Everyone knows it’s too dangerous to swim in the ocean. However, sitting at the end of the docks or peering over the edge of a boat you’ve always felt the inexplicable urge to dive into the water. One day, despite the danger, you give in the urges and jump. There’s an entire world beneath the surface, and it’s not what you were expecting.
Today beat the hell out of me, and I needed to escape. I had to turn over four seemingly innocent people to headquarters. It didn’t feel like I was dealing with criminals, just curious people like myself. I often came to this dock when I needed to decompress. I liked to sit on the edge and let my feet dangle above the water. There was something about the water that soothed me. Maybe it was the sound of the water splashing against the pier and the salty sea breeze. I took a deep breath in and was able to quiet my mind and refocus.
I knew I wasn’t supposed to be here. There were strict warnings everywhere near the ocean about the inherent dangers within. Every entrance to the ocean was sealed shut or blocked off. I stumbled upon this place by accident. Probably the only good thing to come from this job. I was a high-level ocean tracker. I had an uncanny ability to know when someone had been in the ocean. My job was to find them and report their location to headquarters. I knew it was a big offense and most often the people were never seen again. It wasn’t lost on me that I was the biggest hypocrite sitting here by the ocean.
I knew my own feelings put me at odds with my job, but I just didn’t believe the stories about the ocean. I thought the truth was being hidden, but I couldn’t figure out why. I tolerated this job because It kept me near the ocean. Although, every time I was near the water, I had an overwhelming urge to dive in. I often fantasized about what it would be like to jump in and feel the briny water embrace me as I sunk down into the deep waters to see what was there. I shook the thought away. Those kinds of thoughts were dangerous. Of all people, I should know better.
As I stared out at the beautiful turquoise waters, my mind wandered through the stories about the ocean. Supposedly, twenty years ago people started becoming poisoned by the waters, as there was something sinister living below the surface. It started releasing poisonous toxins into the waters. As a society we’d even stopped fishing. Now we only consumed fish that were grown in labs and fish factories instead of caught in the wild. No one was allowed out on the ocean for any reason.
As to what the something sinister was, there was no clear answer. Many of the official reports stated that the ocean habitat was no longer compatible with humans. Rumors on the other hand suggest Merfolk ruling the seas after a war was waged, and the humans lost. We were no longer allowed access or privilege to the ocean. Of course, there were also rumors about ginormous killer fish with the intelligence of humans that ate anything foreign in the ocean. Take your pick of crazy cause it was out there.
I didn’t know about huge intelligent fish, but the idea that Mermaids were out there was also kind of tough to buy. Then again, my ability was a little strange, wasn’t it? Why did I have it? I felt like such a traitor every time I used it, which was weird, because at 22 I didn’t know much different than this life. I grew up in this ocean inhibiting era and yet, it still seemed wrong. From what I understood there were only five of us out there with this ability. I could sense the ocean on anyone’s skin. Any trace of the salt left behind from the ocean called to me. I could smell it on someone in a room full of people. It was instinctual to me. I was never trained on how to use it, I just knew.
I was told my parents died when I was two. When this all started, they were taken into custody and were executed for their involvement with some rebel group that supported ocean freedom. I grew up at headquarters, raised by a young and upcoming officer at the time. Carson Smith now ran the show for the entire Eastern Seaboard, and I knew I played a big part in that. My talent helped move him up in rank. I didn’t begrudge him, but I hated using my ability.
I’d never even dipped a toe into the ocean waters as far as I knew. The urge hit me again to jump in the water. I resisted, but the pull was hard. Just as I was about to test the water with my bare foot my phone chirped. I pulled up my feet and sat Indian style on the pier and looked at my phone. There was a message from Carson.
Carson: You missed one! Get your ass back here right now. You have a serious debriefing coming your way.
Fuck! I must’ve been distracted to miss one, but how? They always seemed to call to me, it was effortless to point them out. I knew I was going to catch serious shit for this, and I was tired of it. I hated using my gift to put people away, but in order to stop I’d have to break ties with Carson and leave headquarters. They would hire people to track me down. I’d be on the run for the rest of my life. I felt like I had no other options and was miserable about it. Carson would never understand. He never coddled me or treated me like family. Instead, he treated me like his own personal soldier and sometimes it just made me feel like a tool for his career and not like a part of his family. Was this all my life was meant to be? If so, that would be depressing as hell. I stood up gathering my things when the phone chirped again.
Carson: Sitrep? Where are you? Respond ASAP.
Not two minutes had passed between messages. I was aggravated beyond belief. I turned around and looked longingly at the ocean one more time before I had to leave. My shoes in my right hand, phone in my left. I just wanted a few minutes. The phone chirped again igniting my anger. I threw my phone and my shoes to the pier. Fuck it! If I was going to be stuck in this miserable life than I’m going to jump in that ocean just once. I’d deal with the consequences later. I felt the overwhelming need to do this now. I didn’t stop to disrobe. I didn’t stop to test the waters or consider what I was doing. I ran full steam right into the ocean.
As soon as my body hit the water, I felt a peace come over me that I had never known. I floated in this state for about 30 seconds before the pain started. Immense pain and heat seared my body starting low at my feet. It traveled up my body at a leisurely pace. It felt like I was dying. As soon as the pain hit its peak in my head it stopped completely. Not slowly, just a dead stop. I was so amazed that the pain was over that I forgot I was still in the ocean, and had no need for oxygen either. I looked down at my body and yelped. Well, as best as I could underwater. My body had gone through a transformation and my clothing was shredded or burned away. It was floating down below me in tatters. My legs were gone. In their place was a beautiful fish tail that started with a huge fin that was indigo at the tips. Moving up my body I marveled at the beautiful colors that blended into each other to make up my tail. Indigo into blue, blue into green. My upper body was completely bare save for the fins that were now on my sides and my back. My hair that was a white blond above the surface was now completely indigo to match my fins. I pulled on it to make sure it was mine and felt a stab of pain in my scalp. As if that wasn’t alarming enough, I felt a scratching sensation start at my wrists and run up my arms and end up my collar bones. It wasn’t very painful, but it was enough to make me feel uncomfortable. Thankfully, it only lasted a few seconds. When the scratches stopped and I analyzed my arms, I realized I was staring at wispy strands of seaweed tattooed into my skin. It was beautiful in a strange way. What affected me most was the startling realization that I felt a sense of belonging here. This was home. This was what I was missing on the surface.
I bright smile lit up my face as I swam around in circles and played in the water for a while. I couldn’t remember the last time I had this much fun. I guess the Merfolk rumor was somewhat true because it certainly looked like that’s what I was. Did Carson know? I decided in that moment I didn’t care. I had no desire to leave and go back to my depressing life. As I explored further, I was greeted by a merman. He had a beautiful orange and white striped tail. His fins looked more like the fins on a Lionfish. He was breathtaking as he stared at me with his orange hair floating around his head. I was so taken by his appearance that I didn’t realize he looked shocked. I gave myself a once over and immediately covered my bare chest. I quickly swam towards some of my tattered clothing and tied a swath of cloth around my chest. When I was satisfied with the results I looked back up at my new friend and asked him if he was alright. Instead of answering, he looked at my arms and the delicate seaweed tattoo. He looked back up to my face in awe.
“Your majesty. We have long waited for your return.” He said with a bow.
“Uh, what now? What are you talking about?” I asked as I felt the confusion and trepidation settle into my mind.
“Princess Mira. You were taken from us at only two years old during the great war. It was prophesied that you would return upon your 23rd birthday. Today is that day.”
“What?” I asked as I swam back from him a bit to give myself space. “I just got here like ten minutes ago.”
“I am honored to return you home. Please come with me now. The castle has been prepared for your return and your father is beside himself with worry. There will be a party in your honor. Our people have traveled great distances to witness your return.”
My brows furrowed in confusion. “My father?”
What the hell? Was this guy for real? I stared at his face and his kind smile. He seemed legit and kept staring at me with that awe inspired look that was making me feel uncomfortable. I had to know though. Were my parents alive?
“Come now Princess. I am Evian and my family has served the royal family for generations. It will bring great honor to my family to restore you to yours. Please.” He held his hand out to me and this time I didn’t question my choice. I took his hand and he led me to what I would soon find to be my real home.
On our journey to my new home we passed many different types of Merfolk. They all bowed when I passed, and that uncomfortable feeling just increased as we continued on our way. Once we reached the outer city limits of the kingdom, I was jittery. We approached a gate to enter the heavily guarded city and I swear to God there was an enormous fish with jagged teeth that looked terrifying. What sealed the deal was when it spoke. It was refined and intelligent. These fish were the muscle to keep the riff raff out. When I looked over at the other guard fish, I noticed he had meat hanging off those teeth and I shuddered. So far, all the rumors I’d heard had been true and everything Carson told me was a lie. I felt a bitter taste in my mouth at that realization. I had a feeling Carson knew exactly what I was.
I was distracted from my inner turmoil when the gates opened. If you ever wondered where the lost City of Atlantis was well, now I could tell you because I was pretty sure I was staring at it. It was beautiful with its elaborate architecture and gleaming marble buildings with glowing lights that seemed to light up the city. I stood in awe as I took it all in. I couldn’t believe this was where I came from. Within seconds there were a group of intimidating mermen surrounding me. They had blue skin with fins instead of hair. There were fins on the sides of their faces and one that started on their forehead and extended down their back. Their bodies were all hard muscles and they were armed with harpoons. Their faces were mean and spoke of a hard life. If I had to guess they were warriors. Once I was surrounded, they all bowed simultaneously and greeted me in perfect synchrony.
“Welcome Princess Mira. It is our honor to protect you.”
My mouth dropped open as I gaped at them. They were all for me? My protection? From whom? They escorted me through the city and once again everyone in our path stopped and bowed at us. I was greeted with, “welcome back lost princess” every single time. It was unnerving. Once we reached the castle, I was still marveling at the beauty of everything here and was a little overwhelmed. I was led to my royal chambers where I had little seahorse women waiting for me. I said an awkward hello to which they all bowed and then got to work. I was scrubbed and brushed and poked and prodded. When they were done, I had to admit, I looked the part of a princess, especially with the crown they placed on my head and the matching pieces to cover my breasts. This all seemed so surreal.
There was a light knock at the door that brought me back to my reality. All the little seahorse ladies were gone. I opened the door and was relieved to see a familiar face, Evian.
“Hello again princess.” He said with a charming smile. I felt some of the tension melt from my body. I may not have known him well, but his presence seemed to calm me a bit. “I’m here to escort you to your parents and then to the Emergence Ceremony.” The sheer look of terror on my face must’ve said everything because he started laughing at me. “You’ll be fine. I’ll be with you the whole time.” I was excited to meet my parents but not happy about an Emergence Ceremony. What the hell was that anyway? I blew out a nervous breath and was able to calm myself. I nodded to let him know I was ready.
We were led into a grand open area that I figured must’ve been a meeting room of some kind. There was a huge window that looked out onto the city. My eyes were drawn to it and it was then I saw a figure standing there. There was no doubt this was my father. He had the same indigo hair as I did. His large solid golden crown sat upon his head and his trident in his right hand. He had the same color skin and the same delicate looking tattoos on his arms and chest as I did. The indigo fins he had on his back were huge. They fanned out behind him as he hovered there. Had to be at least three feet taller than me and he radiated strength and power. He had that same mean expression on his face that the soldiers did. He hadn’t realized I was there yet. Evian cleared his throat, “pardon the intrusion your majesty. I bring to you Mira, the lost princess.”
When he turned around to face me, I noticed a change in his body language immediately. His face softened as he took me in. He no longer looked mean but melancholy. I could see regret and sadness in his eyes as he looked me over. He swam over to me and embraced me. I wasn’t expecting it but once I was in his arms, I felt a connection. It was like all my missing pieces were falling into place. I hugged him back and started crying. When he pulled back from our embrace there were tears in his eyes as well. “Welcome home daughter. I’m sorry I couldn’t find you. We’ve been sending spies out over the years, but they’ve never returned.”
Something clicked at that moment. Had I been turning over my own people that were just sent to find me. Suddenly, I felt sick and lightheaded. My father shook me a bit to get my attention. “It’s okay daughter. You didn’t know. You were raised by a sick and twisted man that kept you guarded from us and the truth.”
I didn’t know how he knew, but I didn’t feel worthy of his forgiveness. All those poor people. I was about to ask him how he knew when someone else swam into the room. I looked up at my father and he smiled a bright smile. I could see the love in his eyes.
I turned to look and was shocked to see a woman that looked so much like me it was scary. We had the same color tail, same bright green eyes and high cheekbones. The only difference was her hair was a bright purple. She was crying as she swam towards me. Once she was before me, she reached out and touched my face tentatively. Almost as if she thought I wasn’t real. She started sobbing once she realized I was indeed real, and took me into an almost crushing embrace. “I’ve been watching you in my dreams. I was never one hundred percent certain it was you, but I saw you on that pier. I knew you were going to jump. I was hoping I was right, and you were our lost daughter and would return to us. I’ve never been so happy in my life.”
I hugged her back and started crying again. “Mom!” I felt my connection to her settle in that moment. When we broke our embrace, I looked them both over and couldn’t help but wonder if I had any other family. “Do I have any siblings?” I asked innocently not knowing the pain it would cause them. Their faces crumbled at the mention of siblings.
“All of our children were taken from us. There were five of you in all.” My mother admitted in a whisper.
The blood ran from my face. All the sudden I knew. The four other people on the surface that could do what I could. They were my siblings. I couldn’t believe the extent of evil that existed in one man, Carson Smith. I started shaking in anger. “I know where they are.” I said in a strong sure voice.
My father turned to me and his eyes started glowing purple as his power filled his body. “Take me to them!”