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Out of Water

250 word short story

Jan was working the Friday backshift. Again.

He’d been watching the girl since she slipped into the nook by the door. Her face was barely visible, but it was something else that had caught his attention; a flash of iridescence as she tidied her legs under the settle.

It had been a filthy, brackish night on the island, so the pub was under-half full. A few big men from the rigs playing the bandit and the usual bunch of gothy teens. Jan lumbered over to the table on the pretext of a weather check.

The clouds were low but briefly revealed dabs of a chartreuse aurora colouring the glimmer dim. Whaap were calling across the bay; “Sea kin,” his ma always said. “Callin’ you doon.”

Leaning across, his bristly slab of a face hovered close to the girl. All but her hand was in shadow; it had the sticky look of the sea to it, as something recently immersed.

“You’ve picked the wrong tavern to hide in missy; we’s mostly fisher folk here and I know scales when I sees ‘em. Scooch over in the corner there and keep your hood up. I’ll get you at last call.”

He felt her eyes on him, but she made no move. His father’s father had seen more than fish below the waves, so the family told it. “But you gotta mind,” his voice low now, reassuring, “if it’s the sea you want or the land. It’s but one you can choose missy.”

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