If anyone's reading this from the beginning, I'd like to mention that this has been on hiatus for quite a while so I'm coming back and rewriting it all, one chapter at a time, to fit better with where the plot and overall theme are going, because I'm taking it in a different direction than I originally thought. I still have the original chapters saved for reference, but as per me, this is canon now. Please enjoy :)
Chapter One: Ondine
The way the sunlight filters through the water never fails to strike me as particularly beautiful, in the way it sparkles off the particles of sand and rock tossed up by the crashing waves near the shore. I know the sea is cold in this part of the world, but I can feel the subtle warmth across my face nonetheless.
I've never truly spent a lot of time near the surface, as I prefer to explore the darker waters. The Deep calls to me in ways I don't understand, and I feel inexplicably at home with the intense pressure supporting me from every side and the calming serenity of utter stillness.
Exploring the deep waters isn't without its dangers, of course; the mythologies of humans, with their krakens and their sirens and the like, are perhaps more accurate than they know. In my wanderings, however, I've had encounters with beings so elusive and ancient that they've almost completely managed to escape capture by the human imagination.
The ordinary animals leave me alone, of course. They sense my otherworldliness as I sense theirs, and while there is some level of mutual respect ingrained by nature we simply don't interact.
I am not so invisible to others like myself, however. I've never been attacked or even truly acknowledged, but in the darkness they know I am there.
Humanity has many names and legends that touch upon the true nature of my kind, and every interpretation has its own element of truth. My sisters and brothers have inspired legends of horror and of wonder alike; many have been lured to their deaths by my kind, entranced by our beauty or by our music, while others have simply stared with the childlike wonder they seem to forget upon adulthood.
All imaginable manifestations of the world exist in physical form, if we know how look for them.
I propelled myself towards the surface, following the rise of the seafloor and feeling the fluid mass of my hair swell and billow behind me between beats of my tail. I traveled quickly, not stopping until I could see the whitewater from the waves crashing above me and the deceptively distant sounding of the tide could be heard.
Letting myself drift the rest of the way to the surface, I lifted my face to just above the water and checked the shoreline. It seemed secluded enough; the cliffs surrounding the beach were steep, and patches of sand were interspersed with slippery rocks that would've made it difficult for beach-goers to relax, should they find their way down the cliffs safely.
I slipped back underwater and made my way in to the shallows, cautiously moving over and around the larger rocks offshore. Many were peppered with anemones and various starfish; I reached out and touched a green anemone's tendrils, allowing it to grip my fingertip before I gently pulled away.
The water became shallower, and I couldn't swim any longer without damaging the lacy webbing of my tail and in between my fingers. I found a grip on a larger protruding rock, and hauled myself partially out of the water.
Apparently it was a sunny day.
I closed my eyes and let my spine arch to accommodate the curve of the rock. The waves rolled over the length of my tail, which was left submersed in the water.
The water that hadn't rolled off immediately was dried up by the sun in minutes, and my hair tossed in the wind where it had already dried. My arms comfortably resting above my head, I fell asleep.
I was suspended on a ray of sunlight in the open waters, unable to move. Bits of matter and tiny creatures floated past me, magnified with unsettling detail. Held captive, I imagined a parade of the smallest of creatures unfolding before my eyes; jointed legs and trailing antennae and swirling flagella composing the most leisurely of spectacles as they drifted by.
I more felt than saw the darkness of the blue water beneath me start to grow. The tiny creatures before me grew fuzzy, and I lost interest in them.
My head wouldn't turn, but I knew the blackness was billowing upwards, like a cloud of ink. It wanted me.
My angle of suspension shifted, and all at once I was facing directly into the Deep. My body was open and unprotected. I blinked, and the blackness blinked back; one by one, little pinpoints of light opened up, not unlike stars.
Movement in the center of the abyss caught my attention. A barely perceptible mass trembled and expanded rapidly; whatever it was, it was rushing straight for me. My body strained against the hold of the beam, but I was rendered completely immobile. Only as the points of light were pulled towards the center and converged, like floating debris in a whirlpool, did I regain enough control to close my eyes.
I took a breath. The sun made the insides of my eyelids transparent. The rock was there, reassuringly solid against my back. Blinking my eyes open to glimpse the mildly overcast sky, I moved my fingers as if to prove to myself that I could and stretched my arms out as they were, reaching out in to the space behind me, empty save for rocks and water.
They were stopped mid-reach by something very much alive.
The barrier and I jerked back as one in shock. I turned around to face the obstacle and found myself staring in to the equally surprised eyes of a man.