Over at Murphy and Stanley's place it is last Friday of the month story day... click to read more!!!.
Except that for this month, due to a bit of a blog-jam (it is festive times after all) we are posting a bit early. Normally I use a photo to prompt my stories and this one came out of watching the seals in the firth last month; but we are also given a word prompt by M&S which we have to highlight in the story...
Peering through the glare of the low-slung sun’s light shafts, Bala blinked. Balanced on his rock, the tide had risen to almost submerge him. When the tide was out, there was enough room for Bigshanks the Shag and perhaps a couple of his brood as well. Right now, though, it was seal room only.
Time to find a bigger rock.
Bala flipped over and slid into the dark and chill waters of the firth and headed with the current towards the spit of land over which the sun now hung. It was a lengthy swim, but he made the most of the current, allowing himself to drift as much with it as possible, conserving energy for when he rounded the headland and up into the loch he knew was behind. He’d been round there before, chasing fish. Now, though, he wanted to find a place that was all his own.
The other seals all tended to stay by the open water. The other young ones didn’t want to play with him, due to his twisted flipper. They taunted him and butted him. Even his mother had left him as soon as the bull came sniffing round. She wanted fitter pups.
As he was musing on these rejections, he hadn’t noticed that he had swum further up the loch than he had ever intended. Here, the water was almost pond-like.
Bala was brought out of his reverie by a raucous squawking overhead. It was Bigshanks!
“How come you are here?” called Bala.
“I would ask you that! This is part of my fishing territory. …So, why are you up here?”
Bala stopped and just floated in the water. Bigshanks made a gliding landing on the glassy surface and paddled over to join him. “Well?”
“To be honest it was just an urge. The rock is too small for me now and no one was really talking to me. I know there are some good fish up here, they taste sweeter somehow…” Bala noted Bigshanks nodding at this point, “and then there was the whispering.”
Bala waggled his dud flipper in the air before answering. “That there is magic up here. That I might be able to get my flipper mended…” He stopped when he saw a flicker of light in Bigshanks’ eyes. “What?”
“Bala my young friend, there is much of mystery up at Lochend…but I think you should know that it is all just fairy tales and nonsense dispensed by the kilters; you know, those upright, hairless critters on the land, not a feather to wag among the lot of them…tsk, they think gullible things we are. Long years back, one of your ancestors was caught by the helper of the wummin and that mischief planted all sort of silly notions about you seals being men-in-waiting and that the Wyrd-wummin up the creek can fix up damages and make happiness…”
Bigshanks stopped when he saw Bala blinking. “Wyrd-wummin?”
“Och, Bala, it’s just the farmer’s wife who knows a thing or two about healing.”
“Thanks Shankie, now I know I have to go. Will you come too?” The bird shook his head and spread his wings. “Sorry young ‘un, you’re on your own for this one. Be safe…”
The seal watched as his friend took off with long, laborious strokes of the air. It would have been good to have Bigshanks along, but he also understood that, for whatever reason, the bird didn’t think it was worth his time. Oh well. Turning slowly in the flat, cool water, Bala headed further and further up the narrowing and shallowing loch, towards the place where the hills bowed and curtsied to the water’s edge.
As there came to be more rocks than liquid here, Bala worked his body with clumsy flicking motions to clamber over them.
“It’s easier on two legs you know.”
Bala jumped out of skin.
His seal skin dropped away and he became a white, naked critter, pale and limp on the right foreleg. No that couldn’t be right. It wasn’t a leg. He looked over to where the voice had been. There sat a plump…something…with brightly coloured skins and a bell attached to the covering on its head.
“Come on then.”
“What are you?!” demanded Bala.
“WHAT I am is an elf. I gather up all the toys for Wyrd-wummin to wrap up and then her hubby gets them out to all the kiddlies in need of fun. Now get a move on!”
“I’m no toy!” yelled Bala.
“Oh is that so? Is it not that you are called Bala?” The seal-boy nodded. “Have you not the gaedhlig then, to know that the name means only ‘toy’? Even more than that, it means ‘ball-toy’… now roll on over this way and we’ll away up the glen to the wummin.”
Bala was shocked. He was frightened. He was shivering and could feel tears pricking his eyes. Tears? How did he know they were tears? So much he knew and yet didn’t, but somehow he accepted that this was what had to be done if he was to get a better flipper. He stumbled his way over the slippery, sea-grassed rocks and followed the tubby little critter all the way up the creek-side. It seemed to take hours. Then suddenly it was over.
There was the Wyrd-wummin, sitting under a leafless rowan, decked in full red berry. She beckoned to him. As he drew closer he was riveted by her eyes. Large as moons, as dark as the water he had just left and lit with all the stars of the night sky.
There were no words. She simply reached over and held the bad flipper… he still thought of it as that. Like the shock of hitting ice, he felt her touch and life flowed into the damaged limb.
Then it all stopped. With horror he realised that the limb was turning to wood. It crept up his other limbs also and worked its way through him until he could not move. He was not breathing and yet he knew he was still he. The wummin gathered his bundle of sticks to her and turned them in her hands. He was being rolled and twisted and tightened and twined. He blinked. Or that’s what he thought he did. He was thrown onto a pile of other wooden shapes and felt their presence. Heard their cries.
Along came farmer. A large and white-furred fellow. “Ho ho ho ho! What a haul of toys we have for all the kiddlies this year wummin. You have done well!”
“SSSKKKARRRRKKKK!!” came another sound, very familiar to Bala. Bigshanks! Bala shouted and shouted with his thinking but could make no sound. How could it be that Bigshanks was here? There was no time to question it though. For the feathered friend swooped and grabbed Bala from the pile of pining presents, fleeing as fast as possible now he bore the extra load.
Bigshanks headed back to the pile of blubber and fur on the shoreline. He dropped the ball of sticks onto the mess and made a bit of a crash landing beside it.
Bala felt the water, felt his pelt, felt his sticks reviving and wriggling their way free of their entrapment. As suddenly as he had lost his sealdom, so it was he returned to the water as a seal once more. A complete seal. Four working flippers.
“Bigshanks! I can swim free and fast – but how did you know?”
The bird was not with him he realised. He turned to where his rescuer had landed. There was the multi-coloured mischief who had lured him in the first place…and then the chubby elf said “I was with you always my friend. I am only in liege to Wyrd-wummin for two months of the year. When you said what your plan was I could see there was no changing your mind. I had to satisfy her demands of me. Saving you was always going to be a matter of luck. That was what might be called ‘in the Nick of time…’”
(c) Yamini Ali MacLean 2014
Please note that there is a wonderful new bloggy page for special healing and heart-felt wishes. You don't have to know them, just send the Love with the capital 'ell'... (click image to view)