Saturday, 28 March 2009
The Selkies Revenge
There was a family lived in our street once. There were six girls and their parents. They were a strange family, quiet and somehow wild. Their hair was a sort of brown-grey colour and their eyes were dark. They seemed surrounded with a deep lasting melancholy and the mother could not look at children without crying. When she had such beautiful daughters it was a puzzle to know why. It was said that they would go out at night and come back in the early hours of morning. Nobody in the street knew anything about them and conversation was always kept short, for they did not like to talk much.
Stephanie said that they were weird. Coming from a girl who worked in a bank and was training to go into management - at the age of sixteen, nobody took much notice. We lived near the beach then and the street used to finish at the top of the beach. Sometimes in the summer the residents would head down to the beach and have parties or go swimming. One summer the girls came down to the beach and went swimming. They were the best of the swimmers there. Even Annie from number 26 who was the school swimming champion wasn't that good. She knew it too and came out of the water grumbling about girls who show off.
Now it was well known that one of the residents, Peter Bludstein was a fisherman and seal hunter. He was a big solid brute of a man with a red face and a quick temper. He would often come home very early having been out to Rock Stop a small island where seals were known to pup and rest within the sun. Bludstein was known to go out there and club seals and sell their furs.
Most people in the street avoided him but one morning when I couldn't sleep I glanced out of the window and saw him walking home from the beach. It was very early morning, but his face looked very pale and I understood that phrase 'looked like he'd seen a ghost'. He moved slowly along the street as if he were wading through treacle. His eyes seemed to be looking into a world only he was aware of and his mouth was slightly open almost as if words were trying to escape from his mouth. I watched him for a moment before glancing back towards the beach.
The sand was pale and the sound of the sea was soft, hushing the shore. Only I caught the faint sound of something as if someone were singing. I opened the window quietly and now I heard it, a song drifting among the waves. A soft keening song that mourned the dead but also spoke of revenge. The vengefulness had a sharp edge to it, a savagery that was almost that of a wild animal. For a while I forced myself to listen to it until the savagery in it made me shut the window. With a shudder I returned to bed but lay awake with the strains of the music making me shiver with fear. A little later I got up and dressed. Movement from the street made me look up. The family were walking along the street, their heads high and each of them in step. There was something menacing about them that I could not place. I finished dressing and went down to breakfast. It was very early, but I took coffee and after a while I went into my study and wrote.
Later that day Stella from next door knocked and pushed past me when I opened the door.
"The family's moving!" she exclaimed.
I frowned and stared uncomprehendingly at her.
"The family, the family! The six girls and the strange parents," she said holding my arms and shaking me as if I were some kind of idiot.
"Moving?" I asked, "Why?"
"Don't know, but there's a 'For Sale' sign outside the house. I went to tell Mr Bludstein, but he wouldn't open the door and told me to go away. He sounded terrified, which isn't like him. Usually everyone's scared of him," she told me.
I remembered his face that morning and frowned. Something was happening and I didn't know what, but I was very sure that it had something to do with the family. Stella left after coffee and some cake that I had made on the previous weekend.
The following day I woke up early again and this time I opened the window to listen for that song again. But there was no song at all. Instead I heard people moving around further up the street. I leaned out of the window and looked to see police cars and a Forensics van. I got dressed hurriedly and went out. Peter Bludstein's door was open and police were passing in and out. I spoke to a police officer and was told that I could read about it in the papers. I was questioned briefly, but I did not know much.
I strolled down to the beach instead. Where the street met the beach I came upon some shoes, three pairs were definitely women's shoes, one pair were a man's shoes. I looked for footprints and found them heading towards the sea. Shreds of various fabrics were scattered here and there. Nearer the sea the footprints changed into what looked like the flippers of eight seals. Beyond, the tide was turning and the sea was coming in. Even as I backed away up the beach, the sea came in and erased the prints. Who would have believed me anyway?
A few months later, I moved into the city. Somehow it felt safer.