...And Found

Tim Tucker

It was as if the sea had birthed fourth a goddess.

The ocean churned. A brilliant luminance fluttered like a breath of fresh air through the Summer morning sea, rising with a sputtering of bubbles.

Like a flash of lightning in the inverted blue sky she broke through the surface. She was ancient yet beautiful, the shimmering red coral hair, the sinuous, almost translucent upper body and a gloriously flowing caudal fin that glistened like fire under the sun. As quickly as she had surfaced she plunged back into the ageless tide in a spray of foam. She moved with a silky, sensuous grace through the darkened waters, a soft mirth escaping her mouth. After swimming for what felt like an eternity she finally saw the shore stretched along the horizon.

The man was there. He was a young man with sun darkened skin and a strong, solid body. There was a woman on the beach with him but unlike the man she was stocky and pale, as if a beached manatee had found its way into an ill fitting bathing suit. The two lovers talked and laughed, they held hands and listened to music out of a small box sitting on the sand.

The mermaid floated to the surface and for a long time just laid in the swell of her emergence, jade eyes locked on the beach. Cold, dark water flowed through her veins. Although she was a creature bound to the sea she still had a woman's ways about her; the sly, silken vanity that coursed through the hearts of women and goddesses alike. She could feel an incoming change in the air, the eventual departure of Summer and lingering arrival of Autumn. It would probably be a very long time before she saw him again.

He must come in the water. Today.

The couple devoured the sun upon the beach. Soft alternative rock played from the radio and the woman, Vanessa, stirred restlessly on her towel. The man, Eric, turned his head from where he cushioned it on his chiseled forearm and stared at her.

"You ok babe?" Eric asked.

"I'm sorry, ever since that dream last night I've kinda been on edge." Vanessa said.

"Ah c'mon, don't let a little bad dream spoil the fun in the sun! Relax will ya?"

She lay there, arms folded across her hefty bosom. "I know, but it just felt so real."

"You know you never told me what the dream was about."

Vanessa averted his gaze. "I...don't remember all of it, it's kind of hazy." she lied.

"Let me guess, you were with another man?" he asked, lazily stretching.

"No." she said.

"Well, I was with another woman?"

Vanessa winced as if physically struck. "Eric, don't say that!"

"Don't tell me you're still jealous even in your dreams too? So tell me was she a blonde?"

"Oh my God I'm so going to hit you, I'm not joking."

"Relax babe, I'm just kidding. This dream, it really got you down huh?"

Vanessa nodded. "I know this is the last day of our vacation but ever since last night I've just been hella shook. I don't want to ruin this last day together."

Eric propped himself up and took her hand in his. "Having you here means the world to me. Nothing can ruin our time together. Nothing."

They held each other under the embrace of the sun as the afternoon rolled along like a gentle tide. The radio next to them played softly. They lay motionless on the whispering sand, eyes closed, the minute prickle of sweat the only motion upon their bodies.

Eric lifted his head slightly, listened to the ambiance.

The radio whispered in return.

He rested his head back down.

Vanessa felt him lift up again. She opened her eyes as he rested on his elbows and stared toward the endless horizon.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

"Oh-it's nothing." he said, lying back down.

"No, it's something."

"I thought I heard something."

"The radio?"

"No, something else."

"Well, was it someone else's radio?"

"No Nessa- wait, there it is again!"

They both lay still, listening.

"I don't hear anything." Vanessa said unevenly.

"Ssshhh! Damnit I'm trying to hear..."

The waves caressed the shore like glossy slabs of shimmering slate.

"Somebodies crying." he said.

"What?"

"I swear it sounds like someone crying."

"No way."

"Just listen."

They listened intently.

"I don't hear anything." she said, the color slowly draining from her face.

Eric rose to his feet. There was no one else along the coast. The wind whispered through the sands and coursed as gentle as a woman's breath on their bodies. He took a step toward the sea.

"Wait!" Vanessa cried.

Eric looked down at her, puzzled. She turned the radio dial up louder, shattering the afternoon air with punk rock. He made a disgruntled face and clapped his hands to his ears.

"Would you turn that down!?"

"This is my song!" she turned it up even louder and rocked her body, banged her head, anything to appear interested.

He marched over to the radio and flicked the dial down. "Seriously, I swear I can hear someone crying out there!"

"Eric honey there's no one out there, can we just -"

"There! Look!"

He pointed towards the sea, past the many small and insignificant waves to where what appeared to be a person thrashing about helplessly. Vanessa's blood turned to ice. The dream...oh my God the dream is coming true.

"Wait here!" Eric shouted. "I'll be right back!"

"Don't go out there! Call the lifeguard!"

"There's no time!" he ran towards the water, towards the waves.

"Come back!" Vanessa screamed. "Please don't go!"

He ran, and Vanessa ran after him, crying, tears streaming from her eyes. This is just like the dream but you can't have him, she thought wildly. Whoever or whatever the fuck you are you can't have him! We're going back to our hotel room together and first thing in the morning we're leaving this miserable fucking place for good!

Eric leaped into the rushing waves.

Under the sea a flash of lightning stirred. She waited and waited until finally she saw the man swimming toward her, his powerful arms and legs stroking against the increasing pressure of the water. When they first locked eyes neither moved, the ocean current gently lapping against their bare skin. The mermaids crimson lips parted into a ghost of a smile that faltered as quickly as it came when the man's face began to contort, his eyes bulged, and his mouth gaped in horror. She wrapped him in her silken embrace and could almost feel the life ebbing from his convulsing body.

Men are such fragile things. After such a long time of waiting she couldn't help but feel slighted. The man hung loosely in her arms, eyes staring into nothing, just a limp, dead thing now.

Silly man, you're just like all the rest.

The mermaid snarled, revealing a row of piranha like fangs. There was still some fun to be had with her play toy.

Some hours later Vanessa paced restlessly along the shore. The soft strobe of ambulance lights pulsed into the twilight air as emergency workers combed the beach, the coast line, the waters. A sudden wave surge carried the man back to his lover who waited hopelessly under the dying light.

"ERIC! OH MY GOD NO!"

What's this bitch crying for? At least I gave him back!

THE END