We all have our haunted places. They’re the speakeasies dwelling inside us, built to house our twisted acts – the voodoo dolls, the Judas we loved, the body parts we’ve trashed; the birds we’ve caged, the dine-and-dash, the smoking ants under the magnifying glass. Some items we house there are broken, while some are still intact. Some memories shame us so bad that we hang them, deep inside the closets of our crooked little shacks.
But this woman knows her haunt. When she visits, she stays as long as she wants – unperturbed by the dusty photographs, the skeletons of her past. Hundreds of clocks lay out on the floors, all of them broken or smashed. She prefers the time of candles, watching the wick rise out of the wax. When the wax drips down and her reading light grows dim, that is when she knows she must go back.
Between her fingers the paper crinkles, as she flips to the next page. She hears whispering around her, and she looks up to respond, so they know she’s not afraid. She begins to tell them the stories of her day – of the fig jam she ate and the vinyl records she played. And the whispers hush because they realize she will let them stay, that she’s at peace – with the bones, the creaks, the ghosts – with all the memories, good and bad, that she’s made.
She will not be shamed.
She is Caitlin, the ninth of The Great Danes.
“During moments of weakness, The Great Danes remember that they have been fearless before, and they know they will be so again.”
What do we do when the torque of the ocean overpowers us, when it throws us, when we feel betrayed by something we loved and believed?
Ask the girl with the mustache on her finger – she'll lead you out of the water and help you mend before you leave. She’ll tell you stories that make you laugh, she’ll offer you her juice box, she’ll hold your hand until you tell her to release.
She is the one who camps in the ocean, who prefers the green of the water beneath the surface to the blue that is first seen. She’d make a home there if she could, where life is simpler, where fish slip through her fingers and the sand dollars are all purple with life.
She finds trust in that which she cannot control. She launches herself up the crest of a wave to drop back in, sinking down to the sand like something from another world. Perhaps the water parts for her, sending her further and deeper to a peace than we cannot see. And like the wind that whips around our ears, the slosh of the ocean is isolated around her – it is all she senses.
Perhaps she is not of this world. Perhaps the ocean sent her to us, to show us what it is to reach out to others, to play and to laugh, to control less and instead just believe.
She is Madeline, the mermaid, the eighth of The Great Danes.