A Mother's Love
by Megan Auffart
The ocean was darker than I remembered, but maybe it was just the light. The sun was setting and the sky was absolutely gorgeous. Streaks of red and purple intermingled over the waves of the water. Oh the water...
Occasionally, during those long twelve years, I had smelled traces of the sea salt when I was outside hanging up the laundry, or had the downstairs windows open, but I'd forgotten how powerful it was. How utterly dominating.
"Go down to the water. Now."
I shoved Margaret forward as Len dragged his way down the beach, his head always turning back towards me. Towards his sister.
When we reached the waves, Len hesitated, but only for a second. I threw Margaret into the deeper water about 20 meters away, my old strength swiftly returning to me even though I wasn't even wearing the skin.
"Margaret!" Len cried and dove into the water, for unlike his sister, who couldn't swim at all, he had been taught by his school the basics of how to stay afloat. I smiled as I watched him struggle his way towards where Margaret had sunk beneath the waves.
He dived underneath the water and, for a moment, I lost sight of him. Then his head burst back towards the surface again and I began laughing when I saw that Margaret wasn't with him. Len looked amazingly stupid, with his eyes bright red from the stinging salt of the ocean, seaweed clinging to his hair, lining his cheek.
He took another breath and dived again. This time, I waded in deeper, towards them, almost quivering in pleasure as the waves washed around me, pulled at my legs and welcomed me back from my long hiatus.
I could see Len's kicking body as an outline from above the water. Surely there would be a better view from beneath the surface. I lowered my head into the water and immediately all the loud noises of the human world were emptied from my ears. There was only the roar of ocean, the pounding of the waves, and, like music to my ears, the high pitched whine of air escaping from my son's throat as he struggled to pull Margaret's motionless body towards the surface, kicking with all his might.
When Len broke from the water, he didn't even bother to try and catch his breath first. He began to swim towards the shore, haphazardly because the body of his sister was holding him back and he hadn't learned any of the basic lifeguarding skills.
I began to wade over to where Len was struggling, but then a sight stopped me cold, even as my bastard children were getting closer to the shore. It was Greg. He was here. I didn't even notice it when a bullet blasted past my face and tore through my hair. That fucker was here, at last. Reeking of alcohol and standing at the edge of the beach with a shotgun in his hand, Greg was finally realizing the price of imprisoning a sea nymph.
"Let them go, Mer!"
I began to giggle and then, grinning at him with my glistening teeth (oh how sharp they felt! How natural!), I raised my arm and waved my skin at him like a banner.
The look on his face almost made the entire twelve years worth it.
"How do you like your wife now?" I called out, reaching over and snagging Margaret from her brother's grasp as he struggled to swim passed me, his eyes clinched shut from the stinging salt. The girl wasn't breathing and her lips were turning a pale blue, but that didn't stop Len from trying to tackle me to rescue his dullard sister. I ignored him and he fell off of me and landed back in the water, his head going under with a satisfying splash.
Greg looked as though he was about to vomit, the coward, but he made no move to come closer to me. Instead, he raised his gun again and aimed it towards my head.
"Put Margaret down! Get away from my children!"
I shook my head and lifted my daughter so that her face was next to mine. I knew Greg too well. He had always been a 50/50 shot and he wouldn't risk hitting his precious little girl.
"Greg, honey," I called out, my voice saccharine sweet, "they're our children, sweetheart. They're of my flesh as well as yours."
My smile grew wider and a pleasant shudder went through me as I felt my incisors grow even longer.
"But I never agreed to have any children with you, Greg. You know that. So wouldn't you agree," I asked, as I gently stroked Margaret's face with my thumb, "when I say that maybe it's time for me to take some of my flesh back?"
I heard Len cry out as he realized what I was about to do, but I ignored him. Keeping my eyes constantly on Greg's face, I opened my mouth and sank my teeth into Margaret's neck and then tore.
She tasted sweet as honey. A delicacy fit for any daughter of the sea.
"Margaret!" Len cried and then propelled himself towards me as I let her body drop into the water. Greg looked beside himself with horror as he watched his little girl bob up and down in the waves. Her body would make a fine meal for the passing fish. It was all she was good for.
As Len reached the body, seconds later, I merely pushed him aside, still looking at my husband and focusing my will upon him.
Put the shotgun in your mouth, I smiled. You have nothing left to live for, Greg. Your daughter is dead. Your wife ate her. Kill yourself, Greg. It's the only choice you have left.
He tore his gaze away from Margaret's body and looked into my eyes. Making sure he was still watching, I slowly licked at the blood that gathered at my lips and left a trail down my chin, savoring the taste of my daughter.
We seduced, the sea nymphs, the sirens, the mermaids, the daughters of the sea. Our power lay in the art of seducing reason away from the mind in order to get the mortals to do as we would have them. Those twelve years of imprisonment had wasted away my power to almost nothing, but now it was returning, pulsing inside me as vibrant as it ever had been.
Death is easy, Greg. You don't have it in you to live. You're a man who had to kidnap his wife, raped her every single day, you pathetic piece of shit. You couldn't even protect your own children. Look at what you have left, Greg. You have nothing.
He shook his head but the malignant thoughts, going from my brain to his, kept on pushing at him. The sensations that were radiating off of him were like mead, like honey and wine and spices pouring into every cell with delicious frenzy.
Put the gun in your mouth. That's all you need to do for the misery to be over. That's all you need… A smirk graced my lips as I bent down and picked up Margaret's body before it sunk entirely beneath the waves. With one hand holding her up, silver skin draped across my upper arm , I rammed my other hand, fingers first, into her stomach and tore out an internal organ. I wasn't certain which one it was. It probably was the liver, or perhaps a kidney. Like the average McDonald's consumer would care about the physiology of a cow, I'd never taken an interest in learning the anatomy of mortals. Even imprisoned, I had far better things to do with my time.
With Greg standing helpless on the beach, I opened my mouth and took a small bite. It was definitely the liver. The taste was enough to remind me of Greg's favorite meal, liver and onions. Humans and cows tasted surprisingly similar.
That small gesture was enough to send him over the edge. Helplessly staring at me as I finished my meal, licking the blood off my fingers with the manner of a five star chef tasting a dish, Greg put the barrel of the shotgun between his lips. As I chewed the last piece of her tiny liver, delighting in the sweet flavor that my daughter must have inherited from my race's blood, he pulled the trigger. I was the last thing he'd seen in his lifetime, a film of red congealing around my lips.
Almost giddy with happiness, I began to giggle as I watched the gray matter leak out of my husband's skull. The utter pleasure that his suffering had given me made me hornier than I'd been in twelve years. I was avenged, finally and completely. I was finished.
But during that moment, I forgot about my son. The last remaining testimony of my humiliation, the proof of my capture. I turned towards where I had last seen him, coughing and choking on the seawater, but all I could find were the constant waves on the surface of the sea.
Had he drowned, I wondered, scanning the surface of the water for signs of life. Did he follow in the footsteps of his idiot father and just give up trying to fight the waves?
A slam from my right side immediately answered my questions. And the sensation of my precious scales being pulled from my hand was enough to shatter my mood.
"Let go, you little brat!" I cried as I tried to shake Len off my scales. His grip was nothing if not impressive though, and he dug his fingers in tighter.
With my free hand, I made a grab for his hair to try and pull him off, but he ducked at the last minute and lifted his foot onto my side to give him better leverage. My silver scales brushed lightly against his ankle as I struggled to pull my skin away from him.
A sudden, unexpected movement, and we both watched, incredulous, as my scales connected.
"No!" I screamed, my voice sounding unreal to my ears as the dead seriousness of this latest situation began to penetrate.
The silver of my scales glowed brightly as it wrapped itself around my son's leg of its own accord. I pulled at it, fruitlessly, but there was nothing I could do to separate my precious skin from my son.
"What is this?" Len yelled as I lost my grip entirely and the silver skin wove itself around both of his legs, stopping right before it reached his genitals, tearing through his shorts. Disbelieving, I watched his feet flattening into a large fin, the tattered sneakers falling off into the sea.
My scales had found a new owner, it seemed, and I began to laugh, helplessly, as I watched my son flounder about the water like a newborn.
Well, I guess technically he is, a small, detached voice in my brain muttered. A son of the sea. It's been a while since one of them was born.
Len stared at his new tail for a moment, the shock in his eyes disappearing only thanks to his habit of hiding his emotions. It was obvious that he was still utterly terrified. His entire body, fins and all, was shivering.
"Give it back," I ordered him, trying to ignore the constant butting against my leg as Margaret's body was continually knocked against me by the waves. "That's my skin, not yours. Take it off and give it to me!"
Len turned towards the beach and looked at his father, and then at the floating body of his sister, caught in the tide. His face broke, momentarily, crumpling in on itself as a few salty tears leaked down his already wet face. A low moaning escaped his lips and he looked as though he was about to sob earnestly, but then he stopped. Despite all the petty human emotion that must have been surging through him, his iron control over his own will visibly snapped back into place and his face melted into a bland expression, as though he hadn't felt a thing. It must have been his years of practice with me, every day of his life.
"What…what happened to me?" He asked, his voice almost not shaking.
I shook my head, almost too pissed to give him an explanation, but then I noticed how his fingernails were growing longer. Sharper. And so I acquiesced.
"Your father stole me away from the sea, from my sisters, less than a year before you were born. He hid my skin away."
His voice disbelieving and hateful, he ordered, "Continue."
And so I did.
I told him about how I had danced, how I had left my skin to be taken. I told him of how his father had raped me and made me his slave, how the ancient spell on my people had bound me to do his will. And I told him of how I dreamed of revenge, how the spell was broken when my scales were returned to me by way of the dimwitted Margaret.
But I told him nothing of the powers he was already developing, of how there were already gills ready to break though his skin like wisdom teeth. That would have been foolish, like handing him a loading gun and asking him not to shoot. So I told him everything else except that. He'd discover the changes soon enough, anyways, if he didn't return what was mine within the next few minutes.
"So give me back my skin," I finished, "You can take it off. It's easy. I'll show you how. Just give me back what is mine and you'll never see me again."
I flashed a venomous glare towards the beach, where Greg's body lay, "I'll swear, if that's what you want. I'll never return. Just give me back my scales so I can be in the ocean with my sisters again."
Len turned towards me and gave me a small, joyless smile, unconsciously flashing just enough of his front teeth to show me that his incisors were already sharpening themselves, and then he shook his head. His eyes looked almost crueler than mine were reputed to be.
"You killed my family, Mother. I don't see why you should be allowed to live with yours."
Throwing one last sorry glance at his sister, Len spat at me and dived into the ocean, disappearing beneath the glassy surface. I could still see the glow of my scales as he departed, shining brighter than any I'd ever seen before amongst my people. And then he was gone.
Feeling hollow, I kicked away Margaret's body and trudged towards the beach. The strange gravity of the surface world felt far too familiar.
My skin. My scales. My last hope of ever getting back to where I belonged. It was gone.
I sat down besides the corpse of my husband and looked out towards the ocean, my son's glow long departed. I would never get my skin back, excepting the unlikely event that he had a change of heart.
Or unless you hunted him, that distant voice in my head whispered, comforting me with its optimism. The scales will forever glow as bright as the sun. You know this in your heart and you know how this could help you find him. You could peel it off that ungrateful brat's body. Skin him like an animal.
As I felt my teeth slowly shrinking back to their mortal size, I looked down upon the corpse of my kidnapper, my tormentor, my husband. I was free now, though I was trapped in this human body. I could go anywhere, do as I pleased...
Hunt what you will, the distant voice whispered.
I reached towards the shotgun and removed it from Greg's mouth, grimacing in disgust at the string of bloody saliva that clung to it. One day, I would find my son. No matter how cleverly he hid, I would find him. I would have my scales back.
"And with this," I said to myself, stroking the barrel of the gun like I would a pet, "I'll show Len just how much I love him."
The waves roared and I smiled. The sea had never seemed so beautiful.
To be continued...