(This is the third in a three-part series on St Andrews. You should catch up with Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed them.)
This picture overlooks the Crail harbour
Today I set a goal of completing the Crail to St Andrews portion of the Fife Coastal Path. The reasoning was twofold: the coastal path was reportedly stunning, and I had little more to see around St Andrews, and exercise is always welcome–but more exciting to me was following up on some hints laid out in the mysterious journal I found yesterday. I’m sad to report that I did not get any pictures of it, however; I stayed up far too late last night, enthralled by it, and when I woke up this morning I had to rush to catch the bus to Crail. (The bus runs hourly, and as portions of the walk are inaccessible at high tide and high tide is due at about 2pm today, I was on a tight schedule.) Perhaps, though, this is for the best.
A section of the coastline near Crail.
The walk is supposed to take about six to eight hours, and as I had a dinner to attend, I wanted to waste no time. Crail is a picturesque fishing village–I would call it a quaint New England village, except it’s not in New England, of course. Heading north from Crail, the path is relatively wide and alternates between dirt and gravel, and is well-maintained in any case. The weather was cold and blustery (“a bit blowy” a British lady I passed called it), but it didn’t bother me. The wind had whipped up the waves, and despite the seeming violence of the water crashing on rocks, it had a strangely inviting character to it.
I made good time to Kingsbarns, passing such features as Constantine’s cave and the occasional derelict building. The path wandered from the shore up the bluffs and back down again, and I kept the sea on my right, with the country on the left alternating between golf course and farmland. At various points the path passed near, and, indeed, through herds of cattle. One brown cow seemed particularly interested in me–puzzled, slightly afraid, even.
The nearest approach of a brown cow
After Kingsbarns, on the way to St Andrews, the path became much more remote–despite the claims of the website I was following that it is the Crail-Kingsbarns section that is the wildest. The wind started to increase, and it began to rain. At one point, the path turned inland into a forest, yet I found myself strangely hesitant–not to enter the forest, but to leave the shore. As I did, though, the wind and rain increased, and the waves crashed ever more insistently on the rocks.
The coast, closer to Kingsbarn
I do owe a bit of explanation at this point. “Perry” (this was apparently Lawersson’s nickname, go figure) had apparently been quite successful at tracking down religious folk rituals of the area. She hinted at two different points of interest in particular: the sand pile–er, Witches’ Mound–of yesterday, and a river that flows into the sea, somewhere between Kingsbarns and St Andrews. Apparently, local superstition holds that every certain number of years towards the end of May, a long-forgotten sea-god must be placated, first with a “pre-summoning” ritual around a Witches’ Mound, then with an incarnation the following day at the river. Lawersson had successfully tracked down the pre-summoning; the last entry in her diary indicated that she was going to witness it. I don’t know what became of her, but she did leave enough clues for me to determine that if I walked the coastal path from Crail to St Andrews I could find the river.
The entrance to the forest.
As I proceeded deeper into the forest, the sound of the waves, rather than fading away, became ever more insistent and rhythmic, a steady crash-withdraw, crash-withdraw. Indeed, the waves seemed to be trying to make their way up the river. The same footprints I saw yesterday became apparent in the muddy trail, though the increasing storm was eager to wash them away. I slowly became aware of what seemed to be a chanting in time with the assaulting waves, at first barely perceptible through the now-furious rain and wind. Finally I approached a semicircle of people in fantastic dress, perhaps a dozen, waist-deep in the river, facing towards the ocean. My approach muffled by the storm, I walked into the middle of an upstream bridge over the river. I cannot describe what I saw next. Some sort of… thing… was crawling up the river, propelled by the rhythmic waves and drawn by the chanting. It was so horrible, so hideous, that before I could fully understand what I saw, I ran, as fast as I could, across the bridge and down the path, which mercifully led away from the river before turning back to the welcoming sea.
I’m not ashamed to say that I fled, but I do regret dropping what I was carrying–Heather “Perry” Lawersson’s journal and research notes. I doubt it survived the heavy rain, though the storm did abate as I got further from the river. If my phone and camera had not been secure in my backpack at that point I would have surely lost them, as well. Perhaps it is for the best, though, that the journal never be found, and this all be forgotten as soon as possible. I did manage to take a couple pictures of it while I was on the bus ride to Crail, though, so perhaps that will help the interested scholar. I’m not sure that anyone will believe what I have stated–I certainly thought Lawersson’s writings were either make-believe or a hoax until I saw for myself–but I know I will never forget the chanting that followed me away from the river and haunts me still: Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!
As I returned to St Andrews, soaked to the bone, I became more and more dejected after I turned away from the sea. The townspeople crossed the street to avoid me, and quickly looked away when I glanced up. Dripping wet, I was also spattered with mud from my flight through the forest and tracking sand behind me from the places where the path ran along the beach. Finally, after a little girl of six or seven pointed, screamed, and ran away, I looked at myself, and noticed that webbing was emerging between my fingers, and bulges in my neck. Whatever I had seen as a result of that accursed diary had changed me, physically and mentally, and now the wind-whipped waves call to me. I leave this record only as a warning for others.
Editor’s note: This is a transcription of a recording found on a phone in a wet backpack left outside the bed and breakfast. The pictures were downloaded from a camera also in the pack, and selected in an attempt to correspond with the tale. The forest entrance was the last picture on the camera. As for the pictures mentioned of the journal itself, none were found, but there were some photos–chronologically placed before first photos of Crail–that were too corrupted to be recovered from the camera.