“Sea Change” by Nancy M. Michael
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, Nancy M. Michael finds both beauty and danger during a storm in downtown Chicago.
She stood in the shelter of the doorway of the Chicago Yacht Club, watching as the sky darkened and clouds enveloped and erased the tops of the skyscrapers. Bright blue only ten minutes ago, clouds now appeared out of thin air. A dark streak in the sky, like a wayward pencil mark, became a smudge that then became a blur that thickened and deepened and then calved until the entire sky was covered. It was now a battleship gray and getting darker. In her mind’s eye she saw the clouds expand as cumulus became cumulonimbus and then hammerhead, each cloud a turgid pillar of mighty power, poised.
That’s when the magic happens. Everything stands still in anticipation. Every morsel of earth, every blade of grass holds its breath. Then the scent changes. Some may say it is the smell of the oncoming rain, but this is a dank musky scent, the essence of the earth blooming and opening to welcome the nourishing infusion.
Cup-like forms mottled the underside of the sky, promising a light show of rare proportions. Even she held her breath, anticipating change, awaiting the upswing in energy. The stillness was abruptly broken by a bright gossamer web of light that danced from mound to mound as the wind suddenly picked up and the hard rain penetrated the welcoming soil.
Her gaze drifted; she turned and watched the gray water splash violently against the seawalls and rise like diamond-studded fans against the dark sky before landing on the concrete in a torrent, each trying to outperform the last as the water became more and more wild. Dangerous and beautiful.
Suddenly, she stopped her reverie. Something caught her eye and held her attention.
What she saw was a man struggling to tie his boat to the quay. He almost didn’t make it—he nearly slid into the drink as the waves tossed the craft. But at the last moment he caught himself, struggled momentarily, and clambered back aboard. He paused but a second before climbing to his feet and rechecking the rest of the lines. With the heavy sea and the driving rain, this was no mean feat. It was the act of a brave man.
That was when the second man emerged from the shadows. Moving quickly, he tossed a bag into the boat’s cockpit before grabbing the lines and swinging aboard. The first man raised his hand and shouted, the sound lost in the wind, but a glint of light off a blade and the motion of the right hand of the intruder revealed his intent.
The men grappled. There was no doubt as to the probable outcome, but at the moment the blade was about to meet flesh, a great wave lifted the little craft. The sailor pushed the aggressor against the lifelines. The rub rail cracked as fiberglass met concrete, and then the craft shuddered as water forced the boat as far from the dock as the lines would allow. The shock force of the wave and the momentum of body forced the intruder over the lifeline; he slipped between the dock and boat just as the hull swept back to the pier, pinning and crushing his body.
The sailor slumped onto the deck as the intruder’s body slipped into the dark water.
Some things, some tasks, require extraordinary bravery. In the end, no one knows how much effort such events take to put together. Unless the watchers are vigilant and sharp-eyed, the unfolding events look ordinary. Simple, even. But those in the mix know what blood tastes like. They would know what exhaustion feels like. Many times they want to give up, to slink away into a waiting cave. And that’s where the fortitude of the truly extraordinary individual is recognizable. Miraculously, they find that tiny morsel of energy that takes them that last inch: to victory.
As an artist, NANCY M. MICHAEL’s work has hung in the Art Institute of Chicago (last in 2009 in The Divine Art: Four Centuries of European Tapestries), as well as in the galleries of the Coastal Center for the Arts on St. Simon’s Island, GA (1996), and in the Artful Gatherings Gallery in Lemont (2006). As an art instructor, she has taught at the Coastal Center for the Arts, Heritage Corridor Creative Arts, and as an itinerant fiber artist at local and international weaving guilds. She has taught block printing, drawing, pottery, and physics lab classes. As an artist, she works in metal, paint, and fiber. As a writer, her work is primarily research oriented as witnessed by her chairing the Medieval Textiles Study Group. Nancy earned a BS in physics from Loyola University Chicago (1990). She has worked at Columbia College Chicago since 2011.
Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected] paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Oct 6, 2014
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