Sunday, December 30, 2012
The Mermaid House: Part Sixteen
LEANDER AND VIOLET FLED toward Leander's car. Someone was whispering above the tidal roar, in a sing-song, female voice,
"Jack and Jill went up the hill..."
When something huge and black snaked from the shadows, across the sand, Leander shouted. Whatever it had been vanished into the night. It left no trail.
"...to fetch a pail of water..."
"Leander." Violet tugged at his hand, pulling him back. "Not that way."
"Jack fell down...."
They ran toward a slope of rocks, into the swampy darkness of a cave. He could hear the gurgling rush of water and hoped they weren't going to submerge themselves in the ocean. He could barely see. At least her voice couldn't reach them, here.
She pulled him toward a black sky and a full moon. He saw the ocean then, inky and silver and wild against the rocks. She looked back at him, her face white, desperate.
"Violet--" He saw no hope for them and a languid despair made him fall back.
"They're not all evil," Violet told him, "the people of the sea."
"The giant snake back there--"
"It wasn't a snake. It was a water spirit, and it is what killed Owen Thyme...because she wanted him."
He sank down against the cliff, exhausted, and gazed at the ocean. He put his head in his hands and wondered how his world had come apart around him.
He heard her sit beside him. He reached out, blindly, and felt her hand twine around his. She whispered, "I am a failed thing...Leander, you made me a person again. Don't move from here."
She pulled away.
"Wait--" He scrambled up, but she was gone. He turned in place, blinking, shivering. He wanted to run away, didn't dare.
He looked despereately back at the ocean and wished he'd brought his video camera, to prove all of this.
He heard a scream, wild and lingering, and he bolted back down the tunnel. "Violet!"
He ran across the moonlit sand, toward the ruins. He halted when he noticed dark spots in the sand, flinched when he realized it was blood. He ran forward. "Violet!"
There was a crash above the ocean roar, as if a wall of glass had just fallen. He shivered again, felt sick. Around him, the air shimmered. Glass seemed to twinkle in the air, growing like frost.
He breathed out, staggered back. Water began to pool around him. He heard a soft clanging, as if metal girders were being raised. He stood very still as the invisible world slowly appeared around him.
(Illustration: Harry Clarke)