At the Bottom of the Sea
“Hello? Oh, oh good - you’re awake!”
The human opened her eyes, slowly, in an odd pantomime of anticipation. Philana, sat next to the bed on which she lay, leant forward and tried not to sound too excited lest the human be shocked.
“How are you feeling?” she asked, as gently as she could manage.
“I… I… Where am I? What’s happened?”
“Sssh now, you’re okay. You’re safe here, so there’s no need to worry. Just lie back now and rest.”
But it was too late; the human had already caught sight of Philana’s tail. Philana liked her tail, with its scales of fire, all scarlets and ambers and ochres; living underwater as she did, she had never seen fire before except in books, but she imagined it was rather pretty. The human didn’t seem to think so, however, for her eyes went from the size of pebbles to rocks, before she squeezed them tightly shut again with a whimper.
They were in one of the hospice caves. The entire settlement was made up of a series of refurbished caves, though many of them were painted and decorated so that you’d never know. Leafersonvilleson, that was the name of the village. Philana didn’t know why, but she did know that it was only quite a new settlement; they’d been forced to move here after she was born. After her mother died.
As the human opened her eyes, she must have caught sight of the ceiling, for she remained staring upwards for some time, transfixed. The walls of the cave were a soft white, aiming for a sense of cleanliness, but the ceiling was replaced with a clear glass that allowed for sight up into the ocean. If you looked hard enough, which the human was doing, you could see the glimmers of light beaming down from the surface.
It was why Philana liked the hospice caves; they had a certain degree of natural light from the surface. Sometimes she longed to swim up until the tantalising light could envelop her, but she knew she had to keep that to herself.
She also liked them because they were usually pretty peaceful and quiet; mermaids rarely got sick, so there was never really an issue of crowding.
“Where am I?” the human asked again, more slowly this time, perhaps more accepting.
“A few thousand metres below the surface, at my guess. At the bottom of the ocean, that is. I suppose I should tell you; we’re a community of mermaids, we live in a series of caves that we call Leafersonvilleson. There is absolutely no cause for concern; we’d never hurt any human, provided that they did not hurt us.”
“But - but - mermaids aren’t real, everyone knows that!”
Philana slowly held up a hand, and gently touched the human’s with her own. The contrast between the dark brown skin and the light greenish stood out beautifully.
“We’re pretty real,” she said, trying to ignore her heart fluttering at the warmth that pretty much beamed from the human.
“No you’re not!” the human continued to deny it, shaking her head, and spoke with an air of annoyance, “If we’re underwater, how am I breathing?”
“The nurses must have given you temporary gills,” Philana pointed at the human’s neck, which had a few pink slashes on either side of it. The human touched them with a shaking hand, looking like they were going to throw up.
“I’m hallucinating,” they said, swallowing hard, “There’s no way that this can be real.”
“It is, I promise you,” Philana said, and then looked at the clock on the wall, “Oh shoot, I have to go. My dad, he- well, never mind. It was good to meet you. I will be back to see you, at some point, before they discharge you.”
“Wait!” The human said, as Philana started to stand up, “How did I get here? What happened to me?”
“I don’t know the specifics about your past. Just that I found you floating a few metres below the surface, and you were half-dead. I had no real choice but to bring you down here, so that you could be saved.”
It was the closest Philana had ever been to the surface; she was just waiting for her father to shout at her for it, but she knew it had been worth it.
“You saved me?”
“No, the doctors did.”
“I’m glad I did it.”
“I don’t even know your name.”
“Philana. What’s yours?”
“It’s my absolute pleasure to meet you, Dabria, but I’m very sorry to say that I must be going. Goodbye!”
“- I am absolutely shocked that you would go against my only rule like this, Philana. Anything could have happened! What if-?”
“What if I’d left the human to die, Dad? What then?” Philana responded, but with no anger in her voice. She knew her father was just upset and scared, and she knew exactly why, so to meet his sadness with anger just seemed cruel.
He wrapped her in a hug then, all fierce, strong bones from decades spent on the sea-grass farms growing up. He didn’t use his muscles so much now that he was the mayor of Leafersonvilleson, but somehow he’d managed to keep up his strength.
“You did the good thing, but not the right thing by me,” he said gently but firmly, “You know that you’ve got to keep yourself safe.”
“I’m nearly an adult, dad. Soon I’ll be striking out on my own. I won’t be living in Leafersonvilleson forever, you know that. I - I know you’re just trying to protect me, but… I’ve got to grow up some time, right?”
“I know, I know,” he said, releasing her from the embrace and turning away to gather some papers or something, “It’s just…”
“This is about mum, isn’t it? Come on, you’re not that opaque. Look, there hasn’t been another Siren attack since we moved here; you said it yourself, they’ve probably moved on to look for different prey. Why keep hiding so desperately when it’s probably reasonably safe out there?”
“We’re not hiding, Phil, you know that. We’re protecting each other. And, besides, what if… No, I’m not going to entertain the idea. Look, I have work to be doing, and I’m sure you do too. How’s school going?”
They continued to talk about Philana’s education for a few minutes, and then she felt she had been dismissed from her father’s study, so she wandered off.
Dabria looked a lot better when she next saw her. There was more colour in her cheeks, and she was sat upright in bed reading a book. She folded a page over with delicate fingers when she saw Philana at the door.
“Hello,” Philana said, a little awkwardly.
“Hi,” Dabria replied, and pointed at the book with a smile, “Why do you have human books down here?”
Philana took that as an acceptance of her presence, so she sat down in the woven chair next to the bed.
“I don’t really know, they just kind of appear sometimes. I think someone must really like them, because our library is full of them.”
“Why doesn’t the paper wrinkle?” Dabria asked, “It took me ages to realise that we are, in fact, surrounded by water right now. It’s a weird water, this - so light and non-resistant. But anyway. Why aren’t the pages soaked?”
“Because they’ve been waterproofed,” Philana answered, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“Ah yes of course,” Dabria said, rolling her eyes as if it was the least obvious thing in the world.
“So how are you finding it here?”
“It’s strange. I have everything I want, and yet I’ve never seen a doctor. They must come in while I’m asleep and read my mind or something, because I wake up with fresh bandages on my cuts and with enough food for the day. And just yesterday I was hoping for something entertaining, and then this-” she gestured to the book “-was waiting for me.”
“I’m surprised they haven’t introduced themselves yet,” Philana mused, “But I guess the doctors are still pretty old fashioned; many of them still subscribe to the idea of complete secrecy with humans.”
“And you don’t?”
“Well, I’m here, aren’t I?”
“Why don’t you believe in complete secrecy?”
Philana was growing to like Dabria a lot, in spite of her many questions; in fact, because of them. She didn’t seem to take anything at face value, and there was always some other truth for her to be looking for. Philana, who barely knew her, could clearly see the shining intelligence in her eyes.
“Not really, my dad doesn’t either. I think he wants to have a diplomatic relationship with them, but he knows that will never happen. So he ensures that we rescue any human who needs it, and we take care of them, and then we release them.”
“Your dad sounds like a good guy.”
“He is,” Philana said, and she knew it was true, but the words kept coming, “He’s had a tough time, though, lately. Lots of campaigning stuff - he’s the mayor, by the way. But yeah, he spends all his time doing… political things, I guess. When he’s not worrying about… other stuff.”
“What other stuff?” Dabria said, picking up on Philana’s obvious desire not to elaborate and ignoring it.
“What about you?”
Philana hesitated for a moment, but Dabria’s deep brown eyes seemed honest and almost irresistible.
“Um… my mother, she died when I was younger - years ago, in fact. It was, uh, it was really horrible. Have you heard of sirens before?”
Philana wondered if she saw something flicker in those eyes, but whatever it was had gone too quickly for it to be questioned fully.
“Like the legend? The… mermaid-like things that lure sailors off of boats and drown them?”
“Maybe it’s a similar root. But not quite. These are real creatures - monsters, in fact - that lurk somewhere near the surface. Our community used to live down in a valley, and there must have been some kind of nest of them above us, because… we had regular attacks. They’re horrible, terrible beings. I’ve never seen one with my own eyes, but… they can rip you apart with as much energy as it takes to rip a bit of seaweed up. Anyway, my mother… she got… taken by one of them. And we never saw her again.”
“That’s awful,” Dabria said, reaching out a shaking hand and finding Philana’s. The contact seemed to tingle. Philana noticed her avoiding eye contact, and was grateful for the chance to wipe her eyes, “I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Philana said through a deep breath, “Anyway, we moved and we haven’t had any attacks since. But still my dad is terrified - he always goes on and on about how dangerous they are. How they can shapeshift and hide and move like lightning, how they’re strong enough to go for at least a year without eating. He reckons they’re just biding their time.”
“That does sound terrifying.”
“He doesn’t like me to go up too high near the surface. He got pretty angry that I came and got you, because he thinks it was too dangerous.”
“For what it’s worth, I’m very glad you did come and save me, even if it meant putting your life at risk.”
“I’m glad I did it. I’m glad I met you, you know.”
“I’m glad I met you too.”
They shared a smile.
Philana must have spent hours sat with Dabria that afternoon, though it didn’t feel like it. It felt like minutes, but good minutes. Minutes spent with someone who was quickly becoming a friend. Someone who could make her question even the things she said with confidence, simply through a question or two. It should have been intimidating; Philana certainly felt that if it were someone else, she would have left hours ago. But Dabria was charming, without a doubt about it.
When she did leave to go back home, she stopped by the office of the head doctor to make some enquiries, and found to her surprise that every nurse and doctor who usually attended the hospice caves was huddled in the room.
“Ah, Philana, how may we help you?”
“The human - Dabria - in cave 3. Why are you only attending her while she is asleep?” Philana asked, getting straight to the point. The idea of the staff just hanging around while Dabria was sat alone in her room for hours got to her - the human hadn’t said in so many words that she found it lonely, but Philana could tell by her eyes that it was.
“Oh, that, um…” The staff all shuffled and murmured some excuse or another. It was odd, Philana had to admit, she had never seen them all so on edge.
“Listen, Phil,” said one of the senior doctors, a woman named Gearldine who got on well with her father, “There’s something really not right about that human. We can all sense it, whenever we go in to that room. I can’t explain it, but… none of us feel comfortable with her when she’s awake, and it’s bad enough when she’s asleep.”
“How do you know that if you’ve never seen her when she’s awake?”
“We just do, okay? She’s… scary,” Philana recognised one of the newer, younger doctors, and fixed her with a look.
“I would have thought that, as medical professionals, you are supposed to be well used to dealing with that which is ‘scary’,” Philana said, speaking like she’d heard her father speak on occasions. It was his politician voice, his debate voice; fiercely impersonal and detached, but yet strong.
Needless to say, the doctors did not take kindly to such a voice coming from a mere seventeen year old.
“How’s your father doing?” one of them asked, switching the topic, but doing so without the usual nonchalance which would generally come with such a conversational move, “Still preparing for the re-election campaign?”
“Yes, he is,” Philana said, trying to hang onto the strength in her voice before it turned to guilt. It was easily done; she tended to feel guilt more easily than others (or at least that was what she thought). In any case, confrontation was not her happiest state of being. But she thought Dabria, stuck in an unknown place with no one to talk to, needed her to be a little unhappy, so that she might stick up for her friend.
In the end, Philana left, hoping she’d made her point without going so far that news would reach her father. She could just picture his reaction to being told that his daughter was trying to throw her weight around.
It turned out to be worth it, though, when she came back to see Dabria the next day, and she entered just as Gearldine was leaving. The woman nodded at her, and Philana nodded back.
“So how’re things?” Philana asked, sitting in her seat - it was funny, really, just how quickly it had become her seat.
“Pretty good, considering everything. That doctor - the one who just left - she said that I should be well enough to be discharged soon. In a few days, maybe,” Dabria said, and the smile on her face was nearly contagious enough for Philana to catch it.
“What?” was all she could think to reply.
“Yeah, I know, right? My lungs have apparently cleared up a lot, and my cuts are virtually gone. It seems I’ve got some of my strength back.”
“But you - you still don’t look very well, I think-” Philana began, almost desperately, before Dabria interrupted.
“I know, I know. I’ll miss you too.”
Philana leaned back in the chair just as Dabria reached out a hand to touch hers, before taking it slowly back. After a few minutes, Dabria tried again, but this time with a verbal hand.
“I remember more, you know, about how I ended up here,” Dabria said, and waited for Philana to say something, to reach out herself. It was something she’d done before, and it worked well. It forced Philana to break her silence.
“What do you remember?” She eventually asked softly.
“I was on a boat - a research one, with my parents. We’re travelling the world, you see, it’s really cool. Or it was. But there was this massive storm, and I - I must have fallen off. I remember… struggling in the ocean. It was so… anyway, the next thing I knew I was waking up to… you.”
Philana felt herself melt a little at that word, the calm way it was said. They regarded each other in silence.
“I don’t want you to go.”
“I don’t want to leave you behind.”
Philana nearly flopped back in her chair again, but Dabria reached out again, this time with two hands.
“Come with me.”
A thrill of fear and excitement ran through Philana, making her scales tingle.
“This is my home.”
“We could make a new home.”
“Where? I can’t go to the surface - there are sirens there, I told you.”
“Phil, I - I don’t know how to tell you this, but… I don’t think the sirens are real.”
“What? What are you talking about?”
“Well, think about it, if they were real, such dangerous creatures living so close to the surface, surely humans would have seen them. And then there would be records of them - not legends, official proof. They can’t be that elusive, surely. And yet there’s nothing. Nothing to say that they exist other than…”
“My dad saw them - saw them take my mother away, screaming,” Philana said slowly, trying not to get upset. Dabria saw this, and hastened to continue.
“I know, I know, and I’m not trying to say that he’s lying or anything. But he would have been completely grief-stricken, right? And who else saw them, ever?”
“Well, no one, but-”
“No one? No one saw these terrible beasts which killed and ate people? No one other than one traumatised, grieving man with a small child to look after. Phil, I’m just saying… I don’t like to trust fairytales when there’s no concrete proof.”
Doubt started to bloom in the part of Philana’s mind where previously all things had been sure.
“But if it wasn’t a siren, then what took my mother?”
“It could be anything - a shark? Or, maybe… Phil, maybe she just left. Maybe she’s still out there somewhere. Who knows. But don’t you want to find out? See a little of this ocean world?”
“I can’t,” Philana repeated slowly, wishing terribly that she could.
“Oh. I see,” Dabria said, and some of the spark seemed to go from her eyes, “You don’t want to.”
“No - no, of course I want to,” Philana said, standing up, and sitting next to Dabria on the bed after a brief hesitation, “Of course I do. I just… I can’t just leave. My dad, my friends, my home, they’re all here. I can’t leave them behind.”
“I understand,” Dabria said in a tone which clearly showed she did not. She picked up one of her books and opened it, shuffling slightly away from Philana and pretending to read.
“Come on, don’t be like that…”
But Philana knew she had lost Dabria for a moment, as the human wouldn’t look at her, and just kept scanning the paper in front of her. The pain of hurting her friend pierced Philana more than a little, but she knew she could do nothing really. In the end, she left.
Even staying away for one day felt like torture. It was so strange to think she hadn’t known Dabria for long; the human felt like a part of her life, solid and dependable, never moving from her bed. Except she would move, in a few days; she would move and never come back. She would move and never see Philana again.
Unless they moved together.
When she finally felt like she could hold back no longer, she swam back to Dabria as fast as she could. Thoughts swirled like the water around her: what if Dabria had already gone? What if she didn’t want to hear what Philana had to say? What if it was too late?
But, thankfully, when she burst unannounced into the hospice room, Dabria was sat up in bed like always, reading some book. She didn’t put it down, though she must have known that Philana was there.
“I’ll go with you,” Philana said, collapsing onto her chair, “Let me come with you.”
“You really want to?” Dabria said, marking her page and laying it neatly on the bed next to her. She looked at Philana then with a kind of burning hope.
“Of course I do, I always did. You’re - it sounds silly, we’ve only known each other for a few days now. But… I think you’re the best friend I’ve ever had. Is that weird?”
“No, it’s not. I feel the same way.”
Philana smiled, and it was like a long exhale.
“I don’t know what I’ll say to my dad,” she said, though even the thought of that conversation couldn’t wipe away her smile.
“Why tell him?” Dabria said, looking at her long and hard, “Why not just… go?”
“I couldn’t do that to him, I really couldn’t. He has to know that I’m going to be safe.”
“Who says you’ll be safe?” Dabria said, and leaned forward as though it would help her look even further into Philana’s eyes. Philana swallowed and then looked away.
“It’s out of the question.”
“Alright, alright,” Dabria said, holding up her hands in surrender, “Why not leave a note?”
“Why a note?”
“Because he’ll surely just try and talk you out of it if you open it up to a conversation.”
“He’s not like that, come on, he’d respect my decision.”
“Would he now? Come on, you think he’ll let you run off with some human he’s never met? Besides, all the staff here are scared shitless of me, if they’ve reported anything back to him then I bet he won’t let his daughter leave home with scary ol’ me.”
“Are they still being like that?” Philana asked with a sigh, “I thought I’d persuaded them to treat you with as much respect as anyone else.”
“Ah, so it was thanks to you that I finally got to meet them. And there I was thinking it was my own personal charm while I was asleep that lured me in.”
“Sorry about that.”
“Why are you apologising?”
“I don’t really know,” Philana looked at Dabria out of the corner of her eye, “Are we really doing this?”
“Do you really want to?”
“Then yes, we are.”
This seemed to galvanise Dabria into action.
“Right, the doctor said I’d be discharged some time the day after tomorrow, and she also said that I would be escorted to the surface by a trusted person. Which means that we ideally need to leave tomorrow.”
“That’s so soon,” Philana whispered, and Dabria grasped her hand tightly.
“Don’t think about it too much,” she whispered back, “I might lose you.”
She continued when Philana nodded as though in a dream.
“Right. Tonight I want you to make a note to your father, say whatever you think will calm him down and stop him looking for you. Then… come here tomorrow. Any time after midday and before nightfall; that’s when it’s emptiest of staff. And we’ll go. I don’t know where, but as long as we find land before my temporary gills fade…”
“I can’t believe we’re doing this,” Philana said, heart pounding.
“I can. I didn’t want to leave you from the moment I met you.”
They looked at each other, and they understood.
They kissed each other, and they understood more.
I love you and will miss you more than you can imagine. But I promise I’m safe and with a friend; we intend to travel. It is for the best. I promise.
I’ll be back one day, I’m sure.
Your daughter always,
She deliberated for ages over the specific wording and meaning of her note, but in the end she scribbled it all down and stuck it to the table in the kitchen.
Next she packed a bag: only essentials, as Dabria had suggested.
Then, when midday came and enough minutes passed for her to feel sure, she swam out to the hospital caves.
As luck would have it, she met Gearldine just a few caves away from Dabria.
“Ah, Philana. Aren’t you earlier than usual? Come to say goodbye, I suppose?”
“Not quite - as I’m sure you know, on my father’s orders, I am to take Dabria up to the surface now,” she said, the rehearsed lie dripping off her tongue.
“Woah, hold on. I know nothing of this.”
“You weren’t told? Ever so sorry to hear that, I’m sure someone was meant to tell you.”
“Yes, I’m sure,” Gearldine said dryly, “But I can’t just let you take a patient away - especially not up to the surface, you know the dangers. I’ll have to speak to your father.”
“I have a note here somewhere…” Philana said, rummaging through her bag and producing the second note she had made. This one had been difficult in a different way, for she had had to study her father’s handwriting and manner of writing in order to create it realistically.
To whom it may concern,
I have requested for the human patient to be put into the care of my daughter Philana, as a task designed to develop responsibility.
Being a busy man, I hope this note will suffice, as I have not the time to be visited.
And then there was a signature.
Gearldine read this all quickly, before folding it in half and nodding.
“That will do for now. But please do ensure that next time I am notified in advance of intentions regarding my patients.”
“Of course. And I’m sorry, once again.”
“You’re alright, Phil,” Gearldine regarded her for a moment before gesturing to Dabria’s cave, “You know where to go, I’m guessing.”
Dabria was sat in bed like usual, eyes sparkling when they met Philana’s. They ran through a pantomime of Philana breaking the news to her, and Dabria stood up for the first time in front of her.
Their first proper hug was as long and as deep as they could make it in front of Gearldine’s watchful gaze.
“Well, Ms Dabria, I must say it’s been a pleasure to have you here.”
“Thank you,” Dabria shook her hand, and Philana marvelled at her strength.
And, before they knew it, they were away. Dabria was a strong swimmer, though of course not as confident in the water as Philana, who had grown up in it.
Dabria seemed to know where she was going, and Philana let her lead the way. The water got warmer as they got closer to the surface; light started to filter through, and gently stroked the skin.
“Where are we going?” Philana dared to ask, once they’d been swimming in a direction that wasn’t up for some time.
“Do you trust me?” Dabria asked, with a devilish grin. Philana laughed, light and free, and said nothing.
She asked again “Where are we going?” some time later, and this time Dabria paused, treading water, to wrap her in a tight embrace,saying nothing.
“Where are we going?” she repeated, quieter this time. Dabria clung on tighter.
After a while, Philana moved as though to pull away, and Dabria’s arms tightened.
“Hey, you’re - you’re hurting me-”
Dabria only squeezed tighter, and tighter, and tighter, and at some point her hands must have reached Philana’s neck, for she suddenly found her gills blocked.
Sheer panic gripped her, but Dabria’s grip was tighter, and though her muscles jumped and thrashed, she was held frozen in the water.
When she came to, she was in darkness. A kind of dingy, dirty darkness. The water tasted rank and rotting, and she was lying on cold, slimy stone. She didn’t know what way was up.
“Ah, good, you’re awake. I thought the show might have been over before the final bows,” Dabria’s voice drifted over to her, but there was something different about it. Something malicious.
“Dabria? What’s going on?” she said, hearing the fear like a sickness in her voice, and hating it. Something like laughter echoed in the water, and then switched to a hiss of anger.
“Look at me,” Dabria said, and Philana forced herself to sit up, though she soon realised that her arms were tied to the wall of the cave they were in.
That didn’t concern her much though, when she looked at Dabria in front of her.
Whatever she was wasn’t human, that was for sure. There were writhing tentacles pouring from her clothes, and her mouth was torn into a grin with grotesquely sharp teeth. It was as though her body were erupting.
Philana saw all this through a haze of nausea. It couldn’t be real. She would have passed out again, except for the burn of her lungs keeping her grounded.
“Do you recognise me?” Dabria - though to give such a name to the beast seemed an insult - murmured, and Philana’s head spun, “Well, I suppose you wouldn’t. You never actually saw me. Really, I should be asking your father that. Or your mother, perhaps.”
Philana wanted to scream, but every breath was like fire. Every inhalation filled her body with the disgusting water of the cave.
“No- You’re not… You can’t be…” she pushed the words out through the sheer, raw terror lodged in her throat.
“I am. I am the siren you were warned about. The last of my kind. I killed your mother, I devoured her. And others. And then I lay in wait, once you and your little family had gone into hiding. Devising a plan. Which I executed to perfection. I shifted my shape to that of a human, drifting in the ocean pretending to be drowned. And who should find me but you, the one and only daughter of she whom I encountered all those years ago. I perfected the nuances of my disguise so that I would be everything you wanted to find. You see what you want, you know. To you, I was ideal, and no matter how many others told you there was something to be afraid of, you would not be persuaded. And now, here we are.”
Philana gagged, the real, horrible truth of the situation coursing like a poison through her veins. That laugh came again, and Dabria seemed further changed into the monster than she had mere minutes ago.
“No - no, please…”
“Beg for your life, if you like. It makes it all the sweeter for me.”
“They’ll find me - my dad - he-”
“Your father is under the impression that you are travelling with yours truly, quite safely. He may look for you briefly, but he will give up. Just like he did when he watched me drag your late, screaming mother away. Oh, I remember his cries - I wonder if he passed them on to you. Scream, for me, will you.”
Philana mustered her strength and glared with all her fire at the creature in front of her. The creature simply laughed. Slowly, slowly she pulled at the ropes. They cut into her skin while the laughter poured over her like salt. And, with a loud crack, they broke. Blood streamed from her wrists, but she was powering away before she could notice it.
She wasn’t going to make it.
She wasn’t going to make it.
She was going to make it.
A long, thin tentacle wrapped tenderly around her waist, pulling her back into the cave just as a touch of sunlight brushed her face. The feeling of the slime on her skin made it crawl.
“Now where exactly do you think you’re going?”
“I- please just let me go! For God’s sake, what did I ever do to you?”
“Hmm,” Dabria said, pretending to consider it as she twisted Philana’s body round to face her, “I’m not sure. Anyway, it wasn’t half fun, spending time with you, to be fair - did you love me? Little old me? Dabria, the charismatic outsider who was everything you needed, everything you wanted?”
“I wouldn’t love you - the real you - in a thousand million years. You are - repellent. You are foul. You are a murderer. How could I love something like that?”
“Oh but you did love Dabria, didn’t you? Dabria the human, she was your love.”
Philana felt like her heart was dissolving as Dabria’s visage grew ever more distorted and ever more terrible by the minute.
“Please…” she said weakly, and when she admitted her weakness it was as though her strength drained out of her, as though it had never really been there.
“Come on now. Don’t lose your spark - not so soon. I wanted a struggle from you, Phil, I would have thought you might have held out for longer. No? Is this really it? Begging for your life?”
Dabria shook her head, which wobbled like a kind of grisly jelly.
Philana did not have the words to say to reply, so she just closed her eyes.
“Not even going to watch? Alright. Fine. I suppose this is it. One final act of pity. Ah, mermaids, you never know how much sympathy you can really inspire before it’s too late. Goodnight, Philana. Say hello to your mother from me.”
There was no falling of darkness, nor a bright light.
Just nothing, except maybe a voice, somewhere far away. Slightly out of reach.
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