website design software
Story 4

Alexander Nicholas

Alex Nicholas is a radiographer living in Bristol, England,

I've written a fair number of stories but this is the first one to get published. I hope it will be joined by others soon. Most of the idea for The Call of Salt came to me walking along the cliffs of Cornwall, looking out at the sea.

— Alexander Nicholas

The Call of Salt

by Alexander Nicholas


Eowyn tucked her hair behind the point of her ear and stared at the sea far below. The salt air called to her, caused the gills at the side of her neck to flex and flutter. She raised her long arms and felt the press of the wind, and imagined how it would feel to dive, to cut the tension at the water’s edge, swift as a loosed bolt. She would sink to the untold depths, to her father’s court deep beneath the white-capped waves.

                Had she always felt this way? For as long as she could recall she had been coming here, and the call was only growing stronger, until her skin ached to leave the human world. When she had found Badden on the pebble beach by moonlight, lying with crooked-toothed Rhianwen, the sting of that betrayal had severed one of the last links that tied her to the village. Now but one tether remained; was that enough?

                ‘Go ahead and jump, half breed,’ spat a voice from behind her, shattering her peace. It was Braith, hunched against the wind, bent over almost double and clutching a stick almost as gnarled as she herself. ‘Jump then,’ she said, ‘just like your mother.’

                Eowyn’s breath caught in her throat as she turned to look at the old woman, both hands pressed on the curve of her stick, small eyes almost lost in a mass of wrinkles. She had heard whispers, hard not to in a village small as theirs. No one had ever stood before her so bold before, said it so direct.

                ‘It’s time you was told, girl,’ Braith said as though reading her thoughts. ‘Time and past it. You’re old enough now, not to be treated like you’d break.’

Eowyn looked over at the fishing boats on the far horizon, where the sunlight glittered on the water. She left without a word, without a backward glance, but the grin on Braith’s face was on her mind as she raced back towards the village, bare feet nimble on the dirt path. She passed walls of rounded, weathered stone and stood gasping in the doorway of the dwelling she shared with her mother. Of course she had heard whispers, living in a village too small to have a name. She had given them little credence, or had not wanted to. She had not understood. Now the vitriol in Braith’s voice spurred her on.

                Gwendolyn was bent down by the pan that hung over the fire. When she turned to face her daughter, Eowyn caught the aroma of salt cod, strong and enticing. Gwendolyn’s raised eyebrows asked a question that her lips did not form, and for a moment the only sound between them was the bubbling of the stew, and the whistling of the wind outside.

                ‘Were you really with the fishing boats the day that made me,’ Eowyn blurted, her tongue thick in her mouth, ‘or did you jump?’

                Her mother’s green eyes widened, and her quizzical smile faded. Wordlessly she removed the stew from the fire, placing the pot down on a rough-carved birch table, gentle as though it were her child in her arms, gentle as she had always been with Eowyn. Her expression was far away; she focussed somewhere remote.

                ‘I know the sea calls you, child,’ she said, her voice light and lilting. ‘It called to me too, though not in the same way.’ She bit her lip, and brushed the hair back from her face. ‘He saved me twice that day, your father. Once from the drowning, and once...’ she paused, hesitant, in that moment young again, in need of comfort.

                ‘Once,’ Eowyn prompted, trying to sound reassuring, but her voice wavered and cracked. She clasped her hands together to stop them from shaking. This was a history of her, kept hidden her whole life.

                ‘He was so tender, in his palace on the sea bed. He breathed for us both. It wasn’t lust. He may have desired me; I don’t know.’ Gwendolyn’s voice was quiet, and Eowyn took a step closer to her, not taking her eyes from her mother’s lined face.

                ‘He told me that if I would not live for myself, perhaps I would for another. He made it so, and so it has been since.’

                She dropped her head, and when Eowyn embraced her, she felt the wetness on her mother’s cheek, the beating of her heart through her ribcage.

                Later, back on the cliff, her belly warm and sated, Eowyn stared over the waves at the red, dying sun, sinking down to join her father in the palace of the deeps. The sea’s call was loud in her ears: the crash of waves against the rocks, the lapping of breakers on the landing beach. Her father’s court would be waiting for her; she knew one day she would find it, as surely as she knew the sun would return from its watery rest. Her mind drifted back to her mother’s words, the way her lip had quivered. To live for another. She thought she saw what it meant. She thought she saw how it was done.

The End

[Home] [About Us] [Stories] [Story 1] [Story 2] [Story 3] [Story 4] [Story 5] [Story 6] [Editors] [Contact Us]