Fathom

Reads: 94  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 1

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Sometimes when you seek answers, you dig a hole so deep you drown.
A short about a sapphic aroace woman who just wants to know what it is she feels.

Submitted: February 28, 2019

A A A | A A A

Submitted: February 28, 2019

A A A

A A A


"And yeh think... yer qualified?" The boatswain looks me up and down. Several burly men (and plenty of burlier women) peek up at us, unabashedly, from their deck-scrubbing and rope-pulling.

I stand my ground. "Powder runners needn't be large. In fact," I raise my chin, "The smaller the faster."

The boatswain, a stout man with an uneven moustache, strokes his beard as he considers my argument. "Is a dangerous job," he says.

"If I were afraid of danger I wouldn't've come."

The woman closest to the bow of the ship, where the boatswain and I are standing, whistles. "She's feisty."

"We're honest sailors, not pirates," the boatswain barks. "We migh' not even need yeh."

"Then make me cabin boy."

"Cabin girl," a voice calls out from the crowd just beyond us.

"Cabin girl," I correct. 

The boatswain is silent a while as he mulls it over. The ship rocks gently under my feet, secured to Hargith's port, the place I intend to leave, one way or another. The boatswain huffs. "Wha's yer name, kid?"

"Morgan." Morgan of Hargith, Morgan of the largest seaside tradesport for at least a hundred nautical miles. Morgan of the sailing capital of this here part of the ocean. Morgan of commonborn and seafarer raised. Morgan the truthseeker. And Morgan the Queer.

"Morgan," the bootswain repeats. "I dunno what yer be seekin' here out on the seas, but I s'pose it best yeh ride with a safe crew." He puffs out his chest and extends a calloused hand. "Abbas," he introduces himself. He gestures wide toward the ship. "Welcome aboard The Slipper."

I unclench my teeth. Morgan the truthseeker, Morgan the Queer, finally going out to sea - an accomplishment even I had begun to think impossible. I dismiss myself as Abbas the boatswain turns to bark at the slackers behind him and I head for the undercabins. The whistling woman stops me. "Aren't you young to be gambling your life out at sea?" she says. Her gaze is knowing.

I shrug. "There are things I have to know." I am Morgan the truthseeker.

The woman purses her lips as she studies me closely. "Like what, dear?"

"Things I want." I am Morgan the Queer.

"What do you want?"

What do you want? The question echoes in my head, thundering against my skull, in the voices of my confidantes and lovers past. 'If I knew, I would'nt've come,' I want to say. If Morgan the Queer had any answers, she wouldn't slap herself with a label so vague it's definable only by discomfort. I shake my head and resume my trek to the cabins.

"Hm. Tough one, eh?" I hear the woman say behind me before the creak of the door drowns out her whistling.

The largest ships tell the tallest tales, the tales of fantastical creatures of the deep. The Slipper's mast towers high over plenty a boat in the harbour and I know it has to be the one that will lead me to the creatures of magic.

The Sirens.

I finally find an empty bunk and I throw my pack onto the thin blanket to claim it. If I'm lucky, this trip will be less than a week and I'll be home with answers within some few days. If I'm lucky, the sirens will tell me what I already know: that I want no one and nothing at all.

"If you know, then why are you going?" Henna's voice rings in my head. It's sweet, as she always is, and the care and concern behind it burst my heart as painfully as they had done days ago.

Perhaps, if I'm lucky, the sirens will tell me I do want. As well as what.

"Oh, a fellow small one?" A soft voice from behind me catches my attention. I turn to face a young woman, curvy but quite petite.

"And you are?" My voice is sharp, and I know it from the twitch of her eye.

"Evelyn," she says. Her eyes trace my figure. "Not common to see a pretty one."

I snort. I am not pretty. My hair is greased, my slacks are stained, and my missing front tooth is far from discreet. Evelyn, meanwhile, is plump and full of colour. Evelyn is full of life and energy, and all of it is attractive. But I don't want to bed her. And I don't want to kiss her.

Evelyn grins a pretty grin and I feel content just to stare. "Dinner's down in the galley usually." Even her voice is calming and puts me at ease. "We set off soon, and if you want a decent serving, you'd best come down ten early." She winks. "You can thank the cook's assistant."

"Hm." I manage a half-smile her way. Her eyes sparkle with the kind of intensity I remember from past lovers. But, having learned from them, I turn my gaze away. "You may call me Morgan," I say. "The truthseeker." Evelyn raises a brow. I can see it out of the corner of my eye. "The Queer," I add. I see her smile and she closes the distance between us.

"What kind of Queer?"

I don't answer.

It is day two. Evelyn's asked me to her bunk no less than twice this morning.

It is day three. The Captain has introduced himself as William and told me of his brushes with the deadly enchanters of the sea.

"Where are they now, do you reckon?" I ask as I retrieve his emptied cup of tea.

He pauses and I hear the groaning of The Slipper as she sails a hundred men and women to the island of Ide. The crashing of the waves against the hull is interrupted by the Captain's nervous foot-tapping. "I don't know," William says. He lies. We're heading toward them.

It is day four. I've let Evelyn kiss me. I enjoy it because we are close, because I get to stare longer.

It is day five. Abbas is yelling at the crew to hold the ropes. The Captain is yelling at Abbas to get another man on the rudder. The rain pours down and soaks through my clothes, and the thunder threatens to turn us over. But I squint through the pellets at the rocking waves. I think I see a trail of hair, but it could have also just been seaweed.

It is day six. The sun is high in the sky and the ship bobbing the waters, heading northward.

"Land ho!" Our watchman - watchwoman - exclaims from her post at her top. I stand beside the Captain at the bow and I see it too. The Captain is tapping his foot again.

Not an hour later, our first man has disappeared.

Two hours in, four men and one woman.

Five hours in, I can no longer find Evelyn in the crowd of crew all standing back to back on deck.

"Resist it! We're almost through!" Abbas calls to us in a warbled tone. I hear nothing. "Whatever they sing to yeh, it i'n't real!"

Neither does my desire seem to be. I am standing in the middle of a crowd of frightened seamen, all ghostly pale and shivering in warm summer, surrounded by the sirens I have sought for years, and I hear no songs. I hear no seductive whispers of promises to grant all my deepest desires and irresistible urges. It is confirmation of the absences my confidantes have known for years.

And yet, it does not feel right.

I think of women. I think of Henna and Evelyn and their radiant beauties. I think of how I love their fashions and their honest grins, and how I couldn't just be unaligned, unoriented. My compass points to gentlewomen. Does it not? Then should the sirens not silence their calls?

"What do you want?" The heavy breathing of the men around me seems to lull. The waters that had just been splashing against the hull seem to calm. "What is it that you want?" I feel at peace, rejuvenated. 

"I am Morgan, the truthseeker."

"To fathom." The very wind seems to sing. I duck away from the bow and move to head to starboard, but fingers grasp my sticky tunic before I can make three paces. They are weak against my pull. I peer over the starboard railing and look deep down past the rolling waves. I see myself reflected in the clarity, and I also see a pale face rising to the surface, framed by the bright greens and blues of the kelp growing beneath it. I lean forward to catch a better glimpse. A woman's face stares at me, into me. Her eyes seem to pierce my very soul and I feel an ice cold grip my chest, but I cannot look away. "To attract is appeal to the affections."

"Tell me more."

The woman breaks the water and reaches up towards me. I lean closer. "The affections, the emotions." Her skin glows, radiant, and my breath seems to be taken from me as I watch the corners of her mouth upturn.

"I understand."

"Tell me who you are," the wind hums in a beautiful alto. 

"I am Morgan, the Queer."

"What kind of Queer?"

What kind of Queer? The question rings in my head until it bashes against my skull and I am thrown backwards. The waves are suddenly too loud to bear; the creaking of the ship, the shuffling of feet on deck, the shouts from Captain William threaten to rip apart my eardrums. I look around and, for the second time, find no Evelyn. But this time, I understand that it's at the cost of my understanding.

I hear unearthly screams from all around me, emanating fathoms below the surface of the sea. I dare a peek over the starboard railing and see nothing but seaweed - hair? - moving against the current.

The Sirens.

I freeze in fear, in horror, and only resurface to consciousness when I wake to the Captain frantically shaking me.

"She's up," he says. His face is pale and gaunt, as if he has aged twenty years in a single night.

"Thank the gods!" Abbas barrels over to me and nearly slaps me upside the head. I watch him clench and unclench his fist with an uncertain energy. "Yeh knew," he growls. About the Sirens, he means. 

I say nothing.

"Well, Morgan, did yeh find what yer sought?" Abbas' voice trembles.

I feel the eyes of the entire crew on me, but in my vision I see the woman who came from the sea. I think of how the sirens showed me a beautiful creation, a design, and asked me to look and to touch, but not more. I think of Evelyn, of Henna. And I finally fathom what it is I want.

"Abbas," the Captain says in a placating voice. "We have lost many. Morgan is too small to have raged this on us."

The boatswain grunts. "I s'pose." He is silent a tick before he lets out a sob and turns away, in embarrassment or as a coping mechanism I don't know. "Those of yeh who're still here! Hoist them sails and let's disappear from this forsaken place!"

I watch the crew take to their stations, many fewer than I remember departing with, but I feel at peace. The night sky is clear and the North star shines brightly ahead of us.

"Cabin girl." The Captain murmurs in a tenor so sweet I mistake it for an alto. "How many fathoms deep will you go?"


© Copyright 2019 R. Tally. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

Comments

avatar

Author
Reply

More Flash Fiction Short Stories