Monday, January 27, 2014
I can remember flashes of what came before, if I really try, but I usually don't. The parts that weren't bad were boring, or else things I imagined anyway, and there's no reason to remember when I first had an idea. Whether I thought of some character's gold eyes from coins passing palms on land, on their boat, in their death.
But I remember the ship, barely a boat. I remember hiding, and what I did to pay passage, and being found anyway, not being given one tenth of the protection he'd promised.
I remember them deciding what to do with me, and I know, from my sisters (and my brothers, and my other siblings--they thought us women; that does not make us so) what they might have done.
But then came the storm, to sweep us away, and their fear outweighed their lust and reason both. They tied my arms and legs that I might not survive, though between the sea and the storm they had no need to waste rope or weight.
I wept, had been weeping, but by the time they finished tying me up to throw overboard my tears were gone. There was hardly any point, crying or not. I would not change their mind. Even if I could, the rain hid them, and the sea would hide them better.
We were scared. I'd been scared and hidden in men's clothing. They'd been scared and threw me overboard.
I wasn't scared when I hit the ocean and got the wind knocked out of me. I wasn't scared when one of my sisters swam up and smiled at me. (I'd thought she was a brother, in the first moment, wondered if there were male mermaids. There are, though she was not one of them. Just as my brothers and many of my other siblings were thrown over when seen for something they weren't, she was thrown over when seen for what she was, seen for what no one had ever believed her to be until it got her drowned.)
She took the ropes off my arms and held me, pulling me down fast enough that the weight pulled my feet up instead of down, and she pulled me down deeper, deeper, enough that I should have been blind but somehow I saw something.
Mariette leaned close to my ear and whispered, "Breathe." I don't know why, but I did.
When I woke, my lungs burned. But my ears were better, sharper; I knew how to move my tongue; the water soothed me when I let my body work my lungs as reflexively as it had always done. My legs...weren't. They were not the tail I have now, not yet, but they were joined, and the rope that had bound them was twisting into my skin. Now, it's a line of gold-brown against my shiny dun. Then, it itched.
I pushed myself up, learning a new body, shrugging out of a shirt that had not fit well when dry and unripped. "Elena," I said to the person who had saved me.
"Mariette," she said, and smiled. She had beautifully sharp teeth. "You'll hunt for yourself when your tail comes in. Until then, I'll help you."
"Are you, ah..."
"I'm a woman. Most of us are." She cocked her head to one side. "And you?"
I blinked. She'd seen me half-dressed. "A woman."
She almost smirked, but her eyes were warm. She knew something I didn't, but I'd learn it soon enough.
I hunted, and I learned, and I sought ships. And every time a ship threw a soon-sibling overboard, we tore out chunks and drowned the sailors and brought our new sibling into our fold. Sometimes we spread; sometimes we joined the seafoam and the wind and the storm; always we sang.
We were never bad luck. Just the fools who threw us overboard.