Prompt (song lyrics): He was strange and she was not in love, cause he threw the water after boiling the eggs, she felt weak and wanted to leave, he who lived on the land and had legs, he felt her pain and was sad too, he who lived on the land and had legs
He was strange and she was not in love. She could’ve been. She was prepared to be. All the stories in her youth had prepared her for the love she would find on land. All those stories came to her in big billowing bubbles, each detail adding to its bubble’s individual shape. She could recognize them at a distance, tell if the tale involved serpents or treasure simply by the way it wobbled.
The stories cam to her in bubbles, whispered by her father a reef or two away, because she and her family were of the Mer. They were separate from legs and air. They were separate from the beds that the children far above were tucked into before they heard their stories.
To Izu, dry land was a far off magical kingdom. Many of the bubbled stories she heard told of the things you could find up there. It was the land of the people who weren’t Mer, who moved about on weird jointed stumps like the crabs did. Her stories traveled far to get to her, as her father was a diplomat at the end of another current. He wasn’t there to scold her when she looked up with longing, to correct her misconceptions about the people up there where the water didn’t soften the sun.
As soon as she was old enough, Izu left her reef and brought her treasures with her in a bag of knitted kelp. Sixty orbs of varying color. They looked like glass, but were far more precious. They weren’t old enough to interpret stories from bubbles. They could only hear through their shells. Izu wanted to take them somewhere where they could learn before they were born. The surface.
She came up on a cold beach of gray sand under a clear sky. She wasn’t expecting it to feel so… heavy. Her hair drooped instead of dancing as it always had before. She wondered if the air might kill it and make it fall out. She checked on her eggs to see if they were alright, but they handled the transition better than she did. Their little world of yolk water was undisturbed. They still had the lustre of their myriad colors: violet, orange, indigo…
“Oh my god!” Izu closed the bag and looked up. There was a person standing far up the sand. Her head had instinctively moved at the sound, but the feel of the words seemed almost violent to her. Sounds below were soft and had a texture. They changed the water. This man’s words were like arrows in her ears.
He ran up to her, thinking her injured, but then he noticed her lower half: shimmering scales and fins like silk curtains. She tried to speak to him, but her words didn’t work up there; she just sounded like someone blowing bubbles into a milkshake.
He picked her up and took her inside, for he lived alone in a small house just past the sand. He put her in his bathtub and filled it with warm water to make her comfortable. He recoiled when Izu tried to pull his head under the water. She just wanted him to hear her words the way they were supposed to sound.
When he pulled back it forced her to lean over the side. Her bag opened and the eggs poured out into the water. The jostling made her children dream, and the dreams were projected in the fluid, just as they always were. The man approached once more, slowly, eyes widening at the sight of their sleeping visions.
Izu took his hand and dipped it in, letting him play with all the imaginary sea creatures her children conjured. He laughed. He swirled his hand around, stirring things up, inspiring them. Izu couldn’t speak correctly, but she could laugh. They had that in common, and that was all she needed for love.
To her, all the stories had turned out true. The people above were fascinating and strong. They were warm and affectionate. She couldn’t explain exactly what her children were doing up there, but the man formed his own idea.
He had a mermaid. She had magical gems from the bottom of the sea. They made things for him to watch and enjoy. Just him. Finally something that was all his own, and all he had to do was be good to her. That, he managed. For a time.
Sometimes Izu asked him to put her somewhere else in the house: in a chair by the window so she could watch the surf, on the kitchen counter so she could look out and see the garden, or in the attic where the wind whispered things almost as soft as the sounds of the sea.
Her children grew; their minds were expanded by their experience above. Soon they would hatch. They of the Mer could learn of her experiences when she returned with them. She could bring the love she’d shared with the man as well and show it to them, just as her father’s bubbles carried his stories. She did not know that those with legs, not of the Mer, did not love the same way. Theirs could not travel. It expired quickly, rotting almost as soon as it was out of the mouth or the eyes.
It was nearly time for them to leave. The eggs would hatch soon, and she wanted to be further inland when that happened. It took hours to tell him with various hand signals. Her plan was to leave him, but take the love with her and cherish it always. The children too would always carry the inspiration his swirling hands had given. That was simply how their lives worked. Sometimes the waters carried you far away from your family, which was why you kept pieces of them with you always.
When he realized she wanted to leave, his face contorted into the nasty shape of rage. Izu had never seen this before; she thought his heart had stopped. No, he was not dead. He still moved about, but his hands were like claws now and his arrow-words were venom-tipped. It was like his body had been possessed by one of the dark wicked things from the trenches where the Mer never went.
“You can’t leave me!” he screamed. She understood only his tone. “I took care of you! I did it all! Why would you leave! It doesn’t matter… You’re a mermaid. You’ll die if anybody else finds you. Experimented on in some government…”
His tirade lasted an hour. He could see she still didn’t understand. He looked down at the dreams of her eggs, swirling in the bathwater, and birthed a vicious idea. They dreamed of leaving, so what if they didn’t dream anymore? He snatched Izu and pulled her out of the tub, taking her from her eggs and throwing her on a couch in another room. He locked the door.
She cried out, burbling and weeping, but he did not come back for a long time. When he did he carried her back and showed her his labors. The water in the tub was scalding, boiling, steaming… Her eggs rolled around in it lazily, their colors faded, bleached by his cruelty. There were no dreams in the water. He thought he’d rid them of their aspirations to leave.
He threw Izu into the water while it was still far too hot, scalding her. Then he left and locked the door, confident he would have his loving prisoner back soon. So the stories weren’t all true. The people up there could be as sharp as their words. She cried, because she had to tear down the love she had for him and discard it. They were leaving, no matter what he did.
Her children were old enough now, their shells hard enough, to roll on their own. Hatching would come later. She used her sixty eggs as rollers, putting her weight on them on the bathroom floor. They pulled her forward, rolled around her sides back to the front, and pulled some more.
Izu unlocked the door and found her way out. Before she left, she took one egg, the most adventurous, the toughest, and slipped it into one of his pillowcases. He would see their dreams again, when he slept. He would weep over his mistake.
Izu rolled across the sand, with one piece left behind, even for someone like him. He would learn to never forget, just like a true Mer.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by CardozaYT during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!