Here’s the new short story I’ve started writing! I’ve put The Infernal King on hold recently to make time for this (and maybe a couple more short stories so I can publish an anthology), but my next novel will come eventually. This short story is mermaid themed, because of course I’d have to write about mermaids eventually, and based in seventeenth-century England. Don’t worry, they’re dark and dangerous mermaids, exactly as I prefer them. This is my first write-up of the story, so there’s probably a lot that will change by the final version. I’m just too excited to wait to show everyone. Hope you enjoy it!
Jewels of the Deep
A head. There was a head in the water, Mary thought, frozen in place on the sandy shore. The gentle waves lapped at her ankles, freezing cold water chilling her further. The sun slowly rising over the horizon highlighted the pair of eyes peeking above the water, the rest of the head still submerged. Mary shivered, pulling her shawl tighter around her as the early-morning breeze brushed past her, the fog rolling in from the ocean. The head slipped back under the surface, leaving only rings of ripples behind to prove that something had actually been there.
Mary stared a few moments longer, waiting for the creature to reappear. When it did not, she dropped her sack of shells, gathered her skirts, and ran back up the rocky cliffside to her home, not daring to look back. She slammed the wooden door of her and her husband’s tiny cottage shut behind her, slumping against it and breathing heavily as she clutched the material over her heart.
What was that? It couldn’t have been human. Its eyes were dark and piercing, staring without blinking. It disappeared as suddenly as it appeared, moving fluidly through the water. Mary could have sworn she had seen scales. Impossible. No, her eyes must be playing tricks on her.
She shook her head, clearing her thoughts, and got to work tidying up the kitchen before her husband awoke. Since her daily stroll along the beach had been interrupted, she moved to her next duty: making breakfast. Bacon sizzled in the brass flat-bottomed pot alongside eggs above the hearth. The kettle heated up beside it, whistling with steam a few minutes after the meal was cooked and Mary had sliced up a loaf of bread. There was a thud from the next room, making Mary jump with fright. She chuckled to herself, shaking her head. Edmund must have smelled the food. She plated them each a fried egg and slice of bacon and bread. They had to make the food last.
Despite her husband’s new, well-to-do job as a fisherman, Mary knew the money was dwindling fast. In a small coastal town like Whitby, wares that came from merchants from larger towns and cities – some even all the way from London – were expensive, and the local produce from the market wasn’t cheap either.
“Good morning, dear,” Mary greeted Edmund as he staggered into the room. His beard was unshaven and his greasy brown hair drooped over his red-rimmed eyes. He grunted his acknowledgment and squinted as she poured tea into his cup and then her own, trying to focus. Mary backed away as he stomped closer, letting him sag into his seat and nurse his head in his hands.
“The men and I will be back by sundown,” he said gruffly as she gingerly sat across the table from him. She waited until he took his first bite then started eating her meal as he scarfed his down. “Make sure you visit the market today. The money is in the cabinet,” he said, looking at her for the first time that morning. His eyes were green and watery. Another pair flashed before her eyes, dark and unrelenting, making Mary duck her head, turning her gaze to her empty plate.
“Yes, dear,” Mary acquiesced quietly. Edmund stood and put his teacup and plate beside the sink, then he moved to the front door, pulling on his boots and gathering his supplies. Mary handed over his lunch; a sack with a small portion of sun-dried meat, a half a loaf of bread, and a flask of ale Mary had prepared for him. He walked out the door without another word, leaving Mary standing in the open doorway. She sighed and turned to gather the dishes from the table, starting to wash them before the food could crust onto them. She had a busy day ahead of her, and she didn’t want to spend extra time on things that could have been done earlier.
Mary paused mid-scrub, looking out the small window to the cliff jutting out over the sea. She had left her shells behind at the beach. Would it be worth it to quickly grab them before she went to the market? She didn’t want to lose them. She had found several pretty, new ones to add to her small collection. Would the creature still be there? Was there even a creature at all or was she truly imagining things?
There was only one way to find out.