Writing in Public: Story #3, Scene 1
The rumble and bang of a wagon made Grace Carrington glance up at the lighthouse. She was on the beach below the rugged cliff the lighthouse stood sentry on, stark against the morning sky. A wagon pulled by four horses stopped at the base. A tall man in a black waistcoat and stovepipe hat dismounted stiffly like he was filled with sticks. From the Lighthouse Board.
No swimming today.
It was hard enough managing even in the isolation out here. The world kept pressing in on places like this lighthouse, like it was trying to push the old out. Soon there wouldn’t be any place for her either. A hunter had stayed with each generation of light keepers for over two hundred years. It wasn’t the first time she thought she might be the last.
She didn’t look like a hunter. She wasn’t very big or tough, but the daily swims in the ocean had made her arms and legs strong. She wore a plain cotton dress, in violet with broad white stripes. A wooden hairpin held her fine, coffee-colored hair in a bun at the nape of her neck, but the wind always knocked strands loose around her face. Her feet were bare, because she always wanted to connect with the sea. The shoes were back near the lighthouse.
She decided she would continue walking and give the man time to leave.
She went around a clump of seaweed reeking of decay. A small crab picked its way through the tangles, searching for food. Up ahead, the beach broke up into rocks that jutted out of sand, black and sharp.
She waded close to one that was partially submerged in the tide. The waves, almost as if recognizing a kindred soul, rushed in around her feet with a swirl of froth and sand.
Sea life liked these rocks. The tongue lashers in their volcano-shaped shells reached for the water, and a many-armed flower was clogged with sand in a hollow. The waves played with a cone shell near her feet. She knelt to pick it up.
The scent of magic rose, carried by the wind.
Her mouth ran dry. She recognized the scent.
An echo or a trail left behind?
The sea washed up everything, sometimes from many miles away. She always found bits of glass smoothed out by the waves, barrels or crates that had fallen off ships, and even fishing nets carried away by the currents.
That’s what Grace tried to tell herself. The seafolk were more discreet than that. They had to be. To come ashore within spitting distance of a hunter was plain stupid.
Then she spotted the footprints.