The darkness is glutinous but I have a sense of things moving around me. And suddenly, I want to leave. It doesn’t matter that my things are still in my room, or that water covers the causeway. I need to leave now and I understand that I’ve wanted to leave since the moment I crossed the causeway.
The Siren Flower – Andrea Stephenson
The moon is waning in a baby blue sky. The sea is dimpled glass and the sun an exploded tangerine. A path of pink wanders across the sea from sunrise to land. There is a sense of calm, of balance. Gulls lounge in groups on the rocks. Cormorants dry their wings, always at the very edge of land and sea. I watch an oystercatcher stumble as it forages among the rocks and it amuses me that even a bird so adapted to this environment can have a clumsy moment.
Seals repose on the rocks. Grey seals use this as a haul-out point, to rest between forays into the water. They breed further up the coast at the Farne Islands. A bundle of grey fluff is probably one of this year’s pups. A huge bull – a rare sight here – flops across the rocks with great effort. His moans and grumbles fill the air. Winter has retreated. It feels warm and it seems every creature is sunning itself. On days like today, the island is luminous. Suspended in a bubble of stillness as the tide slowly flows out.
This island is my soul place. A place of sun-kissed sand and wrack-wrapped rocks; of childhood play and adult solace. It is the magic of wave and wing, of liquid and light. In my novel The Skin of a Selkie, selkies dance here on moonlit nights and three generations of women fall under their spell. But every place has a darker story to tell. There are stories here of shipwrecks and cholera victims, buried bones and murder. From the headland overlooking the island, the body of a murderer once swung from a gibbet.
Beneath the waves there may be monsters. And sometimes, monsters also walk on land. Both appear in my own dark story of this island The Siren Flower, the tale of a troubled woman who visits a remote inn looking for the start of a new life. But there is something very wrong on this island and she will soon discover that more than her happiness is at stake. Last year Fresher Publishing ran a short story competition on the theme of monsters, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I’m pleased to report that my story was shortlisted and appears in the anthology, available now from the publishers.
There is no evidence of monsters here this morning. The island’s inhabitants go about their business unconcerned by what may lie below the surface. But when the sun sets and the rocks are clothed in darkness, perhaps the monsters will have their time…