm more concerned about the weather. The sea's calm now, but if
the forecast for the Thames Estuary is wrong...."
raucous scream made the little blonde wince. "I'm not sure I like
this. It looks scary."
moved the sleeping bags, camping stove, and other items into the stern.
"Isn't that the point?"
had been sitting with her friends in The Bandstand, the trendy pub
on Herne Bay's sea front, and Leigh had, as usual, been loitering
nearby, trying to pluck up the courage to ask out the pretty blonde
hairdresser with the green eyes, when someone produced a copy of the
latest Things to Do in Herne Bay.
had, of course, included an article about the sea forts designed to
defend London from German bombers flying up the Thames. 'Curious angular
forms on the horizon', the guide called them. Leigh thought they looked
like H.G. Wells' Martian tripods.
listen to this," said Ellie, holding up the pamphlet. "Apparently
you should see the forts because they're 'Great for scaring you silly.'"
they'd be even scarier at Halloween," giggled Verity. The redhead,
who worked with Ellie in the salon, had drunk too much cider. "Perhaps
we should all go. What do you say, Zoe?"
glanced at the crop-haired brunette, who favoured the panda-eyed look.
Zoe yawned ostentatiously. "Sounds boring."
about you, Ellie?" asked Verity.
blonde looked doubtful. "It's £24 each. And those boat trips don't
let you actually land on the forts themselves, you know. You just
get to sail round them and take photos."
redhead shrugged. "It was only an idea."
been on one of the forts," said Leigh, regretting her impulse to speak
when Zoe and Verity turned their "What? Are you still here?" gazes
looked interested though. "Which one?"
Now there's a spooky name." Blonde eyebrows drew together.
"But how did you get there if the boats wont drop you off?"
got my own motor boat," explained Leigh, flushing.
diesel dyke," muttered Verity. Zoe stifled a laugh behind one hand;
her crimson nails made it look as if she'd just clawed something to
ignored her friends. "Really? Where do you go in it?"
I want." The brunette shrugged. "Use it for fishing mostly." At the
word 'fishing', Zoe exchanged a rolled-eye glance with Verity.
you could take me out to the sea fort in it?" persisted Ellie.
considered. "Only if the weather was good. It can get pretty rough
that far out."
Ellie had changed the conversation, and Leigh supposed that was that.
Until three days ago, when the little blonde had sought her out at
the Garage, making her drop a wrench on her foot in surprise. (God
only knows what Verity would have said if she'd seen Leigh up to her
elbows in axle grease.)
had come straight to the point. "It's Halloween on Wednesday. Can
we spend the night on Shivering Sands?"
had wiped her hands on a rag while she caught her breath. "Who's 'we'."
Verity and Zoe?"
raised an eyebrow. "No, just us."
examined the proposal from all angles. Was it a trick question?
blonde tapped her foot pointedly. "Well, can we? Yes or no."
all right," said Leigh slowly. "If the weather's okay...." She trailed
off, mesmerised by the smile Ellie turned on her.
That's settled then. I've booked Wednesday afternoon off work. Let
me know what time you want me."
time? Right now and right here. "Um," managed Leigh.
had walked off, the little bounce in her step and sway in her hips
making Leigh's eye glaze over and the saliva gather in her mouth.
She'd probably have been standing there still, fantasising, if her
boss hadn't come out of the office and thrown a heavy work glove at
point?" Ellie put her hands on her hips. "I was after the 'spooky'
kind of scary, Leigh, not the 'risking life and limb' kind!"
be fine. I was here a couple of years ago. It was safe then."
the little blonde looked at the rusting ladder hanging down above
the bobbing boat. It was just out of reach. "And how am I supposed
to climb up?"
lifted the other woman easily, waiting until her grip on the bottom
rung was secure, then placing a hand on the shapely backside those
tight blue jeans showed off to perfection and giving her a boost.
An indignant voice floated down to her. "No groping."
pursed her lips. As far as she was concerned, groping, and hopefully
kissing and cuddling too, was the point of the exercise. This was
the first time she'd managed to get Ellie all to herself and she was
damned if she was going to waste it.
passed one of the sleeping bags up to Ellie's outstretched hand, then
jumped up and grabbed hold of the bottom rung herself. It took them
two careful trips up the ladder (several rungs were missing) to get
the supplies aboard.
dropped the heavy gunnysack (full of tins and a tin opener) on the
floor with a thunk, and watched Ellie taking in their surroundings.
The hangar-like space inside the tower had been partitioned into rooms,
some just big enough to hold a bunk bed and a chair. Pity the furniture
had been removed decades ago, she thought. Sleeping bags on a hard
floor would be much less comfortable. Still, as long as she was cuddled
up with Ellie....
how appalling!" The blonde grimaced. "Imagine being cooped up in here
for any length of time."
Must have got really noisy when the weather was rough." Today the
sea was calm; even so, the ocean swell was making the metal structure
flex, and each time it did so, it gave off an eerie creak or faint
groan. Perfect sound effects for Halloween.
thought there was supposed to be a Pirate Radio Station here in the
60s," said Ellie, her tone disappointed. "Where are all the turntables
and transmitters and stuff?"
pirates probably took all their equipment with them when they left."
stuck her head inside the door to one of the tiny rooms. A naked wire
protruded from the ceiling.
we bring any lightbulbs?" asked Ellie over her shoulder.
point; no power. I've brought a lantern." (There was a torch in the
motor boat, but she'd thought the flickering light would create a
suitably scary mood, yet also, if all went to plan after that, a romantic
window was broken and a draught was whistling through it. Scratch
that. Leigh went to look for a warmer room where they could bed down
for the night. The next one contained an antique - a faded Senior
Service cigarette packet. Leigh kicked it and sent it skittering across
the floor, then she noticed that the window was smashed, and moved
"This'll do," she announced.
had followed on her heels and now she peered in. "What's special about
it? Looks like all the others. Small and empty."
window's intact. Unless you like sleeping in draughts?"
carried their things into the room, and Leigh laid out the two sleeping
bags side by side, then assembled the little stove and unpacked the
tins. She also got the lantern and matches ready for when night fell.
watched her, arms folded. "I can think of better picnic spots," she
with this view," said Leigh.
blonde crossed to the window and rubbed a sleeve over the grimy glass.
"All I can see is sea. Which way's the Kent coast?"
The other woman looked none the wiser. "Seven miles in the opposite
direction," she clarified. "You have to go up top." She straightened
and held out a hand. "Come on?"
a moment, Ellie took it.
led her up the stairs to the next storey, then guided her up another
rusting ladder (taking the opportunity to ogle that magnificent backside
up close and personal again) and clambered through what used to be
a trapdoor out onto the tower's deck. There, she 'casually' took Ellie's
hand in hers again, and was pleased not to be shaken off. So far,
sun was setting, tinting the sky with hints of primrose, salmon-pink,
and coral. She led the other woman past the broken and rusted stump
of an anti-aircraft gun towards the parapet. Oddly, considering how
far from land they were, grasses and tall weeds grew there in profusion,
forcing their way between the cracked concrete and metal deck plates.
The seeds must have got here via seagull droppings, she supposed.
pointed. "That's the view."
was lucky Ellie wasn't any shorter. The parapet came up to her chin
as it was. But that didn't matter. She shaded her eyes. "Wow!" She
stared first at the sunset, then at the Kent coastline silhouetted
on the horizon.
even better when it's really dark," said Leigh. "You can see the shore
stood hand in hand staring at the view, strands of brunette and blonde
hair wafting gently in the breeze. To Leigh's relief, the silence
was a comfortable one, broken only by the waves lapping the fort's
legs 60 feet below them, the tolling of a distant buoy, and the weird
creaking and groaning of the fort itself.
said Ellie, after a while. "You've been here before?"
nodded. She watched as the sun finally slipped below the horizon and
night clouds began to gather.
did you bring that time?"
gave the blonde a puzzled glance. "No one. Why?"
wondered." Ellie gave a smile, like the cat that had got the cream,
and gripped her hand more firmly. Leigh's world reordered itself sharply
as she realised a startling fact: she was the one being seduced.
temperature had begun to drop sharply, and she positioned herself
behind Ellie, who had complained of feeling cold. She wrapped her
arms round the smaller woman and inhaled the expensive smelling fragrance
of her shampoo. Probably gets a staff discount from the salon.
"Is that better?"
pushed strands of blonde hair aside, revealing a tempting expanse
of neck, then bent her head and began to nibble.
tickles!" said Ellie. Then moments later, "Did I tell you to stop?"
Leigh laughed and gently chewed on an earlobe.
minutes later, it was getting too cold on the deck even for the usually
warm-blooded Leigh, so, grumbling a little at having to interrupt
their first serious necking session, they retreated inside.
make us something to eat," said Leigh. "That'll warm us up." She had
lit the lantern, and now by its flickering light she examined the
labels on the tins. "Coffee, frankfurters, and beans do you? And warm
beer for afters?"
stretched extravagantly, then leaned back against the wall. "Great."
had placed the two sleeping bags on top of one another - the double
thickness of the fabric made the hard floor more bearable - and were
sitting side by side, their legs pressed together along their length.
Leigh could feel the warmth of Ellie's skin through her jeans and
was reluctant to relinquish it, but she had to while she prepared
she lit the little calor gas stove and poured some water from the
canteen into a metal cup. While that was heating, she opened the tins
and emptied the contents into another metal container. She became
aware Ellie was studying her and looked up.
eyes are stunning."
blinked. "Thanks," she said awkwardly. "But they're just your average
blue eyes. Yours, on the other hand...."
uh?" Ellie shook her head in disagreement. Then she smiled. "Why didn't
you ask me out, Leigh? I kept waiting for you to ask, but you never
hoped her blush was invisible in the dim light. "I could never seem
to get you on your own. Zoe and Verity stick to you like leeches."
gleamed as Ellie smiled. "For a diesel dyke, you're pretty shy."
call me that." Leigh bent her head to her task of pouring hot water
onto instant coffee. She unstoppered the little bottle she had filled
Well, you must admit, you're always tinkering with engines of one
sort or another."
work at a garage!"
blonde laughed. "I know. I'm just winding you up." She yawned. "Besides,
I like diesel dykes."
sighed and shook her head. She was going to have to get used to being
teased, she supposed. "Here." She handed Ellie her coffee. The blonde
took it and sipped quietly.
lifted her own cup and gazed over the rim of it at the other woman
as she drank. Ellie wrinkled her nose at her, making her smile and
spill coffee down the front of her T-shirt.
She mopped ineffectually at it with a tissue, then realised that the
Frankfurters and beans were threatening to boil over. Rescuing the
food just in time, she doled out equal portions. "Sorry it's not Cordon
Bleu." She settled herself beside Ellie on the sleeping bags and began
shrugged and dug in her spoon. "It's a picnic," she said.
they'd finished, Leigh cracked open a couple of cans of lager and
they made themselves more comfortable. She sat with her back against
the wall, and Ellie eased herself backwards between Leigh's legs and
leaned against her.
put her arms round the small woman. "This is nice."
a moment spent simply inhaling the scent of skin and shampoo, she
resumed her nibbling of Ellie's neck.
was enjoying sucking an earlobe when Ellie said, "So. It's Halloween
and we're all alone on this weird place in the middle of the Estuary.
Are we going to tell one another ghost stories?"
groaned. "Do we have to?"
tone was firm. "Yes."
herself from Leigh's clinging embrace, the blonde began to make the
room more 'spooky' - this involved draping over the lantern a green
chiffon scarf she had brought specially for the purpose. The green
light wasn't actually very scary, but Leigh kept that thought to herself.
the next hour, they told each other scary tales. The room seemed to
be infested with ghostly hitchhikers who vanished while the car was
still moving, tragic women in black wailing for their lost lovers,
and terrifying Elder Gods (Leigh's contribution - she had been reading
an H.P. Lovecraft paperback while she waited for Ellie to turn up
at the slipway).
smaller woman insisted on acting out her tales, with melodramatic
gestures and expressions, and Leigh found herself more amused than
scared. She, however, succeeded in making Ellie shudder several times,
especially when she confided in a spooky voice that the WW2 soldiers
used to call these sea forts "floating coffins... bwa ha ha."
last, when all the lager was drained dry and Ellie's voice had dwindled
to a husk, they decided they had observed the traditions enough. It
was also getting cold, so they zipped the two sleeping bags together,
crawled inside, and snuggled close.
that, it seemed only natural that they should resume what they had
been doing earlier. Soon, the sound of the waves and the buoy were
joined by gasps and moans and quivering sighs that had nothing whatsoever
to do with ghosts....
Leigh came up for air, she noticed that something about the little
room had changed. How odd!
reached out a hand and swiped it through the oddly transparent bunk
bed that had appeared next to the far wall, then she chuckled. Must
be all that lager, or maybe just lack of oxygen - Ellie had one hell
of a liplock, she'd discovered. She took a deep breath, exhaled, then
blinked... and frowned. The apparition was still there.
came a dreamy voice.
glanced at the woman sprawled under her. "Ellie. Take a look at this.
Can you see what I can?"
With a longsuffering groan, the blonde sat up. Leigh pointed and Ellie's
eyebrows shot up. "Is that a bunk bed?"
like it, doesn't it?" Leigh reached over and pulled the chiffon scarf
off the lantern. It was a relief to be rid of the green glow. But
though the light was brighter, the phenomenon remained. In fact, if
anything, the bed was becoming clearer by the minute.
squinted. "It's as though another room is overlapping this one," she
said. "Look." She pointed at the wall above the bed, and Leigh saw
that a pin-up poster had appeared. The model was wearing an old-fashioned
bathing costume. Her legs seemed to go on forever.
watched her share of black-and-white war movies. The woman in the
poster seemed familiar. "Isn't that Betty Gable.... No, Grable?"
shrugged. "Before my time." Leigh poked her in the ribs. "Hey!"
was hovering at the edge of her hearing. Music of some kind. She listened
is it?" asked Ellie.
Leigh screened out the creaking and groaning of metal, and the tolling
of the buoy. Surely those were saxophones, trumpets, trombones....
Big Band music! And if she wasn't mistaken, the vaguely familiar tune
- which was getting louder by the second - was one of her grandmother's
favourites: 'In the Mood'.
sounds like Glenn Miller!" said Ellie. "What's going on?"
dont know, but I intend to find out." Reluctantly, Leigh slid
her long legs out of their cosy nest and into the cold night air.
letting the draught in!"
She pulled up her jeans, which due to their earlier activities had
ended up around her ankles, slid her feet into trainers, and headed
out the door.
the threshold, she stopped dead. She had expected darkness but the
space that hadn't been partitioned off into smaller rooms was now
lit by dim bulbs dangling from the ceiling.
dilapidated interior of the fort had been overlaid with a busy common
room. Young men in brown WW2 army battle dress were sitting at utilitarian
chairs and tables, smoking and drinking and playing cards. There was
also a low buzz of conversation, but though she strained to hear,
she couldn't make out the words. 'In the Mood' was coming from an
old-fashioned radio in the corner of the room.
in the small of her back shoved her forward. "Why are you blocking
the-" Ellie stopped beside her as she took in the scene. "Oh my God!"
the 1940s!" whispered Leigh.
gone back in time?"
We're here and they're there, but we're... as you said earlier, overlapping
they see us too?"
bit her lip. That hadn't occurred to her. Gingerly she waved her hand
at a young private with red hair and freckles. He looked right through
her. She let out her breath. "No."
an alarm sounded, faint but unmistakable, and the soldiers looked
up, their expressions reflecting a mixture of anxiety and excitement.
Leigh sensed movement behind her and turned
just in time to
see a soldier, wearing a tin helmet and gripping a rifle, running
straight towards her.
flinched as he ran right through her. "God!"
you all right?" Ellie gripped her biceps so hard Leigh knew she'd
have bruises there later.
think so." She made a show of patting herself to check, giving her
pulse time to slow. "He didn't hurt me, it just felt really 'odd'
for a second."
around them now, soldiers were running, grabbing their battered tin
helmets and the rifles that had been propped against the walls, and
heading for the stairs.
on," said Leigh, impulsively grabbing Ellie's arm. "They must be going
on. It'll be freezing up there," chided Ellie, dashing back to fetch
their jackets. She was wearing hers when she returned carrying Leigh's.
She was just finishing doing up the zip when the blonde put a hand
on her arm. "Look at him. Isn't he dashing?"
glanced up just as another ghostly soldier brushed past them, making
the hairs on the back of her neck rise. Static electricity, or
something else? His Clark Gable moustache and short back-and-sides
made him look older than he was, and his hard hat was at such a jaunty
angle it would be almost useless against shrapnel. Leigh smiled at
the young man's vanity and wondered, if this had happened in the past,
whether he had survived and was now a whiskery old gent who loved
to bore his grandchildren rigid with tales of what he did in the war.
For a moment, she watched him stride towards the stairs, then she
exchanged a glance with the waiting Ellie, nodded, and followed him.
the ladder to the deck was more fraught than it had been, as Leigh
discovered the hard way when she reached for a ghostly rung and her
hand passed right through it. Finally, though, she was climbing through
the exit hatch, and turning to pull Ellie up after her.
turned to take stock of their surroundings. A ghostly outline overlaid
the familiar outline of the tower. As her brain tried to make sense
of the overlapping images, Leigh felt slightly nauseous. She could
still see the tall weeds growing in the parapets, the rust flakes
on the deck, but she could also see ghostly walkways connecting the
seven towers to one another. Seven! The lost one had been restored.
As for the distorted chunk of metal that was all that remained of
the anti-aircraft gun, it still existed, but the gun was also simultaneously
in pristine condition.
the gun clustered a group of soldiers. Leigh watched them unloading
shells from crates and feeding them into the gun's breech. They worked
with precise, economical movements, as though they had done this many
times before. And all the while, a man in a tin helmet with sergeant's
stripes on his sleeve was scanning the sky with his binoculars.
alarm must mean they're expecting trouble," said Ellie. She glanced
up at the brilliant full moon then frowned. "Shouldn't there be two
moons? Ours and theirs?"
the effect doesn't reach that far."
then, Ellie caught sight of the distant lights of Herne Bay. "Wow.
I see what you meant about the view."
Leigh was distractedly groping for a fragment of memory. "I think
they used to call this kind of moon a Bomber's Moon. Which means -"
stopped as the sergeant put down his binoculars and bawled something,
his lips moving but his words barely audible to them. The soldiers
loading the shells jumped back and clasped their hands over their
ears. Then the gun's angle of elevation increased sharply, and it
began to swing round, as though tracking something in the night sky.
oh!" muttered Ellie. "I think they're going to-"
gun barrel jerked, and a rapid stream of ghostly shells blasted skywards.
Fortunately, the sound of their passing was muffled, like all the
other sounds of over fifty years ago.
two women stared up at the night sky, open-mouthed. They could see
the shellbursts easily, but without binoculars they couldn't make
out the German bomber that was presumably up there.
hugged Ellie to her. "I can't believe this is happening!"
became engrossed in the events unfolding around them, and Leigh mastered
the impulse to step back whenever a soldier hurried towards her. At
one point, the men cheered and clapped one another on the back.
must have downed one," said Ellie.
the jubilation was short-lived and soon the anti-aircraft gun had
resumed its endless pumping of shells into the night sky.
had no idea how much time had passed when the outlines of the men
started to become hazy. She glanced down at her watch: Midnight. The
faint sounds of gunfire stopped abruptly.
gone!" said Ellie simultaneously.
glanced up. The moon shone brightly on rust and waving grasses, and
the ghostly walkways had vanished as though they had never been. She
walked across to the mangled stump that had once been the anti-aircraft
gun and patted it approvingly. "Good job," she whispered.
joined her and snuggled into her arms for warmth. "Show's over." She
like it." Leigh stroked the blonde hair and thought about what had
just happened, absently aware of the waves lapping at the tower's
supports and the distant tolling of the buoy.
waited half an hour longer just to be sure it was indeed all over,
then, yawning widely, Leigh suggested they retrace their steps inside.
in the little room that they had commandeered, which was once more
minus the ghostly bunk bed and pin-up poster, they stripped off their
jackets and crawled once again into the double sleeping bag.
held Ellie close until they were both as warm as toast. "Remember,"
she whispered in a shell-like ear, "we have to be up early to catch
little blonde simply grunted, turned over, and burrowed into her chest.
said Ellie, as Leigh cast off the mooring rope and reached for the
outboard motor in the stern. "That was different."
tall woman tugged on the starter cord, then, when nothing happened,
tugged again. The motor burst satisfyingly into life, and Leigh steered
the boat slowly away from the fort.
Halloween or our first date?" she said, increasing speed when they
reached clear water.
Ellie made herself comfortable on the wooden seat facing Leigh. Shading
her eyes against the reflected morning sunlight, she shifted her gaze
between Leigh and the receding tower.
Is that a good thing?"
grinned. "What do you think?"
smiled back at her.
course, Verity and Zoe are never going to believe me when I tell them
dont tell them."
I have to," said Ellie firmly. "That's what friends do."
will you say, that it was scary?"
scary, more..." her gaze turned inwards as she searched for the word,
exaggeratedly smacked her lips and gave her a lascivious grin. "Definitely."
blushed and looked at her hands until she had her libido under control
again. "I was talking about the soldiers."
they were gobsmacking too, but in a different way."
nodded. Earlier, while waiting for the sleepy blonde to wake up, she
had been thinking hard about what happened. "I think it was a psychic
playback of an event that occurred during the war. It probably happens
whenever the conditions are just right."
kind of thing happens elsewhere too," continued Leigh. "That's how
I know about it. There's a place in York that regularly has Roman
soldiers tramping across its cellar. You can't see the men's legs
below the knees, apparently."
blonde gawked at her. "What on earth are you talking about?"
the cellar floor is higher than it was in Roman times," added Leigh.
Ellie looked thoughtful. "I see. That makes sense."
does, doesn't it?"
if we tell them we saw a 'psychic recording', Verity and Zoe will
probably think we just drank too much lager anyway."
eyebrow rose. "You know, you're going to have to learn to put up with
them, Leigh. Just as they are going to have to learn to put up with
nodded firmly. "Yeah. My friends, my girl - you'll all just have to
learn to get along."
girl?" Leigh liked the sound of that.
exchanged warm smiles, and, for the next mile, no words were needed
so they listened instead to the comforting drone of the engine and
the cry of the seagulls.
one problem," said Ellie, eventually.
blinked. "What's that?"
first date was so memorable, how on earth are we going to top it for
laughed. "We'll think of something," she promised as they left the
strange rusting hulk of the Shivering Sands far behind them. "Ill
make damned sure of that."
Shivering Sands sea fort actually exists and stands in the Thames
Estuary, 7 miles off the Kent coast. I have never been aboard it,
however, and would like to stress that it is probably unsafe for all
except UberXenas. <g>.