It was odd, this soft yet firm structure I was told to sleep on. I kept looking underneath it, for what I wasn't sure but it just seemed so bizarre. How did it keep itself upright while holding my weight at the same time? It wasn't made of stone like most things under the ocean which made me worry it would collapse. It didn't, though. That fact only perplexed me further.
A knock sounded on the door, making me jolt upright. I was better at legs now and on my feet in an instant. Grabbing the long stick that resembled the spears we used underwater except light emanated from the end instead of a tip, I pointed it at the door.
Bray came in after a moment, eyes widening as he froze. My grip relaxed though I merely scowled as he laughed.
"Please don't light me up, oh brave warrior woman," he said as he held his hands up in surrender. I set the stick back down and moved back to what they'd called my 'bed'.
"Why do you come here?" I asked as I sat down. The soft-yet-firm padding creaked, making me uneasy. He smiled, an expression I was getting used to, as he crossed the room to sit beside me. Immediately, my hands gripped the edges, certain it was going to fall in on itself with two people on top now.
"Don't worry, it won't break," he assured me, making me wonder how he'd known what I was thinking. "I came to check on you. All that moving around instead of sleeping you were doing, I could hear it through the wall."
"How am I to sleep on this?" I gestured wildly at the bed. "And with that?" My gaze moved to the wall directly across from us. A picture hung on the wall, depicting a creature that looked both terrifying and beautiful. It had two white horns curling from its head, making its large body looking even more powerful. Its face had a nose that was large and round with two large holes directly in front. I had no basis for comparison but the deep dark eyes seemed half-crazed, causing me to wonder if it was related to some of the predators in the deep. There was a tail coming from its back end and four legs rather than a fin or two or anything else I'd ever seen before.
I didn't like it.
Bray's gaze followed mine and he shook his head. "That's just a painting of a bull. It's not real." I frowned and huffed.
"I know it's not real. I don't like his eyes," I said, crossing my arms over my chest. The gesture felt awkward but I'd seen humans do it often enough to feel like it was normal. At least to them.
Getting to his feet, which made the bed creak again, he crossed the room and took the picture off the wall. Once he'd set it down, turned so it faced the worn wood rather than the bed, he looked back at me. "Better?" I nodded, shortly, and sighed as he sat back down and we remained upright. A sound like coughing caused me to look over at him. He looked like he was trying not to smile.
"The bed is sturdier than it feels, I promise." I must have looked skeptical so he began to bounce up and down. A squeal escaped me, panic on my face, but soon I was smiling and......was that a laugh?! I didn't even know I could make such a sound. After several more minutes of bouncing and laughing, Bray finally stopped.
"Get some rest, Iaira. We have another long day tomorrow," he said as he got up. Before I could respond, he'd closed the door behind him. I let out a breath, crossing to the window so I could look out at the moon. There was no water in sight here but the moon made me feel like I was back home.
Not that I even knew where that was anymore.
We woke early the next day though I didn't mind. It was dangerous to sleep for too long in the water so I was used to rising when the sun slanted down in dappled waves through the surface. My senses tingled, nerves buzzing though I couldn't pinpoint why. I was getting more used to human clothes but I still felt trapped by them but that wasn't it. It was almost like the charge in the air before a storm rolled through. My face tilted up to the sun, bordered by fluffy perfect clouds, and I frowned. It wasn't that either.
Pushing the trepidation aside, I dressed and met Bray down in the main space of the house. The sound and scent of meat being cooked reminded me of the meager meal we'd had before falling into our beds. I wasn't overly fond of eating things that lived on land rather than in the sea but I knew it was lucky we had any food at all and therefore didn't complain.
As soon as we ate, we set out again. The heat immediately brought moisture to congregate on my skin, curling the edges of downy silvery-white hair around my temple and ears. I huffed, adjusting the pack Bray insisted I carry on my back. We walked in silence for a long time, so long that I actually jumped in surprise when a voice broke through what was previously only the rustling of leaves or snapping of twigs under our feet.
"My mother used to bring me here." A look around alerted me to the fact that we had entered a clearing, surrounded on three sides by tall trees. The remaining side held what could only be described as a waterfall - or at least it had been one. Like almost everything else in nature, the water no longer poured over the rocks as they had before. My heart ached for the familiar sound of rushing water but knew it was pointless to mourn something that had long since been destroyed.
"It was right after we fled our tribe, after we came to land," he continued, not seeming to need me to react or comment for him to keep telling this story. My breath hitched though I didn't dare make a sound lest he stop. This was what I'd been waiting for.
A sharp crack filled the air, cutting off my thoughts as quickly as my consciousness left. When I next opened my eyes, several men were gathered around the clearing. They wore black masks, obscuring their features, but I noticed an insignia on each of their matching black vests. Squinting, I tried to decipher it, my throbbing head making it hard to focus. It looked like....
"Marigold," I murmured, earning myself a growl from the man holding my arms behind my back.
"Quiet!" The command was loud, causing me to bare my teeth. His grip was like a vise, even my excess strength couldn't loosen it. A sound from beyond the man drew my attention, giving me enough time to watch as they dragged an unmoving Bray away. Wiggling desperately, I tried to call out, but a blow to my head halted my efforts.
The man holding me leaned down close to my ear as the edges of my vision began to shadow. "Don't fight. I'm with Bray. He has a plan." The whisper seemed like part of a dream, like the smoke of a genie I couldn't hold onto.
Whatever his plan, I hope he knew what he was doing.
Want more mermaid and underwater fun? Consider reading A Selkie’s Return to the Deep by Lesley Leatherdale!!
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