Fantasy Sad Drama

Her childhood tasted of salt. If she sucked her hair, if she licked her finger, there was always the remains of saltwater or sweat, often both. It had a hint of seaweed rotting on the strand and the sweet scent of the pine trees drifting down against the wind which slowly swept the waves into the cove.

They named her Tone. She had the bright cornflower eyes of her mother. Hair like yellow gold. She was thirteen and was free, wild, happy and strong. She was a beautiful child. She was still young enough that her father let her run wild.  She did what she wanted. She would run barefoot along the strand all through the summer. Stopping only to swim naked in the salt waves. She ran like a wild deer. When it got dark and she was forced home, she would curl up next to the fire, roasting woodsap flavouring her salt skin, and sing in a soft voice of beauty and love. She dreamt of falling in love with a warrior. They would be so in love someone would write songs about them. She knew it.

It wasn’t surprising they took her. By late August, she was honey tanned and her uncut wild hair was white blonde. Several of the more conservative of the house had told Swen that his daughter wasn’t a child anymore. She was ripe they told him, too old to be running around free in a short tunic.

The man who caught her, and threw her across his shoulder had said, “Young, but good thighs.” He said it in a language she didn’t quite understand. She ran, fought and kicked, but he was too strong. Later, he turned her round, checked her teeth. He told her she smelt better than most; Freshly washed in the cool salt water.

She had hated the two weeks, penned, in the boat; poor food, dirty water. They had skirted Scotland and made for the Irish islands. As soon as she arrived at Inishturk she ran. They let her, it was an island, where could she go? She ran around the edge of the island in a couple of hours. He caught her later, she didn’t run this time or try to fight. He took her to his home. Rustic, but comfortable enough. She smelt the musty fur and the burning of animal fat dripping into the fire. Ash crept out from cracking logs. She would clean it now, feed the fire.

“You will look after the cows,” he told her, “you will look after them like they are gold.” A man’s wealth was his cows. They were gold. “It’s easier to get another one like you than a good cow, you understand?” She didn’t know his language so well, but she understood.

Then he tied her hands to the post which held the roof, straw and turf. The rough hemp tight on her wrists. “I’m going to beat you now. You aren’t being punished; you haven’t done anything wrong. I’m going to beat you so you understand that I can, without reason, just because I choose to. So you know we own you now. I am the village chief. The village owns you. I decide what happens to you. You understand?” She didn’t know his language so well, but she understood.

He beat her hard, left stinging hot welts across her back. Beat her till salt tears fell down her cheeks, dropping to the earth as she tensed with each blow. She had pride, was silent, closed her eyes, bit her lower lip.

For two years she tended the cows. Came to like their calm acceptance and sad eyes. Grew to love them, talk to them as friends, knew each by name. She cleaned and cared for the house. They grew a quiet routine, a silent slow dance of days. She grew fond of the man. He liked her singing. He fed her well and protected her. There were more than a few who would have used her, young as she was. He never beat her again. He was a warrior; he was handsome enough. She became used to the sound of him sleeping on the other side of the house.

Sometimes they laughed together; she tried to teach him how to say her name. “Not Tone, like bone,” she said. “too, use your lips, Tooona.” He tried but he never got it. “Tuna.” They laughed, her rolling on the floor like a child. She collected small stones with holes through them and made a necklace. He bought her back twine and needles to make clothes. She would sew and sing in front of the fire. He smiled as he listened and drank.

She sang to the cows as she milked them. Her favourite was an old song about a man who thought a girl so beautiful she was worth a hundred cows. It was a beautiful song. “I doubt I will ever be worth one,” she told the animal, stroking her warm flank as she sang in her high clear child voice.

When the end of the summer came again and she was a honey tanned fifteen year old he told her it was time. “You need to be partnered; the village wants to sell you to a man to lay with him.” She knew it wasn’t for her to choose. She could have guessed it would come, she was no fool, but all the same she was shocked.

“I could buy you, if you like,” he told her. She thought a while and looking at the ground, nodded.

That night he took her to his bed. He was strong and rough. He told her she was beautiful. It was a sort of love, she thought. She closed her eyes and relaxed, smelt his sweat, let it happen to her, it wasn’t so bad. When it was light he told her he would buy her the next morning. Then she would belong to him. Take his mark. “Like one of the cows,” she thought

The next day, she stood on the strand in the early dawn. Looked back, worrying for the cows. Who would care for them? It was cold as she took her clothes off. She would leave the clothes. They were his. I had a choice before he bought me. It was love, of a sort. It will never be that when he owns me. She smelt salted seaweed, drying, rotting, in the sun. She paddled slowly into the sea and then dived forward. Her honey tanned body and yellow hair slid into the grey green water. The cold took her breath. She swam forward. She cried as she swam. Tiny drops of salt water in an ocean.

The village was angry. He was angry. Did she hate him that much? He couldn’t understand why she would waste her life. He would have been kind to her. Given her beautiful children.

I could have loved him if I was free. I can’t love an owner. Can’t live with calm acceptance and sad eyes. She didn’t fight drowning. She closed her eyes and relaxed, Let the salt water pour into her mouth and nose, let it happen to her. For a second she remembered a beach and a fire and a song and a dream. In her head she sang a song about a girl so beautiful she was worth a hundred cows, until her young heart stopped and it was over.

October 01, 2023 17:28

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Mike Ramsey
15:26 Oct 14, 2023

Vivid descriptions but I felt like this story was a bit heavy on the male gaze - and maybe it just struck me wrong. I would think she would be more scared, horrified and terrorized than she was in this story. The writing is good and I think it could be a good story if there was more depth in the trauma of it.


Vid Weeks
16:39 Oct 15, 2023

Thanks for your thoughts Mike. I think I wanted her to be a child who is viewed sexually who seems accepting, until in the end makes the only, extreme, statement open to her - to her captors surprise. They, and to some extent the reader, think this is all OK, she definitely doesn't. But great to get your impressions. After your and Audrey's feedback it can certainly benefit from a more thoughtful rewrite, but good to know Tone affected you.


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Audrey Knox
13:49 Oct 13, 2023

"Her childhood tasted of salt" was a great opening line. It fit the prompt but also clearly and thematically sets up the beautiful freedom of her childhood, which then contrasts with the brutality of her captivity in a heartbreaking way. The story is beautifully executed. My only note is a macro one: Why tell this? I couldn't help but wonder while reading it today in 2023, what is the point of this white slavery story? What is being said here that the world needs to know or here? What is new or different to our understanding of the human ex...


Vid Weeks
15:08 Oct 13, 2023

I guess I was making an extreme comment on the difference between our dreams and our reality, but more importantly, in the words of Anti slavery international - "You might think that slavery is a thing of the past. But right now, almost 50 million people are trapped in slavery worldwide. It’s a problem that affects every country on earth – including yours. "


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