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Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

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Chasing Echo

Chasing Echo

I went searching for Echo when I was a child, long ago when love was less an apocalyptic
catastrophe and more akin to the ballads of bards. She was sweet and lyrical the
way I remember her. The sun caught on her eyes and wove in her honey gold hair.

Echo gave me a compass the night she swam off, the engraving in the common language
of the Seelie Court. I can’t read the old fae languages, but this one I understand.
The compass points toward her. Sometimes I would watch it swing back and forth aimlessly
and wonder if Echo was under my clunker of a ship, swimming in circles in time
with the Spinstress Wheel which rocks the waves.

This, however, is new. I feel close now, as my crew approaches a foggy bay. The sail
snaps as I reach the bow and call for the anchor to drop. There are rocks here; the first
rule of sailing is that every foggy bay has rocks.

“Keep a lookout for selkies,” I call back my crew.
The wayfinder reaches my side. “Captain,” he says over suspicious murmurs. “There
are no selkies here. This is the Siren’s Bay.”
“Sirens aren’t real.”
“Neither are selkies.” I give him a sidelong glance, and he adds, “Ma’am.”
“This is where the compass led,” I explain in a flighty way I never would have permitted
when I was still garnering approval.

Something large and heavy slaps the side of the boat. I would think at first that it’s a
stray wave, but the flag has gone still. Behind me, the crew rushes to the side and peers
over the edge.

“Sirens,” the wayfinder hisses, and I ignore him in my haste to follow the crowd.
The water below is gray and still as glass. Jarringly, the wind has died. Luckily for
me, however, it’s easy to spot the ripples of a seal’s tail disappearing under the belly of
the ship.

“Echo!” I call into the water. She doesn’t come back up, so I pull out the compass
again. It’s pointing just in front of me, so close the enchanted metal burns.

She must not have heard me, but it was her. She got my attention. I lift myself onto
the edge of the barge and throw myself overboard.

The water is frigid. It sucks the breath from my body and the warmth from my bones.
Hypothermia, I remember, will kill me if my impatience doesn’t.

The map of the east port towns I had tucked into my doublet pocket is ruined now,
but as I come up for air, it’s the compass I grab for first. Above me, my crew is yelling,
but I clutch the compass. It’s gone cold from the water.

As I tread, I turn in place. The compass doesn’t move, stuck now halfway to the
northeast. Waterlogged then. I let it fall into the ocean to be forgotten. I won’t need it after
I find her.

With a deep breath, I plunge under the surface once more. The saltwater stings my
eyes, but I keep them open. The water, though gray from above, is clear. I can see, hiding
just under the swell of the barge, a flash of gray sealskin.

I move toward her, so close now I can touch.

She turns, and I pause. Those eyes are dark and beady, exactly like a seal.
The seal is not Echo. It spins and darts away from me.
I pull myself back to the surface and gasp a breath, blinking saltwater from my eyes
and spinning again in place. It’s not Echo. But the compass.

I duck down again on a deeper breath this time and angle myself toward the sea floor.
I can’t even see it, it’s so dark. The current a few feet under the surface whips at my
clothes, taking my ruined map. The compass is long gone.

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