Short Stories



The Return

Kay Rice

January 25, 2014

There are times when the wind howls a mournful cry, cutting through the body so sharp it feels like teeth.  Those times when winter refuses to leave and freezes the world.  When memories swirl around you encapsulating you into a frozen tomb.  Moments when the dead wake and walk, moments when the monsters of the night become real in the daylight.  When fears become part of your waking hours.  Those are the times when the curse returns, the call, the beckoning of the true life which are kept neatly locked away, buried and hopefully forgotten.

It is in those times in winter that water is frozen solid, the ground cold and barren when even the birds refuse to sing.  Gray skies filled with white, frozen tears from heaven.  It is that time of the deepest part of winter in which the dreams I tried so hard to put behind me return.  It is a lost love that captured my heart and soul as a child, a seducer of the soul, the sirens hidden in the waves.  Once bitten, you can never shake their lust.  The lust of freedom.  The ocean, the open horizons, the waves and the sound of timber aching against the waves.  The cold may freeze my skin, but the ocean keeps my soul warm, it keeps my mind alive in this season of death.

I close my eyes and feel steel in my hands, my mouth thirsts for the taste of adventure, my ears beg for the music of the waves.  My body aches to feel the movement of the ship beneath my feet.  I crave the taste of salt in the air.

But, alas, my sword hangs lifeless on the wall and my dagger safely tucked away.  The double-headed coin I keep tightly around my neck as a reminder of who I really am, was, so long ago.  The comfort of a roaring fire in the fireplace and fresh meal cooking in the quaint kitchen should keep me content.  Content, oh yes, the word used to dull the senses.  But I am not content, I am restless, a deep anger arises from inside.  I feel trapped, you cannot cage a child of the water, and you cannot tame a wild heart, even with the most elaborate of luxuries.  Once bitten, forever lost to the song of the sea, and I have been bitten by the sirens more than once.

I look out my window into the snowy countryside.  My face like that of a prisoner behind bars.  My hands shaking with the longing of warmth and the feeling of the sun on my face.  The voices so loud in my head, the faces burned into my memories, my crew.  I left that behind, I thought I was ready to leave, to retire from that life.  But the taste returns to me as if I were starving.  I know now that you cannot domesticate a wolf and call her a dog and expect her to lay contented by the fireplace and pretend to only dream of freedom.

I am so far from my home, the sea, the ship, to port, the dark towns, and the drunken laughter from taverns. I hear the wind, she laughs at me, mocks me, cruelly she torments me.  The fire roars loudly beckoning me to return to its warmth and forget the past once again.  But my sword, hanging there staring at me, daring me to take her in my hands again, my dagger begging me to unearth her from under my soft goose-down mattress.

“Open the tomb, let us out, and let us out.” They cry to my heart.  “Return.  Return. Return.”  I am torn between my promise and my life.

I stand here looking in the fine and ornate mirror, I see a proper lady, donned in the finest cloth and jewels.  Hair perfect, makeup, perfect lies.  I wipe the lipstick from my lips and tear at the tightly bound corset.  They are nothing but chains, a noose already around my neck with no life to claim on my death-bed.  I sacrificed my soul for a life?  What the hell was I thinking?  This fake mannequin is not me!  A puppet in a play?  Give me my loose-fitting cotton shirt, my leather boots, my pants.  I miss wearing pants, dresses are such a pain in the ass.  And heels, torture devises to slow my run, my escape!  I kick off the heels into the wall making a tremendous crash in the room.  My sword falls to the ground, slightly unsheathed.  It beckons me.

“Come, touch me.”  She calls to me.

The feeling of steel in my hands again, pleasure beyond words.  Standing there half-naked, barefoot, holding my long sword, I reach with my free hand under the mattress and find waiting the cold blade, a kiss from my dagger.  My eyes close in an orgasmic smile.  I feel the fire grow inside of me.  The wind howls its threats at me even louder.  It’s warning to keep me locked inside.  My naked body frozen, yet I don’t feel the cold, I hear the waves, distant waves, calling me home.

The chest at the end of my bed contains my past, locked.  I search for the key and find it, quickly I open the dust-covered chest, my clothes, old, well-worn, still hold the smell of the salt-water, of home.  The coin on my neck burns into my ice-cold skin, the wind howls louder.  The time has come, the truth is calling me to free my soul.  This docile dog is returning to her wolf, to a sea wolf.  No more corsets and binding garments for me, I rip them to shreds as I remove the last of them.  An act of freedom.  Pulling on my cotton blouse, my muscles ache, longing for the touch of the rough cloth replacing the fine silk.  My pants, oh how I’ve missed my sturdy pants, the buttons in front of copper.  My boots of leather, fit my feet like a glove, they are welcomed by my feet and legs.  I stand there looking like a rogue, where a few seconds ago stood a lady of fine courts.  My belt and hat, my leather gloves, my leather purse for my belt and the final, my sword on my hip.  I am complete.  I am whole once again.

I pick up the fine perfume bottle from my vanity and throw it into the mirror, the wind stops.  It knows it has lost.  Water thrown on the fire as I pass through, it’s calling no longer heard, replaced by only its dying hiss.  For all I can hear now is “Return, return, return.”