The Sea, the Sea, the Sea
22 September 1875
I loathe the sea. The gale whips my hair and throws granules of sand with such force that they feel like needles against my exposed flesh. Lantern light glows beneath my hand, but the dark gobbles it up like an offering. A sacrifice. Ahead of me the sand is pounded by one wave after another. Only the bravest monster would dare leave its calm depths to snatch me from the shore. As a precaution, I strain to hear a growl or feel the vibration of something large moving just beyond the breakers. There’s nothing but the rhythmic crash, slide, crash and the howl of the wind that takes my breath with its force.
I loathe the sea. I was only six when it stole Mamma from me on this very stretch where the water meets the land. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. Not that she filled Pappa’s long woolen coat with heavy rocks she collected along the edge. Not that she picked up a boulder nearly as big as I was and carried it pressed tightly against her chest into the winter water, white with froth. I hate that I can’t remember what she looked like on that day or any day before that. Pappa says I resemble her in so many ways that he wonders if I wasn’t made half from her and half from moonlight and mist. It must break his heart every time he sees me.
I loathe the sea. If I close my eyes and let myself be swayed by the wind, the cold water swirling around my ankles, I imagine I’m back on this beach six years ago. The day was unusually warm for September. Mamma had given me a tin pail and a large clamshell to use as a shovel. She showed me how to build sandcastles with sand and water dripping from her fingers like melted wax. It seemed like magic then. She left me alone so she could wander closer to the water. I was content to build a castle of my own. I remember being so happy the first time I managed to get the sand to build up upon itself into a spire. In my joy, I stood up and scanned the beach for Mamma’s golden hair. When I finally spotted her, her head was dipping beneath a cresting wave. I didn’t understand then. I still don’t understand. continue reading…
The Road Not Taken
It’s been two months and a day since the zombie thing began. When it happened, Twitter exploded with people excitedly relaying their zombie escape plans. They played Shaun of the Dead on Channel 4 continuously, with wry commentary. Kids from council estates rammed cars into the walking corpses and we cheered for them.
We boarded up our windows. We realised that all the rakes and knives and baseball bats in the world couldn’t stop the press of two, fourteen, fifty zombies smashing through the glass of your living room window; a bolted door could only resist so much pressure.
We killed our dog in the third week, and I know it sounds stupid but that’s when I realised it wasn’t really a game. Sure, I’d seen grisly reports on TV. I’d seen ogrish sites with close-up video of people being eaten alive, but this was my little dog. I’d been held back by my brother as dad snapped his neck. He barked too much. While we cowered in silence as the zombies shuffled through our garden and crushed mum’s prize chrysanthemums underfoot, the dog barked and whined and then there would be the angry scrabbling at the door, the terrible moments as we fought off the monster and smashed its dumb brains in.
The internet went down. Or the phone companies did, I don’t know. The router doesn’t work and we can’t get a signal for our phones. The BBC channels all went down, and the radio. Channel 4 keeps playing Shaun of the Dead on a loop. I don’t know if anybody is working the controls there, if it’s the work of an unfunny studio runner, or it’s just that they’re dead. Hell, I don’t know if our neighbours are dead. We daren’t even knock on the wall to hear if Joanne and Tommy are okay next door. What if they’re zombies? What if they remember somewhere in their decaying minds that there’s a flimsy little gate separating our properties out back and they come crashing through that? continue reading…
I love the sea.
Tonight I’ll make it love me back.
My feet dig deeper into the sand, the wild surf sucking the shore from under me. Wind whips my hair around me. The waves pull at my nightdress, the white cotton sticking transparent to my skin as it holds onto the water that fights me.
I like the way the sea fights the moon. It’s strong and reckless. I like the pull I feel in it, as if it wants my heart and soul.
Tonight I’ll give it one.
My grandmother once told me, “Georgia, take what you love and make it yours.”
Her words say that the sea will be mine. Maybe that’s a selfish thought, but most witches are selfish. Tale as old as time.
I wade father into the surf, up to my waist. The salt water fortifies me, making magic sing in my veins. My skin is full of the grit of salt and sand, and my hands fill with water warm from a summer sun that long since vanished over the horizon. The moon waxes. I hardly need the lantern I left on the sand. continue reading…