Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Singing (10/31/05)
TITLE: The Selkie of Loch Swannay
By Karen Jimmy
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She had known in the pit of her stomach that coming to this frozen country was a mistake. She should have dug in her heels, insisting her husband take back the promise he’d made to his dying friend. But his honour was one of the things she loved most about him, and she had known deep in her soul that he would never break a pledge.
Now she stood, cold and alone.
They’d arrived here only a year previous- almost to the day. “Loch Swannay,” Gino had proudly smiled, his eyes misted over with a vision beyond Gabriella’s grasp. He saw possibilities and adventure, a new life far away from the war-torn mess that was now mainland Europe. Gabriella’s imagination refused to move beyond the concept of incessant cold- such as she’d never experienced in southern Italy. She did not want to be here, did not want to be cold, did not under any circumstances want to be the wife of a trout farmer.
But she would have taken back every word of complaint that had exited her mouth since they’d arrived here, could she just get her Gino back. But he was gone forever, lost in the murky waters of the Swannay.
She could hear another voice now, joining the song of the morning birds. It was a child singing, with a small, bell-like voice; the tune was so filled with sorrow.
Gabriella shook her head as if in an effort to shake free of the whirling questions that threatened to spill over into tears of rage and self-pity.
She had enjoyed singing, once, but now suddenly she couldn’t imagine ever lifting her voice in song again. Her world had turned upside down so rapidly she almost felt she couldn’t breathe. In less than a year she had been dragged from her comfortable seaside village in warm, sunny Italy to the run-down, ice-cold trout-fishing farm of a Scottish soldier her husband had befriended in war torn France. And now, through some freak accident, her husband lay at the bottom of a northern Scottish Loch, and she was destitute.
The child’s singing drifted behind her. Gabriella imagined the voice must have belonged to a small girl, but when she spun around the only creature sharing the small sandy shore where she stood was a silky, brown seal, with the saddest eyes she’d ever seen.
Astonished, Gabriella blinked. “I must be going mad,” she thought. But when she looked again, the seal was gone.
Since arriving in this cold place, she had noticed, against her own will, that the place seemed to hold a certain magical charm. And the stories…Stories abounded of strange things occurring in and around these northern isles, but especially near the shores of the lochs.
One story had captured her imagination, about what the locals called a “selkie”. The creature appeared in every way to be a seal, but was actually a human, bound by some cruel fate to dwell in the form of a seal. The only time the selkie could shed it’s sea-going pelt was when it was singing; then it would dance with wild abandon on the shores of the loch, and sing. It was said the selkie most often appeared when a tragedy had occurred, to bring comfort to those who mourned, and identify, through it’s own tragic circumstance, with their sorrow.
Gabriella wanted to chastise herself for pondering so long on such a ridiculous story. After all, it was hardly Christian, was it? How could she even think on such pagan rubbish?
And yet, strangely, the story warmed her heart, and before she even realised what was happening, she found herself dancing on the shore, bathed in the early morning sun, singing.
Perhaps life would go on, after all. Perhaps even here, at the frozen end of the earth, she could find joy again. Who knew? Maybe there would be more singing.
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