Man From Atlantis: Saving the Selkies
Mark convinced Elizabeth to let Renee sleep in one of the Foundation's guest-rooms. He was determined to retrieve her pelt early in the morning. Elizabeth offered to watch her overnight. After a light dinner she settled Renee and helped her bathe, combed her hair, and tucked her into bed. Elizabeth didn't have children's storybooks on hand so she made up a tale about a handsome, water-breathing prince of Atlantis who left his home behind to discover the world above the sea. Prince Markham was caught in a ferocious storm and left for dead in a tangled mass of seaweed and ocean debris, but he was rescued by a kind fisherman and his son. The prince lost his entire memory of Atlantis. He met a beautiful woman named Bettina who liked to explore and research the wonders of sea-life. They proved to be kindred spirits even though she could not exist fully in his world. Prince Markham consoled her with the fact that he could not last long in her world without life-giving water.
Renee happily fell asleep just after Bettina discovered that Markham needed to breathe water and she rescued him by floating him under the surf until he revived. However, before dozing, Renee begged Elizabeth to one day finish the story.
"It's still being written." Elizabeth whispered and kissed her cheek. She quietly left the room and kept the door ajar. When she turned, she bumped into Mark.
"Oh! You scared me. I didn't know you were there." Her cheeks burned and she wondered how much of her 'fairy tale' he overheard.
"I am sorry, Elizabeth. I just wanted to make sure Renee was comfortable. I see there is no cause for worry. That was a very…interesting story you told her."
"Oh, I'm no story-teller. I just, um…I…"
"It is a fine story, I especially like the part about Bettina and Markham as kindred spirits."
Elizabeth toyed with her hair. "Oh, that…I…I tried to make it as fanciful as possible. Not bad for a scientist." She smiled.
He smiled back and sensed her discomfort so he changed the subject to the pelt. "Once I have Renee's pelt, she will not be able to leave us. It is better that way."
They went downstairs and outside the Foundation.
"Okay, you know the legend best, Mark. I think she'll sleep through the night." Elizabeth said.
"That is good. I need to be alone with my thoughts in the grotto. I must devise a plan to keep them safe."
"Somebody obviously went through a lot of trouble to bring them here. Someone with a big enough fortune to pay off the poachers and Rex Starling from Sea Planet."
"Someone…with an insatiable desire for power." Mark added.
They looked carefully at each other. Mark nodded and Elizabeth said the despised name.
"Schubert. It has to be. He's been too quiet lately."
"I agree with you. This is an opportunity he would never pass up." Mark said.
"I wonder what his plan is this time?"
Mark glanced at Elizabeth curiously as they strolled onto the landing. The night air cooled and the winds picked up considerably. The black ocean churned and sprayed misty water over them. Elizabeth tossed her head back and let her hair fly around. She laughed.
"I love this weather. The Santa Ana winds are blowing in and the waves are picking up. The conditions are prime for a strong fog tonight. Do you know what they say about the Santa Ana winds?"
"No. What?" Mark asked intrigued.
"The legend is, that when they blow in, very strange things are liable occur. I think we've stumbled on the strangest of them all."
"Perhaps there may be more yet to come…Elizabeth, can I ask you a question?"
"Of course, Mark. You can ask me anything."
"Seeing you with Renee tonight, I wonder, why you have never become a mother?"
Elizabeth stared toward the sea rocks and hoped he didn't notice her embarrassment. "That's a loaded question, Mark."
"Loaded? What does that mean?"
"It means a heavy question that's sort of difficult to answer."
Mark cocked his head. "Hmm, I did not realize questions have weight,but the question is simple enough."
Elizabeth sighed. He was right. "Well, for one thing, I never got married."
"Oh yes. That is the custom here. It is very good to find a proper mate. But if you were to marry, would you have a baby?"
Mark often followed one deep question with another just as a child would. In most cases Elizabeth found it endearing. She rubbed her arms as a cold gust of air blew around them.
"Mark…I don't know. I like children very much, but when I became a scientist, I realized it would take up most of my time and energy. In essence, I married my work. I dedicated myself to the Foundation and to helping the Navy and that's not a bad thing. Does that answer your question?"
Elizabeth tried not to sound irritated. She was never good with answering personal questions. Mark was only curious about a natural facet of life. He gazed at her in his usual placid manner and she felt desperate to know the thoughts running through his mind.
"Yes, I do understand. I have experienced the depth of your patience, wisdom, and loving care when I was as unaccustomed to this world as a newborn child. And from that…I think you would make a wonderful mother, Elizabeth. Goodnight."
Mark left Elizabeth speechless and hurried down the gangplank toward the sea.
A heavy fog shrouded her tiny body in the midst of the beach. Renee couldn't remember waking up from the warm bed and coming onto the sand barefoot. Drafts of cold air seeped through her thin nightgown. Without her pelt to keep her warm she felt near to freezing. Her dark eyes glazed over and she walked ahead in a steady pace. Renee was impelled to make it to a large mansion situated on a cliff-side. She had strange visions of a hefty man with a bushy, silver beard. He wore a smile, but his clear blue eyes were cold and manipulative. He wagged her pelt and beckoned her to come. He was the new master.
Renee wanted to call for Mark, but she couldn't utter a sound. She envisioned Mark's outline through the brume and swimming in broad, even strokes. But immense waves overtook him and pushed him farther away from her. He eventually dropped underwater. It was as if he never saw her. Renee reached out for him, but he didn't rise up again. Tears filled her eyes but she kept moving on. She heard a woman's voice shouting for her in the distance. Renee's mind urged her to turn around and run toward the voice, but her body compelled her forward as if on air.
Elizabeth stopped short and fell to her knees to catch her breath. She had not stopped running since she saw Renee halfway down the beach. Somehow Renee slipped past her room and out of the Foundation after midnight.
No matter how loudly Elizabeth called, Renee ignored her. She tossed the sand frustrated. She was so close, yet she couldn't bring herself to reach her. Elizabeth regained her bearings and sprinted fast. She dove for Renee's legs. The child staggered, but didn't fall. Elizabeth held onto Renee tight, but her body was pulled through the sand by Renee's sudden display of strength. Elizabeth's grip slackened and Renee continued on in a trance-like state without acknowledging her.
The fog rolled in thicker and swallowed Renee completely.
"No! Come back! Come back!"
Coarse, gritty sand whipped into Elizabeth's face and she clamped her eyes shut. The winds whistled and howled yet there was no rain or thunder. The hoarse echoes of barking wild seals invaded her eardrums. She tried to rise but kept falling over. She clutched her ears in pain and raced to the shoreline.
"Stop it! Make it stop!"
The tide rose unnaturally high and splashed around her. Her body weakened and she slithered onto her back. Saltwater rushed up her nose and into her mouth and she gagged. The wet sand sank beneath her and jagged seashells washed ashore and nicked her body.
"NO! Stop it! Help!"
An large wave crashed over Elizabeth and stunned her. As it receded she was dragged into the surf. She rolled on her belly and clawed at the sand but she couldn't prevent herself from being yanked into the water. All the while she had a peculiar sensation that she pulled herself in. It made little difference as her willpower ebbed.
"Help me!" She screamed. Mark!"
Another fierce wave toppled down and trapped her beneath it. She flailed her arms and legs but couldn't surface. Her body plunged and her arms relaxed to her sides. She raised her face upward. The surface was not very far but she lost the desire to move and for a moment she smiled and drifted to the bottom. Her eyes soon popped open and torrents of bubbles escaped as she mouthed Mark's name in a panic. Her lungs ached and her chest and stomach quivered as she struggled to hold her breath.
Mark's shadow quickly passed overhead and he swam down. He grabbed her waist and propelled her upward. They burst out of the water.
Elizabeth choked out seawater. "Aughh! Let me go!" She shrieked and pounded on him.
"Elizabeth! Do not be frightened! It is me!" Mark exclaimed and gripped her fists. Elizabeth screamed again and shook her head uncontrollably.
Mark grasped her face. "Look at me, Elizabeth! Look!"
Elizabeth glared at him. The depth of his serene, bright eyes kept her from teetering into pure insanity. Mark's face was inches from hers and she touched his mouth and coursed her fingers through his dark hair. Her lips trembled and she put her arms over him.
"Oh Mark! Help me…" She moaned.
The winds died down and the waters sedated. He swam her to shore, then picked her up and raced onto dry sand. Mark kept on his knees and secured her close to ease her trembling. She was drenched and cold, but Elizabeth quickly felt his natural warmth radiate onto her body.
Elizabeth looked up in despair. "Mark, she got away! I can't reach her! She doesn't hear me! Why? Something is strange! What's wrong with me! I can't…hear straight, think straight…there are seals everywhere! The water! The sea wants me! Let it take me! We can be together!"
Mark shook her up when she tried to escape him. "No, Elizabeth! You belong here on land!" He hugged her tight and his water-born strength deterred her from running back to the ocean.
Elizabeth fought to regain her self-control. "Mark…keep me here! Make me stay!"
"I will not let you go, Elizabeth!"
Her expression fell distraught and her chest tightened. Elizabeth never experienced a panic attack in her life, and she felt as if she were drowning again. She burst into tears and clawed at his arms. "I can't breath…help me breathe!" She begged. She pressed her mouth against his smooth flesh and put her head on his shoulder. Mark rubbed her back as she gulped the air. The crashing surf pounded through her brain.
Mark abruptly sang – not words – but a melodious tune of the sea that quelled the bleak storm ravaging her mind. Mark placed his hand over her heart and rubbed her chest until her heartbeats subsided to a normal rhythm. He brushed his other hand through her damp hair and cupped his palm against her cheek. Elizabeth gripped his hand.
"That's so beautiful! I feel better. But…don't…don't leave me yet, Mark."
"I will not leave you, Elizabeth. Keep taking deep breaths. You are safe now. I am here."
A momentous relief flooded over her and her tears abated. Mark maneuvered himself cross-legged in the sand and she curled up between his legs. He wrapped his arms around her and snuggled his face against her collarbone.
"Shh…rest, Elizabeth. I have you, nothing will hurt you now."
He continued to hum the mystical tune in her ear. Elizabeth sighed and murmured his name as she collected her thoughts and broke fully out of her wild stupor. They remained in place for a long while until the last wisps of fog drifted out to sea.
Mark stroked the nape of her neck and finally broke the silence.
"Do you feel better, Elizabeth?"
"Yes. I don't know what happened to me."
"It is a little-known part of the Selkie legend. Someone has found Renee's pelt and they are her master now. She was under a trance that will not break until she reaches her new destination. Nothing could have stopped Renee from going to them and anyone who tries to interfere suffers in mysterious ways. It leads to a deadly madness. Much like the effects of the Siren's song."
Elizabeth clutched his arm and turned to look at him. "Oh, Mark…I wanted to live…yet I wanted to die…and I imagined you and I swimming together deep in the coral reefs…it was gorgeous and blissful."
"That is something I wish to do with you too, Elizabeth." Mark admitted.
"Oh Mark…" Elizabeth trembled passionately as she recalled her thoughts underwater, but she dispelled them fast. "I realized I couldn't breathe and…" She exhaled and touched her chest. "You saved me in time."
Sadness crossed his face. "I am very sorry this happened to you, Elizabeth. I should have stayed with Renee. I am somewhat immune to the effects. I did not think of the consequences. Please forgive me."
Elizabeth relaxed against him and stretched her legs out in front of her. "It's not your fault, Mark. There are things that you probably don't remember about the legend either. I'm just glad you came when you did." She swallowed down more tears.
"Yes. I am glad I was not too late. The ocean is my home and I am bonded to it. I discerned an uncanny force emanating from the beach. Perhaps it was those strange Santa Ana Winds. You were the last person in my thoughts before the sensation came to me. I knew I had to surface and find you."
Elizabeth drew circles in the sand and stared up at him. "Maybe we are connected more than we know."
He smiled at her. "Like kindred spirits?"
"If that's possible." She whispered.
As she stared across the ocean again, the dark sky cleared and moonbeams rippled across the shiny waves. She felt Mark's body stir and his heartbeat quickened as he leaned down and kissed her temple.
"Anything is possible, Elizabeth." He said gently. "Come, I should get you back to the Foundation now."
Elizabeth's awareness returned. There was an urgent mission ahead of them. She reluctantly sat up and Mark helped her to her feet.
She pointed down the beach. "Schubert's mansion is in that direction, Mark. And that's where she went. This has to be a trap."
"I am aware of that. But regardless, I must go to her. Elizabeth, you have to go to the Sea Park tomorrow and demand Velvet be put in your care. Use whatever clout it takes. We cannot let Schubert have her. He is using Renee as bait."
Elizabeth's temper flared. "Yes, for his main catch…you! It's always about you, Mark, and he doesn't care who gets hurt. But why would he take Velvet too?"
Mark's eyes glowed like green beacons. "Schubert is still intent on creating his master race. What better way than to have offspring from a Selkie and a water-breathing man? That idea came to me in my meditations. Sometimes in order to defeat the enemy, you must think like him."
Elizabeth gripped his hand and they walked. "That's often true. Mark, find Renee. The poor baby must be terrified. I'll call CW and get him to draw up a written demand for Velvet's release. No matter what, we will save the Selkies."