Skin by Alyson Tait
Her skin was gray, hidden among the shallow water and rocks. Its smooth texture slid underneath the grains of sand, swimming with each small tide, and camouflaged by the dreary, clouded sky camouflage.
I blinked and rubbed my eyes, certain my brain was being tricked.
I called out to the water, wondering if perhaps there was a diverted or lost baby seal that needed prodded back into the water; the echo of my voice convinced me to go and to the shore and see.
I implored myself to stand on those treacherous rocks and find out what had happened.
Something inched at the back of my skull - it trickled down my neck and through my spinal cord. As I approached, the feeling grew.
By the time I was kneeling in front of the selkie’s slippery seal skin, the world was spinning around my head.
I could barely see to grab at the discarded piece of her, and it slipped right through my fingers the first time I tried to hold it. The end slid down towards the churning water.
A groan escaped my lips, and I tried again. I dug my nails into the delicate, shining husk and dragged it all the way onto the sand.
I could see her face -- and without a single word spoken, I knew the choice before me. I knew the laws of the ocean and how few things it gave up if it could help it. It would not give her all to me, but it would allow me to enter if I made that choice.
Wind sprayed salty foam over my face as I watched the tides grow heavier, and my tired mind imagined I could see her face; that the owner of the skin was out there, swimming just a few feet into the water, smiling at me and waiting for my answer. She watched me imagine my life going forward, thinking of this day on the beach, and knowing I would never see her again.
I shuddered. It racked my whole body -- a violent force shaking me and rattling my teeth together. The ocean called, and I knew I would have a wife forever if I chose to swim or a lonely life on land with just this tiny stolen token.
When I blinked, even my imagination lost sight of her shimmering green eyes. Suddenly, it seemed no choice at all.
Alyson lives in Maryland where she got married, had her daughter, and began her writing journey. She has appeared in (mac)ro(mic), Wrongdoing magazine, and From the Farther Trees. You can find her on Amazon, and Twitter @rudexvirus1