dive and swim-dance
through green depths, kelp-bedecked,
sea caves, cavernous mouths echo
rolling to wild ocean billows,
reminding this Selkie
she is also
More Selkie mystery in response to Sue Vincent’s photo prompt.
I sit on the cliff top and watch the lights come in the houses in the town. It isn’t far, just the other side of the promontory, but the bay is deeper there, and the strand stretches silvery smooth as far as anyone could walk in an afternoon. Here, the rocks tumble into the sea, reefs snag the waves beyond the low tide mark and gorse mingles with the sand down to the pebble cove. Night falling on the sea is different here, wilder. That’s why I choose this place to sit and listen. Perhaps one night I will hear his voice.
He used to say that it doesn’t matter which part of the ocean you swim in, the memories are the same. The water remembers everything. It carries the same messages from Pole to Pole; whisper in one shell and listen to another, the words will be the same. I still don’t understand entirely what he meant, but it’s comforting to cup my hands and draw up the water from a rock pool and think that he hears it dripping through my fingers, wherever he is.
I walk across the smooth sand to where the dying waves lap the toes of my shoes. The water is cold even on summer nights and I see the stars’ glitter reflected on the oily waves. I listen, but there is only silence except for the gentle hiss of the backwash through the shingle. The stars listen too, but his voice is absent. He told me they forget, that time runs differently in the sea, and I know time is not on my side. How long before I am nothing more than a vague recollection, a footprint in the sand, the echo of a sweet song?
However long it takes, I will send my messages in the water, the beats of my heart, until he hears and remembers. Tonight though, the wind blows, and I pull my cardie tighter. It’s time to leave. I feel it these days, the cold, even in summer. My bones feel winter coming and I wonder if he feels it too in the chilly ocean. Feet drag through the clinging sand and the steep climb up to the cliff road; each season it grows a little harder. Before I turn my back on the sea, I peer across the waves, searching in vain for a sign, and I send him a thought.
Remember. Before it’s too late
Another new form, the quatern, for the Secret Keeper’s five word prompt. Based on the Selkie story I’m finishing off.
CLOSE | SAND | DEFEND | STEM | LINE
I tried my best to keep you close,
Oh child of mine so like to me,
You spring from salt and sand and spray,
In the bloodline of the sea.
I sheltered you from those who’d harm,
I tried my best to keep you close,
But you wandered like a wind-tossed gull,
You loved the sea, so grandiose.
You found your skin one high spring tide,
Seals day and night they called you, though
I tried my best to keep you close,
You slipped it on, I let you go.
I’ll leave the shore and follow you
Among the reefs where our folk chose
To dwell and dance in kelp-strung halls—
I tried my best to keep you close.
For Sue Vincent’s photo prompt, a piece pf flash fiction based on the second of my Selkie stories.
From the cliff top, the Fishman would see him when he came out of the sea. He wrapped himself tighter in his clammy black cloak and settled back against a slab of slippery granite. Not that he wanted the Selkie man. He had no use for men. It was the woman he wanted, and the man would lead him to her. For the Selkie did have a woman, a Selkie woman who pretended to be a shore woman. She hid it well, but the Fishman had seen the signs, felt the air tingle around certain cottages along the shore. Her Selkie lover kept her safe hid inside, but the Fishman knew she was there.
He could have entered all the cottages by force, of course, until he found her, looked into the tell tale brown eyes and recognized the magic in them. But he had no great wish to give away his intentions to all and sundry. Though they suspected what he was and shunned him, he would not give them the pleasure of pointing the finger and denouncing him. So he waited for the woman’s lover to come out of the sea and lead him to the right door.
He sat, still as a rock lapped by the ocean, watching the waves rise and fall, watching for a sleek, round head to rise above the swell and for the creature to flop up the strand. His currach was hid close by. He had only to kill the Selkie then race the few yards to the strand with his woman, the prize. He smiled to himself, a thin-lipped smile that didn’t reach to his eyes.
He peered, suddenly restless. The sea was unchanging; only the light shifted and the smell, an intensifying of the salt tang. A shadow fell over his shoulder. He turned and flinched as the club caught him behind the left ear. Eyes, dark and liquid as the sea looked into his, before a red veil filmed them over, and the last sound to roll into his ear was a seal barking in triumph.
The Daily Post prompt is: smooth.
The lake stretches into the dusk, ashrill with mosquitos and pocked with dragonflies hunting. I watch for night to fall, for the hot sun to smoulder into a cool ember and drop over the edge of night. For then, in the twilight zone between dog and wolf, when all cats are grey and the moon and stars but a dreaming, you will slide, oil smooth and water-slick, from the reeds. You will rise from the smooth, waveless lake, carrying with you the salt tang of the ocean, the dark, mystery of the deep green tunnels, and I will be waiting. In your arms, will be the sealskin, your gift of a double life, and in your eyes, the light of desire. You will call me, and I will run through the shallows to join you in the great vastness of the undersea world.
Yesterday’s Daily Post prompt that I didn’t have time to write.
Photo ©Mick Garrat
She first saw him for what he was on the beach. Her handsome lover, the one who had wrapped his long fingers through the strings of her heart and played her such music she knew there would never be another. She watched him cross the silver sand, saw the silver glitter on the wave tips, the silver halo to his silhouette, and when he dived, it was with the slick, unthinking grace of a sea creature.
She watched until he broke water, impossibly far out, a dark head. Silence. The head dipped back into the waves and she held her breath. The ocean filled her thoughts, waves sliding like oil, bright bubbles bursting, the brilliance of coloured pebbles and the silent gems that live and lie beneath the surface of things.
She saw him, the sleek, dark length of him, twisting and dancing through the ocean currents, chasing the metal blue mackerel where the kelp curls and waves. She saw him at last for what he was, and her heart died, knowing she could never follow.
For the rest of the summer she went down to the cove every day, and every day she met the boy who belonged to the sea. Every day they lay together in a hollow between the rocks and the dunes, and she learned the contours of his foam white body by heart. In sunshine or in shadow they lay in one another’s arms, warmed by their body heat, rocked by their hearts’ pulse.
When the sun dipped low he kissed her and pulled away. Though clouds obscured the sky he always knew when it was time. He never showed her the sealskin and he always made her leave before he took it from its hiding place. But every evening, as the sun sank beneath the horizon, from the top of the cliff, she watched far out to sea, until he surfaced.
The last of the light spread over the water and silhouetted the black point that was his head, and the other black points that circled, dived and played around him, that were his kin. With the last of the light, last of the day, last of the summer, she made her silent farewell to the sleek black shape, and wondered if he thought of her, the girl in the cove who could never leave the land and share the deep green realms of his ocean. She kissed a pebble and dropped it into the waves.
The breeze from the ocean washed over her and she listened to its whispering reply.
Always a heartbeat and an ocean away. They had come so close to happiness but the last door would always be closed. Turning away, she let the salt tears fall.
She must have dozed because the last stars were fading, and a pale grey light had fallen on the water.
Is this morning?
She shivered, hoping dawn was about to break and make something happen. The sand was no longer soft and comfortable. She felt as though she had been lying in damp cement that had moulded to the shape of her body. Stiff and cold, she struggled into a seated position, her back against a rock, and watched.
The light grew stronger. Not bright sunshine. No golden disc emerged from the rim of the horizon as she imagined dawn breaking. But not having seen many of them, she was prepared to accept this was normal. She yawned, her eyes closed for a second and she slipped back into the darkness of sleep. But it was too cold and morning was too near. The rock jabbed into her back and her eyes opened again reluctantly.
The sea was no longer empty. In that second of oblivion, he had emerged, a dark figure silhouetted against the sky, striding though the gently heaving waves towards the little cove. She shrank back, suddenly afraid to be caught watching, searching wildly for an excuse.
The silhouette became a firm body, dripping water, a towel or blanket or something over one arm. Striding. White skin, dark hair, dripping and black. Striding through the shallows, up the shiny smooth sand. Folding the dripping towel/blanket, placing it carefully behind a rock out of her line of vision.
She swallowed hard and licked her lips. Her arms wrapped tight around her knees, making herself as small as possible.
He stopped before her. Tall, white, dripping black hair. Muscles sculpted, heaving chest, white skin, dark eyes. The light grew. The line of gold, not yet a disc, filtered over the edge of sight, over the sea, reaching towards her, pointing out her guilt.
“What did you see?”
She shook her head violently.
“Nothing! Just you, coming out of the water.”
“How long have you been waiting?”
“Not…long. Not really. I…fell asleep.”
He dripped. Motionless. She felt the heat from his body, smelt the salt and the sea on him, and something else. Animal.
The truth suddenly exploded like fireworks in her head.
“Because I wanted to know. Next time, will you…will you take me with you?”
“Wherever you go. However far. Will you?”
He turned and looked back over the waves. The sun was a bright curve now and she could see puffs of cloud. Puffs and pink strands. The sky was almost blue. She watched the profile of his face, the curve of his jaw and how it clenched, the Adam’s apple and how it moved up and down. Like the waves.
He shook his head.
“Two worlds join here, in this place, in this cove. Mine and yours. Only here.”
She stood and placed herself in front of him. Close. So close, she felt the heat that curled and steamed from the sea-flecked skin. So close she could look into the eyes that the growing light showed her were deep, deep blue.
“Then let’s join what can be joined, and go wherever our separate worlds will let us go.”
He smiled then, and the dawn finally broke. The sun poured itself over the ocean and into the tiny waves that frothed around their feet. He put his hands on her shoulders and she slid into his arms.
“This cove, by this ocean, is all we can ever have,” he whispered.
“It’s enough,” she murmured back, her lips stopping the flow of his words, her tongue tasting the salt of his ocean. “We’ll make it enough.”
My flash fiction story in response to Sacha Black’s prompt. Time to get back to an old theme, I think.
Painting ©Ricardo Asensio
He didn’t know she was watching him. She’d have died if he’d turned and seen how her eyes were running all over his swimmer’s body, lapping at the muscles sliding beneath his white skin like a cat at a saucer of milk. He raised his arms, flexed his knees and plunged, powerful and graceful as a big cat, a cat with no fear of water. The waves broke and closed over his head, his white body sliding beneath the green with scarcely a splash.
She let out her breath slowly; afraid the slight ripple of the air might dispel the magic. She watched the ocean, the oil-smooth surface, for his reappearance. The shouts and laughter of the other bathers on the family beach further along the coast barely reached her consciousness. Rocks. A sliver, a crescent moon of silver sand. Ocean. And him, the boy with a shock of jet black hair and skin white as milk, swimming through the darkness, easy as a seal.
The breeze lifted a lock of her hair and flipped it into her eyes. She shook it back and peered intently at the empty waves. She was holding her breath again, and anxiety nestled in the pit of her stomach. The sun had shifted, she was sure. How long was it? Far too long. He must have had an accident, a malaise. She should get help.
She leapt to her feet, scattering sand; ran to the water’s edge. Foam fizzed about her toes. She raised a hand to shield the sun from her eyes and scanned the water, further and further, impossibly far out towards the shining horizon. Breath came short and sharp, in little staccato bursts. She saw him at last, far, far away, a round black point amid the wave glitter. Her heart leapt and settled back with relief, pounding in her ears. But the bobbing head was joined by another, and another. Not human then. Seals.
She ran along the strand, slipping on half-concealed rocks, splashing through the shallow water, yelling when she was within earshot of the coast guard.
“Up at the cove, you say? A black-headed boy, skin the colour of new milk?” The coastguard shook his head. “He’ll not be back before morning.”
“Don’t you worry about him. He’s safe where he is.”
In bewilderment, she watched as the seals played, rolling and diving, and the sun sank slow and red. She half-knew what the coast guard meant. Knew what she wanted to understand at least. The breeze blew colder now and whined about the rocks with a different voice. She shivered in her cotton jumper, but she would wait until the morning. Just to see, to know for sure.
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