Dreamed 1984/8/13 by Chris Wayan
My sister Miriel and I are on a tramp freighter in the North Atlantic. We're not crew, but paying passengers. The ship had room to spare, and took on just a few. Slow, spartan, but dirt-cheap travel!
One sunny but bracing-cold day (after all, we're not far south of Greenland's tip) we're passing a seal-rookery, leaning on the rail and gawking, when Miriel spots a line of cliffs growing dead ahead. This can't be right--we're under full steam, heading at them!
I look about to warn a crewman, but no one's on deck. Climb to the bridge, and no one's at the wheel. The captain, the crew... they've all disappeared. We're trapped on a ghost ship--for the next ten minutes. After that, we won't be anywhere.
No, wait--not everyone's gone. Our fellow passengers, two tall businessmen, looking like twins in their matching brown suits, are standing hand in hand on the deck. They never hid they were lovers, but kept to themselves the whole voyage. Even now, as I scurry down the ladder toward them, I feel a warning to keep my distance. Something's happening.
Slowly they blur, and one turns female, her suit wrinkling then shrinking with her. But she doesn't stop shifting--she keeps getting shorter and sleeker until she's a brown seal, on deck. The other man shrinks more slowly into a larger bull-seal. They shake themselves, and wriggle over to the edge, ready to slip off deck into the sea.
Now I see. Stranded selkies! Were-seals. Broke and stranded in human lands, these selkies must have conspired to find a cheap way home. They got together, signed on, and hijacked the freighter. When the ship sinks, they'll all be presumed dead--home free!
But why are Miriel and I here? How could they let us on board, knowing we don't belong--knowing we'd die? Are selkies that cruel?
The selkie who changed last of all turns and looks at us, his dark seal-eye unreadable. And then he returns! Rears up, stretches, briefly becomes a businessman again, and asks "Will you two be all right?"
"Yes," I say without thinking. "We can too, now that we know." Know what? Why did I say that? What do I know, but not know I know?
The man blurs to a seal again. How familiar that shift looks, now that I see it! He and his mate slip over the gunwale and are gone. The ship heads blindly on, and my sister eyes me with fear and, well, curiosity. The same curiosity I'm feeling.
Neither of us is thinking of how to turn the ship. It's a human thing. Let it crash!
We're both wondering: when we lean on the rail and let go... what will we become?
NOTES ON WAKING UP
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