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Who doesn't love a good mermaid tale?

By Claudia NeavesPublished 3 years ago 7 min read
Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

So loud were the sputtering pops of the driftwood aflame, the waves crashing against the craggy shore, and his own whooping hollering cheer, that at first Declan didn’t hear her. Then, in a perfect pause between the fire, the waves, and his jubilant exclamation, came the voice again. It might have been an angel’s voice, the way Declan whipped around, breathless, desperate for the first sign of island life he had heard in weeks. She might have been an angel too. Declan ran a trembling hand through his sweaty hair when the beauty, half submerged in the sea, asked a third and slightly exacerbated time:

“Well what exactly are you celebrating?”

Declan laughed nervously. Weeks, weeks! he had been on this island and not a sliver of a soul had appeared to him. Here now lounged the pretty female, poising herself among the water and rocks as if she had been there the entire time. He pointed behind her and she followed his gesture to see the massive shadow of a ship, nearly eclipsing the setting sun on the horizon. The ship was heading straight for the island.

“See that!” he said, still pointing to the ship. The girl squinted at the ship. “See, I’ve been deserted here. But this fire, this fire that I built—” here Declan paused in order for the finesse of his fire-starting skills to sink in for effect— “this fire has signaled that ship! And they are turning around to get me!” He beamed proudly, glancing between the roaring fire and the girl, waiting for her reaction. She didn’t look especially impressed, but she did smile. Declan noticed her teeth looked small and sharp. A trick of the setting sun and the firelight, he supposed.

“And what did you do to get deserted here in the first place?” she mused.

Declan could have told her about the merchant ship his uncle owned. How he, an apprentice cartographer at best, had been left in charge of navigation. When their ship landed on the tiny island instead of a port teeming with potential customers, his uncle and the rest of the crew had sent him into the thicket to search for food or water. When he returned to the beach, the ship had already gone. He thought about that first night, and how he wept bitterly under the stars, praying for his uncle to come back for him.

“Pirates,” he said instead.

“Of course,” said the girl sternly. “Dastardly pirates.” She was making fun of him, but Declan was distracted. Over her shoulder he saw something that reminded him eerily of the shimmering of fish scales.

“What is that,” he murmured. He didn’t think she could hear him over the waves and the fire.

“Come closer,” she purred.

Declan obeyed, moving over the crag and rock so that he was only a foot or so away. Her hair and eyes were the color of squid ink and when she grinned at him, Declan could more closely see the tiny double row of pointed teeth. It should have put him on guard, the teeth, but so lovely was the rest of her, that Declan plain forgot about them. There were scales on her cheekbones and a few along her naked collarbone and chest. The scales had the same opalescent quality as that of her tail, which she flicked lazily in and out of the water.

“Mermaid,” he said stupidly, because among the multitude of things he could have said, it was the only thing that came to his mind. The mermaid preened.

“What is your name, boy?”

In a solitary moment of clarity, Declan paused. He wondered briefly if telling your name to a mermaid might be at all like giving it to a faerie. He thought for a moment then said, “my uncle calls me Dex” because it was true and because it seemed safer. His voice laced with an Irish brogue, the mermaid must have thought he said “Deggs” and that’s what she called him. Every time she said it, Declan’s smile would deepen, and his heart would pump faster.

“Deggs,” she said, brushing one sweet finger along his jaw line, “I’ve never met anyone like you.” He took her hand in his, cradled it, and cupped it against his cheek. He was wilting under her touch. He let his legs dangle so that he too was partially submerged. The water was cold, but he didn’t mind. So long as he was close to her.

“Where do you come from?” he asked. He had heard the legends yes, of mermaids and fae and other magical beasts. But he had never thought he might come so close, let alone find himself under the loving gaze and caress of one so beautiful. She sighed, looking out into the ocean, where the ship was still steadily making its way to the shore.

“Misery,” she answered softly. “Misery and tragedy. We are the women burned for witchcraft. The mothers who died in childbirth. The wives of men who beat us bloody.” Declan’s throat bobbed, spiking tears at the pain in his beloved’s voice. He moved closer to her, now up to his waist in the water.

“Which one are you?” he asked, moving her hand so that he might bring his lips to kiss her open palm. She tossed her hair over her shoulder.

“I don’t remember. All of them, I suppose.” Declan shivered.

“Will you kiss me, Deggs?”

He obliged, of course he did. Her mouth was salty susurration on his. Like the ocean. Or like teardrops. He kissed her like he was underwater and needed air. She kissed him like she was starving. When her slender hands looped around his wrists and began to tug, he stopped.

“What are you doing?” he was up to his neck, treading water. He hadn’t remembered leaving the crag. The mermaid pouted.

“You’d rather get on that ship than be with me,” she whined, tossing a scornful glance to the behemoth vessel. “You’re just like the rest of them.”

Declan was hurt. He drew her closer and kissed her black hair. It was getting darker and the moon was making an appearance, casting its reflection in her strange eyes.

“No,” he amended. “I do want to stay with you. But when the ship arrives, I’ll have to board.” The mermaid’s bottom lip quivered, as if she might cry. “You could come with me!” he said. She made an angry snort.

“You know I cannot do that.” Her tail flicked with irritation. Then her eyes lit up in the moonlight, as if she had a brand-new idea.

“I could drown you,” she offered. Declan was appropriately startled. She reassured him with a kiss on the cheek. “If I drowned you, we could stay here forever.” She gestured to the crag, the dark waves, the island behind them. Without her, the island had been his prison. But with her sweet lips trailing up and down the column of his throat, Declan thought it could be his Neverland.

“Will it hurt?” he asked shakily. He had almost been drowned before, in an early expedition with his uncle. The crusty merchant had leapt overboard after him, dragged him to safety, and thumped on his chest until the boy sputtered up water and seaweed. Declan could recall his fear as he sank further and further below the surface, his lungs filling with water that felt like shards of glass.

The mermaid placed her hands on his shoulders. Her fingers were webbed, and her nails were long and wickedly sharpened. Declan hadn’t noticed that before. She didn’t answer his question but when she put her lips to his ear, she nibbled at the lobe before telling him, “promise me you won’t scream.”

He didn’t promise. And he did scream.

Silent screams beneath the water bubbled to the surface, popping into nothing. He did stay rather still, even if he did scream, which she really appreciated. It was always so much more difficult when they struggled. When the screams stopped and Degg’s eyes went glassy, she watched him float to the surface.

“Now wake up,” she told the corpse, but he didn’t. She began to cry.

“Oh, this isn’t fair,” she whimpered. “It’s not fair that boys always die when you drown them.” She wrapped her arms around herself and sobbed.

“Not fair, not fair,” came the voices of her sisters, swimming languidly to join her in a melancholy song. “Oh, this always happens to us when we drown them. It isn’t fair.” Mother Mermaid appeared then too. She smoothed back their hair, wild tentacles of black curls beneath the shadowed water’s surface and wiped the salty tears from their cheeks.

“There now,” hushed Mother Mermaid. “We could always eat him.”

“Eat him, eat him, yes,” sang the girls. Their sharp teeth and nails glittered.


The captain packed away his spyglass and shook his head wearily. “Resume the course,” he told his first mate. The younger man gaped. They were so close to the boy who lit the signal and his pretty companion swimming near the crag. They had been eager to help whoever had flagged them down. But while the men aboard the ship had clapped and whistled when they saw that they had been called by a boy and the young, black haired girl, the captain had grown quiet. The first mate had noticed them disappear among the waves but figured they would swim back to shore when the pair saw the approaching vessel. The captain however, sighed deeply and ran a freckled hand over his grisly face.

“We won’t be rescuing the boy,” he said by way of explanation. “But when we return to the mainland, we will tell his story.”

“What story?” asked the first mate. He produced his own spyglass from the folds of his red coat, scanning the waters for the couple. Instead of answering, the captain cupped his hand around his ear, as if to intensify his hearing.

From the water, deep below the surface but still audible to the men aboard the ship came a sweet symphony of female voices. The men flooded the deck, leaning over to hear the siren’s song. Their eyes filled with tears and their hearts filled with love.

“Turn it around!” shouted the captain over the voices. The captain was very old, wizened by his years on the sea. While the young men of the ship heard a lover’s shanty, a flirtatious bard, the laughter of a beautiful lass, the captain heard only one thing:

A warning.


About the Creator

Claudia Neaves

Mother, Soldier, Physician, Reader, and Writer

If you like me on the page, you may enjoy a more immersive listening experience. Catch my episodes, Destinations and Beyond a Shadow on Full Body Chillls by Audiochuck

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    Claudia NeavesWritten by Claudia Neaves

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