Monday, December 7, 2020

The Sea Hag -Chapter Three-

 

Michael


Surfing has always been my escape, my refuge, a kind of meditation. Everything falls away and it’s just me, my board and the waves.

After I lost my sight, I had to learn everything all over again; how to read, how to eat, how to move around in the world. But it was the loss of this connection to the ocean that I ended up mourning the most. My brother and I had learned to surf together and one day, with the uncanny mind-reading powers inherent in twins, he commanded me to grab my wetsuit and board from where they sat neglected and come with him. I followed, bemused but without much hope that we would succeed.

I’ve never been happier to be proven wrong. Apparently Gabe had been doing internet research on blind surfers, and he had some ideas I hadn’t considered. The biggest initial challenge had been my balance, or lack thereof. Your equilibrium is mostly maintained by the fluid-filled tubes of your inner ear, but the system is imprecise, designed to detect large changes. So, your brain also relies on visual input for the smaller changes. A simple demonstration of this is if you were to stand on one leg and then close your eyes. Balance suddenly becomes much harder to maintain without visual cues.

The point is, I fell off my board more times than I can count. I couldn’t even stand up, let alone catch a wave. I screamed and swore and beat my fists on the board in frustration. But Gabe never once lost patience, never even considered quitting. He knew this could be done, and he was going to stay out here with me until I knew it, too.

I smiled up at the heat from the sun, straddling my board, and ran a hand through my dripping hair. From the angle of the heat, I had been out here for several hours without a break. My stomach growled loudly in agreement and I patted it sympathetically. “Alright, one more run and then we’ll go eat,” I promised. I felt and listened carefully for the direction of wind and water before paddling out to the line and waiting for the feel of a really good, large wave to take me home.

I didn’t have to wait long. I felt the sink and paddled hard, feeling it surge beneath me and I jumped to my feet. I could feel the perfect barrel crest over me as I flew down it’s center. I reached out a hand to touch the wall of water streaming upwards next to me in bold defiance of gravity. I grinned and let out a whooping cry of sheer exhilaration. My board wobbled nearly imperceptibly as I did so. My stomach turned into an icy pit of dread a fraction of a second before the wobble became too pronounced to sustain forward momentum.

“Ooooh Shi--!” I heard myself shout as the board slid out from under my feet and I hit the water, tumbling. Normally, when this happens I simply tuck into a ball, with my hands and arms protecting my head, and wait until I bob to the surface to get my bearings. The surfboard itself was tethered to my ankle so I couldn’t lose it, so I’d drag us both to shore and either try again or call it a day.

There was nothing normal about this day, though.

As soon as I went under, something cracked me over the head. My air escaped in a surprised stream of bubbles and I didn’t know which way to swim to get more. The back of my head was screaming agony. All I could hear was a high-pitched ringing. I felt like I was going to throw up, and then I abruptly lost consciousness.


Monday, November 30, 2020

The Sea Hag -Chapter Four-

 

Sirena

The sound of whooping cry nearby startled me awake. I lay, covered in sand, propped up on an elbow, peering blearily at the breaking waves. A human male on a surfboard, golden-haired and stripped to the waist, was in the process of “wiping out”, as they called it. I smirked as he and his board went tumbling into the wave he had attempted to master.

I blinked and sat up. Both my inner and outer eyelids felt gritty. I caught myself before I rubbed them with sand-covered hands. Little brother stirred behind me and craned his head back to stare at me with limpid eyes. Steven was marching up and down the wet sand, probably looking for shellfish.

I stood and stretched. “Yeah, I’m hungry too,” I told Steven. Then I remembered the surfer. The annoyingly, ridiculously good-looking surfer had not popped his annoyingly good-looking head out of the water yet. I scanned the waves and spotted the bright yellow of his board just washing up. It’s little blue tether dragged beside it, but there was no human attached.

My heart leaped into my throat, of its own accord, and tried to strangle me. “No!” I cried as it did so and ran for the water. I took a breath and dove straight for the place I had last seen him. I began clicking immediately as the water was too murky to see more than a couple of feet. The sounds carried, sharp and strong through the water and I felt them connect with something large and soft near the surface. I kept clicking until I found him. The water tasted of blood. Then I hauled him to the surface with one arm around his chest.

His head lolled back onto my shoulder, red blood streamed from the back of his head.

“It’s fine. You’re fine. It’s gonna be fine,” I chanted mindlessly as I swam us both to shore. I made sure to keep his head above the water even though I was pretty sure he wasn’t breathing. How long could humans go without breathing, again? Only a few minutes, if I remembered correctly.

I grunted as I pulled him ashore. I’m pretty strong, but this guy was six feet tall and made of solid muscle. I laid him down where the waves just lapped at his feet and straddled his hips, ignoring the way that made me tingle and burn in the best way possible. Mimicking what I had seen humans do in movies, I laced my hands together and brought them down like a club in the center of his chest. “Breathe!” I commanded.

He remained unresponsive and his blood slowly pooled in the sand beneath his head. A high keening sound was coming from my throat, a sound I had only heard once before, when I saw my brother die. I pounded on his chest, harder this time, and I thought I heard something crack. I hissed in dismay, but he still didn’t react. I suddenly remembered the other part of CPR, where one kneeled at the head and breathed into the victim’s mouth. I vaulted off of him and threw myself down at his head. Carefully, I pinched his gorgeous nose shut, as I had seen, and covered his beautiful mouth with my own. I sucked in a breath and blew it into him as hard as I could. I saw his chest rise as I did so and, as the air left his lungs, he convulsed and vomited up a geyser of seawater. With a small cry of triumph I rolled him on to his side while he coughed and retched spasmodically. I rubbed his back with one hand, making spontaneous and, apparently involuntary, cooing noises. I also took this opportunity to gently probe at the blood-matted spot on the back of his head. His skull felt intact, so the damage was probably not too bad. His coughing was subsiding and I began to worry about what I was going to say to him when he regained his senses. 

You could just leave, whispered my ruthless pragmatism, Say nothing. He’ll never know you were there.

My hands stroked his heaving flank, traced the beautiful muscles of his back, and told my pragmatism to shove it. There was something about this man, something indefinable but inescapable. I had to know him, wanted him to know me, but too much truth, too soon could be disastrous.

His spasmodic coughing soon gave way to the more natural, airway clearing variety accompanied by a long groan. I felt the grin split my face as he rolled onto his back and moaned again, “Oooh..oh. Owwww….” One of his hands went to his chest and I cringed guiltily. The other went to his head, coming away sticky with drying blood which he sniffed and licked, verifying that it was, indeed, his blood. He swore softly and then froze, his ice blue eyes snapping open and searching. “Is someone there?” His voice was raspy from the near-drowning but it was strong and melodic and it made things tense pleasantly in my lower belly.

“Um, yes.” I said, stumbling awkwardly over what to say now that I could actually make words. “Hi. I saw you. Out there?” I gestured futilely at the waves. “You went down--wiped out, I think you call it? And you didn’t come back up so I went out and got you. You weren’t breathing so I did CPR.” He rubbed a hand over his sternum with a grimace and I grimaced right along with him. 

“You, um, hit your head pretty hard, probably on your surfboard, but I don’t think your skull is fractured and the bleeding has almost stopped,” I finished in a rush, feeling an unfamiliar warmth flare in my face and chest. 

He had turned his face to me and this close I could feast my eyes on every perfect detail of him. His pouty lips were quirked in a polite half-smile. His eyes were almond shaped and just large enough to fall into, framed by thick lashes the color of blackened gold. He appeared to be looking at me, or, at least in the general vicinity of my mouth. I knew he couldn’t really be seeing me, though, because he wasn’t recoiling in horror.

“You saved my life,” he said with quiet amazement. “Thank you.” He began to shake his head and stopped abruptly with a small hiss of pain. When his eyes opened again they were pointed down the beach to my right. “Thank you doesn’t begin to cover it. If you hadn’t been here…” he trailed off and then reached out a hand in my direction. “I didn’t know anyone else was here today. I’m Micheal, by the way.”

I stared at his outstretched hand in mild horror. Of course he was going to have to touch me eventually, the man was blind, I chided myself. I looked at his golden arm and soft, pink hands; then at my own webbed and clawed digits, the blue-grey rubbery skin. I sighed and willed my skin to a softer and slightly rougher human texture. My skin rippled deliciously and then settled into its new configuration. I held my breath as I reached out to grip his hand lightly with just the middle part of my hand, careful to avoid contact with my claws.

His expression was bemused at what was probably the oddest handshake he had ever experienced.

“I, uh, Sirena,” I stammered. I hadn’t thought of my own name in so long I barely remembered it. My tongue felt thick and awkward in my mouth. Similarly, I didn’t seem to know quite what to do with my limbs. I felt oddly exposed and vulnerable before his unseeing gaze.

“Sirena,” he said with a smile as bright and beautiful as the sun. My heart melted in my chest when he said my name and I sternly told it to get a grip. “Thanks for saving my butt, Sirena,” he levered himself slowly to a sitting position and I tried not to drool at the way the muscles in his arms and abdomen looked when he did so. He rested his elbows on his bent knees and clutched his head with one hand while he spoke, “I’d have been done for sure if you hadn’t been here.” He paused thoughtfully, his head turned slightly in my direction, a small crease between his golden brows. “I don’t recognize your voice. Are you from around here? I only ask because I didn’t think anyone but my brother and I knew about this beach.”

My mouth worked like the gasping fish I resembled as I tried to figure out how to answer him. I did not want to lie outright, but the whole truth was too shocking. Thankfully he took my flustered silence for what it was and held up a hand in surrender.

“Sorry, I don’t mean to interrogate the person who just saved my life. You can tell me more about yourself, or not, in your own time.” His little smile was apologetic and his eyes roved about more or less randomly as he spoke. He cocked his head when I didn’t answer immediately, his brow knit in apprehension, “You still there?”

“Yes!” I cried, suddenly aware that I had been staring at him without speaking for quite some time. “I mean, yes. Sorry. I am simply overwrought with the events of the day,” I said, which wasn’t really a lie. It had been a very eventful day.

That bemused expression was back. “Overwrought, huh?” He smirked and shook his head, “You and me both; but I wonder if I could impose on your kindness just a bit more,” he raised hopeful brows in my direction, his drifting gaze almost but not quite meeting mine.

“Of course, Michael, anything you need,” or want or desire, my heart finished silently.

His dazzling smile reappeared and he nodded his appreciation. One hand dropped down to finger the Velcro cuff still attached to his ankle. “It’s probably a lost cause, but do you happen to see my surfboard anywhere around?”

I turned and stood, scanning the surf for the bright yellow I had seen before. I despaired for a moment then I spotted a glint of color bobbing way off at the mouth of the cove. 

“I see it,” I said. “It is nearly in open water, but I will retrieve it. Stay here.” I took off down the beach and dove into the surf without waiting for a reply, swimming as fast as I could toward the errant board.


Monday, November 23, 2020

The Sea Hag -Chapter Five-

 

Michael



“No, don’t…” I called as I heard footsteps sprint away, splash through the water and disappear. Exactly the same as the ones before. “...worry about it,” I finished with a sigh. 

So, she was the seaweed person from before. I’d had a suspicion, but didn't want to accuse her. She seemed skittish and more than a little strange. She most definitely was not a local; I had lived in this sleepy coastal town my whole life, barring boarding school and college, and someone as odd as her would have definitely stood out. 

And what was with the seaweed earlier? Was she a homeless nut? A castaway? I had known men who had spent too much time alone at sea and there was a bit of that feel about her; like she wasn’t used to human interaction.

She seemed sweet enough, though. Swimming all the way out there and back just to get some blind schmuck’s old surfboard. If it was as far out as I thought, she was going to be a while coming back. I stood and stretched, checking for any unnoticed wounds. My head throbbed terribly and my mouth was a desert. I needed water, and soon.

I knew that my camp was near the north side of the beach, and I had been heading south when I wiped out. If I just started walking, keeping the sound of the waves on my left I should get close enough to hear the beeping of the little BeeperBox next to my duffel. The duffle that contained several large bottles of water.

Wondering how mad Sirena might be if I just took off, I didn’t hear the huffing, sand shuffling sound that crept up behind me until it let out a loud yelping bark that sent me shouting into the air. Sheer startled fright had me stumbling and scrambling in the sand on all fours. It barked again, short vocalizations, loud and rhythmic. And familiar. The hell was a sea lion doing here? I crab-walked backwards, away from the sound of its bark and shifting bulk in the sand.

“Nice sea lion,” I said hopefully as I backed away.

“Hey!” came Sirena’s voice from the direction of the surf and growing closer as she shouted angrily. “No, Little Brother! Bad! Michael is a friend! You leave him alone!”

The sea lion stopped advancing and made a noise that somehow sounded chagrined as her footsteps crunched through the sand and I heard the particular hollow thump of my surfboard being dropped.

“I am so sorry about him. I didn’t even think-” she paused and I felt her crouch down beside me, her shadow making cool shade over my face. “Are you alright? He didn’t hurt you did he? I didn’t think he would attack a  human, but I only just met him. I think he may have been a pet.”

She babbled under stress, which was adorable as well as being a nice change from her close-mouthed reticence earlier, if a little hard to follow.

I felt my eyebrow quirk up and I turned my face up to hers so she would see my skepticism. Since going blind I have worked hard to maintain my facial expressions. It’s something that one can easily forget about doing when there is no reciprocation. This means that almost all of my facial expressions have to be conscious, calculated choices. “‘Little Brother’?” I queried, a tad breathless, “You have a pet sea lion?”

“He’s not a pet,” she said, her voice becoming heated. Interesting. “I said he was a pet. Probably.”

Curiouser and curiouser. 

I fought to quell my relentlessly inquisitive nature for the second time that hour. She was under no obligation to explain herself to me. I owed her my life, the least I could do was refrain from prying into her personal affairs. For now. I made my face one of gracious acceptance and nodded as I held out a hand, “Fair enough. Help a guy up?”

I was hoping she would grasp my hand like a normal person would and I could get a feel for whatever it was she was trying to hide from me when we shook hands before. A taut, hairless forearm slid beneath my hand instead and I cursed inwardly while smirking outwardly at her cleverness. She pulled me to my feet with surprising strength and steadiness. I pretended to overbalance and stumble into her, desperate to know anything more about this mysterious creature.

She was a few inches shorter than me, her skin was incredibly smooth and hairless, like nothing I had ever felt. My hand grazed a small, round breast, and some kind of scars or wounds running parallel to her ribs. I was just grazing the swell of her narrow hips when she pulled back with a hiss. She didn’t pull her arm from beneath my right hand, but her body was now out of reach of my questing left. I hoped she wasn’t too offended; but I now had some answers and a whole host of more questions about who, or what, she was.

“Sorry,” I said, rubbing my head and not entirely faking the sheepishness of my grin. I released her arm and held up my hands in a gesture of surrender.

She said nothing for a long moment and I dropped my hands to listen intently for her over the wind and the surf.

“You did that on purpose,” her tone held no accusation. It was mostly flat with a hint of...admiration? My head cocked like a confused dog. “Clever,” was all she said before moving slightly away. I heard two sharp raps on the surfboard and turned toward the sound. 

“I’ve got your board,” she said simply. “Would you like to go back to your nest now?”

I nearly snorted when she called it a nest but managed to keep my features schooled to neutrality. “Yes, thank you, that would be great. I really need some water. You must be pretty parched yourself, after that swim,” I hedged, “Or have you been holding out on me this whole time?” I flashed her my best smile, the one I’m told breaks hearts, to take any hint of accusation out of the question.

She padded up to me and the back of her left hand brushed the back of my right. “No to both questions,” her voice was soft and a little breathy. She stood still as I ran the backs of my fingers lightly up her forearm to just past the elbow and hooked two fingers in the crook there. Her skin had the strangest, most wonderful texture. I couldn’t get enough of it beneath my fingers. I lightly and lazily stroked my thumb over the back of her arm and I could feel her breath coming fast and shallow through the contact. I realized that my own breath was coming at a similar pace and I was suffused with a feeling of extreme giddyness. 

It was probably the head trauma, but her nearness was having the most unaccountable effect on my nervous system. 

Ignoring my racing heart, I inclined my head and gave the arm I held the slightest of nudges forward saying, “Ready when you are, Sirena.”


Sunday, November 22, 2020

The Sea Hag -Chapter Six-

 

Sirena



My insides quivered deliciously when he said my name, but I shook it off and began moving toward the other end of the beach. He followed along maybe half a step behind me, not unlike the way young whales maintained physical contact with their mothers. 

My arm burned with his warmth where he touched me. I looked down at the fingers wrapped around my elbow and frowned at the stark difference in our skin tones. With a thought, I changed the color to something more like his and smiled at the result.

I could tell that he was highly intelligent as well as intensely curious. When his hand had brushed against the sensitive gills at my side, he hadn’t recoiled in the slightest. It made me want to reveal myself to him all the more, but old habits are the hardest to break, and I had been hiding myself from humans for over a decade.

“So, Sirena,” he said after a few moments of walking in silence, “What is it that you do?”

I frowned in momentary incomprehension, glancing over at him. “Do?” I echoed.

“Yeah,” he said with a slight chuckle and an adorably bewildered smile. “For work? Or are you in school? I’m applying for my masters in marine biology at you dub. University of Washington? That’s where my father got his PhD, so I’m hoping they’ll want to give me a chance. He was kind of a big deal in marine biology circles.”

Ah. He was trying to get me to open up by revealing himself to me first. A display of vulnerability to show he was not a threat. I appreciated his insight, but struggled to place my main activities into a human context. After a moment I said, “I...try to stop the...destruction of the Ocean.”

He nodded. “Environmentalist, huh? That’s quite the undertaking. Are you with some kind of group? Forgive me if I’m wrong, but it seems like you might have been on your own out there for quite some time.”

I was brought up short, stopping in the sand to turn and stare at him. How could he possibly know that? His face was a polite, inquisitive mask, waiting for my answer. Little Brother barked several times from where he followed us, diving in and out of the surf playfully. I watched him, wrapping my arms around myself, feeling Micheal’s knuckles press against my sensitive gills as I did so, and not really caring anymore. I felt so exposed and vulnerable already, was keeping my true self from him really worth it anymore?

“I take it I’m not wrong,” Michael said gently.

I sighed. “No. You’re not wrong. Until today, I had not spoken to a human being in ten years.”

His eyebrows raised at that. “Alone at sea for ten years? But surely you had to dock for supplies at some point. If not for food and fuel, then you would at least need water?” He was incredulous, his face flushed red. Then he began to sway on his feet and his eyes rolling back.

Michael!” I cried as he collapsed. I knelt beside him, cradling his head in my hands. His eyelids fluttered and he whispered, “Sorry. Just dehydrated.”

The heat of the sun was taking a toll on my hydration as well, but, as a marine mammal I process water much more efficiently and can produce it from food, rather than drinking. I hadn’t felt thirst in a very long time, but I could feel its approach in a subtle drying-out of my skin and mucous membranes.

“We’re almost there, Michael,” I assured him, wrapping an arm around his waist and hoisting him to his feet. “I’ve got you, come on. I’m sorry for the delay, it was selfish of me. I didn’t know you were this dehydrated.” My words were coming fast, panicked and pleading. He didn’t answer, just grimaced as he draped his arm around my shoulders to help support his weight. He was weak and uncoordinated. I ended up half dragging him through the sand, one arm around his waist and one around his surfboard.

As we got closer to where I knew his nest lay, I began to hear a beeping. Four short beeps repeating with a pause between each set. As we got closer and I was able to see the blanket and bag of his belongings, the beeping was becoming increasingly loud. 

Micheal stirred, raising his head and turning an ear toward the sound. “There!” he rasped, his beautiful face a blotchy red rictus. “Do you see it?”

“Yes, I see it, Michael,” I assured him, picking up my pace as much as I dared. “We’re almost there.

“‘S’whatchu said...ten minutes ago..” he slurred. I looked down to see him smirking tiredly.

I rolled my eyes, but if he was cracking jokes he couldn’t be that bad off. I gripped him tighter, spreading my hand over his rippling stomach and trying not to let my claws bite into his flesh. 

“I’m doing my best here,” I huffed at him, “This ‘saving your life’ all the time is becoming rather tedious.”

He snorted and then we were at his nest. As soon as his feet touched the blanket he sagged and I lowered him to the ground where he crawled on all fours toward the large duffel bag. I watched as he groped inside before retrieving a thick plastic water jug and, with small desperate noises, upended it and began to drink. He took three large gulps and then, with visible reluctance, set it down. 

His fingers traced the surface of the bottle lovingly in a way that made me unable to avert my eyes until he reached over and found the little rectangular source of the annoying beeping and turned it off with the flick of a switch. He sighed in relief and felt around in the bag again, pulling out a second jug of water and shaking it slightly in a gesture of offering.

He moved his head, eyes searching, trying to figure out where I was. “Sirena?” he called, “I’ve got more water, and some food, if you’re hungry.” He patted the blanket with a hopeful little smile. “Come, sit with me.”

I realized I was still standing in the spot he’d left me, still clutching his surfboard. I tapped the surface of it with my claws, loud enough for him to hear, and his face twitched immediately in my direction. “Where do you want this?” I asked, deftly avoiding answering his invitation for the moment.

“Oh, man,” he laughed, “I completely forgot you had my board!” He moved to the edge of the blanket on his left, running his hand through the sand parallel to the edge. “Set it here, if you wouldn’t mind, along this edge?”

I moved to do as he asked and, as I was crouched, his hand shot out; startlingly accurate, to grip my upper arm. I went still and the light grip became more of a caress. “Thank you,” he said, softly, sensuously. His face was half turned toward me, his eyes downcast as he spoke. “For everything. I mean it. You’ve done so much for me today, Sirena. I would be honored if I could at least give you some water and a bite to eat.” He turned his face more fully to me and his lips moved into a mischievous smile. “I think that it’s quite literally the least I can do.” His thumb was absently caressing my arm and I had never wanted anything more than to stay in his company, gaze upon him, listen to voice, touch and be touched by him.

There was one, breathless, crystalline moment between us where I whispered his name with a longing I hadn’t known I possessed. His fingers skated up my arm, over my shoulder to alight on my face. Then he was leaning in, eyes half closed again, whispering my name with the same note of longing.

I met him halfway, awkwardly leaning over the surfboard that was still between us. But that was of no importance. Nothing mattered in that moment but the feel of his lips on mine, the warm softness of his mouth, the tip of his tongue darting out to tease mine in a way that sent shocks of pleasure through my whole being.

I never wanted to move, or do anything else, ever again. His hand was caressing my face, smoothing over my bald head. No doubt noting my conspicuous lack of external ears. But none of that seemed to faze him in the least, so I indulged myself by touching him in return. 

I loved the feel of his supple skin over taut muscles. His warmth was intoxicating and as the kiss intensified, I began to rake my claws ever so gently along his chest and back. He moaned in pleasure and deepened the kiss, tugging me over the surfboard without breaking contact so that I was straddling his hips. His phallus swelled within the wetsuit, rubbing against the apex between my legs and pulling a moan from my own throat.

His hands roamed my shoulders and back, skimming lightly over my gills like he knew how sensitive they were, and finally moving to cup my rear as my hips ground against his.

We were both panting, breathless with mounting pleasure when the blast of a car horn startled us to stillness.

“Shit,” Micheal said, screwing his eyes shut in a look of pained regret.

Now that I was listening for it, I heard distinctly the same engine rumble from that morning. I put two and two together and deduced that this was his ride. I laid one last, soft kiss on his lips saying, “You must go.”

It wasn’t a question but he nodded, letting his hands reluctantly slide away from me as I dismounted. I knelt next to him, running my hand over his stomach. He caught it as he sat up, his abs rippling and bunching gorgeously. He held my hand in both of his, a question on his face. I couldn’t find the words, so I just turned my hand in a way that invited exploration and he seemed to understand. 

He made careful study of the length of each finger, the fleshy webbing between them, and the thick claws at their tips. His expression was unreadable during this inspection but, when he was finished he laid a gentle kiss on my palm, another on my wrist, and then he kissed his way up my arm, across my shoulder, stopping with his mouth just above my throat-gills. His breath tickled them so I fought not to squirm as he spoke. “These are gills, aren’t they?”

“Yes,” I said simply.

“These too?” he asked, his fingers dusting over my ribs. I nodded because his face was pressed against mine and he could feel it. His hand moved higher to cup my breast. I gasped as his thumb flicked over my nipple.

“But you are a mammal, right?” he asked between kisses along my jaw. “Obviously you breathe air,” He captured my mouth in a deep sensual kiss again while his fingers explored every inch that he could reach.

Before I could answer, the horn blasted again, sounding somehow impatient.

Michael broke the kiss with a sigh but pressed his forehead against mine. “That’s my brother, Gabe. He’s here to pick me up. If I don’t show up soon, he’ll come down here and find me.” He pulled back a bit, his hands on either side of my face and his gaze  drifting near my chin. “I would absolutely love it if you wanted to meet him,” he paused as I shook my head violently, eyes wide in terror at the thought, and a knowing smile formed on his lips, “but I understand why you might not want to.”

He leaned in again and kissed me gently, chastely on the mouth one last time before releasing my face with a small, regretful sound. He leaned back on his hands as if he needed to physically stop himself from reaching for me again. I was having the same  sort of trouble, but the looming threat of being seen by another human kept me from throwing myself back atop him. A small, frustrated groan came from my throat unbidden.

“Yeah,” he chuckled, shaking his shaggy, golden head, “me too. Look, I’ll be here tomorrow morning around the same time if you feel like you want to continue our-” he paused with a little smirk, “-conversation, it would make me just about the happiest guy on any beach.”

I looked at him there, the most beautiful, and kindest, human I had ever beheld. He reminded me of the last human who had shown me kindness; Dr. Morgan had been one of the scientists at the lab where I was raised. He was always kind to me and my brother, saw us as people rather than the experimental subjects we were. The rest of the team did their work while maintaining a cool, dispassionate distance from us but, Dr Morgan, for whatever reason, couldn’t --or wouldn’t-- do the same.

I never knew what, exactly, led to him leaving the project --leaving us-- but I heard him and Mr Venter yelling angrily at each other before he disappeared for good. A few weeks later the project was scrapped and the order given for my brother and I to be euthanized.

This man reminded me of all my best memories of Dr Morgan, he even sort of resembled him.

I shook my head to clear it of pointless reminiscences and said, “Yes, Micheal. I will be here whenever you return. Thank you for a lovely-” it was my turn to pause and smirk, “-conversation. I look forward to more.” A sharp whistle from beyond the treeline shot me to my feet with a gasp. “I must go,” I said, turning on my heel and sprinting for the surf. I called over my shoulder just before I dove into the waves, something Dr Morgan had said to us affectionately many times, “Later, gator!”

My skin shifted to it’s usual blue-grey tones as soon as I hit the water and, when I finally surfaced, well beyond the break line, I saw another golden-haired figure approaching Michael. I watched until they embraced and then dove for deeper waters, intent on finding food and then quietly digesting both it and the events of the day.


Saturday, November 21, 2020

The Sea Hag -Chapter Seven-

 

Gabriel


When I pulled into the old abandoned lot my twin was nowhere to be seen. This was not all that unusual, he often lost track of time when he was on the water. Even though the fancy, and expensive, tactile watch I had gotten him was utterly waterproof. He said knowing the time took him out of the moment. But he could still feel the angle of the sun and it was getting very westerly indeed. I was even a bit late picking him up, so when I laid on the horn for the first time I expected him to come toddling up with a bag on his back and a board on his head any minute.

I pulled out my phone to consult my messages while I waited. The pre-work date had gone very well indeed. His name was Matthew and he was five feet ten inches of rugged, yet sensitive, premium millennial man-meat. I’d given him a quick blowie in the bathroom of the beachside cafe we had met at just to keep him wanting more, and he had been messaging me more or less constantly in the intervening hours.

So, it took me a bit to realize that my brother had not, in fact turned up and it was now I who had lost track of time. Oh, Irony, you vicious bitch. I tried calling his phone, thinking maybe he had fallen asleep. No answer. I tried three more times, just to be sure, and laid on the horn again, desperation creeping into the maneuver.

With a curse, I pocketed my phone and leapt from the truck. “Mikey-boy, if you’re washed up dead on the beach I’m just gonna have to join your ass, or Mom’ll do it for me,” I muttered as I made my way down the steep and uneven trail to the beach.

I shook my head as I stumbled over a tree root and nearly face-planted onto a rock. How my brother got down this trail with a surfboard on his head and no vision at all never ceased to amaze me. Maybe he’d just been up and down it so many times that he had every root, rock and branch memorized. I hadn’t been down here with him in so long I felt a small twinge of guilt at that thought.

The man was tough. Tougher than me and a hell of alot stronger, too. He’s had to be. We both lost our father to a car accident when we were fifteen, but then, Mikey had to also contend with the sudden, total loss of his sight to a freak sinus infection that same year.

We were all hurting badly, grieving. Mom took comfort in her Catholicism, but her sons took after their atheistic father and found more hope in reason than in faith. Mikey and I saw his blindness as a challenge, a puzzle to be solved and I like to think that dad would have seen it that way, too.  Between my creative, out-of-the-box way of thinking, and his razor-sharp logic and intuition, there was no such thing as a problem we couldn’t find some kind of solution to.

There is nothing my brother and I can’t handle, as long as we have each other.

I let out a sharp, high whistle as I neared the beach. I could just make out a silhouette reclining on a blanket near the shore. It was hard to make out much, as the setting sun was causing too much glare, but I thought I saw someone stand up quickly and then turn and run for the crashing waves. I heard a high-pitched, femenine-sounding call before the figure completely disappeared into the water. I kept watching as I made my way to the blanket, but I didn't see her surface again. I shook my head and focused instead on the bloodstained head before me. My stomach twisted at the size of the bloody patch on the back of his head. Scalp-wounds bleed like you wouldn’t believe, but still, he must have gotten hit pretty damn hard.

“Okay,” I said and his head whipped around like he hadn’t heard me approach. Not a great sign. “First of all, what the fuck happened to your head? And secondly, who the fuck just sprinted into the ocean like the little-goddamn-mermaid?”

He was struggling to his feet until I placed a hand on his shoulder and firmly pushed him back down. “Sit,” I commanded. He sagged and grabbed the jug of water next to him and took several long gulps. “The back of your head looks like Neegan took Lucille to it, man. At least let me clean you up before Mom sees. She’s gonna shit a brick. You got a first aid kit in that monstrosity?” I said, referring to his enormous duffel as I pawed through it, finding a small plastic first aid kit, everything neatly labeled in braille.

“Who’s Neegan and Lucille?” he asked, a tad irritably while I soaked some gauze with water and got to work on the dried blood matting his hair.

“Nevermind, philistine,” I said, dumping water over his head cheerfully. “You still haven’t answered my questions.

“I forgot what they were.” He was clearly stalling, “I have a head injury, you know.”

I snorted and probed the back of his head none-too-gently, to see if there was any give to indicate a fracture.

“Ooowww!” he complained.

“Stop whining and tell me how this happened, so I can assure mom that it wasn’t my fault.” Satisfied that his skull was intact and that he was lucid enough to be an evasive shit, I finished cleaning the wound. The skin was spilt but not enough to warrant a trip to the ER for stitches.

Thank God. 

If there was one thing that scared my tough-as-nails brother, it was hospitals. Bad, bad memories for all of us, but for him especially. He went to sleep one night in a hospital bed with perfect vision, and woke up the next morning totally and permanently blind. I couldn’t begrude  the guy perfectly reasonable hospital-phobia after that.

His shoulders rose and fell with a heavy sigh. “I wiped out. Hard, on my last run. It just got away from me, man. I don’t know.”

I nodded as I placed a gauze bandage over the back of his head and wrapped a roll of gauze around his head to secure it. “Happens to the best, bro,” I assured him.

“I got hit with my own board, lost consciousness,” he continued as I felt my heart speed up with what almost happened. “I woke up on the beach. She was giving me CPR.” There was a fond little smile turning up the corners of his mouth.

“Who was?” I pressed, “Ariel?” I gestured broadly at the sea as I gathered things up to put back in the bag. I squinted out at the cove for any sign of, well, anything. Nada. “The fuck did she go, anyway?” I muttered.

“Her name is Sirena,” he said seriously.

Of course it was. I rolled my eyes, “Of course it is. Well I hope you got her digits. Or do they not have cell service in Atlantis?”

Micheal had gotten to his feet, only wobbling a little bit and began shaking out the blanket and folding it up for storage. “Har har,” he said. “Laugh all you want, but we’re meeting back here tomorrow.” His expression was smug as he felt around in the sand for his surfboard.

“Four o’clock,” I supplied, by way of direction and he dutifully turned, knuckles bumping the surface, and grasped the rails of the board. He tucked it under one arm and walked over to where I was shouldering the bag, holding his free hand out slightly.

“Well, well, a second date with a mermaid,” I said as I brushed my arm against his hand to let him know I was ready. “Sounds like a Rom Com in the making. Second Date with a Mermaid! In theatres this summer!”

He laughed as he traced the contact to lightly grip my elbow and we started back. “She’s not a mermaid,” he said and paused uncertainly, “I don’t think.”

“You don’t think?!” I laughed, exasperated. “Mermaids. Are not. Real. I think you may have had too much sun today. And too much head injury. You’re not thinking straight, little bro.”

“I was born five minutes after you,” he said, grouchily. “Gestationally we’re the same age-”

“Head trauma!” I cried, cutting him off. “You’re clearly delusional. What you need is Mom’s pozole, a shot of tequila, and a nice long sleep. In that order.”

He looked like he was about to argue but just shrugged, “That actually sounds really nice. Mom made pozole?”

I shrugged the arm he clung to as we mounted the treacherous trail back to the truck. “She was prepping it when we left this morning. Should be good and ready by now.”

His stomach rumbled loudly and then so did mine. We both started snickering and didn’t really say anything else until we reached the top. 

I stumbled a couple of times as the light faded. 

He never so much as stubbed his toe. 

The jerk.


Friday, November 20, 2020

The Sea Hag -Chapter Eight-

 


Michael


“Aye, Dios mio!” cried our mother as soon as I set foot in the house.

I had followed Gabe in and was reaching to close the large, heavy, front door behind me when the Madre’s light, quick steps hurried up to me and her thin, callused fingers began caressing my face. “Miguelito, Angelito, what happened?” Her hands stroked and prodded worriedly at the bandage around my head and I could only imagine the wounded, haggard picture I presented.

“Mama, I’m fine,” I assured her, grabbing her fluttering hands in my own and kissing them to stillness.

“Dumbass got hit in the head with his own board,” supplied my loving twin with a derisive snort, and Mom lunged toward him. I heard a muffled thwack, and a grumbled “ow” from Gabe.

“He’s right, Ma,” I said, reaching for her.“It was a stupid mistake; I was out there too long without a break and I lost focus.” She took my hand and kissed it with a little sniff of acknowledgement. “It won’t happen again,” I promised.  

“See that it doesn’t.” she said primly. Then she sighed and patted my cheek “You boys are  making me prematurely grey.” 

“Premature?” Gabe said incredulously. “You’re nearly sixty, Mamá!”

“I’m fifty-four, cabrón,” she said dryly.

“You don’t look a day over forty-four to me,” I assured her with a sassy smile. This earned me a scoff and a shoulder-smack of my very own.

“Kiss-ass,” said Gabe.

Ven, both of you cabrónes.” Mom said, exasperated, “Sit down and eat.” She took me by the hand and led me to the kitchen. Not that I needed to be led. I’d grown up here, lived here most of my life when I wasn’t away at school. I knew it like I knew my own body. Still, she was my mother, and I allowed her to mother me at such moments. My head ached fiercely, though I was working hard to hide it, and my belly whined plaintively at the thick, spicy smell of Mom’s Pozole that permeated the house.

“He’ll be fine, Mamá,” Gabe elbowed me as he passed on his way to pull out his own chair. “Just a little bump on the noggin. Good thing that mermaid was there to save you, huh? What was her name again?”

I turned my face to try and level a glare at him. “Sirena,” I said tightly, “and she is not a mermaid.” Probably. “She has legs.” And gills, but nevermind that.

A gasp came from the vicinity of the stove and Mom bustled over, clinking two steaming bowls before us and settling into the chair to our left. “Mijito, you met a girl?” she asked like a highschool gossip. “Tell me everything. How old is she? What does she do? Where does she live?” She paused and added in a stage whisper, “Is she pretty?”  and I knew that this last question was directed at Gabe.

“I didn’t see too much of her before she dove back into the sea like a friggin’ dolphin and disappeared,” said Gabe between mouthfuls of hot soup. “Pretty great ass, though,” he added thoughtfully.

Mom scoffed softly and I busied myself with my own soup while I felt her eyes boring into me impatiently. I was so hungry, and the soup so delicious, that I forgot about her and her questions for several minutes while I finished it. 

When I had drained the last of it’s spicy, tomatoey goodness I sat back and closed my eyes with a sigh. I opened them again when Mom made a polite, throat clearing noise and said, “Well?”

There was a clinking and splashing sound and a small glass touched my fingers. “Drink up, bud,” said Gabe, his voice a mischievous grin. “Tell us all about the fish-girl I saw you suckin’ face with.”

“She’s not a fish-” I stopped, giving up with a sigh, raised the tequila shot with a muttered “Salud” and downed it, wincing at the burn. “She’s some kind of ocean environmentalist. She didn’t say which group, just that she'd been alone out at sea a long time. I don’t know how old she is, but she seems to be near enough my age.”

“She’s gotta be some kinda free diver, Ma,” Gabe interjected, sounding like he had just taken a second shot. “ Cuz I didn’t see her come up for air once after she dove in. And I didn’t see a boat out there, bro.”

I shrugged a shoulder, my face a non-committal mask. “Make up whatever bizarre theories you want about her.” I pushed myself away from the table and stood with finality. “Maybe she’s a mutant. Maybe she’s an alien. Maybe she’s just an eccentric person. The fact is, she saved my life today. If she doesn’t want the world to see her right now, then the least I can do is respect her privacy. I owe her at least that much,” I said softly, hanging my aching head. Then I turned to make my way to my bedroom, pausing to add, “And, frankly, so do you.”

I walked away then, as Mom’s plaintive, “mijo…” followed me down the hall and I heard Gabe say, “Well, he’s not wrong,” before I climbed the stairs to my room and closed the door.

My room hadn’t changed since I was fifteen. Nothing in the house had, really. Both because keeping everything consistent made it easier for me, and, I think, as a sort of homage, or shrine to my father. We’d suffered two terrible losses, traumatic changes, in the same year and all three of us had dealt with it in our own way. Mom’s response had been to solidify as much of her life as she could, to insulate herself from further trauma. Gabe had done the opposite and embraced chaos as a way of life; in a bid to be an agent of change instead of its victim.

Me? I kept my world small, academic, and largely impersonal. I looked at the unpredictability of life through the fractal lens of chaos theory. It made me feel safer to know that even chaos has it’s order, it’s patterns. And that life can be deciphered, even predicted to a point, if only you understand it clearly enough.

My head pounded in time with my heartbeat as I made my way to the en suite bathroom. I took off the bandage and felt gingerly around the swollen knot just above the base of my skull. The skin was split in the center but not large enough to need stitches. 

I trusted Gabe’s assessment on injuries since he had been a paramedic once. 

For about six months. 

The man went through careers like runway models went through clothes. He was brilliant and learned new skills easily, but seemed to get bored once he felt he had mastered a particular area. This year he was bartending and learning carpentry between Grindr dates.

I had changed out of the wetsuit into a t-shirt and board shorts on the ride back home, and now as I striped naked to get into a cool shower, I felt the sharp ache in my sternum where her strange and wonderful hands must have struggled to make my heart beat again. I smiled as I rubbed my chest gingerly and stepped under the spray, letting it soothe away the pain of my injuries.

What a strange and beautiful creature this Sirena was. I remembered vividly the feel of the webs between her long, thin fingers. Much longer than was usual for a human and tipped in thick, sharp claws. Her skin was impossibly smooth and hairless, like a dolphin but with a strange pliability that reminded me of nothing so much as the feel of an octopus. Her head was likewise hairless, and she had only slight ripples surrounding small holes where ears should have been. I hadn’t gotten a good feel of her eyes, but they were probably oversized in order to pick up more light in murky depths. I could feel her breath on my face when we kissed, but no protruding nose, like other women, so her nose must be either very flat or nearly so.

Her construction made perfect sense for a marine mammal. If I were going to design an aquatic humanoid, she is what I would aim for. The gills were an anomaly, though. There were no mammals on earth that possessed gills; our metabolism simply requires too much oxygen.

My soapy hands roamed my body as I thought about the feel of her beneath my hands. Her tiny breasts and pert nipples stiffening beneath my touch. I felt my cock twitch and begin to swell at the memory. My hand worked its way down and I began to stroke myself as I remembered the way she had straddled me on the beach. Her mewling, pleading noises as she ground against me through the wetsuit. The feel of her lips, her hands, her claws. I grunted, leaning against the wall of the shower and bit down on a cry as I came hard to the memory of my hands on her firm, smooth buttocks.

I stood under the water, catching my breath for a moment before rinsing off, toweling off and falling into bed.

The ocean crashed outside my open window and I couldn’t wait to see her again the next morning. I gripped my pillow in a full-body hug and fell quickly and deeply asleep.