Welcome to The Spot Writers. The June prompt is to update a legend or legendary character/beast: bring it into the modern world, or add a twist that isn't consistent with the original legend.
This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Her first novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, will be available for purchase by the end of June. “Follow” her website www.writingwicket.wordpress.com for updates and/or “like” her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WolvesDontKnock/.
On the Edge, the Story of Peggy and Sam
by Cathy MacKenzie
Peggys Cove, a small rural community on the eastern shore of St. Margarets Bay, is one of Nova Scotia’s most visited landmarks, picturesque with its lighthouse and deadly waves crashing against the huge boulders. According to local legend, a young girl named Margaret was the only survivor of a shipwreck off Halibut Rock, near the cove. (Peggy, of course, is the nickname for Margaret, hence the name of the cove.) Margaret/Peggy was found by a fisherman who took her to his home, and she was adopted by this man and his wife. No doubt, they all lived “happily ever after.”
In this fictionalized story, I’ve brought Peggy of the Cove into the modern world, where we find her floundering in the Atlantic Ocean...
When Peggy spat out salty water, it was as if she were in the throes of a nightmare, for why was she in the water? But her predicament was real—too real.
She gasped for breath and tread water. She scanned the vast waters. What—a lighthouse?
She was a fan of lighthouses and immediately recognized this one as the lighthouse at Peggys Cove. Peggys Cove, the place where legends began and ended. An abundance of lobster chowder and buttery biscuits. All varieties of fresh seafood. Tourists who disregarded the dangers of the rocks.
She’d been there several years previously and had even admonished several carefree teens who bounded over the boulders as if they were invincible. “Watch for the black,” she had shouted. “Don’t go near the edge. If you tumble, you’ll disappear forever.” They ignored her, of course, so she let them be, and they were fine in the end, thank God. She wasn’t certain what she would have done had one of them toppled into the sea. Would she have jumped in? Nope, not her. Be reckless in your life; suffer the consequences.
Consequences. Was she suffering consequences? What had she done to deserve this?
Her head ached, and the shark-infested waters didn’t calm her nerves. It was a wonder a shark hadn’t shown its face yet. If it did, she wouldn’t fare well.
She made an effort to swim toward shore, where relentless waves slapped against a wall of boulders. Would the waves crash her to the rocks? Wet rocks were slippery and dangerous, and she wouldn’t manage to get on shore even if she reached land. Barefoot, she would slip and slide on the rocks, and if she slid back into the water, she wouldn’t make it a second time. She had amazed herself she’d made it thus far, not that she knew where her journey had begun.
How the hell had she ended up in the water? Why the hell couldn’t she remember? What the Sam Hill—her father’s favourite expression.
Samuel Reid, her fiancé.
She shivered and swallowed more water. She found it ironic the more she drank, the thirstier she became.
She was slowly losing strength. She must get to shore.
What had happened to her? Journey—a boat! A cruise boat. They had been on a cruise. A seven-day cruise out of Manhattan. Her memory was returning, albeit slowly. They had boarded the ship at Manhattan, with ports of call at Portland, Bar Harbour, Saint John, and Halifax, ending with two days of cruising from Halifax back to New York.
What “leg” of the cruise was she mired in? Did she “disembark” on the way to Halifax or on the return journey to Manhattan?
More nerve-wracking, how had she ended up in the ocean? No one could accidentally fall over the forty-eight-inch railings. No amount of booze would cause her to be drunk enough to jump into the sea. Someone had to have pushed her.
Horror stories assaulted her. Husbands and boyfriends who wanted to be rid of their partners. Someone had pushed her, and who else but Sam? But why? They loved each other, didn’t they? She did, at any rate, and had always thought herself to be a good judge of character.
They were to marry in December, two weeks before Christmas. The wedding had been planned—by her, of course—and invites mailed. Two months from now. A big wedding, too. Gifts had already poured in. They were both popular, having graduated Dalhousie in June. No jobs yet, but such was life. The jobs would come, though, and they’d end up happily married, forever after, with the proverbial white picket fence and two-point-five kids—if that stat was still correct. She hadn’t checked recently. And who’d have half a kid, anyhow?
They’d taken out life insurance policies four months previously. Sam’s idea, wasn’t it? She hadn’t thought much about it—until this moment. “Might as well get coverage now,” she remembered him saying. “One less thing to do after we’re married.”
She spat out more water. Was she getting the bends? No, from the little she knew about the condition, the bends were when you were deep underwater, your brain exploding within your skull. She was above the sea, but still dangerous and brutal. The sea claimed whatever and whomever at will.
She must reach the rocks. She was confident she could grasp hold and haul herself up no matter the eel-like surface. And someone would be there to rescue her.
Please, God, let someone be there.
Figures and distances weren’t her forte. How much farther? How much longer could she last? Not that it mattered. She must keep swimming. Move her arms, kick her legs. Nothing to it, right?
Her life depended upon it.
Sam. Had he really done this? Why? Why, oh why?
They’d been drinking; they always drank. Who didn’t? “One more glass of wine?” he had asked. “Sure, just one,” she had replied. Booze was free onboard. They’d purchased the beverage package.
Wait! Who had purchased it? Him or her?
No matter. Didn’t matter. Gotta reach shore. “Please, God,” she mumbled. “I’ll never drink again if you save me.”
Didn’t everyone bargain when death neared?
No, death wouldn’t come for her. And when she found Sam, well, she didn’t want to think what she would do.
She forced her arms to dig deep into the water, inch by inch. Where was the splash of her feet? Shouldn’t she hear the splash? Wasn’t she kicking?
Forget it. Keep going. She was moving. The rocks were closer. Black rocks, but she’d manage. Just get me there. I’ll handle the rest.
She pretended she was a mermaid. Mermaids existed in the water. She’d live if she were a mermaid. Who knows, maybe she was one.
Kick! Kick, kick.
Her feet were numb, so maybe she had developed a mermaid tail. Flap! Flap, flap.
Nearer. Almost there. A few more kicks. A few more flails of her arms.
The water was warmer. She was warmer. Another sign of death?
She was close. So close. So close...
“Please, God, don’t let this be a mirage.”
She touched the sharp edge of a rock. A big rock. A boulder.
“I’m safe,” she muttered.
She looked up. A cliff. Too high. She’d never scale that.
She latched hold, her hand slipped, she swallowed water.
She reached again.
She managed to hoist herself onto a low-lying surface, where she lay, panting. The October sun shone across her. Warm. No breeze, no dastardly wind. No crash of the waves against the rocks.
Anyone there? she wanted to shout, but she possessed no strength.
Let me rest. Just let me rest.
My story “Margaret of the Sea” (perhaps a bit too dark, but that’s what the guidelines wanted!), another fictionalized account of Peggy/Margaret, will be published in an upcoming anthology titled Creatures in Canada – A Darkling Around the World Anthology, by Lycan Valley Press. This anthology consists of one “legend” story per province in Canada, a story that could have only happened in that particular province. My story was selected for Nova Scotia. Book will be available on Amazon.
The Spot Writers—Our Members:
Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/
Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/
Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com
Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.ca/