Please read part 1 and 2 first to know what is going on : ) They are pretty short fun reads!
The girl was lying on her stomach, she looked to be about sixteen or seventeen, just about my age, both too young to be there in the aftermath of war. I was only there because for some reason I was drafted into it. “What are you doing here?” I mumbled to her still form.
She was pale, and not just because she was unconscious. Compared to my tan skin from being outside every day, she was white as a ghost, as if she only came out at night, if at all. The few marks she had looked as if they were painted on to make her seem more real, including a few deep scars. She lay as if she were sleeping, her dark blond hair was soft and wavy across her back; it was if the ocean itself had laid her gently to sleep on its shores. Aside from her ghost-like appearance the weirdest thing was her clothes. She had only a cloth draped over her. No shirt, no shoes, no nothing.
I flipped her over onto her back, careful not to move the cloth, and started to shake her gently. After a few seconds, she shook violently upwards and started releasing water from her lungs.
“Hey, its ok, its ok! I got you,” I said to her. “What’s your name?” All I got was a blank stare in return. She looked like a deer in the headlights, breathing heavy and eyes flitting about. But based on the situation, it seemed she was out of her element, so I didn’t blame her. “You must have a name, I’m Gene.” I held out my hand, which was also unnoticed.
The pale girl stared out to sea for a moment before turning to me. Her stare was piercing…and familiar. Why were they familiar? When she spoke, her eyes said it to me before her mouth. It lingered beneath the green. “I…I don’t have one. At least not one I can remember…” The girl said with a furrowed brow. She pushed herself up in the sand to a sitting position, wrapping the large cloth around her a little bit tighter.
“What do you mean?” What had happened to her? I was truly thrown for a loop.
She looked at her toes and wiggled them around. “I mean that where I come from…once you leave, you lose yourself,” She said to her toes and smiled. Why? I wasn’t too sure. They were just toes, but she was enamored by them. Either she was a bit off, or she had went through something insane. The second option would explain the scars and at this point I was willing to listen.
“You have to give me more than that.” I turned and sat on the sand with my elbows resting on my knees.
“I come from the sea,” She said and paused, waiting for a reaction from me. I raised my eyebrows and signaled for her to go on. “I’m a mermaid?” She said, her voice getting higher at the end, as if she was as puzzled by it as I was.
“Assuming you aren’t just making this up, and I’m only going along with this because I’ve seen a lot of crazy things lately, how does that make sense?”
So she told me of her origins in the sea. She told me of the curse that allows a mermaid to enter the land of man; when they leave the sea, they leave a part of themselves behind as well. “The problem is, we never knew what we will lose. It could be a limb, a voice, a name, anything. The curse was set by a sea witch, who reaps the souls of men. Souls, they have more power than you think. Corrupting souls makes the witch powerful. She is a siren, who will never get a soul because her nature is to hate and destroy humans, not love and protect as merpeople do and we can earn a soul. We protect humans from that which they do not understand. It has been our practice for centuries. You remember the invasion, don’t you? We saved you, from her.”
I couldn’t even respond, I was overwhelmed by the information, and she just sat there looking back at me all serious face and wide innocent eyes. So it wasn’t a joke, but it seemed impossible to believe what I was previously told was impossible for my entire life. It’s like being told Santa Clause is real. What I had heard broke all the rules of what the world was supposed to be. Instead, I pretended she never said it.
“Do you want to go somewhere?” I asked.
“Here? On land?” The mermaid asked and her face lit up like a child’s on Christmas day. “I have never seen the human world past the shore!”
So we spent hours milling through the town. The girl looked like a drunk coming off her sea legs, but in the small french town on a Saturday night after the army’s success’, she blended in quite well.
There was something about her that I was drawn to. She was real yet unbelievable, genuine and…practically a figure of my imagination. But I found myself smiling and laughing along with her as she saw all the things I did every day. They were things I never even thought about, things I had actually begun to take for granted – especially recently. I’d been too angry at the world. But this girl planted a new feeling in my soul, one of hope. In just a few hours she had become my mental panacea…or perhaps I was just going mental.
Even the simplest things, like clothes, were fascinating to her. That was one of the first things we had to tackle, I couldn’t quite let her roam the streets in a blanket. But it was, well, everything else too. She had never walked, never been to restaurant, never felt the chill of fall air, never heard live music or crickets at night. She danced the whole way through each moment (clumsily I might add), taking it all in. I too felt as though I was experiencing these things for the first time, things I had just never noticed.
But after a while, I needed to ask the question that was eating away at me the past few hours. It came out bluntly, as we were walking quietly along the town street, the sounds of the street band were fading and the crickets more numerous. “Do you have a soul?”
She stopped walking and turned towards him. “The only way to earn a soul, so it is rumored but never proven, is to become human,” The girl paused, deciding whether or not to go on. “The only way to do that, is to be in love with a human. But love, it can destroy us. If we love someone but the other does not feel the same, we…die. It is a part of the curse. It is why we wipe your memories, so you will never wait for us, and we are never tempted. It protects us.”
“Why can I remember then?” I was still perplexed.
“I saved you. Only, unlike the others, I didn’t wipe your memory. There was something about you… I wanted you to remember me. I wanted to risk it.”