Friday, 16 May 2014

A Short Story: Anathama

Here's a short story I wrote years ago which later inspired my up and coming novel Deep Calling...


His heart thumped ominously but he ignored it, or tried to, as he waited, squat within a tight crevice of damp, moss-encrusted rock.  He knew he shouldn’t be there, had been warned, but that voice, so enticing, so hauntingly beautiful, so mournful, made heeding the words of the weathered locals and their looks of unspoken, pity-stitched disdain, impossible.

Had he ignored the sweet sadness of the Spell-Song he would easily have died of grief.

For seven days the song had fallen upon his ears, always by sea, always mingled with the roar of raging waters, whose mist, texturing his awe-slackened face, moistened what little clothing he wore to chill his very bones.

The townspeople of dismally titled Lurking Mist rewarded him no words of explanation, or surprise.  In answer to his questioning he had largely received forced whispers and lip-locked silence.  From those who did choose to speak, the words were always the same, uttered in fear and then re-swallowed with unexplained regret.  “The Spell-Song...” they would sigh, and then, with eyes of terrible gravity, they would caution; “Forget what you’ve heard, block it out and keep from the sea.  Do this, or her song will be your end.”

No more could be pried from those carrying uneasy acceptance of what seemed a secret shared by the town.  His only knowledge had passed, perhaps accidentally, from the Bed and Breakfast owner with whom he shared a roof.

“There’s a woman past the breakwater!” he had hollered after first hearing the call by sea, bursting through the Boarding Home’s faded green, wooden doors.  “She may have fallen into a cliff crevice, she may be trapped, and she’s wounded.  I can hear her wailing but when I searched I couldn’t find the poor thing.  We must get help!”

The old lady had grasped him by his left wrist, her skin-folded and faded eyes sparkling panicked shine where they had previously been a tired glaze.  “Was she singing?  Did you hear singing son?”

The strength of the elderly grip had surprised him.  “No, not a song, a terrible scream, a herald for help...”

Her eyes narrowed, her fingers tightened.  “Did you answer her then?  Did you call your voice into her mists?”

Blinking confusion at the absurdity of her question, he’d sputtered in answer.  “Of course I did!  The woman is hurt, she...  We should be getting help...”

He’d been mildly repulsed to see age return to his holder, her fingers limply loosening about his skin, her body sagging feebly away from him, but alarm quickly replaced the sensation when he saw, for him, dark sympathy shadowing her pale face.

“You poor boy, it’s too late then.  She called, and you answered.  You will be spelled by her song before too long.  Fight it if you can son.  Fight her tune with all you can muster.”  And then, uttered through an exhalation of breath, he’d heard her say, “Fine as you are boy, it is better this way.  Better one than hundreds...”

“She’s... she is hurt...”

“No dear, there is nobody hurt, there is nobody to rescue.  Be bothered about it no more.”

When she left him he had run, had ripped himself from the worn house’s doorway toward the foot-trodden path which led to the sea, toward the wide and sweeping rock-walls that dropped their ragged edges into dark water, and had listened.  The air had been clear, the grey depths calm.  The crash of frothing tongues unaccompanied by screams.

After hours of searching he had escaped the sounds of the ocean feeling unfulfilled and empty.

It was night before the song had begun its taunt.

Rising from sleep, high lamenting notes of lonely despair had pulled him with fingers of greedy need, had wrapped him with visions of tenderness and unforgiving beauty.  Near naked he had scrambled from bed, his sight blurred with tears, and followed the sounds of the mystical and infinitely feminine song, toward its strange melody of unattainable translation.

During each separate scramble toward the Spell-Song’s conjurer he had been touched with hot visions of soft breasts and red lips, floating hair and matured caresses.  Over and over he was brought to stand atop a rock ledge to stare into sea, while, upon each new note delivered by the Spell-Song, horrid emotions twisted him with heartache until eventually changing into something powerful, and relentlessly passionate.

He had throbbed with desire and mind-crowding hunger.

And then he saw her, the fountain which was the music’s source, the wave of doom that was both heaven and hell for his love-struck soul, the caster of the Spell-Song he could not bear to deny.

She had floated just below the surface of the bobbing sea, her image distorted by the moving waters and dimmed by the light of night.  He had watched her red mouth moving his song, her white body floating gracefully, her slim thighs inviting his kisses, but when the sun had come, drying the fogged mists that had hugged him, she faded from his vision.

He had not since moved from the spread water-breaking rock that traced the coastline of Lurking Mist, and now, in a fevered heat that continually grew, he waited, tucked between the crevice walls, feeling not the oddity of his ravenous obsession or his disappearing thread of sanity.

And she returned.  Her song, more powerful than ever before, pulled his shivering body from his nest of biding, singing promises to his softened mind, invisible caresses to his impatient skin and mouth.  Breaking past the crevice’s edge he stood upon a narrow protrusion which overlooked the now vicious waters, and gazing down, his starving heart hysterically racing, he saw her once again.

Her beauty was hard to endure, so perfect was its design.

She called to him and this time he understood.

“Come to me,” were the words of her song, “Come to me and need me.  Come to me and love me.  Come to me and sleep...”

He jumped into the frothing sea, its folding arms tearing him downward, his mistress entwined within his own.  Beneath the suffocating blanket of grey she became his, she fulfilled her promises, pleasing him as no other, fuelling his ardour unnaturally, viciously.  He took her with thirsting zeal... until she did the same.


Within the shelter of the green and white Bed and Breakfast of Lurking Mists, Ms. Slatterly sipped timidly from her porcelain cup of steaming tea.  Anathema had feasted again, sooner than they had all thought, or hoped.  Even thinking the sea-creature’s name sent shivers down the old woman’s spine.

She was well named, thought the tired spinster, ‘thing devoted to evil’ as the Greek’s had put itAnd so she was, and so she is.

Ms. Slatterly sighed as the image of the poor young traveller again forced itself into her mind, as it had been doing all day since seeing his remains early that morning.  His broken body had been shrivelled to the point of being unrecognizable; but of course, they had all known who it was... he had heard her call, her mate-cry, and he had answered it.

And then Anathema’s Spell-Song had taken him.

She had a terrible hunger, that witch of the deep, and it seemed she would live forever.  How long since she had cursed their Coasts?  Why, the very town had been named by her spread fingers, her cold and spying mists.

Ms. Slatterly thought of her great-grandfather who had once said it was the mating that gave the ancient sea-monster its longevity, that the act’s energy sustained its otherwise mythical existence.

But it was best that it feasted in that way, thought she, harmlessly luring him with pleasure, mating him, and then...

How any could be taken by the green scales and long, twisting, eye-dotted arms of the fish-like creature, though, she could not understand.

She had seen Anathema twice.  She wished to see her no more.

But it was better, for, unable to lure a mate, which in the end became a feast, the reverence of her victims being what filled her, Anathema took to wild fits of anger, throwing waves that ate land, sunk ships, and drowned what life their mists could reach.  Forced to suffer hunger the sea-creature was merciless.  Through her bouts of vengeful rage she cared not, then, of what she devoured, swallowing even the unsatisfying flesh of women and children, the weak and the old.

The poor boy’s skin had been taught grey leather, and his face, drawn tightly backward, had displayed the skeletal grimace of death.

But it was better that way... it was better.

By J.M. Lavallee


No comments:

Post a Comment