A short story from: Coastal Maine in Words and Art: Gallery Fukurou’s Reflections by Maine Writers, 2019.
© Donna Hinkley, 2019
Sailing Lift, photographic art by Ramona du Houx
My girlfriend and I walked along the beach. The sand moved with us as we walked closer to the ocean, closer to the waves, encouraged by the crashing and the foam that slipped up to the dock. In the distance a wisp of a song filtered to my ears, soft and mellow, sailing on the breezes. The notes were smooth and low yet so strong they pulled me toward them.
In the distance, in the middle of the bay, was a ship. It carried its own fog, floating upon the water, not being identified except by its sails. My girlfriend stopped and pointed. “Jonathan—out there. A ship is floating along the horizon, not coming near, but not going away.”
I sheltered my eyes, for the sun was bright, and peered out at the large, floating boat with the fog all around it. I watched intently and saw a glinting of metal. The metal flashed, and as the flash exploded across the deck, a woman’s face was seen. She had beautiful, full, wavy, brown hair that hung down as far as I could see. Her face was as beautiful as I have ever known. My girlfriend nudged me, and I shuddered, as if coming out of sleep, “Yes, my dear.”
“What are you looking at? It’s a ship with fog around it. Unusual, yes—not worth being mesmerized.” She took my arm as she tried to ground me from the strangeness in the air. We walked on up the beach, arm in arm. Bell bent down to pick up a shell . . .
The song, the musical notes, could not be ignored. I’d never heard anything like it. It carried me out to sea. There she was, the beauty, standing on the ship. Her hair, a sheet whipping out beside her in the wind—but there isn’t any wind.
A shake of my arm woke me. My eyes cleared, and Bell was standing beside me. I smiled. “What is so fascinating about that ship?” she asked, her voice quivering with a trace of fear.
“What!” I jumped at her question. “Nothing. It’s just a ship. Why are you asking?” I screwed up my face. I didn’t know what she was talking about. She took my arm again. My head cleared again, and I looked about. The ship seemed abandoned there: no crew, no life on board at all. The sails were raised and full, like the wind was blowing a gale, but the day was quiet and the seas calm.
Bell turned to me and said, excitement in her voice, “Let’s run up the beach!” She looked happy.
“Yes, let’s—” We ran up the beach, holding hands, moving with the waves, as they captured the sand and let it go. My girlfriend put on a burst of energy, and our arms stretched until our fingers no longer touched.
I slowed. I don’t know why. My eyes were drawn to the ship. The lady was standing on the side, waving to me. Her hair flew scattering about her, like a thousand dragonflies. I walked toward the sea—and I walked on the sea. Behind me, I heard a distant voice and a name, maybe mine, being called out. Up ahead stood the lady with all the joys I could imagine. Closer, I came to the ship—such a long process. The cries came more urgently behind me, but I no longer understood them. They were faint, getting fainter.
The lady on the ship waved me toward her. “Come,” she said, “come.” I was almost there. I could see her face clearly. She was indeed lovely. I got to the ship, and somehow I floated up onto the deck. The lady came up to me. She smiled at me. She touched my shoulder and walked around me. She blew into my ear, walked around my back, still touching my shoulder, and blew into my other ear. I heard a loud cackling, a screeching. I turned to see—not the beautiful lady but an ugly witch. She gave an evil grin. My insides curled and writhed.
I woke up as if I had been in a trance. Pain came to my ears. I raised my hands to touch them, but my ears were gone. Tight flaps appeared on the sides of my head. The hag laughed again and pointed to the water. I looked at her questioningly. She pointed again and pushed me towards the edge of the ship. I fell overboard into the water and found I had grown gills. I lived in the ocean, never to see my love again. The sirens kept me for their pet.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Coastal Maine in Words and Art: Gallery Fukurou’s Reflections by Maine Writers, 2019 was published after a contest for writers to create stories to accompany art photography that depicted Rockland and the coast in its myriad situations, moods and emotions. This story was published in the book along with 27 others.
An overwhelming 88 stories were submitted for the contest. In the end seventeen writers were chosen. Their stories are told with depth, insight, candor, irony, wit and humor. Anyone who has every visited Maine’s coast will be able to relate to them. They’ve put humankind’s instinctive emotional connection with the sea into words.
A gallery exhibit/booksigning was held at Gallery Fukurou in September 2019. The contest was held by Polar Bear and Company, of the Solon Center for Research and Publishing.
The Maine Humanities Council provided a grant for our project that enabled the Solon Center to donate books to libraries across Maine. MHC is a statewide non-profit organization that uses the humanities, “as a tool for positive change in Maine communities.”
Please ask your local bookstore to order it in for you or, if need be, purchase it HERE. All photographic art is available through Gallery Fukurou at info(at)soloncenter.org.