The idea for this story came to me as a response to the very first Sara G/A. Mac writers challenge, in which a photograph was the catalyst for the story.
The actual inspiration came from an entirely different source.
“How did you find this place?”
“Don’t talk. Watch.”
“I’ve been watching. All I see is boats….”
“Shh. It’s starting.”
Something in her voice made me sit up. The moonlight caught her profile, barely visible behind her dark hair. She was staring intently across the water. I followed her gaze.
The surface of the bay, which had been smooth as glass, was gently rippling, although I felt no breeze. That fantastic conglomeration of boats, motionless a moment ago, now bobbed and swayed like a flock of feeding birds. I suddenly realized they were all facing the full moon.
I jumped when I felt her hand on my arm. She spoke without turning her head.
Slowly I began to discern shapes, a great mass of diaphanous figures and what seemed to be tiny, flickering points of light. They moved silently above the water, the light of the moon dancing in and around them. Recognition hit me like rock.
She turned to look at me, her eyes shining in the dark, her features radiant.
“They were people,” she whispered. She had an odd little smile on her face as she turned back to the boats. “Now they’re spirits.”
We watched as each boat was filled in turn and then floated softly into the darkness. After what seemed like hours the last boat, with its weightless cargo, drifted off. She balled herself up and leaned into my shoulder. I snaked my arm around her and buried my hand in her hair, enjoying the warmth of it.
“They were laughing,” I said, trying to understand what I had just seen.
“Where do they go?”
She shifted slightly. Her hair, brushing my cheek, smelled like warm jasmine. After a while, she spoke.
“There’s a lot of stars out tonight, hey?”