Hello, everyone! This week’s prompt from Write at the Merge involved a Lifehouse song called “Halfway Gone” and a photo of a lighthouse on a beach. It’s Alesander’s turn, and as you may recall from last week, we left him in a bit of a sink-or-swim situation. 😉 Check out the tag with his name if you’re interested in seeing other posts on him: for now, have the latest instalment, which picks up in 1804, from where the last one left off.
If you’re interested in knowing these things, I came in one word under the 500-word limit.
As when he’d lost consciousness, bright white light kept pulsing in and out of life behind his eyelids. He wasn’t worried that he’d died; he’d swum until he was exhausted, but with rest, he’d be able to continue—
On trembling hands he started to push himself up, only to suddenly realize he was on solid ground and lose control over his own muscles, tumbling back down onto his chin. His oath was met with chiming broken glass giggles, a discordant three-part harmony that made him worried, for the first time, of where he’d landed.
Slowly, he opened his eyes. He made out the fine sand of the beach he lay on, saw the lighthouse that was, he now realized, the source of the light that had been coming and going beneath his eyelids, and the slabs of rock that composed the rest of the beach. Ahead of him on those rocks were three women, their washed-out pale skin and the dull grey of the old washtub they worked around, even the bland paleness of their hair and yellowed, tattered garments blending in with the monochromatic, flinty skies and sea surrounding them. Even when he looked down at his own hands, the colour seemed to have leached from them. It made the bloodstains on the garments the three women were washing all the more vivid.
“Where am I?”
Though he knew he had heard them giggle, they didn’t glance his way. He blinked, thought he was seeing double, blinked again and looked at them with new eyes: jagged torn flaps of skin that leaked no blood, empty black eyes, sharp little teeth.
“Bean-sídhe,” he breathed. Fae women, halfway between this world and the next. He could only be in Ireland or Scotland.
“It is not you who will die,” said one of the faery women, beautiful again, with her back to him.
“But the personas you wear,” continued the second who faced away.
“They must die,” said the third, her eyes fixed on his, “that you may live.”
He could hear other voices now: horses, men, coming this way, shouting to each other, motioning at him. He stayed frozen, eyes on the faery washerwomen who had never, to his knowledge, foretold a figurative death.
“It will not be easy.” He did not know which of the women had spoken. The men were almost on them, but they remained unfazed. “But you will endure it if you would be free, Alesander Ekaitz.”
“How do you know my true name?” he demanded.
Abruptly he realized why they showed no fear: They had glamoured themselves. The humans moved like a river in its bed around them and came to him, alone on the beach, talking to—seemingly—himself.
As they arrested him he heard the word they spoke of, the plan they had for him.
The urge to take the first chance to hide himself was there, but the words of the bean-sídhe lingered.
He would endure.
P.S. One more fun fact: bean-sídhe [pronounced ban-shee, and thus a dead giveaway] means banshee.