A brief synopsis:
A New England beach, famous for its paranormal activity, is the vacation getaway for the Riley Family. Their world is filled with hope and dreams of building happy memories.
Upon their arrival, the family meets the beach’s most famous apparition: Abigail Stanton. From that moment, the Rileys’ world turns upside down. Strange sightings and bizarre phenomena happen with increasing regularity. As they struggle to comprehend their new world, they realize the fate of an ailing ghost is in their hands.
Their attempts to communicate are not without consequence: the Rileys’ health begins to fail. As they make plans to leave, something has them in their grasp: time and events appear to be standing still.
Can the Riley’s break free of the beach’s grasp? Can they save the ailing spirit? Can they survive the Endless Summer?
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ES: Chapter 1
Abigail Stanton stood atop the highest point on the rocks and waited. The granite precipice was at least twenty feet above the seawater at hide tide, but due to the passing winter storm, the surge raised the water to less than ten feet from where she stood. She trained her eyes on the violent waves that crashed into the rock face below her. Every third wave would break, then be drawn further out to sea than the previous wave. She could see crustaceans being torn from their desperate grasp and washed out to sea with the foam and spray.
As the black waves hit the wall below her, the momentum propelled the salty sea up over the top of the cliff, dousing her with frigid cold water. In the short time she stood and waited, her black Victorian-style dress became soaked and clung to her frail body as a second skin.
Clutched in her petite frozen hand were five daisies. Salt water rolled down her face, mixed with her tears and dripped onto the slightly wilted flowers. As she timed the waves, she counted out loud.
“One, two, three: now!” she said to herself as the third wave slammed into the rock face below.
—- —- —- —- —-
Clad in their heavy woolen clothing, John and Susan made their way up the backside of the precipice. Each year, the two celebrated their wedding anniversary with an overnight stay at their favorite inn at the far end of the crescent-shaped beach. The storm was unfortunate, but they decided to make the most of it anyway, with a long walk and a short climb to the top of the cliff. They felt a bit chilled, but the invigorating sight of the violent, rolling seas was well worth their discomfort. Holding her hand, John helped Susan up to the top of the massive boulder. To their surprise, they realized they were not alone. On the far left side, they could see Abigail Stanton standing with her feet perched on the edge of the cliff.
“Oh my, John, she looks like a suicide,” Susan said over the stiff breeze, muffling her words slightly.
“I believe you’re right, dear,” John replied with an anxious tone.
Carefully, he moved to the woman as quickly as he could, trying not to slip on the dangerously wet rocks. Not wanting to startle Abigail, he called out to her.
“Excuse me, ma’am?” he said in a calm voice as he neared her.
Abigail turned slightly and stared coldly into his eyes, sending a chill down his spine. She then turned and continued to count the waves.
John carefully came up beside her and stood close enough to grab her in case she tried to jump. He looked down and could see the raging waves crashing into the rock face below. He knew that all it would take was one big wave to sweep them off the cliff: an act that would spell their certain death. He anxiously shuddered with each wave that broke over the top of the cliff. Moments later, Susan came up and stood behind John, conscious of her movement so as not to slip herself, or startle the woman.
“Excuse me, ma’am? Are you alright?” John asked delicately.
Abigail turned to John and said, “They’re all lost.”
“Who’s all lost?” John asked.
“They’re all lost,” Abigail repeated.
John looked back at Susan, who was now shivering in the thirty-five degree windy air. He tried to comfort her by putting his left arm around her and drawing her closer to his body. As the both huddled together, they watched for a moment as Abigail Stanton counted the waves. Strangely, she was not shivering like they were, even though she stood with only a dress, soaked through by the continual spray of the crashing waves below. Her hair was drench with seawater, but it looked surprisingly neat, pulled tightly into a bun in the back.
John leaned to Susan and said, “I think she’s readying herself for a jump.”
Susan’s reply was only a worried nod. Seeing the fear in her face, he knew he needed to do something quickly.
“Ma’am, what is your name?” John asked.
“Abigail Stanton,” she said, not breaking her stare from the crashing waves.
“Abigail, would you care to stand back from the edge a ways so we can engage in conversation?” John politely asked.
“They’re all lost,” was Abigail’s only reply.
John assumed that ’they‘ must be someone dear to her, and that ’they‘ must have been lost at sea and she was mourning their loss. Susan looked at the wilted, dripping daisies in her hand. She thought it strange that Abigail was holding flowers so far out of season.
She tugged on John’s arm to get his attention, then pointed to the flowers. He looked at them, then back at Susan and shrugged, not understanding her concern.
Susan whispered, “The flowers. They can only be found in warmer months. Where did she get them?”
John looked, and once again shrugged his shoulders.
“Ms. Abigail, could we help you in some way?” Susan asked through shivering teeth.
“The light will shine the way,” Abigail said cryptically, still not breaking her stare.
John and Susan looked at each other in confusion and worry. Abigail Stanton wasn’t making any sense to them. They became more worried now.
John pressed further, deciding to be more direct. “Ms. Abigail, I implore you not to do this. You are so young and have a lifetime ahead of you. Will you walk with Susan and I back to the inn?” he said, as he pointed to their tiny motel at the opposite end of the beach.
“The light will shine the way,” Abigail replied, still watching and counting the waves.
John put his hand on her shoulder in a gesture of concern, hoping she would come to her senses and follow them away from the edge. Quickly, Abigail turned and stared directly into John’s eyes. He could almost feel them piercing through him. He shuddered. He had never seen eyes like these before. Abigail’s eyes were black and determined. He saw intense sadness in them, and knew that whatever she was feeling, nothing he could say would relieve her agony and grief. There was no malice in them, but he became worried that any thought of forcibly removing her from the danger would only end in all their demise. She would not go quietly; this he was certain.
Abigail broke her stare only to look down at John’s hand on her shoulder, then back up into his eyes. Immediately, he retracted his hand and stood away, giving her back the space that they had just invaded. She turned her head and resumed counting the waves. John looked back at Susan with worry. He now knew there wasn’t much they could do for her without endangering their own lives.
Suddenly, Abigail’s voice became louder as she timed the waves. John and Susan knew this was it. This was going to be the climax to the counting. Fear swept over them as they realized that they would be witnessing a horrible suicide. Susan pulled herself closer to John for emotional comfort. He held her tighter, trying to ease her pain. Fearing for their own lives, they both stepped back.
Abigail lifted her hand with the daisies and counted louder. “One, two, THREE!”
She lowered the flowers by her side, bent her knees, then sprung from her crouching position, swinging her arm up and out, releasing the flowers into the third wave as it crashed into the rock face below. Standing, she watched as the flowers were quickly carried out by the reversing tide.
Standing resolutely and weeping, Abigail braved the gusts as her wet dress flapped in the wind behind her. Her despair and sorrow were overpowering, and Susan openly wept. John breathed a sigh of relief as he comforted his sobbing wife. They were now pretty sure that poor grieving Abigail was not going to throw herself to her death.
Cold and both shivering, they turned to leave Abigail to her mourning.
John spoke to her softly, “I am very sorry for your loss.”
“The light will shine their way,” Abigail replied, still watching the flowers drifting further out to sea.
The two turned and started down the other side of the cliff, leaving Abigail suffering in silence. John looked back, but Abigail was gone.
“Wait here,” he said to Susan, hoping to spare her the gruesome sight of Abigail’s death. He ran to the edge where he had last saw her standing. He frantically scanned the violent water below for Abigail’s body.
“ABIGAIL!” He called into the wind. There was no answer. Again he called to her. “ABIGAIL STANTON!” he yelled out to the breaking waves below. As he searched back and forth along the edge, Susan joined him. Their frantic and distraught search yielded nothing. Abigail Stanton was gone. The two stood for a moment, trying to comprehend what they had just witnessed. Susan broke down, burying her face into her husband’s chest as he hugged her in consolation. The two slowly turned and walked off the cliff toward the inn, now realizing that the best they could do for poor Abigail was to report her drowning in hope of a quick recovery of her body.
As they neared the inn, they quickened their pace along the beach. The tide had receded slightly, firming the waterlogged sand as they walked. The winds were howling now, and the cold cut through their overexposed bodies. They hurried in silence, unable to speak after witnessing Abigail Stanton’s suicide.
Entering the inn, they scanned the small, dimly lit receiving room for the innkeeper. They quickly deduced that he must have stepped away, as evidenced by the burning oil lamps and a fire roaring in the fireplace. They could see a pot of coffee simmering over the open flame, and they made their way over to the fire to warm themselves and to sample the warming beverage. They both were nearly frozen to the bone and left their wet woolen garments on while they slowly rotated their hands over the open flames.
All was quiet except for the crackle of burning maple wood and the click of the pendulum of the clock on the fireplace mantle. Susan noticed the time as each swing of the pendulum moved the sweep-second hand, marking each minute that poor Abigail Stanton lay undiscovered in the water. She began to wonder what kind of tragedy could have been so great that the only solution was death. Awful scenarios crossed her mind, and she began to openly weep for the poor, strange woman she had just met. Seeing his wife distraught, John pulled her closer to console her, while continuing to move his free hand over the flame for warmth.
Still shivering, John grabbed one of the pokers resting against the fieldstone fireplace and carefully lifted the coffee pot off its hook and placed it on the worn pine floor in front of them. Setting up two heavy ceramic mugs on a small table beside them, he used a dirty rag to grab the smoldering handle of the coffee pot and pour them a hot drink. They slowly sipped their black coffee, swallowing hard to overcome the foul, bitter taste until they became used to the flavor.
Nearly twenty minutes and two cups of coffee passed before they finally felt warm. Outside, in the distance, they could hear the sound of loud, clumsy footsteps. John moved to a window to see who was coming. He could see a man walking up a gangplank from the beach, carrying a load of firewood piled high in his arms, his head hidden behind the pile of wood. His heavy leather boots made a loud ‘clunk’ with each step. John went to the door to help him in. As the man made his way through the doorway, John could see it was indeed the innkeeper. He carried the load of wood in and placed it on a rack by the fireplace, then greeted his guests.
“Good morning, and thank you,” the innkeeper said, smiling.
He was a kind-looking older man with white hair and round spectacles. He was dressed in a checkered, red flannel shirt and brown canvas pants. With a round stomach that hung slightly over his belt, he gave off a grandfatherly appearance.
“Well, how was your morning stroll?” asked the old man, “Invigorating, I suspect,” he added.
John and Susan looked at each other. There were no smiles or pleasant expressions for that matter. They searched each other’s face for how to begin.
“By the look on your faces, I’d say it wasn’t what you had expected. Too cold, huh?” the old man asked.
“Sir, you must summon the constable right away. A woman has taken her life off the far rocks at the end of the beach,” John blurted out.
The old man searched their faces for clues to their authenticity. Both John and Susan stared back at the old man through intense, worried eyes. He knew this was no joke. Immediately he changed his composure and questioned them further.
“The constable? My god, man, did you see her do this?” he asked, now with anxiety in his voice.
“Yes sir, my wife Susan and I witnessed this nearly an hour ago,” John replied with a nervous quiver in his voice. Susan nodded in agreement, feeling overwrought with grief once again. “She jumped into the water,” John continued with harried detail.
“An HOUR ago, you say? Oh no… With these cold temperatures, I’m afraid she is done for,” The old man said, dropping his head and shoulders in sadness. “A man could last no more than a few minutes in that frigid water, I fear,” he added solemnly.
“I am sure you are correct, but for the family’s sake, it might not be too late to retrieve her poor body from the sea,” Susan finally spoke, pleading her case. “The constable should be summoned straight away,” she added emphatically.
“Yes, yes, you are quite right, my dear,” the innkeeper replied respectfully. “Her poor family should have her body to grieve for if at all there is a chance. I will take my leave directly,” he said, hurrying for his woolen coat and top hat.
“John, should you go with him to direct the search?” Susan said to her husband.
Without a flinch he agreed, and grabbed his hat as he started for the door.
“I know you two are not from this area, but did you happen to get a good look at her?” asked the innkeeper. “What did she look like? Did you observe anything that distinguished her?” he questioned the two.
“She told us her name was Abigail Stanton before she jumped,” Susan immediately blurted out.
“ABIGAIL STANTON? Is this some kind of joke?” the innkeeper asked sternly.
His demeanor quickly changed. He was now visibly upset as his eyes pierced the two.
“What is the meaning of this?” he questioned John directly.
“Sir, I am not sure what you are on about, but I can assure you that this IS no joke. A matter of this serious nature should not be taken lightly.” John spoke resolutely, assuring the old man of his honest character.
“If this is not a joke, then you must be mistaken, sir,” the innkeeper challenged while taking off his coat, still not believing the pair.
“I cannot confirm the accuracy of my report other than to tell you that Susan and I heard with our own ears the poor woman tell us her name, and that name was Abigail Stanton,” John retorted back to the innkeeper’s challenge.
The old man sat down on a rickety wooden chair. He shook his head and repeated to himself as he tried to understand the claims presented to him. “This just isn’t possible. It’s just not possible.”
“Well, sir, are you off to the constable’s?” pushed John.
The innkeeper raised his head and asked, “But, sir, I just don’t know how it could have been Abigail Stanton.”
“Do you doubt our integrity?” asked John with an insulted tone.
“Sir, please do not misunderstand my situation. I am trying to reconcile the facts,” the old man stated, trying to make sense of it all.
“The facts are as we just stated. Abigail Stanton jumped to her death an hour ago, and we need to act fast or her body will be lost forever,” Susan interjected emphatically.
“Ma’am, I can now see that you two are serious about your claim. It is what you saw that I am confused about,” replied the Innkeeper.
“Sir, we are wasting precious time. Shall we go?” John insisted. “Why do you sit and procrastinate over this poor woman’s body?” he added, trying to drive home his point.
“Sir, you could look for a thousand years and would never find her body in the ocean,” replied the old man.
“We could at least try,” Susan added. “We cannot give up so easily. I would not want anyone to take my death so lightly.”
“My dear, I am not giving up, and I understand fully the tragedy of Abigail Stanton,” said the old man, standing up. He walked over to the fireplace, grabbed the poker and rotated the logs slightly to stoke the fire. He began to warm himself as he pondered the situation.
“Sir, this is an outrage! If you will not summon the constable, then direct me to his location and I will do it myself,” John angrily asked.
“He will not come,” was all the old man said, his head bowed slightly.
“Why is that, sir?” Susan cut in before John could speak.
“Because she is dead,” answered the old man.
“Well of course she is dead. She jumped into the water and drowned. This has been our charge all along. Pardon my poor manners, sir, but are you deaf?” John said, exasperated.
The old man turned away from the fire and walked over to where John was standing. He placed his hand on his shoulder and spoke, “Sir, Abigail Stanton is most certainly dead to be sure. I know this to be true because just about a year ago she threw herself off those very same rocks to her death. She is buried in the town cemetery.”
John stumbled back a bit and caught himself. He turned to Susan. She was in shock and only stared at the floor in an effort to hide from the obvious. John tried to reconcile the reality that his mind would not yet let in.
“Sir, are you saying we saw…” John started, and was cut off by the old man.
“Abigail Stanton’s spirit,” the old man said, interrupting John mid-sentence. “Yes, sir: if what you tell me is accurate, then you have just witnessed her ghost. There can be no other explanation for this,” he added with determination.
“My gosh, how did it happen?” Susan asked, accepting their reality.
“My, my, where do I begin? Well, first of all, Abigail was married to a fine young man, a captain of a fishing schooner. I remember him as a boy: very astute and very hard-working. He came from a good family. They were married some fifteen years ago, I believe, and quickly had four children. I remember Abigail back then. She seemed perpetually pregnant. She had three boys and a girl, the girl being the youngest. As the paper reported a year ago, Robert, her husband, had already been employing his two oldest boys on his ship, but thought it would be a good idea to teach his trade to the younger two. Most thought it was the bad luck of bringing his daughter aboard that sank the ship, but I never believed in any of that superstitious nonsense. Anyway, he would take them out for a couple of days at a time. I believe this was as much as Abigail would allow, especially for the young girl. One day while out at sea, a large storm overtook the ship and she sank, claiming the lives of all aboard. Upon hearing the news that her entire family was lost, poor Abigail became ‘touched’. She wouldn’t eat, and barely slept. It was reported that she was convinced that her family was still out at sea and would be back when they had finished their task.”
The old man walked over to the window and pointed to the rocks at the other end of the crescent-shape beach. “Every day, she waited atop those rocks for her family to return. Poor thing. I’d see her day after day, tossing a flower into the sea for each child and her husband. She rarely came down. The town was about to have her committed when a large storm hit and washed her out to sea. The paper said it was suicide, but I know better. She would never throw herself off those rocks. Her faith in God wouldn’t allow it.”
He turned toward the two and continued, “No, I don’t believe that story for one minute. The sea was violent that day. I remember it; not unlike today’s seas. One minute she was there, the next she was gone. You just can’t stand up there in a bad storm. The sea will snatch you right off the rocks like a bullfrog’s tongue to a fly. I tried to explain that to the constable, but no one wanted to believe that version of the truth. Besides, suicide sells papers. So that is how history remembers it,” the old man said with disgust.
He then looked out the window and quickly turned back to John. “I’m curious. Did you actually see her jump? If you did see her ghost jump into the sea, maybe she really did take her life – a phenomenon of the afterlife repeating the last minutes before death.”
“I’m sorry. One minute she was there, the next she was gone, just like you reported.” John said,