Sky Light Rain – Merrow Cave

Iona Abbey carving cr Judy DarleyI can never resist a ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into the workings of a creative endeavour. It’s why I launched this series of posts offering insights into the inspiration behind the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

The thirty-second story is ‘Merrow Cave’. It tells the story of a young boy, Callum, who is sent to live with his aunt and granddad on a remote island when his mum is unwell, and discovers a rather fishy family secret.

The story grew from someone telling me how their ageing grandma was forgetting her English and reverting to her mother tongue, which his granddad had never learnt, so that it was as though the grandma was being cast adrift with no one to understand her.

The route I took to explore this sorry situation wove in marine folklore, in particular Irish tales of mermaids, or the merrow. Imagine if your relative came from a world more alien than simply being from another country? How could those differences reemerge as they aged and grew frail?

Introducing Callum as the protagonist gave me an opportunity to examine the scene with an outsider’s eyes. Relocating him from his inland home to the windswept isle makes him feels as out of place as his grandma is becoming.

‘Merrow Cave’ was one of those rare tales that seemed to almost write itself, as though carried by a tide I had little control over.

‘Merrow Cave’ was originally published by Querty Magazine, the literary journal of University of New Brunswick Department of English in Canada.

The story begins:

It’s carved into the side of the rock – a face tilted to one side, hair streaming behind. The jaw is angular and strong, the whole thing larger than life.

Running his hands over the smooth stone of the cheeks and nose, Callum senses it again, that feeling of someone behind him, watching. He lets his arms drop to his sides and turns, slowly, gazing into the darkness at the rear of the cave. The shadows are so deep he feels blind for a moment, but then there’s something, a movement of some sort, and the thin light crawling in from the entrance snags on something back there.

“Hello?” he calls, and his voice bleeds back to him, causing him to shudder with self-consciousness. He wants to run outside into the sunshine, but as the last echoes ebb away, he hears something very like a cough being stifled. Whatever it is in the darkness, it sounds unwell.

Sky Light Rain is published by Valley Press and is available to purchase here.

Discover the inspiration behind my other Sky Light Rain stories by clicking on the story titles below.

Discover the inspiration behind ‘Untrue Blue‘. 
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Elevated Truths‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Not Every Wound Can Heal‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Little Blessings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Lodged‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Invertebrates‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Geese Among the Trees‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Distant Storms‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Sculptor‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Reeds and Curlews.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Fin‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Underwire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Blossoming Almond Tree‘.

Merrow Cave – a short story

Querty34-coverI’ve long been fascinated by mermaids, and the complex mirror images they can reflect back at us of human limitations and fallibilities.

A while ago I wrote a story exploring concepts of mortality and old age, using a relationship between a land-dweller and his merwife as the starting point. Rather than writing it directly from the couples’ POVs, I introduced a young boy as the protagonist, relating him from his inland home to the windswept isle where his granddad and aunt live.

Merrow Cave was one of those rare tales that seemed to almost write itself, as though carried by a tide I had little control over.

So I’m really pleased that my story has found its home in issue 34 of the prestigious Querty Magazine, a beautiful literary journal now in its 21st year of existence. It’s published at University of New Brunswick Department of English in Canada. Being separated as we are by the Atlantic Ocean seems wonderfully synchronised with the story’s themes.