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Salt and Selkies

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Sissy wakes up in the middle of the night with her husband snoring next to her. The sound of his heavy breathing never bothered her, so that’s not what woke her up. No, it’s the sound of the storm starting up outside that woke her from her slumber. The wind has been rattling the windows for a few hours now and Sissy can hear the rumbling of the thunder drawing closer from overseas.


The whole town had been preparing for the storm front to hit for a few days now: it was a familiar pattern for a town so close to the sea. Once the first signs of an incoming storm were spotted, people took the expected precautions: shops closing up early, folks tying down their boats and other possessions and the lone sheep herder taking their flock back to the stables just in time.

Everybody knew this was going to be a big one too.


Sissy was glad the storm was finally here; this way the waiting was finally over. She always hated the quiet before the storm the most. They could check the damage to the barn tomorrow or the day after, depending on when this storm would finally let them out again.


The first flash of lightning hit as Sissy rolled away from Carl. The wooden panels felt cold to the touch, but Sissy ignored it as she walked away from the bed. Carl rolled over in his sleep, but didn’t wake up. The floor boards creaked under her, but the howling wind outside over stemmed their sound. The first crash of thunder finally rolled in, first slowly but then louder, immediately followed by another flash.


‘one Mississippi, two Mississippi-’ Sissy counted in her head. It took eighteen Mississippi’s before the next thunder crashed, but Sissy knew this didn’t mean anything. The storm would hit sooner rather than later and if Sissy knew anything: storms roll in faster than one expects, no silly counting could prepare you for how long you had, this close to the sea.


Sissy walks past Harlan’s room; she already knows her boy isn’t there. It was always like this: Harlan had the uncanny feeling of when a storm would arrive. He would start his humming songs and stare at the sky for hours. Sissy didn’t know how or why, but he was never wrong. She could be the best weatherman in town, just by looking at her boy.
And once a storm hit, Sissy knew where to find Harlan too: standing near the windows in the living room. Carl always makes sure to close the panels before the worst came, so there was no way of looking outside. Instead, Harlan would put his ear against the panels and listen to the storms with fascination.


Sissy used to be worried about it, since Harlan lever liked loud noises; he hated the horn of the Mayor’s car and disliked the busy sounds of the town. But for some reason, Harlan enjoys the sounds of a storm; the thunder, howling winds and waves crashing in the bay.


If there was a storm outside, Harlan would listen to it. He’d always done it; as a baby and now: listening and watching the storm raging on outside, like it’s his favourite song. Sometimes she wonders if Harlan hear something she cannot.Her boy is indeed standing in the living room when Sissy makes her way downstairs. He’s in his sleeping clothes, holding one of his wooden figurines and slightly swaying on the spot.


“Hi, darling.” Sissy greets her him, but she got no visible reaction. She takes the spot next to her boy in the living room. He wouldn’t come back to bed immediately, she knew from experience, but he would follow her easily once he’d had his share of ‘experiencing’ the storm.
Sometimes, Sissy wonders if Harlan could hear something she couldn’t.


To her, it just sounds like a normal storm: winds racing around their house, lightning and thunder hitting with alarming frequency and the never ending rain.
“Come on, darling, time to go back to bed.” She says. Harlan follows her easily, lingering at the bottom for a second before continuing upstairs. Sissy leads them back to the master bedroom: if she doesn’t, Harlan would try to sneak out again and stand in the living room all night long. She lifts up the covers so her son can step in first.
Carl turns over arain, towards the returning occupants of the bed. “Sissy…” he mumbles, “you know the rules…” Harlan wasn’t supposed to sleep in their bed anymore.


“It’s the storm, Carl. You know this is the only exception.” She scolds him. Harlan doesn’t pay their conversation any attention, still focussed on the sounds of the storm.
“We live near the sea, it shouldn’t be something special.” Her husband mumbles, but she ignores him. Harlan had settled and she wraps her arm around him. Hopefully, he’d fall asleep again soon, but for now, the three of them listen to the loud storm outside.