Call me when you get there.
The truth dawns and Salvo feels his aching heart shatter. He does not belong, has never belonged. His father, his mother, they lied to him. Fed him half truths and meticulously cultivated excuses. The Eddy stands before him, and Salvo notices the wetness of his translucent skin, the clarity of his briny eyes. Not blank, not white, but the lightest ocean bream blue.
It is then that the song begins. An unearthly uttering, it begins from the belly of the thing, all the roots and soil dwelling creatures weening closer to the surface, the dotted bark of oak whispered trees and the speckled eggs of all manor of birds coming to rest, coming to stop and listen. The wind dies mutely, a deflated hiss. The song radiates, humming and vibrating everything that comes to lie at it’s wake. The sea is speaking, and now Salvo must listen.
The girls in their blood spun frocks stop to listen, too. They hear not the same music, the crystal clear twinning of blade-like Poseidonia and the flowering shoots of the seagrass as it chimes along. Salvo listens, spell-bound, ears pricked to the sweetness and simplicity of the sea song. The girls are lost to the music, they have spun themselves into oblivion and now begin to emerge from the stupor. Theresa feels numbly. She recognises the boy before her, but vaguely so. She cannot seem to quite place his obscured features, the knocked knees and mass of blue-black hair. But she does know him, she feels certain of this. The wind picks up force and for the first time the cold bites at her exposed ankles, the puckering skin of her bare arms, and she shivers with force, teeth crashing together.
The budding awareness brings such clarity and she winces at the sound as seemingly hundreds, thousands of yelling voices batter themselves towards them all from the peripheries of the cliff’s steep incline. It is the grownups, their hands reaching, fearful eyes scouring the bracken and dried seaweed. They clamour up the steepness, old bones cracking, the youth gone and all hopes of nimbleness and speed along with it.
Theresa stares incredulously, as a man, wild and running, appears at the helm of the mass. He is shouting something, the sound reverberating, distorting, moulding itself into a jumble of empty meaning, nonsense. She strains to hear. He comes ever closer still, this man, his tree trunk legs pushing him into speeds unknown to his body. The foreign torrent of the tempest making his joints scream, his limbs crying out for reprise. But he cannot. His son, enveloped by some invisible dark figure, the tips of his feet skimming the heather edges of the cliff face, he stands on the precipice. His father cries out, a mottled, gut-wrenching cry which pierces the sky and strikes the depths of the sea with a mountainous agony.
“Salvo,” she whispers to herself, and a flooding of memories return to her all at once. Joy, pure joy, overflows from her remembrance, and she says the name again, feeling the familiarity of the shapes, the letters and sounds in her grip.
She spins back to face the cliff’s edge, exuberant, her restless feet wanting to run and tackle her friend, her love. For it has been a long time, a life time, and she can wait no longer.
Only, the picture before her is empty. There is no one on the cliff’s edge. The face untainted by the figure of a boy, or that of a larger, beastly form. Only the deepening sky spreads out before them, the return of the sea to the sea itself, the tide reeling itself slowly back inwards, out of reach.
It is here, dear children, that I tell you that this is not a story with a happy ending. For you have been trusted with this precious thing, the boy and his fate, to be held by you and you alone. A lesson, perhaps, a warning in the mysteries of life, the ruthlessness of the sea. Take caution, for it will serve you wisely with what I am about to tell you. This is the ending as you have chosen, but who is to say that it is the only one to have existed?
I am not an unrelenting storyteller, I do not take pride in prising what is so dear to you from your very reach, and thus I wish to offer to you an alternative path. I will allow you this, on the condition that you will remember what you have been told, all that you have been entrusted with. So, there lies another ending, and I present you with this small offering: one last decision.
I must warn you, that the road so far has been treacherous and aged with false starts, false endings, but all that has been said holds true up until their final, pivotal moments. I will give you this glimpse, and no more, into the thing that could have been, had you bargained wisely and chosen the path considered to be most favourable.
Here it is, your last choice. Do you wish to revert this ending? A life can be saved in the process, a future spared and given life once more. But I will once again caution you, as the cost is unknown and those who temper with the world of the dead will suffer the consequences in life.
So, dear, children, do you wish to go back in time? Do you wish to return to the last conversation between our boy, Salvo, and the Eddy. Remember, Salvo was struck by a choice. To believe the Eddy, or not. Your decision, to believe him, can be changed, if you so desire.
The choice is now yours.