Feist’s Farewell

Feist’s Farewell

Fifth Place in Group 66 • Fantasy/ A marina / A candy necklace

Synopsis: Amongst the competitors in the annual underwater race that pits humans against the Mer, there’s one with an unlikely advantage, though it may cost the friendship of a lifetime.  


The day I realized Feist wasn’t entirely human was also the last day I saw her.  


We’d left Shoal-faire, the festival that led up to the three day race along the sea bottom, in search of peace along one of the private piers. The marina was crowded like it was only during Shoal. We were enjoying it anew, free for the first time. Feist from her da’s loving but oppressive concern, myself from my Gran’s strict boundary charm that kept us only in the family friendly regions of Shoal-faire. We were of age—finally—and while I hid my trepidation about my first race under a false confidence that might have been a shade too loud, if Feist was afraid I never knew it.


We all thought Feist’s ma had maybe been a shoaler from off-coast. A clipper-girl who stayed a season or two before deciding that land-life wasn’t for her, and sailing back off into the never-ending adventure that visited our marina only once a year. We were right, in a way.


But Feist’s mother was no shoaler.


Feist never corrected our assumptions, I know the reasons why, now. Or the one reason. The prejudice. The Mer took shoalers. Mer territory was the most challenging leg of the shoal. Mer were greedy and soulless—basically pretty sharks. With human faces and hands. But no hearts. We all knew that. That’s why underage couldn’t race the black sand trenches, not until you were big enough to fight. Big enough that your hands were strong for the pooner-rod, so you could kill Mer and sell their scales to Froth Cosmetics over in Loutown and their hair to the ropers there, too. Winners always had Mer-hair rigging.


Really, it should have been the hair that gave Feist away. It grew double fast as anyone else. And the color… no one had hair that color. Like oil slick, that hair. Black, sure. If you didn’t look too close.


“Will you race?” Feist had once asked me. “You know, when you’re big?”


“Oh yeah. Won’t you?” We all said we would race. It was the only thing with any glamour. No one played at carpet-weaving—my gran’s occupation, or tidal studies (Feist’s dad was a scientist.)  On the playgrounds we played shoaler, some of us as poonmen and others as navigators. And of course, we all fought to be captain.


She’d given a one shouldered shrug. “Maybe. I don’t know.”


Feist always seemed like she thought harder about everything than anyone else. But it didn’t make her a nerd. Most of the time, it made her captain.


“You’ll be able to do the vessel-charm. I know it,”  I’d said, thinking maybe she was worried about the strength of her magic.


“I know I will. But it’s not really that. It’s more… the ethics of it.”


I didn’t know what she meant that day. At eleven you’re on the right side of every battle and you don’t think about losers. Victory alone waits, and you have no idea what loss looks like and feels like. Or that it could happen to you. The blade points away. Or so they say.


But on that private pier at seventeen, while I was marveling at the mother of pearl shimmer in Feist’s skin and wondered how I’d get her to kiss me—as she unbuckled and handed me her Sono-watch followed by the candy necklace she always wore—by that time I understood better.


When Feist curled her treasures into my hands, her dark eyes so like her hair—the setting sun making them mirrors that blasted my own image back at me—I think I was ready for anything. Except what happened.


“I never told you how I was named.”


She was still holding my hand, and I was holding things warm from her skin.


“My da named me for a song, I can’t sing it properly here, but it says that when the riders ride, we hold them at bay. We fight, we’re feist—which is the closest translation for a word in my mother’s tongue which means brave, but less afraid. Feist is like… a warrior’s instinct.”


I think maybe, when I’d first met her, I’d found her name odd. But after a thousand days scampering under the boardwalks, under the riot of the Shoal-faire over our heads, after years of charmwork on how to submerge your craft, after winters around shore fires and summers sending notes between our bedroom windows, well I just didn’t think about it anymore.


She hummed a little melody as she tilted her face and gathered her hair in her hands. “It’s a sort of anthem. It translates poorly.”


“Translated from what?”


She smiled and it felt good. Her smile always felt good. I watched her twist her hair at the nape. Twist it and twist it, until it coiled over one shoulder. Like Mer-rope, I realized.


It’s obvious now, painfully so. And I’ll never do justice to that moment where I realized what Feist was. Like dying, my life flashed before my eyes. My future too, a future where I’d kill Mer. Not in play, for real.


As Feist rummaged in her satchel and brought out a pair of coral-blade scissors to saw through her mass of hair, I knew I couldn’t do it. Couldn’t kill Mer. And the knowing, well, it’s still strange.


“I don’t know if it’s exactly the same… I guess it wouldn’t be. It’s not Mer, its Hu-Mer.”  She laughed as she handed me a winners glory. “Make your rope. I’ll be watching for you.”  


“From where?”


She nodded at the ocean. “From down there.”


I looked at the dark water that hid so much. That hid her from me after she dove in and disappeared.


I was the only shoaler ever to win their first race. And I’m the only shoaler never to kill Mer. I never saw Feist, but I knew she was there. One day I know I’ll see her again.


© IReen Weiss 2017



{1733}  I liked that you created another world and its races thoughtfully. It really had a Hunger Games style level of societal stratification which informed the tone and the story’s spine.  

{1739}  The main character’s relationship with Feist is very sweet and well paced.  

{1793}  The narrative voice is strong. The descriptions are good.  


{1733}  Because the society was so different from our own, it was a little difficult to understand what was going on at first. Especially in this genre, since anything can happen, you have to take extra precaution to be absolutely crystal clear. Have a friend read it to do a “does this make sense” check with a fresh pair of eyes before you hand in work.  

{1739}  If Feist goes back to the sea, consider having her say why. What is calling her back? Did she help him during his race? Did she tell her people to help him or leave him alone?  

{1793}  The story might be improved by adding more backstory to Feist and the narrator. More dialogue from their past, or her experience as a play captain, might work to deepen the characters.

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