To the Sea

The sea is never silent. Not when there are no ships for leagues around. Not so far from land that a bird is a rare sight indeed. Not even when a young man alone lays in his refuge of wood and nails and prays that the end would be gentle and kind. Two score and ten days, he had drifted since the Bedford sank beneath the waves taking all hands save for himself. He had clung at first, then pulled himself into the small boat that had survived. It was one of the many meant for chasing whales, but the only one that had broken free of its mooring lines. He had drifted as the moon changed above him and now this lonely son of a New England port wished his boots had never left the docks.
He nearly didn’t hear the surprised gasp over the mournful wind and the sea clawing at his safety. But he couldn’t miss the voice, reverent as it was.
“A human.”
Sitting up, he saw a young man’s smiling face sticking just up over the side of the boat. Lean, tanned arms rested on the low side and the strange man started to pull himself aboard. He was bare to the waist, save for a fur mantle he wore with the hood down and his leggings seemed to be made of fur. He was quite fit, a well-built specimen of manhood with tanned skin and lean muscles. His eyes were a bright, clear blue and his smile full of wonder.
“I’ve never seen a real human. And a man, no less! What are you doing all the way out here? I thought humans needed sand and shore and the green places.” Then, as almost an afterthought, he leaned in. “I’m called Macsen. Who are you?”
“I…I’m Tad.” The young sailor paused. “Thomas Jameson.”
“Well, you’re awfully far from the mortal halls, Tad Thomas Jameson.”
Tad blushed brightly and Macsen moved closer to him.
“Just…I’m just Tad.” Taking a breath, Tad began to explain about the ship, about the storm, about the sharks and even about the men who hadn’t made it. Macsen wrapped an arm around Tad’s shoulders.
“I can try to get you back to your shoreland if you want.”
Tad was startled by the sudden contact and looked up into those clear blue eyes.
“You’re real,” he breathed, the words barely escaping his lips.
Macsen chuckled, his laugh deep and infectious.
“I’m as real as the sea and the stars. You’re not nearly so lost as to be seeing what isn’t real, I promise you that.”
For a long moment, Tad was silent. Then he looked at the young man sitting beside him.
“What manner of devil are you, then? Or maybe some kind of sea monster?”
Macsen pulled back, affronted.
“Monster? I will have you know, sailor boy, that I am a Selkie.”
“I thought Selkies were maidens?”
The question came slowly from Tad’s lips and Macsen chuckled again.
“Mortals, I swear. Selkies are just like humans, my dear boy, just more free.” Macsen brushed his fingers lightly over Tad’s cheek. “Are you telling me you’d rather have a fair Selkie maid because I somehow doubt that.”
Tad felt his cheeks go hot and he looked shyly up at Macsen.
“How did you know?”
Macsen cupped Tad’s cheek gently and brushed his lips against Tad’s. He was warm to the cold sailor and tasted like salt and sweet and wonderful things, and like a promise.
“I’m a Seal Lord. We have our ways.”
Tad leaned against Macsen and then spoke quietly.
“Were you really going to take me home, Macsen? To the shore?”
“Only if that is what you desire.” Macsen stood carefully, pulling Tad up with him. “Or, my dear young sailor, you could come with me.”
Tad rested his hands lightly on Macsen’s bare chest, leaning so his face was in the soft fur of his mantle.
“I can’t breath under water…I would drown.”
Macsen pressed his lips to Tad’s forehead.
“But if you could?”
For a long moment, they stood there in silence, gazing into each other’s eyes.
“Then I would go with you.”
“And dwell beneath the waves as my husband?”
The blush crept up Tad’s ears and down his chest now, under the collar of his shirt.
“I would.”
Taking Tad’s hand in his own, Macsen turned to the edge of the boat.
“Then come into the waves, love. And I’ll give you one of our seal coats. Be a human no more.”
Uncertainly at first, but then with his eyes full of trust, Tad removed his shirt and boots before jumping into the sea. Macsen followed a half step later, pulling the hood of his mantle up as he hit the water. A large gray seal swam up next to Tad and butted him affectionately. Then they swam. Down and down and down into the depths they swam until Tad had no more air in his lungs and could feel the darkness rushing up to greet him. Then Macsen pulled him into a grotto mercifully full of air for the breathing. It was a beautiful place formed of stone and shells and pearls, full of treasures of the deep. A luxuriant nest of furs filled one corner of the place. One more, Macsen took the shape of a man. This time, he strode purposefully to a waterworn chest and produced a mantle to match his own.
“For you, my bold one, for daring to come away with me.”
As Tad pulled it on over his shoulders, he felt the change. No longer was he cold or wet. No. He was a Selkie, made to swim beneath the waves and walk the shores in the moonlight with his fair and handsome seal lord at his side.

A Chance to Regret – Part 1

Neither of us was watching the tv, though it sat on and the news anchor was talking. It didn’t matter, it was inconsequential compared to the small war happening in our apartment. Tensions had been rising, and the week of Cold War had finally gone hot. Maria flung her hairbrush at me and it smacked the wall resoundingly. For my part, my hands were up defensively and there were tears running down my cheeks. But I had no words to defend myself. I had done what she’d accused me of. It hadn’t just been a one-time indiscretion either. I hung my head in shame, trying to find words, to find promises that would make her stay. Her slap stung my cheek, but I didn’t try to stop her, not even when she turned to stride into our bedroom yelling about how she couldn’t believe I’d abused her trust like this. I wanted to chase after her, tell her she was right and I was worthless. Instead, I sunk to the floor and cried.
I must have fallen asleep like that because I woke up on the floor the next morning when my cat unceremoniously sat on my chest and started meowing in my face.
“Morning, Chubs…”
My voice was rough, even a bit hoarse. I with a sigh, I pulled myself to my feet to get a start on my morning routine, knowing that I at least had to feed the cat before I let my world come crashing down.
“-advised to avoid public places and reminded to wash their hands thoroughly after any contact with others.”
I nearly jumped out of my own skin at the sudden voice. The tv was still on. So, she hadn’t turned it off before she left. I felt the first pangs of pain and squashed them down.
“Feed Chubs now, be a fuck up later.”
He rubbed against my ankles and I smiled weakly. A few minutes later, I left Chubs happily eating and went to go find clean clothes and my shower. Our- My room was absolutely ransacked. I just sighed, shoulders drooped, and picked a clean pair of boxers from the floor. I’d clean it up after work. Adding a bra, a shirt and a pair of jeans to my armload, I trudge into the bathroom.

“What?”
I couldn’t possibly have heard right.
“I said, don’t bother coming in. We’re closed. The Governor issued a state of emergency, right after the CDC said we’re dealing with an epidemic. Have you been under a rock or something, Jess?”
For a moment, my mind was swamped with images of Maria screaming at me the night before.
“Something like that…”
“Well, pull yourself together and watch the news. You can’t miss it.”
“Thanks, Boss. I will.”
With that, I hung up the phone and plopped myself down in front of the tv. There was a different news anchor now, a blond woman in an uncomfortable looking plaid pantsuit. She had a map behind her and was talking about disease spread and the vectors of transfer. A list of symptoms scrolled across the screen as she talked about home treatments.
“-should be on the lookout for fever, rashes, extreme fatigue, soreness in the joints and periods of dizziness…”
I waited for them to say something about a cure, anything. Nothing. It never came. I fiddled with my phone, trying to decide what to do. I needed food and maybe bottled water. But my eyes kept being drawn to the door. Where was Maria now? Was she safe? Who was she with? Chubs climbed up into my lap and purred, rubbing against my hand.
“Don’t worry, buddy. I’ll make sure to pick up crunchies for you too.”

Hours turned to days and soon, it had been just over two full weeks. I’d started pacing a furrow in my carpet with all my worrying. Chubs and I were running out of food and I’d spent the better part of the morning online learning how to boil the impurities out of water correctly. The whole time, though, all I could think of was Maria. Flopping back into my chair, I looked again at my phone. Then a new resolve overtook me. I unlocked my phone and sent her a text.
“Are you okay?”
That was it. Safe enough. She might even respond. Setting the phone back down, I went to the window to look out at the city I called home. There was smoke coming from somewhere near the harbor and I silently prayed that the city wasn’t burning. It was strange seeing the place like this, no cars on the roads and hardly anyone out. Mostly it was just officials in hazmat suits. The place had turned into a wasteland. Turning away, I went back to the tv. Reports were still coming in, but the hosts seemed stricken now. And they didn’t leave their station anymore. My phone sitting beside me buzzed and I nearly threw it in the excited scramble to scoop it up.
“Yeah. You?”
It wasn’t much of a message, but those bare few words held me. They were a promise and they were my only hope of salvation.
“Not sick. Me and Chubs are alright.” I hesitated for a moment and then added two more words. “Miss you.”
I hit send before I could change my mind and put the phone in my pocket as I went into the small kitchen to scrounge up something to eat.