The Black Pool

He woke up in his bed screaming, covered in cold-sweat and his heart pounding in his chest. He sat up straight, gasping for breath as if he had been drowning or swallowed.

What a strange thought, he thought to himself, swallowed?

And just then a single isolated and arbitrary memory flickered in his mind: Blackpool Bay.

What the hell is that, he wondered, chiding himself for being scared of childish nightmares. Where is that? Have I ever been there?

He swung out of his bed, grabbed his phone and quickly searched for “BLACKPOOL BAY”.

“Why would I dream of that?” he exclaimed aloud, I’ve definitely never been there he concluded as he clicked through pictures with no familiarity to him.

And then–in the background of someone’s selfie–he caught a glimpse of the mountains that ringed that small, coastal town and cut it off from inland civilization.

It may have been their rugged, deep-set gorges or the ancientness of their formations, it may have been a half-remembered image he had seen somewhere or something even more arbitrary, but he knew then and there that he had to go to those mountains.

He was an avid mountaineer had climbed most of the great peaks in the world, but he had never read about these great, old peaks hidden far away in uncrowded isolation. They cast their shadow on the town below and the open-ocean raging just beyond it, yet they remained silent and he could find no account nor story of anyone that had ever climbed them.

His google search did throw up some small local news about a failed attempt to build a tunnel through one of the mountains with a connecting highway. The project had met a tragic end. He also found some local mentions of some unique pool far up atop one of the peaks behind the half-cut tunnel.

He grinned widely. He knew where and what he was going to climb next, and he felt the tingling of excitement mixed with fear in the pits of his stomach.


The nearest flight to Blackpool Bay took him to a dingy industrial town higher up the coast. From there he had to catch a fishing boat that was going to moor at the small port in Blackpool Bay.

He did not mind. In fact, the journey was part of the adventure in climbing these far-flung peaks.

Stepping off the boat, he breathed in the fresh, salty air of the town. It had a subtle chill to it was colder than he had expected. It was probably air blown down from the frozen peaks of the top mountains surrounding the quaint, slightly run-down town.

He hoisted his backpack and belongings up–as a mountaineer, he prided himself in being both self-reliant and travelling with only the possessions he could carry–and stomped off to the small tavern he had called ahead to book a bed for the night.

If he was lucky, one of the locals there could point him towards the peak with the pool atop it. One of the fishermen on the boat had heard about it and warned against going there, although he could not tell him specifically why. Furthermore, the fisherman had not known exactly which peak the pool was nor could he give any advice about climbing it.

No, he thought, I have to find a land-based local with knowledge.


“I wouldn’t do that, lad,” the weather-beaten old man spat and lit his pipe. As smoke began to bellow from it, he continued growling his advice, “I wouldn’t do that, lad, but I suspect you aren’t going to listen to me, are you?”

He laughed and shook his head. The old man had used to run timber out of the lower slopes of the mountains but was too old for that now and ran a small shop somewhere in the town.

“No, sir,” he chuckled, “But don’t worry about me. I can handle my own in the mountains.”

The old man shook his head, drew deeply on his pipe and sighed, “Yeah, all you young folk are the same and I don’t doubt you know many mountains, lad. But,” and he leaned forward, a darkness spreading across his weathered face, “This isn’t just any old mountain. There are strange things up there, lad, and she has her own secrets that she ain’t keen to reveal to anyone. You hear me, boy? I have seen and felt things on those slopes that I cannot explain nor do I care to try. She is a dark mountain, lad, and you best remember that when you go poking around her corners.”

He nodded, trying not to smile or laugh, and motioned to the barman to bring them another round. The old man nodded graciously and leant back, seemingly relaxed again.

“Right, lad,” he said, puffing peacefully on his pipe as the darkness left his face, “If you take that half-built highway and turn off just before the tunnel, it’ll get you to the bottom parts of the peak. From there, you are going to keep your wits about you. Now, lad, let me point you in the direction of the Black Pool.”


He swore under his breath and pushed forward. The mist was cold and thick and he could not see much further ahead than the nearest rock. It was a strange, heavy mist and had sprung up quickly as he left the eerie half-built tunnel, the lower slopes and the wild pine forests and began clambering up uncharted rock faces towards the peak with the Black Pool on it.

He seemed to be making slow but steady progress. He also kept an eye on the rocks and a couple key formations that the Old Man had told him about.

Yes, he nodded as a lightning-split, burnt rock loomed up to his right out of the mist, yes, I am definitely going in the right direction.

He shivered as something ran down his spine. He half turned around and cried out, but caught himself. He was alone up here and any strange feeling he might have is just a consequence of this mist and his impaired senses triggering base primal instincts.

And this thought triggered deja vu! He suddenly felt like he had been trapped in this before…

“Goddamit,” he muttered, shaking his head and chiding himself, “I will not be fooled by this mist!” he shouted at the mountain.

The sound fell flat in the thick mist and was greeted with dull silence. He felt stupid and childish.

No, he thought, one step at a time and I will conquer Her. One step at a time…


As suddenly as the mist had sprung up around him, he broke through it and saw clear air all around him. He turned around and gasped.

The mist was so thick that he could not see the town below, nor even the rest of the slopes down there. It was as if he were in some foreign land or had stepped through some portal elsewhere?

For all intents and purposes, it honestly looked like he stood at the foot of a steep, jagged peak on a stretch of grey, cloudy plain that reached out towards the horizon in every direction. It was like being stranded on an island somewhere in a bizarre limbo. He turned around and cast his gaze up…

The sheer, raw beauty of the peak winding upwards to pierce the cold, cosmic sky above him was stunning. Halfway up and he could see with much greater clarity the contours and rock-climbs facing him.

He grinned, took a sip of water and tightened his grip on his stick.

Now began his favourite part!


His fingertips strained as the icy wind howled through him. He groaned and heaved as he pulled his weight up and over the ledge, to topple on the flat there.

He gasped, his hands and arms trembling with ache. His fingers felt frozen and his heart and lungs were spent.

He rolled onto his back, his rucksack propping him up and he sat from that position.

It was then that he realized that he was on the top.

He had climbed the peak!

All the fatigue was forgotten as the victory electrified him and he jumped up to look around him:

A sheer and steep drop was just behind him on the small ledge. It was the way down. But, more immediately and in front of him, a small scramble up a couple of rocks was between him and the true peak…

He barely noticed the details as he scrambled over these icy, frozen rocks and found himself standing on the edge of a small, circular pool of dark water: Black Pool.

While a thin layer of snow dusted the rocks at this height and some cold corners held real icy, the pool atop the peak was not frozen at all nor did it have any icy in it. Its surface lay serene and calm, untouched by its extreme environment and forgotten by the elements that battered everything else around them. It may be due to some mineral in the water that made it more viscous and prevented it freezing. The mineral in its water, he noted, may also explain its strangely dark colour too. Its water was not black, just dark. Really, really dark. It was almost like light could not pierce it and, even close to the edge, he could not make out anything below its surface.

It was absorbing. Its darkness seemed to suck light into it. He felt himself step forward, his entire gaze trying to pierce the very center of the small, quiet, untouched pool.

And then the dark water rippled.

He cried out in shock. There was something in the pool!

He could not see it but rather he felt it. It felt like some malignant vacuum that pulled at him to come closer. Like some vast, otherworldly hole that needed to be filled. It had a tangible hunger that ate even the light and he felt powerless to its dark beckoning.

Despite his pounding heart and primal fear, he took a step forward, and then another. And then he was at the very edge of Black Pool’s dark water and staring straight down at it. Even at this range, he could not see the bottom nor any distinguishable detail below its serene surface. It honestly felt like he was staring at a timeless-infinity trapping the eternity of the cosmos in that single, small pool…

And then the water rippled again.

He held his breath, his heart hammering in his chest! Something was there! Something was just below the surface!

He leant forward over the water, careful not to touch it and strained to see what might be just below the surface.

And then a huge, terrifying, dark, single eyelid slid back revealing a burning, feverishly-yellow and infinitely-conscious eye that stared straight-up from just, just below the surface of the water. He saw it and it saw him. He could feel it staring straight back up and at him–through and into him!

Unblinking and ageless, he felt the Eye’s malignant desires twisting around him and pulling him into it. Even the wind fell silent as time stopped atop that mountain.

And he realized that he was falling. Falling!

He was falling into Black Pool! His body was as stiff as a plank, teetering forward! He was toppling directly into the dark waters and the Eye just below. Every primal instinct screamed out at him to pull back, but his body–every muscle!–was frozen. All he could do was watch as the dark water rushed up towards him with the burning, yellow Eye just below its surface…

And then, fractions of a moment before his nose pierced the dark water and his entire world was the burning, yellow Eye, he managed to move the smallest of his muscles, close his eyes and a scream erupted out from him…


He woke up in his bed screaming, covered in cold-sweat and his heart pounding in his chest. He sat up straight, gasping for breath as if he had been drowning or swallowed.

What a strange thought, he thought to himself, swallowed?

And just then a single isolated and arbitrary memory flickered in his mind: Blackpool Bay.