SELKIE • by Pippa Cooper

I had never properly noticed them by the shore. Maybe because looking out of my window at 5 AM was hardly my favourite pastime. And even when I did stumble close enough to the glass, I was usually too drunk to notice. Or too busy palming the wall to find the toilet light switch. But today was different because I was watching the sunrise from the other side of sleep. An evening spent poring over pages with a pen of Damocles, not even reading a word; upending gallons of coffee to avoid dreaming. With rested eyes, this magical sight before the waking of the world would have seemed far less satisfying simply because I would have been woken by Dawn. But I had raced daylight thus far to witness the visions He saw before sleeping eyelids even fluttered.

The ocean glittered with them, teeming in the rolling seafoam with gems of salt water rippling down their slender, opalescent backs and over the ridge of each flicking fishtail. A siren song, too beautiful to stir the village, quivered in the fresh morning spray like the first whistle of a lark. Then it died so suddenly. And the choir, swimming serenely in the shallows, curled away and slipped into the depths as though turning the tide with their tails. With a blinking of bleak, black eyes, they dove into the sunrise. They left me ablaze with my heart pounding; giving chase to their wanton cavorting straight to the deepest of the yawning fathoms under the roiling surf. 

I felt a heave in my loins, as if my lust would dive straight over the window sill and down the beach. And I damned them; damned all females that taunted and tested me. And, with that, my thoughts were hauled back, back from wherever they had gone for the night, to Her: The former Mrs. Effie McManus. And suddenly I longed for something with a headier heat than a scalding cup of Colombian blend. I swirled the remnants of my last mug, inspecting it like a soothsayer.

The answer’s not in there, you pillock.

Swigging it back, I gagged. It had gone suspiciously cold on the desk, as though I had stood at that window for the entire night. I walked to the kitchen and tipped it down the sink, eyeing up the decanter; a measly finger’s worth left.

It had been my respite from the insomnia since She had packed her bags and buggered off to her mother’s house. It had been a week of kidding myself before I remembered that that old battle axe did not live on the receiving end of the ticket to Dublin Effie had brandished in my face. But he did. I didn’t even know the bastard’s name. That was when the whiskey had flowed, right until the point where the decanter of Dalwhinnie 36 had begun to look a little shy. And Alan, my co-editor, had filled the machine with every combination of curse word known to man.

So now I was, contemptuously, drinking my way through her collection of imported filter coffee. She had taken everything else she owned, so I guess this was my way of shredding her clothes or tearing up photographs.

But it had invited sleepless nights into the bargain. The machine was still full of Alan’s rants about deadlines, and yet I could think of nothing but the bloody ocean, like some prickless Renaissance poet.

Running the shower, I looked into the bathroom mirror. My eyes were like piss pools and, when I drew my hands down over my cheeks, I could feel two days’ stubble prickling my palms. My head was spinning so I gave my face a quick slap, removed my week-old boxers and jumped under the flow of water. It was cold; refreshing on the layer of grime up my arms. I turned it down to freezing, feeling my knob shrivel. It was then I wondered why I was even bothering to clean myself after so long. Then I remembered the sea again, rollicking up the shore-front before the back door. And there was something in there. Something that had me lolling my tongue like a dog in heat at the window every morning since I’d corked the drink.

I picked up the soap, the water slapping against my back, rubbed the bar over my shoulder and down onto my chest. Thinking.

There was always something — someone in the shallows. And they were singing with their sad, black eyes boring into mine. Deep black.

Deep, Deep, Deep.

It was inhuman, the way their skin shimmered like opal over the mounds of their breasts. An ethereal noise came, not from their stone-speckled lips, but around them, as though they sang straight into my mind. I remembered it then, echoing between my ears like a shipwrecked memory, begging for rescue. They were many and one in their splendour and, so help me, my loneliness made them so beautiful. Or was it the fact that I was alone? That woman — she had left. What was her name? She had been so important — pretty, once. Or had she been?

Not like them. That woman wasn’t a patch on them. Not even a thread of her existence matched their presence on my threshold. I was privileged.

Blessed even.

The water had grown colder and a brisk wind from the open window swept my hair with sea spray.

God! Their iridescent fingers would stroke my skin as that — that woman had tried. And they would love my touch in return. Love me as she refused to.

Icy lips touched mine; a frozen kiss that I could do nothing but return with my own lips parting to accept a suffocating chill. And I descended into depths with them, drowning in their desperate despair.



“McManus? Darren? … Look, it’s Alan. I know it’s been tough, mate. What Effie did — she’s a right — well … But it’s been eight weeks. Just gimme a call?”

Pippa Cooper is a new to the scene of writing and is looking forward to gritting her teeth and getting stuck in to the hard work that comes with trying to make a name for herself. She enjoys reading, almost as much as writing itself, and is always on the look out for inspiration.

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