Well, for the first time, I think one of my posts needs an explanation. :-) I posted this image in a comment on a previous post. Sara asked me, challenged me really, though she may not have realized it, to write her a story based on the image. I haven’t been writing for very long, and what I do write, turns out to be poetry, whether I want it to or not. I haven’t written a story before, but I thought I would give it a try. Since this is a first for me. I welcome all comments, critiques, suggestions and such, for good or bad. You can’t hurt my feelings :-) so be honest and tell me if this works or not. Thank you for reading. And now we begin….
There was desperation in the timbre of his words, a desperation she had never heard in her young life, at least not from this man she called father, and for the breath of a gentle sigh, a sigh of heartache within her tiny frame, she almost yielded. His voice did not quaver though, and the strength of his muscles as well as his heart, shone from dark eyes in dark and wrinkled skin. A large and weathered man, Conall had been her life, long before she knew it was not her only one.
“Alban… that life is not for you, you were born on land and land shall be your home…I forbid it”, knowing as he said it, she was no longer his to control.
Alban looked beyond this man she called father, to the home that had been her life. Squat and dark, built of driftwood, stone and the labor of long years, smoke rose in gentle spirals to be carried off by strong metallic winds. This was not the time of year for skies of blue, though she remembered… and would miss them. Lowering her eyes from the dark sky, though not much, for father was a giant and seemed to stand within the clouds, not below them.
“Father”, and for the first time, it was an identity, not a name. “Father, this is not my home, though you have tried to make it so”. “You have loved me as your own, and I”, here she stumbled if only in her heart, “I love you, will ‘always’ love you, but, I am not one of you, and must return.” Conall longed to drop to his knees in the dark earth and put his arms around his daughter, for so she was in heart and soul, but he had never lied to her in word or deed, and would not lie now to keep her here.
Concealed within her dress, a knife, sharp and tinged blue at razors edge, as hard and new as the dress was soft and worn, though it shared the hue of blade. Realizing she was no longer his to keep, he demanded she take a coat. Though her thin limbs shivered in the bite of cold air, she knew a coat would do her no good where she was headed, and refused to waste such a fine warm thing as that, simply for the brief warmth it would allow. She looked up into his frowning face, and saw sorrow mixed with pride, knowing not, which would rise unscathed from the battle on his face. She did not speak and he in return, did not answer, though words flew between their eyes. She turned away, though she had never turned her back on Father before, and walked towards a cold and distant shore.
Conall did not turn away. “Alban… “ escaped unheeded from his lips, and he was loath to call it back. Many hours later as darkness dropped its mantle on man and earth alike, still, he stood and looked at the path she had taken. Conall was cold, chilled to shaking, but not from winds without. This cold, swelled up and through the cage of bone that held his beating heart, filling him with loss and love in equal measure. Stars burned cold and fierce, yet still, he did not move, for fear of losing the sweet smell of sea that drifted to him from those same distant shores.
Alban remembered the night just passed. She had dreamed, for dreams were food to starving soul, and often supped at what the night had to offer. Her young life was good, from what little she knew of it and the short time she had been in it, but her nights had always been filled with dreams. She both longed for and feared them, for they were filled with strange and powerful creatures. In her dream, she had been awakened, or so it seemed in sleep, to the crash of surf and the sounds of sea birds, though the sea was many miles from where she slept under thick blankets, in a dark and tiny room.
She woke to find a bright lady standing looking down at her. Bright, because she had an inner light that seemed to swell from behind her sea foam eyes. She smelled of sea, and her hair swayed gently to a current that Alban could not see, but knew was there. She could not say whether this lady, for Lady she was, was young or old, for she seemed timeless, as fond memories and summer days on windswept bluffs are timeless.
Her voice though gentle, held the power of crashing surf and creaking timbers. “Alban, it is time.” She surprised herself by not asking, time for what? “This is not your home sweet thing, and here you may no longer remain. You were stolen from us and that which you hold dear, and now you must return”.
“But I was born here” she exclaimed, and knew in her heart it was true.
“Aye dear, though you left the sea within your mother, your first breath was indeed in air and upon the soil of earth”. Alban’s breath was taken from her, heart pounding a beat both fierce and painful.
“Mother… you.. know her?”
“I know of her dear, I did not know her. She was taken from the sea, held by a man whose loss made him do an evil thing.”
“Do not interrupt dear, there is much to tell, and little time before I too must return.”
The night passed quickly, as a tale of treachery and love, for ever the two are twined it seems, wove its way through the loom of darkened night. Alban sat rapt, as she heard of Selkies, a life within the sea, of men who would have a seal wife, and the lore of creatures both kind and fierce, who lived below the sea. “This man watched as your mother left the sea and removed her seal skin, that she may walk upon the earth for a few hours. He stole that skin and hid it, that she may not return until she was his. She stayed with him until you were born, and still he would not release her. She hid a knife one evening, and waited for this man to return. She threatened him with it, trying to force him to return her skin. In the struggle for the knife, your mother was killed.”
Alban wept for a mother she never knew, tears running hot from blurry eyes. She rubbed them as the Lady continued, “The man in grief and fear threw the knife down and raising your mother up, carried her back to the sea, returning her, though it did no good. The sea can do many things, but even it cannot raise the dead. He returned to find you crying upon the shore, the knife, tainted with blood of anger, resting on the sand next to your shaking life. He picked up both, as evidence of evil deeds, and walked away from the sea, leaving you on the threshold of Conall’s door. Conall was a good man, and raised you as his own. He named you Alban ‘Light’ for that was how he saw you. Your true name is Alban Muirgen, ‘Light, Born of the Sea’, and now you must return”.
“But how?” she cried.
“Come, I will show you” The Lady held out her hand, and Alban clutched it tight. She found herself in front of a wretched shack of driftwood and greasy planks, near the shore of a crashing sea. Barefoot, cold sand beneath her feet, she entered the shack, moonlight the only glow, spilling between aged and broken wood. It was empty, but for the gleam of hardened steel. Bending down, she picked up a knife, blade still bright despite the years. “Alban”, the Lady continued, “he was distraught, and shamed by what he had done. He took your mothers skin, wrapped it around himself, and entered the sea from which she came. This is an abomination,” her voice cold and sharp as broken crystal. “You must lure him back from the sea, cut your mother’s skin from him, and leave him in the air where he belongs. Your mother’s skin will become yours, allowing you to return to your people. This you must do before tomorrow eve”
“But… how.. I cannot do..” She found herself alone and in her room. Darkness took her then, returning her to the slumber of her night.
She woke the next morning, puzzled for the first time by one of her dreams. What did it mean, why did she feel such a longing for something she had never known? The covers seemed to chafe and rub her raw, she kicked them from her legs. Shocked, she looked down to see sand on her feet and on the the sheets, the bright gleam of steel resting cold upon warm linen. Rising, she dressed quickly, tucked the knife under her dress, though it filled her with fear and apprehension, and went to say goodbye to father. There was a stirring within her heart she could not control, and feared she wouldn’t if she could. There was a roar in her ears she could not place, but she thought she heard the faint cry of gulls just beyond her hearing.
She walked for hours before reaching the cold and windswept beach. The crash of waves echoed within her blood, she felt the tides in time with her heart. She kept walking until the sea swirled and tugged around her legs, the sand shifting and drawing her down into its grip, covering her feet and locking her in place. She knew she must tempt this man from the sea. Wading out, she started a chant from deep within herself, knowing the words, though she had never heard them before. The sea changed, rippling with her words, its surface vibrating with her intonations. Alban saw movement in the sand at her feet. The sand was erupting with thousands of tiny creatures, sand crabs she knew, their red carapaces glinting within the emerald water.
She gasped, despite herself, as the creatures piled one on top of each other, building four towers out of the sea, then building towards each tower, chitin and carapace clutched in tiny feet as they merged and held the one next to them. It was a table, built of creatures of sea and land, held together against the tug and push of surf by creatures she knew, though she had never seen them before. Soon, four more columns rose from glittering sand, becoming a chair for her to sit and draw the evil one in. What now she thought, how do I lure him in? Setting the knife down on the table, she held her hands under the water, visions of the sea, her need, and the one that must be summoned ebbing and flowing behind her eyes. The sand erupted around her. Sinking her hands down into the shifting sands she felt hard objects, drawing them up and out, water cascading back onto the swirling surf around her feet. They were goblets, but what to do with them?
Thunder clapped above her head, as rain began to fall from the sky. Without thinking, she held the goblets up, allowing them to fill with fresh water, something the evil one had not been able to partake of for all the years of her life. Setting them down on the table, the rain stopped as quickly as it had started, clouds swirling in the sky to match the turbid sea. The sand erupted again, she pulled a smaller goblet from its grainy clutches. Without thinking, she grabbed the knife and cut her palms, letting her blood pour into the glass. Goblet now full, she plunged her hands into the salt water, the pain causing her to cry out, but the sea healed her wound, as she knew it would. Her blood, her mother’s blood, would draw the evil one in. She smiled slightly, then sat down in the chair, the goblets before her. Clutching the knife, she looked to the sea then back at the knife. Waiting….she knew it would soon be over, and the sea would be hers again, for the first time.
You can continue the story, and read Part II (Selkie Man) by clicking here.