The moment she grabbed my butt I knew it was over.
I knew it was over, because she had ten-inch-long claws, and ten feet under the murky water I couldn't scream. I kicked; silt filtered around my ears, in my nose, scratching my skin. Another set of claws caught my shoulder, and the sting in my spine told me she had sharp teeth, too.
Mama had warned me not to go looking for mermaids. "They're not like in the storybooks," she'd said, her eyes distant. But with that smile tickling the corner of her mouth, of course I'd go looking! If she REALLY didn't want me to find her map of "second star to the right, and straight on til morning," she shouldn't have left it just lying around in that padlocked safe in the secret cave under her bedroom floor.
Still, what with the slippery hands gripping my forearms and my lungs burning for lack of air, I had to blame someone. Another solid kick--my bare foot hit a scaly, slimy thing. Like a giant snake? I yelped, and mud and water flooded my throat, and my eyes jerked open. The light of the moon above me looked even further away than I'd remembered, and for a second, before I closed my eyes again, I saw the pale, toothy face, and the huge blank lidless fish eyes, just staring at me.
Okay, now I was freaked out. I thrashed, and my fist hit the creature's face--"bop them on the nose to establish dominance," Mom had said. She said that about sharks, not mermaids, but who can tell the difference, anyway? It released me, and I shot towards the surface.
I got one gulp of air before it grabbed my foot again. My fingers scraped against the rock on the shore. I heaved myself up, slipping on the algae, and bashing my knee against an underwater stone. A rough tongue scraped my knee. Oh gosh oh gosh...
Just as I got half my torso onto shore, the mermaid rocketed out of the water, grabbed the back of my head, and tried to slam my skull against the rock. A violent push-up on my part protected my sweet tender brainmeats--and knocked me back into the water.
Holy COW this was ridiculous! I squealed with repressed rage--I don't know why I bothered to repress it--
And for a second the mermaid backed off. I treaded water as she stared at me from a few feet away. The moon reflected off her heavy, seaweed-mat of black hair as I heaved. The gills in her neck flared, and blew steam. We looked at each other for a terrifying, beautiful second, just breathing, me with my lungs, her with her gills. When I blinked, she blinked, her eyelid transparent like an amphibian's. Blink. Breathe. Holy crap, this was happening. Two living creatures, connected by water, and air.
Okay, so high pitched sounds got to her! Communication, like a whale. I did it again.
Uh-oh, I messed up. I didn't want her down there. Something brushed against my leg. Hooo boy okay I couldn't see...my heart thudded a mile a minute in my chest. I tried to control my breathing, in case she decided to yank me under again. Slowly, slowly, I treaded my way back towards the rock...
And made it to shore.
I got out, dripping, and backed away from the water's edge. There, on the sand, far behind the rocks, lay the pan-pipe I'd pinched from Mama's safe. It used to belong to a child who never grew up. Mama always said she never grew up, but I always thought she was talking about someone else...
I thought about playing it again, to see if the mermaid would come back. I liked her. It wasn't her fault she tried to drown me. It was like that otter that loved the baby duckling, and tucked it under its armpit to swim around with it, until the poor little baby duck drowned. It was ignorance, and violent love. Very violent love.
A dark cloud blotted out the stars above me as the sea breeze puffed in gusts, gusts slamming the water against the rocks. It was a bit of a stormy night, wasn't it? A night for good boys and girls, fresh from a bath, to curl up under soft, downy sheets with a book and a warm glass of milk as the rain tickled the windowpanes outside. I'd had my adventure. Time to pocket the pan-pipe and head home.
You know, Mama didn't get to have a secret cave under her bedroom floor by playing it safe.
I grinned like the mermaid, put the pan-pipe to my lips, and blew.
There you go, a little free story, for having the bravery to say hi!
Because you read all the way to the end, you can also have a whole free BOOK! Which do you want?
- Hypochondriac vs. automated car. Who wins? (Scifi audiobook)
- Two crazy scientists set out to find out just how much stress will actually kill you. (Scifi audiobook)
- Ridiculously offensive, broken, heartfelt tale about a non-sparkly vampire who's morally allergic to blood. (Fantasy audiobook)
- Free picture book about dinosaurs, for little kiddos learning about velociraptors and making friends. (Kiddo PB)
- The first NINE chapters of BECOMING HERO, the novel about the comic book character who shoots his author.
Let me know below. And where should I send your free book, brave adventurer?
I just sent your little welcome gifts to your e-mail, along with a password so you can retrieve them. They'll never expire, so you don't have to download them right now. Enjoy!
(ALSO, if you like, I have a little book library coupon for you, just for the next hour. If you do not want it, that's fine! Your free gift is still in your email. Coupon below!)