The water lapped noisily across the sand, and receded to its place back into the darkness. The sun had set a long time ago, but Shilo had time still to watch her favorite time of day. It was one of the few pleasures she allowed herself, and one she wouldn’t pass up for all the stars in the night sky. The beach had been her draw in, the water her only real love since leaving the City. To be fair in her travels she had plenty of time to bask in the beauty of the world, but this had to be her favorite of them all.
It would be ten years soon, the date only known to her and concealed from most in the small waterfront town of WestMill. The wonderful thing about traveling so much was that she could settle anywhere and take root. Shilo ran a hand through her short pixie cut hair and contemplated cutting it again before he next big move. Though she had loved the salt air and people, her mind grew restless again. That same itch that had moved her from place to place started up again last week, and already she was packing.
“Where will you go?” Mrs. Haze her current landlady asked a few days before when hearing about her plans.
“Nothing is definite, but maybe back up North again. Need to keep moving.” It had been over breakfast. The Haze family had made it a custom to invite their one tenant to eat with them. The large family of seven were a cheerful bunch pf people, and Shilo couldn’t turn down their smiling faces. Mrs. Haze the owner of the small bar known around the small port town as Catch and Release was a heavy set woman with bakers arms and a perpetually stained apron. She ran the bar, and kept most people in line when on her property. Shilo’s home had been the room above the bar, and would often sing on the occasions the microphone was working and money was needed. She smiled knowingly at the conversation, the adults and some of the children huddled around the table to hear her stories about her travels.
When she blew into the port one afternoon she was seen as an oddity, her pale pallor seemed sickly to most of the sun-kissed, sea fairing folk of WestMill. But after a few weeks of working odd jobs and finding her room and board she made quick friends with the locals. This was the longest she had ever stayed in one place, the itch usually setting in at about a month wherever she has. Staying put had never been her strongest suit in the ten years she had left the shadow of GenCo, but who could blame her.
The sea air wafted off a stray wave as she pulled up the hem of her long black skirt and started towards the beach. The darkness of the sand below and tide rushing in gave her a thrill. The cold slap of the water hitting her bare feet raised goose-flesh and a quick shudder ran along Shilo’s body. She always felt a deep connect with the water, not like it had been back there. A wash with the dead and scum that always laid on top of any surface, the disease that place took with it made this small little cove of an area seem like a paradise. And it was, in a sense to her.
She closed her eyes and began to sing to herself in the darkness, only its orbital moon illuminating her. Not many ventured out this late in the evening, but she preferred it this way. It was not fear that drove them to their homes here, but a waiting embrace or a warm bed. The lack of fear, she chuckled inwardly at the thought…that was what kept her here.
She let herself walk out to the water until it was to her shins and stopped. The waters pull was soft edging her on, but she knew better. Beneath any surface was a snaking current that would always, in a snap moment of carelessness pull her to a depth she knew her body wouldn’t be able to pull her from.
Besides, she had things to do and her list did not include a spontaneous dip.
The Catch and Release had the crowd tonight. The haul from the docks had many a regular ready to spend some coin on a job well done. The bar was in full swing as Mrs. Haze, her daughters Lydia and Claudia manned the bar while her husband Jasper a shrewd man of few words and action shuffled the food out from table to table. The small bar faced the dock and was on a sloped street just before the residential homes of most of the town. It was the last stop before home, and some of them needed a drink with their meal. Most were bachelor men tonight and Mrs. Haze eyed the crowd, her dark brown curls bobbing and checking the time.
“She’ll be here soon Mom.” Claudia one of her twin girls chided, but her mother just shuffled her off as she poured another drink to an already leaning young deck hand.
It was true that Imelda despite her veneer of control was starting to show signs of worry but that had not stopped her from her work. Margret, her youngest was coming home from school and she could not be more anxious. Despite her baby’s departure it still made her palms twitch when she didn’t have her in sight. Her little Margie was a sprite little thing and dance school had been her lot in life. Imelda watched her children run the floor and bid a smile to her husband. His thick beard did well to encompass his face but she knew he flashed her the same well-meaning smile, he did not need to say a word. That had been their life, a one near the sea with their own brood of children and they all had been content with that. But Margret, she was something different.
Imelda wiped a clear space and took a load of dishes to the already encompassed back of house. The loud clatter of assembled dishes and plates were enough to grate the brain but she found it in a way like breathing. The smell of fresh food and seasonings, spices and sweets wafting around her in a flurry as orders and insults of every color and variance pulled another set of dishes out to the crowd. This had been her life when she and Jasper had bought the run down place over a decade ago. But it had not been for her youngest, and she made that clear the day she set off her first time. Hauling up a platter of fresh glasses in her arms and barking an ample amount of orders to her kitchen staffers she went back out to deliver the fresh stack for the display.
How stubborn she’d been, her usually one who never so much as slammed a door. It had been a year and she was not coming home. She had been a nervous wreak when she set off to school, and now she could feel those nerves jangle now even louder against the backdrop of people. Setting the platter of dishes for her twin girls to dry and set aside for the next wave the door of the Catch and Release Bar opened. The sound was hard to catch but the double pop of the hinge forced her head to snap around with cat-like sharpness.
In the doorway stood a lanky woman, the usually tuft of dark curls didn’t meet her. The short black bob of her latest tenant met her gaze. Imelda felt her spirit dim a little but still greeted her with a smile.
“Ready for the stage?” She asked as Shilo pulled up a seat at one of the bar stalls. It was hard to get her seat but the men moved out of her way, as most people in town did.
Rumors still seeped from cracks here and there about the pale young woman in all black.
“She looks sick. Are we sure she isn’t sick?”
“She’s staying at the Catch and Release, wonder if they know they’re housing a devil worshipper?”
“I hear she’ walks around naked in town recruiting young girls.”
The list went on and on, if Shilo knew them or even cared she made no motion of it and kept moving. Imelda slid her tenant her usual drink of dark liquor and watched her down it with ease, despite her stature the chit could hold her drink. She grinned wide and swirled her now empty glass, “Now what kind of question is that for an artist such as myself?”
This made Imelda snort and pass her another one. Everything from painting to song Shilo had a knack for, it was a wonder she wasn’t somewhere else. “Yes and the tendency of said artistic types, antisocial.” This made both women laugh, Shilo’s fluttering throaty chuckle to Imelda’s larger than life whooping one. This made her nerves evaporate for a while and she smiled as Shilo sipper her drink more tentatively.
“Any sign of Margret?” Shilo’s question put an end to that peace and Imelda felt her face darken.
“Not yet, but soon.” Imelda wanted her voice to sound as convincing as possible, but she knew by Shilo’s perked brow that her wish wasnt coming true.
Her dark eyes scanned the bar lazily and sipped the rest of her drink, the second one was always the sweetest in Shilo’s opinion. The bite of the liquor gave her nerve, something she had always been lacking and the rattling of conversation around the bar didn’t help. But it was her night to sing on the Catch and Release’s bar, and she would be ****** if it was ruined. Besides she knew Imelda needed a distraction. Her youngest coming home and all her children underfoot, Shilo only wondered how she did it all. The plump woman with amber colored hair and a presence that nearly encompassed the entire room watched the door steadily at the slightest sound of its telltale worn hinge work, like a feral cat eyeing the weather.
Shilo made no mention of it again as the stage was cleared off, opting to keep her landlady’s mind busy and away from the door. The Catch and Release Bar was a tidy place with an eating area, a kitchen, and a small makeshift stage that was used for all way of entertainment. The old washed down wood of the entire bar was in dark contrast with the dark wood used for the platform that hung in the middle of the floor. It raised to make a platform at least, and lowered to be used for more seating, but surrounded you were at all times, a tricky sort of contraption that Jasper had made himself. Some of their daughters would sing on the off night that it was slow or people asked for them to, but tonight Shilo had been requested. The town was so small that people could request singers on the third Tuesday of the month when the option came up, this month it had been Shilo.
Paid in tips and drink Shilo couldn’t complain, so when the mic was dusted off and her name called a birage of whoops and cheers met her ears. She polished off the rest of her drink, set it down and cast Imelda a small wink. straightening her dark blue blouse and made a small wave around the swell of people she bid a toothy grin to some of the women in the bar.
She knew what they thought of her, how they clutched their children close to them in the streets as she passed by. The whispers weren’t an alien thing to her, but she enjoyed the dark expressions that swam beneath their polite masks as she made it to the stage.
“Ah the Gothic Queen herself has finally arrived.” Jaspers booming voice needed no mic as he stepped aside. T
The wall lights growing dim as Shilo took the stage, making her almost glow in the under light of the raised platform. The tables around her were nothing but pin ****** in the dark, eyes glowing from each patron. In the dark they were not the faces she had tried to remember in the several months she had stayed in their town, masked people who had requested she entertain them. And she would do just that.
“This was something, I’ve been working on for a while. I hope you all enjoy.” Shilo spoke clearly into the mic as the quiet reached a deafening height.
She never got tired of this, the sensation of being center. The eyes on her, and when she knew she had them all. She started to sing…