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Fear the Drowning Deep
Author:Sarah Glenn Marsh

“About your brother,” I reply helpfully.

But he’s looking to the sea again. Still clutching my hand, he walks slowly toward the nearest cliff, leading me forward until we’re teetering on the very last bit of rock before a long drop into the open water.

Fresh tears well in my eyes. Normally, the sigh of the sea calms me, like the voice of an old friend, but now its hissing sounds like a threat. With both my hands gripping one of Grandad’s, I use all my strength to try to pull him back from the edge.

“Don’t you hear it?” Grandad asks, shaking away my grasping hands. His voice sounds distant, and as his misty eyes stare into the far-below waves, I have a sinking feeling he has gone somewhere I can’t follow.

“Hear what?” I whimper. There’s no answer. “Hear what?” I beg, louder.

“The music.” He makes the slightest motion forward, kicking pebbles from the cliff into the crashing surf.

“You’re scaring me!” I sob, grabbing fistfuls of his shirt. “Grandad!”

“It’s so beautiful,” he murmurs. “Sweeter than fairy song, even.” He smiles, a broad grin that sheds years from his face, his gaze never wavering from the restless sea. It’s as if he can’t hear my pleas. As if I don’t exist in whatever world he’s drifted to.

“I have to go now.” Still smiling, he raises his arms and arcs his body into a diver’s pose.

The motion knocks me to the ground. I cough and hiccup and grasp at air.

Grandad leaps from the cliff with a swan’s grace, looking happier than I’ve ever seen him.

Somehow I manage to push myself up onto my knees. My hands claw at the dirt to keep me anchored as I lean over the edge, my frantic heart hoping for a sign of Grandad. The moon aids my search as I scan the blurry expanse of dark water before me.

He surfaces for the briefest moment, not near the rocks as I’d feared, but already farther out than I’d thought him capable of swimming. He closes his eyes, that strange broad smile still plastered on his face, and lets the waves swallow him one last time.

And then, soft as a whisper, the whine of a fiddle reaches my ears.

Or perhaps it’s my own keening cry, tossed back to me by the wind. There aren’t any fiddlers out here on the cliffs. No one who hears my cries and screams for help.

A flash of white draws my gaze back to the water. At first, it appears to be the transparent figure of a tall man—Grandad’s spirit?—watching me from above the waves. But when I blink, there’s only a whitecap, rolling through the empty space where Grandad disappeared.

A flock of white birds darted around Grayse’s head as she stood at the end of the harbor dock, tossing crumbs of cheese in the air.

I sat cross-legged a few feet away, shivering at the water’s nearness, my gaze flicking between the unchanging horizon and my sister. I kept hoping for a glimpse of movement, a speck growing larger as Da approached, but the sea maintained its morning calm. Flecks of light played across the harbor’s tranquil waters and a breeze made tiny ripples around the dock. Under a clear sky, with my sister humming a lively song, the sea appeared innocent. Almost.

Grayse’s humming was broken by a sudden cry, and I leaped up. “Stop it, birdies!” she yelped, dropping the cheese to cover her face with her hands.

The sun glinted on sharp beaks and talons. I ran toward Grayse, making shooing motions at the birds. “You’ve given them enough, little fish! We aren’t running a charity for the guillemots.”

The spark of an idea flashed in her eyes as she retrieved the cheese.

“Grayse,” I groaned, inspecting her face and hands for cuts. “Promise me you won’t start collecting scraps for them. When you tried to start a charity for the porpoises last year, all the donations amounted to were a couple of fish heads and an old boot, remember?”

Grayse mumbled something that sounded like “I remember.”

We lapsed into silence, listening to the rustle of birds’ wings as they flapped across the water to seek their fortunes elsewhere. To our right, a rusted dinghy bobbed alone in the harbor, rocked by the breeze.

“Bry, do you think there’s a monster hiding under the dock right now?” Grayse asked, peering through gaps in the battered wooden planks.

“I don’t know. But if something tries to grab us, I’ll tell it to eat me first.” I plopped down on the boards again, trying not to think about what foul things might be curled in the shadows below.

Grayse gave a halfhearted smile. “D’you think Mally will get married soon?” She broke the cheese in two and offered me a piece. “I hope she chooses Thomase.”

“What? Why him?”

“He gave me the fish heads for the porpoises. And he’s handsome.”

I laughed and bit into the sharp cheese. “You shouldn’t know about ‘handsome’ yet. Besides, Mally has her heart set on Artur. He’s promised to take her to England someday.”