By Christopher Ivey
I stood on the embankment outside Seaworthy Manor as the wind threw up white-crested waves on the North Sea. I could almost hear the moan of a ship’s rigging, as in the stories of my grandfather, Commodore Anton Marlowe. The stories, at least, hadn’t made me nauseous.
“Nothing to be afraid of, my lord,” said Edwards, his dolphin-gray hair whipping about.
“I know that,” I snapped, before my lungs seized up. My heart pounded like the tide against the embankment. I stumbled backward onto the lawn and bent double.
I cut Edwards off with a look.
“Right. I’ll bring the carriage around.”
I swallowed some bile and blinked back tears. I heard my grandfather’s voice in the gale that caused the cape of my coat to fly up over my head: “A Marlowe’s place is on the water.” Yes, Grandfather, I thought, I will overcome my aversion, and restore the tradition my father splintered. Conventional methods having failed, I would now turn to a perhaps more dubious means to find my sea legs.
Edwards kept the turtle-green Clarence polished and its pair of Clydesdales well-groomed despite his other duties. One might even look upon the carriage and think nothing amiss with the Marlowe finances. Yet, most of the lands we passed between Seaworthy and the village of Stonerow had been sold to satisfy my father’s creditors.
The village had also declined. I’d read Stonerow once rivaled the capital in size, but now most of it lay on the seafloor. And while the North Sea took over a century to erode its breadth, economics had made its impact on the population relatively overnight. Few witnessed our passage, whereas I remembered bustling roads only a couple decades earlier.
In my youth, I would venture into the village with my older sister Catherine and Miss Somers. With our governess’s auburn ringlets and pale, freckled skin, is it any wonder I thought it was her people stared at? Of course, I suspect Miss Somers had also tried to protect me from understanding the abnormality of my appearance. I could not recall her without a pang of the loss I’d felt at her sudden departure.
Better to focus on the present. I picked up the morning edition of The Times beside me on the seat. Amidst adverts for asthma cigarettes, corsets, and baking powder, was the notice I had first seen in yesterday’s edition of The Times: SURE REMEDY — Instantaneous cure for numerous maladies. It listed seasickness among the ailments it claimed to alleviate, and so I ventured into a district of London I’d thought I would only ever visit through Dickens’s stories.
Smog obscured the morning sun, and the upper stories of the buildings along Rampart Street jutted out, further darkening our passage. Candles burned behind shop windows despite the early hour.
The deeper our carriage plunged into the gloom, the more difficult I found it to breathe. We waded into a gritty, malodorous soup. Dust and dirt carried with it the stink of the maroonish mire that clogged the gutters. My thin handkerchief did little to protect me from the miasma that seeped into the carriage, and I feared that it might overcome Edwards and the horses before we reached our destination.
It seemed one could become inured to the conditions, however. What else could explain the crowds? Many lingered about as if nothing was amiss. A grinder waited for dull blades, piemen and fishwives hawked their wares, drunkards spilled out of several pubs despite the early hour, and children—so many children!—swarmed about, not a single eye of supervision upon them.
The stench intensified as Edwards opened the door. A coughing fit overcame me as soon as my feet touched the cobbles, and a moment passed before I realized Edwards had brought the carriage to a stop on Rampart. The advert listed a Flintlock Close address.
He nodded toward a narrow, crooked passage, not much more than an alleyway. “I’m afraid you’ll have to walk from here, my lord. I would accompany you, of course, but perhaps I should remain with the carriage?”
Edwards could do little if ruffians set upon our vehicle, but to leave it unattended would be to all but give it away. The curiosity of the rabble had certainly been piqued. A hundred eyes or more must have been upon us, and a herd of youth soon swarmed the carriage. I covered my face with my handkerchief, mostly due to the smell, but I could do without the gawking as well. I attempted to keep my distance, but the riffraff were ubiquitous. I clutched my coin purse as I pushed through the crowd and set off at a brisk pace down the cramped distributary. To my dismay, several of the urchins followed.
“Help you find something, sir?” said a boy in an oversized cap that covered the tops of his ears.
I shook my head and pressed on. Somehow the chaos of Rampart did not flow into Flintlock Close, and I noted with concern that I could be accosted without witness once the serpentine course took me out of Edwards’s view.
“There isn’t much down this way,” the boy added.
That seemed true. No storefronts lined the street, let alone the establishment mentioned in the advert. Nonetheless, I was certain the grimy whelps simply wished to lure me into a trap.
“Really, sir. One can easily get lost.”
A Marlowe would not be badgered by children. I spun on my heel and was pleased to see that they halted as well.
“Off with the lot of you! Go find some other target,” I said through my handkerchief.
As I turned, I ran into a rotund stomach. I caught a glimpse of a pimple-spotted nose and chapped lips spread in a wide grin before something small and hard hit me in the side of the head.
I woke up to an awful headache on a sofa. A single lamp on a writing table provided dim light.
“Odd looking, ain’t he?”
The boy with the large hat stood next to a middle-aged woman kneeling beside the sofa. She had an unhealthy pallor punctuated by accumulations of dirt and soot. Filth covered her rags as well, muting an assemblage of multiple colors closer to a dull gray. Only the cloth of her chin strap bandage looked somewhat clean, but from beneath it came an odd glow as if she held fireflies in her mouth.
“Hush, Henry. Wet this for me.” The woman handed the boy a towel.
“How long was I out?” I asked.
“Not long, I don’t think,” the woman replied.
I tried to sit up and felt faint.
“Not so fast, sir. You took quite a blow by the sounds of it.” She pressed the wet towel to my forehead.
I patted my pockets and found them empty. The children had distracted me, and I had walked right into an ambush.
“For all I know, you’re working together,” I said.
The woman handed the towel back to the boy. “Not all the children around here are thieves, sir. In fact, Henry and the others dragged you in here. What’s a gentleman like you doing in the Chapel anyway?”
She favored the right side of her mouth as she spoke and had a bit of a rasp. On closer examination, the bandage was damp where it met her cheek.
“You’re not well,” I said.
She stood and brushed off her skirt where her knees had met the floor as if the entire garment weren’t soiled. “Once you’re steady, you can be on your way, then.”
I rose slower on the second attempt and managed to stand. Pain bit at my skull, and it took everything I had not to collapse back down on the sofa, but I refused to lie about in some hovel. I asked the woman if she could direct me to the shop that sold the Sure Remedy.
“Come right to the source, did you? Most people just use the post.”
I did not want to wait for the Royal Mail, but she did not need to know that. I stared at her and awaited an answer.
“Sir, I must tell you. That so-called remedy is just water with a splash of brandy and some useless spices.”
That couldn’t be true. There was an advert in The Times of all places. Did she have some kind of grievance with the proprietors? Or perhaps she wished to punish me for lack of gratitude and see me leave the city empty-handed.
“I’ll judge that for myself, thank you, if you’ll just direct me.”
The boy—Henry, I think she said—leaned against the wall next to a cabinet so dented it looked like it had been shot upon by rifles. “I can show him the way, Miss Somers.”
“Did he say Somers?” I asked.
While a common surname, I’d known only one Somers. If the woman’s dull, rust-colored hair were washed and curled… But, no, it couldn’t be.
She sat down on the sofa, ignored my question, and gestured toward the door. “Go on then, see for yourself, if you like.”
Might the grime on her cheeks hide freckles? I could not depart until I knew for certain.
Her sigh had a hint of stridor. “Yes. Hello, Cassius.”
I staggered back to the sofa before I collapsed. Perhaps if I hadn’t been weakened by the attack, I might have borne up better. My headache intensified and I heard her dismiss the boy as if she spoke at a distance.
Miss Somers, here? My former governess lived in this dingy, cramped space? The floor was dirt. Between my legs, straw poked out of a split seam in the sofa. The Miss Somers I’d known would never have absconded with my mother’s jewels, but this woman beside me…
“I’d always doubted my father, but to see where you’ve ended up, I—”
Miss Somers jumped up. She grabbed hold of my wrist with both hands and tugged. In my battered, bewildered state, I did not resist, and had to steady myself with the writing table once upright.
“Off with you, then! I’ve never taken an unearned quid in my life. I’ll not sit here and—”
Miss Somers gasped and clutched her chest. She swayed a bit, and then slumped forward. I knocked over the table as I dropped to my knees but managed to catch her head before it smacked against the floor.
Lightning illuminated the North Sea as it encroached upon the embankment bit by bit. Ever patient, the waters hoped to escape notice until they overwhelmed Seaworthy and the rest of Stonerow. Raindrops obscured the window, but I had seen what I needed to see, and made a mental note to request sandbags be placed.
Mrs. Clarke entered the dining room. “There you are, my lord. She’s asking for you.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Clarke. I trust you were able to get Miss Somers situated?”
“I managed. She made a bit of a fuss about wanting to return to the city—God knows why—but didn’t put up much of a fight. Forgive me, my lord, but I gave her one of my own nightgowns rather than see her in one of my lady’s. And she wouldn’t let me touch that bandage.”
I’d suggested Mrs. Clarke give Miss Somers one of my late mother’s garments for lack of a better idea. “That’s fine. Thank you, Mrs. Clarke. We couldn’t put her in one of the beds in what she was wearing.”
“No, my lord.”
I thanked Mrs. Clarke again and went upstairs to one of the few guest rooms that still contained a bed. Miss Somers lay propped up on pillows. Her skin looked chalky in the lantern’s light, but a bath and change of clothes had done much to improve her appearance. While one could not scrub away her wrinkles nor the loose skin under her eyes, a hint of the young woman that had taught me the alphabet had appeared.
“Cassius, you must let me return to London,” she said as I entered.
I brought a chair closer to the bed. “I may have rushed to judgment concerning your separation from Seaworthy. A bit of shock due to our unexpected reunion, you understand. Given what came to light later, it’s clear that my father used you as a scapegoat.”
“I didn’t ask to be brought here.” Miss Somers spoke with minimal movement of her jaw, which made her voice flat.
“No. Well, given your collapse, I thought it best that you be cared for. The doctor should arrive first thing.”
“You could have just taken me to someone in the city.”
I gripped my knees and leaned forward. “But surely you would benefit from some fresh air and sunlight. Granted, there was little of the latter today, but one hopes for better tomorrow.”
“Henry and some of the others rely on me, Cassius. Please, I mustn’t be gone long. Perhaps the doctor could come tonight? It isn’t still Doctor Gowers, is it?”
“Gowers still lives in Stonerow” I replied. “But I’ve sent for a proper physician. Young fellow out of Fobbing. Oxford educated.”
Miss Somers’s expression softened. “Well, perhaps that’s for the best, then. I’ll admit it was nice to have a bath. I’m still in shock that Mrs. Clarke attended to me herself.”
“Yes, well, there’s no use in hiding it. Edwards and Mrs. Clarke are all that remains of Seaworthy’s staff. Were it not for their adherence to Seaworthy, I might have to drive my own carriage and cook my own meals.”
“I’m sorry, Cassius. It must have been difficult, what with all the attention.”
One does not squander a fortune without notice. My father’s bankruptcy no doubt fueled many a parlor discussion. The Marlowe name now evoked exorbitance and failure.
“I manage,” I said through a tense jaw.
“Are you otherwise alone here?”
I nodded. “Catherine is now Lady Bramley-Temple-Horn and lives near Leeds.”
“Doesn’t it get lonely? I’m sorry, I shouldn’t…”
Miss Somers closed her eyes. A moment passed and I thought she might have fallen asleep when she spoke in a faint voice. “Why did you want the remedy?”
“Ah, well, just the matter of a bit of queasiness when at sea.”
“Seasickness, Cassius? Really?”
“Yes, if I can overcome this unfortunate debility, I can serve as my grandfather did and many a Marlowe before him.”
“Cassius… how can I say this… It might be more than that, don’t you think? Do you remember? No, I suppose not. You couldn’t have been more than three years old. Lord Marlowe insisted we all join him on his new cutter. By the time we set out, he was already inebri—” She winced and raised a hand to her cheek.
I remembered flailing about in cold darkness. Vertigo overcame me, and I gripped the arms of the chair.
“I’m sorry, Cassius. It hurts to speak.”
When I did not respond, Miss Somers rolled her head toward me and opened her eyes. “Cassius?”
I tried to hide the effort it took to stand. “Of course. Please rest.”
I limped out of the room and leaned against the wall. As I tried to slow my breath, pain rippled down my back and flashes of inky black pulsed in my mind. I somehow made it to my bedroom, where I wobbled right past the nightclothes Edwards had laid out and collapsed on top of the blankets.
The next morning proved indistinguishable from night. Wind and rain continued to batter Seaworthy, and I guessed it might be a new day only by the sounds of movement elsewhere in the house.
Despite exhaustion, my sleep had been restless. The memories had come back to me in ebbs and flows. First came the gentle sway of the cutter’s deck, and then my father, careening about as if a squall thrashed the boat. I think I’d been watching a fish swim by when he bumped into me. And then I had known only frigid darkness until Miss Somers, having dove in after me, lifted me back over the gunwale.
My governess had saved my life.
I rose with the intention to go right to her room after I dressed, but Edwards, as he handed me my razor, informed me that she had taken a turn for the worse. Mrs. Clarke had brought her a small breakfast and found her unresponsive. What’s more, the Fobbing physician sent word that he would be delayed, perhaps significantly, by an emergency.
“Should I gather Doctor Gowers?” Edwards asked.
One of the most unpleasant memories of my childhood was Stonerow’s apothecary looming over my bed, his thick, unruly eyebrows and unkempt mustache like clumps of weeds between cobblestones. None of the numerous pills, powders, unguents, or syrups he’d prescribed had done much for my pale skin. Nor had they thickened my wispy hair, or prompted a nose proportionate to my broad nostrils to grow. To say nothing of my eyes or ears. Yet, Gowers had otherwise been competent with more commonplace troubles, as far as I could recall. I had doubts as to whether Miss Somers’s affliction was within his ability, but I could not let that, nor my reluctance to see him, imperil her treatment.
“Very good, my lord. There’s one other matter. As the storm persists, it looks more and more likely that the sea will overtake the embankment.”
I paused buttoning my vest. “Of course. With Miss Somers here, I’d forgotten. While in Stonerow, please instruct a few men to place sandbags.”
I hadn’t so much forgotten as been waylaid by my memories, but Edwards didn’t need to know that. I suspected a bit of reinforcement would be enough to protect against any flooding. The last time the North Sea had invaded Seaworthy’s grounds, my grandfather, the Commodore, had been a fresh-faced lieutenant. Even then, the waters had not reached the house. He’d assisted with the sandbags himself. “Someday, you’ll be the captain of this ship,” he’d said at the end of his tale, waving his arm to indicate the whole property, “and you must defend it from any incursion.”
Edwards returned with Gowers not long after I finished breakfast. The apothecary leaned on a cane and his suit hung loose on his gaunt frame. Only his facial hair measured up to my memory, though it had turned the color of storm clouds.
“Cassius, it has been so long. I take it that means you have been well?”
“Yes. Of course. This way, please.” I pointed at the stairs and then followed my own direction.
Miss Somers did not stir as we entered the room. Her breath seemed to imitate the gusts that tore at Seaworthy.
Gowers untied and pulled off the soiled cloth. Yellow discharge with a slight fecal smell seeped from several sores that had eaten right through to her mouth. I took an involuntary step backward and sucked in a breath.
“Could she have been working as a matchstick woman?” Gowers asked.
“I believe they also call them dippers. You see, the phosphorus in the factories rots their jawbone.” Gowers took a clean cloth and a small jar out of his bag. “Her case looks quite advanced, unfortunately,” he said as he placed the fresh bandage. “This cream may soothe the ulcers. I’ll leave it with you. And some laudanum for the pain.”
“That’s it, then? Is there no cure?” Perhaps Miss Somers’s illness was beyond him after all.
“Well, a surgeon could remove her jaw, but the infection may have already spread to her brain.”
“She was fairly alert just last night. I should think she’ll come around again.”
“She may yet have some lucid periods. It’s hard to say.” Gowers shook his head. “What a shame. I wouldn’t have recognized her if Mr. Edwards hadn’t said.” Gowers closed his bag with a snap and then lingered.
“Is there more?” I asked.
“Cassius, I want to apologize—”
“There’s no need. You’re doing all you can.” How would one even apply a cream to the holes in Miss Somers’s cheek? I took a step toward the door.
“Not about her,” he said. “You see, your father had hoped I would find an answer for your… particularities. I admit I had some difficulty with that, and some of the treatments I attempted, in hindsight, were a toss of the dice.”
“I’ve come to suspect as much.”
“And you’ve been otherwise healthy, it seems?”
“Indeed. Of course, I had to try even unlikely cures. I couldn’t ignore your father’s requests, could I? You understand.”
I nodded again, unable to manage much else, and returned to the foyer with the doctor in silence.
As we approached, Edwards opened the front door.
Only two men carried sandbags across the lawn, which had become an ankle-deep pond. The little remaining Marlowe land needed far fewer laborers, but we still employed at least triple that. I questioned Edwards about it.
“I’m afraid that’s all I could find, my lord. It seems the others have left for London.”
“Just this week, I’m told.”
“Without giving word?”
Edwards shook his head, presumably at their lack of consideration.
The North Sea seeped over the bags so far placed like bath water escaping an overfull tub.
“Please inquire at the pub,” I instructed Edwards. “If there are any other able-bodied men left in Stonerow, I’ll pay them to come help. Whatever they ask.” Though I hoped they would not ask too much. In the meantime, I would need to muster the will to assist, as the Commodore once had. I hoped that recent revelations would see me better prepared to face the flood. Nonetheless, my stomach roiled at the thought.
Just after Edwards left with Doctor Gowers, Mrs. Clarke came down the stairs.
“My lord, Miss Somers has awoken and is asking for you.”
I rushed past my housemaid to the guest room. A hint of color showed in my former governess’s face and her eyes shone in the lantern light. It gladdened my spirit to see her more alert, since she had not been roused by Gowers’s examination.
“Gowers was just in to see you, but I think we should wait for the Fobbing doctor before making any decisions. I know you’re keen to return to London, but it shouldn’t be too much longer now. Once you’re on the mend—”
“Cassius, please. Might I speak for a moment while I have the strength?”
“Of course.” I brought the chair close to the bed again and sat. “But, you see, I’ve had a bit of a breakthrough. Thanks to you, I recall now what happened that day on the cutter. It’s clear that must be the source of my difficulties, isn’t it? Why, I wouldn’t be surprised if I can soon weigh anchor with the best of them. Thank you, Miss—thank you, Margaret.”
She smiled briefly. “Yes, well, it’s not just that. Not nearly. But, how to begin…”
I waited while she stared at the ceiling. When she began, she spoke slowly, and often took a few breaths between sentences.
“I was first hired to instruct your sister. As governess, I wasn’t privy to a lot of the staff’s gossip. Still, I came to understand Catherine’s birth had been difficult for Lady Marlowe. There was much speculation as to if and when she would once more be with child. One did not need to overhear the housemaids to know Lord Marlow wanted a son.
“One night during my first summer at Seaworthy, I couldn’t sleep. I thought a short walk across the lawn might tire me. When I neared the embankment, I heard a woman’s voice. Before I could think better of it, I climbed to the top. I won’t say exactly what I saw, but the voice belonged to Lady Marlowe. And with her, well… he was a man, but he wasn’t.
“Sorry, Cassius, can you…?” Miss Somers pointed at the glass of water on the nightstand. She took only a small sip of water and then handed me the glass.
“His skin—smooth, hairless, and light gray—shimmered in the moonlight.
“I hastened away before they spotted me. Time passed, and I began to wonder if it had been a dream. Lady Marlowe started to show. You were born. She survived the birth, but then the fevers started, and, well, I can only say that she did not suffer for long.”
Miss Somers grimaced again and raised a hand but stopped short of touching her jaw. I felt a sharp pain in my chest and realized I had been holding my breath. I handed her the water, and she took another sip.
“You understand, don’t you, Cassius? I don’t think Lord Marlowe—”
“Yes.” To hear it said aloud would be too much.
“Well, over time, Lord Marlowe became more habitual with his drink. And he only grew more insistent that Doctor Gowers ‘fix’ you. This went on for years, Cassius. I don’t know how much of it you remember, but I hated to see it. You were such a melancholy child.
“It came to a point I couldn’t bear it anymore. I insisted that nothing was wrong with you. Lord Marlowe fired me on the spot. And while he did not press charges, he let it be known he suspected me of theft. Well, after that, of course, no one would employ a govern—”
Miss Somers lurched upward and coughed. When she continued to convulse, I rang for Mrs. Clarke, and then waited with the water glass for a break in her spasms.
“I’ll see to her, my lord,” Mrs. Clarke said, and took the glass from my hand. “Edwards is back from town, and he’s sopping wet.”
Could an addled mind invent memories? What other explanation was there for Miss Somers’s claims about my parentage? I thought it preposterous. And yet, as I descended the stairs to the foyer, my legs wobbled, and I had to squeeze the banister to remain upright.
Soaked through, Edwards stood by the window. At any other time, I would have been shocked that he had allowed the carpet to saturate beneath him, but my conversation with Miss Somers had left me too bewildered to react.
“My lord, I barely made it back! In all my years, I’ve never seen a storm so strong.”
I pulled back the curtain beside Edwards. The front lawn was under several feet of water as the sea poured in over the sandbags, with no sign of the men who had placed them. The defenses had failed, and the enemy forces now forged ahead. As the captain of the ship, I had to do something.
I went to the door.
“My Lord! What are you—”
The North Sea rushed into the foyer. A bruise taken to prevent a demise. I waded out onto the lawn, the frigid water up to my waist, as the rain instantly drenched the parts of me not submerged. Water subsumed everything, but I didn’t feel the cold.
I made for the cart shed. Any bags that remained should be stored there, but I hadn’t gone far before I collided with a stack of them. The workers must have first brought them all halfway. I couldn’t lift the sodden burlap, so I dragged one off the pile, and tried to pull it through the water. It wasn’t long before my arms felt as if they might sever from my shoulders.
By the time I reached the failed barrier, I was so bent over, I could have stuck out my tongue and tasted the salt water. The cascade tore the bag out of my hands as I backed into it. I landed on my hindquarters, and the sea rushed over my head.
No, I would not drown in three feet of water! I tried to push myself upright but struggled to withstand the strength of the sea as it rushed over the embankment and pummeled my back. With some effort, I managed to stand, twist around and face the North Sea.
A swell advanced on the coast. The stripes of foam in the dark blue wall looked like the marbling in a cut of beef, and I summoned up the courage to face it.
“I am a Marlowe! I am not some mongrel, some… half-breed!”
The rain pelted my face as my words devolved into babble. I forgot the sandbag and raged at the briny expanse, while the rapids continued their assault upon my legs. Before long, my knees buckled, and I sank face first into the flood.
For a moment, I was a child again. I floundered. Which way to the surface? Which way to my father’s cutter? My back throbbed where he had collided with me. I choked on a mouthful of brackish water and inhaled even more. Misery laced my lungs.
And then strong arms enfolded me and lifted me out of the sea. I coughed as someone held me tight. Miss Somers? Only when my convulsions ceased and my sight cleared did I recall the time and place. It couldn’t be my governess that embraced me. Who had saved me?
Hairless arms with thick, gray skin crisscrossed my chest. I broke free of them and spun around.
Two small, widespread black eyes glistened above sizable nostrils and an elongated, lipless mouth.
I’d gone mad. I must have.
I lost my footing again and fell back into the water.
This time they lifted me up by the shoulders, and as I emerged once more, I knew that, without their support, I would, in fact, drown. But did I want to live? My lifeline also seemed to put proof to Miss Somers’s claims about my parentage.
My savior did not turn out to be my purported father, however. Breast-like masses protruded from her upper chest, but with thin apertures instead of nipples. And yet, her stature surpassed that of any human female I had seen. She stood at least a head taller than me, and her limbs bulged with muscle.
I met her eyes. In her face, I found the answer to the question posed by mine. The repulsion I’d felt at Miss Somers’s story ebbed away as I stood eye to eye with further evidence, and it left a bead of tranquility in its wake.
I stood a little steadier. She moved one hand to my cheek. Her skin felt as cold as the sea, but with her touch, the droplet of peace within me began to diffuse throughout my body.
“Miss Somers never made it back to London, I’m afraid. She had a few clear-headed moments after our conversation that night but died a week or so later. I paid for her burial in the same Fobbing cemetery as my mother and Lord Marlow, but a good distance away. It seemed in bad taste to place her near the man who was responsible for her decline. So much of what he touched…
“Anyway, that’s enough about that. We’re not Marlowes after all, are we?”
Cassius brushed his hand across the droplets of water on his daughter’s bald scalp. She pointed one thin, gray arm at Seaworthy and raised her brow.
Cassius nodded. “Yes, I thought for sure by the time I finished that story, we’d see some signs. My legs have about had it. I can’t tread water quite like you can, you know. Oh, wait! Look there. See the crack spreading beneath the dormer? That’s one of my old bedroom’s windows.”
The fracture took a quick, jagged track down through the sandstone on the western facade. As it advanced, the hindmost part widened. The roof split open like a shark’s mouth about to engulf a herring, and part of the manor bowed inward. Shingles and bricks plummeted into the waters around the abandoned home.
“Happening fast now,” Cassius said, “stay back here.”
Seaworthy collapsed with a blast. A wide, yellowish-brown cloud advanced across the surface of the sea.
Cassius pulled his daughter underwater until it passed. He laughed after he emerged.
“And you wanted to go inside!”
Cassius’s daughter shrugged. Her smile showed rows of sharp, conical teeth.
A small chunk of wood bumped into Cassius’s chest, and he picked it up.
“Didn’t quite live up to its name, did it?” He lifted the fragment into the wind. “Here’s to you, Commodore. I’ve come to know the sea in a manner I suspect you never imagined. But I’m afraid the Marlowe legacy ended in scandalous fashion with your son.”
Cassius flung the scrap away.
“And I, for one, am glad to be rid of its hooks. Now then, we ought to be getting back. Your mother will be expecting us, Margaret.”
About the author: Christopher Ivey lives in Western New York with his wife and dog. His work has also appeared in Dark Fire Fiction and The Weird and Whatnot. You can reach him at iveywrites.com.
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