THE DORLEY CYCLE:
When I was a boy, I knew a fisherman who took his own hearing after he came ashore one night. He never sailed again, and I watched him just sit on the rocky beach, deaf and mute by the drowsiness of the liquor, watchful over uneasy waters.
I couldn’t understand what made him hurt himself and didn’t buy the local stories of sirens and mermaids and fuckin’ Lovecraft sea monsters. This here, a little fisherman town called Dorley, is full of old legends enough for the whole North Shore and I’ve sat through pub talks and old drunk’s tales plenty of times. I never liked them, those stories of lonely beings with lost souls, drowning in their own insanity before being drowned with force by some entity of the depths. Nor I liked the poeple who told them. Sweet seduction in the quiet of the waves, they called it. I stayed away for a long time, until now.
I knew that fisherman before he went deaf. He had a mad sparkle in his eye and madness is all a crazy idea needs. The sea makes you mad sometimes and I often imagined I’d strangle myself if I worked on a boat or tie a weight and jump overboard. The sea here is different, that I’ll tell you. I saw it ten years ago and I see it now, and it’s the fucking same. It’s old as the men in this town and unsettled as their women. It’s absent, just a background picture, just like their children.
So when a fisherman goes mad and pokes his eardrums with a fish gutting knife it’s no shock. It’s a mild disturbance that lasts until the next day. It turns the people colder and makes the mad even madder.
I’d be quitting here today, right now, get on the bus to Boston and sleep all the way through the ride if it wasn’t for a dying uncle and a money spending cousin stuck in one of the small fisherman cabins a few yards off shore. I had to come. There was no one else. Dying the uncle, probably he was, coughing and smelling of death and fish and sea weed, or maybe he was like that forever and I was just made notice, but the cousin, he was an obnoxious little shit that took my wallet and cashed a twenty on booze and cigarettes. I’m not rude nor lose my temper fast, but he did that for me and I broke his pinky finger and gave his whole body a new aching sensation. He sat put for the next week boiling water and eggs, gutting fish and cleaning his father’s pot. He knew better the next time he had an idea to pinch and run.
I sat watching him pace around the narrow cabin, a boy in his teens with a red hoodie, and I knew I had to take him with me when I buried his father and left. He had nowhere else to go, definitely not anywhere around his whore of a mother in Milwaukee. I’d set him up, I would. A decent job to earn his living, something in mechanics perhaps. The kid’s fast and steady with his hands. He’d do well. I’ll let him stay in my apartment until he gets his own, that’s what I’ll do. All will be good.
Until then I’m here with the sick and the dying and the young and the lost, and there isn’t much to do around; if you want to stay away from the people and the fisherman cabins and the small town above, you walk up and down the rocky shore at night. No one else does that.
I walked kicking water and small black stones. The evenings are windy and the wind is cold. It comes from afar, because it smells unlike the wind from the day. It’s more salty on the tongue and harsher on the face. Away from the cabins and the dim lights the world is another and the moonless sky and the night and the sea are all other, hushed and lullaby like, solid colors and pale silhouettes.
I sat on a rock and threw a few more stones I picked up before. They were momentarily swallowed by the next wave, but the wave spat something back out, something large and tangled in a net.
I dropped from the rock and went ankle deep to look closer at the figure stretched on the shore. A figure it was, I was sure of that because as I drew closer I glimpsed the whiteness of the fingers poking through the gaps in the net.
It was a woman, a beautiful and young woman with long black hairs. Her body was naked and she had perfect small breasts and a flat belly. My gaze traveled down the length of her body and I saw she had no legs where there should be, but a tail, a long and thick limb clothed in scales. Her skin was dirty by the sand, but I could see how white it was; it illuminated, almost radiant and I felt my breath halt; I fought the urge to stretch my hand and glide it over her shoulders. The scales were translucent in bluish-green that made the tiny droplets of water stuck to her tail pulsate like thousands of pearls glued to her.
The net she had tangled herself in was rusty and old, sunk to the bottom perhaps. It had cut to her neck and wrists, and was slicing into her tail. I grimaced knowing how much it must hurt.
When she opened her eyes, I didn’t flinch nor backed, only stared down at her, remembering all those stories of sirens and mermaids and sea monsters. So, they were true stories after all. Fuck. Instead of being frightened or tempted, and instead of asking how and why, I had another thought on my mind. Maybe I’d gone mad being here where sea legends bred and grow, and maybe I had too much sea air in my lungs to care much about sense and reason, but I knew what I was seeing before me and it didn’t stress me at all. It made me angry.
She watched me circle her, and struggled to get free from the net. It only dug deeper into the wounds and she let out a small moan of pain. It aroused my interest, hearing this creature mutter a sound. I stepped behind her and again she tried to push herself back into the next wave, but I grabbed her by the hair and pulled her further out onto the shore. Hugged between the black masses of two erect rocks, we were alone.
“Do you sing to men until they go mad and kill themselves?”