Flash Fiction: Adrift

I considered writing a story about a pigeons today but that didn’t quite work out. Here’s something else for today’s Author Aerobics: Setting Challenge piece and #fridayflash


Adrift
by T.S. Bazelli

No one wanted her. There was something not quite right about Kate. She heard her foster parents whispering behind closed doors. When her foster mother could not find the raw tuna steak in the freezer, Kate got a beating. When her foster father took a tumble down the stairs, they accused her of wishing he suffer. When they found the dog dead in the yard, they sent her packing. She stopped trying to remember names and faces as she was shuffled between families. What was the use? Even her parents had abandoned her.

Only when she was near the sea did she find peace. Away from those judging eyes she found calm. The water rocked the small aluminum boat like a cradle. The splash of the waves like a lullaby, hushing her to sleep.

Kate lay dozing back on the flat bottom of a stolen aluminum motor boat. It was a perfect day. The sea was calm, rippled only by the gentle caresses of the wind, bringing a scent of salt that made Kate’s mouth water.

The sound of knocking against the metal hull roused her.

Kate peered over the side of the boat into the water. The glare of the sun against the glossy peaks obscured her vision. Something large, and silver skinned, darted beneath the aluminum hull of the boat. Kate sat up and pressed her nose closer to the edge of the water. The creature vanished beneath the boat, leaving nothing but the thin metal between them.

Kate shifted to the other side of the boat, sending it rocking. Cold water splashed over her feet.

Again she saw it, silver and black, mingling together beneath the waves. A long powerful tail briefly breached the surface. It’s scales glistened. She reached out to touch it, and it felt smooth, cool, like metal beneath her fingers, before it vanished yet again.

Come back, she thought, feeling alone and vulnerable for the first time, as the boat sloshed against the waves, moving dangerously closer to the rocks.

She dipped her fingers into the dark water, and wiggled the raw pink things, to offer something for it to nibble on, for it to return.

The contact with the water was a shock. It was cold, and sucked the warmth from her. She wiggled her fingers until she could not feel them anymore, and closed her eyes waiting for a toothy mouth to bite them off. The dark shape returned, and she felt something tug tentatively at her fingers at first, then without warning her fingers interlocked with something colder than the water around it and it the boat capsized.

She made hardly a splash as the sea embraced her. Her jeans were heavy in the water, as she tried to kick, as she was dragged forward. Her hand intertwined firmly with a hand, cold and pale, with greenish fingernails bitten close to the skin. Long dark hair streamed back behind the woman, who she made powerful strokes with her tail as she dragged Kate past mussel encrusted boulders, to the bottom of the sea. Kate’s lungs felt like they were about to burst, but though her body convulsed and rebelled against the cold, she could not let go.

In the distance, she saw something glittering, gold, and the woman paused, to look at Kate. Her face was a perfect oval, with dark eyes so much like her own. Kate felt herself rising towards the surface, and reached out to grasp the woman’s hand which had loosened it’s grip. Her pale green skin did not seem so cold now.

The woman smiled, and pulled her deeper. The force of it nearly drove the last of Kate’s breath out of her freezing body. Already a halo was forming around the edges of her vision, but she could not let go. This woman could have been her sister, her mother, her twin. In the distance, the glittering golden promise beckoned in a forest of swaying kelp.

Sunlight filtered through the tall fronds of seaweed, lighting it like a cathedral, and Kate’s vision cleared for a brief moment. She wanted to scream, but already her breath was gone. No castle of gold awaited, but bones bleached white, and picked clean, gleaming in the yellow sunlight.

The woman smiled, revealing a shark toothed grin. Welcome home, she saw the woman mouth, and Kate smiled as the darkness claimed her.

30 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: Adrift

    1. Ahh creepy was what I was aiming for. Funny I started out with all kind of sentimental ideas about home. A love story about an old man sending pigeons to his love, or a mermaid looking for home, but in the end this came out. hehe

  1. I vote “good fooled”. It’s an interesting setting but what I really like about this piece is the tension it builds. She dips her fingers into the water tempting what she thinks is a fish and imagining that it will bite her fingers off creating this tension that something bad is going to happen.

    The flash reminded me of Dorothea from Guy Gavriel Kay’s “Tigana” and this scene had a lot of the same power the scene from his novel had.

    1. I wasn’t consciously thinking of that scene while writing this, but perhaps it was back there in my subconscious. That was a powerful scene indeed. I’m happy if I got anywhere close to it. Thanks Aidan!

  2. Haunting, sad, bittersweet and creepy, oh so very creepy. I loved the voice of this piece, and the twist was excellent. This is one of those stories that touch on something deep in the subconscious – it has to be something to do with mythical creatures and drowning that does it, I think.

    1. Thank you Sam. I think you’re right about a fear of drowning, and the dangerous unseen things beneath the waves . Those are both things I have bad dreams about.

  3. Blimey I wasn’t sure where this was going, but wasn’t expecting that at all. Nicely written and totally unique – great work

  4. I. Love. This. Story. I wanted her to be a mermaid too, but this ending is so much better. Creepy and excellent.

    Great story!

  5. Wow that’s powerful. Sad and haunting and whistful all at once. Also, kudos for not subscribing to the disney mermaid version. In almost all other tales, she (or he) is something to be feared, something that lures you into the water, into their realm, where the great dark enfolds you and swallows you.

    Thank you for adding this to my Blogfest of Death, this makes a FANTASTIC entry.

    Tessa.xxx

  6. Fantastic. You held the ending so closely and released it at just the right time. Haunting is exactly the word for this one.

  7. You lured me in as well with the writing style; I was expecting a ‘la la, everyone lives happily ever after’ kind of ending. Instead, I get the real deal on mermaids of yore. Thanks, I needed that.

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