2] A Strange Reality
2] A Strange Reality
When night approaches and the girls all go out, I remain as I planned to. One of the reasons was the Change. It was hard to catch, but if you could spot the moments the sea changes from Calm to Rough – it was spectacular. The water started to change direction, it reversed.
It was probably one of the most powerful things I had ever seen. I had witnessed it the same year the tragedy that came into my life, changed my life. It was also the same moment, I started to have that dream.
I knew the seas were expected to turn Rough at the end of the week, but I had a sensation in my entire spine telling me otherwise. It would happen sooner.
So, I do something probably entirely stupid; I change my plans to simply sight see the ocean.
And I’m happy no one is around. I wanted to be brave enough to go back into the water.
I wanted to recreate my dream and imagine some unknown male entity was helping give me courage. As Halina had said, the seas would soon be Rough.
It was best to try and swim while they were Calm, it was less daunting.
I leave the hut and look back at the fading lanterns – nearly all were out.
Everyone else was back at the village if they weren’t in the Clan castles by the sea.
I didn’t know what to wear, because I didn’t ever see what I was wearing in my dream.
So, I just wear something I can’t feel. A flimsy see through shift, oversized and comfortable. I let my darkest green hair out, so it stays in a mess over my shoulders.
I walk along the tree line, my feet in the dirt, avoiding the sand.
I don’t venture too far from the orphanage, I wasn’t that stupid.
When I find my favourite part of the beach, the part that seemed to feature in my dreams… I dip one toe into the soft sand and I pause.
I look left and right.
No chill up my spine.
I take another step so both my feet hit the sand and my heart starts to thump faster as I panic.
I jump back to the soil and grab a tree branch, tears springing to my eyes in embarrassment. I was still as utterly terrified of the ocean as I had been every single moment for the past ten years.
I try to imagine what my invisible saviour would say, even though he never says anything in the dream.
Why are you scared – no, that wasn’t helpful. Just pretend you’re walking on the shore line – no. What about… touch the water once and then back off. Um, better?
I stand there for a good ten minutes in the soil, trying to calm my heart beat.
Confused about what I’m even focusing on, I think about running towards the ocean.
That should help, right?
“It’s just the sea,” I whisper it out loud and I scare myself.
I couldn’t do it.
Yes. Yes, I could do it!
I leap out of the tree line and land in an awkward squat, my fingers curling in the sand, same as my toes.
I crawl forward, forcing myself to make it half way to the shoreline.
I sit back on me heels and then with shaking legs, I stand up.
I inhale and then exhale.
This is why I didn’t attempt this with all my friends watching.
I focus on the water and I see a perfect wave, small and innocent – heading towards me. It looked an awful lot like…
“…this way…!” a strong commanding Mermaid snaps out somewhere behind me.
I jerk and look over my shoulder.
There is a torch line in the forest, someone is running and lighting up the branches – setting the shrubs and trees on fire.
“…force him back into the sea…!” another yell, from a Merka.
Who? I didn’t care.
I cared about this dream becoming a reality and so far, it was.
I look up to the sky, to see if the smoke appears… I see none.
In fact, I see the fire flicker in the distance as if it’s struggling to take hold of the plants. It’s as if a chill night breeze is forcing the flames to diminish.
I must be insane as I turn back to the sea and see that wave cresting and washing in towards me… that little river of water… I take a step forward… sand falls over my foot softly… I hear a sound.
I hear a sound behind me.
A crunch of a stick, a heavy foot – a pause.
Something happens that is the exact opposite of an encouraging presence.
I get a warning.
A guttural snarl echoes towards me from the tree line.
I loose my nerve as the sound hits my ears.
I yelp out as the water nearly touches my toe and I stumble backwards, falling on my ass.
This was not how the dream was supposed to end.
I hear a second snarl, a bit quieter. I look over my shoulder, my eyes growing wider as I see a man half covered in blood, his long mane of straight black hair is perfectly framing his face even though the rest of his naked body is poised for attack… or for escaping quickly?
Still, I can’t help but think, was this what an Erebos looked like?
He was snarling at me. I focus on his teeth… his fangs… I knew that hurt look – a wild animal would do anything to get out of a corner.
He wanted me to run into the sea, to be scared into the water.
But I couldn’t.
It was the water or him.
I do the only thing I can think of.
He won’t stop to talk to me, because he’s being chased back into the water, so I didn’t really have to do much.
I crawl along the sand to get out of his way, my eyes not leaving his.
He’s bluer-than-the-ocean eyes track my movements with utter confusion. What the hell was I doing – he seemed to be thinking.
When I’ve crawled out of his way, I wait for him to pass.
He starts to limp forward, as if resigning himself to the fact I wasn’t going to attack, or flea.
Perhaps that gave me a pass card.
As he heads past me, I whisper out, “…you’re an Erebos, aren’t you… can you tell me your name…?” I can’t help myself, as I stay on my knees and hands, too terrified to get up – to face him properly.
Especially with the yells of Mermaids and Merkas warning him not to venture back near them.
He pauses and looks over his shoulder at me.
Maybe I should tell him mine, “…my name is-”
He snarls at me a third time, looking at me as if he might lunge forward and drag me in with him. I can’t finish. I shut my lips and he shuffles his way into the water. He drops to his knees and he transforms into an Erebos.
I can’t see his black tail, but I try to.
And then he’s gone.
I watch the oceans pull back as he disappears and the currents change.
It’s happening, I witness the Calm to Rough.
I hold my breath as the water… it keeps unnaturally retreating.
This was magic.
“Oh, no,” I squeak out as I jump up and see the mini tidal wave he chose to form, which would crash over me if I didn’t move. I run back into the tree line and I see the fire. I can’t go into the fire, it’s started to gain since he left. I’m stuck in the middle.
I turn around and I’m shocked to see it’s too late to run left or right from the wall of water crashing towards me.
I grab onto a tree and hug it as tight as I can – as the water cascades past.
It’s not a tsunami, but it’s the equivalent of a freak wave and it completely drenches me.
When it washes back just as quickly as it came in, I control my shaking legs from wanting to turn into a Mermaid. I reach into my wet hair and pull out a lump of sea grass. I throw it to the ground.
When I get my breath back, I try to calm my racing thoughts by spending a good few minutes picking up star fish and throwing them back into the ocean, all while wet and shivering.
And then I go back to the orphanage.
I look at the empty place and I feel like it’s not right to go back there just yet.
So, I don’t stop yet.
I keep walking.
I climb over the rock pools and head to the rockier half of the beach, where cliffs started to form.
The injured always went to rock pools to find healing sea weed. I climb over one of the biggest boulders and I’m not surprised to find him… I knew he was too injured to get far! The Erebos has crawled midway in, his entire side is bleeding heavily as he lies in a rock pool.
As I gaze carefully, I realise that no, I was wrong.
He hasn’t crawled.
He’s used a wave to get in here.
The water has receded for now.
I head closer towards him, the Erebos seems unconscious. When I’m one boulder away, I pause and wonder if I should just leave him to die.
That thought doesn’t last long.
I had done that when I was eight, to my best friend… when I was too afraid to save her from a freak whirlpool, I wouldn’t let someone else die again just because I was scared.
This was it, surely, this was the time I could redeem myself.
As I edge around the boulder and get closer, I see the Erebos has a single wound in his shoulder. His obsidian tail is much longer than I could have imagined, flopping out one end with soft fins that I imagined to be sharp and razor edged.
I get onto my knees and lean in closer to his little pool, but his eyes are closed and he’s breathing heavily as he leans back as comfortably as he can.
But he was too pale.
He needed food and he only ate one thing.
I carefully reach down into the rock pool, picking up a rock, I decide to cut my palm under the water – where the blood would flow a bit easier. I take my eyes off him for a moment as I lean right down and I can already feel his eyes are open and on me again.
How did I know? I can feel it by the way a chill creeps down my spine.
The kind you feel before you get pounced on.
I quickly cut my palm and lean back up. I raise my palm to show him I’m trying to help – I was a nurse after all. I see his blue eyes watching mine, threatened, it seemed... but he’s already decided that’s not good enough.
He reaches out and grabs my elbow, pulling me towards him, I stumble into the rock pool and land on his chest, my knee brushing his soft dark scaled tail, it feels oddly intimate… I try to ignore the blush up my neck as I put one hand on his torso and the other I keep raised to his face.
Look, I’m helping you, I wanted to speak but I was too shy.
He takes his ravenous eyes off me for a split moment to inspect my palm, as if he’s considering it. But… nope, apparently that’s not good enough either. I can see his lips curl back… and I consider letting him take some of my blood… his way… until I see how thick and utterly huge one of those fangs are up close.
I wrench my arm out of his grasp and I stumble back out of the rock pool.
I also notice he lets me go.
“Get the hell outta here, sweetness,” he closes his eyes and turns his head from mine, “Before I do somethin’ I really… really… regret,” it all sounds like a growl of total displeasure.
I wait, feeling tears in my eyes as I absorb his words.
More like his voice.
It didn’t sound anything like the voice I wanted it to be. Majestical. I wanted it to be smooth and melodic. A singing voice, even.
This voice is just guttural and rough, like the seas that changed, like his snarls.
Without a word, I turn and hop back over a couple of rocks in disappointment. I peek over one, to glance at him.
He’s watching me.
He snarls again and I dare to glare back.
I turn and keep going. This time I don’t turn back around.
I thought the dream would come true. He was meant to save me from my fear of the ocean… instead he kissed me with a brutal wave and then basically told me to get lost when I was trying to help him.
I stomp my way to my bed, wrapping my hand in a bandage, I rinse off in the fresh water bathing area and then curl up in bed.
I close my eyes.
I wish for sleep.
But I can’t lose my alert mind. It’s impossible.
I can’t stop thinking about him. And I didn’t even know his damn name.
As much as I was fascinated by my dream becoming half a reality, I just as much despised this strange man. I despised that he disappointed me. That I seemed to disappoint him. But I was grateful, too.
I had a moment of insanity and he didn’t kill me. I guess for an Erebos, that was his own moment of strange for the night.
Mermaids of any kind, liked all things strange, we couldn’t help but be drawn to mystical things, fluid things, wishes becoming real – it was all like water, you expected it and it came, sometimes with surprises.
I guess that’s all tonight was, then.
And nothing else.
I’d never see him again.
A thought that should reassure me, oddly depresses me for no logical reason, but the thought of him coming back… I have no words to describe the amount of emotion I feel at that possibility. I didn’t want him to… but I did… and there was no other way to describe being pulled towards danger… wishing for it to come back…. while at the same time, hoping it never, ever dared to come within an inch of my ears, my body, my hand…
He’s tail was too soft for a monster, too inviting and warm… and strong.
It wouldn’t be until the morning, that I realised my fear of the sea was now slowly diminishing, only to be replaced by a new fear.
A fear of him. His fangs could rip my throat out without even trying. I was lucky tonight.
And I’d be lucky to never ever see him again.