The waves rolled over the dark sands of the beach, creating a relaxing symphony of crash and pull as they met land. The smell of salt was a suffocating salutation as I trudged along the waterline, deep in thought. A expression of frustration glued to my face.
Why can’t they just come to one game? That’s all I ask. Shouldn’t grandparents come to support their family and be proud of their accomplishments? These are the playoffs after all, not just any normal game. I thought bitterly kicking a shell out of my path. My grandparents had become increasingly distant from my social life and school activities for reasons that they wouldn’t reveal. Not long ago they came to everything that I did, they were at my sixth grade graduation, my first school dance, they even were in the front row to my choir concert in the eighth grade. Now in high school however, they couldn’t come to a single game I played in. They had missed every touchdown, every basket, and every major accomplishment that this year had turned up.
I dug my bare foot into the sand angrily as I turned to the sea. The moon lit up the waters scenic charm and illuminated at least five miles out. The whoosh of the ocean was my only reply to the endless questions.
Since my mother had disappeared when I was a small child, my grandparents had stepped in to raise me. Lately I had routinely been reminded they weren’t as young as they used to be, an excuse they used for never making an appearance at school. It wasn’t taxing to hop in the family outback and drive the mile to my school and it wasn’t weird to have my grandparents there supporting me?
Who else would? Surely not my mother who was God knows where right now doing who knows what. It wasn’t a secret my grandparents raised me either, I’d have friends over like any other teenager for a movie night, or a night on the beach, it was never an issue before this year though.
Any day of the week my friends would stop over and hang out for a while without announcement but now they would comment on how rude it was not to call first or even suggest I go to their houses instead.
A silhouette slipped above the water, only they eyes visible as she watched the stranger on the shore.
I took only a moment to study him before slipping closer.
The predator moving in on her prey, preparing to sing her song of tragedy.
What had brought him out here at this hour of the night, what tormented him so clearly, was his life so unsatisfying that he chose to seek solitude in the night? These questions always came to mind whenever I came to shore during my activities. Knowing I took the pain of these people from them was something I relished. The tricks I used to draw them to me were ancient and simple but I enjoyed this past time to an extent.
It was something I learned to love. In my culture if I refused to find a mate I was subject to seek out land dwellers and draw them to the deep until I changed my opinion. It seemed ridiculous but the laws were antique compared to the world above water. The sovereign could choose one for anyone who chose this and overrule their decision to remain independent but so many other issues were more pressing. The only reason this regulation was enacted was because of the shortage of my people long ago. Choosing a mate, as celebrated as it was, is essential to our way of life.
The ratio of babies birthed to merpeople even conceiving was very uneven, I was among the last to be born in this century to put things in perspective. But I loved the lack of restriction afforded to my denial of any partner. So until I retract this preference I was condemned to this hobby as they all wondered.
How many more lives would she take to satisfy the need for recognition of her independence?
I loathed to remember the faces of those I already had escorted to the deep.
The water glided over my scaled lower half, slipping over the mostly bare skin of my torso and arms as I dove beneath the surface once more. When I neared the shoreline up the beach from his path I laid on my stomach, just within that water so my tale was hidden by the foam of each wave, in anticipation of his approach.
As I continued my angry gait away from the family home I was drawn out of these thoughts by the most hypnotizing sound imaginable. A light soprano voice was carried on the breeze, long notes in a language that seemed very familiar but beyond comprehension. what was that beautiful sound, where was it coming from? I focused all of his attention on the soulful melody, my feet mindlessly following the tune to its owner.
I watched him approach until I could see the lifeless dazed eyes succumbing to the song. When he was close enough to leap and grab me I slid back into the salty waves and he followed uncaring. The water gradually rose to his waist and then chest as was coaxed into the water by my lullaby, the fabric sticking to his skin soaked with sea water.
I looked into his mind to experience what he felt as we moved farther from into the great expanse of dark sea. I enjoyed the relaxed psyche, the feeling of numb that my song allowed.
Through this I felt his thoughts: He tread water with the beautiful dark haired woman out in the open water, mesmerized to the point of mindlessness as she wove her song. Who was she? And what was that language?
I watched the young man managing to swim before me under the influence of my voice and after a moment effortlessly slid under the dark waters. As expected he dove after my elusive form, eager for my kiss, eager to even touch the sweet siren before him.
Deeper and deeper into the water I drew him until the light of the moon was no longer an element blending with the sea above us. I always swam jut beyond reach as we descended into the dark until freezing before him expectant of that icy breath he should take.
I floated ready to commit the moment of his death to my memory as I did with most of those who followed me to their watery graves. They were reminders of my crusade. They were collateral damage in the reform of the views of my society. I just hoped I wasn’t wrong, that these lives taken would be in vain.
Time ceased for a moment, he was before me staring, wanting, but never moving forward without the urge of my song. I counted down the seconds, watching small air bubbles cascade out of his mouth involuntarily.
I took a deep breath of water to encourage his final moment and reached out a hand to caress his cheek. A final comfort, “Do you want my kiss?” I invited, my voice distorted by the water. Here was the moment he would unwillingly answer, sucking in the salty water, filling his lungs with their ruin. His hand clasped mine to his face and he closed his eyes. His mouth opened. I observed every detail I could.
And then it happened, on his neck his gills split open with a sticky swish, taking their virgin gasp. The action was completely instinctual and I saw no reaction to this event but I knew the reaction was plain on my face.
“Yes mistress of the sea.” He replied drawing me closer, his other arm wrapping around my waist. At that moment I snapped out of my flabbergast state and drew away dropping the magic I conjured up that held him under my enchantment. I was a stronger swimmer and my well formed tail put distance between us as well as whipped at his leg, surprising him back.
He grabbed his throat in panic, realizing water was filtering through it and not understanding he wasn’t drowning. He made confused choking noises and regarded me pleading to assist. But I could not, I had never seen such a thing. I was just as dumbfound as he was.
I turned into a cloud of my hair to dive and swim away as quickly as I could when I heard his bewildered voice call to me, “wait!”
I did something I shouldn’t have, I looked over my shoulder at him, his face screwed into a look of indistinguishable emotion as his fingers grazed the edges of his gills hesitantly.
“help me…I don’t understand. What’s happening to me?”
I felt the smooth ridges of the flaps in my neck gingerly, experimentally. They frightened me, had they been there my whole life or had she cast a spell on me to turn me into some sort of grotesque creature.
“I cannot.” She declared in a voice hardly above a bubbly whisper as if a child quietly admitting fault in a petty crime. Her beautiful face attentive of my every move.
“what do you mean, you did this to me, you…you…put these things on me!” I accused looking over her and as I spoke I noticed something I had missed. A tail.
Her pale skin melted away to shimmering cerulean colored scales that covered a muscular tail, the body fanned out as if to mimic her ever flowing black hair. Her chest was covered in a seaweed wrap that tied around her neck, Tassels of seaweed flayed down over her abdomen hardly hiding her long toned torso. Her heart shape face the picture of innocent repentance morphed into one of astonishment at the thought she had done this to me.
“I assure you it was not my doing.” She shot back straightening her spine and puffing her ample chest.
“and how do you know you sea witch!” I challenged, her body disarming me, but not enough to disregard my line of questioning. I had to know what was going on.
Her arms crossed her chest defiantly and she lifted her chin, “you’re hardly the first land dweller to join me in the water. Never before has my song, the same song I’ve always sung inspired such a radical outcome.”
“so you’re telling me your song never has made anything radical happen?” I argued in disbelief, she inspected me with a careful nod. “and yet its not a radical thing that your song persuades people into the water where they drown themselves?”
She froze, the swishing of her mighty tail wavered, signifying she knew I was right. Her brows knit together, screwing up her lovely face with persistent disdain.
“I have no explanation to offer.”
“what are you?” I had to ask, I had to hear it from her lips to know the thought of what she was wouldn’t be insane. She let out a girlish giggle and covered her mouth with her fingers, her hair stirred around her face adding to the effect I’m sure she was trying for. Her eyes fastened to me for a moment before she looked down coyly.
“you know what I am.” She answered coyly. Gosh was she alluring in the most dangerous of ways. Was it wrong that I found her attractive even though she was partially a fish? I remembered the soft touch of her hand, the curve her figure as she swam, the eyes that penetrated me with a probing peculiar nature. Her tail flicked and she seemed to float away.
“Mermaids don’t exist, you can’t be real.” I maintained, moving closer to her once more. I reached out a hand to touch her tail fascinated and she slapped my hand angrily in protest.
“you will not put your hands on me leg walker!” she snapped. “my person is not for you to grope freely.” she swam a safe distance away turned her back to me. It hadn’t even occurred to me she was a person, not a creature or a specimen. Trying to touch her tail was just as bad as trying to grab her ass or worse. I may not understand the anatomy but that I could comprehend.
“wait! I’m sorry, i-“ I stopped unsure what to say about the liberty I almost took with her, “I wasn’t thinking, its just so different.” She looked over her left shoulder at me and narrowed her eyes.
“and you’re not such a strange thing to me? Should I in return handle you carelessly?” she countered, her arms crossed protectively over her chest.
“you’re right, I’m sorry.” I apologized genuinely. She nodded in acceptance of my apology but didn’t come back over to me, I was tempted to swim closer but that meant I would be farther from the shore. Even though I could now breathe under water that didn’t mean I wouldn’t get tired from swimming so much, my body already was warning me to return. It was late after all. “will you help me? I need to know where these come from, I need to know why I have these. I’ve never encountered these before.” I touched my neck again to make sure they were still there.
“there is a lot we seek in life and never know. The things you need to know I am not sure I have the information to provide. If I think of it I will ask my people.” She conceded.
“And one more thing. You’re song, I can’t get it out of my head, you’re not singing but in my mind you are, how do I make it stop?” I pleaded suddenly realizing just how maddening it was. I didn’t know the language though it was familiar, it played over and over again drawing me to her. Her lips pursed, they were a dark berry color, they were lush, they were in need of my kiss. I swam closer before realizing what I was doing and took her into my arms.
I leaned down to plant my lips on hers and was shocked to feel her slip away, I looked up to see just her tail as she swam away. Did I frighten her? It was just a kiss, the kiss she had drawn me to the water with. And now the promise of it was gone now that I was a mutant.
I bent over and scratched my legs in disappointment. They were burning and itching at the same time. It must be all the salt in the water, I wasn’t used to it.
I swam to the surface and directed my path towards the shore disappointed, her song still playing in my head.