Chapter one


Light glittering through water is still strikingly beautiful, despite my having grown up around it. I don't spend a lot of time near the surface – the creatures of the deep never fail to fascinate me. I have seen things humans (and some merfolk) haven't even dreamed of - things that would give them nightmares. They leave me alone, of course. It's very rare that a deep-sea animal ever takes interest in a mermaid. It's not that they hate us – they just don't love us. An angler fish, for example, would just as soon bite us as snuggle in a grove of kelp. Or, better yet, stay away all together. There are more aggressive animals – the ones that humans have glimpsed, dismissed as tricks of the light, and held as legends for centuries. These are the ones that will not hesitate to kill me if I stray too close, so I do have some boundaries, but not many.

Anyway, due to my fascination with deep-sea expeditions, I'm not the tanned beauty my kind is accepted as. Sometimes I'll come to the surface and see my sisters lounging on rocks, basking in the warm sun, looking every bit the stereotypical mermaid. They are the ones who will giggle and wave at drunken sailors, knowing that no one will believe them when they try to tell them of the beautiful maiden sitting on the rocks. Even if they did go and look, my sisters would be long gone.
Sometimes, rarely, but sometimes, they will sing to them. That's where the legends of sirens come from. Some of my older sisters might have even originated the legends. We do live that long. I have the same relationship with them as I do with the fish from the deep.

I, on the other hand, am nearly the precise opposite of my sisters in appearance, as well as mannerisms. My tail is more muscular than theirs, from my constant roaming; my skin rarely sees the sun, serving as a stark contrast to the deep tan they've been for as long as I can remember. Sometimes I think about how long it would take to become to match my sisters, and decide that it would be a futile endeavor.
I don't really have a home, one singular place that I call my own – none of us really do, but I don't spend a lot of time in one place, like my sisters and those rocks of theirs. I'm not entirely happy unless I'm on the move, encircling the continents or wandering aimlessly through open sea, skimming the dark floors.

At the moment, I was quickly moving upwards in powerful surges, propelled by my strong tail. I was somewhere near Northern Ireland, I think.
I slowed as I got near the surface, stopping beneath the waves. Cautiously, I lifted my eyes just above the water, and checked the shoreline to see if there were any humans nearby.
There weren't. So I ducked back underwater and swam up the rocky bottom, toward the shore. It was richly populated with underwater flora and fauna, with brightly colored starfish and anemones around every rock. I stopped by one of the said anemones and gently touched its tendrils with my fingertip. It immediately recoiled. Same to you too, I thought.

The water got shallower and shallower as I got closer to the shore. I finally reached the sand, where I could sit upright with half of my body out of the water, and did so. The first thing I noticed was that it was very, very bright. Apparently it was a sunny day.
So I closed my eyes and laid back in the sand, my tail submersed in the water. The sun immediately warmed my skin, icy despite being warm-blooded. It felt nice, I had to admit. The light was still a little too much, seeping through my eyelids. I rolled over, shoved my hair – which was absurdly heavy when I was out of the water - out of the way and buried my face in my arms, thoroughly enjoying the heat the sunlight gave to my skin.
Despite my natural weariness of the land, I managed to fall asleep, and soon dreams overtook me.

In my dream, I was a very, very small fish. The world was huge and terrifying, but at the same time held the same beauty from the waking world, simply magnified. Once the fear dissipated, it was …breathtaking. Or at least as breathtaking it could be when one used gills.
So I looked around for a bit, taking in the scenery.
Then, I was struck by the sudden urge to search. I couldn't say for what, but I had to find something, or maybe even someone. I swam frantically, searching everywhere for this something I needed to be whole, this missing piece. The largeness of the world was now a disadvantage. I sped through the water, faster and faster, feeling more and more desperate. Where? Where was it?
In my frenzy, I hadn't noticed how far I'd gotten out to sea. In every direction was blue, nothing but blue. Light blue above, dark blue below, the distant blue more of a grey. Shapes were everywhere, approaching shadows in the featureless water. I curled up on myself, hoping it would go away. I could feel them getting closer. I closed my eyes tighter, but somehow my eyelids had completely disappeared. I had no choice but to see.
I felt something brush my forehead. I looked up, terrified, expecting -

My eyes snapped open. For a brief moment, I was horribly relieved to find I was still on the beach, lying in the sand. My breathing, previously uneven and jagged, slowed as I calmed myself down, now that I knew what was real and what wasn't. I wondered what time of day it was. I'd probably been asleep for quite a while.
I propped myself up on my elbows, intending to see if it had gotten darker… and froze.
There, kneeling in front of me, his hand quickly withdrawing from me as he stared at me with wide, bright, green eyes was… a human.