Author: Siddharth Naidu
He looked at her walking beside him. It was just unnatural but never unreal. She could walk. Of-course, Her flapping tail had turned to trembling legs, once he helped her on to the shore. Scales dropped off into the sand, and her eyes turned a little darker. Her heart lay with him and that would never change. He turned to face her, but her slender naked torso was a beauty he couldn’t yet comprehend. His eyes though glanced at her hips which still remained dewy from her origins. Her hands involuntarily reached out for his. Once their fingers were intertwined it did not matter if, she could walk or He could swim.
He had first seen her stand-up many years earlier. When they were just children. Unmindful of where they belonged or of what they’d become. It was a cloudy morning at the shore, and the small fisher-boy hadn’t had a catch in the last two days. He placed the hooks along the rope twirls and tied them into a knot. Leaving a simple gap for the unassuming fish to enter the pocket. Enough fish and the pocket would close by itself. The clouds rumbled silently and the tide got higher and stronger. As he was about to whirl the pocket into the sea, he heard something. A crackling voice. From behind the piles of rocks a few hundred feet from him. He ran to them to check if something had washed ashore. And there she was. A little frightened girl who crouched behind a thick rock. With her tail flapping on the sand and tears flowing down her cheeks. The boy stood there hesitantly looking at her but somehow managed a smile. She was after a part of the local fables.
11 years later their love was consummated. The mermaid had decided to come live with a man. The man had decided to give her an ocean of happiness. An ocean, he smiled within himself. Days passed by, and the mermaid made the small fisherman’s hut, her home. He wondered at his fortune and awed at her beauty. But as days turned to months, the man felt alone. He would wake up every morning, in her loving arms. Collect his nets and wade to the ocean. The waters felt distant. The persistent gushing, the mysteries which bode well in the heart of the ocean, all seemed very much distant. It was as if he had known everything there was to know. He had the ocean’s most wonderful secret sleeping beside him. His catch everyday meant nothing. He would just stand at the shore and stare at the oceans for someone to hear his plight. He would walk back home, and silently cuddle up with his wife.
It was only an year later that he realised that she would bear him a child. What he failed to realise was that Mermaids only gave birth to Mermaids, irrespective of anything. And that one life seeped into the other no matter what. She of-course knew this, and yet chose her death with him. He had no say in anything. He was silent. The mother gave birth to a child, who had the most luscious hair and the bluest set of eyes. One mermaid died and another took her place. That was the Nature’s law.
As the child grew up, the fisherman saw that it wasn’t only the life that had been passed on. His daughter looked exactly the same as her mother when he had first met her as a child. The fisherman became a father who was never a good husband. But an unexplainble emptiness bit into his soul part by part. He used to walk to the shore and scream. Scream his lungs out. He would sit on the sand cross legged and threw pebbles with all his might into the water. The girl child would wake up after an hour or two, and he would return before that. There wasn’t a hint of doubt. She was a mermaid. He had seen scales form on her thighs whenever they got drenched in rain or otherwise. He had seen two Mermaids in his life while the entire humanity had hardly seen any. And he had loved both. But then what was that inching hole in his crying heart. Was it the fact that his daughter was in no way his daughter? Or was it that he had seen enough of what only existed in folklore? Or was it just the Mermaids curse as the old witches said ? A curse which left no man happy when he forced a mermaid on to the land? Maybe it was all of them. Maybe it was none. No one know exactly. All that was known was he raised his daughter with all the love his soul could muster. But never took care of her. He would just be at the shore all day. Not fishing. Nor screaming. Just existing.
Then one day as his daughter came to the age of being a woman, his father walked her to the shore. His boat was tied up a feet away and rocked around with each coming wave. He requested her to get in it, following which he did the same. And then he rowed the boat. He rowed till the ocean deepened it’s horizon and the water ushered silently. The fisherman took his daughter’s hand into his. He stared at her fingers for a while. And then pushed her out of the boat and into the sea. She gasped and beat her hands and cried for her father to help. He couldn’t. For her sake. She had to get away from the monster he was becoming. Slowly but surely her eyes turned paler , and her legs contracted to form a tail. Her hands thickened and her hair turned rusty brown. And then there it was. He felt a strangeness in his heart. One that made him smile. He saw his daughter and he saw the Mermaid behind the rocks from decades earlier. As his daughter swam away towards a distant sound that called her out, the fisherman lay on the boat’s floor. He didn’t have to row anymore. He just lay there, smiling and staring at the stars which meant nothing to him.