Salt and Moonlight

Melion Traverse

Wyld FLASH – March 8th 2021

The waves reached for the shores, frothing over my feet as I dug my toes into the sand. Moonlight draped itself over the world, and the ebbing water cast back its light in crystalline sparks. On a rock a sweatshirt lay neatly folded, and I wouldn’t have paid more than a glance but the way the silver light washed over the fabric made me think of silk, and my fingers itched to trace across its folds. People often forgot things when they climbed down the rickety steps to this secluded cove, and I thought to move the sweatshirt to higher ground should the owner return.

My fingers stroked the bundle of cloth, and I gasped to realize it wasn’t fabric at all. Soft, damp, furred. It was a pelt.

“Please, let me have my skin,” said a male voice. I turned to see a man unashamedly naked before me; no awkward, fumbling attempt to cover himself. Only then did I realize I clutched the pelt. “Please?” His whispered request spoke of waves and moonlight and mysteries I would never know.

“Yes, of course.” I handed over the pelt, although I caught myself stroking it one last time.

“Thank you. I’ll trade you something for it.” His eyes glimmered with moonglow.

“That’s not necess—”

But he was already smoothing the pelt over the sand like a melted shadow, and a promising grin beckoned me closer. I accepted his outstretched hand and let him show me many mysteries beneath that vast stretch of stars. I awoke with dawn’s tendrils tickling the sky as the sand prickled my naked back. Gone was the man and the pelt, and I wondered if I had conjured the strangest of dreams.

But you are no dream, my love. And none but the man whose eyes told mysteries could be your father.

Long now have I forbidden that you go down to the sea and peel from your body the skin of air and fields and mountain peaks. Oh, not because you will find him, but because I fear you will leave behind a skin smooth and folded. How can you know that none will find what you leave? My love, you are yet young and do not understand how few would return such a treasure back to you. But you cannot stay young forever. Come, tonight we return to the sea, and you will swim and swim and I will be prepared to say goodbye.

Yes, I will protect your skin, and you can swim as far as you wish. It is time you claim the other half of your soul.

A last wave of a moon-glistened flipper, and I watch you plunge beneath the waves. My child, I will hold fast to memories and laughter, and I will be ready when you return. Then you shall tell me of a world never meant for my eyes.

“Our child will return from amid the waves,” says a voice that speaks from memory.

I turn and he is there, skin bare as before, eyes bright with frolicking moonlight. My soul hungers for a thing beyond words.

“Let me teach our child of my world, and I promise we will return.” His hand lingers on my hair as mine had once lingered on his pelt. His kiss is salt and moonlight and promises.

As he squirms into the formless pelt, I turn away. It is enough to see my child as a seal, let me remember your father as a man. He is a splash amid the waves, and then the sea claims its own.

The days meld together, and each night I gaze over the water, thinking of a soft skin folded and waiting. Thinking of you.

Ah but now! Two sleek heads bob as the waves propel them to shore. Seals trundle over the sand. I turn away as your father wriggles from his pelt.

“Our child belongs to the earth and sun.” His hand covers mine as he places the bundled pelt in my arms. “And I belong with my heart.” At those words, I run from the moon-washed beach for I must hurry home to collect one skin and hide another.

Author Bio: Melion lives with one spouse, two dogs, and an acceptable amount of chaos. Their works have appeared in various places including Cast of Wonders, Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, and Deep Magic. When not writing, Melion practices historical fencing and Brazilian jiu jitsu, studies medieval history, lifts weights, and consumes appalling amounts of caffeine. Melion is the author of the fantasy novel Exile. 

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