A SEA TALE (part7)

Asturias Travel Blog

 › entry 6 of 7 › view all entries
His eyes misted over when he first saw the village nestled on the rocky shore. The gulls flying overhead shrieked cries of welcome and his tortured, salt-burnt body yearned for the repose promised by the wisps of white smoke climbing high in the sky from the tall chimneys of the cottages. The grey, cloudy sky and the slight drizzle were old friends, long-missed and turning out to greet him on his return. He heard the seamen on the ship that had saved him on the open sea begin a slow shanty, a song of rejoicing and thanksgiving, expressing their happiness at being safely at port again. The ship slowly entered the harbour and the boats were lowered full of the barrels and boxes that were to be replenished with provisions. He jumped onto the boat, unable to restrain himself any longer.
His heart flew like a seagull, away from his breast over the waves, reaching the shore ahead of him, unable to be restrained from meeting her any longer.

The villagers milling around the harbour shouted and waved, the activity that accompanied the arrival of the boats and sailors, awakening the village from its morning sleep. Alan watched old friends and fellow villagers on the quay coming out of the tavern, talking outside the quayside shops. He smiled and was the first to jump onto the shore as the boat sidled up to it. He walked towards the tavern amongst the crowd of villagers. His smile widened as he realized that the villagers had not recognized him. He looked at an old man outside the tavern and greeted him affectionately, “Why there’s old John, hard at work in the tavern drinking the place dry, early in the morning!” The old man turned surprised to hear that voice, squinting his rheumy eyes to gaze onto his face. His surprise turned to a look of disbelieving, doubtful, shocked fearfulness. The man was looking as though he had seen a ghost, and only then did Alan realize what the village had made of his three-year absence. “Alan! You’re alive, lad! You’re back!” The old man managed to speak after a while and in a few moments, old friends surrounded him and pushed him towards the inn. Only the women remained distant, dark-dressed as always, their eyes hiding much, whispering to one another, shaking their heads and moving quickly away, up the small narrow streets of the village, towards Moira’s cottage.

Alan could not understand the villagers’ behaviour as he asked for news of Caitlin in the tavern. The conversation was quickly changed and they asked him for his story, evading his own questions about the news of the village. Alan finally could stand it no longer and as the whiskies were poured out yet again, he slipped out quietly, leaving the men drinking and talking noisily amongst themselves. He walked quickly, almost ran up the steep street that led out of the village proper and up to Caitlin’s cottage high on the cliff overhanging the far side of the harbour. He could see the cottage now. He smiled to himself as he saw the smoke rising from the chimney, the well tended garden around the small house, the white-washed, clean walls, the thatched roof. He could contain himself no longer and broke into a run clutching his cap off. He reached the door of the cottage and his heartbeats resounded in his chest as he paused, considering the next few moments, rejoicing in what was to come about shortly, savouring the feelings that overwhelmed him. He felt like a man athirst and hungry for many days who has been put before a fully laden table and invited to dine. His heart was brimming with joy as though his every wish had been realized, his every dream come true. He felt that all he had been through was worth this moment as he readied his trembling hand to knock on the old timber of the door.

He was surprised when the door opened slowly before he even touched it and the words froze in his throat “Caitlin, my own, true...” He encountered the solemn face of Moira, her black shawl drawn tightly over her shoulders, her white wispy hair fluttering in the wind. “Come in lad, come in...” He looked at her with trepidation, his heart skipping a beat as his eyes darted behind her, running ahead of him to the small room within, searching, parting the shadows, tearing the air that hung heavy and laden with a mounting premonition. “Where is she? Tell me, why are you here? Is she sick?” He pushed his way past the old woman and looked in both of the deserted cold and dark rooms of the cottage. She was not there. Moira followed him in and bade him sit near the fire that burnt thin, dark and cold in the hearth. His mind was turning and reeling, tottering along the precipice of an abyss. “Where is she?” He remained standing, the old woman’s sad face and veiled eyes a silent avowal of his worst fears.

He leaves the house stunned, silently, unheeding of old Moira’s cries. She was dead! She had died of a broken heart awaiting him, while he was whiling away his time with Thalassa. Weak and powerless he lolled in the witch’s arms while his own true Caitlin fought with death and was losing the battle. A storm begins to brew over the dark grey sea and he turns towards the dark horizon, his eyes misting over, reflecting the stormy sea. He clutches at the chain around his throat as he walks tottering along the cliff face. The gold shines brightly and the metal burns his flesh as though it were white hot. The emerald shines illumined by cool fires within its own substance, the pearl round, smooth, tranquil, perfect. He pulls at the chain, a cry rising at his throat as the wind begins to drive thick blankets of rain against him, inundating him, wetting him to the bone. She was dead! The chain cuts into his throat but will not part, the links holding to one another resolutely. He gazes out into the greenish-grey darkness of stormy sea and decides in an instant. He must go to her! She is awaiting him!
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