I wish for a tropical breeze to lighten the intense humidity that hugs this August morning. The porch, thank goodness, is high off the ground and the mildew on the screens somewhat block the steamy rays from the sun. The sky is intensely blue and the ocean is still and quiet—waiting. I breathe in slowly through my nose and exhale gently through my mouth, waiting for what I know must come. I feel powerless to change my fate.
My notebook is before me and I stare at the cover, that I am unwilling to open. I have been siting here now for what seems like hours trying to begin a story that I must tell. I must make sense of it, at least in my own mind. Perspiration drips from the corners of my temples. Tendrils of fading blond curls are damp across my forehead and I push them aside with the back of my hand.
The old mahogany rocking chair I sit in, with its old cane seat, presses into my bare legs making my skin feel sticky and I am sure that deep patterns are now embed on the backs of my thighs that might blister, courtesy of the mahogany chair. I shift uncomfortably, and vow to retrieve a pillow from the sofa when next I rise.
The breeze I have been waiting for finally arrives like a soft whisper across my cheek and I turn my face toward its source, the sky and sea. In the morning light, I open the notebook and stare at the empty pages, that are now somewhat damp from the humid air and I begin again searching for the right words, the truest of words. It will come to me…..I know it will. I close my eyes and I try to remember all of it
It began some years ago. I was standing on this screened in porch with my cousin, Jordan. It was after the funeral of my great Aunt who willed me this beach house that sits comfortably overlooking the ocean.
The sky was a vivid blue and the sea was quiet, until quite suddenly, a quickly moving storm, crossed the horizon and blocked out the sun. Darkness came, and a whispered voice, close to my ear, spoke, “Dare ye not linger lest she bring a curse upon ye, child.”
I turned quickly to the voice, but no one was there. A chill went up my spine. I thought I had imagined it. Moments later, again, the disembodied voice spoke, “Dare ye not linger lest she bring a curse upon ye, child!” This time the voice was urgent and fearful.
I began to tremble with an unreasonable fear, of what—I did not know. I grabbed my cousin Jordan’s arm to plead with him to let us head for home. He took no notice of me and continued to stare at something that was standing beyond the gate. I turned to look and before us was something that could only have materialized out of a Grimm’s fairy tale.
An unearthly woman glared at me from beyond the gate, and her dark crystal eyes began to glow so brightly that the darkness disappeared around us. The hag-like woman, lifted by unseen wings, soared over the gate.
The whispering voice behind me suddenly gave out an ear-splitting scream that shook the floor where I stood. The hag-like apparition beyond the screened porch screeched with such an unearthly sound that I dared not move, even if I could. I was still holding Jordan’s arm and he turned to me as if to wonder what I was doing.
“Jordan,” I whispered, “What is that?”
“What is what, Ana?”
“You know, the old hag, the woman, Jordan.”
“Ana, there is no woman, only a light in the window from the cottage down the road, but there was nothing to it. Let’s go home.”
I was incredulous. Was I the only one who saw the woman and heard the unearthly screams? My young cousins, Richie and Anise seemed not to be at all aware of what had happened as they played along the beach before me.
I couldn’t understand what was wrong with them and then once again, I heard the whispering voice behind me and I angrily turned to respond. The whispering apparition was floating in the air, now in front of me, her long dark hair was whirling around her head as though she was in the center of great storm, “Thou art hexed, forsaken in ye life, poor child,” she said. “I begged thee not to gaze upon the Harpy.”
The apparition’s voice was sad and low as she slowly vanished before me. The sky was once again blue, and the sea was quiet now. The storm was gone along with the screeching old hag.
The Mahogany chair is now hotter against my thighs as the chair begins to rock back and forth. I know she is coming. I look beyond the screened porch, knowing she will come. I see her now, the Harpy, she stands beyond the porch. Her dark crystal eyes glare at me, as her dark mane of hair blows in the dark storm she brings with her.
Another form appears on the porch, near me. It is the apparition, I now know as Nellie, who has been protecting me all of these years. The Harpy’s unholy screech suddenly pierces the air and in turn, Nellie’s high pitch scream drowns out all else.
Then it finally comes to me, the truest words: “Do not look at the creature, the Harpy. Do not listen to her screams, should you hear them, and abide this warning: Go as far away as you can, a quick as you can—for it is far too late for me.”