ALL POSTS, Fairly Chatty, Fairly Chatty, storytelling

STRANGER THAN FICTION presents… Call Me When You Get There (part IV)

IV.

The Eddy

The Eddy speaks.
 
“They are waiting for you, Salvatore.” The Eddy speaks, though he doesn’t sound as he did before. Gone is the salted croak, the blood-curdling malice of his wretched screams. He speaks as though through a velvet veil and Salvo must armour himself against the smoothness of the words. 
 
“Don’t you want to join them, Salvatore, your brothers and sisters. They cry for you, don’t you hear them? They long for their long-lost brother, the kin of their own kind, they want to give you everything you desire, and more.”
 
The Eddy steps closer, cocks his silken head. His skin glows a greenish opaque, the molten transparency of stained glass, the rough cut distortion of sea glass. He moves like he is floating.
 
“We know what you want, Salvatore. We have heard your cries, those pent up feelings and thoughts of us, of our home. We have watched you, you know. Have felt you come so close to reaching us, so close to coming home to us, but now here we are.”
 
“What do you mean?” Salvo screams at the man. His voice carried barely through the building of the storm. Desperation slings its step in his words and the quiver of his throat is real as he shivers through the cold. “I have a home, this is my home! My mother will be worried about me, she will be looking everywhere, and she will come here, soon. My father-”
 
“Your father!” The Eddy shrieks, suddenly running towards the boy, reaching him in a heart beat and clasping his face with his scaly hands. Salvo cringes away but the fingers hold fast, long fingernails puckering the soft skin of his cheeks. “You speak of that man as your father? Think, Salvatore, think! Do you really believe that that man is your real father? The one who raised you, fed you, taught you to dip and dive and ride the currents of the sea like a bird on the crest of the wind’s tail? You think that man, that big, bulking land dweller is the one you should be calling father?”
 
Salvo shakes his head, desperate to brush off the words, to disagree, to yell his disbelief and tell the Eddy that he is wrong. But something niggles, a barely laid tadpole of a thing. A uncertainty, an inability to claim that he does not feel the distance between himself and his father. The way he would catch him staring at his son, this darkling little thing, and there would be no kinship in his blue, furrowed eyes. 
 
“The sea,” Salvo says slowly, winding back the little hints, the small feint markings of something that had never quite been right. 
 
The Eddy nods softly. “He kept you from us, always. We tried to call to you, to make you hear our voices and remember, remember the place you came from - your true home - but he always stopped us. Finding small ways, he kept us from you and locked you away.”
 
And Salvo remembers. The summers spent under the watchfulness of his father, the insistence that he should be moved to the room at the back of the house, facing the mountains and away from the sounds of the rustling sea. His father’s unwillingness to let him join him on his boat, the way he was always relegated to the cage of the shore, the sandy banks, forbidden from venturing close to the teasing waters. A terrible dawning lodges itself in him. He suddenly sees.
 
And now we must choose. The fate of this world, of this small dark boy, is split in half. Two perfect halves of the conch shell in which we may glimmer some hint of truth. We must go, observe, slip like fish, winnowing into the realm of impossibility and leave nothing behind. Whatever may happen, however painful it may be, we must not alter the fate of these two parallel universes. And so we must split ourselves. Our only hope is to return unchanged. But for these two souls, the twinned halves of the boy and the girl, it shall not be so easy. Let us go, quickly, before it is too late. Perhaps, it is already too late. For now we must take these new, watchful forms, and abide meekly. Become one with the wind-snap grass, the taunting wind, and position ourselves carefully, on the cliff’s edge, so as to go unseen. We must not interfere in the affairs of men. And so we begin with the first sliding reality, as Salvo decides to believe the Eddy’s crooning words.

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.
 
“SALVATORE!”
 
Theresa freezes.

“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.

This ending, who is to day that it is the only one to have existed? As you know, an alternative world exists. Let us glimpse, for a time, this second land, in which Salvo has a choice once more. To believe the Eddy or not. In this world, his willingness, this quickness to concession is dampened by the unwillingness to abandon the truth of his childhood. For he is still a boy in this world, this distorted mirror image. And so, once more, we shall creep, unbidden, unseen, into Salvo’s world. To see the fruits of his choice. And hope that this time he has chosen right. 

Salvo does not believe the Eddy, the unwillingness to abandon the truth of his childhood.
 
“You’re lying! You’re a liar!” 
 
He pushes back with all his might, the salt stained fingernails dragging across his skin as the Eddy is thrusted backwards, surprised at the force of the small boy. He looses focus, his grip easing just enough.
 
“Don’t do it, boy!” The Eddy howls viciously, picking himself up and striding forward on feet that seem to barely touch the sharpened seagrass below.
 
Salvo pounds the ground, pushing his legs to go faster, faster. The wind whips his face, his chest, the steel force pressing him backwards, into the dripping arms of the Eddy. But he pushes harder, his lungs threatening to give way, yielding to the force of his ragged breath.
 
The girls stand, dumbfounded, frozen. All games of dance and laughter have ceased. They begin to feel differently, the playfulness of the storm lost to them as they regain a glimpse of the reality before them. Theresa stands limply in her blood spun frock, and a dawning blooms inside her. The mounting awareness. The painfully slow recognition, the realisation of the time and place, biting at her naked neck. 
 
The girls, they have spun themselves into oblivion, but now begin to emerge from the stupor. Theresa feels numbly. She recognises the boy before them, running full tilt towards 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. 
 
But too late, all too late. Salvo’s body hits her in an instant, the full wielding force of his speed, the adrenaline tackling them both to the ground. Theresa splutters, momentarily winded, mind spinning along with the whirling clouds in the stormy blue above. She glares up at the boy and she finally sees. Her confusion, her anger, it all melts away as the name comes to her, pours like gold from the flick of her tongue.
 
“Salvo!”
 
He grins and they laugh breathlessly. Each one delirious in uniting once more, the coming together of two familiar souls. They languish in the giddiness of children, the world crashing to a halt as they share this sacred moment together, just the two of them. They do not yet know that this harmony will be brief, for soon they will part for the second, and final time. But for a brief time they forget themselves, the world, the standing witness of the sea, the air, the very presence of time itself. It gives them this last gift. The rejoining of old friends. 
 
Salvo jumps up and offers his hand. Theresa clamps her own around his, vowing to never let go ever again. A viperous voice intrudes on the scene. A howl that rips clean through any semblance of relief.
 
It is the Eddy. He smiles villainously, mashing his salty gums together and advancing on the intertwined pair, who stumble backwards, closer to the leering cliff’s edge.
 
“We are not going with you.” Salvo says quietly, a tinge of finality to his words, an authority that had evaded him until now, the very moment when he would truly need it most. The Eddy just stares, licks his crusted lips.
 
“Call me when you get there, and I have called for them. They know that I have arrived and that I must bring back what was promised. Time is running out, don’t you see, Salvatore? We are growing restless.”
 
He takes another step. Salvo holds his own bravely, steadfast in his defiance. The Eddy’s ghastly eyes flick from Salvo to Theresa and the haunting smile creeps anew. He sighs a leisurely, sea-bream whoosh of air.
 
“I suppose the land-bound one will be as good a consolation prize as any.”
 
And with that, the Eddy leaps, and the two children hold onto one other with all their strength.
 
Then, a cry ripples like wild fire. A man, wild and running, appears at the break of the cliff. He is shouting something, the sound reverberating, distorting, moulding itself into a jumble of empty meaning, nonsense. They 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 stop. 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. Salvo’s father cries out, a mottled, gut-wrenching cry which pierces the sky and strikes the depths of the sea with a mountainous agony.
 
“SALVATORE!”
 
Salvo freezes, and his grip slacks at the sound of his father’s voice calling him.
 
A split second is all it takes. The shock of it, the momentary weakening, and Salvo forgets about the arms around his, the feeble tear as hands loosen in his and all of a sudden he stands alone.
 
Something stutters through him, a ripping, tearing, so painful it causes him to scream out. A guttural sound, the very essence of a heart, a soul breaking apart.
 
And the Eddy, Theresa, they are gone. Salvo spins around to face the hurtling sea beneath the drop. The startling shock of red disappearing into the inky depths, swallowed by the raging tide.

THE END


Life is stranger than fiction? Clearly you haven't listened to these strange tales… STRANGER THAN FICTION is a series brought to you by some seriously freaky writers, storytellers who weave tales of foreign lands on far-away shores… or perhaps, they are even closer than you think…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.