A/N: I am currently writing this story as part of the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) event for this month. The hope is to write one chapter of this story per day, and to finally result in a 50k word novel. I am posting the beginning in the hopes of getting some feedback from you fine readers as to whether or not this is a worthwhile endeavour. Please do review and let me know what you think of the story so far!
It was a quiet, clear night, the moon shining brightly. The water reflected out into infinity, the horizon far beyond the view of the rail-thin woman standing on the shore. Her head was held high, her body wracked with pain. Battles were easier than this. She had taken on the scars of the battle-weary, the fire and ice of those so used to living life on the edge of a knife that it had come to thrill them. Oh yes indeed. Those days were far behind her and while she often tried to act as if that were a relief, she knew otherwise.
She craved the sea.
She craved the wind in her hair, the salt spray across her face.
She craved freedom. More than anything she craved freedom. It had been her life's blood…once, a long time ago. It felt like it had been a long time at least. How long had it been? A year? Two? Twenty? She had lost track of time at some point. No longer did she scratch out the days on the few pieces of parchment left to her. No longer did she watch the track of the sun across the sky, marking the hours on the crude sundial she had assembled during her first months on the island. No…now she just lived from moment to moment, the only worry on her mind if she can get food for the day. She scavenged all day like a wild animal to bring enough fruit and coconuts to her small shack to provide her sustenance for a day or two.
And on clear nights, when she could see as far as the darkness would allow, she stood on the shore, watching, waiting, hoping for something she barely remembered, something concealed deep inside her mind.
She hoped for that freedom to return to her.
It hadn't…yet. But there was always that tiny flair of hope deep inside her breast that kept her standing at the shore, keeping her silent vigil, praying to a heathen god that he would come and take her away from this.
A quiet snuffling noise greeted her and she became aware that it had been going on for some time. Turning, she spied her one and only friend on the island sitting close by, staring up at her with what could only be described as curiosity.
That word haunted her for a moment, brought to mind a memory that was quickly and violently banished with a hard shake of her head. No…she could not think of that. She could not take herself back in time like that and relive it all. She had done that too many times already.
"Hello boy." She spoke the words softly and watched as the scruffy mutt cocked his head even further to the side. He didn't have a name. He was just referred to as boy, mutt, pooch. She wasn't even sure how he had come to be on his island. No one lived on it. She knew. She had been around and around it, over it and through the wooded areas. She hadn't left one bit of the island unexplored in all her time here. And there was no one. But somehow this dog, this middle-aged, scruffy dog of unknown parentage had joined her on the island a month or two after she came to inhabit it. She had created a wide variety of stories for him: he was sent to her from Calypso, a sort of apology for taking her husband from her so soon after her marriage, company for her long stay on the island; he had been lost in a sea battle, fell into the sea, swam hundreds of miles to find himself on this island…a strong will the dog certainly possessed; he had been abandoned by his owners who had little food for themselves and even less food for him, an unlucky mutt left to fend for himself on this tiny little island. All of the stories were fanciful and all equally unlikely. Yet she felt he deserved a back story and since he couldn't tell it himself, she would create it, altering it time and time again depending on her mood.
Heaving a sigh, the woman finally looked down at the bundle held tightly in her arms. Had she been trying to forget about what had to be done, her mind flitting from one thing to another in order to avoid the reality of her situation?
Yes. She knew that one thing with complete certainty.
She knelt, her knees coming close to where the sea met the shoreline. The dog, her faithful companion, inched closer to her and briefly touched his cold, wet nose to her cheek. "I know." He seemed to understand, to know that her grief, her pain, was so intense that tears would not come, words would not come.
For one more moment, she pulled the bundle in her arms close to her and wondered how it had all gone wrong. One moment he had been playing with the dog, wading in the water, laughing as only a small child could laugh. And the next he was shaking, hot to the touch and cold inside, the life draining out of him while she held him and begged any god who would listen to spare his tender and too young life.
She didn't succeed. Her prayers, sent to gods who refused to listen, who turned their stony faces from a woman who had cut down people in the heat of battle without worrying about the consequences for her immortal soul, went unanswered. He died in her arms.
The fever had taken her for the days after his death, while his cold body lay wrapped in blankets near her. She was sure she would die alongside him, just punishment for her many sins. But she didn't. She had lived. And so now she sat at the shoreline, ready to send her son out to the sea he had asked so many questions about. He had never gotten to be a sailor, nor a pirate. He had never set foot on any vessel that road upon the sea. She had always promised him that someday they would be off the island and he would get to feel the wind in his hair as the great sailing ship they were on strode across the vast ocean. But that was not to be.
"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…" My son into the sea…
She stood suddenly, clutching the bundle in her arms. The dog yelped in surprise, but then backed away from the shoreline. With little care for herself or the world around her, she strode purposefully into the sea, the salt water soaking quickly through the thin cotton of her clothes. When she was waist deep, she hugged her son one last time and then let him go into the cold, dark water.
She tried to say something, words of prayer, words of sympathy, words of anger and hatred for what had been taken from her. They wouldn't come. Grief choked her, but would not spill over into tears. The fever had burned them all out of her. There was simply nothing left to give. She was numb.
Turning, she walked back to the store, feeling the water, her beloved sea that had claimed first her husband and now her son, shifting with every step. …As changing and harsh and untamable as the sea. She had been once. The voice echoed in her ears. So many memories. And now she was left alone on her island, just her dog for company.
What was left to her now? What was left for her to do? Her only thoughts had been to keep herself and her son alive and occupied. She had told stories, kept him entertained, played pirates and destroyed the sand castles they had made along the shore. No one had come by in all the time she had been there and despite her utter loneliness and longing for adult companionship and conversation, she had been happy.
Her son had kept her sane.
And now he had gone to join his father somewhere in the dark sea. She hoped his father would hear the call and ferry him to the other side. Would he know that the child was his? She hoped he would recognize him, grieve for him, and realize that sometime, somehow, she would have to leave this island.
A small amount of determination pushed its way through her body, lifting her sagging head once more. Yes. This was what she had to do. Leave the island. Find a life somewhere among people, where she could hide in plain view, have friends, have a life. But how…how to get off the island? Sea turtles, mate…
She felt a small laugh bubble to the surface. Insanity. She did not want to remember him…near seducer, drunkenly shameful, nigh on impossible to understand or believe. He was more full of myths about himself than he was truths, so puffed up on the stories people told and believed about his crazy antics that more often than not, he grated on her nerves. Only when he dropped all pretense and let her see what lay behind the myths, did she enjoy her time with him.
He had been a friend, a dear friend. He had rescued her so many times, she had lost track of it. There was the corset, the parachute, the time he came back to the ship, before the Kraken…
No. Thinking about him would only bring pain.
The dog, seeming to recognize that the churning thoughts haunting her mind were almost too much to bear, moved closer to her again and licked her face tentatively. She looked over, smiled slightly as her eyes met the dark, compassionate ones of the dog, and spoke directly to him for the first time that night.
"We never named you. I don't know why." Another smile, a pause, and a scratch behind the ear. "You need a name. I really can't keep calling you 'dog.' You're my only companion now." Another pause, a deep breath, the numbness settling deep inside her. "Sammy. Yes. I think Sammy shall suit you fine."
Sammy, the formerly nameless mutt, leaned against her and she put an arm around him, snuggling close to his warmth. Content for the moment, she leaned over slightly and rested her weary head on his shoulder. She would save her determination and her fight against the invading numbness for tomorrow.