Chapter 1: Prompt: Storm
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.
Chapter 2: Prompt: Pirates
The Coopers visit the market and find a strange pelt.
Sissy lost her son and husband on the market. Again.
Carl works a lot at sea or in the harbour, from early morning to late evening, so she insists on one family excursion every few weeks or so. One that isn’t their Sunday visit to the church or a doctor’s check-up for Harlan. There’s not a lot to do in their small port of a village, so they usually end up visiting the local market.
The market gathers on Mondays and runs from the haven with the fishermen selling fresh fish all the way to Dealy Plaza where the shepherds sold their animals and wool. Sometimes, every few months or so, some vendor from out of town would visit and sell something eccentric. There was Sir Henry-Anne with his silverware who visited every other first Monday of the month and the the Marquet family who sold the most beautiful Sunday dresses and only made the trip once or twice in the summers.
Not that the Cooper family had any money for things like that. They lived a simple and self-sustaining life with their small farm. They had two goats, some chicken and an horse, Carl dried fish in the barn and Sissy potted their hand-grown vegetables. Whenever Sissy hinted that she might like a new dress, Carl would buy her cheap needles and thread. Message received: we don’t buy frivolous things.
The fact that they don’t have a lot of money to spare, doesn’t stop Carl from going out drinking every other night, Sissy thinks sourly as she searches for her family. She decides right there that she’ll be very mad with Carl if he walked off and lost their son in the crowd.
Luckily for their family excursion: father and son are still together. She finds them standing at one of the visiting vendors near the docks. The seller’s in the middle of his presentation of his wares, both Carl and Harlan completely focussed on the wares, for different reasons.
Sissy shores up her bag filled with freshly bought flour and steps closer to her family to see what captured their attention. She takes a look at the stall and sees that it’s filled with animal fur: hides and pelts and pieces of clothing made out of either or both. The vendor, an old, weathered man in his fifties, holds up the pelt of some black short haired animal for Carl. The thing’s big enough to serve as a blanket or cape, the short black hairs shimmering smooth in the sunlight.
“Sissy!” Carl greets her as he sees her. “This man came all the way from Waterdam.” He drags her closer to the vendor.
“And why would we need furs from Waterdam?” Sissy asks him sarcastically. She doesn’t want to buy any furs from this man; she already saw the price tags on some of his items and there’s no way they can afford something this expensive they don’t even need.
Carl doesn’t pay her question any attention and the man continues his spiel:
“I have hides from all kinds of creatures: deer, wolves, seals, some polar bears even. My wares can be sown into any type of clothing, this pelt right here for one-” the man holds up the black pelt again, “this is from some seep sea creature, related to seals but much larger: Selkies, they’re called! They’re very rare and hard to come by. Some say pelts like this bring luck to the owner. Some even say they contain magic.”
Sissy scoffs at that and the vendor’s eyes immediately find hers. “You don’t believe me, missy?” he asks her. “Then don’t take it from me, but from the pirates I got this from.”
Harlan’s still running the soft pelt between his fingers, Carl is completely enraptured by the man’s story and Sissy already knows where this is going: they were going to buy the damn pelt.
“Yes, yes!” the vendor continues: “The pirates who sold me this sometime ago told me that these types of hide saved the life of many of their own! Some poor guy almost fell overboard during a storm, but the pelt kept him afloat. I’ve heard of others who barely escaped skirmishes with the law, got fired at even, but these type of pelts can reflect bullets!”
“That doesn’t even make-” Sissy starts, but before she can finish her sentence, Carl has already interrupted her: “We’ll take it.”
And that’s how it happens: Carl hands the man some of their hard-earned coin in exchange for a seal skin. Harlan gets to wear the thing like a cape on their way back to the farm, so if the damned thing has one advantage it’s that her boy doesn’t mind the texture. There are pieces of clothing Harlan refuses to wear because the feel of the cloth annoyed him. But Harlan loves the pelt, so it buying it almost seems worth it now.
“You just wait, Miss Cooper!” Carl jokes as he walks besides her with the big bag of flour over his shoulder, “this thing could be the luck we’ve been looking for all along!”
Sissy rolls her eyes and follows her family back to the farm.
Chapter 3: Magic
A 'magical' first meeting happens when a woman stumbles into town.
I'm on a European schedule, so some chapters might seem to appear 'a day early'.
The pelt Carl bought them isn’t magical, of course.
Nothing special happens in the following days to the Cooper family. Nothing extremely bad happens either: life is just normal. Carl ‘works overtime’ by drinking in the local pubs, they bring in some extra fish that week, one of the chickens dies of old age and Harlan plays with his toys. Nothing magical or lucky for their standard.
The seal pelt gets lost in no time too. One morning, Sissy sees it lying over the rug of their couch, but by that evening its gone. Harlan probably took it out in the field with him to sit on it and forgot to bring it back inside. He doesn’t fuss about it too much, though, so Sissy imagines the damned thing will show up eventually.
Nothing magical happens indeed. That is: until Sissy runs over a young lady with their cart.
Harlan and her are out in town, just returning from a doctor’s visit when it happens. One moment, Sissy’s checking up on her son playing in the back hull of the cart while she’s driving their cart and horse down the peaceful road. The next moment, something white flashes into view and their single horse freaks out.
Their horse is an old pony from some farmhands inlands and never got scared of anything, always way too focussed on grazing and calmly following orders. Not now, though. As the person in white stumbles on the road in front of them, the old horse rears up on its hind legs and stops the car with a shock.
It happens too fast for Sissy to comprehend and later she cannot say if the horse actually kicked the woman or not. All she sees at the moment, is that the woman stumbles and goes down, hitting her head on the cobblestones. And she stays down.
“Oh, God!” Sissy swears as she climbs down the coach box. She can see Harlan crawling out of the back of the cart too, but she makes it to the person in white first.
It is a woman, with long black hair wearing a complete white suit, usually worn by men, but no shoes. Her eyes are closed, groaning in pain and Sissy can only hope her skull isn’t cracked from that hit.
Harlan leans in from around her, curiously looking in on the person they just hit. ‘A second doctor’s visit it is..’ Sissy thinks and she swears again.
“Ma’am, are you alright? Can you stand?” Sissy asks, but the woman only groans again, clearly trying to open her eyes, but the sunlight seems to be too much for her right now. “Can you hear me?!” Sissy asks, more frantically now.
When it becomes clear that the woman is more hurt than she hoped she’d be, Sissy carries her to the cart. There are people staring at them from across the street, but none offer to help her, so pulling the uncooperating woman into the cart takes some time. In the end, Harlan helps by holding the woman up so Sissy can climb into the cart and drag her in.
She’s infinitely grateful her son is alright with this stranger touching him, something he usually barely tolerates, but Harlan must’ve understood that this situation is serious. He stays with the woman in the back while Sissy turns the cart around and makes her way back to the doctor’s office.
Sissy wonders how much this will cost them. Will the woman or her family sue the Coopers for harming her? She must be rich, judging her clothing. Who wears all white? The only semi-white dress Sissy owns is for Sunday visits to the church.
Will the woman even survive this encounter?! The fact that she’s still alive doesn’t account for internal bleeding, or permanent brain damage. She spurns their horse on to go faster.
“This is exactly the kind of luck we need.” Sissy mumbles as she drives through town.
The woman doesn’t die.
It’s a whole relief for Sissy to hear from the doctor present in town. Sissy’s even more glad to hear that helping the woman doesn’t cost them a lot either. The doctor holds a general once-over on the woman’s wellbeing, checks her eyes for a concussion and declares her alive but concussed.
There’s a big welt on the back of the woman’s head, visible below her long black hair. Her pupils seem extremely large and she squints through the whole check-up. The worst thing is that the hit apparently affected her memory. All the woman does is stare as their doctor asks some questions.
“How are you feeling?”
“What is your name?”
“Do you remember what you were doing right before you got hit?”
Nothing. The woman just stares at them in the awkward silences that follow every question. Sissy wonders if she’s mute like Harlan is. Or maybe she lost her speech when she hit her head on the stones.
“Maybe it’s best to leave her here overnight for observation.” The doctor tells Sissy as it appears that the woman doesn’t have any inclination to answer any of the questions. It’s clearly worrying the man. He takes in the woman sitting on the operation table, wearing her pristine white suit.
Sissy nods at the doctor, taking Harlan with her as she drives back to their home. Their little farm lies just outside of town, close to the dunes covered in marram grass. Carl grew up in this place, taking over his father’s fishing boat when he died. Even if they hadn’t been living here from the beginning of their marriage, they probably would’ve ended up here after Harlan’s birth. The fresh sea air is always recommended for kids like him.
But their little farm lies inland just enough for some sea hardy vegetables to grow and to keep some cattle on site: chickens and the odd goat. Sissy keeps the farm running and Carl goes out at sea to provide them with fish and coin. Every winter, Carl travels further inland for a few weeks to sell sea salt to the villages there. It’s not much, but it keeps them alive.
That evening, Carl tells animatedly about the large shark that was spotted in the harbour. “I knew from the moment I saw it’s fin that it had seen some battle. Not sure what kind of shark this must’ve been but my bet is still on one of those Great Whites. Jack, Jack Steffons not Brian’s boy Jack, claimed it was one of those deep sea sharks, Sleepers they’re called, but I don’t believe nonsense like that. What would a Sleeper be doing here-”
Sissy zones out pretty quick and just nods at the right intervals. Her mind keeps wandering back to the woman she left at the doctor’s office. Would she be alright? By now, her family must’ve noticed she’s missing, right?
“What’s got you so distracted?” Carl asks her. Sissy silently curses, of course the never observant Carl would notice her discomfort today out of all days. Harlan halts his dinner too, staring at his mum. Probably wondering if I’ll tell the truth or lie about this, Sissy thinks.
She doesn’t like the thought of lying in front of her son, so Sissy tells her husband what happened earlier today: about hitting the woman in the streets, hastily bringing her to the doctor’s post, the concussion and the muteness of the woman and the worry that this accident might’ve left permanent damage.
“Good Lord, Sissy. That’s bad.”
“No swearing in front of Harlan, please.” Sissy retorts weakly, but Carl ignores that. Her husband looks lost in thought, scrubbing the stubble on his chin while their dinner grows cold.
“A pristine white suit you said? Well, we better stay out of town for a few days. In case some angry rich lord from inlands comes to collect his now concussed lady wife. Hopefully the nurses will keep quiet about our involvement, we don’t want to mess with that type of folks.”
Sissy stares at her husband in disbelief: not go back to check in on the woman? That sounds insane! Whatever they should or shouldn’t do to keep safe from some possible angry family sounds crazy. If there’s one thing that Sissy does know, is that she needs to check in on the woman!
“Carl, that’s insane.” Is what she ends up saying. Sissy instinctly knows that she needs to visit the patient in white, no question. Not only is it the polite thing to do, it literally feels like the woman asked her to come back. Even though she didn’t speak, those blue eyes had followed Sissy when she left, lying out a lure for her to come back.
“What?!” Carl asks her, honestly perplexed by her tone. “You want to go back in town and what? Wait for her family to come by and tell them what happened yourself? What if she’s already gone? What if it takes days? What if nobody shows up?”
“We should, you know. Take her in, that is.” Sissy tries to make her voice sound as steady as she can. “The doctor’s post is too small and unequipped for a long stay. I probably shouldn’t have left her there to stay the night either.”
Carl stays silent and focusses on cutting his food in pieces. Harlan stares at his plate too, but Sissy know this doesn’t mean he isn’t listening.
“Either way, we cannot avoid the town. Some people saw me drive her to the post and they will talk if we avoid this. We cannot let some rumour like that spread.” Sissy knows this argument weighs heavy: reputation is important in small fishing towns. Other fishers need to know they can count on you at sea when things get hard. Being labelled as quitters, or cowards would heavily impact their relationships with other fisherman families. And Carl would be all about that status.
Sissy continues: “If the woman is still at the post, we should take her in. This shows the others that we’re caring and that we settle our debts. Yes, I hit that woman and I’ll make sure to drive more careful now, but we’ll own up to that and take care of her until she either regains her memories or her family comes to find her.”
Sissy continues on for the rest of dinner on why they need to take in the woman and slowly, she wins over Carl. She can see that he likes the idea of maybe having some rich family appreciating them for the care they’ve given the woman and when they crawl into bed that night, Carl has decided to join them into visiting the doctor’s office.
Sissy smiles as Carl presents some more benefits of some extra hands at the barn, like taking the woman in was his own idea. She closes her eyes and hides her face in the pillow before he can see her smile.
… It is somewhere deep in the night when Sissy wakes up again. Carl snores on next to her, but Sissy has the sneaking suspicion something else moved through the house. Maybe the opening of a door, or the slight creaking of the stairs.
Sissy slips out of bed. Even though there’s no storm going on outside, she has a strong feeling she already knows what she’s going to find downstairs. Who she’s going to find downstairs: Harlan.
Her boy stands in the living room, close to the closed window and listening to the sounds of the night outside. Sissy sighs, waits at the bottom of the stairs for a second and prays that this won’t be some new nightly ritual. She can understand and live with Harlan’s interest in storms, but her son needs sleep and cannot keep listening at the window every other night.
“Hey honey.” She softly greets Harlan as she comes closer. In his hands, her son holds on to the wooden seal toy, turning it around and around as he keeps his eyes at the small peak in the closed window.
“No storms tonight, darling, so it’s time to go to bed again.” Sissy slowly guides her boy back to his own room, wondering why Harlan would be up at night when there are no storms to listen to.
…Somewhere, deep in the bay, a lone Siren sings her songs. She has been for the last three years, hoping that somehow her family would find their way back to her already…
I had to cut this one in two if I wanted to keep to my rule of a maximum of 1500 words. I understand that some prompts are less clearly portrayed in the chapters than others, so imagine that it wasn’t just ‘practical thinking’ that convinced the Cooper family to take in a stranger.
Chapter 5: Kiddie Pool
The next day, the Cooper family drives back in town.
Carl stops the cart in front of the doctor’s office, where the lone woman in white is sitting on top of an old barrel. She’s munching on some bread, probably given to her by one of the doctor’s staff.
“So no family showed up, then?” Carl asks the woman by way of a greeting. Sissy wants to slap him on his arm for being tactless, but she halts in her actions as the woman actually answers him.
“Not yet, no.” the woman answers with a clear and accented voice. Her eyes find hers and Sissy is again reminded how blue they are. “Thank you for taking me here, though. That was kind of you.”
“It was the least I could do after I hit you.”
“Not your fault,” the woman answers, “I was confused and wasn’t watching where I was going.”
“Confused?” Carl asks and the woman nods, opening and closing her mouth a few times before she finds a way to explain it. “I… I woke up on the beach nearby yesterday morning. I have no idea how I got there and I don’t remember anything before that. I had this huge headache and stumbled into town.”
Sissy is immensely grateful to hear that the memory loss probably wasn’t from their crash, then. Still, having no memory of anything that happened before yesterday sounds like a serious issue. Could the doctors fix that? Probably not.
“I know my name is Vanya and I’m pretty sure I’m not from around here, but that’s about it.”
Carl hands over the reins to Sissy and jumps off the cart. “Well, lets get this settled then.” He tells them before he moves inside the doctors office. Probably to let the doctor know where he can find his patient after today. Vanya stares after him and gives her and Harlan a confused look.
“Miss Vanya,” Sissy asks her, “would you like to stay at our farm until the memories return?”
Vanya smiles for the first time and Sissy instantly knows they made the right choice.
The next few days fly by in a blur and Vanya settles in like she’s always been with them. She knows how to keep animals and is a decent cook, although she’s confused with all the different herbs Sissy uses to season their fried fish. Her frame is small enough and between Carl’s old work blouses, Sissy’s working pants and Harlan’s extra pair of shoes, Vanya’s set.
What seems to be the best turn of events, is that Vanya gets along with Harlan perfectly. Harlan seems to love the girl and it eases off a but of workload for Sissy. Now that she has an extra pair of eyes to keep an eye on Harlan, she’s able to get a lot more work done in the day.
Sissy finally gets around to fixing the leaking roof of the chicken pen, stitching the hole in Carl’s Sunday blouse and visiting the barber in town. Sure, Harlan still has his episodes and he allows Vanya to hustle him as much as he allows anybody to do. But he enjoys her presence and allows him to help him through his frustrations.
It is exactly one week after they took Vanya in that Sissy finds the house empty when she returns from the town. She holds a crate with food and other necessities in her hands as she pushes open the back door with her hip. She left Vanya and Harlan this morning in the living room, but neither of them are in the house when she returns.
Sissy hurries to the barn, knowing this is the last place where the two of them could move to on such a hot day. Before Sissy gets to open the door to the barn, she already hears the two of them inside and she lets out a sigh of worry.
Inside, Vanya and Harlan pulled an old feeding crib to the middle of the barn and filled it with water. There are small pieces of wood and stick floating through the improvised tub while Harlan steers them around, his wooden toys acting as captains of their own ships. Her son is sitting cross legged in the tub too while Vanya keeps a close eye on him from her spot in the tipped wheelbarrow next to it.
The scene is so serene and idyllic, Sissy takes a moment to take it all in.
“Back already?” Vanya asks her when she spots Sissy by the door.
“It was just a short trip.” Sissy answers. “I see you two are having fun?” Harlan, of course, doesn’t answer her and continues his focus on his toys. He holds his hands underwater, raises them and lets the droplets of water slide of his fingers, keenly following the ripples they make as they land back in the pool.
“We did.” Vanya answers for them both and Sissy agrees that the other woman looks more peaceful these days. She used to suffer from splitting headaches, but those have subsided over time. “…still no memories, though.”
Vanya answers the last past almost apoplectically. It’s an mostly unspoken question that looms over the family: when will Vanya’s memories return. They’ve had no luck so far with contacting any possible family members, a job that Carl has taken upon himself for now. He asks around and requests that his buddies who visit other towns ask around there too. Even if Vanya were some shipwrecked lady, there should’ve been more information than this by now. Shipwrecks leave proof: missing persons reports from nearby towns, washed up bodies and parts of the ships; something the beachcombers would have found by now.
Nothing alike that has happened yet. It seems like Vanya appeared on that beach out of nowhere, or fell overboard without anybody missing her. That one is a sad thing to think about; getting swept away from your ship and none of the crew miss you enough to announce it back on shore. It’s a theory Sissy hasn’t shared with Vanya yet. She imagines Carl must’ve had the same theory at one point or the other, but he has enough tact not to bring it up either.
So, in the end nobody broaches the topic and they all live in this stalemate of waiting. Waiting for somebody to contact them through the ad in the paper they sent out and waiting for Vanya’s memories to come back on their own.
Instead, Sissy turns over an old bucket and takes a seat close to the kiddie pool. The sun is burning hot outside, but the barn is cool and calm. She knows she’ll have to start with dinner preparations soon, but those can wait for a while. There is no haste.
So Sissy closes her eyes and relaxes.
Chapter 6: Adrift
Not all days are peaceful, though.
There are times where Sissy would work all day long and end her day exhausted in bed; she would sell wares on the market, keep the animals and tend to the house, do the chores and prepare their food. She would collect Carl from his late-night visits to the bar and deal with the scorn of the town. All while keeping an eye on Harlan, making sure he has everything he cannot ask for himself and fighting to keep his episodes low.
Sissy knows her boy is the most important part of her life. She could deal with all these hardships as long as she could be there for Harlan. But then, who would be there for her?
Having Vanya helps a lot.
Sissy knows she cannot rely on the woman too much, she might be gone soon and what would she do then? But Vanya helps her with dinner preparations and taking care of Harlan. She tends to the animals and fixes a leak in the kitchen roof. But aside from the physical help she provides, she’s also an huge emotional boost for Sissy.
Which is why it takes Sissy a while why some days just don’t feel right.
Not all days are cloudless skies and no-episodes, relaxing in the barn and drinking sweet tea while Harlan hums in peace. Instead, some days are filled with this indescribable sadness. A sadness that seems to be radiating from Vanya, spreading over the family whenever it goes on for too long.
Sometimes, Sissy would catch Vanya staring out overseas. Their barn is close enough to see the dunes from the back garden, the windows from the second floor can show you the blue ocean itself too. The sea is unescapable, always present in their lives this close to it. Vanya would stare outside with this forlorn look in her eyes, the emotion strong enough that Sissy can almost feel the homesickness pouring out of them. Even though Vanya has no memory of her family, she clearly still misses them.
What would it be like, to miss someone you cannot remember?
“Vanya, dear, would you mind helping me with the preparations for dinner?” Sissy asks her one late midday. Vanya has been in the backyard keeping an eye on Harlan, but her eyes keep straying to the horizon. Sissy isn’t worried about Harlan physically walking away, it’s the mental absence of their guest that worries her more right now.
Vanya startles and turns towards her, her blue eyes focussing in on her now and Sissy has to hold her breath until Vanya nods and breaks eye contact. What would it be like, to have someone long for her like Vanya longs for the ones she cannot remember?
“Sure.” Vanya answers as she stands. She lightly takes Harlan by the hand, the boy allowing Vanya to guide them both back inside. Vanya turns around towards Sissy once more with a sly smile on her face, clearly already forgetting about her homesickness: “Are you coming too, Sissy?”
Sissy snaps out of her own thoughts, returning Vanya’s smile. She’s glad she can still lift Vanya out of her sadness. The tasks on the farm are simple work, but it’s enough to keep their amnesiac guest busy. It keeps the homesickness at bay.
Vanya helps Harlan with his music boxes, winding up the mechanical toys until the familiar tones of the simple songs drift through the house. Sissy starts with collecting the vegetables for tonight’s dinner. By the time she has picked out enough potatoes, Vanya has joined her in the kitchen.
They talk about simple things; about the new barber’s family that moved in some time ago, the bouncers at the pub and the traders that travel from big cities. Sissy believes she’s distracting Vanya quite well, until she catches the woman looking through the window above the sink again.
The kitchen doesn’t even face the sea, but Sissy imagines it doesn’t even matter at this point: she can try to distract Vanya all she wants, but the woman is clearly adrift in her own head and feelings. The homesickness has clawed a way into her heart and won’t let Vanya go.
What would it be like, to miss something you cannot name?
Chapter 7: Rescued
Some things will be out of order. This original scene happens later in the season, but I thought it fitting for the prompt.
Vanya offers a picnic in the dunes.
Her nightmares had returned with an increasing rate, Carl had left for one of his long fishing trips and one of Harlan’s milk teeth had gotten lose. Needless to say, nobody had slept well the past few days in the Cooper family.
So they collect a blanket, a basket and Harlan’s toys and they prepare some food for lunch time. Eating outside would disrupt Harlan’s normal schedule, something he didn’t always like, but her boy loved the sea and dunes, so Sissy hopes he wouldn’t mind the change for once.
The dunes are perfect this time of year: the sun’s high enough to warm them even though the wind never rests this close to the sea. They walk over the created paths towards the sea, collect some sea shells and move a little bit back to escape the sharp winds. Harlan knows not to destroy the marram grass by walking on it, so he holds his hand over the plumes to feel their softness.
Vanya’s hair long black hair gets completely dishevelled by the winds and Sissy has to laugh at it. She imagines her hair isn’t any better, but its normal for a life like theirs. Sissy knows she’ll never live a life like the ladies and lords do; the chances of them becoming rich are just as well as the sea turning purple.
They settle down in a fold between the dunes, somewhere hidden from the wind, and they eat their lunch without plates or silverware. After that, Sissy lies down on the blanket, Vanya soon settling down next to her as Harlan plays with his wooden seal. His favourite used to be a duck, but that one clearly got usurped as The Best toy.
“Maybe we could visit one of the northern islands sometime,” Sissy states out of nowhere, “so Harlan can see a real seal for the first time.”
Vanya smirks at that, closing her eyes against the sun as she lies down. “That would be nice. So Mister Marley can finally see his family.” She jokes and Sissy grins as she closes her eyes too, enjoying the sounds around them and the warmth of the sun on her face.
They relax in silence for a while before Vanya breaks it: “I dreamed about a seal a few nights ago…”
“Oh?” Sissy turns towards her, but Vanya still has her eyes closed. The other woman never really talked about the dreams she suffered, but Sissy knew they weren’t pleasant. The dark circles under her eyes and their late night meetings told her enough about Vanya’s absence of a sleeping pattern.
“I dreamed I was in a lighthouse…I think it was a light house, at least…” Vanya tells her haltingly as Sissy stays quiet. “I was stuck in a room near the top and there were other people standing on the other side of a door… I couldn’t hear them and they probably couldn’t hear be either… but I really wanted to tell them something…but they couldn’t… or wouldn’t, maybe, open the door…I woke up before I could find out if I ever did tell them.”
Sissy doesn’t know what to say to that, but it doesn’t feel like Vanya needs empty reassurances. She mainly wants someone to talk to, something Sissy can understand.
“Sometimes…sometimes I think my dreams aren’t dreams at all.” Vanya continues. “What if they are memories instead? I don’t want any memories if they are negative ones…”
“Do you think those people, the people in your dreams, are your family?” Sissy asks.
Vanya shrugs, “If they are my family, I’m not sure I want to meet them. There is this man in my dreams…” she trails off. Both are quiet for a while and Sissy closes her eyes again. The sun doesn’t feel as warm anymore, though. After a minute of silence, Vanya speaks up again, this time with more determination in her voice.
“If these people are real and they are out there looking for me, I won’t endanger your family. I’ll leave before that happens.”
Sissy turns towards her, “What do you mean leave? What are you talking about?”
“Sissy,” Vanya says, “if there are people out there and they are dangerous somehow, I won’t let them harm you. Or Harlan. Or Carl. I’ll leave and make sure they won’t bother your family.”
Sissy knows this is a completely theoretical conversation, but she can feel herself panicking: Vanya leaving them? The idea sounds horrible. What would she do without Vanya?! She could not go back to living alone on a farm like she had before. Sure, she had Carl and Harlan, but the first was always away at sea and the second was her son who she needed to protect and guide. Going back to that life after she’s had Vanya to lean on sounded horrible.
“We can leave together!” Sissy offers. “We can take the cart and the rifle. Just us three, Carl wouldn’t even have to know. Just until whomever is looking for you has moved on from our town.”
“Sissy,” Vanya protests, “I cannot ask that of you. We have to think about Harlan-”
She stops her explanation as she looks up to the spot that previously held Harlan: empty. “Harlan?!” Vanya asks as they both shoot up from the blanket. Sissy immediately starts looking around for her boy, how could she have been so stupid! She should’ve kept an eye out on him, but instead she was worried about her own problems.
“You go that way, I’ll check the trail back towards home.” Sissy tells Vanya, and both women sprint away, yelling Harlan’s name as they go. Sissy finds her way back to the farm in record time, but her son is not there. Horrible thoughts cross her mind: what if he drowned in the waves, what if he was taken by someone, what if he heard their conversation and ran away?
Sissy turns around and runs back towards the sea. Running through dunes isn’t the easiest and by the time Sissy hits the beach, she’s winded. She hadn’t noticed how long they spent relaxing in the dunes, but it must’ve been quite some time judging by the tides. It shouldn’t become low tide until nightfall, but the sea has already retreated further than it ever has at this time of day.
And there, near the shore line, are two silhouettes sitting in the wet sand. Sissy yells in fear and runs towards them, the wet sand immediately soaking through her shoes. She drops down next to Vanya who’s holding a pale, completely soaked but otherwise alive Harlan in her arms.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you.” Is all she can mumble as she hugs her son and then both of them. Vanya’s dazed and still reasonably dry somehow, but Sissy doesn’t pay it any attention. She hugs them both until her fear has abated and they’re all shivering near the surf.
She carries Harlan back towards their picnic in the dunes, wrapping the blanket around him while Vanya collects the other items in silence. They’re all ready to go back home. Sissy looks back towards the sea one more time, struck by the thought that she could’ve lost her son today if Vanya hadn’t rescued him from drowning.
Strange, she thinks as she stares at the waves, that the tide has returned to where it should be.
Chapter 8: Landlocked
Let's meet Luther :)
“Snack time!” Vanya yells from the porch.
Sissy looks up from her work with the laundry, checking the sun to see that, yes, it truly is that late already. Harlan skips past her, his fingers running along the clothes on the line. When he reaches Vanya, he stops in front of her mimicking his desire for hide-and-seek. Vanya immediately gets it, something not a lot of people can, something Sissy likes her for even more.
“One game,” Sissy tells the two of them, “I’ll finish setting up inside.” Harlan skips off immediately and Vanya starts counting out loud. Sissy cannot suppress her smile as she walks inside towards the kitchen.
Sissy is once again pleasantly surprised how well Vanya fits in with them. She’s an excellent conversationalist, better than Carl or the ladies in Church. She likes and perfectly understands Harlan and his mute requests, and Harlan likes her back just as well. She teases and indulges Carl with his crazy fishing stories and-
Sissy’s thoughts halt in her mind as she looks outside of the kitchen window: there’s an empty cart parked around the side of their terrain. It is not one they own and Sissy doesn’t recognize the horse in front of it either. There’s nobody standing at the front door either, which is when the alarm bells in Sissy’s head start ringing. Robbers? Rapists? Pirates?
She quickly grabs the rifle they keep hidden in one of the cupboards. Sissy’s glad she managed to convince Carl to store the thing downstairs instead of their bedroom where Harlan can reach everything. She makes her rounds through the farm, forgoing the rooms upstairs for now; she needs to find Harlan and Vanya.
Sissy moves towards the barn where she can hear voices coming from: one is clearly Vanya’s and the other probably belongs to a man, a low timbre with an accent she cannot place.
“I let you down.” She hears the man say. Sissy has no idea what he wants, but his next words aren’t very reassuring. “I did horrible things, things I’m not proud of… when I could’ve tried helping you instead. I thought it was my job to keep everyone safe and I…I just made it all worse.”
“I never wanted to be the bad guy.” The man says as Sissy slowly loads the shotgun with a single bullet. She tries to make no noise but she wants to act before the man ends his stupid monologue. Vanya stammers something, clearly not knowing what the man is going on about – how could she, she barely speaks to anyone outside of their family. Sissy halts her actions when the voice takes on a sharp tone.
“…You’re landlocked, aren’t you?”
It’s a weird question to ask and Sissy strains her ears to hear the next part. “That’s why you weren’t able to return to us. Who has it, Vanya? Who?! Tell me and I’ll break their necks. I should’ve protected you before, it was my fault you were taken from us. I’ll make it up to you, I swear.”
The mention of violence is Sissy’s cue to step in, she puts the butt of the rifle against her shoulder and steps inside the barn. That moment is apparently also the moment Harlan choses to emerge from his hiding place. Her son has clearly knowns she was there, ready to run towards her the moment he saw her. The distraction gives Sissy the time she needs to assess the situation in the barn: a giant of a man stands in front of Vanya, muscles poorly hidden under an old fisherman’s overcoat, his blond hair shorn short and his back to the door which exposes the handgun in his back pocket to Sissy. She does not want him to pull his weapon, but she’s lucky: the man is distracted enough by Vanya pulling back Harlan. She’s glad the woman can grab her son before he sprints across the barn towards her, she doesn’t want Harlan any closer to this stranger than he has to be.
“…Who’s the kid?” the man asks confused.
“He’s mine.” Sissy puts in all the ferocity she can muster. “And you have ten seconds to explain what you’re doing here.”
Slowly, the man turns around, reaches in his back pocket and pulls out a leather wallet. Sissy immediately recognizes it as theirs. “From your husband. I found it at our bar.”
Sissy assesses the situation for a moment, but then lowers her rifle. She snatches the wallet from the man’s hand and he lets it go without a fuss. “Next time, use the front door.” She tells him, more bite in her voice than she probably needs. Vanya and Harlan are still standing frozen in the back of the barn, Harlan with straw in his hair and Vanya with unshed tears in her eyes.
The man turns around one more time towards Vanya: “Are you happy here? …Do you want to stay?”
Vanya doesn’t say a thing, but she raises her chin in defiance, strengthening her hold on Harlan even more. The man nods, as if her non-answer is enough of an explanation for him. Maybe it is.
Then he leaves.
Chapter 9: Fury
Five hates getting stranded.
Salt always got everywhere; up in his nose, the back of his throat, in his feathers, in his hair and basically everywhere if he wasn’t fast enough towelling it off. The second worst thing is that Five has no idea where he is. For someone who was always aware of his own location and the space around him, getting shipwrecked always messed with his calculations for his next spatial jump. He felt like a navigator who didn’t know where they were, even though the stars were right above them.
The third annoying thing about getting stranded was that people always stared at you.
Five brushed off the sand off his shorts as he took in his surroundings: he washed ashore on some beach. There was sand, dunes, sea and seagulls as far as the eye could see. And then there was some small hut, nestled between the dunes, the owner openly staring at Five through a pair of binoculars.
He stops looking the moment Five stares back at him, closing the blinds of his hut immediately. Five is ninety-nine percent sure the man is nothing but a simple human, but it’s worth investigating, especially if he wants to find his family. He steps up towards the hut, shaking more sand and crusted salt off his clothing in the process – Five really hates getting shipwrecked.
“Hello there!” Five forces his voice to sound as pleasant as possible, but he knows it’s not much. Allison was always better at talking to humans. “I am looking for a place to sell my sea shells, would you be interested?”
The door opens just a crack and Five thinks he actually got somewhere with the man, but then the dude opens his mouth: “Not interested, try Dallas.” and he slams the door shut again. Five sighs, counts to ten hoping he’s oriented himself enough to make a small jump…and teleports inside, scaring the man shirtless in the process.
“The Fury!” The man yells out in a panic, stumbling backwards and crooking his fingers in some old hand sign, probably to ward off evil. Yup, this man is nothing but a basic human, Five thinks.
“Harpy,” Five corrects the man with a grin, “but close enough.” Five glances around the hut, taking in the scavenged materials that litter literally everywhere. There are ropes of stringed sea glass, weathered tree stumps in weird shapes, shells the size of coconuts, real coconuts too, and crates and crates filled with other weird stuff. Klaus and Allison would have a field trip shopping for spell components and pretty baubles.
“What- What are you?!” the man asks. “Are you one of them?! Merfolk? Fair folk? Small folk?!” he rambles on, shaking an bread knife at Five.
“Is that fresh water?” the Harpy asks, pointing at the pitcher of water standing on the table and ignoring the man completely. He teleports towards it, just to show off a little bit more. Gods below, he’s thirsty. There’s a weird contraption standing under the table. Five has seen things like it before: they’re supposed to clean saltwater and make it drinkable. This one seems to be made with an… an amethysts and silver wire.
Okay, so this human might know more about their world than Five originally thought: humans shouldn’t know how to use silver and gems like that, yet the water tastes clean and fresh. He takes another look around the hut and spots things he hadn’t have seen before: there are functional protection runes engraved in the floor, salt lines decorate the window sills, Spriggan teeth are stringed among the sea glass and there’s a glass case with pinned ‘dragonfly’ wings which might actually be from fairies.
“You…you know about the Summer Court?” Five asks him. “Atlantis?” The man scoffs and then his face shifts through a mirage of emotions, too fast for Five to follow.
“I KNEW it!” He yells as he spins around in a victory dance before he begins his rambling: “It’s all true, isn’t it?! Eleanor wouldn’t believe, said my head was strung too tight, but it’s all true, right?! The Changelings? Mermaids? Werewolves?”
Five keeps his mouth shut; yes, those creatures all exist, but usually not in the way the humans think they do. He’s not sure if he should share that much with the man yet. “Well, the truth is out there.” Five says cryptically, knowing the man wouldn’t understand the reference about the Dryad hiding in her Well. It’s a stupid Telchines joke, after all.
“No, no, no,” the man mumbles, “the truth is right here.” And he stares at Five, probably looking for any sign of magic on the boy. There isn’t anything for a human to see, Five knows. He always makes sure to keep his feathers and wings hidden away from view, taking on a more human look like their father taught all of them to do around the ‘basics’.
“Tell me,” the man continues with an intense look in his eyes, “why do most monsters only take the children?”
Five grinds his teeth together, already disliking his own idea of indulging the man. “Children are the only humans we can tolerate most of the time.” He bites out. The man immediately backs off, luckily smart enough to know when a line has been crossed.
Five walks over to the window with its salt line; very effective for annoying Small Folk. There are several types of binoculars and an honest to gods Telescope standing near the window. “You use those often?” Five asks, hoping the man saw the others land on the beach too.
“Yes, yes,” the man nods, “waiting for signs, yes.”
“Signs of what?”
“Signs of your type, of course. I was scavenging through the dunes one morning when some bright light flashed over the bay. Then, I spotted the sea creature that floated on the waves towards this beach. When it gained consciousness, it transformed into a man and started talking to thing air, probably seeing things I couldn’t.
Klaus and Ben, Five thinks. Good to hear that their magic user isn’t completely alone in this place. Hopefully, Ben would keep Klaus safe.
“Then, I saw it happen five times, five strong flashes and each time something stranded on this beach. So I set up my hut and decided to see who else would find their way here. It must be some weird anomaly, ley lines or something.”
Do I look like a Ley Line, Five thinks, but he doesn’t say it out loud. He’s convinced that it’s best to share as little as possible about their world, this man will fill in the blanks for himself – wrong, of course.
“Did you get a close look of them?” Five asks and the man nods, shuffling around the hut. He grabs a pair of boots from a crate…boots Five recognizes as Diego’s.
“The confused pirate wore these when he came ashore. I think he got himself locked in jail in Dallas, not surprising when he was looking like that.”
Five frowns, what would be wrong with Diego’s looks? Sure, it wasn’t like Five would ever wear a pirate’s gab- ah, the idiot went running around town looking like a true pirate. Got himself locked up within twenty-four hours probably. “Wait, then how did you come by these shoes?”
The man gives him a confused look. “I’m a beach comber…and a part time dumpster diver: the sheriffs office threw them away. They smell horrible.”
Five admits that the smell sure isn’t positive. The Harpy stares at the shoes, lost in his own thoughts before he decides on a plan. “Okay, listen to me-”
“Elliot, my name is Elliot”
“Whatever,” Five continues, “I need to find them and I have ten days until something… bad is going to happen. And I need your help to fix it.” Elliot gapes at him some more.
“And my first step will be a visit to my brother in human jail.”
Chapter 10: Message in a bottle
Scandinavian folklore is filled with water spirits, Trolls and other creatures. A very fitting home for these Swedish guys…
The Nokken usually prefer working alone.
The three who had temporarily taken residence inside of Miss Norris’ house had been together ever since their youth and didn’t know any different. The original owner of the house they were staying in, Miss Norris, hadn’t been seen for a few days now, but since nobody on the street actually liked the old lady, she wasn’t a great loss to anyone yet. In a few weeks, someone would probably check in on her, concerned about her many hungry cats eating out of the garbage.
These Nokken would be long gone by then. That was how they worked: receive a new contact, stalk the prey, dispose of them in the most convenient way possible and move on. Their favourite method was still drowning: luring humans to the lakesides or rivers with pretty music or scolding taunts and pushing them under until they stopped breathing. Simple, effective and never boring. These Days, a simple bullet or knife would do the job just as well.
These three didn’t really care the reasons behind the requested murders, but having an outside instigator shifted the blame of the murder away from them, which was always nice. Some targets had been magical beings like they were and their benefactor wasn’t someone a lot of magical creatures dared to cross. Therefore, repercussion for murdering a Dryad or whatever never bothered them.
This most stable client had been providing them with interesting cases for well over a decade now, which they thoroughly enjoyed. The killing itself was a reward enough and the added income of a steady source of magic was a nice bonus.
A Nokken could be patient when it was needed, but preferred to be on the move if there wasn’t anything to kill around them. Playing games of knife chicken wasn’t nearly as fun when you already knew your brother wouldn’t back away from the threat. Which is why the three in Miss Norris’ home were glad when another message in a bottle found its way to them.
It was a simple thing: green glass with an waxen stopper and a message inside. They had once smashed the whole bottle to get to the piece of paper inside, but The Witch hadn’t liked that, so now the three Nokken took their time prying open the bottle and shaking the message out. The bottle, when emptied and put away, would disappear and magically return to the sender. Again, the three didn’t know why The Witch was so adamant on having her bottles returned, but she’d gone out of her way to tell them to not break them again or she would put a curse on the piece of glass.
The three Nokken gathered around the table as their eldest pried the message through the bottleneck. The rolled up parchment contained a simple name: Vanya Hargreeves.
The name would be enough. In the last decade, there hadn’t been a single human they couldn’t find. This one would be dead before the end of the week.
Chapter 11: Scales
In canon, Harlan’s drowning results in Sissy and Vanya’s first kiss. That won’t happen in this chapter yet, so join me into a little bit more of slow burn.
Life changes slowly for the Cooper family.
Sissy doesn’t notice it at first -or maybe she doesn’t want to see it- but their accident at the beach somehow fundamentally changed their little household.
Carl doesn’t appear to be too fazed when Sissy tells him about the almost drowning of their only son. He’s somehow convinced it couldn’t have been a big accident if all family members are still alive and breathing. So Carl falls asleep almost immediately when they go to bed that night, but Sissy keeps tossing and turning, still shocked that she could’ve lost Harlan today. Shocked that Carl isn’t chocked, if that makes any sense.
Sissy doesn’t know how long she stays awake before she decides to check in on Harlan. She just has to see him; know that he’s safe and sleeping just a room away. Harlan isn’t drowning at the bottom of the ocean, he’s at home and safe in his room, she tells herself as she stealthily makes her way to his room.
Sissy isn’t surprised when she finds Vanya already keeping watch in Harlan’s room. The woman is leaning against the dresser while her boy is sleeping in his bed, hidden under the covers except for the crown of his head. Vanya blinks, waking up a little bit more as she notices Sissy standing in the door opening. She gives Sissy a guilty smile, clearly uncertain if she was allowed in Harlan’s room in the first place. Sissy doesn’t understand how Vanya can still think she isn’t welcome in their lives; this is the woman that saved her son just hours ago.
Sissy takes the spot next to Vanya and hugs her tightly. She can feel Vanya holding her breath for a second before she relaxes in Sissy’s hold. Vanya isn’t always the easiest with physical contact, but Sissy’s willing to wait until Vanya learns. So she only relaxes her hold slightly so they can settle in a bit more comfortably against the wood of the dresser.
They don’t say a thing to each other, not wanting to wake up Harlan, so they watch the rising and falling of her son’s breathing in silence. This is how it should be, Sissy thinks. If Carl was more interested in being there for his son -for his family- he’d be the one sitting next to her. Harlan should sleep in their bed after such an harrowing experience, but her husband had vetoed that idea during dinner. But Sissy isn’t angry at Carl for that, she hasn’t been angry at Carl in a long time, which might say a lot about her she isn’t willing to think about yet.
But Harlan is still here, alive and well, and Vanya’s sitting next to her, another person who cares enough about her son to stay at his bedside without prompting. Sissy knows their family is alienated from the town: Harlan cannot go to school and she’s locked at home with him, Carl works but she knows his social circle in town does not reach further than the guys he works with and the bartender.
Vanya has easily and quickly found her way to the top of Sissy’s priorities in her life. She’s willing to go as far as saying that Vanya’s found herself a place in Sissy’s heart. It’s a thought that scares her. Mostly, because it’s new: Sissy knows she lives in a small and sheltered world, so anyone entering that world would surely rock it to its foundations. And Vanya might still leave.
And that’s the worst thought: Vanya has no memories, but she might leave them the moment they return. Some husband or sister might visit the farm, claim a relationship with Vanya and take the woman away. Sissy knows she cannot ask Vanya to stay when that happens. It’s unfair and Sissy wouldn’t want to take Vanya’s happiness away from her.
Vanya has given her so much in the last weeks: an helping hand at the farm, someone Harlan can trust, a person she can confide in, but above all, Vanya has given her happiness. Sissy’s life is so much brighter with Vanya in it, she doesn’t know how she could’ve lived without it all those years.
Which is exactly why Sissy cannot keep Vanya here indefinitely. She cannot take away the happiness of the woman who has given her so much in return. That wouldn’t be fair, so Sissy doesn’t ask Vanya to stay with them again like she had done on the beach. She swears she won’t do I, ever. If Vanya wants to stay, it should be her own choice.
So the two woman drowse off, but keep vigil of the sleeping boy in the room with them.
The next morning, Carl leaves early for another long day out at sea. Sissy, Harlan and Vanya stay indoors, ready to have a quiet day for once. They watch Harlan play in the living room, read some books and prepare for dinner that night. The weather has been good the last few days, enough rain and sun for their small vegetable garden and Sissy doesn’t have to visit the town to buy them anything else that day.
That night, Harlan eats two portions of fish, probably still strengthening from his almost drowning. Vanya even gives him a part of her portion, the woman still lost in thought. Vanya has been quiet ever since yesterday and Sissy wonders what’s bothering the woman. She hasn’t once seemed homesick today, but she’s still distracted and lost in thought.
The following days after that follow in a similar pattern, but small changes happen. Things Sissy will only connect after…everything.
Their nearby neighbours suddenly come to visit, asking the Cooper family for water from their rain barrel. “Why?” Sissy asks. Their neighbours never come to visit them for such small reasons, but apparently the surrounding farms are all stuck in a drought. They fear destroyed crops, but Sissy wonders if they’re exaggerating as she stares at their filled water ton and the green crops in their garden.
Carl complains about the wild seas and overabundance of sharks in the bay - whenever he isn’t late or drunk. Sissy notices she has less and less patience with her husband. She doesn’t want to fight with him, but her temper is easily found and Carl doesn’t seem to notice or care. They bicker whenever they talk and Sissy’s glad whenever he leaves for work every morning. She doesn’t want to fight or bicker, especially not in front of Harlan. She’s glad Vanya can distract him or take him to another room whenever it happens.
Vanya and Harlan have grown closer too. The boy’s near-drowning has brought the two of them together and Sissy’s glad for it. Harlan is more tactile; hugging Vanya whenever they sit down, holding her hand as they walk through town. At first, Sissy thinks it’s Harlan that needs the reassurance, but then she notices their friendship definitely runs both ways. The mute boy offering comfort for the amnesiac woman.
Vanya seems even more homesick whenever they visit the beach, staring off in the distance lost in thought. Somehow, Sissy knows the woman wants to leave. The look in Vanya’s eyes tells her enough, but something’s keeping her back. Maybe it’s her lack of memories, not knowing where to go. Maybe it’s Sissy and Harlan she doesn’t want to leave behind.
She’s worried that the experience might’ve made Harlan frightened of the sea. It would be bad if her child distrusts the water when they’re living this close to the sea, but she doesn’t have to worry about it: Vanya takes the three of them on a visit to the water and quickly coaches Harlan to enjoy the sea again. The two play in the water for hours.
Actually, Harlan has never enjoyed the sea this much before, jumping in the waves and running along the shore. He asks to visit the beach every other day too, in his own unique way: a low hiss between his teeth, as if he’s mimicking the crashing of the waves. He continues the noise whenever they’re on the beach too, as if he’s in a conversation with the waves.
“I wonder what they’re talking about.” Sissy tries to joke with Vanya, hoping a conversation would distract the woman from her homesickness. Vanya laughs awkwardly, but looks fearfully at the boy standing in the surf.
Sissy wonders why, but she’s too far away to see the scales shimmering on her boy’s feet and ankles, appearing wherever the salt water hits his skin.
Chapter 12: Fresh water
Time to meet numbers One and Two: the brother who’s myth originated from a freshwater lake and the Pirate brother who has been stuck in prison, receiving nothing but freshwater and dry bread.
I wanted to add more folklore in the story, so Diego and Luther both have a more magical reason for getting stuck in jail and bouncer duty, respectively. Both Ravenser Odd and various legends of Sea monsters/Leviathans eating towns are real, so you can look them up.
Whoops, I managed to finish my thesis this week, but I completely forgot I ran out of queued chapters, my bad
Staying with a beach comber has its perks.
Five has to remind himself a lot of this fact, because staying with a beach comber also has its distractions and annoyances. Sure, Elliott knows the basics of the magical world and Five doesn’t have to explain to the human what he needs a dowsing rod for, but the human is also convinced that there’s a Dryad living in a scavenged root stump he keeps in the corner of his room. He has a sharp memory and can describe Five’s other family members he saw, but Five has to convince himself not to glue the man’s mouth shut after that. Humans are so…jittery, Five thinks.
Five never got along with humans, the only humans he stayed in close contact with over the years were their father and Diego. Although, both of these men weren’t completely human either. Diego could hold his breath indefinitely and had a sharper aim than the best Pirate Five ever met. And their father…well, Five never figured out what the old man’s deal was. Ben had once said their father didn’t smell truly human…
Five shakes the thoughts away and follows the last stretch of his trek towards Dallas. He throws the dowsing rod away before he enters town, using simple magics in broad daylight wasn’t the smartest play in a town filled with basic humans.
Five finds the small Sheriff’s office within no time and Five steps inside with confidence. There’s a young boy filing his nails at the desk who sits up straight the moment Five walks in.
“Can I help you?” the boy asks.
Five puts on another fake smile, “Yes, I’m looking for my brother. This tall, tanned skin, black hair and he never listens to it, but his name is Diego.” Recognition shows in the boys eyes and the takes Five further into the office to an empty room. They bring in a chained Diego some minutes after.
Diego doesn’t look too shabby, but their brother’s definitely not happy with the prisoner’s uniform and shackles.
“…Five. Good of you to finally show up. They’ve been feeding me nothing but freshwater and stale bread here.” Diego sends a sour look to the boy still standing in the corner of the room. It’s enough to get the boy to leave, offering them the privacy they might need.
“How did you know I’d be back?” Five asks him.
“Because that’s the type of shit you pull.” Diego almost growls at him in annoyance.
Five ignores him, “Where are the others?” Diego freezes on that question. “They’re not with you?” he asks. The two brothers stare at each other for a second.
“We’ll find them…How long have you been here?”
“75 days. I landed in a bay-” “-to the south just out of town? I landed there this morning.”
“How did you find me?”
“A little bird told me,” Five answers cryptically, not wanting to give all his cards away yet, “they said you were captured for armed robbery of the High Richter’s House. Apparently, Dallas has a Richter from the Oswalds family. Tell me, Diego, would that per chance be the same Oswald that sinks Ravenser Odd?”
The look of shock-turned-annoyance on Diego’s face tells Five enough.
It was pure luck they travelled back in time to the place where a younger Harvey Oswald would grow up to become a Pirate. Five knew Diego would see this as fate, their second brother had always had an affinity for other Pirates and vagabonds. And they all grew up with the sunken Pirate city of Ravenser Odd, a place that was a safe haven where the mundane humans and magical creatures could coexist. And here was Oswald, a man who would end up forming a pact with a Leviathan sea monster and let the thing swallow Ravenser Odd. Some say it was in retaliation for something, others say Oswald just lost control of the Leviathan one day. Nobody knows for sure.
Five always liked the first version more. Not because he liked the idea of violence, but for the fact that Ben hated the second: a Warlock or Sea Sorcerer accidentally letting lose a Leviathan wasn’t a story for Ben but a real possibility. But for Diego to mess with the timeline this much?
“Why?” is the only thing Five asks after some silence.
“Lets just say Dallas hasn’t been very receptive of my plan to save the thousand soon to be dead inhabitants of Ravenser Odd.”
“That’s because it hasn’t happened yet!” Five hisses as quiet as possible.
“And it’s not going to happen.” And Diego babbles on about his plan to stop the Warlock and its Leviathan from drowning a whole city. The Harpy tries to interject with his own plan to stop the Apocalypse, but Diego won’t listen. Five slowly comes to the conclusion visiting Diego was a mistake: the Pirate won’t help him stop the Apocalypse.
“I’ve heard enough,” Five says as he stands up, “guards, my brother here is clearly a criminal -trying to escape by the way- and I won’t be paying for his bail.”
Diego protests some more, but Five’s already out the door.
The next person he finds, by pure accident, is Luther. Or maybe it’s not an accident, since Five knows the Oswald legend and if Oswald the Sea Warlock lives here, then his final nemesis won’t be far away either. The legends did always say both Oswald and Captain Jack Ruby came from the same small seafaring town. In the future two would fight their last duel after years of friction on the sea. Oswald would unleash the Leviathan on Ruby’s headquarters in Ravenser Odd and Ruby would shoot the Warlock straight through his brains, thus Cursing his own life.
Captain Jack Ruby apparently owns the only big bar in Dallas, hiding his less legal activities behind the smoke screen of giggling girls, good alcohol and loud music. Ruby also has a giant of a man working as a bouncer in his bar: Luther. Five wants to drop his face on the bar table when he finds out. Of course his two brainrot brothers would find a way to weasel themselves into important history. Why did Five’s powers drop them in the town that holds both Oswald the Sea Warlock and Captain Jack Ruby?
“She’s too young for you.” Luther jokes at Five when he finally approaches him. There’s a wench dancing and singing on top of one of the tables close to him, but Five pays her no mind.
“How long have you been here?” Five asks him instead.
“A year,” Luther answers, “thanks to you. I thought everybody was dead!” Okay, so the other man is clearly angry at him, Five can understand. Luther doesn’t look much older, but then again Grendels age very different. They live for a very long time, not aging at all and then death just catches up with them one day.
Five gives his brother another once-over and comes to the shocking conclusion that Luther seems to be doing alright: He seems healthy and has clearly started up a new life on land after getting stranded here. Their Number One was the only sibling originating from freshwater, the others all coming from the sea. Of course Luther wouldn’t mind being stuck on land like the others might.
There’s some commotion happening behind Five and Luther’s already standing up to take care of it.
“Luther wait,” Five stops him from walking away, back to his day job of protecting a Pirate Captain, “I get it, you’re not alone. I know what it feels like to be stuck in time, not knowing where you are and what to do. So we must work together!”
Five continues, trying to convince Luther to come with him. “We have to find the others, because the world is ending in ten days, again… and I have no idea how to stop it.”
Luthe looks down on Five from where he’s standing and Five wonders if he’s grown another inch in the time he’s been stuck here in Dallas. But the thought gets interrupted when Luther gives him his final answer:
“I don’t give a shit.” And walks away.
Chapter 13: Tropical
Klaus and Allison drink a tropical drink upon their first meeting in years.
Am I too much of an D&D nerd and does this show in my fanfics? Yes. Yes, aparently I am. There *definitely* is a difference between enchantment and divination, though.
(But Klaus isn’t a true DnD Sea Hag, don’t worry. I just like the idea of a young Klaus struggling with his powers and a young Hag being powerless until they’re thirteen.)
The life of a solitary Hag isn’t easy and Klaus could tell you all about it.
Usually, Hags (or Sea Hags or Sea Witches, depending on who you ask) live and work in a Coven with others like them. Likeminded Hags and simple sea life that protect bays, coral fields and cliff caverns. Klaus, on the other hand, got stuck with the weirdest family of a Coven: all types of sea creatures put together on a ship by their dear father. Klaus was sure he never would’ve met some of his siblings if it weren’t for their father’s weird obsession with them.
‘The Umbrella’ had been their home ever since Klaus could remember, the ship their base of operations with their dear father as captain. Klaus was the lonely Hag among the siblings, yet his life has never been lonely.
That could be explained by two things, Klaus reasoned. One: Hags were able to see the dead and the seas were filled with dead things. Dead mermaids, dead monsters, dead seamen and dead whales. The sea was the oldest place on Earth, the starting point where life originated from and all. Death was everywhere here.
Point two: Hags had the annoying ability to draw in normal people like anglerfish draw in smaller prey. Except he couldn’t turn off his fucking lure. Klaus didn’t know what it was, but these baseline humans were just obsessed with magic. They shouldn’t be able to smell it (Klaus was certain they couldn’t) but there was still something that drew them in to magic users. They probably didn’t even know what it was themselves, the weirdo’s.
Which is how Klaus accidentally found himself with a whole group of humans when he set foot ashore after getting stranded by Five’s failed time traveling experiment. Most basic humans were just like tiger sharks: easily convinced of everything you tell them, but not having the long term memory to actually remember most of it correctly. Humans were weird like that.
Klaus travelled south with a group of them, sightseeing through tropical lands without actually having to pay for anything. They slept under the stars and as guests by whatever human had been convinced by the idea of wanting to join Klaus’ human cult. It hadn’t been Klaus’ idea to start a cult, but it had just kind of…happened. Honestly, the only one convinced it was a cult was Ben, who nagged Klaus constantly to let the humans go. Getting rid of his following sounded great to Klaus. The Hag just didn’t know how to convince the humans to stop following him!
When Klaus lived with the Umbrella Crew, it never was his job to converse with the humans. That was a job for their father, Number Three or even Number One. No one ever tried to take him on shore missions that involved contacting humans. Klaus visited the lands before, but it was only when he got accidentally stranded with the navy that Klaus really spent an intensive period of time on land. ‘Shore leave’ Dave called it, which was a weird name when you went towards the shores instead of leaving them. But Shore leave with Dave hadn’t been that bad…
“-telling me you haven’t?” Allison asks him.
Klaus blinks, shaking the memories of Dave away. Even their sudden reunion with Allison couldn’t fully distract Klaus from memories of Dave. He hasn’t seen his sister in over three years and they’re only just catching up on their lives, chilling on the edge of Klaus’ pool at his expensive-but-never-paid-for mansion.
At the other edge of the pool, Ben’s rolling his eyes at him. Their dead brother’s very aware of where Klaus’ thoughts must’ve drifted off to. Allison, their dear but oblivious sister, clearly has no idea and is still waiting for an answer to a question Klaus never heard.
“…what?” he asks her as he takes another sip of his cocktail. Allison does know how to make a killer mix, something she must’ve picked up in her last three-ish years on shore. Alison rolls her eyes at his distracted state of mind and repeats her question.
“I asked if you found anyone else during your travels.”
Klaus shakes his head, knowing this is not the answer Allison wants to hear, but it’s the truth. Klaus and Ben searched for days, running around town and checking the sea area around Dallas, but no luck. Allison’s and Klaus and Ben’s crash happened about a year apart, who knows when the others landed. Who knows where the others landed, that their landing place happened to be the same beach doesn’t mean the others would’ve landed there too.
“Have you?” Klaus asks, even though he already knows the answer; Allison shakes her head. “Have you tried calling out to them with magic?” he asks. Sirens have the best type of magic, better than Hags Klaus’ convinced. Their voices carry through the weave of Magic itself and can charm about any creature. Not only that, but they carry very far, further than whale calls. Allison could’ve contacted any magical creature up and down the west coast and organized a search by now.
“… but you couldn’t.” Klaus answers his own question, watching Allison’s face fall.
“I haven’t used my powers for years. Not since…” she lets her voice trail off, but Klaus remembers. He remembers it like yesterday: finding Allison bleeding out in the cabin on the cliffs, rushing her back towards The Umbrella to save her. She hadn’t been able to talk back then, something that almost cost them everything.
Klaus is sure Allison would’ve been able to calm Vanya down at the music hall, to stop her from upsetting the seas so much it caused a new Great Flood. Or she could’ve forced Luther to open the bunker room on top of their father’s lighthouse and let Vanya out sooner. Pogo and Mom would still be alive if it weren’t for the collapse of the lighthouse.
But then again, Allison isn’t the only Umbrella member with magic skills. There could’ve been a lot of other things Klaus could’ve done to stop the end of the world: not throw away that damned pelt during their dad’s funeral, for one…
“I couldn’t speak for a year,” Allison tells him, “but I actually really like the person I am without magic. Everything I have, I’ve earned and that feels really good.”
“She does look happier.” Ben piques up. His brother proudly looks at the sister that cannot even hear him, but Klaus agrees. Allison looks more confident, more herself, now that she’s actually found a place in the real world. Klaus knows she faked being in control of her life during their dad’s funeral, but just like the others, Allison had been lost and pretending to get by. She seems to be honest now, though.
“We should focus on finding the others. We’re stronger with tree.”
Klaus knows Ben means it, but he probably also want to distract the Hag from his plan to find Dave. A plan Klaus doesn’t want to give up yet. But having Allison with them does offer some advantages, so Klaus scrambles out of the pool, drenching Allison’s dress a bit more as he drags his sister to a standing position.
“Let’s make a deal, you and I.” Klaus tells her. “I think we still have some nice bottles of red in the cellar and I need your help with something.”
“Klaus, where are-”
“You have an husband in jail, right? I think I know just the guy who could help us with that. In the meantime, let us start with a little potion work- I know what you said: no magic, but this isn’t you doing it. This is you helping me with some divination spells.”
Allison lets herself be dragged inside the mansion, struggling only for the show of it.
“Some old potion work?” she asks him with a smile and Klaus grins back at her. Divination work and potions are not the same as Siren charms, but it’s something both Hags and Sirens are good at.
“Just like old times.” Klaus smiles.
Chapter 14: Vintage
Very disappointed to learn that the Six witches of Sesame street isn’t an universal song.
Also sorry for the delay in chapters! Life caught up to me and I might not finish this story in May
Klaus drags Allison further inside the mansion.
He never liked the place, it was a gift from some rich human who completely believed his ‘Spiritual Messages from the Cosmos’ that were nothing but vague predictions of the future and some well weaved charms. But the place does have its usefulness: an hiding place from his cult and an excellent wine provision.
“Ben, don’t disappear on me, I need you in a minute-”
“Wait, Ben is here?” Allison asks, looking around the room as if she’s trying to spot their brother. Her eyes slide over Ben walking right beside her. Ben’s still smiling at Allison, happy to see someone from their childhood. Klaus never knew Allison and Ben to hang out together when they were younger, but number two and six always had a certain understanding.
“Yup.” Klaus answers as he walks them towards the kitchen. “Ben and I can get your husband out of jail, after we’re done here. tell me again, why was my brother in law stuck in jail again?”
Allison sounds distracted as she explains it, still looking around the room for Ben. “We’re organizing a sit-in in a diner in Dallas. My husband and I are supposed to be there, but they arrested him on some bullshit charges and I cannot get him out.”
“Are we gonna…?” Ben asks with a shit-eating grin on his face and Klaus gives him a nod. Slowly, Klaus has been gaining control over the necromantic side of his powers, making Ben or other ghosts visible for the living. Ben could actually interact and touch objects for short periods of time, an huge improvement compared to the last fifteen years. Klaus liked seeing Ben happy and Ben adores using this new power to mess with the humans. Yes, they can probably find a way to get Allison’s husband out of human jail.
Klaus has begun grabbing the needed ingredients for the first part of their plan, but he frowns as he hears Allison’s story again. Klaus has the advantage of changing his looks, it’s an innate power of Hags. He can look like whatever the humans around him find most pleasant or unpleasant. Sirens on the other hand, can only change the lower half of their body: scaled tail or bipedal legs. Sure, Sirens always look beautiful to the human eye, but humans are also the most racist creatures on land. They somehow got it into their heads to discriminate among their own kind: skin colour, race, orientation, religion, or whatever other bullshit reason the humans could find.
Sure, Centaur clans fought among themselves too sometimes and Devils and Demons had their never ending Blood War. But none of them discriminated the another on their fucking skin colour. That was the most useless way of creating conflict.
“Okay,” Klaus grabs several bottles of the good wine from their cellar, “I think I can help you with that problem.” He already has a plan forming in his head. “But I need your help with something else first.”
Allison stares with a pained expression at the bottles of wine, kitchen salt, dried herbs and giant stock pot Klaus collected for them. “Klaus… I told you I don’t use my powers anymore.”
“But you won’t have to use yours,” Klaus hopes he sounds convincing, “you’ll only help me amplify mine.” Because that’s the thing with their magic: Hags and Sirens both know how to work a charm or a simple illusion, but there are innate differences between the two which makes them specialized in different subjects of magic. And Klaus needs Allison if he wants the first step of his plan to work.
Klaus’ powers were always better at creating protective runes, lucky charms and talismans. ‘Gris-gris’ is what some humans call it. He could’ve lived a simple life near the shore; offering advice and charms to the visiting merfolk, protecting a bay and its ocean life, helping the nice humans and cursing the bad. His powers were never made for the hectic missions of the Umbrella.
Neither were Allison’s Siren skills, but she made do with what she had: training her voice to be a weapon, gaining skills with several weapons and hand-to-hand combat. Sirens were adaptive like that, but it wasn’t the life she was meant to life either. The Sirens Klaus met along his travels in the last years were carefree and happy, living among big families of dolphins, sharks and other Sirens. Their voices were used to reach far overseas to other families: share news and gossip, sing songs to the ocean life and help lost baby whales return to their herd.
And if Klaus wants to get a message out to the others, he’ll need the reach Allison’s magic has. Klaus had once seen Allison lure a Merrow ship towards them, even though they had been several miles away. But Klaus can understand if Allison doesn’t want to use that part of her Siren powers anymore, which leaves him with his own old trick: dreams.
Hags can shape the dreams of others, make them change into nightmares or send them messages. Usually, a Hag needs to be fairly close to their target, but because Klaus doesn’t even know where their other siblings are, he’ll need Allison to give him a boost. Klaus knows it sounds stupid and weird and he stopped trying to explain it to the others a long time ago, because the non-magic users just wouldn’t get it. Between the seven of them, only Allison and Klaus (and now apparently Vanya) had control over the weave of magic. The others had their own ‘abilities’, but that was it.
Allison still doesn’t look convinced, so Klaus offers her the only thing he can: “Who do you think I should send a dream to first? Vanya?” he asks. It’s the mention of their sister that gets the Siren moving, like Klaus hoped it would. The two sisters went through a lot during their father’s funeral and Allison probably felt guilty still. Allison steps closer to the big soup pot now filled with a nice vintage from Point, dried herbs and shavings of coal from the fireplace. The dream spell would work better with an actual copper pot and gemstones, but it would have to do.
“Can you tell her…” Allison trails off, frowning with a pained but hopeful look in her eyes. “Can you tell her that we miss her? …wherever and whenever she is, I am still thinking about her and hoping she’s alright.”
Klaus nods, thinking about the last time they saw Vanya; unconscious and completely drained after whatever had happened to her, lying in the giant arms of Luther. Klaus had carried the pelt. There had been no way of stopping the destructive storm raging on outside. Five had them stand in a circle and the last thing Klaus had seen before they made the time-jump had been the giant tsunami of a wave crashing through the walls of the human theatre.
Klaus had lost the others -and the damned pelt- in the jump, ending up on the beach just out of town three years ago. Who knew where and when Vanya had landed, probably hurt, alone and not knowing what had happened to her. And what had happened to the others?
“I think that can be arranged.” Klaus tells his sister and he starts working on a dream.
Chapter 15: Hunt
In her dreams, Vanya’s swimming below the waves, as fast as her brothers and sister used to swim. She has never swam with them like this, ever. She was always stuck on deck with Pogo, Mom and Father. She knows she should have been swimming with them, even though it never happened.
And now that she’s finally figured it out, her siblings aren’t even here to see it! ‘Why?’ Vanya asks, ‘Why now?’, but the dream has no answer.
There are whales swimming below her in the deep, somewhere she cannot see but Vanya can hear their calls, understand them. She’s always been able to speak with marine mammals: seals, whales, otters and polar bears. Her Father disliked such selective gift and her siblings found it useless for their missions. The animals had always stared at her with pity.
The whales are asking for her, calling for her over and over again: “Your sister’s been singing for you. Looking for you. They miss you. You’re so close. We can’t wait to properly meet you below the waves.”
‘I’m here now!’ Vanya tells them, small bubbles drifting upwards. But the whales drift off and Vanya’s alone in the sea…she’s always alone…
The dream shifts to darker hues and Vanya’s locked in a lighthouse. Alone. Vanya spends her days in the hull of The Umbrella while her siblings train on deck. She’s alone. Vanya settles on land but cannot manage to fit in with the humans. Alone. Her siblings visit town for their father’s funeral, but Harold takes her away. She’s alone. Luther finds…something and he locks her in the Lighthouse again. Alone.
Why is she always alone? It frustrates her to no end and something in her gut wants to pull people closer. She can feel it: something powerful, something dormant, that sleeps in her body. If she could only wake it up…Vanya focuses on it and pulls-
Vanya startles awake in the middle of the night. Her nightshirt sticks to her back from the sweat, but she feels chills running through her body. The dreams -nightmares?- are already disappearing from her memory, leaving empty holes behind. She never remembers anything about her dreams, just nasty feelings of fear, loneliness and longing. It’s not exactly homesickness Vanya feels, mainly because the things she does seem to remember don’t inspire any good feelings. Can one be homesick of a place you never felt at home?
Vanya throws the blankets off of her body and steps out of bed; she needs to move. To not lie down. The dreams have returned a tenfold after their almost accident at the beach and the sea has been calling her ever since. Vanya’s always felt a strong connection to the water, ever since the morning at the doctor’s post. She’d slept off her initial concussion on the only bed in the building. By the time the morning hit, Vanya had escaped the overbearing feeling of the building. The salt in the fresh air and the winds coming in from over sea had put all her initial worries at ease back then.
The fresh air helps her after nightmares too, so Vanya sneaks downstairs, making sure to skip the creaking planks. Usually, opening the window in her bedroom is enough to calm Vanya down, but this memory made her feel more uneasy than normal. Something about her… fuck, why can’t she remember it!
Vanya unlocks the back door and moves into the garden. There’s no fence separating the Cooper’s grounds from the surrounding fields, so Vanya marches on. Walking feels good, like she’s actually getting closer to an answer. Vanya walks and walks and doesn’t wonder where she is until she can hear the waves of the sea. She’s unconsciously made her way towards the beach.
Vanya looks up and stares out overseas. Sometimes she imagines her family must live overseas; she’s always felt an instinctual pull towards the water. A pull? Vanya thinks.
Something about her dreams still doesn’t sit right with her, but the appearance of something white in the water claims her attention. There’s some white shape in the bay, slowly floating closer to the shoreline. No, not floating; swimming! There’s something or someone in the water of the bay, some fifty feet away from her.
Vanya keeps an eye on the white shape as it slowly moves closer and then, as it reaches the surf, stands up and becomes a person. It looks like there’s a man, in white clothing and stark white hair, looking back at her from the water. Didn’t Sissy tell her Vanya wore completely white clothing when she was found in the streets?
The man gives Vanya a smile that doesn’t set her at ease. It does distract her, though, long enough that Vanya almost misses the two other men sneaking up on her from the beach. She’s just in time to spot them: two other men dressed in white, aiming their shotguns at her.
Vanya ducks and hears the bullets fly over her head. She yells in fear and the man standing in the bay topples over when a wave hits him in the legs. It’s enough of an distraction for her to escape their initial assault.
So Vanya starts running towards the dunes. She feels like she has a good lay of the land and could probably outrun these people. The small paths aren’t as visible at night and trudging through the heavy off-road sand isn’t easy, so that might work in her advantage. She trudges onward as fast as she can, sand flying upwards and marram grass hitting her in her face. She can hear more guns shots, a good indication how close her pursuers are. She has no time to think about why these men might want her dead. Instead, she makes a sharp turn to her right, running half up a dune, hoping for a safe spot to hide and catch her breath.
Vanya crouches low in a small vale, somewhere close to their old picnic spot. She hopes the marram grass and other vegetation might help her hide, even though it also obscures her own vision of her surroundings. She won’t be able to see the men if they sneak up on her in this spot- fuck.
Vanya swivels around on her knees as she becomes aware of a presence behind her: one of the men in white, holding a shotgun to her head. It almost happens in slow motion, the man pulling the trigger and the loud click of the mechanism firing off a bullet inside.
Vanya doesn’t know what she does, but she thinks about her dream and pulls-
-and the whole dune around them explodes.