Coldwater Cottage – 17: The Promise

Previous instalments: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Coldwater Cottage“I’ve seen your memories. Now I’ve shown you one of mine.”

Part of Ian’s mind refused to believe it, but the knowledge of how little air he had left was more powerful. It didn’t matter whether the voice was real or not, only whether it could get him out of here.

“Look up.”

Ian looked up and saw a rectangle of grey light that could only be the front door and was Ian’s whole life as soon as he saw it. All he had to do was kick his fins and he’d be in the light with nothing between him and the surface.

“Do you understand who I am?”

It didn’t matter who the voice was. Nothing mattered but light and air, but Ian found himself hesitating.

“Don’t you remember the promise you made to Jack? Over and over?”

That wasn’t fair, Ian screamed at himself. To bring up the one thing that would hold him here.

“She believed you, so she made it true. She kept something of you with her.”

Ian thought again about how similar the voice sounded to his own.

“She kept believing you till she was sixteen. It took that long to realise she was depending on a shadow of you. So she left to build another shadow out of Mum.”

Ian couldn’t help but phrase his thought as a question. You’re the shadow of me that she built? That makes no sense.

“You’re in the sea. How can you hope to understand it when you don’t understand your own sister. Now go to her before you join me.”

Ian flicked his fins and wondered how he was going to explain the voice to Jakki, or even to himself once the reality had become a memory.

“You’ll manage. You’ve banged your head and maybe got a touch of narcosis. Your conscious mind didn’t know how to get you out, so it gave up and let your instincts take over. You’ll half believe it by the time you get to the surface.”

Surface. Light. Air. Life. The ideas flooded Ian’s mind, and with it came another thought. He hadn’t seen Dad, so where was he?

“He was in the garage when the cliff collapsed. Now get the hell out of here.”

Next week: Coldwater Cottage concludes with The Ascent

The full story is available from the Amazon Kindle store, and is part of the Steel in the Morning collection which is available in Kindle or paperback format.

Coldwater Cottage was originally published in Lamplight 1:2 and subsequently in the Lamplight Volume 1 annual.

Author notes


Cover by Manda Benson

Other stories by DJ Cockburn available online

Steel in the Morning

Newgate Jig

The Endocrine Tyranny

Peppermint Tea in Electronic Limbo


Cassandra’s Cargo

Mars One

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