She could hear the sound of crashing waves and feel the icy touch of salty spray on her skin. Her eyes were wide open but her world was completely black, and she was bitterly cold. She wriggled and she squirmed. She tried to pull her hands free of the chains that held her, but her body could only writhe in painful, unheard, echoing pity.
Her mouth was gagged and her eyes were covered in a thick, black mask. She couldn’t see and she could barely breathe. She could feel hard stone under her back and an agonising ache in her belly. Water ran down her throat, choking her under the smothering gag that was so tightly pulled around her face.
The sea continued to roll and crash around her as she swayed in and out of consciousness. Blackness became night, and night became bursting light. But the pain and the fear were constant, straining against her head, making her heart so weak it felt like it might stop beating.
“Aleksandr!” she called into the blackness and the fear. “Aleksandr!”
Fierce spits of spraying wave bit into her cheeks and a slice of strong water suddenly smothered her again. She had to heave and choke to breathe.
He was not coming. He was not coming back. She was alone with the sea and the darkness, and she was sure that she was going to die.
“Aleksandr,” she gasped.
She wanted to cry, to feel warm tears cover her face and lips one last time, but no tears came. Her head rolled to the side and with her cheek resting on the cold rock she sensed that she was not awake anymore, that her body was floating and she was entering into some horrible nightmare which felt terrifyingly real. The thundering waves crashed and ice cold water swept over her skin from head to toe, but then there was a calm, a horribly silent calm. She tried to wake up. She tried to wriggle and pull and break free of the chains which held her arms up over her head. But her body was not her own. She could not control it. All she could do was silently scream. And the silence smothered her completely until she lost consciousness and her reality was gone.
From high up on the cliff edge a man watched her. He was forlorn and serious, his heavy brow plagued with tension and anger. He watched, and he watched and he kept on watching, his gaze fixated upon the shape on top of the large stone obelisk in the middle of the rising tide.
The sea was rough and cold. It beat wildly against the cliff edge and it thundered with a powerful roar. The man watched the shape, not sure what it was amongst the grey melting waves which threatened to consume the large obelisk and whatever it was that lay upon it.
Perhaps it is a mermaid? the man thought as he scraped his clenched knuckles over the rock below him. Perhaps it is a stranded sea creature? But whatever it was, the man was sure it was not alive.
The huge stone upon which the creature lay was the middle one of five embedded out from the shoreline, and, consumed in his own morbid thoughts, the man had been staring at it for over an hour. In that time he seen some flickers of movement as life slowly ebbed from the creature. At no point had he believed the creature to be human, but if he had, what could he have done? If it was a human being, stranded or bound on the top of the huge rock, could he have helped it? No, he decided, no he could not.
The man hung his head, closed his eyes, and tried to forget.
From the darkness behind him, another man appeared. He was tall and broad, and his head was shaven. He had a strange disfigurement on his face, but the dark night and a deep hooded cloak shrouded most of it from view. With a voice that was smooth and well spoken, he said, “She is alive.”
The man sitting on the rock looked up to the man who was tall and disfigured. “She?” he questioned.
“Her name is Marianna. She has been left there to die, and soon she will. Soon the rising tide will wash her away and she will be lost forever. But there is still time to save her.”
“No. It is too late,” the man sitting down gruffly mumbled.
“If you swam out now you could save her,” the disfigured man replied. “You are strong enough, and angry enough with the world that you could pull those chains from the rock and save her.”
The disfigured man kept talking, and the other man kept listening, as if hypnotised. And as he listened he saw that not only was the tall man’s face disfigured and scarred, he had two stumps protruding from the clothes on his back. The stumps were unevenly shaped and jagged, as if something had been hacked away. He has a broken face and broken wings, the other man thought.
As the smooth uninterrupted voice continued, the man who had sat on the rock watching the creature, wondering when the sea would finally come for it, got up and jumped into the ocean and began to swim to the stone where the creature lay bound and gagged.
The disfigured man with the broken wings and the broken face, watched him. He watched the man swim out to sea. He was strong and had fast, powerful strokes. He was a match for the mighty ocean and he easily freed the creature from her chains and swam back with her to shore.
“In one year I will come back for you Marianna,” the man with the broken face and the broken wings said into the wind as Marianna’s limp wet body was laid safely down on the pebbly shore. “But for now, let him look after you. He has lost everything, and he will gladly look after you. He has just saved your life after all, and what is it they say about someone who saves another person’s life? Ah yes, I remember. They must stay with them until the debt is repaid, and only then will they be free to leave. You will repay your debts Marianna, for I will come back and make sure that you do.”
Then the man with the broken face and the broken wings turned into the wind and disappeared back into the night.