Metamorphosis FOUR

Posted on 4th May, 2019

 DAY 4



The Selkie : Susan Cartwright Smith



The danger was not that the sea would take a man, but that it would change him.

The fisherwives clustered together on the hill top, clutching their shawls around themselves, watching boats return, praying to any number of gods and goddesses that who they had sent out were the same men who were returning.

As the fishermen disembarked, carrying baskets and creels, the women held their breath, each one tentatively greeting their man until they were sure of him.

One woman, left waiting, rushed toward the boat. 

“Where’s Davey?  Where is he?” she cried.

Some of the fishermen looked away and busied themselves with their work, but one stood and faced her.

“Mamie, he’s gone. They came for him. Don’t be grieving now. You wouldn’t recognise him anyways”.

The woman called Mamie looked to the sea in horror, hand flying to her mouth, and tears pricking at her eyes.

“Mamie! Get out of the water!” yelled one of the other men. Mamie backed away from the shoreline. “How many tears did you shed, Mamie, how many?”

“Four! I think… I don’t know…” Mamie hitched her skirts up and ran through the pitying crowd, womenfolk clutching their men, fearfully, looking shocked and scared.

“Who will watch her?” called out one of the fishermen. A low muttering indicated that no-one wanted to take on that task. The men turned back to their unloading and the couples dispersed.

Mamie waited until the sun was bleeding into the sea before returning.

The sharp smell of fish and seaweed mingled with the cold dampness of wet silt and her feet crunched on the shingle and shells as she headed towards the water. She walked slowly, her hand encountering the slippery pier and the fronded beard of mossy seaweed.

One tear fell. Then another. There was a stillness as if every creature in the sea was waiting. A tear rolled down Mamie’s face as she stared out to sea, afraid of the loss of her man in a way she didn’t quite understand.  The tear caressed her cheek, hung at her jaw, then fell slowly into the sea.

As soon as the tiny ripples formed, Mamie saw the dark figure emerge slowly from the water. She gasped, squinting, trying to recognise him, but as he came closer, she knew that she had never seen a man like this before. Unlike the hardened, stocky men, bent almost double with the strong winds gusting round the islands, this was man was tall and proud , tanned rather than leathered, beautifully muscled. Smooth and hairless of torso, he had a grace and elegance which Mamie found unusual and fascinating. She walked towards him, grief forgotten, arms outstretched.


The man called Davey floated behind the Selkie, a dreamy look on his face as he beheld the youthful, beautiful figure swimming ahead of him – the flowing green locks like rich seaweed, and the webbed feet paddling gracefully beside him. His eyes travelled up her strong, muscled legs to her firm buttocks, and he felt a thrill stir his loins. She turned to look at him, saw his lustful look, and felt suddenly angry. She didn’t want this simpering fool, even though she could feel the warmth of his blood through the water, feel her beauty rejuvenating under his hungry gaze. He had stopped breathing with her enchanted touch and she wondered what would happen were she to let him drown, would he fight for life, or accept his return to a watery womb.

Davey suddenly clawed at his throat as he realised he was drowning. He stared at the creature he was desperately trying to cling to – seal-like, graceful, but unnatural. He felt a great alarm, but then, as she took his hand again, everything became right.  She swam with him to the cavern, which led on to her lair. She stopped and let go of him. In this pocket of air, he could breathe. Her shape remained pleasing, as his mind was not focussing on survival.  Only desire. He looked around himself, confused but excited.

“I am the Siren, the Lorelei, the Selkie”, she said, and Davey shook his head as the strange echoes and harmonics jangled around inside his ears. An hypnotic melody, with an unsettling note, like a radio frequency, it lulled him, but also terrified him.

“You are beautiful” he said, although now he wasn’t sure if he was reassuring himself or placating the figure in front of him. He had been drawn in with a seductive song and the promise of firm flesh, but now… now there was the smell of decay, of rotting fish and old seaweed.

“I could drown you and you would thank me”, she said, drawing back her lips in a snarl. “I could drown you in my eyes. How many tears do you think I have cried?  Enough to drown a man? How many tears will your wife weep for you? Enough to float a skaffie? I have lured so many men to my watery cave, added to my collection of sunken treasure, but still I am rotting away inside. I will never be free, never know life. You had life.  And you chose watery death, with me”.

“But you are beautiful”, Davey said again, as if with another’s mouth. She laughed bitterly.

“This shell which you say is beautiful contains a rotten oyster. And any pearls I produce are evil. If you make a necklace from my pearls, it will strangle you”.

Davey looked puzzled. He could hear the words, but he couldn’t understand what they meant. The Selkie looked towards her collection of tethered corpses, like a horrific graveyard forest then grabbed the vapid Davey by the hair and yanked him towards the surface. She let go and he kicked upwards, throat burning with the salt water as if he had been crying and calling himself hoarse for a loved one lost. He scrambled inelegantly back to shore, not so much swimming as floating and kicking, and staggered out on to the silty shingle, whimpering as the fog lifted from his brain, and he realised what he was almost lost.

He ran back through the streets, steadying himself against the walls, with hands he half-believed to be flippers, the enchantment swirling around his mind. Sobbing now, he threw himself inside his house, the name, Mamie, remembered,  came ripping from his throat.


The Selkie man rested his face against Mamie’s naked belly as she stood in the lapping water.

“I was to lure you to my lair, to drink in your breath, warm myself in your blood.  But I can feel the power you hold, I am captured by your magic. I feel… happy. It is not a feeling I am used to. It is not useful. We are predators, not lovers. But with you I feel safe”.

Mamie knew she should be ashamed of her nakedness, but she was not, and cared not.  She looked at her clothes, bundled haphazardly along with the Selkie’s seal skin on the shore.  She looked down at her arms, her breasts shimmering pale in the moonlight, and she felt new, clean. She put her hands up into her hair and stretched, enjoying the chill caressing her. The Selkie nuzzled into her, tasting her, enjoying her unfamiliar flavour.

“What power is it you think I hold?” Mamie said, looking out towards the horizon, her voice quiet. The Selkie raised his beautiful head, “In here”, he said, looking at her belly. “You have the power to create, you have the magic of your kind, of growing a person inside you.  They are a part of you, and you become part of them. It is a strange magic and I am intrigued”.

Mamie put her hands on his shoulders and pushed him back slightly. “Do you not lie with your womenfolk? How do you make other Selkies?”

“Not all of us are fortunate enough to find mates, and it is a dangerous time. There are few of us. That is why we hunt. This is why we listen for you, calling to us. So we can share in this magic. But now I am here, I want to savour it. I am not moved to violence or speed or abandonment. Now I feel the magic I want to stay”. He nuzzled back into her loins.

Mamie smoothed her hands over his shoulders, feeling the power of him, raking her hands up into his shaggy hair. How easy to be held in these powerful arms, how easy to abandon oneself to his hungry innocence.

He stood, and she felt his otherworldly body against hers, lean, tall, priapic. He lifted her, as easily as one might lift a child, and he entered her. She opened her mouth to cry out but no sound came. No fight was in her arms; her legs curled around him, drawing him further in. The Selkie groaned, his movements urgent, but held in check, as if he were battling with his desire to mate swiftly, and his longing to linger.

But then she heard her name called, torn from the throat of a desperate man. The Selkie gripped her, not releasing her, his thrusts more urgent now. He kissed her hungrily, and although she felt his sharp teeth grazing her lips, she remained in his embrace.

Davey watched from the shore the naked bodies coupling, heard the shout of release from the Selkie, saw Mamie’s head look to the night sky, the column of her white neck arching back graceful like a swan. The Selkie set her down, but held her still, nuzzling her, showing a tenderness unexpected in a predator. She took his hand, and led him back to the shore to where Davey stood.

Davey stared at her nakedness. He was seeing her as a woman, as wanton and desirable as the Selkie he had been drawn to. He knew if she chose the Selkie male over him, he could not fight for supremacy, but surely now Mamie could not hold his indiscretion against him? He had returned to her, and had not actually lain with the Selkie. He held out his hand.

Mamie let go of the hand of the Selkie and Davey felt a thrill of triumph. But then Mamie walked past him to the pile of clothes and seal skin. She picked them up.

“They do say if you keep a Selkie seal skin they must stay with you”, she said, stroking the fur in her arms.

“I give it to you freely. I wish to stay”, the Selkie said. Mamie smiled.

“You say that now, in the glow of love-making. But what are you to do? How will you work? You are beautiful, but that is not enough. You are a wild creature and will tire of captivity”.

The Selkie tilted his head as if rolling the idea around. “How can you say this when I have told you I desire you?”

Mamie held the seal skin out to him. “Thank you, but desire is not enough for me. The candle of lust burns bright and fast”. She looked at Davey. “You gave up on all that we were. The siren called and you were gone. Without a backward glance or a thought for me”.

“But I came back…”

“Yes, you did. Why did you? No-one comes back unchanged. Why did you?”

Davey hung his head. “The Selkie released me. She was weary of mortals”.

“So you didn’t choose me? You were just hoping I’d be grateful for your return”. She looked at the sealskin in her hand, which the Selkie still had not taken, then swiftly threw it around her shoulders, and ran into the waters.

She felt a transformation as the skin merged with her own. She felt her body move differently in the water and her hands transform into stubby flippers. She swam away, away from the men. Away from the wants and needs of others. She swam until she had nearly forgotten what she was swimming from. The female Selkie joined her. There was no need for glamyre between the two, and the pair of them circled each other fondly as they continued swimming.

They approached the lair of the Selkie and as they surfaced in the hollow, the air transformed Mamie back to human form. She noticed the Selkie had transformed also. They watched each other wordlessly for a time. The Selkie sniffed the air and approached. Mamie flinched as the Selkie reached for her and stroked her graceful hand over her naked belly.

“You lay with the male?”

“Aye, I did”.

“And if there be issue?”

Mamie frowned. “What will be will be. I am not about to worry. That changes nought”.

The Selkie shrugged. “And what do you want from me, from men, from life?”

Mamie shook her head. “That I don’t know. What will become of them without me?”

“I want to know what you want”. Mamie dropped her head. The Selkie stroked down her arm and took her hand. “Would you come with me?”

“With you? How would that work?”

“We would find out. Make our own way. If you wish it”.

Mamie thought of the men waiting for her. Did she want to return? Did she dare leave? She didn’t know what she wanted or what was for the best. 

She felt the fingers in her hand transforming back to flippers. Felt the tug as the Selkie returned to the water. Felt the humanness slip from her as she merged with the seal skin once more. Felt her obligation to return melt away as a desire for the receding tide pulled her onwards. She felt both born anew and as if part of her was dying.

The water felt cool against her new skin. They held their breath, and dived down.




Across the Bay : Peter Burrows


We take the day, just you and me,

Driving around the family haunts

Heading towards the coast to where 

You once holidayed, long before,


Applying gloss to outworn memories. 

Retouching this place and our past. 

But why return? What have we left

Behind? Across the bay the mist 


Layers outlines of the mountains.

They always seem further away,

Out of reach. But I know there must

Still be someone who knows the safest route 


Across their ever-shifting sands.

Up high from the railway footbridge, 

You film speeding trains to splice shots 

Before and after, fifty years


Reconnected. Up beside you

I’m absorbed by the vast knowing sky 

Over the bay: the space that holds

Nothing and everything. Light


Altering the land and us; sun rays

Breaking through - quick, bright patches like

Once known, reawakened parts of the brain 

Scanned, illuminating on and off. 




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