- Vol. 10
- Chapter 06
"Leave it, Jonas. It's just the spirit of another drowned girl."
Old Samson's sharp tone made him jump. Jonas had been using a bleached driftwood stick to poke the corpse of a large jellyfish, lying high and stinking in the noon sun. Despite the rising heat of the day, loud with the hum of sandflies, a cold frisson passed through him, like someone walking over his grave. Must have been too much rum the night before.
There was something otherworldly about the jellyfish, mostly transparent but with hints of something more, flashes of pink and purple. Samson's grizzled voice rumbled again, "I'm telling you, lad, if you touch that, you'll regret it."
Jonas had seen them at sea of course, floating in a kind of water ballet, beautiful, diaphanous, glowing in spectral colours as they pulsated.
The thought of their movement brought memories of the lacy petticoats of the tavern wenches from the previous night. They had flirtatiously flashed their hems at the sailors newly arrived in port and ready to spend their wages at the Old Sea Rover Inn. In his mind the girls had danced and floated as they brought the bottles, flagons and glasses to the tables, their skirts ballooning out with that frothy frilly edge shimmering on their ankles.
Farther along the sandy strand he found a razor clam shell, empty but with a pearly interior. Jonas felt a pang of sadness remembering the buttons on his sister Rebecca's favourite blouse, how the double row of tiny mother-of-pearl circles, so tiny, so delicate, had shifted the light into scintillating patterns. Rebecca and his parents were long gone, taken by cholera like so many in their village. After that a life at sea had been his only hope.
He looked back at old Samson, a veteran of forty years of sailing, far older
than most achieved on the fleet. Fond of sea-lore and superstitions, weather signs and arcane ocean phenomena, something had meant Samson survived when others perished. Best to pay attention and heed his warnings.
Jonas wandered back along the beach for a final look at the jellyfish, Samson's drowned girl's ghost. Sure enough, there was nothing left, save a small indentation in the sand. "She's long gone, lad. You'll hear her singing with the others, just listen out next time we get caught in a nor'easter." With that, and a shake of his head, Samson shepherded the young man back towards the ship.