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The Depths To Which We Sink

Melissa Mead lives in Upstate NY. She's always thought it would be fun to be a mermaid. Her Web page is here: carpelibris.wordpress.com.

The ocean is a dark place, and cold enough to chill the soul. But mermaids have no souls.
We forget that, with our tales of mermaids singing beneath the sea. It's dark there, and the pressure builds until only the strongest souls can bear it.
We forget all of that. We think that young mermaids only come to the world of air and light in search of love. We forget that the youngest and most famous of them was looking for a soul.
We forget that it was her own grandmother who set her on this path. We forget that it was her older sisters, lacking souls of their own, who gave her the iron knife and the stark choice: Kill your human love, or cease to exist.
In the dark beneath the waves, life needs to make its own light. Some creatures of the sea use their lights as lures, a tiny spark leading prey into their ravenous maws.
In the deepest depths, where the weight of water above is so great that no mortal human can escape being crushed, a Thing spoke to the littlest mermaid's grandmother. It made her feel her lack of a soul, and gave her the fear of Death.
And she, in turn, gave this sense of emptiness to her granddaughter, and sent the girl to seduce a human prince.
When that failed, and the human prince sought another, the Thing in the depths heard the grandmother's heartbroken cry, and rejoiced. It sent the girl's sisters with the knife, and the command that the youngest must slay her human love.
The grandmother found out too late to stop them. She swam as deeply as she dared, until the Thing's treacherous light glimmered below her, and pled for the girl's rescue.
The Thing in the deepest depths only chuckled. "Doesn't the foolish fry realize that if she stains her soul with murder she'll be worse off than she was with no soul at all? Of course, you didn't. She'll come into my net as surely as you did. Tell me: Do you even remember what your mortal man looked like, after all these years?"
The grandmother didn't speak, for her anguish made her as silent as her granddaughter.
"And she'll bring her sisters to me with her, since they're the ones who gave her the murder blade. What a good servant you've been! I'll give you a hundred more years of life for each of these souls that you've brought to me along with your own."
Merfolk cannot cry. Their tears would only blend with the ocean around them. But the grandmother's heart cried out in silent agony. She waited for the taste of the human prince's blood to stain the water. The Thing's laughter drummed in her ears like a hurricane surf.
I'm sorry, my granddaughters. I'm sorry.
She tasted iron in the water. But not blood. The knife, unstained, spiraled slowly through the water.
Realization hit her. Her granddaughter, the youngest, that brave little minnow, had thrown away what seemed her only chance for an immortal soul. She'd refused to listen to the voice in the deep.
The grandmother had once failed the same test. But in the glint of steel, she saw a second chance.
She grabbed the knife and dove deep, the blade thrust out before her, swimming with all her strength and power, and the speed of a deadly arrow. The Thing in the dark would never laugh again.
And in the deepest ocean, her light shone bright at last.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, September 11th, 2017

Author Comments

While I love Disney's version of The Little Mermaid, it leaves out a lot from the original story. Like the grandmother: Surlalune Fairy Tales.

- Melissa Mead
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