When her business is done, it is known that a storm will always follow. As thunder cracks and waves smash against the harbour walls, I can only pray for the poor fool that fell for her bewitching eyes and silent summoning. Not a local, couldn’t have been. We were told by our parents, who were told by theirs, to stay away from Hawker’s Cove after the sun sets. To run home and hide if we heard the sweetest singing voice coming from the tide, unless we wanted to meet a merciless end at the hands of a beautiful monster.
I saw her once, when I was a child. Only a shimmer of her tail as she dived into the waves with her latest victim. I saw the moment he died as the clouds darkened and the sea became restless. The harbour began to fill as fishermen retired for the evening, missing the oncoming storm by minutes. A solemn sorrow fell around the village, as it does whenever a storm hits our shores. The mourning of a death. The fear of a creature.
Many had tried to find the beast and end her watery reign. Sons; brothers; fathers; and friends all lost to her. Legend suggests that one man escaped her grasp once, about one-hundred years ago. Harold Sloane. A young sailor boy lost among the rocks. He died alone and mad years later. He could never bring himself to talk of who, or what, he met that night.
My village has been plagued by this creature for a millennium. The fear runs deep within everyone that lives here. I dream of liberation. A place where our children can play freely on the shore without the scent of death in the air.
I feel the calling within me. The will to free my village, no not will, need. I look to the shotgun hidden behind my wardrobe. I can do this. One shot, straight into the heart of the beast. People will worship me. My name will live on forever as the saviour of Padstow. The Mermaid slayer.
A weight settles in my stomach as I wait for the dark of night. She’ll know I’m there as soon as my foot touches the cool rock of the cove. I need to be ready. A layer of sweat coats my palms as my hands shakily grasp the cold barrel of my shotgun, ready for what I must do.
The soft glow of the moon shows the time has come. I can do this. Think of the celebrations the village will hold in my honour. I take a steady breath and take my first step into the cove. I feel the shift in the air, she knows. An invisible thread pulls me in the direction of the shore.
Turning the corner, I finally set my eyes upon the beast. I have never seen such a beautiful creature. Her pale skin rivals the glow of the moon above, long red hair sticks to her side and puddles on the rock she sits upon. The blue and gold scales that coat her slender tail shimmer in the moonlight.
I look up to her face. It’s round and full. A strand of wet, red hair falls in front of one of her sapphire eyes. The other eye bores into my own. I can’t help but return her stare. She is the most magnificent thing I have ever seen. How can I possibly kill a creature so lovely?
The Mermaid stretches out one hand towards me. I want to touch her. I slowly release the shotgun from my grasp. It makes a clanging sound as it hits the rocks below, but I cannot look away from the beauty in front of me. Without breaking eye contact, I take a small step towards where she is perched.
Her mouth turns upwards into a genteel smile. Then I hear it. The sweet singing we were warned to run far away from. But I cannot. My feet continue in her direction. I don’t want to leave her here. Her voice penetrates my ears, filling my head with song. The lyrics were not English, I do not know what she’s saying, I just know I never want to be without her voice.
My fingertips gently touch hers. Her wet hand moves further along mine until she is gripping my wrist. Her skin is cold and soft. A warm sensation moves inside me. I feel home, safe. Her hand travels up my arm and over my shoulders until both her hands are resting on either side of my face. She is still singing, please don’t stop.
An icy shock hits my feet. Water. I can feel it washing over my feet, but I don’t want to move. Our eyes do not leave each other as the water rises to my knees; my hips; my ribs. Her hair starts to surround us as the water grazes my chin. The Mermaid’s hands smoothly move to the back of my neck, tugging gently at my hair. Her body moves closer to mine, I can feel her tail softly caress me below the surface of the water.
Salt coats my lips as more of my body is enveloped by the ocean. Despite her mouth now below the water, I can still hear her sweet voice. Her touch soothes me. I’ve forgotten why I was here in the first place, but I know that I never want to leave.
I am completely covered by the salty water now. Not once have our eyes disconnected. My chest is tightening, I need air. Panic takes over. I look away from the creature and to the surface. We’re moving downwards. The waves above move further away from us. I look back to the beast. Her once calm eyes have turned violent. Her grip tightens as I struggle to move away. She’s strong. Too strong.
My eyes feel heavy. I think of my family back in the village. My mum and dad will awaken to find me missing. Will they know she took me? Their only child now gone. I think of all the things I would’ve done differently in my life. I wouldn’t have pushed Billy Jones off that wall when I was eleven. I would have been brave enough to talk to that girl I saw in the bakery. I’ll never be able to rectify the wrongs and mistakes I’d made in my life. I am about to die, and I had achieved nothing.
The current surrounding us becomes more forceful. A storm. I look back to the surface; I can see the waves growing fiercer, crashing against the rocks. The beast catches my eye once more. Her face, now shadowed, is the last thing I see before I close my eyes. I feel her grip loosen slightly as I slip into unconsciousness.