When my Mother disappeared, Father did his best, but it was just too much. He could only spend a short time below, even when he was young and fit. Without his love to catch bubbles for him he had to return above every two minutes. He brought food, but the diving drained him. One day, as the neap tide ebbed grey and swirling, he tangled in a cut drift net and, when I found him, his feathers waving farewell in the stormy swell, he was dead.
My Mother’s family, still angry with her over my Father, shunned me. I drifted on the currents, hunting in the shallows, riding the breakers, rending unsuspecting fish. I haunted the night skies, flitting across the water meadows, soaring and stooping on voles and mice in twilit hedgerows.
One sere cold moonlit night, flying the salt pan margins, I swooped towards a storm struck tree, to rest my wings (dragging a scaled tail was never particularly aerodynamic). I was snatched from the air, caught like a fly in an invisible web. I flapped and screeched but could not escape. I pecked and thrashed my tail but, when watery light from the rising sun stole sleepily across the hoar frosted land, I hung, exhausted, in a fowler’s net.
A wiry, nut brown windblown man, wool-shrouded against the cruel East wind, freed me, muttering in puzzlement, before thrusting me deep in a dank hessian sack and tying the neck with clever practiced fingers.
Peat smoke and spitting kippers announced my arrival at the Fowler’s hut.
Gnarled, knobbly fingers snatched me from the sack. I blinked in the smoke of flickering fish oil lamps.
“Woman! Come see what new freak of nature I’ve snared down by the Blasted Oak.” His voice rasped and he hawked and spat in the fire.
Gliding from the shadows, ragged linen shift wafting around her legs, her pale, fine fingers took me, gently smoothing ruffled feathers, aligning bent wing pinions with fey, sinuous grace.
She pulled me towards her face. Short cropped hair, shining and dark like otter pelt framed sea grey eyes that sparked bright as midday sun through wave foam in Summer.
“Hello little one. Where are your parents?” She mused, voice smooth as a freshwater pearl.
She lifted me up, whispering in my ear.
With a sudden jump, she threw open the door and cast me to freedom.
I flapped furiously for height, the Fowler’s furious howl whipped away by the freshening offshore wind.
I knew my quarry. Banking and dipping I quartered the foreshore, before hovering over a half concealed, moss strewn cairn, shrieking raucously.
The woman skimmed across the wet sand, skipping and scrambling towards me.
She pulled out a tightly wrapped seal skin, flicked it out straight and sprinted toward the water, draping it around her shoulders in the last stride before plunging into the boiling surf. I dived after her, as, with a flashing flick of her silvery tail, my Mother swept towards the enfolding deep.
This story was written for Jessica Maybury's 'Merowl' flash fiction challenge