In one of the drafts for Seven Tears At High Tide, I thought about doing a series of flashbacks, but it didn’t end up working with the flow of the story. This is a scene from Morgan’s adolescence and shows more of his relationship with the rest of the selkies and his thoughts on how he fits in.
Morgan is eleven years old before he truly understands what halfling means. He’d known it meant something, something shameful that his cousins would make fun of him for, that would cause his sister Naida to scowl and angrily pull the offender aside and lecture them.
He’s the youngest in the herd, and doesn’t mind it at all, is happy with how there’s always someone to talk to him, tell him stories. He’d always thought the shifting was something adults did, taking off their sealskins and walking around on two legs, laughing and talking with one another. From what Morgan observes, the form is capable of swimming, but clumsily so, and near useless when it comes to hunting. There doesn’t seem to be any advantage to the form, but Morgan hears the word human bantered around enough for him to understand that it’s part of what they can do, what they do at behest of the Sea, that there ’s a whole world out there full of people who look like this, skin shiny and raw looking, with only tufts of fur atop their heads.
Morgan’s younger brother Marin is born on a stormy night. The herd is taking shelter on a beach tucked away in a hidden cove, and the waning crescent of the moon is barely visible through the thick furl of gray clouds.
Marin cries loudly and is a squirmy little pup. Morgan is no longer the baby; here is a small, helpless and precocious member of their herd, demanding everyone’s attention.
Morgan doesn’t mind. He’s fascinated by his brother’s chubby little face, the clumsy way he waddles ashore, and then, and then—
Marin is crying, sitting in their mother’s lap. She’s in her human form, long red hair falling forward in waves as she coos over her new son. Marin hiccups, and suddenly, he’s a little red human with stubby fat arms, waving around, tiny sealskin falling into his mother’s arms.
The selkies around them clap in delight. “A first shift,” someone says proudly.
Morgan is confused. Wasn’t this— turning human— something only adults could do?
His older cousin Micah is closest to him, so Morgan asks.
Micah laughs, and it’s hard and cold. “Probably nobody taught you because they thought you’d get stuck,” he says.
“Stuck,” Morgan repeats. “Why?”
“‘Cos you’re half them, half us,” is Micah’s reply.
Morgan has to ask his mother what this means later, and she tells him about his heritage. Morgan’s heard the stories, heard her talk about it briefly before, but he always assumed his father just— was another selkie, someone who abandoned her. The stories, the stories they sing at night, the one of the herd leader who escaped the humans, found her pelt and left, round with child— that was her. And the child had been himself.
Halfling. Neither one, nor the other.
Morgan watches his family that night, sees how they casually switch between seal and human without a care, because it doesn’t matter to them. He thinks about how Micah and his older brothers and sisters and cousins treat him when he asks about joining the hunt, about them giving him the easy tasks, and then swears:
He’s never going to shift. He’s going to prove to them. All of them, that he’s full selkie, through and through, no matter what his heritage.