Two girls go to Gummy Island in search of ghosts. What will they do when faced with more beauty, and more danger then they could have hoped for? It may drag them into something magic.


1. Two-Thirds

Two-thirds of our way to Gummy’s Island, I realised we had made the wrong decision. The water was peaceful, but the clouds were fat and threatening, its electricity mixed with the sea salt splashing to kiss our skin. The journey was court. People always spoke as though there was more than just a half mile of water between it and us. The folklore was the real distance between water. Whenever it came in to conversation, and it often didn’t, people liked to elaborate of its guards. The keepers of the gates were willowy spirits as thinner than a sheet of paper. And could bend to morph into the shape of water with ease.

Gummy had passed away on the old island twenty years ago, and no one had since dared cross it. It had been his heritage, and without a family, the land rotted with him. It wasn’t so much a passing. Everyone agreed that Gummy had drowned. Not everyone agreed however, how that came to be.


The stories varied. We had been taught, however, to believe this; he had gone in his own exile as a solitude-driven man. On arrival he’d come face to face with a woman out of a Renaissance painting. Or, what appeared to be a woman. The creature he came face to face with could be whatever it wanted. He must have stuck out his wrinkled hand to her, and watched helplessly dragged him down to the surface. My mother called the creature a kelpie. A horse of the sea, a demon. Others suggested it was a mermaid, but we knew better. Everyone knows a mermaid doesn't live in fresh water sea. 

No one liked to imagine the Kelpies as kind anymore.

I had made the mistake in deciding to listen to Ida. She was a lazy dreamer; she read and swallowed ideas that she grew in her head, like flowers in potted plants. They’d amuse her for a while, but when they were tangible; she’d chuck them out.  When she’d heard her parents bringing the island into conversation; the idea had hatched. I had listened involuntarily. She had a way of making them amuse others to, slowly turning in your mind until it stuck like adhesive.

And now we were here. We couldn’t find a Kelpie-hunting kit so instead we carried essentials; two flasks of coffee, an extra jumper, a packet of digestives and a Swiss army knife. It was eleven when we’d left, and borrowed Ida’s family’s fishing boat. We’d taken turns rowing and spent the journey in a dizzy panic. When the bat hit land we clambered out to a half-foot of a coast-line, quickly fading to wet earth of forest and a stench of sweet amber sap. Ida tripped and hit the sand, spitting grit out her teeth. On the beach, the word BEWARE OF HER, was written in rough scrawl, with an ‘L’ that dragged across another foot.
Ida giggled. “Who’s her? Mrs Gummy?” I didn’t reply; gummy was notoriously a bachelor. As the tide rose and fell like a breathing chest, the warnings in the sand wouldn’t wear off. As far as I could see – ruins of stone houses, silhouettes of crooked trees, and – there was no sign of magic. To the right I could make out the mangled remains of an old boat. Rags of torn clothes were clawed by the sharp debris of rotten wood. It was all that remained of Gummy.
It appeared then, as though treading across the shore like a dream. The form parted from the water; a shiny back saddled and bridled, like a show animal. Its hooves made soft traces in the ground to graze quietly to the nearest cluster of green. We had been wrong. Not a woman like Gummy had screamed, it was a horse. As it bowed a graceful neck, it shook the curly ends of a damp blue mane, and its body was spotless near-silver. Its eyes hinted the dark of night skimming the surface of the sea. I could hear Ida exclaiming but she was muted somehow. Everything blurred.
“It’s not a kelpie, Rowe. It’s just a horse.” Ida said, her body gravitating towards the innocent creature. If it was a monster; we’d written them wrong. There was nothing gruesome to its looks, everything about it was perfect. Both the Kelpie and Ida had a shared look of wild abandon. It was dreamlike; I tried to pull Ida close and trying to hit sense into her but I could see the seriousness of the danger was wearing down for her like sacred old shoes.
The Kelpie stopped grazing, heading to the first feeble waves of the water. It brushed against the surface of the shimmering blue as though she was soothing it to sleep. Ida couldn’t concentrate; and I watched the helplessness as it beckoned her further and further towards her.
“It won’t hurt us, it’s just a horse. It’s just a horse.” She was blind as she pushed me away, rejecting my pleas. Couldn’t she see Kelpie’s eyes? The tension in its limbs aching to push her into the water, body and soul. All it took was one touch.
Ida’s scream brought me back from sub-conscientiousness as the Kelpie began to rise and kick into action. Ida was trying to pull herself away, but its skin had stuck to her mercilessly. Ida yelled at me to stop it, but it was hopeless. Her skin stuck to the Kelpie like glue. The horse began to try to make it for the water, dragging Ida along the side. She begged for me as I ran to her side and we both tried to force her away. “Don’t touch it!” She warned. The myth was true. All that connected her and the creature was her finger as she’d been tentative to approach it. “Don’t let it take me.” The sea water and tears stung her eyes and her heels kicked up the sand, cloying her way to land.
“You have to do it.” She pleaded, using her other arm to gesture to my pocket. “I- I- can’t,” I stuttered. The knife.  We’d read that myth once, of the tenth child who’d escape, albeit his hand. But that was a story. Not real flesh. I knew the Kelpie was restless, and its strength would pull Ida away in a heartbeat. She pleaded until I brought the silver out, trembling fingers. I don’t care, I don’t care. She insisted. The horse rose up and I swung with a quivering target, slicing the top of her finger free from the Kelpie. She fell backwards writhing in pain and I dragged her wet limbs. Kicking the Kelpie back, almost dicing her skull on the hard rocks. The Kelpie slipped into the water, with a shimmer of a main and the glint of soaked hooves.
When we all trudged up the grey stones, spluttering and silent, the air had changed. Thunder roared but we couldn’t hear it. We headed back; shivering in the dark. The monsters in the sea left us in a peace. Two-thirds of our way to Gummy’s Island, we knew we had made the wrong decision. Ida wrapped the two-thirds of her index finger with the extra jumper and sighed and wept. We had two-thirds of a finger, half of a pair of shoes, three-thirds of a myth, and the rest a great story no one would ever believe.

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