This one could very well be the start of something longer, and I’m happy to take suggestions as to what might happen.
The sun was at its peak, throwing glittering, shimmering, flickers of light on the azure ocean when the Mermaids arrived.
The first to see them was probably my friend’s little sister, Mariah. He had come up to me, snorting, and mentioned the way she had tugged on the edge of his shorts, pointing out to the empty ocean and shouting “Mermaids! Mermaids!” I shook my head, smiling. That was such a thing for a six year old girl to say. A piece of drift wood, a coconut, and some seaweed, and a child sees the bust of a beautiful aquatic dwelling maiden. A child or a severely lonely sailor, that is.
I suppose that’s why I was concerned when I thought I saw one too. I was taking advantage of the cruise’s free alcohol policy and thought I heard a sort of chittering, giggling coming from the water. When I leaned over the railing to look, something that looked like a fin flashed into the water with a soft flash. I looked at my beer, then back to the water.
Maybe ten minutes later, I heard a kerfuffle of sorts on deck. Someone was screaming “Man overboard, man overboard!” I must admit, my first thought was, “They actually say that?”
Of course, my friend Eric and I went to check it out, our respective families and many other people following close behind, looking anxious.
We arrived just in time to see an orange lifesaver flying through the air towards someone flailing in the water, about twenty metres from the ship. It landed four or five metres away from her, and the drowning person reached it with surprising speed and ease, not even using their arms to stroke. My suspicions were already raised at that point, and the sudden appearance of another head breaking the surface drove everything home. The newcomer darted forward and cut the rope with something unidentifiable they were holding in a matter of seconds. The “drowning person” shrieked with glee, and the other one soon joined in the crowing. She happily tossed the hoop into the air, and when it hit the waves again, propelled her body out of the water and gracefully flopped onto it, if it’s even possible to flop gracefully.
What was more impossible was the exposed lower half of her body. It was covered in indigo scales, though I thought I could see traces of orange on her hips, and flawlessly conjoined to her torso and seemed joint-less.
A gasp erupted from the crowd, and I don’t claim to be excluded from it. I thought I heard the delighted squeal of a little girl, “See?! Told ya.”
The two Mermaids, for that’s what they clearly were, proceeded to playfully fight over their new toy, trying to swim throw it or jump over it, exposing their full bodies, scales, fins and all, for everyone on deck to see.
When Eric finally managed to close his gaping jaw, he said, “Nobody at home is gonna believe this man.”
“I know,” I say, unable to do much more than whisper.
Soon, to everyone’s massive disappointment, the two ladies took their orange ring and disappeared underwater.
“Where do you think they went?” my mom asked.
“I dunno, Atlantis? Fishdom? Back to myths and legends, where they belong?”
When my mom had left, and the crowd had begun to disperse, presumably to look for the fishgirls elsewhere or to rave to family and friends who had missed it, Eric nudged me. “Pretty hot though, eh?”
“Really?” I said. “We just saw two make-believe creatures, and you-” I took a swig of my beer, which happened to be my fourth and hadn’t left my hand throughout this entire episode, effectively cutting myself off, and grinned at him, changing my tune. “Yeah, they totally were.” He tried to punch my arm, but missed, because the ship shifted. Or maybe it didn’t. I think he was even drunker than I was.
We wandered around the deck, checking the ocean every five seconds, Eric saying things like “Would you ever-”, he hiccuped, “-do a Mermaid?” and me saying things like, “You should take your phone it, n’case we see ’em again, you know?”
Turns out, we did see them again, but it was someone before us. I saw someone, a young guy like us, leaning out way too far over the railing, and murmuring softly. He caught my attention, mostly because he seemed like he didn’t want it. I motioned to Eric, and he followed me as I edged over there.
Suddenly, I realized there was someone at his feet, and hands on the outside of the bars of the railing. As we watched, the moved hand-over-hand upwards, and I saw a face peering up at him.
Her hair was a coral pink, and wavy. Her skin was pale, but seemed also to be a shade of pink more than it was an actual flesh colour. Her eyes were large and curious, and framed by long eyelashes, and her lips were pouty and parted slightly. And yes, she was HOT. Don’t even make me mention the size of her perfect breasts, concealed behind a piece of gauzy material the same shade as her hair.
She raised herself up so her face was staring right up at the speechless man above her, who crouched. Slowly, she moved her face forward and gently put her face in the man’s neck, who shivered, and I say his eyes roll to the sky. Abruptly, she pulled away, grinning, and baring a metal object in her teeth. Giggling, she pushed herself away from the railing and performed a back-flip before she plunged back into the ocean.
The man’s hand rose to his neck as he stood up, trembling a bit in shock. He saw Eric and I, plus a few other spectators who had noticed, and said shakily, “My necklace, my chain necklace, she took my chain necklace.”
From nowhere, a laugh erupted in my chest. Or maybe it was a belch. Hard to say.
I heard a shriek from somewhere else on deck, and knew that the other Mermaid must be making an appearance. I was about to rush over there, to investigate, but Eric grabbed my arm. “No. Stay here, er else we’ll miss somethin’ that ‘appens on this side, ‘kay?”
I nodded, though I promised myself that I’d get him if nothing else happened.
Lucky for him, it did. Another Mermaid, one I didn’t recognize, sprang up and caught herself on the railing like the other had, but all in one big leap. Only now did I stop to think how amazing that was, because we were more than several stories above the water. She was only a few metres away from us. I couldn’t tell if her straight hair was black or dark green, but her skin again was pale, and seemed to have a yellowish, greenish tone, but because it was perfectly even, didn’t make her look sickly at all. Her features were more angular than the other one, and she had a more exotic, elegant look. She gestured to a couple of men near her, not us, unfortunately, which was annoying, because those men could have been, like, forty, and I’m pretty sure they were both married. They obediently approached, like a pair of dogs, and she leaned forward and nipped one on the nose, then plucked his sunglasses right off his face with her teeth. Facing the other one, she made a show of unbuttoning his Hawaiian shirt, which he seemed to very much encourage. With a final show of her perfect white smile, she let herself drop, the colourful shirt still clasped in her fist.
I looked down after her, and saw her show her prize to the other one, who clapped. It was like this was some sort of game to them, combined with shopping.
I then noticed Eric, checking his person for anything interesting. As I watched, he darted forward and grabbed my watch right off my wrist. “Hey!”
He raised his eyebrows. “Is this ten dollar watch worth the experience of a fucking lifetime or what?”
I couldn’t argue with that, so I let him dangle my watch, which was actually fifteen dollars, thank you very much, over the side.
I noticed another “attack” or what have you on the far side of the boat, and I think the victim was a woman this time. About this time, Eric’s family, complete with his beaming sister, caught up with us, trailed by my parents. My dad, balding and sunburned, was holding his video camera and seemed delighted by our little trap. And with good reason, for in that moment, the indigo tailed Mermaid leaped out of the water and grabbed our bait, without even pausing to acknowledge us.
“You idiot,” I said. “You gotta put it somewhere they gotta work for. Hey mom, can I have your bracelet?” She handed it to me without a word of complaint. Probably because I bought it for her at a garage sale about eight years ago, which would have made me, like, eleven. She probably hated it anyway.
I put the bracelet between my teeth, and checked the water for Mermaids. I saw the indigo one, the pink one, and another one I hadn’t seen before chattering and whistling like dolphins at what must have been a Merman. He seemed to be scolding them, and they seemed to be arguing. Then, they sunk between the waves, all but the pink one, who noticed me, smiled sweetly, and was suddenly close enough to me that I could see the water droplets on her pink eyelashes.
I couldn’t breath. She cocked her head, still smiling. She lay her elegant hand on my shoulder, eyes noticeably darting between mine and the treasure I taunted her with in my teeth. I could see Eric edging forward, and somehow I knew that he was gonna do something stupid. Of course, the only course of action in my mind was to do something stupid before he did. After all, we were on camera and as he said, this was a once in a lifetime thing. So, I did the thing I thought Eric would be the most proud of me for. I thrust my hand forward, around the Mermaid’s back, and tore the gauzy thing right off, raising it in the air victorious.
The Mermaid shrieked, an ear-popping sound, and dropped back into the water with a splash. Eric was all over me with high fives and shoulder punches, trying to grab my pink prize, which was surprisingly slimy. “Dude, that was so awesome! I can’t believe you did that! You are the shit man, the shit!” I grinned, but frowned when I heard the commotion coming from the water below us. The chattering got more squealy and shrill, and there was much water slapping and angry splashing. I didn’t even have time to let out an “Oh shit,” before the indigo Mermaid was in front of me, almost on top of me as she pushed my back, making me stumble and fall to the deck. She reached through the bars, hissing, and she pulled me toward her, clawing at me. Still having hold of my un-spilled beer, I threw its contents at her, panicked. She dropped, but another Mermaid appeared behind her, this one with red tattoos spiralled all over her cocoa coloured torso and arms. She raised herself higher than the others and wrapped her flexible, muscular tail around the railing and leaned forward toward me, her eyes flashing angrily. I tried to kick myself backward, but another Mermaid was holding my feet. My father had dropped the camera, and Eric tried to come to my aid, but the dark Mermaid hissed and slapped him back. She leaned toward me in a way that must have taken tremendous ab strength and pulled me toward her. I started flailing around, and she actually bit me, her teeth leaving bloody scraped on my shoulder. I flailed harder.
At that moment, everything slowed down and seemed to blur. Another Mermaid, or maybe it was the Merman, appeared behind her, and put a hand, or maybe it was both, on her shoulder. This pulled her backwards, as she was already put off balance by my flailing, and for a moment, I felt that peculiar sensation of “too far”. Like, I crossed that invisible line and now there was no going back. It was like weightlessness, like that last moment at the top of a roller coaster where you know that, if the engine stops, you won’t slide backwards, but will instead plummet forwards, out of control.
The next thing I noticed was the fact that the railing was above me, and there was a sheer wall of cruise ship behind me. Then I felt the cold hard slap of the water when I hit it, and I remember thinking that it really wasn’t fair that water should be that hard, right before I passed out.
I was only unconscious for a moment though, but I woke up drowning, having taken a big breath of H2O upon awakening. I was aware of things in the water around me, swimming fast and brushing up against me. There were hands on me, squeezing and bruising me, pushing me around, shaking me. There was also clicking and whistling, and it all sounded harsh and agitated and sometimes urgent. I was spasming, and dying to get to air. I wondered if they were trying to drown me intentionally, or if the thought that I needed air hadn’t occurred to them.
It started to get dark and I thought I was sinking, then I realized that one of them was actually pushing me to the surface. This pleased me, though I couldn’t remember why. My mouth was open when I breached the surface, and instinct told me to do something with it, but nothing happened. No air would enter my lungs.
I was battered around a bit more, though I was kind of apathetic to it at this point. Suddenly, there was a fist to my chest and I coughed up water, but before I could breath again, I was forced back under water. My head was pounding when it broke the surface again, and I was barely conscious. It took me a moment before my lungs remembered what to do and filled themselves with salty air. After a few more breaths, the sweetest I’ve ever taken, I noticed that the ship was dismally distant, no longer even beside us, and the Merpeople appeared to be fighting amongst themselves animatedly. It was hard to tell who was against who, what with the way they were swaying and fuzzing up around the edges…