I was inspired by Estes book 'Women who Run with the Wolves'. One of the stories she recounts is an Inuit tale called 'Skelaton Woman' and this is what I came up with.
Lost and Found
Once upon a time, a long time ago, far, far away, where the Northern lights dance in the sky, where the summer sun shines at midnight, and the winters are as long as a grey tomb, there lived a girl called Mara, daughter of a proud chieftain. Her hair rippled down her back like ripe, summer corn, and her eyes were as blue as the sea on Christmas day.
In her joyful innocence she loved, and was loved by the son of her father's worst enemy. The jealousy and the shame that her father felt when he discovered them together led him to take her out in a small boat, and, with her hair like a rope round his wrist, to throw her into the depths of the Bay of Lost Souls.
The shock of the cold water took her breath away. As she tried to scream a trail of bubbles came out of her mouth. She was surrounded by bubbles. They clung to her clothes. They streamed past her eyes. She could hear them rush past her ears. She started to kick, writhing in the cold water, struggling to free her tied hands. Her long hair wrapped itself around her face. Then the rage and panic she had felt when she had tried to wrestle free of her father's grip left her and cold fear began to take hold. Desperately she tried to lift her face to the surface and catch a last breath, but instead of air, the sea poured into her lungs, and she began the slow descent. Down, down, down she went, into the gloomy depths, keeping her eyes focused on the silvery surface. Her thoughts turned from fear to wonder at the graceful movements of the kelp that grew on the rocks. She sank lower and lower, until gently she was laid on the sandy floor, her golden hair streaming around her and moving like the kelp, to the rhythmic pulse of the sea.
All through the cold dark winter she lay on the sand, surrounded by the long graceful strands of seaweed. While storms raged and dark skies prevailed she lay there losing parts of herself. Her clothes left her, her skin left her. Her hair left her. She had nothing but her bones to hold onto in that murky world. She moved gently with the motion of the sea, to and fro, to and fro, in the fields of kelp. Small fish darted through her ribcage, kelp took hold on her scull,
Gradually the days began to lengthen and summer came. Mara could see the sun shining in long golden rays through the green sea, lighting up the kelp and giving colour to the ocean bed. Shadows of dolphins flitted across her. The fine grains of sand stroked her bones, gently reminding her of the skin she had once had. Her kelpen hair grew long and fine. The rippling silver-blue surface was the colour her eyes had been. She felt that her body had not deserted her, but had moved out side of her and now she could see parts of her old self about her, in her watery home
The years went by. Times of famine and plenty came and went. Old feuds were forgotten, new links were formed. People began to move away, to find a new way of life, away from the sea. With no young grandchildren to listen, the clan stories and songs died in the mouths of the old. The tragic death of the chieftain’s daughter became nothing more than a name of a rock on the headland. Marasend.
One night near the end of the summer, the moon in its fullness, shone through the calm waters and lit up the sand. Mara lay bathed in the silver light. She was listening to the constant heartbeat of the sea, looking up at the luminous globe, weaving in and out of the ripples on the surface, when a shadow crossed her bones. It was a boat, floating directly above, turning slowly and returning. In all her time here she had not seen a boat of any kind. She had been thrown into forbidden waters, a cursed bay where no fishermen dared to fish lest they land a catch that would taint their lives.
She watched as something was thrown in. A silver lure, glinting in the moonlight. It spiralled down, down, down. She could see the big hook. It was coming for her. It landed on her chest and caught in her ribs. Then she felt the line tighten and her bones begin to move. Up, up, up. She recognized the regular pull that a fisherman makes, smoothly, calmly, lest they lose their catch, ever upwards. The glittering surface came closer and closer. She could feel the water rushing through her, the drag of her kelp hair, until suddenly she was rattling on the floor of a boat, stripped of the protective water that had been her air, her skin, her eyes, her heartbeat, her home.
Antoine had been out for hours, dreaming of catching a big fish; a fish that would impress the local fishermen. He was not local, but his mother had lived here many years ago. She had told him stories from her childhood and he wanted to be a hunter like her people were. He had come to stay in their small summer house, a wooden shack with a veranda. He hired a boat and went out on the sea. He was careful not to encroach upon the serious fishing grounds. They might be kin, but where fishing was concerned, he knew to be respectful of their territories. A man in the bar had recommended this lonesome bay. He said it was good fishing, but that no one used it due to some old superstition.
Night fishing was the best. Antoine loved to sit alone in his small wooden boat feeling the swell of the sea under him, and listening to the water lapping at the sides. He loved to row in a steady rhythm, the row-locks rattling in their holes, and to see the phosphorescence drip off the oars in silver beads. Tonight there was a full moon, and the sea was as still as glass. The sky was a luminous blue, still quite light in the west. Antoine pulled at the oars and rowed out into the bay. The tall, silent cliffs looked on, faceless in the monochrome light of the moon. In the wake of the boat the water rippled silver and black.
He parked his oars and took out his tackle and began to spin it down into the water. Down, down, down went the shining lure. Then he waited, in his small wooden boat, out in the glassy sea, alone.
When he felt the catch his heart leapt into his throat. This was a big one! With adrenalin pumping, he went into action. He stood up, legs braced. Steadily he pulled his catch in. Steady, steady. No sudden movements or else he would lose it. Hand on hand he drew in the line. There! He could see something coming up to the surface! Something big!
And then it surfaced and seemed to leap into the boat. A luminous skeleton with wide staring eyes and a screaming mouth, smothered in seaweed.
Antoine screamed and ran to the other end of the boat, tangling himself in his line as he tried to distance himself from this spectre. The skeleton followed him, jerked along by the same line, her bones rattling on the duck-boards. Terrified, Antoine dived into the sea and swam towards the shore. The skeleton jerked out of the boat and followed.
When Antoine reached the stony shore he dragged himself out. He looked back to the water, and saw the bones moving toward him on the crest of a small wave. He got up and ran as fast as his legs could take him. He could hardly breath he was so scared. All he could hear was the sound of his heart pounding in his ears. When he reached his house he ran in and slammed the door. The sound of the bones landing on the veranda froze him to the spot.
He stood, listening for a long time, while his body recovered from the physical exertion, and his mind began to calm. It was then that he felt something tight on his leg and saw the fishing line twisted round his ankle. He began to laugh hysterically. He sat down on the floor with his back against the door, drew out a knife from his pocket and cut the string. After a few minutes he began to feel cold. Quickly he took off his clothes and rubbed himself with a towel, all the time thinking of the skeleton that must be on the other side of the door. Finally, dressed and feeling the warmth of a large brandy coursing through his veins, he went to inspect his catch. In the light of the storm lantern which he held in front of him, he looked at the sorry pile of jumbled bones that lay on the weathered boards. He put the lamp down on the table and sat down next to the bones, wondering who it could have been? Why had it been out in that bay?
Antoine began to arrange the bones, to untangle them. He took the hook from the ribcage. He laid the arms out, and straightened the legs. He stroked back the slippery seaweed hair. A cool breeze made him shiver. He reached out and drew a blanket off the hammock and wrapped it round the skeleton. Then he went to his hammock and sighed as his body sank into the net. He lay looking up at the night sky, trying to make sense of what had happened this night. Gradually, the stars lulled his senses, and he fell into a deep sleep.
Mara lay unblinking, staring at the blinking stars. She had felt the gentle hands of Antoine as he rearranged her bones. She had felt the warmth of his fingers touch her cold bones and thaw the frozen marrow. She could smell the brandy on his breath, a warm earthy smell. Then the blanket came, the final act of kindness that stirred her spirit. In the silence of the night she heard him sleeping, and she felt his dreams come seeping into her. Dreams of dislocation and loss, of searching and loneliness. She saw tears trickle down his face. She drew the blanket round her as she stood up, and went over to the hammock. She reached over and drank his tears. She drank up his sorrow, it became her joy. She drank up his loneliness, it became her faith. Her love-starved body drank, and filled with warmth and life. She felt her skin return. She felt her loving heart grow strong. Gently, she slipped in beside him and curved her new body into his curves. His out breath became her in breath. The hammock barely rocked as their hearts beat in rhythm. Lost and found. Lost and found.