Enmeshed

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
What's in your net?

Submitted: July 31, 2017

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Submitted: July 31, 2017

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ENMESHED

 

She lay at the bottom of the boat, wrapped in a piece of malodorous sacking, neither moving nor making a sound.

“Do she live?” one of the swarthy oarsmen asked of nobody in particular. 

The oldest crewman spat into the black water of the harbour. “Course she lives, but she knows what us will do to her if’n she causes a ruckus.”

The youngest lad looked almost pleadingly at their unexpected cargo.

“We isn't going to hurt her is we?”

“No. We ain't. But them as we sells her to may not be so considerate.”

“So why we selling her to them?”

“Because we got wives and childer and bellies to fill through winter…”

“And because her folk are bad luck. Now throw some water over that sack. Gotta keep it nice and moist.”

 

The little boat rounded the mole that marked the end of the harbour and none of the oarsmen had breath to speak more as they fought the swell. 

“Back oars,” the steersman yelled and the boat was drawn into the mouth of a cove almost surrounded by dark basalt cliffs.

 

They waited and it wasn't long before a boat put out from the tiny black beach. It had a light high on the stern and the fishermen all averted their gaze.

 

They felt, rather than saw the boat come alongside.

“Do you have trade goods?” the voice was reedy and thin and somehow otherworldly.

“We do sir. Merwoman.”

“Show me.”

The steersman lifted the sacking to expose a slender female figure still entrapped in a coarse rope net

“You set out to catch a daughter of the sea?”

“No sir. We was after codfish.” 

There came a breathy woodwindy laugh.

“Very well. The usual fee. Place her in the boat.”

The steersman signalled to the young lad, who lifted the frail figure in his warm arms and carefully placed her on the cushioned bottom of the black boat. 

“I'm sorry,” he whispered.

 

Something heavy landed at the steersman’s feet, and the fishermen bent to their oars as if their lives depended on it.

 

There was rejoicing in the village that evening, as the gold was shared out and all the families knew they would eat that winter. 

 

The music played and the beer steins were filled and everyone was happy. Or almost everyone….

 

As autumn turned to winter the fishing boats were pulled up on the shingle and the men began the annual tasks of caulking hulls and mending nets. Nobody really paid much attention to the youngest of the fishermen; he was just a clumsy lad and who was to care if he grew thin and pale and abstracted.

 

He spent a lot of his free time sitting on a smooth grey rock that jutted out into the sea. The old wives declared him lovesick and cast their eyes on the local girls to see who might be the object of his affection. But none came forward.

 

The night of the dead came and went, and in the morning the young man’s bed hadn't been slept in. The old beldame he lodged with was curious enough to go looking for him. When she hadn't found him by mid morning she began to be worried, so she went to the headman who somewhat grudgingly set up a search.

 

He was nowhere to be found, and it wasn't until the tide receded that a group of children digging for shellfish saw the bundle of tangled nets at low water line. 

 

They went to investigate, and the youngest girl spotted a bloated drowned face which seemed to be looking at them from the ropey entanglement. 

 

She swears to this day that as she reached the body one blue eye winked….

 


© Copyright 2017 Jane Jago. All rights reserved.

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