- "I can think of no use for a place like this, except that you could say of it: I saw the heart of nothing, and survived."
|Published in:||Books of Blood, Volume III|
|Characters:||Frankie; Ray; Jonathan; Angela; a Sheepfeeder|
"Scape-Goats" is a twenty-six page short story written by Clive Barker. It was first printed as the fourth story in the anthology collection Books of Blood, Volume III, published by Sphere Books LTD. in 1984.
Four friends named Frankie, Ray, Jonathan and Angela are on a boat called the Emmanuelle. Due to poor navigation and a lack of proper charts, the ship washes up on the shingles of an uncharted island in the Inner Hebrides. Collectively, the group blames Jonathan for causing the vessel to beach itself. He tries to defend his position, but also assures the others that the ship will free itself once the tide rolls in. With little else to do, the group begins exploring the terrain. The island is small and desolate with no obvious signs of life. It is a barren, rocky area, seemingly constructed entirely out of boulders. As they continue exploring, Angela ascends a high bluff where she finds a crudely made corral containing three sheep. The sheep are in poor health with little to feed upon. Though stricken by the oddity of this barbed-wire sheep pen, they are relieved to find some form of life existing on the island.
Frankie, Ray and Angela begin trekking back towards the Emmanuelle, leaving Jonathan behind with the sheep. Frankie hears a cry of outrage followed by the pain-wracked bleating of a sheep and rushes back. She finds her friend, naked in the middle of the corral holding a bloody rock in his hands. He is savagely beating one of the sheep to death. Frankie comes in closer and is covered in a spray of sheep's blood. She is shocked at what her friend has done and tries to convince him to return to the boat with her.
When Frankie returns to the boat, Ray tells her about what he learned of the island from reading a library book about the area. During World War I and World War II, soldiers who died from drowning following the destruction of their vessels found their bodies washed up upon the shores of the island. Over time, the boulders of the island began to form a burial mound for the dead with numbers in excess of hundreds of alleged victims. They begin to realize that they had landed on some sort of tainted maritime cemetery.
Frankie goes outside to find Jonathan. As she walks towards the shore, the island itself seems to come alive. Venting some unseen fury, pebbles, rocks, dirt and even larger boulders begin shooting upwards into the air. One sizeable rock shears off the top half of Jonathan's head right before Frankie's eyes. She stands motionless in shock as the rain of rocks continues to descend upon her. An elderly sheepfeeder docks his row boat on the island and gestures for Frankie to get into his boat. As she does so, he explains that he provides the island with sheep as a sacrifice for the dead. Though the dead have no use for sheep, they acknowledge the gesture as an act of remembrance. As the old man rows the boat into the briny sea water, Frankie watches the rain of destruction batter and demolish the Emmanuelle. She sees Angela pulverized by stones and Ray appears to be lost at sea.
Rowing out even further, water begins creeping into the boat. The sounds of broken fingernails can be heard scraping the underside of the small craft and it begins rocking back and forth. The boat capsizes and the old man quickly drowns. Frankie begins swimming, but suddenly feels rotting hands grabbing at her ankles. They pull her down below the surface and she drowns. Like so many others, her spirit is now bound to the island and she exists as yet another tortured drowning victim, buried beneath the sea of rocks.
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