Supernatural Fiction posted July 22, 2012

This work has reached the exceptional level
The legend of the Seal People. (Selchie)

Second Chance

by Aussie

A strong sea breeze blew relentlessly across Dublin cemetery. Father and son watched as the coffins were lowered into the graves - yawning to accept a mother and her child.
A fire from a gas explosion had taken Declan's wife and baby daughter on that fateful day. Declan's son William stood silently beside his grieving father as the two watched the earth being shovelled on to the simple, wooden coffins. The wind blew the tears from Declan's eyes; quickly replaced with more tears of utter desolation. Mary Anne and baby Sheree were gone from their lives in the blink of an eye.

"Da, will they come back one day?" William's huge eyes blinked with longing.

Hugging his nine-year old son to himself he looked up at the grey skies - pregnant with rain, he lifted William and buried his face in the child's neck.
"No, they are in heaven now, my boy, and I think we need a change of place; far away from here," Declan had regained his composure and now looked to the future.

Declan were a fisherman by trade and he had worked the trawlers in heavy seas off the coast of Ireland. An accident on board ship forced him to find another job - welding. Seawater ran strongly in his veins and he longed to buy a small fishing boat.

"Are we leaving Dublin?" William held tightly to his father's calloused hand.
"Yes, it's time to up stakes and move away from here. I saw a place advertised in the Scottish Herald." Declan was keen to put as much distance as he could, away from where his wife and daughter were killed.

"Oh, Da, are we really leaving Ireland?" William was suddenly interested in one of the places that he had learnt about in school - Scotland!

They walked away from the cemetery, down the rolling hills towards where the old land rover was parked.

After saying their good-byes to friends and family, packing up the old land rover, searching for Toby the dog - they were on their way to a new life away from the loss and sadness of Dublin.

Scotland: The old land rover trundled down the main street of Oban, small fishing village a few hours drive from the Scottish border.
"Wait here boy, I have to see the real estate agent." Toby dog licked the back of William's neck.

"What can I do for ye son?" The ruddy-faced estate agent grinned at Declan.
"I need a place for me and my boy."
"Hmm, let me see now," he flicked through his tenancy lists.
"Got a small cottage up in the hills behind the town, nice little place. Needs some work. Here's a photograph, what do you think?"
"Seems alright, has it got a slip?" Declan had a boat in mind and he needed to get it launched easily.

"Sure does, fisherman are ye?"
"Er, yes, just recreational fishing nowadays - injured my leg working a trawler in Dublin."
"Just the two of you need the cottage?" He noticed that Declan had no lady with him, only the boy and the dog outside in the land rover.
"OK, I'll give ye the keys and you go take a look, if you like what you see, bring the keys back and we'll do some paper work - only two bedrooms, mind."

"I'm very tired, been driving for hours, can we do the paper work now? I'll take the cottage."
"Up to you son, haven't seen it proper - might not like it?" The Scot could see the hurt in Declan's eyes and realised that the man just wanted to be left alone. The lease was made up and Declan shook hands with the red-faced real estate man who reminded him of Father Christmas, his white whiskers and jolly face, his round belly bursting the buttons on his tartan waistcoat.

"Oh, Da, it's beautiful!" William ran through the ram shackled cottage that sat on the hill overlooking the harbour, and Toby bounded through the long grass.

The gardens were overgrown with weeds and the previous owner had just upped and walked away. The cottage had a weathered sign out front that was askew - the name of the cottage - 'Seamist.'

"Lots of work to do." Declan thought as he re-nailed the house sign.
Time passed easily as Declan got to work painting and repairing the inside of the cottage. His grief and lonliness started to slowly heal as he made a new home for William and himself.

William spent sunny days down at the harbour, watching the trawlers bringing in their catch of sunfish and herring. Lonely for his mum and sister, he kept to himself and always had the feeling of being watched. Not watched by the village folk, watched by a spirit - he thought it may have been the spirit of his dear Mother.

He was being watched by a seal that lay on the rocks sunning herself. William made friends with the village children and seemed happy enough to attend the local school.
Declan bought a small fishing trawler, one that he could handle by himself. He spent his time between repairing the cottage and making the rickety boat seaworthy. Once he had painted his wife's name on the trawler, it was ready for sea-trials.

"Hello there," a female voice sung out.
"Why, I, I don't know you, do I?" Declan stuck out his paint brush instead of his hand. He was so entranced by this woman's beauty.
"Sorry, been working on my boat," he stuttered.
"Aye, that you have, and she looks a bonny lass - Dr. Trent, Jamie Trent. Just thought I would drop in and meet my new neighbors." Her flaming red hair and broad smile had lit Declan's day.
"Oh, I haven't had time to mix and mingle with the locals, been working on my boat," he stuttered.
"You said that already." Jamie laughed.

William came bounding up the path towards 'Seamist' and stared at the strange lady. ""Da, I'm home and I brought some fish and chips and, who...who are you?" William stared at the beautiful doctor.
"Why, I'm Dr. Trent, and you can call me Jamie," she smiled at the boy.
"You're pretty," William exclaimed. And they all laughed together.

Declan downed tools and showed Jamie the work he had been doing; William stuffed his face with fish and chips.
"It's been so nice to meet you both." Her perfume lingered on the air as she walked towards her battered, old, Triumph Herald, motor car.

"If you ever need me, call the surgery or..."
"Why don't you come around for lunch or dinner?" Declan quickly took the chance before she drove away.

"Well now, that would be somethin' different, a man that cooks? Perhaps I could bring somethin' for all of us? What do ye think of that young William?"

"Can we? Can we have a real roast dinner just like mum used to cook?"

Declan swallowed his memories of Dublin and managed a lop-sided grin.
"That would be so kind of you Jamie, we have just met and it should be me that is offering you a meal."

"By the look on your son's face, he needs a woman to cook a meal, what have you two been livin' on anyway? Fish and chips? Alright, tomorrow it is, you buy the wine and I'll cook the roast, must away, patients to call on, until tomorrow then." The battered old Triumph Herald blew copious amounts of blue smoke as it carried Jamie back in to town.

"Think she needs rings, maybe I can do some work on that old wreck." Declan mused out loud.
"Da, when are we going to take the boat out fishing? Da, does Jamie need rings too?" Declan roared with laughter at his son's childlike comment.
"Da! William shook Declan out of his revere.

"OK, me boyo! Tomorrow we will launch the Mary Anne - see what she can do, eh?

A bright, clear day presented itself to Oban town, William was running around gathering his fishing rods and pulling his clothes on - all at the same time.
After Declan climbed the boarding ladder to the 'Mary Anne,' he sent William up the ladder to stand in the bow, to wait until one of the local lads loosed the mooring ropes from the bollards - to set the boat free.

The seal watched as the boat was launched into her domain, she slipped silently beneath the waves.

The sea was calm that day as Declan steered his fishing boat through the harbour entrance; day after day he pulled the net up with no fish to be had.

"I'm not givin' up on this son, there has to be fish down deep." He sat down on the coiled ropes, head in hands until...he thought that he heard someone singing. A beautiful high pitched haunting song - not of this world.

"Must be going potty, hearin' things now."
"Me too, I heard it too, it's her, the seal is singing!" William knew the seal was helping his dad, he had spoken to her on many occasions, he told her how much he missed his mum and sister, how sad his dad was and about their new boat named after his dead mother - 'Mary Anne' he told her and she nodded her barnacled head and lifted her flippers so as to make the sad boy laugh at her antics.

The seal glided beneath the boat as she sang her song, gathering the fish to her, they entered the drag-net willingly.
The ratchet on the winch caught soundly and Declan knew he had fish in his drag-net.

"C'mon son, let's pull this net up before it sinks us!" Declan and William worked hard all the rest of the day. When the net emptied on to the deck a myriad of flippin' and flappin' fish covered it like a carpet of silver snow.

The Mary Anne was low in the water as she entered Oban harbour. Jamie waved to the 'boys' as she called to them. She had finished visiting her patients and had closed the surgery. She bought a leg of lamb and she waited until Declan tied his boat to it's mooring.

"Do ye still want that roast dinner you two? Looks like ye have enough fish to feed the whole town!" Her flaming red hair danced around her shoulders catching the afternoon light.

"Aye, that we do, the fish can go to market and feed someone else," he laughed.

Englad, the seal spoke to her fellow seals, she told them it was time for her to come ashore and be part of the family that was grieving. Once every hundred years the Selchie (seal people)come to mate with humans, some return to the sea and others lose their shining cloaks forever - for the love of a human.

"By, that was a great meal Jamie, haven't tasted spring lamb so tender, since...ah, more wine?" She saw the hurt in his eyes and decided to let him tell her in his own time about Dublin.

Englad swam with Bothwing for he was her father and leader of the seals.
"So, you really want to go to this man and child?" Bothwing shook his great head.
"Yes, they need me now, I will come back to you. The boy-child knows how to hide my cloak so I can return to the sea."

Declan's fishing had improved so much that he was making a good living from the shoals of fish he delivered to the fishmongers waiting on the fleshing decks. Bridie McDuffy (Duffy to all that knew the old man) sucked on his pipe as he sat mending nets and telling tales of the Seal People - some smiled and thought him batty, William and Declan listened with avid interest.

"Aye, they come ashore every so often, that they do, lookin' to mate with humans." Duffy sucked on his pipe and his cloudy eyes stared longingly out to sea.
"You really believe that legend, Duffy?" Declan smiled at the ancient mariner.
"I do, I have seen...never mind, doesn't matter now."

"Go on please,please," William needed to know more about the Selchie, he only knew what Englad had told him.

"Some folks think me mad," tears formed in his cloudy eyes as he related his own experience with the Selchie.

"Oh, I was just a lad when I saw it happen. A group of seals changed into human form and they chanted in a circle not far from here. All buck naked they were. They wore silver cloaks over their bodies, sealskin it was. I hid amongst the rocks and listened, one woman sung a song - not of this world. I was so scared that I slunk off and told me mother - she didn't believe me. That was seventy years ago, I wish I could see them once more before I cast me net for the last time - he whistled through his two remaining teeth.

"Duffy, how would you like to come for a run in the Mary Anne?" Declan smiled.
"Do ye mean it, laddie?" Duffy's face lit up like a Christmas Tree.
"Aye, that I do, methinks that you need to go to sea one more time."

Next morning the skies had cleared and a pale yellow sun shone through the remaining clouds. The wind was reasonable and conditions seemed just right for the voyage out to the Isle of Mull.
Once aboard, Duffy stood proud in the bow of the boat whilst Declan steered the Mary Anne out through the harbour towards the open sea.

When they had reached their destination, Declan gave Duffy a fishing rod to keep him occupied whilst he sorted out his drag- net. Duffy's rheumy eyes started to clear as he watched the sea boil around the bow, the seals were waiting.

"Best let down that drag- net, Declan, can ye hear them singing?"
"No, I can't hear anything, Duffy?"
"Nay, that's because they sing for me. My time has come and they call me home."

Declan shook his head at the comments Duffy were making. "Just an old man dreamin' about the days gone by, methinks." He smiled wanely.

Suddenly, the net was dragging heavy on the floor of the ocean.
"Jesus, Mary and Joseph!" Declan shouted above the screeching of the gulls.
He went to work on the winch to bring up the bounty of the sea. He could'nt believe the weight, he thought the net would tear.

Meanwhile, Duffy had stripped off his old clothes; pulled a beautiful sealskin cloak out of his duffle bag and prepared to meet his neice. His cloak gave him invisibility until he wanted to be seen.

Straining at the winch, locking it before he swung the net over the deck - Declan cried out to Duffy as he lowered the net and gasped with fear and trepidation at the contents that lay still in front of him. He had caught more than fish, there was a dead woman in the net. She lay naked except for a cloak. Forgetting about Duffy, he tried to roll the woman free of the net that she was tangled in.

"Oh, dear God." Declan stared at the beauty of this woman, her hair and her body fascinated him. He listened for a heart beat and started to give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Her lips were blue, her body so deathly white.

"Duffy, can you get on the radio to the mainland?" Declan shouted to the old man.

The woman coughed, vomited copious amounts of sea water - she opened her eyes that were the colour of emeralds. Declan wrapped her in a tarp and carried her towards the cabin of the boat.

Duffy walked towards Declan and he saw the body that he carried. Declan's mouth hung open as he saw Duffy - naked, except for a glistening, sealskin cloak.
"What? What are you doin' old man?" He put the woman down gently and stared at Duffy.

"Ah, Declan my boy, tis' time for me to return to my people. I have lived amongst humans for seventy years now and I need my own kin."

"But, but, you are human?" Declan stuttered as he stared at the ancient mariner.
"Not for long now, my real name is 'Seawing' and I am uncle to the woman you hold in your arms. Her name is Englad and I trust that you will care for her for as long as she wishes to live with you. I know that you don't understand everything at the moment, she will tell you stories about our people. And now, I must return from wence I came."

The old man slipped over the side of the boat and was soon swallowed up by the waves.
Englad stared into Declan's eyes, she was weak and needed warmth. He started up the massive inboard motor and radioed ahead to Oban - "I have a woman aboard the Mary Anne, she needs medical help, I am on my way in - please respond?"
"Oban responding to Mary Anne; bring her in Declan, will contact Doctor - Oban out."

After a fast run into Oban, Declan spied Jamie and some townsfolk gathered at the wharf where he moored his trawler.
The men on the wharf helped Declan tie up and they gently carried Englad towards the ambulance, Jamie followed. William came running down the hill shouting at his Father.
"Da! It's her, she kept her promise," the boy's face was flushed with wonder as he stared at the pale woman lying wrapped in red blankets. "Oh, Da, she looks just like..."
"Yes, she does look just like your Ma." Declan began to shake with emotion.
"I'll go with her to the hospital," Jamie said as she held the sealskin coat and wondered at it's beauty.
"Give it to me," William held out his hands.

Declan and William made their way back to the cottage. William filled the kettle and made tea for his father.
"I don't know what happened out there," Declan shook his head.
"I do, you see Da, Englad is a seal woman and she told me that she would become human and stay with us because we have lost so much." William sounded like a wise old man as he told his father of the talks that he had with Englad when she was in her seal-form, basking on the foreshore.
Two days later Jamie arrived at the cottage with Englad. They walked arm in arm up the hill.

"Here we are then, she's a little weak and needs feedin' up, apart from that she was anxious to see you Declan, and you as well, William."
Englad was the spitting image of Declan's wife, long black hair and peach-coloured complexion. She smiled at him and straightway stole his heart.
"Well, she said that she fell overboard and nearly drowned, luck has it that you were able to save her Declan, must away now, catch you two, er, three tomorrow." Jamie winked at Declan as she walked away.

Declan led Englad inside his little cottage and still marvelled at her looks. She spent the night beside the hearth fire, listening to William tell stories and gazing into Declan's sad eyes.

Finally, William fell asleep and Declan carried him upstairs to his bedroom. Englad was dozing in the chair, making little mewing sounds. He left her there, covered her with a blanket and went to his own bed.

The next morning she was outside in the garden; sitting on the bench that was the ideal spot for looking down at Oban town and out to sea.
Declan sat down beside her and offered a mug of tea. She accepted and looked at him above the rim.

"Thank you, I am not quite used to human food yet," she swung her long black hair from off her shoulder.
"Why have you come to us," Declan asked.
"Because you need me," she replied.

"I know all about the loss of your wife and child, William has told me much about you all.You are so lonely Declan, and William pines for his mother and sister." "You have given up your clan to be with us?"
"Yes, I wanted to bring some joy to your lives, I will return to my people when the time is right," her smile was brilliant and her raven hair shone in the sunlight.

Days turned to weeks and weeks into months. The three of them had bonded as a family. Declan knew he was falling in love with this amazing woman. She, in turn, longed for the day when she could return to the sea, still, she had made a promise and meant to stay true to her word. Their love blossomed, Declan was besotted by her womanly charms, she came to him and told him the news that he had been waiting for - a child.

"Declan, sit down, I have some good news for you, we are going to have a baby."
"By, that is such wonderful news Englad, are you happy?" He took her hands and held her gaze.
"Are you happy, Declan?" Her smile was like sunshine and she laughed at his serious look.
William was over the moon with the news that he was to have a new sibling - he knew it would be a girl-child.

She continued to go to sea with Declan as he fished for a living. Often she stood in the bow of the boat, singing that other-worldly song as her kin gathered in the wake of the Mary Anne. Jamie was a regular visitor to the family and she had her own questions about Englad who seemed to have no past. She was fond of Declan and William, this woman from the sea was a stranger.
One afternoon, sitting around the table, Jamie stared across at Declan - they were alone and Jamie decided to take the chance to discuss the relationship and the forthcoming birth. William was out in the garden with Englad. Englad had cleared the weeds away and had planted roses, William always by her side with Toby not far behind.

"Declan, I must talk with ye, while they are outside. This woman from the sea, how much do you know about her?" Jamie was flicking the pages of an old photograph albumn.

"Eh, girl, you fret too much - we are so happy and with the baby comin'- here, look at this old photograph of my wife. Englad has come to make us a whole family again."

Jamie stared in disbelief at the photograph of Mary - Englad was the image of Declan's dead wife, no wonder he was beside himself with joy, he thought that Mary had come back to him in the form of Englad! She gave up trying to talk sense to him, William had already told her about the seal woman, there was nothing more to be said.

"Well, seems you won't be needin' me now," Jamie was secretly in love with Declan.
"Dinny say that Jamie, you are always welcome and we will need you when the baby is comin'."
Jamie couldn't help herself and she blurted out "She's a seal woman, she won't stay with you. She'll take her cloak and go back to her people."
"What? What cloak?" He was so suprised that Jamie knew about the seal people.
"How much do you know about them?"
"Everything Declan, everything - she's not human, she's a Selchie." Jamie, tears streaming down her face, ran for her car.

Declan was visibly upset by Jamie's outburst but he was so in love with Englad he couldn't see the forest for the trees. He wondered what Jamie meant by the cloak and decided to broach the subject over dinner.

"Englad? Jamie tells me that you have a cloak, is this so?"
"Yes, we all have a cloak so when we are ready to return to the sea, we can change back to our seal-form."
"Where is it?" Declan was determined to keep Englad with him - forever.
"I don't know what happened that day that the ambulance took me to hospital, I think that William has it, why?" She was afraid as she watched Declan's determined look.

"William! Get downstairs now!"Declan roared at his son.
"What's wrong, Da?"
"Englad's cloak, where is it?" Declan's eyes shone with a light that neither of them had seen before - he was crazy with fear, fear of losing Englad.
"I, I don't..." William was shaking with terror now.
"I want that cloak, and I want it now!"

"You won't find it Declan, Englad said calmly, - it is mine and if you lift a hand to me, you will be sorry."

Declan stormed outside and began digging up the freshly planted roses. In his frustration he shed tears over the thought of losing the woman he loved.

The pains of labor had rankled Englad all day, she told William to go fetch Jamie from town.
Jamie arrived not long after William had told her that the baby was coming. She walked up the hill and brushed past Declan without a word to him. After she had examined Englad she asked her if she wanted to be moved to the local hospital.

"No." Englad spoke through gritted teeth, the pains were intense and she was not far from delivering the wee bairn.
Jamie took Declan to where she could speak with him - it looks like it will be a difficult birth, I wish she would go to hospital."
"Jamie! Come quick!" William watched as Englad writhed on the bed.
"Get me some hot water and plenty of towels, this bairn isn't going to wait long."
With her last ounce of strength, Englad pushed the seal-child into the world of humans. She lay exausted and pale with much loss of blood.

Declan cut the cord and washed the little girl to place her beside her mother.
"Declan, Englad is failin' fast, she needs a blood transfusion." Jamie felt for her pulse and found it weak and thready.

"William." Englad whispered to the worried boy.
"You know where it is, go find it quickly." She laspsed into unconsciousness.

William raced down the hill to the rocks, he had hidden her cloak under an Oak tree. Franticly he dug with his small hands until he had Englad's cloak tucked under his arm.
"She's gone Declan, I'm so sorry." Jamie clutched Declan's arm.
"No, she can't be dead, she belongs to me - she's not dead!"
"Da, here it is, here is...Oh, no, Englad?" William tried to waken her without effect.

On the rocks below the cottage, Bothwing and Seawing waited, they cried in their own way for their kin.

"Wrap her in her cloak and take her back to the sea." Jamie said gently to Declan and William.

"What good will that do?" Declan cried with grief.

"Will ye do as I ask ye, she is from another world - she never belonged to you! She came to give you a daughter and she gave her life instead. Now, do as I say. Take my dingy, it's moored at your water steps." Jamie was crying too.

Declan carried the body of Englad, wrapped in her sealskin cloak, William started the outboard motor and the trio headed out through the harbour. Jamie stood on the wharf, rocking the wee bairn in her arms, her tears splashed on the bairn's small head. Already, she loved this child from the sea.

William cut the motor and the dingy rocked in unison with Declan as he held Englad.
"Let her go Da, she still has a chance, let her go to her kin."
"She's dead William."
"No, she's not dead, just sleepin'- hear the sound of the seals singing?
Declan gave Englad back to the sea, her body slipped easily beneath the waves.

As time healed Declan's heart he was able to see what a terrible mistake he had made by wanting to own Englad. Over many months and endless conversations with Jamie, he finally understood that the wee bairn was Englad's gift to him.

"What do you name this child?" The Priest enquired of the family standing before the alter.
Declan passed the child to the Priest and smiled with great love towards Jamie and his son William.

"We name her Fey Englad O'Malley."

After the christening, friends came to wet the bairn's head and a merry time was had by all.
"Jamie, why did you suggest 'Fey' for her name?" Declan smiled.
"Ah, Declan, you always have to know everythin'. I suggested Fey because the name means 'strange, unconventional; otherworldly' - after all, she is half Selchie. Do ye not like her name?"

"I love her name as much as I love you, you red-haired siren!"

"Da, she's back, Englad's back!" William panted from his long run up the path.
"What? Can't be,, must be another seal."
They all wandered down the path to the rocks where they saw three seals basking in the sun.

"What do you think, Jamie?"
"Canna tell one seal from another," she winked at William."

Englad, Bothwing and Seawing were singing to their kin that slept in Jamie's arms. One day, Declan would tell Fey all about her mother, for now, she was just another new-born child.


Story of the Month contest entry


Declan: Irish Fisherman and widower.
William: Son of Declan. Englad: Seal woman (Selchie)
Bothwing: Father of Englad and leader of the seals.
Seewing: Uncle of Englad.
Fey: Child of the coupling of Declan and Englad. Australian English and grammar with a little added Irish and Scottish brogues :The Tradition of the Seal - Seals have a strong and special connection with the human race. Some families are said to be descended from the union of humans and seals; in particular the Clan MacCodrum from North Oust and the Coneelys, Cregans and Hennessys from Ireland. The O'Sullivans of County Kerry also have seal ancestry, as do the MacNarmaras-their name means "sons of the sea-hound." To determine whether seal blood runs in someone's veins, you should examine the rock where they have sat: "for no matter how warm the day, and his clothes being dry upon him, when he rises, there the rock will be damp where he was and the vapor from it lifting will leave crystals of sea salt beneath the sun" (from the People of the Sea by David Thomson). My story relates to the legend of the Selchie (seal) and I have woven it around the original story of a man called Declan who fell asleep on the seashore one morning, after having spent the early hours collecting crabs and cockles. He awoke to the strange and haunting music and was astonished to see twelve people holding hands in a circle, swaying and singing. In the centre of the circle stood an old man. When their singing stopped, they took off their shimmering silvery cloaks. These were the seal people who come at special times to mate with humans. Every one hundred years a seal woman will mate. Declan stole her cloak so she could never return to the sea. "Woe betide the person who would strike me, for I am a gentlewoman from another land." From the songs of John MacCondrum. I hope that you enjoy Declan's second chance at life. I spent a month on holidays staying in Oban in Scotland, it is one of my most favorite place. The original Declan was dragged out to sea by the Seal and drowned!
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