Legend's Tide

He was a fisherman. Every morning before the sky hid the stars behind daylight he rose from his narrow bed, called Emily to his knee and walked slowly to the dock.

But this morning he walked more quickly than usual, the old dog struggling to keep up. The herring spawn had begun. He had seen it yesterday. Finally. The milky stain of their jizz and their eggs hugged the shoreline in a swath a hundred feet wide and a dozen miles long. The smell of their sex hung in the air, making him giddy as he hurried to his boat.

She waited for him there, as always, patient and solid and welcoming. Her flanks were peeling, her nose burned white from the harsh sun. She curtsied as he leapt upon her and he patted her, like he always did, and uttered his customary "g'mornin' My Lady."

Old Emily curled up in her corner in the stern and watched, her pussy-willow eyebrows twitching up and down, her ears twisting to catch the excited noises coming from the other boats. Deep-throated growls filled the air as their engines roared to life and their pilots pointed them toward the mouth of the harbour. Even here gooey patches of herring roe clung to the hulls of boats and dock pilings, betraying the presence of the valuable little fish. But the men ignored it. The open shoreline was where they were bound, to collect the bounty that would pay their mortgages and feed their children for the next three months.

The fisherman urged his skiff as much as he dared until he was past the mouth of the harbour and felt the daring wind on his cheeks. Then he pushed the throttle forward and raced along with the rest of the armada to find the richest schools of fish to plunder.

He went three miles, leaving the rest of the boats behind, skimming the jagged coastline, soothed by the engine's deep gurgling rhythm. The day was achingly clear and the mountains of the big island six miles to the west showed off their splendid green dresses, every tree picked out like a jewel in the bright light of the reborn sun.

The gulls left him alone. There was too rich a feast lying in a carpet on the water to bother with a mere fishing boat. It was a blessed relief to the fisherman not to hear their screaming and arguing all around him for a change. Even the eagles had left their treetop lookouts to stalk the beach. They gorged themselves on roe that stuck to the crusty rocks and the eel grass that was slowly being submerged again under the incoming tide.

Rounding Sorrow Point, the fisherman spotted a jarring splash of colour near the top of a jutting rock promontory. As he neared, he saw that it was a woman sitting there. A woman in a shimmering green dress sitting on the rock with her naked feet perched on a slight outcrop. He was close enough to see she was very pretty. Her hair was black and it lashed about in the bright wind. Her eyes seemed huge and dark. He waved at her. She looked at him but did not wave back. He shrugged and continued on his way, coming soon to a thick school of herring that kept him occupied until almost sundown when he reluctantly turned back to his harbor. He did not see her on his way back.

The next day she was there again, and he waved again and again she did not respond. He found himself wondering about her. How had she gotten there? There wasn't a road for miles. And he noticed that the rock she sat on was at the end of a long finger of land that dipped low to a stony beach before climbing back up to where the trees began their climb up the side of the mountain. The day before at the same time the beach had been noticeably wider. He hoped she was keeping an eye on the tide.

On the third and last day of the herring fishery, as he returned weary but satisfied from his work, he again passed Sorrow Point and, thinking of the tides, watched anxiously for the woman in the green dress. The weather had turned during the day. The laden skiff bounded in and out of the troughs and peaks of waves like a kite soaring on a fickle breeze. He kept farther from shore than usual, trying to avoid the danger of unseen logs floating at the bottoms of the swells. But as he neared her place he kept lifting his head from the watery road before him, looking for her.

She was there, sitting as before on the tip of the promotory, her dress a green flame blazing in a shaft sunlight that speared through a break in the clouds. She was illuminated like an actress on a stage, the huge trees and rocks behind her forming a backdrop dark with tempest. The narrow beach had been obliterated by the waves. She was stranded. It would be many hours before the water receded enough to allow her to pass back to the mainland.

The fisherman cursed and eased off on the throttle, gripping the wheel tightly so he wouldn't be thrown from his feet by the wild rocking of the boat. Emily, shivering at his feet, whimpered.

He couldn't leave her there. She must be mad, just sitting there as calm as Sunday. Blasted woman!

He brought the boat as close as he dared to shore, made his way to the stern and dropped anchor, fearing all the while that the rising sea would swallow him and his boat. It was beginning to rain, cold fat drops that soaked him almost immediately. He braced his legs between a storage compartment and the port side and lifted his hands high over his head and waved and called frantically to her.

"Halloooo! Do you need help?"

She continuted to watch him without moving.

"You're in danger!" he shouted as loudly as he could. The words tore his throat with their force. "Do you..."

A wave slammed over the side of the boat and snatched him into the deep. The water tossed him about like a toy. It was dark and cold. Cold. He was spat up for a moment and heard his dog barking frantically. Down again, breathless, terrified. Panic. The waves teased him and turned him and released him into the air again and he saw, for the briefest moment, the woman stand and turn as she tore the dress from her body in shreds.

Then there was just black. Quiet. Sinking. Cradled gently in the Mother's womb.


Violent spasms wracked his body. His lungs burned with pain. He couldn't breath. Every attempt to gasp in the precious air just brought on another fit of retching and coughing and spitting up foul-tasting salt water and bile. It was as if, in the brief time he was submerged, he had begun to transform to a creature of the water, rejecting the air.

A firm hand held his head away from the hard rock beneath him and another rested on his chest, rising and falling with his laboured breaths. A mouth was sealed to his own, breathing in life and light and sensation.

He opened his eyes and saw again. Breathed again. Lived. The woman pulled away from him and he looked up into her huge black eyes, her liquid eyes. The rain was lashing down from the sky with a fury now and the wind whipped her hair wildly around her face and she allowed it, not trying to control it or subdue it. It stuck to her face. Thin wet ropes draped over her tiny nose and high cheekbones.

He saw that she was naked. Streamers of rain and hair coursed over her shoulders, flowing down in tiny twin waterfalls off the pink tips of her two small breasts. And he saw that he was also naked and wondered what had happened to his clothes and how long had he been in the sea.

She gently put his head down and sat back on her haunches, watching him. He tried to sit up but was too weak and could only rest half-up on his elbows, feeling soft moss beneath him. He looked around. They were on top of the promontory, high above the waves. How the devil had he gotten here? Surely she hadn't carried him? He craned his neck around and saw his boat thrashing up and down in the waves, his poor dog nowhere to be seen.

He turned to speak to her, to ask, but stopped. She was looking at him, at his body, one hand resting lightly on her thigh, the other floating an inch above his cold-shriveled penis. His eyes widened and he tried to sit up again, but she turned her black eyes on him and stilled him. He fell into her eyes and drowned again and felt the heat radiating from her hand and then she touched him very softly and her lips parted in wonder, revealing a pink tongue that flicked over her small, sharp-looking white teeth.

He moaned softly, and cursed his weakness, but he did not move. He closed his eyes and felt her hand explore his growing passion, felt her fingers trail up and down his shaft, felt them prod gently at his sac, as if she had never touched a man before and wanted to know him perfectly. The rain battered his skin, covering him in gooseflesh. It ran down her arm and off the tips her fingers, caressing his cock in tiny streams like kisses that ran down between his legs into the spongy moss beneath him.

He opened his eyes as he felt her move beside him. She lifted herself up on one knee and then straddled his thighs so his manhood brushed against her mons and her belly and she put her palms on his chest, caressed his smooth, hairless stomach and rubbed herself on him. She reached forward and took the back of his neck in her strong hand, pulling him toward her. He thought she would kiss him, but she did not. She just held up and looked into his face.

He watched her body writhe against the rain that coursed down her skin and fell from her in streams and waterfalls. Her body was sleek and hairless and as pale as bone and he had never seen anyone so naked. Yet her sex was furred in a luxuriant glossy mat of black hair as dense and soft as velvet. He ran his fingers over it and she purred and thrust her hips forward and invited his fingers in to the pink frilled place beyond. He took one small breast in his left hand and teased the nipple so it stood out like a barnacle and he slid his whole right hand between her legs, running it up and down the length of her sex, his callouses scraping softly over her distended clitoris, making her arch her back and jut her hips at him. Her black eyes fluttered closed and her pink mouth opened softly so the rain fell in and he saw her nostrils flaring and her breasts heaving. His cock brushed against the velvet between her legs and he almost came right then, like a tender untried boy.

Suddenly she was off him and lying beside him on the moss, presenting her back to him, arching so he could see the glistening pink folds of her sex open and ready to take him. He curled one arm under her neck and around to grip her shoulder, the other reached down over her belly and between her legs to barely caress her erect clitoris. Her hips bucked forward in a spasm of ecstacy but he pushed against her pubic bone with the heel of his hand, bringing her bottom back toward him, positioning himself behind her, slowly sliding himself along her slick folds until he found her opening.

The moment he felt himself begin to enter her, she cried out and reached up to grip the back of his neck again. She turned her neck as far as she could and he took her mouth in his, feeling her long tongue exploring his teeth and his lips and his gums, the cold rain mingling with their hot saliva. He slid himself into her and felt how hot she was inside and how cold outside. He could feel her inner tissues gripping him and sucking him deeper and the muscles of her sex fluttering against his surging cock. He felt her heat and then her heat was all there was in the world; a red-hot spear of orgasm and quaking and searing every other thing in his world into oblivion.

When he came back to himself, she was still, as if sleeping. Her side rose and fell in a regular rhythm in spite of the wind and rain that still thrashed their naked flesh. He stroked the velvet between her legs for a while, enjoying the feel if it against his puckered fingertips, wet with rain and sex. After a time, he pulled away from her and stood slowly, shakily, feeling the wind pushing at him as if trying to make him lie down again. But he had to relieve himself.

He walked gingerly away from the sleeping woman, amazed that she could lie there so peacefully in this mahem. He kept an eye out for his clothes while he looked for a place to go. He found a little outcrop and urinated against the rock, watching the steaming liquid wash down into the ocean with the rain through a crack at his feet. As he looked, he saw a fragment of brilliant green sloshing back and forth in a deep puddle a few feet away. Her dress. He would bring it to her.

But as he reached for it he thought it couldn't be her dress. He picked it up, bright green and glistening wet. He held it out and it flapped and fluttered in the wind. It was her dress! But it was made of seaweed, fine strands of glossy seaweed woven into a sheet that she had wrapped herself in and then torn apart as she ran to save him from the sea. He looked at it and wondered again who this woman must be. Sitting on rocks, dressed in seaweed. He shivered as a cold gust blasted his naked back and sent him searching again for his clothes.

They were probably gone, he thought, and pictured them floating delicately at the bottom of the ocean while the waves crashed and struggled at the surface. He was about to give up and return to the girl when he spotted a small dark opening below him on the rock face, just beyond the reach of the wildest waves. Something poked out of it. It looked like it might be his sweater.

He crawled carefully down and reached out, grabbing the thing firmly in his fist and then letting go with a cry of disgust as he felt soft fur and skin against his hand. He looked down, trying to see what it was. It didn't move. It wasn't alive. It looked like a fur coat. He reached out for it and pulled it out and threw it up on the rock above him and then climbed back up to see what it was. He picked it up.

The texture, the colour, like black velvet. He shook his head, confused. He draped the thing over one arm and looked at it more closely. It was a seal-skin. What the devil? It looked as if it had been shed whole and left to dry like laundry. He stroked it. So soft. He heard small high sound above the thunder of the waves and he looked up.

She was there. Twenty feet away, standing with her arms wrapped around her like a small child who has been beaten for no reason. Her enormous black eyes, streaming with tears, were locked on the skin he held in his hand with a look of such loss and suffering that he almost wept in sympathy. She crouched down suddenly and began to rock back and forth on her haunches, wailing loud, ululating sobs that tore his heart and pierced his very soul.

Suddenly he knew. It all came together with a jolt that almost made him pass out and he rocked backwards a little and had to struggle to keep his balance on the uneven rock. She saw him stumble and began to rise, reaching toward him, but stopped when he steadied himself and just stood and waited, her eyes wide and staring and frightened.

He thought about it. He could have her. He did have her. He knew the old stories, the legends, though he never would have believed any of them were true. But it seemed that this one was.

He owned her now, as surely as he owned this skin he had found hidden carefully in the rock. He almost laughed with the splendor of it! She was so beautiful, so young and so arousing. He could already feel himself rising again as he looked at that black velvety patch between her legs. He stroked the fur in his hands, considering.

He was a good man. He wanted a wife. He wanted children. He wanted to live a sweet life in a little house near the beach and fish and throw sticks for his dog and love his woman.

He frowned. But he did not want to live in fear of losing it all at any moment, should his luck run out. For if he took her, he knew that she would leave him if she ever could. She would never stop trying to find her freedom, hidden again, by him this time. He knew she would always dream of wild storms and tides and fish.

So he put the skin down and walked past her, back to their carpet of moss to wait for the tide to go out. He sat where she had, naked and dripping, watching his boat, until he heard a splash behind him and saw a sleek black seal leaping in the surf, shooting out of the water and twisting in the air in a joyous return to the waves.

He watched her play, and even laughed sadly at her antics as she rounded the promontory and seemed to do tricks for him. But there came a moment when she dove down and did not come back up. He bent his head and thought about her.

Two hours later the sun had come out and dried him off and he watched as it began its descent into the sea. He did not want to move. But finally, knowing he risked missing his only chance to get off the promontory before the next tide, he climbed slowly down to the beach and tried to prepare himself for the long swim out to the boat.

There was a splash just ahead of him in the water. He looked up just as he was about to wade into the waves and saw the seal again, pushing something ahead of her, coaxing it like a mother teaching her child to swim. It was Emily! Tired and gasping for air and paddling desperately toward her master. The fisherman ran into the ocean, reaching out. The seal immediately flipped backward and shot out into the waves, frightened by the fisherman's gesture.

But he had simply been reaching for his dog, to help her the last little way. The poor animal went limp the moment his arms were safely around her and he lifted her out of the water and turned back to the beach. He laid her gently on the sand and stroked her head reassuringly and then turned and looked out into the ocean, now ablaze with the sunset. The seal leapt once and then she was gone.


NOTE: The Selkie... A selkie is a woman who takes the form of a seal to live in the sea. They often appear in human form, hiding their seal skins for when they are needed again. If a man finds the skin of a selkie and hides it from her, he can make her his wife. But if she finds her skin again, she will leave him and her children to return to the sea. It is believed that people born with webbed fingers or toes are selkie-born.

Male selkies are also believed to exist, though much rarer.

The legend of the selkie comes from the coast of the Orkney and Shetland islands.

LEGEND'S TIDE - Copyright 1998 by Elana White. No part of this work may be reproduced by any means without express permission of the author.

Back to Stories or Home