by Christina Zhu
Issue: Elysium (Spring 2012)
She woke up suddenly with her eyes unfocused and the taste of salt in her mouth.
Her hair floated in front of her in what seemed to be slow motion, bubbles escaped from her mouth, and suddenly she realized that she was still stuck in the vortex of an inundating universe of dreams.
Turning her head slowly, the young girl faced her abductors’ ethereal beauty.
At first, their exquisiteness had taken the girl’s breath away. They moved gracefully in the water, not with awkward bumbling movements like most people; they twisted and twirled with ease.
The girl had heard stories, of course, of these phantoms. They lived under the water near her beachside home and their blood ran thick with mysticism. Children would always run into the village announcing they had seen one; it was considered an honor to be taken among them. Her own brother had been taken in this way, and when she reported her missing sibling to her parents, the young girl’s parents merely wept. Whether they were tears of joy or tears of sorrow, she could never quite tell.
It was every child’s dream to be turned into a sea goddess. None of the children’s dolls had two legs – a mermaid’s fin was on every single one.
So when the young girl finally got dragged by a clammy hand into the waters, her heart was filled with joy. She hoped someone saw her being taken under into the supposed land of magic. It was everything she had wished for! No more would she have to endure her tiring life on land! She was quickly losing consciousness when she spared a last thought imagining the look of happiness on her parent’s faces.
Here in the depths of the sea, light filtered through weakly, and nothing grew upon the cold crags of the sea floor. It took her time for her to adjust her eyes in the salty confines of her bubble.
A male mermaid came and swam close to her, smiling all the while. In the dim luminescence, his smile seemed sinister and disturbing; his blue eyes had a parasitic red-tint to them, and his veins throbbed with an obscene color of ash. For once, the girl found herself being just a little bit alarmed.
He swam hypnotically around her, gradually floating closer and closer.
“The dream is collapsing.” He whispered, his voice coming out in a flute-like melody. The words blended in unnatural ways and clouded the young girl’s mind in ways she did not like. “I have seen it before to the other children. Did you get what you wished for?”
“No,” cried the girl, a sudden terror seizing upon her. What little color she had left in her cheeks quickly drained away as she recognized the futility of her fantasy.
“But don’t you recognize me?”
“I don’t know you,” she mouthed, but deep in her mind, his words struck a chord of terror. And suddenly she knew why that smile had always bothered her — it was the same smile that her brother used to give her.
He saw the look of recognition flit across his face, and his smile grew even larger. Other mermaids were beginning to gather around her bubble.