Merman

You’re drowning. Your lungs burn. As you struggle against the ropes binding your wrists behind your back you wonder why you’re even still struggling to stay alive. You’ve never been able to swim without your hands and with your shoes still on it’ll be even harder. The water is pleasantly warm, though. Even though you’re sinking it makes you feel weightless and wraps you in a familiar clean feeling you’ve associated with peace a freedom your entire life. The water, you think, wouldn’t be a bad place to die and surviving hurts. You kick your feet out in one last desperate attempt to push yourself to the surface, but with your eyes closed you don’t even know if you’re kicking in the right direction. Suddenly you hit something hard. Your foot slips and your leg scrapes on a rock, gashing it open. You cry out from the pain. The sound turns into bubbles and you hit the ground. You quickly clamp your mouth shut. You’re starting to feel a little light headed. You guess this is it. It’s not like they would just throw you back in if you’d made it to the surface anyway. Your hands touch the ground. At some point you open your mouth.

You wake up to the smiling face of a boy with olive skin and long tawny hairy that floats around his head like a halo. He also has a tail. When you yelp instead of covering your mouth he covers his ears. It’s odd. You’re surprised at how loud your voice sounds. That’s when the lukewarm feeling wrapped around your body and the lightness really sink in. You’re still underwater. You’re not dead. And you also have a tail. You start panicking again, bubbles flying out of your mouth, though you voice is still loud and clear, and frothing up as your wildly wave your arms around.

This time he smacks you in the head with his tail.

 

 

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Intertwined Hands

Imagine. Your name is Kidaisha. Your tail is a color you’ve come to call orange and you’ve been told that your hair is silver like the moon.

The first time you met a human he called you an angel. A sea angel. Later, once you spoke the same tongue, he told you it was because of your hair. Your long silver hair and fair skin and kind grey eyes had drawn him in and you wit had made him stay. You had reminded him then that you could be the farthest thing from what humans called angels.

The first time you talked to this human was after twenty years, what they’d chosen to call cycles of seasons. It was interesting. By that time you had learned the word for seasons and years and you knew about men and their myths, but when you saw him standing on that beach, jaw now square and shoulders wide, you forgot how to speak. This time he didn’t call you an sea angel. He kneeled down and touched your face, mouth hanging open. Then he pushed back your wet hair and asked you if you were real.  It was midnight and his black hair glowed white under the moon, his tired eyes sparkled and reflected the sea. And you thought that in that moment he looked like an angel, but you didn’t tell him that. Instead you gave him the kind of smile you thought you’d never smile again after your parents died and told him that yes, you were real. And you had known that he was still alive, even if no one believed you. And you had known you would get to see him again.

The first time he kissed you you had been asking about the nature of human families. Why do your families have only one mother, you’d asked. Why only one father? He had laughed, waves lapping up over his legs, head resting on the sand. Then he’d looked over and asked permission for a kiss. And you’d said yes. You knew what a kiss meant but you’d never had one before. It felt better than you thought it would, made your stomach flutter and your chest more pleasantly warm than you’d ever thought possible. Afterwards, when you slipped back under the waves you couldn’t stop smiling. Even though you felt guilty because you were nowhere near the angel he thought you were you couldn’t stop smiling.

The second time you met a human your oldest sibling brought you to see a ship captain. He lowered down a rowboat and talked to your sibling for hours while you watched from the side and they looked happy. The captain taught you English and taught your sibling how to read the stars and how he could use them to come back. Then, on the night before he left your sibling went missing. And the next morning you chased the ship. You caught the bottom and punched out holes and when it sank down low enough you swam on board and freed your sibling and bashed in the heads of ever member of the crew. Then you dragged you unconscious sibling through the bloody water staring straight ahead, trying to ignore the things you had just done to save your family.

The first time you told him he was the real angel he offered to cut your hair. You had cried on his shoulder and your stomach had kept flipping and swimming, this time because your were afraid he would leave. You weren’t sure what good cutting your hair off was supposed to do, but you agreed. The next day he’d brought a pair of scissors. They were silver. Silver like your moon and the hair they were about to chop off, you observed. He laughed, then told you to turn around. Then he started cutting.

You don’t know how long you sat there together, you staring out into the ocean listening to the quiet snipping made loud by the silence and proximity to your ears. With each snip you got a little lighter. It was gradual, so at first you didn’t notice, but when he was done and you were surrounded by a nest of silver moonlight you felt like you could finally breath. You turned around and he sighed happily and brushed back your hair. Then he leaned down and gave you a kiss.

My name is David, he said. Because families are a special kind of love, he said. And I guess mostly because sometimes it’s easy for humans to be jealous. You’re beautiful, he said.

I love you.