She remembered the water. Not the warm, welcoming comfort she had once known. But the sharp cold of an unforgiving sea. She could vividly recall the force of the water as her body broke the surface. It felt like a wall had crashed into her. The cold hit just as roughly as the force, so that all of the air gushed out of her lungs at once and she uselessly reached for the surface above her head. She watched it move farther and farther away as she finally came to understand the harsh truth of the sea. Beautiful as it was, it was a cold and impersonal death.
She held onto the memory of the sea and the acceptance of death. It was the only thing she could remember at all before being pulled from the waves. The man who had pulled her from the water frantically shouted a name that she didn’t recognize as he pushed air into her lungs and forced her to give up her acceptance of death. She found accepting life had been harder than accepting death.
All the days she spent in a hospital bed after the accident she clung to the sharpness of that memory. Nothing before, and nothing after. As if her entire life began the moment her body broke the surface of those violent waves. She had been so close to giving into death without ever accepting life. But now she was forced to accept life. Not one that she knew and loved. She did not feel as if she was going home. The man who called himself her husband held her hand as if he knew her all along. He spoke of the life growing in her womb as a new hope for the both of them. He claimed it was something they had both wanted, but she could not let go of the idea that maybe it was the whole reason she had leaped into the ocean from the start. If only she could remember.
There was only a whisper of memory before that moment. Nothing real and solid that she could hold onto. Just the ache in her throat and the sorrow in her heart. As if she had lost something. They called it an accident. Her own “husband” referred to it as an accident. And yet she could not shake the feeling that it had not been an accident at all. She knew in her heart that she had leaped into those waves to escape the life that lay ahead of her.
She could see that her husband knew the truth of her accident as well. He had been relieved when she finally came to in a hospital bed. He acted kind and loving and she was sure that it was genuine. But he had been so cautious and careful until the moment he realized she couldn’t remember her own name. Then he showed that relief. Surely if she could not remember her own life, then she would not leave him again.
Once she was released, he took her to live in the country. In a house he had found that was built in the middle of a field of golden grass that shimmered in breezes like the waves of the ocean. There was nothing but that grass for miles. Nothing but mountains and trees in the distance. It was a place for her to recover, he said. Somewhere where she could rest as they waited for the child in her womb to grow. Where they could raise their child alone and safe. Where she could not reach the ocean and swim away.
She would sit out on the porch for a long time in the afternoons while he worked away in the village. She would imagine that the breezes rolling through the sea of grass were waves in the ocean. She could even recall the colors. The blues and greens and the deeper shades of indigo and violet. She asked her husband once if she had been a painter. She felt as if she knew the colors as well as if she had painted them. But he assured her that she had not been a painter as long as she had known him. She asked him if he could find her a painting of the sea so that she could feel the colors on the canvas, but he thought her current state was too fragile for memories of her accident. He thought the only cure for her loss was to be whisked away from the only memory she had of a time before she had gone into the water. To nurture a child she could not remember wanting and maintain a home she did not know, and nothing more.
She waited so long for memory to return. She could see that her husband loved her, and sometimes she wanted to love him back. When her womb grew large and full she could feel the child moving within her, and she wanted so badly to love it as it deserved. To tell it that she had wanted it from the start. But it felt so unfamiliar to her. A stranger in her own body. She thought if she could find a name for it, perhaps it would help her connect with her child. But she could not find a name for a child if she could not even remember her own name. He said her name was Imogen, but that name never seemed right to her. It felt as strange and foreign as the baby in her belly and the man who greeted her every morning with a kiss on her temple.
Sometimes she felt as if she knew her true name. Sometimes she could hear it being whispered through the tall golden grass. She would step out into the field with her bare feet in the dirt. The wind would pick up and swirl around her. Always so warm and close. Like the embrace of a lover. It felt familiar. And even though she could never find words for the name, she knew the wind was trying to tell her. To guide her home to the sea. And it was through the warm wind that she finally grasped a single memory. Not a memory, but the knowledge that the child in her womb did not belong to the man who called her “wife.”
I've had the idea for this story for a super long time (came from a dream during a period where I was having nonstop dreams about selkies and water). And when I was checking out the contests on Mibba and saw the picture above, I decided this contest might be a good motivation to work on it. I would have had this up earlier, but I was a bit torn about whether or not she was actually a selkie or just using those legends as a metaphor, and whether or not I should bring in the selkie lover aspect of the legend into her story or if she genuinely loves her husband. We shall see.
Since this is for a contest, I'll probably update it as it's being written. So no guarantee on updates. Also not sure how long it's going to be. I'm leaning toward short, but that doesn't always happen with me. Depends on the flow, man.