Away at Sea: a Short Story

He grasped his cello in one hand, like a childhood promise, and his bow in the other. The sky was anemic, the pale of a corpse. Northern gales of wind blustered around him as moans emanated deep from the bowels of the ocean. He inhaled the briny cologne of the thick air. His breathing was deep and labored as though the simple act of breathing required strenuous effort. Though the sound of his breathing was lost against the crash of the waves slapping the rock he stood upon, one could hear the deep call of his cello.

Beautiful women with hair the color of moon-water and eyes the hue of icicles rose from the depths of the water. They possessed an unearthly beauty, and their singing haunted whomever heard it, enchanting them like a hallucinogen or passion. They sang a wordless melody, taunting sailors and land-dwellers alike to abandon their posts and approach the jagged rocks.

As he sawed his bow back and forth, vibrating against the strings of his mahogany instrument, the cloaked man harmonized with the women’s song. Their spidery fingers grasped at the sickly heavens as though begging, beseeching her for some anonymous cause. These women of the sea with eyes the color of the ocean stared like thick, opaque pieces of glass. They begged the sailors to come nearer with their song.

The captain had heard of these women. As though from a great distance away from him, he listened to his men holler to one another. Thunder bellowed. They adjusted the sails, their words tumbling out of their mouths, inelegant, frantic. Yet their captain had a far-off look on his face.

He was elsewhere.

He was already coming home from a day of whaling to one of the beautiful women. She had smiled at him, and when she combed her fingers through her hair, he could taste the salt encrusted in its tangles. In his mind, his waterlogged boots were drying by a fireplace and the woman of the sea was stirring a pot on a stovetop. Making something warm and filling.

Nourishing him and putting meat on his bones.

The captain had been at sea so long he had forgotten the curves of a woman. His calloused hands reached out as though blindly accepting an offering. These women possessed scaled lower halves that shimmered like the bodies of slippery rainbow trout in the dying winter sun.

As though someone had pulled a shade over the heavens, a darkness descended. Clouds the color of seasickness billowed above, yet the midnight darkness devoured everything. Through the inky black, the men could not see inches from their faces. The haunting cello playing and mesmerizing vocals carried out to the men, ethereal, inescapable.

As the waves crashed, one by one each voice was swallowed. When lightning struck, shattering the porcelain sky, its illumination highlighted what had taken place in the deep black. A viscous, crimson liquid oozed from slashes in the women’s rib cages. Their corpses were blanched white like fish ready to filet.

Yet still the man hacked his bow against his cello like a knife dancing in the flashes of lightning. As his bow slid along the body of his cello, the sailors saw the razor-thin strings of the instrument dripped with blood.

Finally, the Captain’s eyes were opened, and he recognized the cellist as Death.

2 thoughts on “Away at Sea: a Short Story

  1. Not sure if you’ll get this, but I hope you do.

    I hope one day you can publish your words into a book of short stories. If for no one else but yourself.

    I got behind on my emails and have loved catching up on all of the ones you’ve sent in the recent past.

    You have such a talent for pulling at emotions and painting beautiful and hauntingly vivid scene-scapes no matter the tale you are telling. Truly an artist with words. You lend the same feel to your stories, in my humbly affectionate opinion as authors such a Blake, Frost and Dickinson. And don’t brush that statement off. I mean it. I grew up loving those authors and the way they were able to weave images and emotions into the mind and heart with their words and I see it in your writing as well. You have a gift my dear. Keep nurturing it. I can only speak for myself but I look forward to watching it grow. Know that you are loved (you should already by those of us in your group) and wanted. Know that your words are able to reach into and connect with people’s hearts. ??

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    1. Carlee, I just saw this, and my heart is so full of joy, I don’t know if my reply will be coherent.

      I honestly don’t know what of mine will appeal to people and what will not – I feel like I have an outdated way of writing. I won’t stop though, not because I seek fame, but because these words will not quiet down. I’ve tried to silence myself for years, but they just keep spilling out of me.

      Thank you so much for your words. I’m honestly beginning to see the worth in my own writing, thanks to you and those like you. I doubted my abilities for so long that I hope it doesn’t come across as arrogance when I say I am starting to recognize my own talent.

      I’m not sure I’d ever compare myself to authors of the stature that you mentioned, but I am possessed by the same need to spill ink.

      Thank you so much for everything you have said. It’s brought tears to my eyes. I’m so grateful for you and everyone who supports me. If you ever need me, you know how to reach me.

      Thank you for reading and supporting me. 💜

      Like

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