The Narwhal: Part I

This is a serial series I will be posting every week on Thursday.

When Maxine left her house twenty minutes ago, the air was merely wet. A light drizzle left a soft mist on her zip-up hoodie. As she neared the corner market, though, the promise of a dry sky was quickly thwarted by a billow of cold wind and a swift downfall of heavy rain. 

Maxine tucked her folded grocery bags under an arm and ducked under a nearby awning to avoid being drenched like a drowned rat. She jumped up and down on a spongy mat, trying to stay warm as torrents fell down on the sidewalk in front of her. She looked down at the mat. “You might as well come in,” it read. Not the most endearing greeting, she thought, but her curiosity was piqued. 

The storefront was simple, tucked between a shoe repair shop and a used bookstore. The narrow display window encased a single antique table with an equally old typewriter. Maxine leaned forward in an attempt to read the words written on the single page sticking out of the typewriter and swore to herself when she bumped her forehead on the window. She backed away and made out a single line in a crisp Courier: 

A mirrored image is a reversal of self. What do you see when you see yourself?

Maxine scrunched her brows together. What the hell does that mean? she thought to herself. She looked further into the store. It appeared to be an antique store, long and narrow. Yellow light glowed from various lamps made from all sorts of reclaimed objects: coffee grinders, vases, brass boots, even a tailor’s mannequin. Well, I’m not going to the corner market in this downpour, she thought. “I might as well go in,” she said to the not-so-welcoming mat. 

The jingle of the bell that hung off the door brought a kindly-looking man in a tweed jacket up from wherever he was behind a counter about halfway down the store to the left. “Welcome!” he said, quite more cheerily than his welcome mat had done.

“Hi,” said Maxine. “I’m just checking the place out. I don’t think I would have noticed it if it weren’t for this downpour!”

“Yeah, we’re pretty well hidden here. I can promise we are well worth the discovery, though. Let me know if I can help you find anything in particular.” He shuffled a stack of papers on the counter. “We just acquired a new painting that you may enjoy. It’s to your right, above the green sofa.”

Odd, Maxine thought. How would he know what I like?

Regardless, she made her way over to the green sofa and peered at the painting that hung on the wall. It was the kind of ship-at-sea scene you would see at a New England bed and breakfast, or so Maxine imagined since she had never been to one. Made of grays, blues, and whites, it showed a tumultuous storm wreaking havoc on an old ship with huge white sails. The name NARWHAL was carved into the front of the ship in bold letters and on the mast was a carving of its namesake. Despite the fearsome dark clouds and angry, frothing waves, the ship appeared strong and stubborn, as if it had fought many battles with the ocean and always came out on top, so to speak. The crew were running around the ship and Maxine blinked when she swore one of the sails began to move down a mast. When she looked again, it was still. She could hear the wind and rain coming down outside but as she stood there, she felt a splash of water on her face. 

“Where did you get this painting?” Maxine asked the shopkeeper but when she turned around, he wasn’t there. She looked around the store but could see no sign of him. Ok, this is weird, she thought, turning back to the painting and made to head out the door when she noticed a figure standing at the front of the ship that she was certain hadn’t been there before. It was staring out to sea but when she looked at it more closely, she saw it turn it’s head toward her. It looked so familiar. The brown pants and…a zip-up hoodie? She gasped when she realized she was looking at herself. A mirrored image is a reversal of self,the typewriter had written. What do you see when you see yourself? 

She started walking backwards but stopped when she realized she was wading in water. Was it flooding in the store? The door to the shop suddenly swung open and a strong gust of wind blew her back and back and back, until she was lying on the green sofa. “What the–?” she managed to get out between gusts of cold, wet wind and she reached up to the back of the sofa to pull herself up but her hand brushed the frame of the painting, instead, and everything fell out from under her. She fell up, down, and side to side before landing with a hard thud on the deck of a huge, wooden ship. She looked up just in time for a cold blast of saltwater to knock her flat and everything went black.

Published by Leah Abbey

I write about nature, parenting, and fiction from my home in the San Diego area. I try to keep this blog updated at least weekly. If you haven't heard from me in a while, it's probably because I've been working on my novel. (Or, just trying to stay sane while my three-year-old runs over his baby sister with a toy school bus.)

3 thoughts on “The Narwhal: Part I

  1. I love this, Leah. Love how you used your grandmother’s name for the main character. How did you come up with the line on the typewriter: A mirrored image is a reversal of self. What do you see when you see yourself? Was that line the genesis of the story, or did you come up with it after you began writing? You have a gift for descriptive writing. Way to go!!


    1. Thanks! I’ve always just liked the name Maxine, too. It’s a fun name.

      The reversal phrase comes from a word prompt. Once my aunt Alex found out I was writing flash fiction, she invited me to join her and two of my cousins to join their “quarantine writing club.” They’ve been doing it for about a year now. Every week, we each provide a word that must be used to write a short story. We aren’t allowed to read each other’s stories until we write our own. “Reversal” was one of the words that week, along with billow, spongy, and narwhal.


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