The Gloaming

A short water-themed journal originally submitted to the Victoria Baths flash fiction event.

Even at dusk the sea is prematurely black. There is a silver mercury shell on the surface, reflecting the dying light, but there’s no doubt as to the dull iron below. Before the shell is swallowed, briefly, it suffocates, it contains the expanding mass beneath. 

I read of Sappho and Poseidon, of sirens and mermen, of lovers and the hopeless - dying in the sea. I came across the Finfolk, shapeshifters of the sea who must abduct humans and marry them, and who, in that murky and boundless life, had a weakness for silver. I picture that mercury shell as all the silver coins ever thrown to the Finwives.

My foot tattoo, a wave, teases me: I have no affinity with the ocean. I bob around pathetically, my chest tightens at the cold, my stroke is a mess as my feet, at the will of the salt, surface midway into a whip kick. Even my child, named after a sea much less forgiving than this, cries as I carry her in.

Today, in bright sun and green waves, alone, I swam to the buoys at the border of the safety zone. Suddenly nothing was beautiful. The gloaming dark beneath me blighted with mermen waiting for me to prove my love to them; to cradle and drown me, the deepest chill of the ocean seethed with prehistoric megalodons, on rocky outcrops and in shallow waters; disintegrating bodies, and on a slow, silent descent to the seabed whale-fall withered and fed, pulsated and grew. 

Stripped of light, it all stung.