CREATIVE Olivia Gwyne

NWR Issue 116

The Seal

When the tide went right out there were big ugly rocks that stuck out of the sand. The sea had gnawed at them and made hollows where water collected. Mammie gave me an encyclopaedia when I was little that had pictures of rock pools full of things like starfish and lobsters and crabs and all kinds of seaweed and fish and shells. When I was down in the cove I always used to go and look in case there were sea creatures that had been left behind by the tide, but I never once saw anything in the pools I looked in. There wasn’t anything in them that day either.

I liked it best when the tide was coming in. Nana said every seventh wave was bigger than the others so I counted them and it was true. The Lord had made it so, although I don’t know why He would have done that. I liked to watch the waves come in and break over the rocks and bit by bit the rock pools would get fuller and fuller and run into each other until the water covered everything and the rocks disappeared. It was like they’d never been there at all. When the tide came in as far as it could, I had to go right up the beach to where there was only a little strip of dry sand next to the pebbles. I didn’t like that part but it didn’t last, because nothing lasts. That day I didn’t want to be at the top of the beach because of the seal. It looked dry and it didn’t smell, but it was dead.

When Jonas died we went and sat with him. He was in a really small room, lying on a bed, all covered up except for his face. I tried not to look at him because although it looked like Jonas, it didn’t at the same time. I didn’t tell Nana and Mammie but I felt afraid of him. I got hold of Mammie’s hand and held on to her in case she tried to go and leave me behind, leave me on my own with him. After a while, Mammie and I went outside and sat by a little patch of grass and there was a tree with pink blossom on it. Nana stayed in the little room for ages. Mammie said she was saying goodbye. And I felt sorry for Nana because obviously Jonas couldn’t hear her but she didn’t seem to know that. We waited for so long that in the end we had to go and get her and she was still talking to him and Mammie put her arms around Nana and led her out. That was another strange thing that happened that day because normally you must never touch Nana. As we left I was still trying not to look at Jonas but as we closed the door I couldn’t help myself. It was a power that had come over me and made me look, and I don’t think it was Jonas in the room at all – his face was not a real person’s face.

Olivia Gwyne, originally from Hereford, is now based in Newcastle upon Tyne. In 2015, her pamphlet of short stories, The Kittens’ Wedding, was published by Womach Press, and the same year she won the SASH writing competition. Olivia has also been shortlisted for the Wells Short Story Competition, the Home Start Short Story Prize and the Horror Scribes Flash Fiction Ghost Story Competition. Her work was recently featured in Halo. She holds a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Newcastle University. ‘The Seal’, from which this is an extract, won second prize this summer in the New Welsh Writing Awards 2017: AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella. oliviagwyne.com

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