FAIRY TALE FLASH - Selkie Lament by Connie Todd Lila

The embrace of the sea surrounds the whole of you at once...
“Sing us your silky song, Gran.”

“That’s Selkie, poppet.” Gran smiled and dropped a kiss on top of the sleek, umber hair tickling her chin.


“Will you sing it?”
Clearing her throat, Gran sang the lament past bitter memory.
“The Moon is high…
She paints the waves
with sequins o’re the water
But Her sacred song
I cannot dance…
So grieves Her Selkie daughter…”

“Tell us about Graypa, Gran. Only please don’t cry this time.”
This time she didn’t.                                                                                                         
He’d been a fisherman, kept his boat out in the dusk, and so saw her swimming. Unclothed, he thought her a mermaid and chased her to shore. When she ran on two legs, he followed her wet footprints to a crevice in the rocks. Some of the kelp tossed over it was hastily pulled aside. Squeezing through, thinking to corner the maiden, he found instead and held before him an animal skin. Sleek it was, umber-colored and soft. Lightning-struck, he realized he possessed the pelt of a Selkie.
And, thus, the Selkie herself.
He gathered dry tinder to lay a fire and wait. In the weak light, he saw dune grass move in the still evening air. Looking to that direction, he held up the pelt. She stood, stared at him, took a step.
He folded the pelt and sat down upon it, then held out a tin mug filled with hot tea. She came to the fire, eyes on her pelt. He gave her the tea and wrapped her in his woolen coat without moving away from the pelt. The coat was a poor, smelly substitute. But it warmed her, as did his tobacco-scented tea. He spoke as she sipped, promising the warmth of hearth and home, and the nearness of her pelt, if she came with him.
She followed her pelt.
Each time he left for the fishing, she searched the poor cottage he kept her in, never finding the hiding place. Nor would she. The very first time he left her for the sea, he stowed the pelt in a metal chest weighted with stones, locked it fast. The key went over one side of his boat, the chest over the other, bubbling and burping as it sank away.
Years later, after a daughter and a broken promise, he drowned in a storm, taking his secret to his grave.
“A man’s love will give you a firefly flash of pleasure, poppet, if you’re lucky…and then you’ll still hunger. The embrace of the sea surrounds the whole of you at once, fulfilling the yearn, calling you to more, and fulfills you again. No man or woman’s love can match it.”
Gran shifted the girl on her lap and looked into her dark, liquid eyes.
“The yearning will call you from a deep slumber…call you until you find yourself walking barefoot into the waves in your bedclothes instead of your sleekness…stolen…stolen…as your poor mother did. When her man went to war and never returned, the sea call came upon her, too strong to ignore, the desire for salt water to take you.”
Gran looked out the window. Smoothing the sleek, dark head with her hand, she said, “It’s time.”
The girl ran to the bed and pulled a small, folded shape from inside a pillow cover. She and her Gran left the humble cottage and walked to the shore, where the moon scattered sequins across the waves.
“Farther this time, poppet. Farther and deeper.”
Holding her pelt close to her bare chest, the girl ran to the water and dove into the curl of a wave. Moments later, a sleek, dark form rose from the surface, spun joyously in the air, then sliced the water gracefully, nose first.
“Farther, poppet…farther and deeper until you can’t come back this time. Stay safe with your own.”
A single tear slid down her cheek, pearl-like beneath the moon.
“Stay whole.”
Connie Todd Lila writes, tends herbs, and reads fairy tales in the Central Wisconsin woods she shares with her husband, their resident flock of crows, and the Devas that preside over their gardens. "Rumi - and one of my Runestones - both advised, 'Unfold your personal myth', so that is what I am doing."

Cover: Amanda Bergloff

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Comments

  1. Beautiful. This story perfectly captures the sense of melancholy adventure that a selkie tale needs!

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  2. This is lovely. A bittersweet ending.

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  3. It is lovely. Selkie stories are pure magic.

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  4. Beautifully written Connie - expectations were exceeded!

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  5. I'm echoing everyone's comments. A lovely, beautifully-written tale.

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