Saoirse Conneely – Seen Before
By Saoirse Conneely
There are things I’ve seen before out on my boat, things that humans wouldn’t understand, wouldn’t forgive and wouldn’t let be hidden in the corners of the ocean, anymore.
I’ve been on many many trips before across the Atlantic , Indian and Antarctic but I’ve never seen anything like it before. Sometimes I hear it calling me, calling me back to that day, I try to ignore but sometimes. I find myself back on my boat, back out on the sea looking for the creature I saw and heard that day.
Saturday evening, the rain pelting against the windows, the odd slate from the roof flying of and the waves out on the beach crashing against the rocks like wild buffalo’s sparring.
I was sitting in the living room on my laptop researching for my latest project in school ‘Connemara’s Wild Life.’
Rabbits, foxes, stoats, shrews, and bats are often observed at night. In recent years both pine marten and non-native mink have been seen, the latter is a threat to native wildlife species.
Connemara Pony. Although a domestic animal this pony is very much part of the Connemara countryside
‘Eila! Where’s Charlie?’ Mum shouts from the kitchen.
‘I thought he was in his bed?’ I replied, still staring at my laptop screen.
I let him out into the garden 10 minutes ago.’ My older brother Conan shouts from upstairs.
‘WHAT?!’ Mum screams.
‘It’s a flippin hurricane out there you ejit! Eila throw on your coat and run out and get him.’
I left down my laptop with a groan and put on my rain jacket, brown leather boots and hat. I opened the back door and was greeted with a forceful rush of wind and hail.
‘Tis’ lovely weather alright’ I say to myself while trying to close the door behind me, which was quite a challenge because the wind out in Connemara can be very ,very strong when an unexpected storm comes in from the Atlantic.
Walking across the yard in this weather was like trying to keep yourself standing while a herd of hippo’s lean against you.
You see my family and I, live beside a beach in Connemara, and if you got 3 storms over 2 days that was nothing to the people of our village.
‘CHARLIE!’ I yell over and over again. The wind is getting stronger.
‘You’re such a fool Conan, letting a little pup out in this wind and rain..’ I mutter.
‘CHARLIE’ I yell one last time before heading over to the shed to close the gate that ‘clever Conan’ was supposed to close 2 hours ago.
‘Charlie where are you..’ I worry.
Just as I’m about to close the gate I hear a little yelp. I peer behind the swinging open gate and I find a small, grey huskey with the name Charlie.
‘There you are you little munchkin!’ I breathed relieved.
‘C’mon inside you’re nearly dead with the cold.’ I pick him up and snuggle him inside my coat, I then close the gate and make my way back to the house.
As I’m about to step inside the house, I hear a faint cry. I look towards the sea. I hear it again, but this time it’s more of a song, like a melody. I stop and listen even though the wind is half lifting me off the ground. I try to listen it sounds like a woman singing gently to a baby child,
”Let the song grab hold of you and show you..”
And then it stops. I strain to hear at least another note. I look out onto the beach and I see a boat sailing across the bay, struggling to get ashore. That was the strangest song ever..
‘What the …?’ I stutter. Suddenly an almighty woosh of wind lifts up the back of my coat and sends a spine cracking chill up my back.
‘Oh lord let me inside.’ I shake.
‘Eila did you get Charlie?’ Mum asks rushing out to the door.
‘Yeah, yeah I have him he’s shaking with the cold. Wrap him up quickly.’ I reply handing over the excited, shivering pup.
‘Ah Conan, look what you did to the poor creature!’ Mum shouts as she wraps Charlie in one of the warm towels from the dryer.
‘Mum, I think I heard something coming from the bay.’ I say leaning against the washing machine.
‘What did you hear?’ she asks rubbing the bewildered huskey.
‘I was like a song, like someone was singing to me, even though it was from out the bay it sounded so close, like whoever was singing it were right beside me…’
I look up at Mum who stopped drying Charlie and was staring at me as if I was going mental.
‘I’m sure it was just the wind, it was very strong tonight.’
‘Yeah, but it didn’t sound as if it was the wind. It was like a person singing, a woman, a child.’
Mum is getting bored now. When I was younger I would tell tales and stories I made up after coming in from a long day on the farm with Dad.
‘Well whatever it was Eila, it definitely wasn’t a child singing to you, it wouldn’t be possible for you to hear someone sing on the beach, it’s to far down.’ Mum lifts Charlie down from the counter top.
‘The wind must have gotten to your head!’ She laughs. And chases Charlie into the kitchen.
I laugh with her. But I’m not fully persuaded, I know what I heard and it definitely wasn’t just the wind.
‘I’ll have a search tomorrow.’ I say out loud not realising it.
‘Whatcha’ say?’ Mum calls.
‘Nothing its, ok, can I have a hot chocolate?’ I ask strolling into the kitchen.
‘Sure.’ Mum replies taking out the cocoa.
‘I need to calm my imagination.’
That night I’m in my bedroom brushing my hair before I go to bed, I’m looking at myself in the mirror. Wavy brown hair, bright green eyes, the brown hair is Mums feature, green eyes are Dads. Conan isn’t like us at all. He has dark ginger hair and dark brown eyes. Mum says that he has Grans eyes.
Suddenly I hear something. It’s coming from outside, my room faces the sea, a wonderful view. It’s just like the song I heard earlier, I go to my window and open it. The sea looks like black treacle slowly moving to the moons beams. The song is the same as earlier, a soft child’s voice.
Beauty of land, angel of sea, questions ring out, no answer they see.
It slows to a halt then stop’s, no other sound is to be heard but the calm, steady ripple of waves. Confusion and fear washes over me. Questions zigzag around my head
Why do I keep hearing this song?
Who is singing it?
How come I haven’t heard it before?
Can anyone else hear it?
I leave down my hairbrush, open my stationary drawer and take out a note book. I have multiple notebooks empty, blank page’s aren’t scarce. I take out one with a sun hanging over a horizon above the sea. Dad bought me it when we went on holiday’s in Scotland. I open the first creamy white page and jot down:
Song of the bay
Questions: who is singing it?
Why are they singing it?
Can anyone else hear it?
What does it mean?
I stare over the questions with confusion. I’ve never heard anything so clear from so far before. Mum said she hasn’t heard anything. What about Conan does he know anything? I leave down the notebook on my bed and head across the landing to Conan’s room. I knock twice nice and clearly. Conan’s room isn’t what you would expect a 15 year old boy’s room to be. It was clean, vacuumed, his books neat on his shelf, his school bag neat in the corner and his wardrobe neat folded and clean.
Conan is wide awake on his phone. No surprise.
‘What do you want? Its late you should be in bed.’ He says looking up annoyed from his phone.
‘I…um just wanted to ask a question.’ I stutter edging towards his bean bag to sit down.
‘What make it quick.’ He whisper’s angry.
‘Um, you haven’t heard anything strange today have you. Like a weird song perhaps?’ I question twiddling my fingers.
‘What!?’ he looks at me like I’m a complete fool.
‘Of course not you idiot! Why the… how… Ugh I don’t get it.’No there you got your answer now go!’ He ushers me out.
‘Ok fine! Jeez’ I get up and slam the door leaving him to his dark cave of neatness.
So Conan hasn’t heard anything. Mum neither.
Over the next few weeks it’s been like, that I hear the song day and night. It sometimes keeps me awake at night. I would spend hours after my homework trying to decode or figure out what the song means and why can I hear it.
A few Saturday’s after that,I wake up with my notepad and my green pen attached to my face with dribble. The same questions ring in my head. I decided to go down to the beach early and have a look around. I get dressed and head downstairs to get a quick breakfast, when I make it to the last few steps I hear chattering in the kitchen, this was unusual for the Kiles house. The regular morning was me down first, Dad next and Mum and Conan would stay in bed (only on the weekend) until 12 or 1. But this morning I did notice that Mum and Dad’s room was empty and Conan’s door was closed (usually open letting his sleepy darkness run through upstairs.). I open the kitchen door and see Mum, Dad, Conan and a stranger sitting around the table with scones, ginger cake and some of Conan’s apple tart from Home.ec. Charlie is sitting in the corner his head down in his bed sad eyes looking at me.
‘Oh Eila there you are! Meet Màire.’ Mum says more cheerfully than usual.
I stand there looking at the unknown visitor. She looks back at me as if she’s trying to figure out who I am, like she seen me before. I stare back at her. Her face is somehow familiar, I could have sworn that I’ve never seen this woman before but at the back of my head I tell myself I have. ‘Well aren’t you going to say hello to my friend’s daughter?’ Mum askes looking at me with a say hello or make you smile.
‘Oh! Uh hi.’ I say still looking at her face.
‘Hi’ she says uncertainly, she’s still staring back into my face I can tell she’s trying to figure out who I am. The silence while we are looking at each other is awkward. I can see Conan at the corner of my eye, looking at me with confusion and Mum and Dad with annoyance for acting so strange in front of the guest. What is this person doing here?
‘Eila!’ Mum whisper shouts.
‘Oh! Um sorry, Mum I’m going to go down to the beach for a walk.’ I say going to get my coat.
‘But!!’ Mum looks at me.
‘Don’t you want to stay and talk?’
I’m already out to the front door.
‘Sorry Mum, catch up with ye later!’ I yell from the hallway.
I close the door. The weather is calm, May is a wonderful month. The sky is a clear blue. Like there was never a storm the night before. I make my way down the road onto the beach trail, a mixture of sand and short green grass.
I look down onto the beach, there’s no one here, as I expected at this hour of the morning.I get down to the edge of the water. I take in the salty air and look out to the morning sun and waves. I try and listen for anything. Nothing but the sound of the calming waves. I drift off into my imagination. I’m under the waves, I can hear the waves, I feel the water around me as if hugging me. Then, I hear it, the song.
‘Swim with the tide, play in the waves, dive with the creatures by you’r side.’
I open my eyes and stare out to the waves with shock. That childs voice was calmer and sweeter than ever. I felt safe like the waves and voice was wrapping around me, making me feel safe. Like I belonged.
‘You hear it too, ‘ a voice says from behind me.
There wasn’t anyone else on the beach when I came down here. Who would have gotten here so fast. I would have noticed. But that voice, it sounds familiar..
I turn around slowly. I keep my eyes on the sand below me. I turn around fully and look up slowly.
‘Màire?’ I shout
‘Me.’ She replies pointing to herself.
‘How did you get here so fast I thought you were up at the house!’ I question.
‘I thought I would come down and talk to you.’ She said taking a step towards me. I step back.
‘I still don’t know who you are or why you’re here!’ I say shaking with confusion and slight fear.
‘Ok Eila I’m going to be straight out here.’ She says with an unexpected stern tone in her voice. Her bright green eyes remind me of my own. Her mousy brown hair longer that mine and blowing slightly in the wind. She’s a few years older than me.
‘Your mother is a friend of mine, right? Well there is a connection in our family tree. Our great great great great grandparents were husband and wife. Somewhere along the road a split happened and one side of the family wasn’t seen for a very long time until now. You and me are related. But our parents don’t know this. Our family has a secret, with the sea. Dating back to the 1700’s our family has had a secret. Ever since the split no one has spoken or heard of it. We have stopped going near beach’s or bodies of water.But you’re part of the family has decided to live out here. Near a beach. Your Mum mightent remember any of this because she wasn’t told-‘
I cut her off. ‘How do you know all this if my- our parents don’t know.’ I ask, my mind getting dizzy with information and questions.
‘I was told, by people, different people.’ She looks away from me onto the sea.
‘I have a boat, It’s easier for me to talk while they’re there.’ She starts walking towards a clutter of rusty rowing and fishermen boats docked on the sand.
‘What people?! What are you talking about, why are we..’ I run up to her and grab the back of her coat. I swing her around with all the strength in my arms. She turns around startled.
‘Answer!’ I demand. She looks at me with anger and sympathy.
‘If you come onto the boat with me and listen, you’ll understand!’ She grabs my arm and brings me to the rusty, red fishing boat.
‘I climb aboard uncertain whether I should just run or jump over board. But for some reason this boat has a wierd era to it. A feeling that makes me feel happy and joyfull!
Once we get sailing, I sit on a barrel Màire gives me. She instead walks around the starboard like a captain giving a lecture to his sailor boy.
‘So our family is different, not just any different. I mean magically different. That song you have been hearing the few weeks? That’s our ancestors.’ There out in the sea calling us back.’
I look at the woman standing in front of me. I see a face I remember, I see a person that knows her stuff, family history.
‘Oh…’ That’s all I can say before it hits me.
I remember it. I’m remembering things that haven’t happened to me before. Other peoples memory’s, I see my Great Granny and Grandad walking on a beach, but then the start to walk towards the water until they get to waters edge then they run into the water and dive in!
I jolt out of the flash back.
‘Do you understand now?’ She walks up close to me now with a concerned look on her face.
‘Yeah…I mean no I don’t get it why? I saw them dive in the water.’
‘You don’t fully understand do you?’
‘Well, why did they dive in they’re to old!’
‘They are ment for the sea. They’re …. We’re….’ She looks away.
Then I hear it again, the song. The song that caused me confusion. I stand up and run to the side of the boat. The song is clearer than back at the house. It sounds as if there is a choir beside me. It isn’t just one voice its multiple voices 3 or 4.
I frantically look over the side of the boat. Emotions flutter inside me like moths and butterflies.
‘Swim with the ones of your kind, swim with happiness and proudness.’
I look over to the left and that’s when I see it. I want to scream but I can’t. My heart skips a beat. I feel my face going white. I feel Màire’s hand on my shoulder. I keep my eyes fixed on what I see.
I see a face. I see human beings. I see a girl, I see 2 girls and a boy. They look into my eyes and I stare at them. I look at their bodies. They don’t have bodies they have.. tails.
Màire’s voice breaks the silence between the staring.
We are Selkie’s.
Saoirse Conneely, 6th Class, Brierhill NS, Castlegar, Galway