Flash Fiction #50 – Albatross
I can’t believe this is my 50th flash fiction. I mean, I know there are people out there who write a piece of flash fiction every day. I, however, am not that person, so I’m gonna go ahead and be impressed with and delighted by 50–especially since, when we started doing this, I was so weirded out by the idea of throwing unedited fiction out into the wild. Now, my attitude is more like, “Welp…I hope it doesn’t suck. But…if it does, it does. I can always come up with something better next time.” Okay, it’s laced with more anxiety than that, but I’m getting better about it.
Anyway, this month’s song is Albatross by Susan McKeown and The Chanting House. It’s one of my all time faves, and wouldn’t you just know it? I have absolutely zero ideas for what to write. *sigh* But you can hear this gorgeous song: here and read the lyrics: here. I’m gonna go listen, too…in hopes of coming up with something.
“You listening for the mermaids, girl?”
I smiled and nodded like the grizzled sailor expected and turned my face into the headwind. There was only one song I was listening for–one voice–as the sun sank low and red on the horizon, setting the clouds on fire while lightning flashed violently to the east.
“Watch your head, girl,” the first mate barked as he tossed a coil of rope past me to where some of the crew was busy lashing cargo to the deck. “You should go below with your sisters. We’re headed for weather.”
“I’ll go down before the rain starts.”
I’d traveled often enough with my father that the ship’s crew felt comfortable speaking to me almost as if I were one of their own. I didn’t demand the deference my sisters did. Actually, I didn’t demand anything at all which was probably why they liked me. There were some among them who disliked the idea of my father marrying me off to a fellow merchant as much as I did.
The first mate frowned, then shook his head. “See that you do, lass. Yer father wants you chapel-ready when we dock.”
Forcing myself not to allow the shrieks past my lips–the wails that had been trapped in my lungs since my father had announced my betrothal–I nodded and turned back to the open water. Ignoring the the frantic preparations behind me, I crept closer to the bow and listened for the sound of her voice carrying over the waves.
Thunder rumbled and lightning illuminated the now choppy water. I’d never seen her in seas so rough. But she’d promised if I ever needed her, she’d find me. She promised she’d come for me.
“Where are you?” I whispered. The tears I’d willed myself not to cry every time I thought of my husband-to-be finally slid free, loosed from their mooring, and fell into the churning water below. Closing my eyes, I could almost feel Ianthe’s lips on mine as she’d said goodbye. And then she’d vanished beneath the waves. The last I’d seen of her had been the iridescent, flashing scales covering her tail, shimmering in the sunlight as she dove to who knew where. That had been nearly three years ago…on my fourteenth birthday.
The ship pitched violently as a huge wave slammed into it–the hull creaking beneath me. I fell hard against the rail as the rain exploded from the sky in sheets. I smiled grimly as my hair clung to my face. So much for being chapel-ready.
The ship begin to rise awkwardly, and I clung to the rail, preparing for another swell. Suddenly, through the noise of the storm and the shouting of the crew, I heard it–her voice. I couldn’t tell where it was coming from, but I’d recognize it anywhere. It had been burned into my memory.
As the wave hit, I let my fingers uncurl from the rail and allowed the motion of the tilting ship carry me over the side. Icy water enveloped my body, stealing my breath. From somewhere up above me, I heard the sailors shouting, but it didn’t matter. I was free. Whether Ianthe came for me or not, I was free.
My sodden skirts dragged at me, pulling me inexorably down. I slipped beneath the surface and let the anchor of my clothing carry me lower. As the water closed over my head, lightning streaked across the sky above, illuminating the water–illuminating her delicate features as she swam to meet me and brushed her lips across mine. And together we sank lower still.