This story is by Darrell Eugene McGuire and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I lay with you here on this rock, my sweet Polly Fawn Rose, on this day in a different time. Come I back to this rock every year on this day.
On a day as bright and full of sun as this, I wandered my way through forest greens and breathed in the freshness of all life around me. I found a path over by the sea and walked along its shores, found you lying unclothed on the beach, in the loneliness of salt air and calls of gulls above. You there, spread out with your eyes engaged in contemplation of nature’s splendors, saw me not ‘till I stood there over you and contemplated splendor of a different mold. You looked and saw me seeing you and sat up with alarm at the loss of recent seclusion.
“Who are you!?” came your response to my presence. “I saw you not there when I looked before. You’ve come upon me unannounced and with stealth. Am I to be feared of you?”
“Nay,” said I. “I chanced upon you during my strolls. I beg your forgiveness for this disruption of your reverie. Please let your calm return, as I am of no danger nor threat to you.”
“Turn you away, then, while I wrap myself.” You pulled on your garments, and I sat beside you. There we told our stories one to the other. We fair swooned over our closeness of harmony, and the love between us blossomed quick and new.
When we’d come to learn of each other, we frolicked and wandered then the countryside about Loch Feld, laughed, and sang the songs of villages in the heather.
Down to the seashore we went again and walked in the tide that rushed about our feet. Found we that rock jutted out o’er the waves, lay there and discovered our love amid the moss on hard-stoned ground. In time, as we lay beside each other, I beckoned to your charm. Your soft wet lips, your pink cheeks, and downy flesh yielded to my touch and hosted my cravings. Your secrets there went bare to me and sated my lust.
On this rock, we told us of golden plans for a future dear. The rock served as guarantee of our promise to keep our hearts true, you to me and I to you, attested to by our deposits upon the green moss. We lay there through the day and into the dusk.
Further inshore, a darkness fell over the mountains, and the township called out to us. To each homeward we went, our bliss left behind.
Time went by us for a fortnight ere we met again, once more on this same rock that held close our promise one to the other. And every night thereafter found us on the rock with the moss about our skin.
Alas, seasons come to an end.
Came an evening when I called at your door, it opened not to you, but to your father.
“You appear at our dwelling to see my darling Polly Fawn Rose. I must say to you she is with child. And I say as well you must wed her when the third morning has come or see her nevermore.”
I took my leave and did not look back. In my mind said I this to me: I must see her this very eve and we shall find the next way in our conversation.
When dark fell, I crept back through the bushes and whistled in a whisper until you came to the window and hastened from your door. To the rock we hurried and fell into each other’s arms. The night we spent there opened into dawn with your return to a father’s wrath.
On nights that followed, I tossed in my bedding and could not sleep. I ran through the woods as though to escape the burden across my shoulders. To no avail, I returned inevitably to the same place in my mind whence I had sprung in hopes not fulfilled and fear on the rise. Fear of your father’s ire and fear as well of a future fettered and lashed to domestic hold.
Next I went to fetch you and take you through the trees to our rock, it was to confess my failings and the day’s crime I had recent done of which you knew not. I pulled you along, and you followed me down the rocky trail, beseeched me to tell the reason for my state. “Oh, Willie, why do you frighten me so? Why do you take me in so rough a fashion to the place we have loved?”
And there I did set out for you the truth.
Said I, “Oh, my love, it is that my father’s soul and the memory of his fate do taunt me nightly and remind me of my expectations in this life. He sailed, you see, out of Nantucket as a whaler before the mast. There for the duration of his years he served before others found him out for the true self he was.
“Down before the Captain’s Mast he went, where his mates revealed he was a thief and a murderer. Though he fell to his knees in disgrace, the Captain scorned and condemned him. They took him forthwith and hung him from the yardarm. Oh, Polly, it is that soul I have inherited. I feel it in my bones.
“It was that in my mind when your father fell on me with harsh words this day in your absence. Your father was a hard man and would not relent to my pleadings. In my mind he was the Captain afore my mast. Ah, my pretty Polly, I could not forfeit my liberty to roam at such a young age. Though had I not agreed to marry, he would have put me before the magistrate and to the stockade and relieved me still of my freedom.
“I tried and wanted to be just. In the end, my youth would have none of that, my love. Came I later to your father and lured him to the wood behind your dwelling. There I slew him with my knife and buried him deep. I covered my crime with leaves and left his grave behind when I returned to my cabin.”
Thus I confessed to you on this rock.
As I now peer back on it from a new day, I see your gentle heart could not bear my truthful pleas. You met me with plea of your own.
“Oh Willie, why did you treat my father so? Why did you not wait and marry me? I would have returned your freedom to you. Our love would have endured.”
“It is too late, my pretty,” said I. “Our fate is sealed.” I took you in my arms and laid you down on the mossy rock, as you voiced your lament, put my hands about your sweet soft neck.
“Oh, Willie, how can you treat me so when I have loved you so true?”
Your gentle life beneath my hand drifted softly away from me.
On this rock those forty years ago to this day, I lifted up that as was left of you and took your lost self down to the waiting waters and committed you thereto. I watched until the tide carried you a-sea and into the arms of eternity.
When the waters crested and foamed and had covered all that was below, I wandered on home.
The whales in the bay whistled and moaned, and the gulls called out in mourning behind me.
Now from this rock I look down on yonder waves ‘neath I left you, sweet and pretty Polly.
You … and others. So many others. Every year on this day.
Polly, pretty Polly, won’t you come along with me?
Polly, pretty Polly, won’t you come along with me?
Before we are married some pleasures to seek
Oh Willie, oh Willie, I’m afraid of your ways
Willie, oh Willie, I’m afraid of your ways
The way you’ve been ramblin’, you’ll lead me astray
Oh, I courted Pretty Polly the live long night
I courted pretty Polly the live long night
And left her next mornin’ a little ‘fore daylight