[this is a fiction post- while I keep my nail posts squeaky clean, my fiction will occasionally contain some nsfw content]
At five thirty in the morning, grey-purple mammatus clouds cloak the morning sky like curdled milk over tea. The earth beneath Pearl’s worn shoes is littered with broken branches from the storm, and each step sounds with a squish. When the path cuts just behind a dock on one of Elkeye’s many man-made beaches, the quiet is interrupted by a man yelling.
“Get up. Hey. Hey, there somethin’ wrong with you?”
Pearl begins to jog.
“Hey! Fuck off!” the same voice cries. She hears a heavy thud and the snapping sound of someone smashing down a different trail from town. Pearl runs towards the beach, stops running after the scene she heard playing out becomes visible. The yelling man is quiet now, recovering from a fall. He dusts sand from his thighs and stands upright, his boot poised to kick the crumpled form in front of him. Yens Neilson, bristled like a sea urchin, walks swiftly over to the man and steps in front of him, takes the kick full in his shins. Yens’ face flushes a deep red before he picks the man up by his shoulders, roars something incomprehensible and shoves the man away with his palms. The man hits the sand hard but rights himself and immediately begins running. He seems in no mind to stop when Pearl turns her attention to the lump on the shore.
“Shit,” Yens spits the word. Pearl closes the last of the distance, arriving at his side a little out of breath. The air smells like dredged sand, a musty, cold smell. She pivots to take a closer look at the lump and can no longer get enough air in her lungs.
“Yens, is it—”
“She.” Yens wipes his hands on his apron.
“Why is she… is she injured?”
“Nah, just made some poor decisions.”
“We’re not going to have to—”
“No, we’re not killing anything today.”
Yens takes a few steps closer to the creature.
“This your first time seeing one, Pearly?”
Pearl nods once.
“Shame you never saw one swimming,” Yens says, laughing a little. Pearl keeps silent as they crouch beside the creature. Sand is wedged between the matte green-blue scales of her long tail, sand mites bounce on a sizable gash near the fin. The fin is composed of seven spines; the first six thin and curved like warped knitting needles, the last flat and filed to a sharp arrowhead shape. The membrane between the spines is paper thin and looks like yellow sea glass. Her hair, dark and lumpy like brown seaweed, tangles her entire upper body. In between clots of knotted hair, her skin is like as pale and smooth as sun-bleached driftwood, save for a whirl of scar tissue over her rib cage. Her remaining breast is exposed, nipple pierced with a conical wedge of stone. Murky blue eyes stare at Pearl from above a nose so flat it is almost just a pair of nostrils. Semi-transparent eyelids momentarily slide over her dark seed-shaped eyes. Vomit laced with small fish bones trails down her face, down her neck, stopping just short of where a set of pink gills flap languidly. Her mouth is wide open, she is missing some of her tiny sharp teeth. Her dry tongue thrashes and—
“Do not look in her mouth Pearl, she’ll claw you,” Yens warns and returns to examining the creature’s wound. Pearl closes her eyes tight, steps back, opens them. A set of webbed elongated fingers curl into an odd fist and resume hiding in the mess of hair.
“Like looking up between your legs, looking into the mouth of a mermaid,” Yens says, his lips pressed tight beneath his beard. He stands.
“She’s going to be fine. They’ve got little lungs too, you know. Real tiny ones. Like a lungfish. She’s not using them ‘cause she’s feeling sorry for herself,” Yens says, looking down at her. She suddenly chokes, convulses and gasps for air.
“Not a word. Why would we understand each other? Wait here a bit, while I get my gloves. Don’t want to damage her, don’t want her damaging me. I’m just going to throw her off the dock. Then we’d better start opening. Fishermen need their bait, can’t stop the world for one stupid mermaid.”
The mermaid gurgles, very quietly blowing bubbles in the back of her throat. She coughs, gags, dry heaves, breathes in gasps with underdeveloped lungs. Lake water laps quietly at the shore and she resumes gurgling.
Yens returns wearing leather gloves that come up to his elbows. Pearl remembers them from the shop, while she had noticed water dripping from them before, she had never seen them worn. The creature turns her gaze from Pearl to Yens. He kneels beside the creature and bows his head. Hairless eyebrows rise and crease her forehead, murky eyes holding his reflection. She stops gurgling and closes her mouth. Yens doesn’t move. The mermaid rapidly opens her mouth wide, touches the tip of her dry tongue to the bottom of her chin. Pearl closes her eyes.
She listens to the sound of the water as it melts up against the beach, bugs buzzing along the shore. After minutes, Pearl hears a swift expelling of air, like a bellows. Seconds after the noise, a wet plunk follows.
When Pearl opens her eyes, Yens returns from the end of the dock, wiping his gloved hands on his apron.
A vignette from a longer piece that I gave a quick spit-polish for the blog. I was reminded of this scene when I was reviewing Nerida Singer and thinking of unconventional mermaids. Hope you enjoyed it 🙂