My local coffee shop has an odd little collection of random mugs for people to use while they are at the café. I usually get ‘to go’ but on this day I stayed. The mug I got to use was a chunky cup with a lonely little mermaid. This is her story:
Bianca spends her days wondering through the deep vast abyss of ocean water. Her favorite pastime is drifting through the currents and looking up pondering the unknown.
Today her journey is the closest she has ever been to shallow water but, she can’t bring herself to care about the risks. She is used to letting the ocean take her to new places.
Why stop now?
Gliding along on her back, she slows down and gazes up through the clear water as a shadow falls across the surface. Her eyes attempt to focus on the type of fish blocking her sunrays. As she squints, a wave crashes against the surface breaking something loose from the shadow and it plummets through the water missing Bianca by inches. A storm of bubbles spring to life tossing small fish and seaweed all around her.
Straightening herself Bianca plucks a strand of seaweed from her shoulder and moves to face the cause of commotion. It doesn’t seem to be moving. Curious, she moves in to get a closer look. Soon she finds herself face to face with, what she’d only heard described as, a human.
This one seemed to be upside down with a sort of string attaching him to the shadow above. A shadow Bianca now suspects is a piece of ocean debris. He didn’t make a move to release it, so she takes the liberty of untying the string from his ankle. She also decides flipping upside down to greet his face would be the polite way to meet a species for the first time.
He still didn’t move or open his eyes to look at her. She noticed he was leaking some sort of red fluid from a tiny cut on his head. She gently prods the wound and in an instant, he springs to life. He wakes up flaying his arms. She figured he was trying to get upright, so she jumped back to give him room. Watching for a moment she wonders why he seems so stressed. She assumes it must be hard to move with two small flippers instead of one big one. Not wanting to see him struggle any more she places a hand on each of his shoulders. He stared wide-eyed but, stopped floundering. In unison, she turns them both heads up using hardly any effort on her part.
Facing the surface, the man immediately starts to swim upward. Not seeing any other reason for his urgency, she thinks she must have frightened him. She watches him go. Frowning that her first meeting went so poorly. Then he stopped. He hadn’t popped through the surface yet and she let her hopes rise that he meant to stay and introduce himself. She had so many questions running through her mind as she swam up to meet him. Just as she reached him, his eyes rolled back in his head.
She panicked and shook his shoulders.
What was wrong?
She didn’t know the first thing about humans except to avoid them. Bianca looked up and saw the debris he had come from still hovering on the surface.
Without further thought she grabs tight to his wrist and propels them both up. They crashed through the surface. The man is still unconscious. Bianca flips her hair out of her face and takes her first breath of dry air. She coughs and gurgles as painful dryness fills her lungs. While hunched over in pain, she drops the man’s wrist. Scrambling she finds him before he sinks back under the surface. Holding her breathe she pulls the man onto the shiny board with an ease that caused her to overshoot and fall back into the water. Adjusting for the lack of water resistance, she tries again. The second attempt lands him steadily on the board.
She looked him over. He was still not moving.
Her lungs started to spasm from holding her breath and she dipped back into the water to fill them. For a few seconds she watched intently for movement from him but there was none. Taking a large gulp, she pokes her head back through the surface of the water. Looking at his still form she places a hand on his bare chest. The waves crash around her. She ignores their odd sound, willing him to open his eyes.
Was her water as painful to him, as this nothingness was to her?
Not knowing what to look for but, having nothing else, she examines him for any other injuries she may have missed.
In her investigation she neglected to check her surroundings and is intruded upon by a loud bark from nearby.
“Hey, is everyone alright? Do you need help?”
Startled Bianca squeals, a noise she has never heard from herself before. Looking up from the man she found two sets of eyes staring at her from a tiny boat.
This is too many people.
Looking for escape, she strikes the lifeless man’s chest with her palms and pushes off him to dive quickly under the shelter of the water. After swimming down a few feet, she stops to look back at her human. She catches a tiny splash falling against the surface. Then his two legs bend over the sides of the board and hang into the water. The water stirs around their movement. She can make out the view of a face peering past the edge of the board into the water.
The life is back in his eyes. Bianca watches those eyes search for her. The water has calmed and allows her to catch fractured images of his face. As the fish vanish from around her, the ocean grows quiet. At the water’s edge a stillness happens. The face peering into her world is clear and distinct. Dreamily she floats nearer to the surface and their gazes lock onto each other. The only sound is her heartbeat. He smiles at her. She feels her lips curve upward in response.
There is a sudden splash and a sharp object slices through the surface of the ocean shattering her view of him. It’s followed by two forms jumping from the boat.
Bianca’s startled shout releases a cloud of bubbles above her head. She spins her body away from the water’s edge and throws her tail fin up. Something grazes the scales on her left side. Her adrenaline shoots her through the water in no direction other than down. All she can hear is the rush of displaced ocean as she shoots past a school of fish in a frenzy of motion. The imagine of nets swooping her up with the fish to die on the surface plays in her mind. She admonishes herself for being so foolish.
Why did I do that? Stupid, stupid, stupid. I could have been caught. Surface safety 101, don’t go there.
The thoughts repeat in her mind as the sunlight disappears from the water. The darkness surrounding her draws her attention. Slowing her pace, she notices the sounds of waves crashing behind her have been replaced with the swoosh of large, slow, fish. She must be in the far depths. This is the first time in years she’s felt a chill this strong. Hovering in the stillness, she hugs her arms around herself.
She thinks of him in that moment. The knowledge she may never see him again tries to creep in but, she pushes it away. She remembers when his gaze warmed her body like the sun’s rays through clear shallow water. She remembers him smiling at her and, she smiles back.
As she swims away to find familiar waters, she holds on to that moment. Their moment. Because, in it, she doesn’t feel alone anymore.
This short story happened because a mug prompted my imagination.
Let me know if anything random has ever crossed your path and brought out your creative side.
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