The little mermaid
Nothing is as it should be. I had such hopes, such quixotic dreams of a future so scintillating with foreign sensations. The blithe sunlight seemed so unbridled and mercurial, an antithesis to the permanent stasis of aphotic despair in which I lived. What foolish, naïve visions I suffocated in. I have come to learn that the tranquil mists of the surface hide nothing but malignancy and torture. Oh, to have had the knowledge of the present, to have foreseen the despair which would befall my innocent soul, not too long ago, as I set out to open the door to the surface
The millions of tons of suffocating water depress my heart and choke my emotions. I swear my heart beats only for the infrequent trips I take to the surface, when I cannot bear the burden of my comfortless surroundings. My father, the king, a title which he holds with no sign of responsibility or well wishes for his kingdom, has specifically forbidden any merperson from swimming towards the surface, but I cannot tolerate an endless existence of drab seaweed and insubstantial sand. I yearn for freedom from oppressive saltwater, and would make any promise, achieve an Herculean feat, if only I could live as the humans do, dancing in the frothy waves, instead of being dragged along by them.
This is why I have escaped the clenching hands of my Royal Guard, and have sought out the Sea Witch. She possesses, it has been said, a complete grasp on the magics of land and sea, and will wield her magic powers for your will… for a price. I fear no price, no object or action, and as I enter the cavernous mouth of her undersea lair, I feel no inkling of despair or dread in the face of her awesome abilities. My only apprehension is that she will refuse my plea, fearing to be entangled in the royal fury which will probably follow once it is learned that I am gone. The bewitched lamps flare to life as I meet the Sea Witch face to face, and I know my future is in her hands.
I should have known she would fear no wrath from my pathetic father, just one more example of a man enfeebled with power, believing his status as royalty makes him a god. I should have known to watch for her devilish tongue, well practiced in fooling young merfolk into swearing their life away. I was childish and unsuspecting, but the past is past and all I can do now is suffer for my follies.
The Sea Witch greets me with a beckoning tentacle, and I take a moment to view my surroundings, a strange place to suit this strange creature. The moss-laden walls have been shaped into various shelves and nooks, and these contain a cornucopia of magical items and ingredients, all ghastly to the senses in one way or other. In one jar, probably taken from a sunken ship because such is the way of merpeople, to live off of others like parasites, there lives an assortment of eyes, wriggling about like they were still functioning in the sockets of their previous owners, each glaring at me, round and wild, eyes blue, brown, and green.
I shudder at their acrimonious blaze, and allow my own eyes, firmly fixed in their setting, to glance away. What now meets my gaze is horrifying and evil, and a seed of fear replaces my past confidence. Resting side by side, like triplets in a carrying basket, are three infants. No, not infants any longer, but the corpses of infants, all alike in size and looks, each deathly pale in their eternal sleep. One resembles a normal merbaby, a still gleaming tale curled up to their chest, and this precious little death shakes my senses. The next seems so similar to the other, but I gasp as I realize it has no tail, but two little legs, just a smaller version of the humans I see pacing the beach sometimes. I have never seen a human so close, and I feel deeply saddened, and very afraid, to see a human child dead and insignificant. The last infant corpse almost breaks my mind, and I feel the chill of dread sink into me as I gaze at its lifeless form. It is probably for the best that the child did not get the chance to grow up, for I know it would have led a cursed life. It is a mix of both worlds, human and merpeople, and has a small weak fin on its left side, and a stubby incomplete leg on the other side. Never have I felt such horror, and twisting around I find the source of these abominations
"Be not afraid, my child," she begins, "for many things are not as they appear." The Sea Witch glides into closer proximity, and I am able to compare the vision of her with the perceived image I had built based on hearsay.
She fits the role of sorceress, with prideful ebony hair whirling around her emaciated skull like a miasma of treacherous trickery, framing black eyes staring raw into my own, taking inventory of my soul and finding nothing worth saving. Her thin flesh and bone skull rests steadily on a corpulent body, rotund and quaking, tremulous in the slight ocean currents seeping into her cave. Thick fleshy tentacles grapple their way along the rock walls and floor, propelling the Sea Witch towards me, intimating in size and obvious mental fortitude. Her dense fingers grasp my slender, childish hands, and her foul stench invades my nostrils, reeking of dismemberment and sanguine nightmares.
"Come child, tell me your dreams, your desires, and let me will them into being," she whispers into the silence of the steady oceanic flow, assuaging some of my fear and promoting me to indeed confess my heart's desire.
"Please, Sea Witch, I wish to live above the waves, and stride the dry lands of the surface, human legs propelling me through dunes and dances!" I begin, hurrying to plead and beg before she can deny me in a breath.
"I can't stand this endless-"
"Hush, girl," she interjects, "for I have seen your pain, and I know your plight, and I have the means to satisfy your paltry demands." A sliver of hostility shines in her bared teeth and tense position, but it is quickly covered with a gentle voice, trained in melodiousness.
"I can transform you into human form, but these things need an anchor to keep from reversing, and trapping you as a mermaid on dry land, to suffocate on endless oxygen and immobility. If that were to happen, your energy would revert back to my hands, and your soul would be mine to command. There are conditions to be met, little mermaid."
I have promised before to meet any parameter, achieve any feat, and I hold to my oath, dismissing any concerns I could have had.
"Whatever needs to be done, I can do, just inform and I will obey, great Sea Witch!"
"It is simple, child," she starts, slowly wafting around to float at my back. "There is a prince of men, living not too far from the sea shore. He is noble and regal, yet lonely in his solitude. He requires a kiss of life to kindle his spirit, and as a creature of opportunity I implore you to be the bearer of this life-changing kiss. It would serve as your anchor to the human world, while saving a human from endless suffering. I dare say by the time your three day limit is up, for my magic will only last three days without his kiss, you could find a way to use your charms to your advantage." She pauses to emphasize her next statement, and I can feel something definitive coming up.
"That is only to keep you a human. I require something to accomplish the magic of turning you into a land-dweller. I must tell you," she pauses, glancing up from underneath her lashes, seemingly stolen from the fronds of a sea plant, green and murky, "that in order for such a transformation, something of equal value must be surrendered."
Throwing caution to the current, I exclaim, "Yes, yes! Anything! I beg of you, take what you will, and make me a part of that world above!"
I never considered treachery could be lurking behind that demon's lips. I sold my soul for a whimsical chance to be something I'm not, and never could be, and in doing so I chained my fate to her will. I willed away my freedom, and gave her the reigns to my being, able to drag me into Hell at the snap of her tentacle. My mindlessness had cost me any chance of happiness I could have ever hoped to achieve, below the surface or above, and despair now chokes me, as I relive those moments of mistaken hopeful expectation.
With a lurch, the Sea Witch wraps her oily tentacles around my neck, gripping and pressurizing my blood until my vision darkens, even as I try to force any sound through my insolent throat. I can feel my bodily fluids rushing about in my ears, matching my whirling limps and eyes, matching my raspy throttled breath dying to be set free, matching my racing mind as I stand face to face with a sinister monster which I had before glimpsed only briefly in the Sea Witch's eyes. I cannot comprehend her sudden ferocity, but I am struck into panicked paralysis as I feel her grip tighten around my neck, each sucker a distinct pressure blocking my ability to reason, as well as breathe. My vision blackens, my blood a tsunami under my flesh, and I feel a lightness of thought coming over me.
The last thing I feel before I become dead to all sensations is that of an intense burning in my throat and of my essence being squeezed out of me through my facial orifices. I think my heart is being pushed through my nose and mouth, and I am left empty and pained.
When I wake, I'm held in the arms of a handsome human, leaning over me with the blazing sun creating a halo around his head. I am dazed and confused, but it takes me little time to glance about, take into account the sand and waves and the gorgeous man above me, and finally rest my sight upon my own lower body. I am momentarily stunned, I have never seen anything but a slimy fish tail attached to my torso, but at the sight of my new radiant human legs peeking out from beneath a sodden velvet skirt I become ecstatic, all thoughts of my last dangerous moments with the Sea Witch forgotten as I gleam with remembrance over her promise to transform me. She had come through after all!
As I radiate with newfound happiness, I turn my gaze up into the face of the exquisite prince (for I know in this instance that that is who he must be, the lonely prince I was sent to save) and I reach my arms around to encircle his neck so I can gaze lovingly into his eyes. He is my savior, the one who must have pulled me from the salty clutches of the ocean, and I see myself reflected in his pale eyes. In a moment of pure emotion, enflamed with the fire of my splendid joy, I lean in closer, closing my eyes and tasting promise in the air as I softly pucker my lips to plant them upon the prince's mouth. I must confess, I have never kissed before, having desired no interplay with the common, immature, pretentious mermen which populated the palace, but here I am, held by a handsome prince, about to be bound forever to a beautiful shape which I have desired since birth, and I am breathless for the feel of his skin caressing mine, linking his hope with mine, for always.
"Whoa, my dear girl, what could you be thinking!" he exclaims, dropping me into the callous sand as he stands up abruptly, hands held out as if to fend off attack. I am shocked by the sudden differentiation between my plan and his action, and my face falls, lips going slack, as he back farther away from me, now sprawled like a dying fish on the beach.
"I swear to the gods, you keep a lass from drowning like an idiot pup and she assumes you just want to ravage her," the Prince says exasperatedly to a colleague some feet away, whom I had not seen just a moment before. His manservant was proper and dignified, like so many court crustaceans that had haunted the palace like scavengers searching for scraps.
"Indeed, sir, she seems rather forward. Perhaps you should inquire as to her name and station, and why she decided to go for a swim fully dressed, alone, with the tide going out?" This other man strikes my heart with his condescension towards me. Me, a princess beneath no one but a king!
As I stumble to my feet, weak-kneed and uncertain, I prepare to lash both men with my mighty tongue, and demand to know why they presume to be so vicious. As I inhale, I point a finger in their direction, attacking and volatile, but upon my attempts to speak, scream, or even whisper, I find myself huddled over my stomach, coughing and choking on air, my hands now clenching my throat, which shudders as I try to speak, to plead help. I cannot force a word out, I am trapped in silence; however, when I cease my attempts and simply breathe through my mouth and nose, I can function. I will not yet suffocate like the Sea Witch has promised I will soon enough, but I cannot force a word past my lips!
Oh, how foolishly we make promises we wouldn't like to keep once they are called upon. I recollect her gripping my throat, feeling my essence pour from my mouth, and I now know what debt she required before she would transform me. She is a devil, an evil sorceress who deals underhanded and treacherously. She leaves me alone and weak, with no way to communicate to my fellow humans, and she demanded that I kiss a man? She knew what fate would befall me. She knew I would be misunderstood and seen as a buffoon, or worse. She knew, and she was happy to let me fail, happy to see me die and become energy for her to control. Well two people can manipulate the circumstances, isn't that always right…
"This girl is not right!" exclaims the Prince, as he manhandles me up some jagged stairs carved into the cliff side just near the ocean shore. They lead up to his castle, a hulking monolith of excess poised like a sentinel on the cost, and I am more frightened of him now as he leads me towards its black gates.
"It would appear so, sir. She cannot answer our questions in intelligible words, so we must believe she is somehow deformed in her mental capacities…" The Prince's manservant trudges up the steps with unwavering dignity, as he ponders my strangeness. I know my thrashing about and choking on words does not help his view, but I cannot bear to be simple and restful.
"I believe, Sir, that the best choice would be to keep her in the tower overlooking the sea, until we can find some evidence of her origin, or until she regains some function. We cannot have her lazing about, or creating havoc," he calmly stated, "and the tower may be locked from the outside."
I gasp at the thought of being thrown in the tower, a lofty perch I can see jutting up from the grey castle from where we stand outside the gate. I try even harder to struggle out of the Prince's grasp, but it is to no avail, his regal bulk entraps me.
"Why, yes Grimsby! What an enchanting idea! The view is beautiful from there, overlooking the cliff face and the endless ocean, and this nameless wonder child should be content there, even if she is daft. That is where we shall proceed!" He hefts me up onto his shoulder, my silken hair, which use to float around me like a protective cocoon, trailing down to drag upon the dirt-covered floor, creating a distinctive pattern all the way from the castle entrance, up the numerous dark stairways, and into the tower room, where I would be imprisoned.
As he locks the door, the Prince glances through the window of bars in the door of the dark, frightening tower room.
"It's a pity you are deaf and dumb," he says wistfully, "because you would have made a lovely woman. Goodnight, and I hope to learn your name by tomorrow afternoon, if you would tell it to me... Sweet dreams," he says finally, turning from me in this dank, wretched room. I collapse against the door, and realize that crying must be acceptable to the Sea Witch's curse, because I am allowed to push sobs past my throat and into the open air, spoiling the serenity of the sea breeze blowing in from an open window.
After a short moment of nothing but misery and sorrow, I stand unsteadily and shuffle towards the open window, unbarred, bars being unnecessary on a window so high up from the crashing waves and jagged rocks below.
The view is stunning, an open panorama of oceanic scenery, brightly luminescent stars dotting the sky from horizon to horizon, and a sense of eternal serenity, which permeates my soul and settles for the night. I know that this tranquility will not last until the morrow, just as I know I will not care to live to see that calmness broken with the breaking of dawn. I will not care to see my energy given into the hands of the Sea Witch, and I know the only way to guarantee my afterlife, the true destiny of mermaids: floating as sea foam, everlasting and unchangeable.
I have star gazed long enough. The sky is brightening to the East, and the frigid stasis of this room will soon enough melt, and I will be forced to live. I may have made mistakes, trusted the deviousness of a demon in disguise, but with one last choice, I take my destiny into my own hands, this time with no way to be cheated out of my happiness. Whether footed or finned, I will be my own soul, escaping the grasps of dirty, untrue hands.
The window is small, but the ledge is large enough for me to balance upon for a short while, dainty human feet dangling above the sonorous bashing of ocean against land, where jagged rock teeth worship the sky, straight-backed and obedient. It is fitting, I suppose, as I propel myself from the window ledge and plunge towards the ocean depths. In that moment, hair streaming behind me, I am a girl with wings.
*thanks for reading, this was a project done for class. I was supposed to take a fairy tale and make it kinda emo and dark, like an edgar allen poe item, but i'm not sure how fitting it was... i think i did good! but please review, lemme know what grade you think i'll get!*