Friday 8 July 2011

Friday Flash - Lost at Sea

Image is Ships on a Stormy Sea by Ludolf Bakhuizen, c1672.
A fierce wave slammed into the side of the ship, pouring a deluge of brine across the deck. Magda sat in the corner of her small cabin, whispering a prayer. She leaned forward to press her ear to the wall. The cold waters beyond the hull reached for her through the damp wood. She listened hard, and fancied she could hear the lament of those lost at sea.

The door flew open. George stood in the doorway, silhouetted against the raging sky. He stepped forward into the flickering lamplight of the cabin. Fear and panic shone in his limpid eyes. He clasped his hands to his chest.

“My darling! I could not find you!”

“Where else did you think I would be?” asked Magda. She tossed a disinterested glance over her shoulder and resumed her whispers.

“The men would not help me look for you,” said George.

“I rather think they have more important concerns. I wonder that you did not think to look here first. I have hardly left the cabin at all on this voyage.”

“You know that I only insist you remain inside to shield you from the prying eyes of the men. I swore to keep you safe when I found you alone on that beach, and I am determined to fulfil my oath,” said George.

A wave several storeys high crashed against the starboard of the ship, sending it lurching to one side like its drunken captain. George stumbled across the cabin and pitched forward onto the narrow bed. He reached a trembling hand towards his fiancée. Her fevered whispers finally reached his ears.

“My dear! You are praying! Please, do not be alarmed, the storm shall pass.”

“Storms always do,” replied Magda. She wriggled aside to avoid George’s outstretched fingers.

“They’re in ‘ere, lads!” cried a voice.

Magda broke off and turned around. Four men, as wide as they were tall, crowded around the open door. Stares full of suspicion and hatred danced across George and settled upon her. Magda glared at them. Such brutish men, consumed by lust and superstition in equal measure, she thought.

“You! This is ‘cause of you, woman!” said the largest man at the front. Magda thought she remembered his name as Briggs.

“How dare you speak to my fiancée like that!” said George.

“Shut up, moneybags. It’s bad luck fer a woman to be aboard. This storm is ‘er doin’,” said Briggs.

The men piled through the door. The smallest of the four pulled George to his feet, pinning him against the wall with one meaty forearm. The other three seized Magda, dragging her across the cabin. Her lips continued to move in a silent chant. She ducked her head to one side as the sea threw its cold spray across the threshold. The men staggered across the deck, fighting to keep their balance as the ship bucked and pitched beneath them. They shoved her up against the ship’s rail, and Magda’s whispers fell silent.

“Right, lads! Throw ‘er overboard! The storm needs blood,” said Briggs.

The men heaved Magda onto broad shoulders. The wind whipped her hair across her face, snatching George’s protesting cries from the air. Magda struggled in their grasp. With a final push from the men, she found herself airborne, caught between the angry sky and tortured sea.

Magda plunged into the violent waves. The icy water closed over her head, the currents tugging at her voluminous skirt. She tore at her cumbersome clothing with her hands, her cold fingers unable to tear the fabric free.

Skinny fingers glistening with scales wrapped around her arms. She looked down into the faces of two mermaids more barbaric than beautiful. They smiled to display mouths full of fangs. The mermaids kicked their tails, dragging her deeper.

A shoal of mermaids swam up from the dark depths to meet them. More scaled fingers clawed at Magda’s clothes. The layers of her skirt gave way, and she kicked herself free of the human clothing with a final thrash from her tail.

Several fathoms above them, the waves subsided and a cleansing wind tore the storm clouds into tatters. As Magda swam into the cold depths with her sisters, she whispered a prayer of thanks to the Sea Witch.


Sam said...

I get a real sense of the storm in this one, I can almost feel the spray on my face and the ship heeling and bucking beneath my feet. Poor George, I wonder if he had any incling of Magda's true identity? He'd better be careful the sailors don't decide to pitch him overboard too, him being the only witness to their crime.

Anonymous said...

Aha! A monster not quite as common, I like that these are fanged and barbaric. Part of me hoped the men would meet a nasty fate thanks to the mermaids ;).

One minor nitpick: "Eyes flashing with suspicion and hatred danced across George and settled upon her." I had a vision of eyeballs literally dancing across George. Apart from that I loved your imagery, it was a really visceral piece, I could almost smell the salty air.

Jen said...

Ha! I started to suspect what was going on, and loved the ending. You've described the difference between the world of men and the world of nature in a very satisfying way.

Your first line is great, btw--the action of the wave. Right into the chaos.

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

That was awesome, Icy! I didn't see where it was going at all and felt so sorry for Magda - the sentence where she is caught between the air and the sea is gorgeous. And the ending was sombre and satisfying. Loved it!

nerinedorman said...

LOVE THIS!!! It's eerily reminiscent of the opening chapter of one of my novels.

Anonymous said...

I love your imagery - and the fact that you push the stereotype of an angelic mermaid to the other side of dark. I'm assuming it was because of her that the ship was caught in a storm, with her sisters wanting her back - great work Icy, I like it a lot

Tony Noland said...

Terrific storm scene, Icy. I guessed where it was going - glad I guessed right!

pegjet said...

Now I am wondering what the brutish men held for mermaid superstitions? I could smell the seaspray and feel the wrath of the storm.

Unknown said...

Great ending to this one Icy. I didn't see that coming, and I really enjoyed it.

Stina said...

Very good read. It feels like a tribute to folklore. Nicely done!

Spot said...

The description was spot on in this, you can feel the storm and Magda's desperation. I had an inkling of what was to come but I was hoping for the sinking of the ship and horrible deaths for the men. I'm just mean like that.

I just wrote a story last week about not nice mermaids. Maybe Mermaids will kick Vampires out of the top slot for awhile!

Awesome story!

Efi Loo Publishing said...

Very descriptive story. I felt as though I was right there on board...and I get sea sick! Great twist. Enjoyed.

John Wiswell said...

After the "icy" water closed overhead I thought they were screwed. Their author was conspiring against them in adjective form!

Larry Kollar said...

I wonder if the seamen knew more about her than they let on. They're half creatures of the sea themselves. I had a feeling Magda's prayers would be answered, but not in the way it went down (no pun intended).

Love this depiction of mermaids as fanged barbaric creatures. Are you going to do more with them in another work?

Icy Sedgwick said...

Sam - He should have done but he doesn't seem the brightest spark.

Stacey - You're quite right! I changed the line accordingly.

Jen - I love plonking people in the middle of something. It's zingy.

Cathy - She gets to go home, at least!

Nerine - I want to read it!

Brainhaze - Thanks :-)

Tony - Ah, you know me too well!

Peg - I love it when people experience it the way I do.

Michael - Glad you liked it!

Stina - I have loads of books on absolutely fascinates me!

Stacey - Oh if only!

TK - Hope you didn't get sick this time!

John - It's for precisely that reason that I can't watch weather reports in winter.

FAR - Probably not - it was my sly nod to the latest Pirates of the Caribbean film. But you never know, maybe they might ask to appear in something else.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

It really was her fault! LOL Excellent storm scene. Like how the depict the mermaids.

Tim VanSant Writes said...

I didn't expect the fangs, but otherwise I guessed where this was going. Still, it's well-written and beautifully descriptive.

Anonymous said...

And fanged-mermaids prevail! This is my first time reading your work and must admit I'm liking it very much indeed. See you next week:)

Unknown said...

This story rolls like the ocean until it crashes in glory with the ending. I like the way it picks up and turns partway through. My expectations were that they were being unreasonable. Yet, once I discover the end, one can understand the fear the they have.

Anonymous said...

Ha- how fun and much too short - want to know all about her now. You must expand. Sequels!!

Helen A. Howell said...

You certainly conjured up atmosphere in this piece icy - I liked the twist, that she was part of the mermaid clan.
I loved the story, written so well.

I guess mermaids can change their appearance at will, isn't that how sirens lured sailors to their death, sitting signing on rocks, looking beautiful?

Stephen said...

Really great feeling of being on board a ship, Icy. One of my favourite things, whether film or story, is having an experience you can no longer have. I thought this was going to be about the superstition of women being bad luck on a ship, but things developed in a fanged and finned direction. Even better :) St.

Anonymous said...

This has been my favourite of yours, so far. Beautifully written. Love mermaids.

Emilia Quill said...

I knew something was up when he said "fiancee", Magda didn't seems like a woman in love and about to get married. Also she didn't plead for her life when the sailors blamed her.

I love the way you described the storm and the sea. Especially when she was "caught between the angry sky and the tormented sea".

Icy Sedgwick said...

Sonia - Yeah, no Disney musical numbers for my mermaids!

Tim - Thanks!

Anne - I'm glad you liked it! See you next week!

Aidan - Some superstitions are apparently justified!

DJ - Maybe!

Helen - She just wanted to go home, really. George should have left her on the beach!

Stephen - It's weird, really, since I don't like being on the sea! Perhaps I was lost in a shipwreck in a past life. Glad you liked it though :-)

Vicky - I've never used them before but I may use them again...

Emilia - Ah! I used the wrong 'fiance'! Thanks for pointing that out, I always get it wrong. Glad you liked it though.

Steve Green said...

A surprising ending Icy, I didn't really think they would throw her overboard, but then again, the fear of the storm would give rise to desperate actions from the superstitious sailors.

I like the way she was a mermaid in human guise, I guess this in itself didn't bode well for a long-term relationship with George anyway, so perhaps things did work out the best for all concerned. :)

Beckah said...

I loved the ending! i thought i was all sweet and innocent bit she wasn't i was shocked to find out she was one f them! I really really liked how the storm was discribed and when she was getting put over board them discriptions were truely brilliant! wish i could write like that!

Stephen said...

Edgy piece here, Icy. You captured the tension quite well and kept me hooked in. I like how her prayers are finally revealed for their true nature.

Anonymous said...

Oblivious George, doing what he thinks best! I bet he didn't even ask whether she wanted to be his wife, and just assumed!

I started to suspect something was going on when the men dragged her to the railing, and I loved the imagery of her sisters coming up to grab her.

Icy Sedgwick said...

Steve - Well the storm subsided when she went home so all's well that end's well!

Beckah - Just keep writing and it'll come in time!

Stephen - I'm glad you got that she's praying, but not to the obvious source...

Anna - He probably didn't even ask! Silly fellow. And there's nothing like the bond between siblings.

Anonymous said...

Amazing imagery. I actually held my breath when Magda went under, so much did I feel like I was at sea. Excellent!

Sulci Collective said...

I don't know why,but I buy sea myths way more than land based ones. there is truly something elemental about it and you captured the small scale human concerns against the bigger backdrop being played out

marc nash

Harry said...

Geat stormy scene setting and descriptions. I like the twist and that the mermaids were more barbaric than beautiful. Well done Icy!

Donald Conrad said...


That being said, your treatment of the mermaid mythos entangled with sea witchery makes for a fun read and thank yuh!

Chuck Allen said...

Great story, Icy! Your description of the storm really pulled me in. And when you were describing the mermaids I was totally picturing the creatures from the latest Pirates movie.

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit late in reading this week, but the descriptions of the storm in the opening paragraph is a darkly beautiful introduction. You captured the fear and superstition so well and fed into it with her transformation. Somethings are perhaps real.
Adam B @revhappiness

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed this one immensely. The lovers, the men throwing her overboard and her reuion with her family. The raging sea was the perfect setting to add to the conflict.

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