Overheard On A Salt Marsh

in The Ink Welllast year

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She moved through the early evening light, the silence holding her fast, the sound of the clock pulling her near. She waited and moved, listening.

She could hear the reassuring tap of the keyboard in another room.

The worn floor smooth and warm in the fading sun.

It was strange here after the Great Attack, so many dying, her family among them. Now she lived in another place with people who resented her, resented her city ways. A stone in her pocket, talisman against strangers, reminded her of his face, telling small jokes when her back was turned and each of them enjoying the deliciousness of shared delight. Now he was far away hidden from sight locked in an endless grave of work.

The Great COVID Attack and the mass migrations and the children out on the streets.

The rain came down and she heard its sound as they moved in the alleyways, the people gathering slowly in the light and joining the chain as they took their place and scattered across the country.

The clock pulled her with its solemn measuring of time.

A screech behind her, painful to her ears, sounding a warning she was near the clock.

The fury exploded, dark force whirling, legs and arms, coming her way, a fist raised.

The clock sounded its chime. The world stood still.


She woke in the dark, the clock silent, a crumpled pile on the floor beside her.

Hungry, she made her way to the store, ate bread, some cheese from the safe. Drank water.

Free at last.

She smiled to herself, caressing the stone in her pocket.

She took a wrap, a cloth, made a small parcel of fruit, nuts, the last of the bread, a leather water bottle.

She crossed the compound, she saw the boy in the window, still screeching. She smiled again and threw her wrap around her. Free at last.

She never knew what happened to the fury when she thought about it afterwards. The mass was there and gone, leaving only tatters and trimmings behind. She could feel the stone gently knocking her leg as she walked.


Many weeks passed as she searched for him. Guildford, he’d said. She made her way across country, using the travellers’ inns and way stations. Slight, she sometimes attracted attention from the lonely men looking for love, comfort, sex to redeem them from their own sad souls. She smiled, seeming to slip from their grasp like water, passing among them and away, the stone held lightly in her fingers.


She waited on the threshold. Watchful, half-hidden in the shade.

She saw him working, lifting crates, heard the noise of the machinery. A man called, he answered back. Shouts. She watched him take a swig from a bottle.

Leave it, my friend, it will do you no good, she whispered in the shadows.

Surprised, he turned. Wiped his mouth with his hand. He stared, searching, unsure what he was looking for. There had been no sound, no words, only an intuition.

She heard the rumble, saw the energy as they descended, batons in hand, heading his way. The roaring of their voices reached her,

how many times,

how many times,

lazy,

good for nothing.

Five or six of them, running the length of the building. Stupefied, he gazed at them.

Leave him! She commanded, moving out into the sunlight.

Startled, wary, they turned. Saw a slight girl-woman, legs lean and sturdy from walking, skin brown and smooth, her wrap across one shoulder. She stood, quiet now, waiting.

Bewildered, they halted for a moment, then came to, marshalling their impulses and weapons, eyes excited at the prospect of a fresh victim, fresh labour, a girl-woman. Deliberate, menacing, they moved towards her as a pack. She smiled and raised the stone in her hand.

You could see their incredulous faces. A stone!

But then they heard the clock chime, saw the sun’s rays glance off the stone, felt their blood chill, their bones melt, their sinews tighten and snap, the energy of a million atoms and protons pulsating in sinusoid waves, disappearing into the ether, the batons scattered firewood left on the ground.

In the warehouse, she saw him totter and fall in a faint.


The year was changing. The days shortened. It grew more chill. They gathered firewood, trapped small mammals, gathered blackberries, apples, nuts, found large, flat stones for the fire. Baked flatbreads, roasted meat, sucked on bones and used them to clean the pelts. They sheltered under branches and moss, gazing at embers and dancing flames. They told the old stories, from before the Great Attack.

She rolled the stone between her palms, feeling its warmth massage her hands.

Where did you get that from?

I found it.

He never asked what had happened. She never said.

As she rolled the stone, green shiny flecks reflected the flames, glowing like cats eyes in the dark.


They followed the trail to the South, saw the sea glistening in the distance, the broken remains of wind farms, marvelled at the strength of plants to tear down macadam and concrete, watched foxes and pheasants, rabbits, small voles, woodpeckers and kingfishers. They followed the Downs, the Pilgrims Way, heading for the Isle of the Dead.


At last, they came to the salt marsh, the briny margin between land and sea, inhabited by sea birds and tiny nightmare monsters, sea mouse and lugworm, great tufts of seagrass, bleached white spiny sea kale, tumbles of sea lavender, dried husks of sea thrift. Gulls wheeled in the sky.

Slumbering, she heard the howl,

Give them me … give them me, give them me …

She woke to the Goblin, hunched in the tree, long bony fingers extending,

Give them me … give them me, give them me …

She knew it would not be satisfied.


She went to the Isle of the Dead. She knew it had followed, stumbling and hopping behind,

Give them me … give them me, give them me …

She walked among the ruins, pillars for the heads, burial mounds and ancient forgotten treasures, buckles, pins, beads. She passed the unmanned boats carrying the dead.

… I will howl all night in the reeds/lie in the mud and howl …

I will howl in the deep lagoon …

She made a place, covered it with pelts and dried grass, brought him to it. He heard the howling, saw the Goblin limping and hobbling behind them.

Give them me … give them me, give them me …

We will have no peace.

Hush, she said, hush, Goblin.

They lay back, waiting for the moon and, as it rose, she held the stone to it.

Give me … give me, give me …, the Goblin raged, reaching for the stone.

Moonlight struck the stone, catching on the green flecks and cascading over the Isle of the Dead. The Goblin screamed and fizzed, popping like astral fire, dispersing in tiny bubbles each one holding its wicked likeness.

Holding hands, they melted into air, the stone dropping onto the soft pelts.

The unmanned boats came back empty in the morning.


A response to the prompt in Fiction Writing prompt #5: The Magic Starts at the Beginning.

[I]t begins to appear that the fabric of nature itself is wavelike. The distinction between matter and energy becomes blurred … they can be treated as one and the same. A Sine of the Times - @adetorrent.

Legend of The Isle of the Dead

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Overheard on a Salt Marsh
Painting by Anna Christensen
Poem by Harold Munro

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I love your style of writing the amalgamation of details which are highlighted and the associative allusions which lend the story (in my opinion ) a kind of floating presence. I am hugely impressed as I find writing fictional text extremely tough (read: impossible for me)
I am sorry, but I have again this 💩💩 headaches and so I am a bit too tired to comment more deeply. I hope you are well <3

Thank you, I enjoyed writing it, although it was definitely work (about six hours). Having the prompt and the structure provided by The Ink Well helps, I think, it gives the writer something to flex against (or with). I like your interpretation of a kind of floating presence.
So sorry about your headaches. Hope this one soon passes.
I am well, thank you :)

I love this @shanibeer

It is hard to pin down for me but there are technical things such as the ethereal and terrible beauty of your some of your descriptive narrative:

But then they heard the clock chime, saw the sun’s rays glance off the stone, felt their blood chill, their bones melt, their sinews tighten and snap, the energy of a million atoms and protons pulsating in sinusoid waves, disappearing into the ether, the batons scattered firewood left on the ground.

and this (passage I've highlighted below), as a child of the sea and completely enraptured with diving 'free' or 'scuba', this descriptive passage left me tasting the salt marsh. We have a few near to where I live on the river Dee side of the Wirral peninsula. Rarely a descriptive narrative captures place so perfectly as yours did!

At last, they came to the salt marsh, the briny margin between land and sea, inhabited by sea birds and tiny nightmare monsters, sea mouse and lugworm, great tufts of seagrass, bleached white spiny sea kale, tumbles of sea lavender, dried husks of sea thrift.

I love the way you mingle fantasy with the post apocalyptic in such a mysterious way. I gathered if I'm reading it right that the main character is a ghost? Or maybe the stone has given her power outside of time. Either way it is a wonderful and haunting tale, completely different to the way i took it with my continuation today which is lovely to see. You took only small elements from my prompt (which is cool) and made this uniquely your own.

Great read Shani!

Thank you @raj808 😀
It's a new genre for me so I was a little anxious that it was too banal, and that I used to many influences for it to cohere as a story, so I'm pleased that you enjoyed it in its entirety.
I learned a lot from doing it, I enjoyed working (more or less) to a brief, and playing with the structure. I didn't have an ending when I started so it was interesting how that evolved through the writing.

@raj808 is the master of articulating what makes a story good - or great - and your descriptive details, the salt marshes, the sea kale and lavender, are marvelous indeed.

Me, I'm all about finding Roger again - child laborer conscripted to the ale house, spitting into the ale - and it matters not that tattle-tale Billy and the abusive uncle are not seen again. The goblin can be their metaphor. Escaping their terrible fate - so picturesquely! - is the reward this reader seeks. You deliver!

How interesting what different people take from the story, and what appeals to them
Thank you, I'm glad I delivered 😁

@shanibeer, I love this!!! especially the way Jenny finds Roger again:

She saw him working, lifting crates, heard the noise of the machinery. A man called, he answered back. Shouts. She watched him take a swig from a bottle.
Leave it, my friend, it will do you no good, she whispered in the shadows.
Surprised, he turned. Wiped his mouth with his hand. He stared, searching, unsure what he was looking for. There had been no sound, no words, only an intuition.

Then the task masters, then the escape, and those closing lines. So beautiful!

Moonlight struck the stone, catching on the green flecks and cascading over the Isle of the Dead. The Goblin screamed and fizzed, popping like astral fire, dispersing in tiny bubbles each one holding its wicked likeness.
Holding hands, they melted into air, the stone dropping onto the soft pelts.
The unmanned boats came back empty in the morning.

I LOVE IT

As agmoore said, "Need I say it? This is so well written!" - in response to Raj - yes. We need to say it. This is cleverly written and illustrated. Well done!!!

So glad you enjoyed it, it was my first attempt at a three act story and not a genre I'm naturally drawn to (fantasy), but I know it's very popular and it seems so at The Ink Well as well. I thought I wouldn't have enough ideas to carry the story but they arrive as you're writing!