The Last Verse
Scottish legend tells of the selkie, a creature who is human when on
a seal when in the water. Joan Baez, among others, has sung a folksong
based on this legend, about a human woman who bears a child to a selkie
lover. The last verse sings:
And you shall marry a gunner good,
And a right fine gunner I'm sure he'll be,
And the very first shot that ever he shoots
Will kill both my young son and me.
They had constructed him
to learn, so they let him wander anywhere on the island. After all, every foot
of it was known, owned, controlled, guarded, patrolled.
And they had built up
every layer of him, themselves, out to his shining skin. Their purposes required
alertness, intelligence, balance, coordination, strength, fast reflexes - and
he fulfilled their expectations.
The result was grace,
but it was unintentional.
So they let him explore, and they watched him, and tested him whenever
he came back home, to see what new responses had developed.
When he discovered the
grotto, where the tendrils of the ocean played multi-octaved echoes from walls
carved in intricate art by soft wet fingers over eons, he felt wonder.
She came. She always answered
to the call of wonder.
She never tested him or
questioned him. They never talked in words. He returned to the grotto every
day, where they built together. Every time she worked with a wondering heart
it was something new, but this was beyond all others. For his mind was a child's,
with the knowledge of a Seer.
And every evening he returned
to the laboratories, where they tested him and instructed him and gave him exercises
to do. Then they chattered together, measuring his examination results against
On the final morning,
he did everything exactly right. The monumental rocket rose on fire, and he
steered for the star that only he could reach, while all the scientists slept
safely, cradled in deep wombs, dreaming of future explorations.
In the grotto, intricately
patterned crystal shattered, with a high and keening cry. Out on the ocean,
with an echo of that cry, the last of the Selkies surrendered into foam.