|Mermaid breast (artist rendering)
She woke up feeling her lungs drawing-in yet another mouthful of water. As the liquid went down her windpipe, she started panicking. Coughing did nothing but cause more water to flood-in. Swimming for the surface was out of the question, the reef she was lying upon was probably 30 meters deep.
A couple of startled heartbeats later, she came back to her senses. She screamed. Shouting wouldn’t reach far, what with all the water around. She didn’t care, that much joy couldn’t stay in. “Viix you idiot! Mermaids don’t drown!”
After stretching her arms and tail, Viix darted up, leaving behind a flourish of bubble, rolling and looping in the stream.
Finally, she’d made it. She was a Mermaid.
Not that long ago, she would have spent yet another day repeatedly diving in her bathtub, face down, dreaming of corrals and current until she finally grasped for air, frustrated to choke on soapy water.
Not that long ago, she hadn’t known what the sea was like.
Her parents, who had tremendous expectation about her career and very poor views upon social life, hobbies and other futilities, had found her daily immersion useless. After all, she was sixteen years old already. Being able to hold her breath for 15 minutes straight wasn’t going to get her any academic achievement. She used to answer that being named after a brand of cough drops didn’t really help either. As a response, she would be sent in her room to derivate integrals. So was her daily life.
Then, one morning, she received an email.
“Mermaid wanted. No experience needed, internship available. Hydrophobics and manatees won’t be considered”
A couple of parent-daughter fights later, she had passed the initial interview, been given a tail and assigned a place to sleep not too far from the coast.
That morning was her first morning. The tide was rising, bringing coiling cool currents around her body, while she kept on marveling about everything she saw.
“Viix!” A tiny, squeaky voice called.
“Viix! Come back down there! I can’t swim like that! I swear I’m done with mermaids! It’s always like that, they wake up, they take off, and you end up on all six, caught in the turbulences… come on that’s not funny… VIIX!”
She turned around, barely hearing it. She couldn’t see too far, the water was still rather dark and would be that way until later at noon. Swimming back down, she realized the vociferations were coming from a rather small crab.
– “Oops, I didn’t see you there. You know my name?” She was giggling.
– “Of course I do! I’m your mentor! You think you can just put on a tail and go gambol in the big blue like it’s sea world? NO!” The crab’s eyes were protruding at the limit of their possibility, the left one occasionally flickering in what could have been a nervous tick.
– “Oh, yes, they did tell me at the interview. I have to go through an adaptation course or something, right?”
– “Right enough, right here, right now. My name is Fern, don’t ask about the plants and I won’t ask about cough syrup. Deal?”
– “Deal…” She wondered how a crab could know so much about the surface world. She took a pause to consider.
– “I know because I answered an email, okay? Like, you think all sea creatures are born like that?” Apparently, others had been asking.
– “And, we’re going to have to do something about your grooming. You look like a sponge!”
– “What do you mean I…”
He didn’t let her finish.
– “First, you can’t go around showing your nipples to everybody like that. We’ll find you some scallop shells. Then, you’ll have to grow this hair. It’s already bad enough that they’re dark, but wearing them short is unacceptable. You’re carrying a message here. Then… oh well, swimming around will take care of the extra weight anyway.”
She didn’t know how to react. She was still too happy to be outraged, but too surprised to keep on smiling.
“I think I get why you chose to be a crab. Although, being so irritating I’m surprised you chose to leave underwater”
– “Oh yeah? So you think I’d be better off somewhere else? Tell me what suits me then, I’m curious” He managed to look smug.
– “A crotch”
Fern stepped back and brought his dominant claw up, wide open.
After holding that position for a moment, he started laughing.
– “Good one. You’ve got some bite in there. I like that”
The atmosphere suddenly relaxed, Viix circled around Fern a couple of times and went on asking.
“Alright then, what’s the program?”
– “We’ll start with the scallops, if you don’t mind. Then I’ll show you around, while giving you a little briefing about the local customs, your assignments, and then…then we’ll see. If you mention crotches again I’ll snap your nose off.”
– “Alright sir” She managed to scoff out a bubble.
After finding appropriate shells and learning how to make them stick in the right position, she took the crab in her hand, letting him guide her further from the shore.
Wandering around, still bathing in the bliss of her new life, she though she was really going to enjoy her job. Only, every now and then, an unknown sensation seemed to poke at her. Something missing. She hadn’t been smoking, but she imagined that the urge to light a cigarette wasn’t far from what she was experiencing.
She was about to ask Fern when he started his introduction, forcing her to leave her question aside.
– “Look, you won’t have to worry about many things here. Don’t poke your head at the surface when there’s a storm, that’s rule number one. Then, try sleeping when rocks or crevices can prevent you from being dragged by the tide. At least for now. You want to wake up at the same place where you fell asleep.
As a mermaid, you’re on the apex here. Not even sharks will bother. Just stay away from dolphins.”
– “Dolphins? Aren’t they supposed to be friendly to people?”
– “To people, yes. You’re not people anymore. You’re people plus scales. You don’t wanna hang around them.”
– “What would they do to me anyway?”
– “You know how they have the reputation to mate for fun?”
– “I’ve heard about it”
– “Yeah. It’s true. Only they don’t understand that consent thing”
– “But don’t make a big deal out of it, I’ll show you where they hang out… for now you’ll be fine”
– “I got it… but wait. Why only Dolphins? Why should all the others give me a berth?”
– “Erh…” Fern looked pensive. “It’s particular to mermaids, you’ll find out later… by yourself.”
As Fern delivered his instructions, hours went by.
Viix particularly liked the part about her role. Surprisingly, fern had be very sensible about it, putting aside issues pertaining to appearance.
He told her about how she should be the emblem of the seas, carrying the grace of the surf, the mysteries of the deep. She would follow his words in a glee, almost entranced by these concepts, the newness of if all.
Her, the teenage girl solving equations in her house down nowhere lane, dreaming her bathroom as an ocean…
She was where she belonged.
As the lesson went on, he sensed the change in her mood and stopped talking. He left the cradle of her hand to sit on a protruding rock, giving her time on her own, to glide around, enjoy the water and comprehend her environment better.
She was smiling when she came back to him.
– “Thanks for, Fern. I see you’re not that bad after all. How long will you mentor me?”
– “You’re a natural, it won’t be long. But hey, I’ll be around. I’m always glad to see a newbie enjoying the job.”
Again, she felt the urge tug at the back of her mind, harder than the first time.
She opened her mouth in another tentative to finally ask Fern, when she was interrupted by a low, deep, almost solid vibration.
Viix twirled around, confused, looking for the source of it.
– “What is this” she asked, getting slightly worried.
– “Owh, that’s just a boat.” He paused for a couple of seconds, then went on “Actually, that’s a good time to get on with the next lesson. Grab me, please, and swim ahead of the boat until you’ve passed it. A couple hundred meters should do”
She complied, delighting in her ability to reach the required speed.
– “We’re far enough now. Now, we’re going up. You’ll need to maintain yourself above the surface, say, from the waist up”
She ascended and erupted in a spray into the midday light. Water left her lungs to be replaced by the salty sea air. She found it surprising to be able to breathe outside.
She asked “So… what’s should I do now”
– “You’ll find out soon enough”
As she saw the boat slowly sailing toward them, details became clearer. It was a yacht. A couple was on the deck, enjoying a champagne in the sweltering noon heat. As she worked out their figures, outlined against a cloudless sky, she felt the unknown urge rising from her core.
– “Fern. I feel weird. What’s that lesson about.
– “Well… you know that email you received… we write ‘mermaid’ because people relate better. But really, this is more of a Nereid thing, siren, if you will… let’s just say it’s lunch time.”
As Viix suddenly understood what that new feeling was all about, she thought she was definitely going to enjoy her job.
She started singing.
Note: This story was written based on a request from my friend Chanel. Hi there!
More info, more cake and still no lemon at Without a Lemon’s Facebook Page
Mermaid (Not A Musical) by Danny Hefer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.