The visitation


The word eccentric only went part of the way of describing Malcolm, but Marty had other things on his mind. The collection of worn books stood neatly in order of height on the bookshelf. Marty craned his neck whilst skimming his finger along the withered titles. “Ah there you are.”

          The particular leather-bound book that had caught his attention was tatty and layered in dust. It smelled darker than the other books, as if tobacco had been caught amongst the pages. When he turned to the first chapter, a tingling sensation travelled up his neck. That book was special.


Mermaids at Dawn

Summer 1836


The air was humid that clammy afternoon. It always was in Gardenstown during the warm season. A subtle mist laid on the calm surface of the sea and a gentle resonation spiralled through the air. Underwater a shoal of silver fish swam twisting and turning. The first fish turned, the others followed; so simple, so automatic and so graceful.

          Amongst the dark green depths light shone in beams from the surface. The shoal pulsed through the luminous shards and sparkled like silver dust. The glitter explosion re-formed, sensing danger when a dark shadow darted past. She was ravenous.

          With a sudden burst the shadow attacked. The shoal scattered. The creature cut through the chaos and snatched the slowest fish. Blood clouded the water as she feasted. Once she was satisfied, drifting alone and bloody, the dead fish had what appeared to be a human bite ripped from its middle.

          Amongst the depths, the creature glided towards the beach. When she surfaced she inhaled the crisp aroma of seaweed coating the grey shingle. On that hostile shore three women in bulky dresses battled against the fierce wind gathering the kale crop. One particular gatherer caught her attention. She watched her reap the green harvest from behind a barnacle-encrusted rock. That was when the resonation began.

          The crop collection ceased, the gatherers stood up and wiped their hands on their green stained aprons. In silence, they glanced at each other. The eerie sound circled, testing their response. What did she want?

          “There,” said Megan, pointing wildly at a rock just beyond the shallows. Her tight red curls framed her wide curious eyes.

          “I want no association with this, this creature! You know what they say…” said Mawd, the wiry spinster, stumbling backwards.

          Doris, the most buxom of the three, dragged Mawd back. “No matter where you go she’ll call yer.”


The resonation intensified.

          “Doris, let me go!” Mawd weakly struggled.

          “She’s here for a reason Mawd. Yer know we must stay together otherwise she’ll take one of us to our death,” said Doris. Her crimson headscarf perfectly framed the frown lines of her weathered face. Crouching down she scraped back the escapee strands of brittle, grey hair. What had made the creature seek them out?

          “She’s really watching us,” said Megan, who was all of twenty-three years old and luminous with fascination. Her mass of curly auburn hair kept lifting in the wind and her haunting grey eyes peered into the very soul of the creature. The intense sound filled Megan’s mind and in that second she became entranced.

          Slap! Doris broke Megan’s spell, “Do ney let her take yer Megan! Yer easy prey ‘cause yer sensitive!” Megan jolted; she had fallen into a trance so easily.

          Doris stepped into the shallows, blocking Megan and peered directly at the creature.

          The creature identified Doris’s vulnerabilities and smiled mysteriously. The resonation increased, no one could resist the sound if she chose to emit fully.

          “Go no closer Doris! Stop! She could be with the Devil. I no want burning for talking to this Demon. Doris stop, for the love of God!” cried Mawd desperately.

          “What are yey me love? So wee and so sweet?” asked Doris, growing increasing inquisitive. “What are yey doin’ in so colder water?” she said softly. The creature’s eyes were like mirrors, after the creature blinked, Doris was provided with her first vision.

          Mawd turned and scurried up the beach. At a safe distance, she shifted awkwardly with her arms folded. The creature had selected her victim and there was no way Mawd was going to be associated.

          Megan stood close to the water’s edge. The creature appeared so beautiful, so innocent and pure. She could kill in a second if she wished, yet she had spared her. Was she testing her? Something in Meg’s stomach was ill at ease. She would see her again; the glimpse combined with the sound had revealed that.

          The tone of the resonation shifted, the sound became deeper and the static sensation moved down their bodies to a position below their ribs.

          “She’s testing us!” With her bulky dress floating behind her, Doris came to a standstill and clutched her stomach. The blood retreated from her skin; she began to shake violently and stared into the creature’s reflective eyes. The creature held her gaze and intensified the sound some more. Tears tumbled down Doris’ cheeks as the creature invaded her mind with images she had denied.

           A scream so tremendous rose from Doris’ core as she collapsed onto all fours and lost control. For a minute, she convulsed, retched and cried.

          “Stop! Stop for the love of God! Have mercy! We do ney wish to hurt yer!” cried Mawd rushing forwards.

 The sudden motion broke the sound. The creature released Doris, turned to face Megan and held her gaze. Dark images that she had denied stampeded through Meg’s mind. She covered her heart with her hands but only saw mental shadows. 

The resonation intensified.

          Megan’s nose bloodied.

          “Stop! I beg yer!” Meg finally cried. The tone of her voice was enough to reveal the depth of her pain.

With a mysterious smile, the creature submerged and was gone.



          Once the ripples ceased, Mawd waded into the water and held Doris who trembled and sobbed.

          “What? What was it? Tell me Doris…” demanded Mawd.

On the shore, Doris collapsed in a heap and curled into the position of a baby. When the emotion calmed, she rolled onto her back and her limbs went limp.

          “Are yer alive?” asked Megan softly.

          “I am more than alive. I have been cleansed. Mawd, Megan, the child before us. Well, she could see into my heart and my mind,” said Doris croakily. 

          “I tell yer she’s a demon,” said Mawd holding Doris.

          “Ney, she’s ney demon. She is beyond us, she sees into us and all that we hide.”

The pair were silent.

          “Is she a witch?”

          “Ney, she is something we canny know and she came with a warning… Tragedy is coming. One of her kind has been scorned,” said Doris.

          “So what made yer scream?” asked Megan curiously.

          “She revealed the darkness in my heart and it hurts to know the truth of what I deny in me,” said Doris, her lip trembling. “The girl is pure and well I am tainted by the human sorrows. When you gaze into the mirror of purity you witness your own darkness,” said Doris softly.

          “Someone needs to know of this visitation. If tragedy is coming then someone needs to know,” said Megan.

          “We should keep it quiet, between us. We could be burned for association,” said Mawd fearfully.

          “We should report it to our priest. He will know what to do,” Megan crossed herself. “He’ll no let us burn.”

Slowly pushing herself to standing, Doris shook her head and studied Mawd.

          “I ney want anyone to know ‘bout this. Nevertheless, if it has to be spoken of – I want the priest to do the talking. I am not one of three witches. There’ll be no fire on this body,” she said emphatically.

          “Not like those other poor souls who burned for bearing knowledge of the creatures,” said Mawd. 

          The three women remained silent. The potential consequences of association could result in death. “I wonder if my Cameron has ever seen such a creature in the ocean,” said Megan gazing out to sea.

          “Aye, I have no doubt. He is the perfect lure,” said Doris flatly.


As one of the pages moved past Marty’s thumb, a separate page fell out. It was an old family sketch drawn in pen and ink. The image contained a pregnant woman holding a five-year-old child’s hand, her husband and two older boys. Scrawled on the back:

1837 – The family.

Two months to go until the bairn arrives. How I long for a girl.





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