It took years of searching under kelp and seaweeds, of slipping past barnacles at low tide, and hunting through the flotsam of a storm surge. At last I’ve found a clutch of mermaid eggs. With care and a stroke of luck, I might be able to hatch them. I’ve studied the manuscripts, the old legends scraped in stone. If I succeed – well, I’ll have a pair of mermaids to raise as my own, won’t I? Shh. Tell no one and I’ll introduce you to them one day.
A witch turned Breanne into a toad for making fun of the witch’s warts. “I earned every one with a spell well done,” muttered the witch as she walked away. Now Breanne had warts of her own and hid underground where no one could see her.
The only person she would allow to visit was her sister, Senora, who came every Saturday.
Years passed. The girls grew up.
One Saturday Senora made an announcement. “You should know, I took up magic. I’ve studied and studied and I’ve finally got a spell to turn you back into a girl.”
Breanne croaked with joy.
Senora shut the door and hung her lantern on a root. She cleared her throat and readied herself for the spell. “Toadstools to footstools, nightmares into dreams, turn sister toad into a girl!”
There was a shimmer of light and Breanne the girl stood where the toad had been.
“It worked!” Senora whooped with pride.
Breanne gazed at her hands, whole and unwebbed at last. How she had missed them. How she had missed her own beautiful face! She yearned for a mirror.
Breanne reached out to embrace her sister, grimacing as she noticed a witch wart appear on the end of Senora’s nose. “Gross! You’ve got warts.”
Senora’s anger crackled in the air. “It’s a badge of honor for a working spell.”
“Ugh. Get rid of it.”
“As you wish, you ungrateful toad.” Senora’s spell dissolved, the wart disappeared, and her sister turned back into a toad.
The ghost flames flickered over the branches, tasting the sweet sap. For half a breath we thought them safe until the phantom flames shimmered and spread their tendrils. The trees were engulfed. The flames rushed through the forest, devouring everything. When they finished with the Boreal, they started on the Amazon. Not a single dandelion was spared. Life on Earth was over.
Some say the phantom of that fire ate our souls as well, but there comes a bitter heartbreak to being forced off-world which lends itself to poetry and dark, deep thoughts of loss. We, the broken, exist to survive now. Our children will not be burdened by this darkness. For them we carry on.
I slip inside the waves, the sea kissing my skin. We’ve been so long apart. She soothes my aching senses, dulling the sharp sounds and smells of the open air.
My tattered feet merge into my tailfin. Out of habit my eyes hunt for the notch I earned from a run-in with a nurse shark when I was seven. I take comfort that my true form remains the same after so many years hidden away.
Everything turns inward. I am aware of my self in the water, my breath, my heartbeat. I swim deeper, reaching for the distant clicks and whale song of the sea, leaving the land and all its ghosts behind forever.
Karen and I spent the summer making fun of the beach selkies and the girls who mooned over them. I dunno, maybe we were jealous. Those guys had rippling muscles and oozed sex appeal, but they never looked at us, two gawky girls whose breasts hadn’t budded yet.
At the end of the summer there were a few who’d had their sealskin coats stolen by lovelorn women. They stood on the beach, unable to go home, looking haunted and broken. Searching.
Giggling with glee, Karen and I ran to the thrift store, buying every seal fur coat we could find. That night we hid them all over the beach.
We set up our beach towels for the day to watch the selkies find them and rush around with mistaken joy, only to be crushed when they discovered the truth.
It’s still the meanest thing I’ve ever done.
Karen laughed at me when I told her I felt bad. “They’re not even human!”
I gathered up the remaining coats and brought them back to the store. It made Karen furious. We never hung out much after that.
*this post was first written as a comment on a writer’s prompt at the Write Practice