Mermaids

Mermaids

A Story by Neringa Dubauskiene
"

Oh, you’re going to be in so much trouble, boy!

"

I stumbled on it by accident. The day I arrived, I decided to postpone the unpacking in favour of exploring the forest, which was invitingly cool and mysterious, stretching out in front of me in a lazy midsummer sunshine. The cabin could wait. I never intended to spend much time in it anyway.

I walked a narrow path between the trees, willing to go wherever it was taking me, until I arrived at the clearing in front of the lake. I didn’t know the lake was there, it was a pleasant discovery. The cool water glistened in the hot midday, and I considered going for a swim. Swimwear was not an issue - nobody was around and I had no qualms about skinny dipping, but then I noticed a dock in the bay a little to the left, so I went to sit on it instead. I took of my sandals, lowered my feet to the water and relaxed. The decision to take a weekend of and arrive here for some well-earned peace and quiet was definitely a good one. The tranquillity washed over me as I turned my face to the sun, basking in warmth and the scents of nature.

I was certain I was alone, but after a while, I heard an unexpected sound. At first I thought that I was hearing things, but it happened again. Someone was giggling. I sat up straighter to look around - there was nobody I could see, but the giggling happened again, loud and clear, so it must have been somebody close. There wasn’t anything in the forest, the tree branches still and undisturbed, so I turned back to the lake. My eyes caught something glistening and the water surface was rippling. I looked at the patch of reeds growing a bit further from the dock and that’s when I saw her. A mermaid. I looked at her, stunned, and she was looking back at me, only her eyes out of the water, the rest of her mostly hidden by the shadows of the reeds. I’m not sure how much time have passed with us staring at each other, and then there was movement again and I saw another one. And another. It was rare enough to see a mermaid, yet alone a whole bunch of them. I counted five, all women. The one closest to me lifted her head fully out of the water and shook her hair. It fluffed up into coppery curls immediately and then she smiled. There was a small gap between her front teeth. She was breathtakingly beautiful.

The mermaids looked as curious looking at me as I felt looking at them. They were all attractive, young and very different. I couldn’t stop staring. One by one, the others lifted their heads out of the water. The one I saw first seemed to want to move closer, but her friend caught her hand in a warning. The others didn’t seem alarmed though, and I hoped that they would come to me eventually, but then somebody started speaking behind me.

I looked back. There, at the edge of the forest, was a nymph. She was telling me something, in sounds that were obviously not human, but clearly a language. She looked like an ordinary woman, except for her eyes, which were glowing blue with what I immediately recognized as magic, though I never saw it before. She laughed, probably at my stunned expression."

"You’re going to be in trouble, boy," she said very clearly, despite her accent, which wasn’t like any I’ve ever heard. She talked to me! A stupid grin started spreading on my face. The nymph laughed again and disappeared between the trees, and I turned back to the lake. The mermaids were all gone.

I stayed for a while, but they didn’t come back. I went back to the house, feeling like I was hit with a brick. This was definitely the best place to go for an impromptu vacation. Most people go through life without seeing any of the sentient creatures that lurk in strange places, and I got to meet a few mermaids and a nymph. If I wanted to, I could spend the rest of my life in talk shows and interviews. I could write books - some bestsellers were based on less than that. The rest of the day passed in a daze, half in disbelief and half in daydreaming. I knew I’d be going to that lake every day for the rest of my stay.

At night, my sleep was restless. I dreamed about coppery hair and wet, slippery fingers all around me, fleeting touches and quiet chuckles. I chased those images, but they kept evading my grasp and I woke up panting, as if I was truly running around in my slumber. I could barely restrain myself from running back to the lake.

I gulped my morning coffee before I headed to the path in the forest. The chances that any of the creatures would show themselves again were low, but I couldn’t stop hoping. Anticipation was crawling beneath my skin and I nearly shivered when the clearing came into view.

I sat on the same dock. I was afraid that if I went swimming, I would scare them, so I tried my best to look nonthreatening, as much as a man of my size and posture could. I resigned for a long wait.

The sun started warming my back and shoulders in earnest when I heard a loud splash and my heart nearly leaped out of my chest. A bit further that yesterday, hidden in vegetation, the first mermaid was lurking. Little by little she swam closer, and the others followed. Their movements were graceful, the backs and tails glistening in the sun as they went up and dived again. I forgot how to breathe.

This time, I had a chance to look a little longer. They allowed the staring, lifting their heads out of the water and observing me in return. Two were redheads, the rest of them blondes. One of the blondes acted indifferent, never turning her face towards me, but I caught a few of her cautious glances. The other blonde looked a bit frightened, trying to stop the redhead with a tooth gap from swimming closer, while the other redhead seemed to be urging her, with a smile that could only be described as mischievous. They didn’t talk, but their body language was very expressive and I started to wonder if they could speak at all. Even if they did, they might never speak to me, but for now I was content with simply observing.

After some playful struggle, one pushing, and one pulling away the one I started thinking of as mine swam closer to me. She smiled coyly, and the rest of them giggled, and I smiled back. I wandered if her red curls would be wet to the touch, because they definitely looked dry. Hopefully, staying that long out of the water wasn’t harming them. I felt protective - they were cute, playful and shy, no wonder they didn’t show themselves to the people often. Their trust made me feel special.

My mermaid lifted her hands out of the water with a “come here” gesture. I was stunned. Was she inviting me to the water, to swim with them? There was nothing I wanted more, but the moment I cautiously lowered my legs in the water, the others dived back with a splash. I hesitated. If I scared them, they might not come back, and I wanted to prolong the encounter for as long as possible. The redhead stayed were she was and I raised my palms trying to placate her. She smiled again.

“Oh, you’re going to be in so much trouble, boy!” The voice sounded much closer than before and I jumped. I looked back to the forest, but the nymph disappeared the moment she caught my eyes. When I looked back to the lake, the mermaids were gone once again. I thought I heard giggling somewhere far away, but the water surface was calm and it was probably only my wishful thinking. Somehow I knew the mermaids would not come back today.

Tomorrow was my last day at the place. I didn’t tell anyone where I was headed, and I had no way to contact the owner of the house to ask for a longer stay, but I was reluctant to leave. I didn’t have any vacation days left, and I expected to be bored out of my mind by the second day, but now I regretted not securing a longer holiday. There was no guarantee that the mermaids would show up tomorrow, but I intended to spend my time at the lake waiting for them all day, if I had to.

That night the fleeting images haunted my dreams again, even more intense than before. I was left with a deep longing and I couldn’t stand any more time in the house. It was just after dawn. Forcing myself to eat before leaving was hard, but there was no knowing when I will have a chance for a meal again, and I didn’t want to waste time for that during the day.

The familiar clearing looked like a slice of heaven in the early morning. There was tranquility there, as if no harm could come to those who enter it. Maybe that’s why the mermaids and the nymph showed themselves to me. It was time to say goodbye to them, but before that I wanted to prolong the experience for as long as possible.

Surprisingly, they were already waiting for me when I arrived. They laughed and played openly, splashing water, making no effort to hide themselves. Even the nymph was lurking between the trees, not close, but clearly visible. The mermaids waved to me when I stepped on the dock, and I waved back. It was such a human gesture. My redhead swam to me immediately and with the joy of seeing her, I almost jumped in the water right then.

She didn’t seem so shy any more. Even other mermaids looked more eager, as if they finally decided I was of no harm. I sat at the edge of the dock, and after a brief hesitation, decided to lower my feet in the water. The mermaids froze, but when I didn’t move any further, they resumed their playfulness. After a while, I noticed that my redhead was gone, and I started to dread that they would all disappear once again, but then I felt something touch my foot. I startled, and then saw her appear on the other side of the dock, nearer the shore. She laughed and dived again, and I watched her swim under the water, back to her friends. She looked proud of herself, like she completed a dare, and I was delighted. I was longing to touch them back, just a little. As they played and swam around, I wandered how would their scales feel under my fingers. Would their skin feel cold and slippery, or would it be warm and satiny? Would they have any smell, spending all their time in water?

As if hearing my thoughts, my redhead turned to look at me. She contemplated something for quite a while, and then she swam right to me. She hovered in the water by my feet, and gestured to me to come closer. I couldn’t believe my luck. Slowly, I lowered myself in the water, trying not to scare them away. I needn’t have worried - they looked eager, not afraid in the slightest.

Aware of my own ungraciousness, I swam to where other mermaids were waiting. They surrounded me. Up close, they were even more beautiful, and strangely, looked even more human. I couldn’t see their tails, so it was easy to imagine this was just a bunch of girls who for some reason decided to invite me to their company. I barely dared to move my arms to keep floating, let alone try to reach any of them.

One by one, they dived under the water. I took a deep breath and dived after them. Underwater, their movements were incredibly elegant, more gracious than those of any dancer. They swam around me, as if showing of, and I nearly burst with joy. They swam closer and closer, until all I could feel was the gentle slide of their skin and scales, smooth and pleasant.

The first bite felt like a kiss. I started to drown, but the bites kept coming and the bliss was overwhelming. I turned my head upwards and saw that somehow we swam closer to the shore and the edge of the dock was right above me. I opened my mouth and saw bubbles of air escaping to the surface, and after them, a thin red ribbon of my own blood. It looked almost pictorial. A face appeared over the water, and I recognized the nymph, her blue eyes glowing with joy and magic. She knelt on the dock, put her finger in the water and swirled. My blood slowly dissipated.

“You’re in trouble, boy,” she said and giggled. I wondered how could I hear her so clearly under the water. I knew what was happening, but it never occurred to me to be afraid. The bites didn’t stop.

Then came the darkness. 


© 2017 Neringa Dubauskiene



Author's Note

Neringa Dubauskiene
Be as harsh as you feel the need to be with critique, I'll be grateful.

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Added on December 30, 2016
Last Updated on January 16, 2017