The sound of a small explosion emanated from the Manager’s office, rattling the door and causing the lettering to peel a tiny bit more from its glazed panel.
The Bartender and the Supplier had been busy arranging the new stock on the mirror-backed shelves behind the bar, while Mimi, and her spatula-wielding assistant, Tom had been in the newly-refurbished kitchen preparing for Saturday night’s crowd.
They arrived at the office door together, Tom entered first, his eyes sweeping the room: the Raconteuse, quietly dripping by the fireplace, and the picture of the galleon hanging on the wall behind her.
Tom stepped forward, searching the red-haired writer’s face for an explanation, but none came; he reached behind her, running his finger around the damp picture frame: ‘I believe we have experienced a Dimensional Disturbance,’ he announced, glancing at the Raconteuse, ‘your escape route, might I surmise?’
The other Proprietors looked at Tom uncomprehendingly; Tom grinned, ‘it’s like a get-out-of-jail-free card for a blocked writer,’ he winked at the Raconteuse, ‘a stroke of luck that you introduced the Portal in here as a precaution before going to write yourself back in time.’
‘Luck had nothing to do with it,’ replied the Raconteuse.
Joey glanced at the carnage he’d left behind; an ominous silence pervaded the blood-spattered hallway.
Raising a hand to acknowledge Gary, Joey took a deep breath to quieten his thumping heart and shot back into the building; he burst into his flat and snatched up his back-pack, stuffing it with a handful of clothes and the small battered box which contained his ‘important stuff’.
Skidding back down the stairs, he paused by Ceridwen’s door; it opened before he could knock, revealing Ceridwen, clutching a bristling Cullen in her arms. Digging into his pocket, Joey pulled out a thick roll of notes and started to peel a few off, but Ceridwen shook her head; Joey was about to speak, but she silenced him with a look and with a nod of her head, gestured for him to leave. Giving Cullen’s head a regretful stroke, Joey fled the scene, only pausing to scoop a small shiny object from the hall floor.
Half an hour later, Ceridwen stepped sedately around the fallen bodies and picked up the pay-phone, wondering how she was going to explain all this to the emergency services; one thing was certain though, she wasn’t going to betray young Joey.
Creeping out at dawn, she tiptoes barefoot over golden sand, gritty grains sliding between her toes. The sun, a crimson sliver, struggles to free itself from the horizon. She steps onto the jetty, its planks still moist with dew. Now, tugging softly at the mooring rope, she draws the boat towards her. With a brilliant flash, sunlight flares across the azure water bathing the bay in its gilded rays. She shades her eyes, tastes the salt on the breeze, inhales. Then, she drops lightly into the boat, casts off, and slips away into the morning.
her island awaits: magical voices whisper giving up secrets
Image credit:Saffu@Unsplash The image showsa red motor boat anchored near a quay. There is a small buoyfloating near it. In the distance you can see a small island.
The red-headed writer, aka the Raconteuse, realised that something had gone seriously wrong with her plan to write herself back in time to find the key to the mystery of the Gatekeeper’s sudden disappearance and subsequent demise; mostly because she simply hadn’t wanted to believe that he’d gone.
While roaming around the inner reaches of her writer’s mind, jotting down what she’d thought should be her next step, events had overtaken her; apparently the Gatekeeper’s casting off of his mortal coil had merely been an elaborate ruse on the part of the Gatekeeper and his equally-imaginative collaborator, Ford the Supplier.
A clever misdirection – she should have known.
Meanwhile, mention being made of a mysterious coffin had sent her down another stupid rabbit hole, the curse of the ‘brancanneering’ story-teller, and now she was stuck on some god-forsaken beach, up to her ankles in chilly seawater, while a strange Gothic ship loomed on the horizon; a storm was brewing too.
A sudden gust of wind ushered in her own personal downpour, drenching her notebook; she applied her pen to the page, but it refused to mark the soggy paper.
How was she going to write herself out of here now?
‘I lost him!’ Gary panted through the side window of the van, ‘I followed him into the park but he jumped over the wall… I think he’s back in the house,’ his eyes slid to the building where Patterson and his cronies were waiting; one of their number had also just pitched up, red-cheeked from running.
A nerve in Patterson’s temple twitched as he took out his keys and strode over to his car; beckoning to two of his crew, he indicated the now-open boot: one retrieved a crow-bar and the other a stubby-handled axe.
‘They’re going in!’ Gary’s voice rose half an octave with anxiety as the front door began to splinter.
As the door gave way, Joey launched himself over the banister, kicking wildly, taking two of the intruders down as he swung to the floor; spinning away from the man who was wielding the axe and snatching the crow-bar from where it’d fallen; with a mighty roar, Joey raised the crow-bar, smashing it against bone and flesh, Patterson was the last to crumple.
Joey stumbled outside, allowing the crow-bar to clatter to the ground.
‘In here, mate!’ Gary beckoned from the open back door of the van.
It seems strange to find an ancient rock-art painting, depicting what look like mermaids, in a cave near a town in an arid area of the Western Cape, some 60kms (40 miles) from the ocean. However, 250 million years ago, the stark, beautiful landscape of the Klein Karoo was submerged underwater. When the oceans receded, they left behind a fertile valley and these paintings of ‘fish-tailed humans’ have been linked to stories and legends about the ‘water-meisies’ who inhabit springs and rock pools, and who are associated with bringing both rains and droughts.
Some say that the ‘fish people’ in the San rock painting depict a ritual held by their shamans involving swallows, which are also associated with rain. However, many other people point out that the San people were known for drawing what they actually saw. Look again and you can see that the images have arms, not wings. Does this mean that these were creatures encountered and recorded by the San Bushmen?
There are modern-day accounts of people seeing creatures such as these too. One might suggest that the consumption of a few too many glasses of brandy and coke might have been involved, but I’m prepared to keep an open mind. In any case, I’m fond of writing in that space where myth and reality collide…
Excerpt from Song of the Sea Goddess
A mermaid? Sam can barely believe his eyes. His mouth starts to open and close like that of the fish which, imprisoned in the creature’s grasp, stares up at him blankly. Astonished as he is, Sam keeps hold of the line. The hook pulls at the fish’s mouth.
‘Stop,’ he says to her. ‘Wait. Let me take the hook out.’ Sam leans forward over the back of his little boat and extends his left hand towards the fish. He slackens the line and his hand closes over hers. It’s quite a big fish, enough for two. Sam looks into the creature’s blue-green eyes. ‘Can’t we share it?’
Her eyes narrow. ‘You’re not trying to trick me are you, fisherman?’
‘No,’ Sam shakes his head. ‘I’m not going anywhere, am I?’ He stares down at her, still not believing what he is seeing. ‘Now hold steady.’ He slides his left hand forward to grip the fish’s head and with the other he deftly slips the hook out of the fish’s mouth.
The fish is free of Sam’s line. ‘All right, you hold the fish and I’ll get my fishing bucket. We can keep it in there for now. I’ll make a fire later.’
She puts her head on one side.
‘Don’t you move.’ Sam turns and leans across the deck to retrieve his bucket. The moment his back turned, he hears a splash. He jumps up and spins around to see a large silvery fish-tail disappearing below the surface of the murky river. Another flash of silver further on and she’s gone, taking the big, beautiful fish with her.
Sam beats his fist on the rail of his little boat and curses loudly. He grips the rail in both hands and stares after her. Has he really just seen a mermaid?
His stomach growls again and he pulls the line with its empty hook back onto the boat. He threads the last of his bait onto the hook and casts the line back over the rail. No sooner has he finished securing it to the rail, he feels a tug on the other end.
As he reaches to pick it up, the mermaid breaks the surface holding a plump fish in each hand. ‘She smiles up at him. ‘You thought I’d gone, didn’t you?’
Sam shrugs. ‘S’pose so.’ He grabs his fishing bucket and holds it over the side. ‘Put them in here.’
The mermaid drops one fish into the bucket and takes the other in both hands. She opens her mouth revealing a row of little pointy teeth. Sam is reminded of a shark’s mouth. He can’t help himself grimacing as she sinks those sharp teeth into the still wriggling fish.
‘What’s wrong?’ She bites off the fish’s head and starts to crunch the bones.
Sam averts his eyes and looks down at the other fish, which is floating happily in the bucket at his feet. He visualizes it cooked; he’s too hungry to be put off. Sam looks at her again, the long dark hair clinging to her shoulders and flowing over her upper body, and the glint of her silver tail shining through the muddy river water. ‘I’ve never met a mermaid before.’
‘Well, you still haven’t,’ snaps the creature indignantly. She devours the last of the fish, bones and all.
He leans on the rail and stares at her. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Come closer and I’ll whisper.’ She gazes up at him with her big blue-green eyes and beckons with an elegant finger. He notices that the nail is narrow and curved, like a claw.
Sam is repelled and yet captivated by the creature. He crouches down and leans forward over the back of the boat. She reaches up to him and he puts his hands on her shoulders. Her hands close around his wrists, drawing him closer. Sam can feel her breath on his chest. Then, arching her back she flips her tail. Sam, caught off balance, is tipped off the boat and into the river beside her.
He flails in the water, unable to find purchase on the slippery river bottom. Although the river isn’t deep, Sam can’t swim and he panics momentarily.
‘Ha! Can’t swim, fisherman?’
He hears the creature taunting him as he splashes around. His hand finds the anchor rope and he steadies himself. Muddy water streams down his face as he finally stands up in the waist-high channel. He retrieves his sodden cap and jams it on his head. Rubbing the water from his eyes, he glares at the creature who is floating in a seated position a little way away from him.
‘What did you do that for?’ says Sam crossly, spitting out water.
‘Don’t you like to play, fisherman?’ she flicks her tail at him teasingly and an arc of water sprays over him.
‘I don’t know who you are, or what you are, but I don’t appreciate being soaked.’ Sam turns his back on her and is about to climb back onto his boat.
‘Oh, don’t be like that.’ She flips forward and swims towards him. She bobs up between where he’s standing and Porcupine’s stumpy stern. ‘I’m sorry,’ she looks up at him coyly with her big blue-green eyes.
‘No, really I am.’ She blinks her eyes at him and a fat tear rolls down her cheek. ‘I’m all alone, you see. No friends. No-one to play with.’
Sam relents. He reaches out and touches her face, wiping away the tear. ‘Look, would you mind if I sat over there on the island? I’d like to dry off a bit.’ She nods and he takes her hand and guides her to the edge of the sandbank.
Sam sits down on the grassy bank while she lounges on her front at the water’s edge, her glorious silver tail sparkling in the shallow slow-moving water behind her.
‘You were going to explain who you are before you tried to drown me.’
‘I didn’t try to drown you.’ Her eyes become even larger, the pupils black like saucers.
‘I’m joking with you, don’t you see? Playing. Like you said you were when you pulled me into the river.’ Sam grins at her.
‘All right, but I’m sorry for that.’ She smiles weakly.
‘All right,’ Sam says gently, stretching out on the grassy bank and resting his head on his elbow. ‘Tell me about yourself.’
‘My name is Shasa. I belong to the tribe of the Water People. You might know me as a water-meisie’.
Ignoring the repeated ringing of the doorbell in the flat above, Ceridwen was distracting her attention from the menacing figures standing in the front yard, concentrating on the progress of a wheelchair-bound man being chaperoned across the road by a white-clad nurse.
A new feeling of foreboding tugged at the edge of her consciousness, accompanied by a gentle tap-tap on her door; she pulled it open, Joey stood before her emitting the disquieting aura she’d sensed before: ‘How did you get in, Joey?’
‘Through the window by the back door you leave open for Cullen,’ her young neighbour looked about anxiously, ‘I just came to pick up some stuff.’
Ceridwen’s eyes followed his, ‘I take it those people outside are after whatever it is you have; not that it’s any of my business, but I should get rid of it if I were you.’
‘Look, here’s the plan,’ Joey’s eyes darted towards the stairs, ‘I’m in and out quickly, then I’ll ring the phone downstairs from the call-box up the road; you go and answer then tell the man outside it’s for him; I’ll talk to him, draw him off, like…’
Joey was interrupted by the sound of splintering wood.