Chapter 1: Lilly
Lilly had stared up at bleakness of the dark water for years watching as her older sisters, one by one, had their chance to see the sun. They spoke of the land, the sky, the celestial movement, animals and of the creatures called humans. She could feel the excitement building in her chest as the days grew closer that she could leave their undersea home. The only lights she had ever witnessed were all of the glowing fish and algae that they planted all over the coral and castle. Lilly pestered her older sisters pulling the seashell combs from their long flowing hair until they would finally give up and tell her their stories from the surface once again.
It was the eldest of her sister Marina that grew tired of her antics first and sat her down on a rock with a sigh.
“Lilly.” she started sitting herself down on a rock opposite her, pulling up a mirror. “You have to understand that we do sincerely love you, but” She shot her younger sister a long piercing gaze as she paused, pulling her hair taught and replacing the comb that Lilly had pulled free. “You’re driving us all mad.” Lilly smiled.
“But Marina, I’m just so excited! I can’t stand still. I feel like my heart is going to beat free from my chest.”
“We all know how you feel, we all were young once, but if you do not begin to control yourself I personally will wait until father is asleep and throw you into a sea anemone.” Lilly giggled and her sides began to hurt, until she realized that Marina’s eyes were not filled with amusement. They were filled with something far more sinister than anything she had witnessed in all of her twenty years.
“You’re kidding right? You wouldn’t throw me into an anemone, would you?” Marina grabbed her hair roughly pulling her in close to show that she meant what she said. Nose to nose with her sister she could see into her empty coal black eyes.
“Not only would I throw you in, but I would make sure to cut off every single one of your fingers first for touching my comb again. And if you speak a word of this to dad I’ll make sure to cut your tongue out and make you eat it. I hope we understand each other.” Marina released her pushing her away allowing the current to push her against the wall. Lilly swallowed hard, a taste of bile welling up in her chest. She swam out of Marina’s room to go to her own, but was stopped by several of her sisters. Lina smiled at her. It was an empty smile that didn’t meet her eyes that were just as hard as Marina’s.
“Did Marina have a talk with you?” Lilly nodded fervently backing slowly away from them. “So you understand?” Lilly nodded again before swimming for her life away from her sisters to hide in her room. From that night on she didn’t speak of going to the surface to any of them in fear if causing them to lash out at her, which they did on a daily basis. They began pinching, pulling and scratching her whenever anyone who would tell their father was out of sight. She couldn’t wrap her mind around the sudden change in her sisters and their hatred of her. She found it hard to avoid all ten of her sister unless she hid in her room with her windows locked tight.
Finally one night after the mistreatment had gotten out of hand she slipped out her window and headed toward the surface of the ocean swimming as hard as her fins could propel her through the water, sobs emitting from her chest. Marina had nearly scratched her eyes out while the others threw her into the coral walls. She would rather break all the rules and go to the surface than to bear the mistreatment of her older sisters. Eventually she could see the streams of pale blue light like ribbons pouring down. She felt that excitement again and swam harder until the silvery light surrounded her and she broke through the surface of the water.
Her first breath of air stung filling her chest with cold making her cough. Her second filled her with warm air as she gazed around. She could not think that she had ever seen something as vast and bright as the moon in all its shining glory. It took what little breath she had away. In the distance a black shadow crossed sluggishly across the water. Curious of what it was she swam to examine it.
It was a ship. She had never seen one completely together and the craftsmanship surprised her. Anytime she had seen one it had been rotted out with boards missing or the hull had been cracked in half. Her sisters often shared stories about how they could sit on rocks and sing to lure the ships in. Feeling curious about whether she had that ability too she swam closer to shore and found a rock jutting out of the waves that she could pull herself onto. Thousands of times her sister griped at how lovely her voice was and how they had wished they had been born with a voice like hers
Lilly closed her eyes and let out everything she was feeling into her voice, the pain, the excitement, everything that had been swelling up was finally being released into the night. She enveloped herself so much in song that she forgot about the boat and it nearly crashed into her. She jumped into the cooling waves as the splinters of wood flew into the air. She watched as the life boats were hauled over the sides and lowered down filled with people as the boat began to get pulled under the waves.
She shrugged her shoulders and allowed the water to come up to her nose trying to hide from her shame. She had known what the outcome to her singing could be and now she knew the damage that she could cause with just her voice. She followed behind their row boats curious to what they were going to do next; watching them silently as they pulled the boats on shore then heading up the pathway to the castle sitting atop a cliff; all except for one young man.
Lilly lay in the surf watching him as he busied himself with climbing up onto one of the tallest rocks sticking out of the sand to perch there with his elbows arms wrapped around his legs. He seemed uninjured and to be in deep thought possibly contemplating his small world like she often had late at night. Lilly found that she was beginning to get used to variety of different colors spinning around her all the time in comparison to the dark blues, blacks and greens that deep water had.
Lilly smiled despite herself he felt her heart pound looking at him with his jet black hair and strong jaw, and it occurred to her that she wanted nothing more than to have him hold her in his arms. What a ridiculous notion, she tried to tell herself, it’s too farfetched, too dangerous. But despite all her logic as she watched the young man staring out into the ocean she felt herself longing to talk to him and knew that she would be willing to sell her soul for a single kiss from him. It felt to her that someone like him would never let her sisters ever hurt her again.
Lilly’s mouth went dry at the thought of her sisters. She couldn’t bear the thought of returning to them and their hatred. She had thought that they loved her, but how could they love her if they were willing to hurt her so badly. Biting her lip she realized that because she had left that when she finally returned that the torment would be far more severe than anything that they had thrown at her before. She couldn’t allow that to happen anymore. She thought of many ways to avoid this from telling her father to exploring the deeps of the ocean that she had never seen, but all of them led back to the young man gazing out into the midnight waves. Surely he would keep her safe from harm or the very least a kind hand. Just about anything was better than returning to the undersea castle filled with her venomous sisters. But how to leave the sea was her next problem. It was not a simple idea as one would hope. She knew that if she pulled herself free from the waves it would be no time before she dried up on the sands. She closed her eyes trying to think because she knew that there were ways to turn mermaids into people. If the Selkies could do it then she certainly could walk on the surface lands too.
It struck her suddenly a she remembered a story from her father years ago; a cautionary tale told by her father about a mermaid who wished the same thing and dying all because the human did not love her. The sea witch that her father mentioned in the story lived only a short distance from where she was bobbing around in the waves. She could feel her heart skipping beats from excitement at she dove quickly underneath the waves. She felt as though nothing could stop her as she felt the water rush by her. She saw a shark glace her way, but he ignored her for a chance at a school of fish swimming casually by. The water got colder the deeper she went and the world around her fell into darkness. She could see in this dark since her eyes could adjust well to it.
The mouth to the sea witches cave gaped open like a long lost prehistoric animal taking in all that it could consume, seeing it now made her balk at the sight, but she was far too determined to turn back now. Swimming inside she looked around realizing that everywhere she turned to look sea anemones were everywhere reaching out to grab any unsuspecting victim. On closer inspection she realized that not only were the sea anemones were filled with very happy and large clown fish, but that they were filled with many skeletons of previous merepeople who had made this venture. She swam on trying to stay as close to the center of the cave as possible finding that the further that she went in the tighter the crevice became. There were several fresher bodies here than she had seen before beginning to decay as the clown fish happily ate away at them. She felt her stomach drop trying to look away from the victims, but it was too hard since there were so many. Why, she mused, would so many merepeople be willing to make this trip if it would cost them their lives? She knew her own reasons, but she wouldn’t expect that this many merepeople would come this far to be changed into humans to live with the ones that they possibly love. Or could it very well be that simple.
She finally came to the end of the cave, where it opened up into a wide caver spewing light from within, but the long tentacles of the anemones in bright colors of pink and white blocked her way. There was no way through, though the idea crossed her mind to try to swim through the tentacles anyway.
“Hello, is anyone there?” She shouted. She was met with silence and the sound of rusting tentacles, but suddenly a loud horn blasts sent all the anemones into hiding, including the ones further down the cave forcing the release of some of the corpses and the clown fish swarmed around her. The light from inside the cave nearly blinded her as she swam in. She had never seen so much light under the water as she saw right now. The cavern was filled with light, blues, greens, white, and pinks bounced off the walls illuminating the vast cavern of white crystal. She felt herself gasp at the sight of the cavern; she had never seen anything that sparkled with this much color in her life. Looking around she finally caught sight of who she was looking for, the sea witch.
Lilly almost immediately felt insecure about herself as she looked at the mermaid before her. She was lovely. Her fins and lower body were painted bright orange and white like the thousands of clown fish swimming about. Vibrant red hair floated freely through the pulsing water held back out of her face by a net of white pearls. He skin was white which brought out the drastic color of her black eyes. She laid down the sea shell horn that she held and watched Lilly quietly. Lilly looked down at her fins, brown and gray in color, much like the muddy sea floor. Her own skin was a pale gray with brown hair that floated across her face. Next to this vibrantly colored mermaid she felt inadequate.
“What have you come here for? You certainly didn’t risk your life with my anemones just to pay a visit.” Lilly opened her mouth to speak, but the sea witch raised her hand. “You came because of love; everyone comes here for that feeling that they call love. So rare is it that it is really what they come here for. Lust, infatuation, obsession, illusion and jealousy, those are the true reasons so many mermaids and mermen come to me. And the results often are disastrous.” Lilly swam closer to the sea witch who seemed bored and irritated that someone had disturbed her again. This was not simply for love, no she wouldn’t say that she loved the young man because now that the sea witch had said it she knew it wasn’t true, but she knew that the fear of her sisters held her heart far more than any kiss from a human.
“I’m actually here only partially for that.” Lilly admitted. “I came here because my sisters have been treating me bad.”
“I don’t do the trouble of family affairs well unless you plan on killing them, then it’s fairly simple. I can’t change them, but I can change you.” She shivered.
“No, it’s me I wants changed, I want to become human.” The sea witch leaned on her arm scooping her out.
“Why on earth would you want to become human? I’m sure you could work something out with your family other than that.” Lilly went on to explain their mistreatment and the young man that she saw watching the surf.
“My name is Maribel,” The sea witch said swimming down to her level. “and I don’t believe that turning you into a human may necessarily be for your best interest. Let me observe my mirror.” Tucked behind some crystals she pulled out a silver mirror into which she gazed for a time.
“What can you see with that?” Lilly asked excitedly trying to look around Maribel to look at the glass. Maribel skillfully dodged her glances.
“This shows possibilities. Fate is not set in stone and this helps me try to direct people in the right direction, but actually showing their possible fates throws everything out of balance, frays the threads so to speak. So I can try to convince people, warn them, but often time they don’t heed it and head straight into trouble.” After a few more seconds of observation Maribel put the mirror away and sized Lilly up with her eyes. There was much curiosity within them, a spark lost in the blackness of them.
“Are you sure this is what you want?”
“I’m sure.” Lilly said. She was determined more than ever that this was what she needed to do.
“I’ll do it, but it’ll take some time. In the mean time you need to learn more about the human world if that’s what you really want. I’ll start teaching you as I get everything together.”
Lilly listened well to Maribel’s words as she swam casually about pulling things from the crevices around the crystals and pouring them into a cauldron. She watched in amazement as the liquids actually poured and flowed into the cauldron. When Lilly asked how that was possible Maribel told her it was because of something called density, even though it was a liquid it weighed more than the water that they swam in. She continued on with her lesson.
“We also speak the same language as they do so you shouldn’t have to worry about that. Or at least the area of the world you plan on going to does.” In a short time Lilly felt her head filled with what was right and wrong, polite and disrespectful, manners, and the idea of wearing clothes and how to dress. It made her dizzy. So many things filled her mind. Maribel smiled.
“Do not worry; I’ll give you something to help you retain that knowledge better.”
Lilly took a nap while Maribel worked. She hadn’t realized how long she had been awake and fell into a deep sleep despite how bright the cavern around her was. She dreamed of the moon and the young man with black hair. They were sitting together in a rowboat looking up at the stars together talking about what they should do next. He leaned in close to her face; she could feel his breath on her lips. What she expected to be warm and soft was cold and rough. She pulled away to look him in the face, but the face she was looking at was no longer his own it was that of one of the corpses she had seen in the anemones. She screamed so loudly that it woke her from her sleep. Maribel starred at her, in mid pour of one of the liquids.
“Are you alright?” Lilly nodded feverishly, trying to get her heart to stop beating in her throat. She swore that if she had screamed any louder that her heart would have popped out completely. Maribel ladled some of the strange liquid into a small bottle and corked it, handing it to Lilly.
“Now listen, I’m only going to say this once. When you are human your feet will ache as though you were cutting them open every step with shards of glass. Mermaids were not meant to walk the shores as selkies do, otherwise we would be able to shed away our fins freely. This potion will also sear your vocal cords making you unable to talk so you may need to find other ways to communicate with others. I don’t know how to cure this; I’ve yet to figure it out.” “Maribel, how is it that you know so much about humans and you live here amongst the anemones?” Maribel shook her head.
“That is another story for another day I’m afraid.” Maribel said nudging Lilly towards the cave. She blew into the shell horn again forcing the anemones into hiding and ushered the young mermaid to the entrance. “Good luck with your venture,” Maribel said. “And remember the path you choose is the one you must walk on, some gates close when you walk through them, but new ones are always along the way.” Lilly nodded and swam for the surface with potion in tow.
This is the unedited version of my story. The base idea came from Hans Christian Andersons "the little mermaid" and a collaboration of other fairy tales into one long story. I am looking for feedback such as like, dislike, boring, awesome just something to work with when I go back through to edit.