The sun was high over Amazing and Graceful when Ben and Hambone both woke up from their deep sleeps. Ben checked his phone and there were no messages from Aubrey on it so he went into his bathroom to splash cold water on his face and brush his furry teeth. Hambone stuck his head in through the bathroom door and panted with the smallest happy growls. It almost sounded like a fart to Ben who gargled his toothpaste water and spat it into the bathroom sink. Hambone tilted his head on the side as if trying to understand what Ben was doing, just as Ben ran his tooth brush in and around Hambones mouth to no effect just so Hambone didn’t feel left out. He placed the tooth brush back in its holder and noticed that Aubrey’s toothbrush wasn’t there. He thought about his family zooming away from him in a big aircraft and he wished he was with them.
It wasn’t raining or snowing outside and the wind had died down enough to make it almost a pleasant day except for the fact that he had just driven his wife and daughter to the airport. Ben had asked Aubrey to text him when she landed or got through customs with Zara so he knew she was okay.
It was all he could think about. He hoped that baby Zara would not be too much of a problem in the aircraft and he also hoped that the chef on the aircraft had a huge supply of Porridge and Honey for her otherwise it would be a difficult flight with a crying baby disturbing the passengers who would otherwise be asleep all the way to Australia.
Ben and Hambone walked down the stairs into the reception area and he waved to the mirror and Raphael the chair then scooted into the office to say hello to Agnes and fill her in with all the gruesome news about the airport departure. Agnes was a bit of a softy about that and she only shed a handful of tears instead crying the office down. Ben patted her gently on the back and went over to play with the air valve on his new Aqua lungs and try the new zip on his wetsuit.
Ben did this about 20 times before Agnes blurted at him.......‘Ben, why doont yoo goo and try it oot for real in the wonderful warm waters of Loch Morlich noo?’
‘Could you hold down the fort for about an hour Aggy?’
‘Yes....und doon’t call me Aggy, that’s a wee rock and I am nor a rock.’
‘Okay be back soon,’ and Ben walked out of the office carrying his tanks and wetsuit with all the intensive purposes of trying them in the Loch. He put the tanks down near Lamb Shanks kennel and went back up to his room to put his swimmers and rashy on. As the wetsuit was new he wasn’t sure if it would be able to keep him warm so the rashy was a bit of extra protection. As he was coming back down the stairs one of the house guests screamed while sitting in the new chair. (Raphael).
Ben heard her say, ‘I felt it move under my bottom darling, I could have sworn it,’ so Ben cast an intensive look at the chair and proceeded out the front doors.
The wind had all but died completely off so the Loch looked a picture from where Ben was standing. He reached down and grabbed the tanks then made his way around to where he used to tie his favourite little boat up. If he was going to see a mermaid again now he could stay underwater a bit longer and try to communicate a bit better with them. This was the plan. Ben got into his new wetsuit with some difficulty as it was a bit tight and cramped and not like his old one that allowed for heaps of movement, especially in the holey department. Then he put on his goggles and flippers, hoisted the tanks up on to his right shoulder and put his arm into the shoulder straps. He had already checked the valve and pressure in the office so he knew he had about 45 minutes under water before the tank would run dry. More than enough time to talk to a mermaid and that was the plan.
Ben stood on the side of the bank looking down into the crystal clear water and he could see the deep indigo blue colour of the Dx4H. Now he checked his breathing equipment and took a few long breaths in and out with the mouth piece firmly locked in his jaws. Ben stepped forward into the water and at once it was different. He wasn’t cold and he wasn’t almost passing out with the freezing brain ache. The bubbles cleared and he could see under the surface of the water as if for the first time. Ben decided to duck down and check the hole in the wall again and the ledge.
He pinched his nose through his goggles to pressurise his ears as he went down and for the first time there was time to fossick and ferret around on the ledge. He disturbed the silt and sand finding coins and still more tiny bones and teeth. Why were there teeth on the ledge under the water? Who was to know? Ben swam over to the hole he patched up and again he checked it but this time he could stay there and really give it a good going over.
The hole was patched fine and didn’t need any more attention from Ben so he turned around and was looking directly into the blue eyes and deep red hair of Zillath, Queen of the Merrow people. She was right there behind him all the time. Ben didn’t feel any of the waters move around his body because of his new wetsuit. It kept him warm and oblivious to the currents and movements under the water. There she was.....again and she wasn’t even blinking.
Her hair flowed gently under the water like fine red seaweed and her eyes did not blink at all. Ben slowly raised his hand again, as before, and waved to her under the water. Zillath at once moved back and her hair engulfed her facial features as she fanned herself over the precipice of the Dx4H. As she slowly moved away from Ben he was able to see her friends treading water over the Dx4H as well. There were 3 of them!!!!!!!!!!
Only Zillath had bright red hair the other two were totally different. One had brown hair and the other one almost completely white as snow. Ben kept waving and this time he didn’t have to go to the surface to replenish his lungs. Ben stopped waving his hand and he glided down to the ledge to stand there looking at his new found friends who just looked at the bubbles he kept spewing from the eggs on his back. ( That was how it looked to the mermaids.)
Both parties were in awe of each other and as expected both hesitant to make the first move toward each other. It was a mexi-mermaid stand-off so Ben took the initiative first and bowed to them as he had done before. All the mermaids looked at each other, suddenly Cleodora and Lanthe both bowed to Ben who smiled into his mouth piece. They understood the respect that was being shown to them. Zillath remained upright and truly focused on Ben. She did not bow but remained steady and smiled a little at Ben after her friends returned to the upright position. Ben grabbed a mouthful of air, took the mouth piece out of his mouth and spoke under water..... ‘My name is Ben, I am pleased to meet you,’ with bubbles going up his nose and making him almost choke under the water.
Zillath turned to her friends in shock. She could understand what he was saying. It wasn’t as clear as she had hoped but she understood all the same. Communication was possible!!!!! Zillath raised her hands and Cleodora and Lanthe were next to Ben in a heartbeat with one flick of the mermaid tails. Ben was shocked and looked at each mermaid and for the first time he was concerned about his safety. It suddenly dawned on him that he was in THEIR world and he had 38 minutes of air left. It’s funny how if your life is threatened in a completely new environment how quickly you can start to sweat in a wetsuit 20 feet under the water.
Ben looked at the new mermaids standing next to him. They were looking at the mermaid with the red hair as if waiting for instructions. Ben got time to examine their skin and features. There was a small amount of translucent webbing between their fingers and this must have helped them glide through the water even better. Ben wondered if their skin was cold so he gently extended his arm and hand out to tap the white haired mermaid on the shoulder.
Lanthe must have seen what was happening in Zillath’s eyes because she spun around lightning fast and beared her teeth at Ben, making a rather hideous noise under the water. Ben just waved his hand gently back to his side and let go of a huge amount of bubbles, from his tank and one other area. Lanthe had a beautiful array of very sharp looking teeth within her mouth and this cast a brand new perspective on these underwater creatures to Ben. He was now their bait. No amount of clothing underneath his wetsuit or the wetsuit for that fact would protect his delicate white flesh from those teeth. Ben had pulled in a few sharks in his time fishing when he was back home in Australia so he knew just by looking at this ladies teeth and their shape that they were a cross between a Grey Nurse and a White Pointer. Definitely not to be f----d with!
Lanthe had not stopped looking at Ben, while Cleodora kept looking at Zillath for the next step in this communication quick step. Ben looked at Lanthe and smiled at her with his mouth piece in and salt water rushed into his mouth. Lanthe was unmoved by his antics and was waiting for a sign to take down this land person from her Queen. Ben felt a tension between his new found mer-friend and he stopped trying to be friendly. Surprise and joy was now replaced with tension and suspicion on Ben’s behalf and the mood underwater became very prickly. Zillath floated back over to Ben while her friends stood guard of him and she held up her hand and waved in much the same way Ben did to her. Ben raised his hand and waved back.
An angelic voice slowly said to Ben under the water.....‘My name is Zillath, Queen of the Merrow people and these are my guards Cleodora and Lanthe. We are here to find out why my husband was killed by falling rubbish from up here by your land people.’
Suddenly Ben put two and two together and he realised why they were here. It was because of the bed Taran pushed over the edge into the Dx4H. The bed that was supposed to take Ben to his doom instead took the life of this Queen’s husband when it finally came to rest on the bottom of the Dx4H. This huge hole must be the home of the Merrow’s and right about now Ben was about to be the entrée, main course and retaliation salad. Some quick talking was needed and Ben took out his mouth piece and blurted under water in one quick sentence.
‘Queen Zillath I am so sorry at your loss but it was a ghost called Taran Macrath who pushed an old iron bed into the hole.’ Ben put the mouth piece back into his mouth and took a few deeply deserved breaths and the recommenced his talking to the Queen.
‘He tried to kill me first and I am so sorry that your husband died as a result,’ said Ben and he bowed to the Queen in reverence once he replaced his mouth piece and began breathing again. When he looked up from breathing Cleodora and Lanthe were once again by the Queen’s side over the Dx4H.
‘Land person …Ben ...thank you for shedding some light on the reason why my husband died. I shall return in two days to talk to you some more but for now it is farewell.’
Ben watched as Zillath ducked down into the Dx4H. Lanthe stayed back only momentarily and raised her hand to wave to her new friend and smile with her teeth only just visible to Ben. Thank God they seemed better from a distance because up close they were definite mood killers. Ben waved back and they were gone. He checked his time on the tanks and he had 10 minutes left so he swam over the edge of the ledge into the Dx4H and watched the tails disappear into the blackness. That was a very, very, very long way down. Ben turned around and the water got really cold because he just swam through Ghost Zara floating behind him.
‘Ben you are treading dangerous waters, please be careful.’
Ben took his mouth piece out and spoke to Zara... ‘Hi Zara, thanks for sneaking up on me and making me soil my new wetsuit.’ Ben put the mouth piece in again and wished he could really breathe under water while he made for the edge of Amazing and Graceful with Zara floating along beside him. He climbed up onto the bank and almost at once the dog chorus of tail wagging and happy growls commenced in earnest. Usually they don’t have to wait so long for Ben to come up for air and now with the tanks it was a full volley of ‘welcome home’ from Hambone and Lamb Shanks. Zara floated up out of the water and patted her dog and then Lamb Shanks. Ben watched as her hand ruffled Hambones ears and went straight through Lamb Shanks nose. Lamb Shanks shivered with the cold that always came with ghosts walking or patting a living creature.
Ben turned off his air tanks, took off his goggles and flippers and walked back toward the reception area with his dogs walking behind him. Visions of Lanthe’s teeth came back to him as he gazed at the spot in the water that turned deep blue. This made him frown and think about how quickly he might have been eaten all over again.
Two days and they would be back, teeth and all.
It was now time to have some afternoon tea, shortbreads and a game of Backgammon with Raphael in front of the fire while checking his phone for messages from Aubrey and sending his 110th message to her.