A Gift of Prophecy or a Curse?
Chapter 1 : Excerpt
Silver Cape Cove, Newfoundland
Someone was watching him.
Thomas Morley sat on the cuddy of his father’s boat, as proud a fisherman as ever pulled on a sou’wester. His third spring fishing and by God, this boat, on this ocean, was the place of his dreams—riding the swells, the scent of brine in the air, the satisfaction of going back to the cove, loaded with cod. Nothing could beat it.
But today, the uneasiness had come back and settled on him. The rumors, the whispered secrets, the talk he knew went on behind his back—cripes, some days ‘twas like a dark pall coming to cover him.
The big old twenty-four-foot skiff eased through the water and the evaporating morning mist, the engine putt-putting, a wake of foamy white waves rushing away from the stern. Thomas scanned the sky and the headlands, noted the wind as it veered around, watched gulls and turres circle—
That’s when he spotted her.
Molly Chant peered down from the cliff top. Sizing ‘em up she was, sitting on that beat-up old chair he and Charlie tried to steal one night last summer, until an owl’s hoot frightened Charlie and he figured ‘twas the old woman out to witch them.
Wrapped in her shabby black shawl this morning, she had two biscuits and a bundle of tea leaves in a white cloth in her apron pocket. He gulped. Cripes, how’d he know what was in her apron pocket?
She’d been in his head for a while now. He’d thought things over carefully and concluded that, yes, by God, his problems truly did start the night that old woman came to him and saved his life. First, he wondered if the fairies might have taken his mind while he was berry picking, but Uncle Harry said ‘dat’s not what the fairies are about at all’.
A gentle swell rocked the boat as they pushed past cliffs, rounded the easternmost point, and headed toward the fishing grounds. Fodder stood, staring off in the distance, his face lined with worry. Uncle Harry dozed, his head back against the engine house. Martin, like every young boy new to the water, kept close to the side, the gunnels seized in a white knuckled hold, the freckles on his pale white face showing up clearly, even from a distance.
Be a while yet before they came upon the nets and the real work started. The squawking sound of the turres echoed. Thomas’ eyes went funny, colors spinning, and by jumpin’s, try as he might, he couldn’t draw his gaze away from the figure staring down from the cliff. He felt her in his head, in his bones. Was it another fit coming on? Nah, he’d not had a single warning this time. Not the pinpricks of light, the smell of burnt wood, his body didn’t shake and twitch, or fall into darkness. This time he simply went still. He couldn’t speak, just stared off to no place. His hand tapped his thigh in a never-ending rhythm. His head filled with the image of an empty net, water all around, but not a single cod. His stomach sickened. He tried to move but his body, still rigid, could only let out a groan.
Fodder kicked his feet. “You all right there, Tom?”
“Yep.” Had Fodder heard his moan? “Waitin’ to get out to the trap is all.”
Fodder stood next to him, his work weary hands coiling a rope.
Martin muttered. “Aw, jeezes.” He leaned over the side of the skiff losing the last of his breakfast.
His younger brother’s second week out, and he still got the heaves in the morning. “Feedin’ the gulls again, Martin?”
He glanced back at Thomas, eyes squinting into the morning sun. “Shaddup you.”
Thomas threw a pitying glance toward him, recalling the sickness himself. God-awful stuff. He’d experienced it those first days out on the water, too. Had Martin gotten as excited about being called to the boat and given a place as he had?
Martin stood, sucked air, his chest expanding. Uncle Harry leaned over, patted his back. “Drap o’ warm tea’ll settle yer stomach once we gets the net hauled.”
Lifting his cap, Thomas tucked back a tangle of hair.
Martin pushed past him, staggered. Still trying to find his balance as the skiff swayed and pitched.
“What’s we in for this morning? Another day of bitter disappointment?” Fodder said to Uncle Harry.
Still resting against the engine house, Uncle Harry grunted, cleared his throat, and spat over the side.
“Hard to say, Joshua b’y. Looks like plenty of fish, though. Can’t be no worse than the last few days.”
The crease in Fodder’s brow deepened. “That’s the truth, then.”
Uncle Harry and Fodder had fished together so long they could read each other’s minds.
Fodder cut back the engine, the boat slowed, eased its way forward toward the marker. With well-honed skill, he settled it over the trap. Gentle. Why couldn’t he be this mindful with people?
Two skiffs on their way back toward shore passed, riding low in the water with their hefty catch, their wake easing out behind them. Fodder’s expression, as they got closer, changed. He stood still, feet planted firmly in the skiff, arms straight at his sides, eyes cold as the underbelly of a cod.
“Good load you got there, Will,” he shouted over the engines.
“Yes, Joshua b’y. Plenty out here this morning.”
Thomas headed to the stern.
“All right, b’ys. Tom, you and Martin take the dory.”
Martin pushed past Thomas. “No need for two of us out there, is it, Fodder?”
“Yes, there is. Now go on.” He didn’t even turn around.
Martin scrabbled to the back, pulled up and secured the twelve-foot dory they towed.
Stars of light spun around Thomas. Goddammit. Not now. He waited. Couldn’t trust himself to jump into the dory if a fit was coming on. He scanned the water, the skiff. No one was watching. He lay his hand on the gunnel, the wood warmed now by the sun, swung his legs over the side and into the small craft, his feet landing steady and strong, body straight.
Thomas stared at him.
Martin shook his head. “I got to learn how to do it like you, Tom.”
“You will.” He looked toward Fodder and back into Martin’s serious brown eyes. “Cripes, this is a waste, what? The two of us out here.”
Martin untied the rope, inclined his head in Joshua’s direction. “I s’pose he’s afraid to send you out here alone, since you haves the fits.”
Thomas cringed. “Fodder, did you send Martin out here to mind me? Or do I have to mind him? Just as well for the two of us to stay ashore, if that’s the case.” Fodder looked up. “Ya saucy bastards. Another word, I’ll come out and toss the two of yas overboard. ‘Ear me?”
A bunch of Judas’s, they were. But what could he do? Molly Chant said he had power. Utter foolishness it was. He had no power, helpless as newborn pup, blind and useless to the world.