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.

 

 

Day

They say that Day is a beautiful woman with olive skin and long brown hair. They say she wears robes made of sunset and a crown of sunrise. During the day, after revealing the sun, she touches each individual bud to make them bloom and brushes the hair out of children’s eyes to wake them up. During the night she lies in a field of wildflowers and lilies and looks up at the sky and counts the stars.

You’re currently at 315 because you keep losing track and have to start over.

Your field is a picture of orange and green and purple and white and, while you’re here, it’s always cold. When you walk in at sunset your dress brushes over the tops of flowers that bow and  close as you pass, then open up again when the fabric is gone. Once you reach the center you reach up and catch the sun as it falls into your hand, shrinking to the size of a marble. Sometimes, when you tuck the sun into your sleeve for the night you see Night’s dark blue cloak off in the distance as they throw up the moon. Then Night disappears and you lay down for the night to count the stars. Here there is never any dew, never any light or rain. There’s just colors and the night sky. It’s peaceful. Quiet.

In reality you don’t do much. In the mornings the herald of day glides over the field with his gauzy cloth of morning light calling out that morning is coming, morning is coming. You tear your eyes away from the sky and push yourself up. Then you reach into your sleeve, take out the sun, and throw it into the sky. As it rises it grows and you watch it for as long as you can until you know you have to leave the field. Sometimes on your way out you brush past Night. They never look at you but they sparkle with starlight.

You’re not a beautiful woman, not really. This body with olive skin and round eyes is your favorite but you always change your shape. During the day you travel to obscure towns and large cities and mountains and lavender fields. People have long since stopped recognizing you, but that lets you smile easily and laugh with boys in college you meet in drugstores and return dropped stuffed bunnies to little girls in pink skirts. You find humans fascinating. They’re always changing, but somehow they’re still the same.

Eventually the day ends and you hear the voice of the herald of night ringing out like tinkling bells. You return to the field where the flowers bow down and catch the sun as it falls. You watch Night’s back as they leave the field. Then you lie down and relax, cold nipping at your face and wide eyes. You can see your breath tonight.

463

Clouds

You reach up into bottom of the cloud, wrap you hands around a piece of ice, and pull it out. Grinning, you smooth frost off the outside of the sphere with your shirt sleeve, then, holding it close to your chest, you zip away.

Zooming across the sky in unstable spirals, you laugh and gaze down at your sphere of ice. Soon a wispy white cloud comes into view and you call out, “Mother!” On top of the cloud she lazily lifts her head, squinting at you as you race towards her. Then her eyes widen and she ducks into the cloud right before you go flying through where her head used to be. You screech to a halt, back up, then lower yourself onto the cloud as your mom slowly lifts herself back up. Her wispy hair is pointing in every possible direction and her eyes are still half closed. She pulls her shawls back up on her shoulder.

“Mother, look!” You shove the sphere of ice in her face with a huge grin. “Isn’t it great! I finally found on that’s the perfect shape!”

She yawns. Her eyelids flutter. “I don’t understand where you came from,” she says, then starts to lie down again.

Suddenly your stomach tightens and you desperately throw the ice up into the air and grab her arm. “Mother! Come on mother, stay awake.”

She hangs limply and glares up at you. “Why?”

“I found a piece of ice to make the navigation instrument I read about. I need you permission to leave now.”

Finally, she sits up. She readjusts her shawl with a sharp flick, then flicks your forehead. “I don’t know how my child ended up like this,” she says angrily. “Always zipping around like some maniac. You don’t need to leave. Just go back to your cloud and sleep.”

“But-”

“No.”

You stare down at the cloud. Your mother lies back down and curls up under her shawl. “But mother,” you say, voice hardly above a whisper. “There’s so many things to see. I want to see the ocean up close. I want to visit the mountains and see humans and cities. I want to try food.”

“You don’t have to,” you mom mumbles from under her hair. “Just sleep. Dream. If you dream you can do all those things and so much more. And you never have to put yourself in danger or worry or get lost.” She waves her hand limply.

“But it’s different. If you would just try-” You look down at the steady rise and fall of your mother’s chest. Her hair blows up with every exhale until there’s a little opening around her nose. You give her arm a light poke. When she doesn’t react you slowly back up. When you bump into the sphere of ice you freeze. You gently pick it up. You look at your sleeping mother, then at the piece of ice, then down at the ground below you. Then you quietly fly away cradling the ice close to you chest.

Perhaps your mother will dream of you.

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.