Mermaids at Dawn


What had he just read? Marty searched the rest of the pages for more information. There was nothing other than an excerpt from a tatty newspaper article. It was barely readable but an etched image of a mutated woman was displayed on the front page.

          “That can’t be all there is,” he muttered. He searched the rest of the bookcase until he discovered a worn book with a tatty cover on a shelf above. ‘Mermaids at Dawn’.

                    Bang. Bang. Bang! There was a loud knock at the kitchen door.

“Not now – for Christ’s sake!” he said aloud.

He was tempted to ignore the knock, but stomped towards the door and flung it open. A portly man stood on the doorstep cradling a shotgun. Malcolm, his landlord, was rather eccentric, but visiting tenants carry a shotgun was extreme! Malcolm was in his sixties. He was a ruddy-faced, portly man who liked to hunt. His stomach flopped over his trousers, which were secured by a sturdy leather belt. The head of a pheasant belt buckle pressed into his podge.

          “Erm… is there something I can help you with?” said Marty stepping away from the shotgun.

          “Just came for a look around?” he said polishing the gun proudly with his sleeve. “We’re goin’ shootin’ – over by Eden. You been there yet?”

          “No I haven’t been yet. Err – sorry? Erm, Malcolm… could you put the gun down?”

          “Nope. She does ney leave me side. So if yer wondering… I thought I would drop by after your first week in Crooked Cottage. Or should I say Cram Tay,” he said.

          “Cram Tay?” asked Marty         

          “Means crooked cottage in our dialect, Cram Tay of Gamrae. So…”

          “The cottage is… really good,” replied Marty politely.

          “Well, I had best come in and see,” said Malcolm pushing past Marty before he could refuse. With a definite trudge, Malcolm stomped up the stairs to the studio.

          “Well – it seems you can,” said Marty under his breath.

          “Are yer making any money from yer art yet Marty?” asked Malcolm stomping into the studio and studying the sketches with a wheeze.  “What are these?”

          “Just sketches.” Marty shifted awkwardly and chewed his lip.   

          “No this? Is it masking tape?” He said fingering the sticky tape on the wall.

          “Yeh, masking tape.”

          “Will it hurt the walls?” asked Malcolm.

          “No, masking tape definitely won’t hurt stone walls,” said Marty reassuringly.

            “A word of advice, Marty,” he said peering at the images. “Nice landscapes are what yer need to be drawing and painting. Ach, why not draw heather or fishing boats? It sells in the towns. Them tourists buy – raw and stark. I would ney bother drawing the people of the sea,” said Malcolm. “It won’t sell and will only draw unwanted attention.”

Marty folded his arms. A man wielding a shotgun was hardly the one to advise him what to draw!

          “I’m just sketching, it’s just ideas. What do you mean by the people of the sea anyway?”

Malcolm flinched and averted Marty’s gaze, “They’re good sketches, all right. You have a real talent there young man.”

          “So, is there some kind of legend?” asked Marty curiously.

Malcolm fiddled nervously with his shotgun, “Heard something as a child – but nothing special. They say it was a dolphin anyway. They sing see. Or the seals… it’s always a seal. Right…I have animals to shoot,” said Malcolm waving his gun.

          “Malcolm, I have to be honest, I don’t get why you’re here. Is there something you wanted to tell me or visited me for?”

          “Just curious as to what you’ve done to the house. Any strange noises?” he asked glancing at the landing.

          “No… Why?”

          “It gets a bit creaky here. Sometimes a little noisy. She must like you, then,” he said.

          “Who?” asked Marty.

          “Oh, no one – it’s nothing. If it’s quiet there’s no point disturbing it,” he replied.


          “Nothin’ happenin’ at all on the middle floor?”

          “Not that I’m aware of. Like what?” he said growing aggravated.

          “You know the house chooses the people. It won’t just let anyone in. Many have been driven away in the first two days. You’ve lasted a week with ney problem. That’s good. The people who have lived here have lived difficult lives. They have feelings. Each person leaves a print on the house. There are layers in this house. That be why some sensitive sorts leave. You must have some blood in yer somewhere,” said Malcolm convincing himself.


Malcolm carried a flush and appeared to be searching for the nearest exit. “What I will say is this house has lots of imprints. There has been tragedy here,” he whispered. “Right, Marty I need to shoot me gun. Another time maybe? Oh, before I forget – I’ll be leaving for me hols real soon,” he said and sighed. “Oh… and I’m sorry to hear about yer father.”

          “How do you know?” asked Marty in surprise.

          “We’re in a village. When a story is caught on the wind, it knocks on all doors or enters the letterbox. There’s nothing we do ney find out. Oh and a word of advice – do not say anything in the bakery or store because everyone will find out within the hour,” said Malcolm smugly.

          “Well, how come I’ve heard nothing?”

          “Ach, Marty, that’s how village life works – we talk about yer – not to yer,” he said with a grin. “For now, you’re an outsider. You must prove yourself to be trustworthy and ney a mere passer-by. In twenty years or thereabouts you may become an honorary local,” he said with a slappable smugness.

In twenty years’ time? “Now that is a long time to take to prove anything Malcolm. Who knows what will happen?”

          “You know looking at that wonky nose of yours – I think there’s clan blood in you somewhere. I feel it, the house feels it and she’s being nice now. If anything disturbs her, there’ll be change. So keep yerself good Marty and do ney piss her off!”

Marty coughed to conceal a laugh.

          “As they say in the village only a few have left, but most return. Others are caught on a wave and brought home. It travels in the bloodline you know. The desire to be at the origin,” said Malcolm, studying Marty and stroking his chin.

Marty remained silent, Malcolm not only liked the sound of his own voice – but he was insane!

          “You’ve been chosen by this house. Enjoy it. Now I hope it lasts. As they say in America – have a nice day!” Consumed in thought he strode down the stairs and skidded in his oversized wellington boots, grabbed the railing and bashed himself in the face with the shotgun. “Draw some countryside it’ll sell,” he said dramatically. He then strode out of the house, nodded and closed the door behind him.

          Marty stood at the top of the stairs looking bemused. Shaking his head, he returned to the studio. Something was bothering him.






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