“Tideline,” Horror Microfiction by Jasmine Gould

“Tideline” was one of last year’s winners in MicroHorror‘s annual Halloween short short story contest.

The seal’s head broke the waters as he was pulling his boat onto the beach. It remained there, a floating gray pebble, until he had secured the lines and stowed his nets. I need a drink. As he turned for his croft at the end of the wind-lashed strand he saw it dive beneath the churning surface. It reappeared as he was about halfway along the shore, past the rocks, and he saw it begin its ugly, rolling waddle onto the beach. The fisherman thought about the whiskey on the shelf above the sink. Then he thought about the money he could make from good sealskin, so he turned around and went back down to the boat to get his club. As he drew level with the rocks, the fisherman saw the seal writhe and struggle; it opened its mouth and squorled a cry to the gulls overhead, battling the strong winds. He watched as it cast off its skin. A woman stood naked on the sands, her pale skin dappling with the cold. A Selkie! Here on my beach.

The fisherman couched behind the salt-stained stones, his breath held tight in his chest. If he stood up now the seal-woman would see him. She might panic and try to flee back to the water so he waited until she buried her skin. She sniffed the air and moved off inland, black eyes wide in search of whatever it was she was looking for.

imageWhen he reached the spot where she had buried the pelt, he knelt in the wet sand and began to dig. Soon his fingers touched soft supple fur. He drew out his prize. This would fetch a fortune in Thurso. He drew the skin through his thick fingers; it smelt of the waters she had come from and a sweet musky scent. He held it up to his face and breathed it in. Her scent is the sea. Overhead the gulls squalled. He closed his eyes, listening to the breakers burst again and again along the shore. Lulled by the rhythm he lay on the sand and drew the skin over him to shield him from the winds. As he lay beneath the pelt his thirst was quenched by the endless sea. He felt the pressure of deep dives, savored the crunch of herring fresh in his sharp teeth, the swell of the sea as it cradled his sleeping body. The black-eyed seal-maid floated at the edge of his vision, a soft presence as his senses swam in her strange waters.

When he opened his eyes, he was lying on his back staring up at the steel bellies of the clouds. How long have I lain here?

“Over there.” A voice made him turn his head. Two men were walking to him. The fisherman thought it was strange they were dressed in monochromes. Oh, thank God, it’s Calum and Old John. He tried to rise, but his legs felt clumsy.

“Hey! Help me up,” the fisherman called out. His voice seemed oddly hoarse. As he tried to clear his throat, a dark clump on the ground caught his attention; it looked like a heap of clothes. He’d not noticed that before.

The men were nearer now. Calum was raising a stick. He’s going to hit me! He cast about wildly trying to right himself and that was when he saw her. The Selkie was crouching behind the rocks. She was smiling, her eyes black pools. He reached out to her and caught sight of his flipper. He howled his terror to the sky as the gulls screamed back at him.

“He’s a big ’un,” Calum said as he swung the club down.

“Aye,” said Old John. “Skin’ll fetch a good price in Thurso.”

(Found at MicroHorror.)

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