He saw that she was alive and that she was not Frannie but a woman whom he knew but did not recognise. She smelt of running water and sweat and the smoke of the fire that he burned in his hearth. She crouched in the gloom in front of his bed and swept away his dark moustache with her fingers. She touched her lips against his. Her feral force flowed down his gullet and into his breast. He lay still on his bed of ribbon grass, bewildered and aroused. He did not move for fear of the chimera folding in on herself and disappearing. She was a star; turning his gaze straight upon her would have rendered her obscure.
What a strange rhapsody it was, when she mouthed his fingers, licked his eyelids with a fishy tongue and then slithered under his oilskin and kissed the curve of flesh where he would hold the fiddle against his body. She put soft, damp hands against his shoulders and impaled herself upon him. Her hair fell over her dark face and brushed his chest. He held her then, brushed her lean, aquiline torso with calloused fingers and gripped handfuls of her hair. Her hair.
When she rose up still fused at his loins, she laughed and he saw her canines but he couldn’t think to who or what she was. Something lurked in his mind of the tales from the home country. Her warmth returned as they touched breasts, her hair splayed over the ribbon grass. He surged into her like the salty tide and then he lay still, afraid to move.
She took his hand and pulled him from his bed. Ashes smouldered in the fireplace. Outside a crescent moon dangled over the little harbour. With just enough light to make out the stones that lay scattered down to the water, she led him into the sea lying like dark paper between the hills. He knew the water was cold and she pulled him in anyway. Her strength was incredible. She swam him, holding his left arm and surfing across the skin of the water to the side of the inlet where he’d salvaged the wood from the wreck Erica. Then she dragged him down into the darkness of the inlet. His eyes adjusted slowly and the water didn’t feel as cold. Empires of stone and kelp towered around him and still she descended. His lungs thudded in his chest.
“This is where they fell,” she laid the words out in his mind like the sea rubs glyphs into sand and stone. “I called them down and this is where they fell. The woman ...”
A spectre appeared in front of him, a woman’s face, badly beaten with a swollen brow and a gash on her cheek. She was a native but not from this area. She had close cropped hair and wore several strands of tiny shells around her neck. Part of her left ear was missing.
“She was bound below deck. I couldn’t save her. She came from another place. I look after her now. I look after her things too.” She showed him the bag made from human hair and the mortar and pestle that lay among the wreckage of the ship. The woman, that expressionless wraith, faded.
He remembered the filthy men on the jetty and the terrible cries coming from inside the whaler. “I sung them all down,” she said. “But they survived. They went north looking for gold.”
He shook his head. She glared at him with black eyes.
But when he began to panic in the airless depths of the inlet she fixed her mouth to his and breathed into him. She pulled away when he stopped struggling, little sacs of air escaping her lips and clinging to her face. She glanced at the dog shark that slept in the belly of the Erica, his pectoral fins undulating gently, levitating just above the coral encrusted wood. She lurched in the water and swam down to nip his dorsal fin with her sharp teeth, shocking the fish awake. Just because she could. Glee spread across her tawny face.