I wrote a 500 word flash fiction to celebrate 500 Twitter followers. Enjoy!
He almost kept her a secret.
He was very young, barely out of adolescence. He was young enough to feel the world had no surprises when he first heard the noise, the splash and rustle against the black rocks that made him think: Fish. Bird.
But no, it was too big a sound for that. He stood and waited. There – it came again. Splash. Rustle.
Then a gasp.
He walked slowly to the base of the cliffs. There, twisted in the rocks, was the wreckage of a fishing net, a snaking tangle of floats and lines and rope half floating on the outgoing tide.
Caught in the nets was a mermaid.
Her eyes were the exact color of the December sea the moment the sun first crests over the waves, the dark, steel blue of light against winter water. She blinked when she saw him, once, very slowly.
He had a knife in his pocket; he was not very far removed from boyhood, when a sharp knife in your pocket seems entirely appropriate and often necessary. It was not much trouble to cut the net, although his heart twisted as she fell free and dove beneath the waves.
He sighed and stared after her, but the sun was at the wrong angle. All he saw were choppy flashes of light across the waves. He ran his fingers through his hair, pocketed his knife, turned toward the shore.
She surfaced, then, and wrapped her arms around his neck.
He’d heard it said mermaids have no tongues, but that was not his experience. He’d heard they were cold, like fish. But she was not cold. Her skin was warm, and she tasted of the ocean. Her lips. The delicate curve of her collar bone. The alabaster skin of her breasts.
After that morning he refused to leave the sea. He slept on the cliffs. He ignored school, instead walking the lonely shores, sometimes calling to her, although he did not speak her language, did not even know her name.
One hot day in late July, he realized this would kill him. Not now, of course; he was still young and strong. He could walk the shoreline for years. For decades.
And she would not come to him.
And it would kill him.
He ran his fingers through his hair and stared across the waves. She may be worth dying for, he thought.
Or maybe not.
So he moved to Kansas, as far from the ocean as he could imagine. He married a farm girl who’d never seen the sea, who had difficulty imagining water stretching to meet the sky.
He did not speak of his youth.
But one evening, when he was close to ninety years old, he turned to his great-grandchildren and told them a story. About a mermaid.
His sons and daughters shook their heads, worried he was losing his mind. His grandchildren found the story deeply unsettling, and perhaps inappropriate for children.
But the children – they believed him.
I believe him still.
Click here for Going Home Again, my 400 word flash fiction.
Click here for 300 Days, 1 Ring, my 300 word flash fiction.
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