Off Season

When the tourist season on the island wrapped up, the beach town always closed down. Doors were barred. Attics were sealed tight. Steps were taken not just to keep hurricanes at bay; to keep unwanted visitors away.

You could still come and visit in the off-season. The ferry from the mainland continued to call, twice a day. The campgrounds were open, at half-price. Howard’s Pub was pouring pints, noon to nine. But, someone should warn you not to bother.

As autumn rolled in, the sea grew closer and civilization receeded further away. Shiny things went missing from outbuildings. Strange music came from empty summer cottages. Trees moved, without wind. 

Something older than the local families stirred. It had tolerated the flood of visitors, for a while. Summer brought fresh blood and flotsam. After tourists refilled the town’s coffers and restocked the larders, outsiders went back home and an unnatural order returned to the isle.

Blue skies gave way to September grey and shipwrecks stirred in the shoals. Latecoming sharks followed the warm ocean currents, then turned away at a deathly cold touch. There was a void. Made by something deep and hungry, just under the surface.

Tropical storms started in areas of high pressure near the equator. They were pushed down the path of least resistance by their later-forming brothers and sisters. The storms became hurricanes as they dashed from tequila washed, bikini bedecked beaches toward the wind tossed desolation of the North Atlantic. The siren song of emptiness drew them. 

Straining to fill a hole… where something had been devoured. The hurricanes overflowed with verve as they fought their way upstream like fat salmon, only to be consumed in a cycle older than seafaring. Their appointment with destiny dated back before fire was harnessed, before bones first grew within land animals. They fed a hunger older than whistling in the dark. 

If nature doesn’t send a buffet of storms, what will it take to sate that fathoms-deep craving? 

We may soon find out. The ocean currents are changing. The conveyor belt is slowing as we turn the sea to acid and dilute saltwater with melting ice. Our fishing fleets trawl the depths barren and our sewage flows downstream where it smothers the ocean floor with red tides. 

What will awaken from those long dormant Outer Banks? Who will it wrathfully blame for missing a meal?

George Morris

Years ago, George was insipired to write Off Season while working as a campground Park Ranger with the National Park Service. Walking the rounds on Ocracoke Island late at night, on a shore known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic has a way of turning your thoughts to the macabre. Nowadays, George is a stay-at-home-dad, who normally makes the most of his chances to get out of the house. When he’s not under self-quarantine, he’s an adventurer, a treasure hunter, & an explorer. While still holding a government job, he’s also working on his plays, poems, and a murder-mystery aboard a zeppelin cruiseship. You can find more of his projects at
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