The boy is supposed to be sleeping but he is waiting for the man who comes at night and stands in his window, crooning softly to the moon. Beneath the castle walls, below the cliffs, singing her sad song in the crashing waves, looking up at the moon and her man on the window ledge, the selkie waits for his return.
“You loved me once,” she sings softly, “till the wolf came into your life, till the wolf stole your heart and marked your neck with the shape of her teeth. Come to me once more, my love! Come to me or give me back my bloody skin so I can be free!”
The boy is not afraid of the man, who comes on silent wings, the blood of maidens staining his lips, his eyes full of the light of love he bears for this boy, his son. The child speaks of this not to his mother, who he knows will be afraid and angry. She will snatch him to her breast as she does on every occasion possible and whisper fiercely in his ear. “My son!” she will whisper fiercely. “You are my son!”
“Take me with you, Papa!” he cries out when the man, his father, unfurls his leathery wings and with a beat and a sigh flies away, back to the life he must live by daylight, back to the work and the toil. Away from the woman and the boy he loves.
The selkie sees the dark shape of her husband silhouetted against the bright moon of Falkirk and, with a sigh and one last tear, dives into the deep and prepares to take the long way home via the coastline.
In her room high up in the castle walls, the Queen of Night sees her lover and her heart leaps into her mouth. Why does ‘e come? she thinks to herself, her forehead pressed against the rough stones, blood trickling from a gash, down her cheeks like the tears they cry in hell. Why does ‘e torment me? And she throws back her head and howls.
“I ‘owl,” she howls, “for my lurver. I must go out and ‘unt! Only ze blood of an innocent will satisfy my ‘unger!”
There is a soft sound, like silk landing on stone, and a golden wolf bounds free of its shackles, down the tower stairs, growling at those who see it flash past, baring its teeth in warning.
“Queen’s in one of her moods, I see,” a lackey says. “We’ll be for it in the morning.”
The boy watches the speck until it disappears, then sees his mother flash by in the moonlight. I wish she’d take me with her, he sulks. I never get to do anything that’s fun!
But what she does, he cannot know. He cannot know about the babe snatched from its cradle, its bones crunched between his mother’s jaws; he cannot know of the innocent shepherd lad, roused by the disturbance in his flock who is hypnotised by those lupine eyes into doing things that would make him scream in the night when he remembered them, if only she’d let him live after satisfying her fiendishly French wanton lust.
The selkie sings all the way to the Thames estuary, all the way up the river to the house by the river. She shifts her shape and stands, water streaming from her naked body, and goes into the house. In a room, her daughters lie sleeping. One day, she thinks, they will swim with me and I shall take them far from care, far from their father. I will return to my selkie husband and all shall be as it should.
The man is already home, already sitting in a chair, a glass of brandy in one hand a fine cigar in the other. He is weary from his long flight though he knows he cannot sleep. He thinks of her, of her, of her… Always her.
The boy crawls into bed and closes his eyes, dreams of taking to the sky with his father, his mother loping along far below. Together they will go somewhere, he knows not where, and then he will learn what is his destiny.
The shepherd lad will be found in the morning, surrounded by the rent and bloodied carcasses of his sheep. The wolf moves on, snatching at a strumpet who stands in a doorway, disappointed with the evening trade, scooping a tapster from behind his bar, tearing to shreds an early waking milkman who’s las thought is “I wonder if the strumpet’s still up.” At last sated, the wolf returns to the castle, slinks up the stairs and jumps up onto the bed, turns itself around three times and settles down to sleep, for there is no-one there to say, “Bad dog! Get off the bed!”