Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Last Mermaid

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The Last Mermaid
by Rebecca Fyfe
I was never lonely, despite being the last of my kind. I had the dolphins, the whales, the octopuses, the seals and the sea lions to keep me company. I often took turns spending months at a time with different colonies or pods.

I never even wondered about my lone existence until the day the seahorse asked me about the others.  He asked me why I had never gone looking for them. I couldn't answer him then, but I realized, when I had time to think about it, that, as I had no memory of the others, I had just grown up believing that I'd always been the only one of my kind. It had never occurred to me that there might be others like me.

The sea horse told me that he'd heard stories, stories about the Sea Witch imprisoning all of merkind with a spell many years ago.

I asked him where I could find the Sea Witch and he told me she lived in the deepest, darkest part of the ocean, in an underwater cave in the center of a maze of tunnels.

"No one who enters the Sea Witch's caves ever comes out again," he warned.

I shrugged off his warning. The idea that there might be others like me filled me with too much excitement to let the idea go without doing something to find them.

And that is how I found myself lost in a tunnel leading to a cave in the deepest, darkest part of the sea. I couldn't see much, even though I had brought some crystal jellyfish in a sack. Every now and then I would release one so that the glow from it could light my way. I got lost in the maze of tunnels, but when I was almost out of crystal jellies and starting to feel like it was a lost cause, I finally found the center of the Sea Witch's cave.

The Sea Witch was there. She almost looked like one of us, except that, where my scales were colorful and reflected light and sparkle, her scales were black and dull. Where my skin was smooth and naturally sun-kissed from my time near the surface, hers was as pale as a corpse. Where my eyes were vivid and a bright green, hers were so black from edge to edge. Where my hair was long and carried a variety of shades form copper to gold to brown, hers was short, grey and dull. It had no shine. She looked like a dead thing, pretending to be of merkind.

The Sea Witch turned to me, "A mermaid. I thought I'd imprisoned all of you. It seems I missed one."

"Why did you imprison the others?" I asked, keeping my distance from her.

"Oh, they were always meddling and getting in my way. They tried to keep me from my magic, kept complaining that it was evil, that I shouldn't harm others. I got tired of always having to answer to them, so I got made sure they couldn't complain anymore."

"Where are they?" I asked. I couldn't help thinking that if she could imprison all of the mermaids at one time, then she might just as easily rid herself of me.

"I'll tell you what, little mermaid; since you are the last, I will release the others if you can figure out where they are in this room."

I looked around the room. There was a lot of junk in the room; it was as if the Sea Witch liked collecting a variety of different things, none of it which seemed to go together. There were jars of ointments, all stoppered up to keep the sea water out of them, and different kinds of sea weed growing in oddly shaped wood containers. The wood looked like it was made from driftwood. There were baubles and trinkets of all kinds.

One necklace, in particular, drew my attention. It looked like glass with the color and texture of sea foam. I remembered someone's voice telling me a story, so long ago I couldn't remember a face to go with the voice. The story had said that all mermaids were created out of sea foam.

Was that what she had done? Turned the others all back into sea foam and trapped them in the glass of the necklace? Nothing else in the room triggered any hidden memories for me, and I had no way of being certain, but I had to try.

"Is it this necklace?" I asked, lifting the necklace to show her.

"No, how could you? You couldn't have figured it out!" The sea witch flew into a rage. The nails on her fingers grew into claws and she swam at me at full speed, reaching out to carve me with her claws. I grabbed the closest thing to me, which turned out to be a piece of stone broken off from a statue of some sort. As she threw herself at me, I jammed the sharpened shard of stone into her chest. Her claws rakes at my shoulder, piercing the skin. I cried out in pain, but the Sea Witch had stopped moving. I pulled the stone out from her chest and she slumped to, floating aimlessly in the water, blood spreading through the water around her.

She was dead, but the other mermaids were still not free. I didn't know what else to do, so I decided to put the necklace on and find some other sea creatures to ask if they knew what I could do to free the mermaids. As soon as the necklace touched my skin, it began to glow. The glass melted away from it and the sea foam drifted up into the water. Before a question could form in my mind, the different parts of the sea foam began to change shape and hundreds of merpeople stood before me, so many that their numbers were spread out into the tunnels.

I was no longer the last mermaid.

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