The Naked Mermaids

High up in the Sierras the sun was slowly rising, beating the mountains in their stretch for the bluebird sky. The water was calm and orange in the light, tulles drirfting up from the bottom and rotting on the surface. Black watersnakes slept out on the grantie rocks that stuck up from the middle of the lake. When they woke they slithered across the bodies of the naked mermaids.

It was dawn and the snakes had woken them up, and they opened their mouths to give the naked mermaid scream. It echoed off the mountains and skimmed the tepid water, and when the snakes had slid into the lake, the naked mermaids followed.

There was Michemaid, with the gold hair and green tail, the round face and white teeth. Hammaid with the chocolate almond eyes and silver tail, the outtie belly button and elegant neck. They swam in the murky water, blacker the further they went down. The fish were tiny here, smaller then the ones in the rivers that fed the lake. But deeper the water, the bigger the fish, and so they swam until they could feel the muddy bottom under their long fingers. Rainbow-scaled fish, almost invisible to the naked meremaids, flashed by, and they struck out with their mouths open and their hands out. One fish was enough for them both, so as soon as one was caught, they torpedoed to the surface. The black watersnakes followed them and once they were back on the granite rock, Hammaid ripped it off a piece from the white flesh.

"I want to swim upstream today," said Michemaid, taking the bloody fish from her sister and taking a bite out. "It's getting warm. We can bath in the icemelt."

"It's not warm," said Hammaid through her bite of crunchy fish head. A black smear from the eye rested at the corner of her mouth, and she slid her red tongue over it. "You're just too hot blooded."

"Aren't you bored? It gets dull around here. Even the bears haven't been visiting us."

"Bears don't visit us," said Hammaid, rolling her eyes. "They aren't exactly friendly."

"You know what I mean."

Hammaid turned her face to the sun.

"We could go to the fast river and float down. It'll take us all day to get back, and there's plenty of food in the water."

Michemaid nodded her assent and sucked on the tail of the dead fish. It was slippery and thin, and ripped easily when she bit down. A snake was winding up to her stomach from her tail, and she laid down to let it rest between her breasts. It tried to snatch away the fish carcass, biting her lightly on her hand. Two dots of blood spread like a stain over her tan hand, and she pressed it to stop the flow.

Suddenly there was a burst of birds from the pinetrees, screaming to the meremaids. They watched lazily - probably a wildcat or bear lurching around. But then they heard a joyful barking, a dog barking, and human voices, laughing and calling out. Michemaid and Hammaid looked at eachother, eyebrows high in alarm. They hid behind the granite rock, Michemaid's snake sliding from her breasts into the water.

Five humans appeared through the tall tulles, a black dog trying to push past them, tail wagging in fast circles. The humans stopped at the lake's edge, taking sacks off their backs and hats off their heads. The dog plunged straight into the water. A man had thrown a green ball out into the lake, and it landed behind the granite rock and the naked mermaids. They turned to stare at the thing bob behind them, turning only in time to see the black dog swim past. His ears went back when he saw them and he woofed, wiggling with pleasure as much as he could.

"Get it away!" said Hammaid, trying to push away the overly friendy animal. It was too close, the ball forgotten, scratching them with its paws and trying to eat their faces. It barked and their ears rang with the noise.

"Go get the ball!" said Michemaid to the dog in anxious voice. It barked again.

"Hey!" shouted one of the humans. "Dante! Get the ball!"

"Go get it!" Urged the naked mermaids. It barked again.

"What's he barking at?" said another human. Michemaid peeked out from behind the rock and saw that they'd shed their baggy clothes. Now three of them were half naked in shorts, the other two in bathing suits. Those were the females, she thought. She and her sister had seen humans before, of course, seen their cars and houses and clothes, but never at their lake. What were they doing here?

"Maybe he found something," said a female in a purple bikini. "Should we go see?"

"What could it be? It's not likely there's a lake monster or anything."

"Hammaid! They're coming in!"

The granite rock was only a few yards off shore, and two of the humans were already swimming out, in their funny frog-like stroke. One rolled onto his back and sighed.

"Not too cold," he said to the others. "Come on in!"

There was a huge splash - a human had cannon balled in, yodeling as she went. They laughed and another followed. Dante was barking in a frenzied excitement now, looking from his people to his finds.

"Michemaid! They'll see us!"

The only way to freedom was down, so down they went. They could only hope the snakes would find the intruders and bite them. Michemaid felt around her waist and found the one that had marked her. She paused and gave it a kiss, hoping it would understand. It left her hands in the direction of the humans.

The lake was small, and when the naked mermaids had reached the other side, they could still hear the human voices bounce in their ears. There was a girly shriek, and they saw one swim furiously for the shore. The others laughed. The snake would not bite the humans.

"Shut up, Dante!" A male said. "Why the hell is he so excited?"

"He's crazy, that's why. Aren't you, buddy?"

They stayed a long time, doing cannon balls off the rock and circling it. Thankfully, they never ventured very far. In the late afternoon they all got out to lay in the sun on the heated rocks of the shore.

They'd been asleep a long time, and the naked mermaids were curious. They surfaced at the water's edge, the humans close and turned away. The mermaids fingered the clothes that were nearby, soft cottons and dusty shorts. Big dirty boots that attracted flies.

"Let's take some," said Michemaid in a low whisper. "And we'll float some in the water so they think the others sank."

"Not the boots though. Look how tender their feet are!"

So they took a t-shrit and shorts each, and laid out a large buttoned thing, half in the water and half on the shore. They swam away with their booty, certain no one had seen them. Dante hadn't barked, anyway.

On the other side of the lake, they tried the t-shirts on. They felt funny on, like a layer of their skin had been thickened and then numbed. The one Michemaid smelled like the humans' sweat, even after it'd been swum through the water, so she rubbed it with rocks and laid it to dry in the sun. It was white and plain, but the one Hammaid had taken was a brilliant blue bluer than the sky. They thouched it; it was soft, even when wet, and smaller than Michemaid's.

"Must be a girl's," said Hammaid. "And you got a big man's shirt! That's why it smells so bad."

"Maybe I should switch it."

"No, look!"

The humans were up, exclaiming and peering into the orange water. One picked up her dripping buttoned thing and shook it, wringging water out of it.

"They bought it!" The naked mermaid's giggled together, covering their mouths and trying to be quiet.

Hammaid was napping on the granite rock, and Michemaid was slowling circling the perimeter of the lake. Her tail was full of strong muscles and it proplled her forward without strain or effort. Her stomach tensed with each rocking motion, equally strong from a lifetime of swimming.

The wind rustle the pines and she sniffed the spicy smell. The sun in her eyes made her sleepy, but she didn't feel like napping. This was their life, swimming and sleeping, the occasional journey through streams or marshy fields of tulles.

A crackle in the brush alerted her, and a human stepped out from the trees. He was looking down at something, a map maybe, and Michemaid took the chance to duck underwater. Hammaid! She slept on the rock in full view, her tail could be seen it all its inhuman glory. She raced to her sister, panic rising in her throat. The man would see them. He would see their tails, know what they were. She shook her sister, dragging her sleepy form into the water.

"A human's here! Sssh!"

They held still and looked at him from across the lake. He was sitting on a rock, fiddling with his boots it seemed.

"What are we going to do? They keep coming back!" Whispered Hammaid. They didn't know. The watersnakes nibbled their fingers and they stroked their small heads.

They lay awake on their rock, the moon glowing from the black velvet sky. It dimmed the thousands of stars and looked into the naked mermaids' faces. A silver cloud passed before it.

"If only there was somewhere to hide," Michemaid thought outloud.

"Yes...somewhere safe from the humans."

The moon shone its powdery light over their dry bodies and shiny tails. As the naked mermaids dried, the moon showed them where they could safe. They would be safe in human forms.

A/N: just a little story for fun! It started out as a short story, but I had so much fun doing it that I couldn't stop. Big chapter coming up.