The Seal Wife
One day a black woman in a yellow dress came down to the water. She planted her toes into the coarse sand. She shook the water with a rattle made from seed pods threaded onto string. She looked across the inlet. Her hair was thickly curled, lustrous. Freckles spread over her face.
The black woman moved into the Slav’s little hut. She brought paint and spent her days daubing the tin with colours and patterns until there was no still moment all over that hut – even the chimney was banded with white and blue and pink. White handprints danced around the windows. Orange and green dotted cartography spiralled across the corrugations.
That year we birthed again; a girl child with weak blue eyes that I knew would turn inky black like her mothers. I held up my daughter clear of the water and her mother peeled away the child’s sealskin. I saw the cushiony little cleave between her legs and I wondered at my cloven family. My sons of Frannie would be generations dead by now. The black woman went away and took the girl child with her. How many seasons ago ... twenty? Less than thirty?
We saw a blue boat full of brown men, drying their shark fins on the roof above the deck of their wooden boat.
The next day, I saw my seal wife sing down the flying machine. I saw her rise out of the water and sing with her mouth open wide enough to roar but the cry was so high a pitch that the whole world covered its ears. She would not tell me why she sung down the flying machine. I heard the machine stop. I have heard land machines stop before and they will sit still, ticking with heat and nowhere to fall. This machine fell out of the sky like a doomed raven.
Fire was everywhere, balling up into a perfect storm of fuel and steel. The heat was such that in the centre of the fireball it burned white and fanned away up the hillside to red and orange licks of flame. Maybe if the land machines carry people then the flying machines do too but I saw no one.
Lots of people came. Machines with flashing lights pulled down to the water, where the wreckage glowed orange and smelled like a forge. The Slav’s black dog barked himself hoarse at the intruders, stalking around them with his hackles raised whenever anyone tried to get near the hut, where the Slav sat screaming with his hands over his head. Uniformed men tried to ask him what had happened. The tortured man, old now, drank from his flask and gibbered. In the end they left him alone. No more questions – not when he spun stories of red haired sirens and firestorms that engulfed whole cities.
My seal wife found him dead on the grey stones by his hut, maybe one moon later, his black hound moping beside him. More people came. One man arrived in a khaki uniform, carrying a stick with a loop of wire at the end and he took the dog away.