Excerpt from Mia Gallagher’s “Mermaid”


The following is an excerpt from Mia Gallagher’s contribution to the Black Magic issue of Spolia, “Mermaid.” You can find this story, and many other dark, twisted things, in the issue. It’s for sale here.

Light begins to creep in from outside, the slow, reassuring ah-one-two-three-four-five-six-seven sweep of the lighthouse. Except—

It’s the wrong colour for the lighthouse. It’s green and it’s shuddering in the lightning, like something alive, and, when the lamp from the lighthouse sweeps around, out of sight, the green light stays. It’s not going away. Georgie tries to say I’m dreaming again, but the green light doesn’t listen. Because it’s the Binion Light, the light that lures travellers astray, the light that should be shining in through the back window, not the front, and somehow it’s got itself around to the wrong side of the house, it’s not nothing, no matter what Judith says, it’s not just a wee tale, it’s the ghost of that poor lost dead baby, and more; it’s the ghost of all poor lost dead babies that don’t have the sacraments and didn’t get their Holy Communion, and it’s coming for Georgie because it’s tired of being in Limbo, which Judith doesn’t believe in because she’s a Protestant, but which Granny Bell has told Georgie is where all the babies without the sacraments go.

The wind rattles. The air gets colder. The scratching sound under the bed is back, and the green light is thickening, spreading spiderwebs of mist towards her face. Georgie scrunches her eyes shut and, making an effort, tries to summon the Black Knight and – yes! he comes into her mind, and she realises she should have thought of him much earlier, when she was looking for a happy thought, instead of her stupid Holy Communion and the rosary beads and the thing she took from Judith lying under her bed. But something’s not right. Instead of comforting her, the Black Knight is staring at her from the back of his horse, staring from the middle of his creepy crossroads, as if she’s done something terribly wrong.

Thunder bangs. Something touches Georgie’s forehead. Her nostrils fill with the stink of almonds. The scratching tears through the mattress. Georgie whimpers. Her bladder strains. Lightning flashes; that jagged afterimage of the crack in the ceiling sharpens against her retina.

And it’s then she feels them, coming for her – babies, lots of babies, in old-fashioned dresses. She grinds her eyes shut but it’s no use; she can feel them in the clammy air of the room, floating towards her, their yellowy-green hair brushing against her, clammy as seaweed, their eyes black hollows, their fingers reaching, damp on her skin. The crack hums. Something jumps onto her lip.

Image: “Sirens” by Jeanne Mammen