Fantasy Sad Teens & Young Adult

“Back in my day, we used to spend every day by the sea. It did not matter the weather, if it was raining or snowing, that was our playground.”

“I know, grandma,” Pierre said with a smile as he continued pushing Grandma’s wheelchair carefully towards the dock.

“Here’s find, lovely. Come closer.”

Startled, Pierre took a step back, heart pounding. He made to grab the handles of Grandmother’s wheelchair to pull her back, but she held onto the wheels firmly, stopping any movement.

“Don’t you want to know why your mother and grandfather never allow us near the water?” Grandmother coaxed, waving him closer. “Come, come. You’re safe.”

Swallowing compulsively, Pierre finally stepped forward towards the roiling water. As he got close, a humanlike creature emerged from the water. Its skin was pale, tinged grey and blue, and red hair slicked close to its skull.

“Warwick, I’d like for you to meet my grandson,” Grandma said, smiling lovingly at Pierre and running her fingers through his hair. “Pierre.”

He swallowed nervously, cheeks flushed at the open delight and awe the creature was staring at him with. The creature was practically buzzing with excitement, tail twisting in the water—wagging almost like an excited dog, he thought with a giggle.

“Hello,” he said shyly, and held out his hand. Even if he didn’t know who or what the creature was, his mother and grandmother had taught him manners, and the latter seemed comfortable with this creature.

The creature looked at the offered appendage with widened eyes, mouth splitting into an even wider grin. She carefully reached out her own, and shook it gently. Pierre was startled by how cold her skin was, and how it felt almost slimy. The webbing of her fingers seemed to go out farther than it should, but it was impolite to point those things out, his mother had said. 

“Do you know what he is, my dear?” Grandmother asked, resting her hand on his back and smiling encouragingly. “He’s a selkie. And you are, too.”


“Whenever you’re ready,” she whispered into his hair after telling him the story. “Whenever you’re ready, go down to the barn and open the cellar. There, wrapped in brown paper, you’ll find my seal skin.”

“You know where it is?” Pierre blurted out before he could stop himself, pulling back out of her embrace. His voice rose with excitement and confusion. “Why don’t I get it for you now? Don’t you want to go back to the sea?”

Grandmother chuckled, and she suddenly seemed so frailer than she had when they had first reached the dock. “I’m much too old to go back,” she said, gaze drifting out to the sea. “And besides, I think I’ll be returning to the waves soon enough.”

“What does that mean?” Pierre asked, a cold and uncomfortable feeling settling into his stomach. “Grandma, what do you mean?”

“Nothing, child, nothing,” she shushed him gently, cupping his cheeks in her hands. “But you’ll remember, won’t you? And you’ll visit our friend Warwick, won’t you?”

“Of course,” he responded immediately. “I’ll go and see him and the others tomorrow, and every day after.”

Grandma laughed, and pulled him back into a hug. “I was hoping you would say that, my love.”


The next day he went back and a seal was lying on the docks, bathing in the sunlight. When it turned its head lazily in Pierre’s direction, it seemed startled, neck craning up. After glancing around, the seal seemed to ripple like fabric as the being Pierre had met before—Warwick—pulled the seal skin off like a cloak to wrap around his waist. 

“Hello,” Pierre greeted him, hesitantly stopping a few yards away from the selkie.

“Greetings, little Pierre,” Warwick greeted him, giving him a gentle smile. “What brings you down to the docks today?”

Pierre hesitated, before walking closer to Warwick. The selkie shifted to the side and patted the empty spot he’d made next to him, which Pierre took. They both sat quietly for awhile before Warwick pulled out a piece of jerky from his pouch and started eating.

“I know you have questions, little one,” Warwick said with a sigh. “What is it you want to know?”

“Why didn’t Grandma go back to you and the others?” Pierre asked, staring into Warwick’s sea-dark eyes. “She told me she knew where her skin is.”

Warwick paused from eating his jerky, food already halfway to his mouth. He sighed and slowly settled his hand back in his lap.

“How much do you know about selkies, little Pierre?” he asked.

“Well, not much,” Pierre admitted, kicking his feet in the cold water. “I know you can turn into a seal, and then if someone takes your skin, you can’t turn back. That’s what happened to Grandma, right?”

Warwick nodded, shifting in his seat. “It happened to her a long time ago, when your grandfather was still a fisherman. And when she became pregnant, she decided to stay on land, for her daughter, and later, for you.”

Pierre found he couldn’t look his grandpa in the eyes as the older man pressed a kiss to his cheek. As his mother finished saying goodbye to them, he wandered off ahead of her down the path towards their house. He didn’t say anything as she caught up with him and asked him how his day went with his grandparents.

“Fine,” he said in a monotone.

“Did…Grandma say anything to you?” his mother asked carefully. 

When Pierre looked up at her, she was staring dutifully ahead, but her face was slightly scrunched, as if she were worried about something. His mind flashed back to his grandmother warning him not to say anything to his mother or grandfather.

“About what?”

“Well, about the ocean. Things like…like selkies.”

A pause. “No,” he lied, kicking a rock off the path. “She didn’t.”


It would be years before Pierre accepted the gift his grandmother had left for him, before he fully came to appreciate what she had given him. Not only had she left him an opportunity to explore the oceans and meet his family, she’d given him freedom. With the world breathing down his neck and demanding everything from him—marriage, a job, children—Pierre was finally allowed to escape.

Older now, he was able to understand his Grandmother’s choice a bit more, and his mother’s bereavement. The guilt his mother felt was immense, permeating into her relationship with her mother—how could it not? She was the reason that the selkie wouldn’t go back to the ocean. She was the reason she stayed in a loveless marriage. So to cope, she completely shut down, and refused to have any part of that world in her life.

Pierre stood on the cliffside, the one he had been to with his grandmother so many times in his childhood. He had his shoes tucked next to him, and the sealskin was draped over his shoulders. Despite being decades old, it was still wet and slippery, as if the seal had just come out of the sea. The areas that the skin touched his own was on fire, stinging and clinging together as if fusing into one.

Below, he could see some heads pop out of the water. One of them was the familiar figure of Warwick, his red hair sticking out against the wine-dark sea.

He waved Pierre on, and the teenager didn’t wait any longer. Holding his breath, he took a step forward and plunged down, down, down before crashing into the ocean, the air forced from his lungs. It was chaos, the roiling waves pushing him around like a rag doll, and there was a moment of panic.

Abruptly, two solid pairs of hands took hold of his arms. One of them smoothed the sealskin further along his own skin, pressing it close. His skin was on fire again, but the fire was quickly morphing into something warmer, much more manageable and comforting.

After an eternity, Pierre gasped, and found that he could breathe.

November 17, 2021 15:55

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Boutat Driss
08:06 Nov 21, 2021

I love it. Well done!


Emma Wood
18:10 Nov 21, 2021

Thank you so much!!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Tricia Shulist
19:34 Nov 20, 2021

That was an interesting story. All the mysteries of the sea! I didn’t even realize that selkies were part of the folk lore. Thank you.


Emma Wood
18:10 Nov 21, 2021

Thank you so much for your kind comment!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.