Those that returned.
Possibly the most important part of this series of books are the tales of those returning home, those lost at sea returning to life and viewing all that they have lost. Many of these tales, as you can imagine, are sad or bittersweet. I have not included here the tales told in the books but rather the tales of others and what may have been thought or imagined. It is unlikely but some of these stories may appear in last book. It is not ready yet and so who can say. I hope that you enjoy these short stories and that they enhance your enjoyment of the books. I am hoping that there will be many of them but I have have added two to start, both emotive and rather sad.
The perfect day to die, the perfect send-off was given to me by those I loved and cared for. Of course, I was not there to see it, wrapped in muslin and placed in a long Indian canoe, modified for this purpose, laid stiffly across the seating boards I rested waiting for my send off.
I had requested whilst still in life, to have my equivalent of a “Viking funeral”. Of course, such things are simply fantasy but I bought into it. Being a writer and dredging up legends of various sorts I had included my favored method of my disposal in my will.
The Norse did not set long ships alight and send them out to sea burning. Dragon ships took too long to create; the timbers were difficult to cut with the few tools they used and would not be wasted on such stupidity, rather the film industry, Hollywood, created those ideas and for some reason they stuck.
My Wife, a curious girl, strange in her own ways but devoted to me, agreed with my intentions even if sceptical overall. Insurance and pensions unclaimed paid for my send off as I was not yet sixty when my drinking, smoking and generally unhealthy life-style took the last breath from me.
You hear of cases where a young child is beset by cancer or an incomplete heart and when hearing of them feel an immeasurable sadness but I am not that person, rather I have chosen my route to Hades or Valhalla with happy abandon. In Fact, I have accelerated my demise along the way.
Once upon a merry time I drank too much, smoked too often, enjoyed many good and large meals, red meat, seafood, brandy and grog. Of all the things that are bad for a body I took my fill.
I regret nothing, except wishing to live longer but my demise was a personal choice designed and considered, a life style that would only have a singular outcome, death. I knew that sooner rather than later the Grim Reaper would come to claim me. I did not try to cheat nor discourage him by taking a final shot at fitness or a healthy lifestyle, a good diet, rather I encouraged him to collect me by my excess.
My wife and children stepped into the sea at Peninver, a small village near Campbeltown, on the West Coast of Argyll, Scotland and laid my body in the wooden canoe. The water must have been freezing, I had not the good grace to die in the summer, the winter and ill living had taken me to my watery grave. Placed there, my body was not covered with flowers but with acorns and pine cones, sticks and firewood. Dry and ready to burn, my silly version of a “Norse” funeral.
I could not feel the sticks and tinder being placed upon my dead self, the weight of them on my chest or legs, I did not feel the heat as all were lit and my sad, long ship was pushed out into the loch until I, the boat and all that I had been, burning, vanished beneath the waves that had once welcomed me.
Walking up the pearl, pebble and golden beach, having seen my last deceit, I noticed that little had changed. The long shingle and golden sand beach remained unchanged, the long row of cottages remained the same, the row of lobster boats drawn up on the sand, the creels stacked beside them. The hazelnut woods were unchanged and as always, the hills and rocks remain, too ancient to be changed by the thoughts or deeds of humans. I noticed this even as I crawled from the sea, exhausted, changed, hands digging into the porous sand left by the receding ocean. Hand over hand I pulled my protesting body from the sea. I tried many times to gain my feet and stand before I succeeded but was remembering the time before I reached land.
Time had passed, there were new roofs on some houses, the community centre had changed, looking clean and new when it had been windswept, paint peeling, roof slightly askew, forlorn as I was, when they sent me out to sea. Houses had been repainted, the caravan parks that lined the shore looked cleaner and new, Prettier. But then it was night as I found the shore and my eyes were strange, seeing in the night.
No street lights festooned the night in such a remote corner of Scotland, no one walked abroad this late at night yet I could see everything. I was changed, different. Pipistrelles circled and pinwheeled above me catching moths and other flying insects in the night, the waves sloshed lazily against the shore behind me and I noticed, the first time I had smelled anything in an age. The aroma of decaying lobster and crab, the scent of fish guts on the beach, hastily cleaned up by gulls and crows but the scent lingering. The smell of seaweed drying in the warm sun, lingering into the night. A smell I had always hated but that came gladly to me now. A little bit of death can make you glad to be alive, nostalgic for all those things that you noticed and liked or even hated when able to notice them.
I looked down at my nakedness, white, bloated, blue veins prominent all over my distended body. Looking like a grossly fat, upright, eel that had been washed up upon a beach with all the colour leached from it as the salt and sea can do. I knew that Resurrected, I was still dead. No blood coursed in my veins, no heart beat in my breast, I was changed and new. Different.
I stood for a while absorbing this information before I staggered on towards the farmstead that was once my home. It was barely a mile and a half from the shore at Peninver to the farm at Ardnacross but I could not follow the road, looking as I now did and naked. Rather I walked the shore lumbering along until I reached the mouth of the fast-flowing river, Lussa. I waded through it, this river gathered force in the high ridge of hills that formed the spine of the Kintyre peninsula. Once volcanoes spewing lava down to the shore line now all are dormant but still commanding serious rainfall feeding many rivers such as the Lussa. Near the sea the deep and quick spate river widens into many tributaries and shallows as it widens. It was there I crossed.
Fed from the icy eights even in high summer the river runs cold but I felt nothing as I waded across it, climbed through the trees on the western bank and lumbered through the grass lands that nestled the Kintyre shore. I passed the burial mounds of ancients, standing stones and a ruined dun before I reached the farm. The Irony was not lost on me, the creator of ghosts and faerie tales, walking, resurrected, past the tombs of the ancient dead. Lights still shone into the night, it must have been late as the village was quiet and dark. I did not approach the farm directly, I did not wish to be seen in the state that I now was, rather I walked through the fields, sheltered by the dry-stone dykes until I could look in upon my wife and children, unseen.
I climbed a last wall and hid beside the barn, owls hooting and slicing into the night sky , bats pinwheeling all around me, mice scurrying close to my feet, the farm cats hunting. Silently, I crept towards the back of the house, I knew this place so well that I did not need to be careful, I was silent. I gazed in the small window that sat to the side of the kitchen door. Little had changed there, the walls were still stained brown with the soot from the range, the table and chairs still sat where my parents once put them. A relic from the sixties but still serviceable. The room however was empty of people. Shadowing the wall, I, carefully came to the old bowed wooden window at the front of the house, which had been replaced with a white plastic one. Keeping to the shade and darkness I peered into the main house. My son and daughter sat there. Children when I went into the sea they were now close to being Adults. My wife looked older as the unknown man slapped her cheek. Both of the children stood as the man roared, “sit or you will get it next” neither sat, both moved closer, my daughter saying, “No more”. The man pushed my wife into the corner of the room, her side hitting the log basket that had laid by the same fire for an eternity. My daughter and son walked towards this bully but he was bigger than them.
I am guessing that all looked to the side as the door splintered and gave way, the wood ripping from the hinges and screws as a white apparition appeared and beat my wife’s, new friend’s ,face to a pulp, and running through the empty space where the back door once stood was never seen again until in a basement in Campbeltown he huddled with many of his new friends and spoke no more.
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