It was my third day trapped out at sea. My throat was dry from lack of water. My body hurt as gentle waves continued to push the scrap metal I laid on. It was one of the bigger pieces of the plane that had survived the wreckage. I was cut and bruised and convinced that at least a few of my ribs were broken.
I looked around drearily as the sun continued to shine down on me, scorching my skin and pushing the dehydration process along at an alarming rate. I knew I wouldn’t last much longer. My long, black hair continued to stick to my face and as I looked out on the ocean, I knew I was alone. There was no sounds of a rescue plane or large boats shoving their way through the waves to my rescue. Hell, I’d be surprised if I was anywhere near the rest of the wreckage. Outside the piece I was floating on, nothing else could be found in the water.
I shut my eyes and thought about my past, my present, and my lack of a future. I had a family at home, a loving husband who would be doing his best not to panic in front of our two little girls. I wanted to cry, how I missed them out here. I wished for a way, any possible way, to get back to them. I didn’t care about what it took or how, I just wanted to be with them. I could feel the urge to cry, but the lack of water in my body refused to let me do so. Instead, it was nothing more than a harsh whimper from my dried out throat.
Then suddenly, there was a bang underneath my scrap metal. My eyes flew open as I pulled my feet up from out of the water. Another bang shook the metal to a point where I nearly fell in. I scrambled to the center and looked out helplessly into the dark blue pits of the ocean. Suddenly a shadow appeared near the top of the water and my jaw dropped as a mermaid broke through the waves and smiled.
She had long red hair and a freckles all over her face. She smiled, two rows of perfect white teeth, and waved happily at me. Her chest and stomach were bare while from her torso down she had a long glistening fin that kicked back and forth. Around her neck was an exuberant, multi-colored shell necklace. As she swam towards me, she began to speak. Her voice raised up and down, almost as if she was singing instead of speaking.
“Well hello there,” she said. “It seems I’ve found another poor, lost soul.” She shook her head as her smile turned to a frown. “I’m Alice, is there any way I can help you?”
“Water,” was all I could croak back to her. Alice nodded and began rubbing a blue shell on her necklace. It began to shine and glow before bursting into dust. The dust floated in the air and as Alice held an empty hand towards me, a glass of pure drinking water appeared. I hesitantly reached for it.
“Oh don’t worry,” Alice said with a laugh. “It’s water that you’re people drink. You’re not the first person I’ve helped before.” I nodded and began drinking the water. It was luke-warm and ran soothingly down my throat. As I emptied the contents of the glass into my mouth, it re-filled itself. I drank it again, but slowly, remembering all of the shows and movies I watched where castaways would get sick from eating or drinking too much.
“There you go,” Alice said. “So what else is there that I can help you with? Seems to me like you could use a lot.”
“I could,” I finally managed to say. I had so many questions for her, like how she was real and if this was actually happening, but there was one thought that prevailed above the rest.
“Can you see if my family is okay and if there is a way I can reach out to be rescued?” I asked. Alice looked at me for a moment and cocked her head and looked to the sky. She began rubbing one of the shells around her necklace before she looked back at me with a smile.
“Let’s do things one at a time,” she responded. “First, let’s check in on that family of yours, hm?” Before I could ask how she reached over and grabbed my hand and placed it on a black shell. Just like before, the shell began to shine and glow before turning into a sparkling dust. This time, the dust settled into the water and before me was my family. My husband was in our backyard with the two girls. Both of them were on the swing set, laughing and playing as my husband sat back in his chair, constantly looking at his phone. His face looked nervous and uneasy, but he managed a smile every time the girls yelled to him. The image began to fade as he stood up to chase them.
“What happened?” I asked. Tears were in my eyes as I had been certain I would never see them again. “Can’t I get another look?”
“I’m sorry, but no,” Alice replied. “How about instead of viewing them, we go to see them instead?” She grabbed another shell and just like before it turned to a shiny dust. This time, it wrapped itself around my legs and soon they began to merge before my very eyes. I struggled to make it stop but Alice just giggled and swam over and pulled me into the water. My body shook for a moment from the shock of the cool ocean rushing around my body. It quickly faded and I found myself swimming with ease.
“Quick,” Alice yelled. “Follow me!” She let out a laugh and dived under the waves. I sat there, still swimming above the surface, watching as my pants and underwear slowly floated away. My shirt was now soaked and so I pulled it off and let it float away as well. I looked around again and saw Alice was coming back to the surface.
“Come on silly!” she said. “Don’t worry, the spell will last until we get back to land. This will be the easiest way to get you back. I just need to stop by home and tell them where we’re going and then we can head for land.”
“Okay,” I responded and watched as Alice dove once again. I took a deep breath, and followed.
As I began my descent after Alice I found that more than just my legs had been modified. Opening my eyes, an almost protective layer had slid down from underneath my eye lids, allowing me to see perfectly in the water. I had only lasted a minute while holding my breath, a side effect of being a former smoker, before I had to gasp for air. Instead of my lungs filling with water, however, I found oxygen and a way to breathe. I couldn’t help but smile as we continued to swim down into the depths. All around me, brilliant colored fish and other marine life passed by, ignoring Alice and myself.
I began to question how deep the mer-people lived when I finally saw it, a gigantic city. There was fluorescent lights illuminating the ocean floor as all of the buildings had been built out of coral. The entire place seemed to have some kind of clear dome around it as well, as if they were protecting themselves from something. Alice turned around and smiled at me and pointed at a large golden gate that we began swimming towards. As we got close, two mermen dressed in some sort of armor and carrying tridents approached us.
Alice held a hand up for me to stop and swam up to the two men. The three of them conversed silently with one another and viewing their lips, I could not make out the language they were speaking in. There was a couple of nods and hand gestures before the two mermen swam behind Alice as she came up to me.
“Is everything alright?” I asked.
“Yes, our king is just very excited you’re here,” Alice replied. “I am to bring you to him immediately.”
“Your king is excited about me?” I asked. I was dumbfounded. Why would the king of mer-people be interested in me?
“Oh yes,” Alice replied. “Surface dwellers are quite the delicacy down here and its been a long time since any of us have had one. Giving you over to the king will help me return to his good graces.” As Alice said this, her hair fell away revealing a sickening green, bald head. Her face and body turned the same color and behind her the two men shifted into looking like the same grotesque figure of Alice. She smiled again, only this time her teeth were razor sharp and looked capable of tearing through anything.
I panicked and began trying to swim back towards the surface as quick as I could, but to no prevail. As I swam I heard the cackle of a vicious monster and as I looked back I saw the shiny magic dust spiraling through the water at me. A strong current of water rushed around me as I felt my fin turn back into legs. I shut my mouth as a rush of ocean water began to enter it and fill my lungs. The last thing I could see before the protective lens over my eyes disappeared was the two mermen rushing forward to grab my legs.
I began being pulled under again. My head felt light and was filled with flashing colors and lights from the lack of oxygen. I continued to fight but my body was not made for these depths and pressures. I felt myself falling out of consciousness as I continued to be dragged down. The last thought I had before everything went dark was of my husband, standing up to go play with the girls on their swing set. I hoped they would be okay.