Blues, beiges, greens- the beach was filled with colors. Adults cutting through the powerful surf as they swam laps, children laughing and playing, building sandcastles and throwing themselves upon the crashing waves, even teenagers who walked hand in hand along the shoreline and kissed in hidden sand dunes. All of them oblivious to the fact that they were being watched by a girl of no more than 17 or 18, further out in the water than they could swim, or even see.
Raven bobbed in the sea, her dark head floating just above the surface as she observed them and the commotion they caused. She was concerned. The things were out again.
They resembled her from the waist up, as she saw torsos, arms, shoulders, necks, and heads. Some had long hair, like hers, while others had cropped it short, like her brothers. They had eyes, noses, mouths, ears, all variations of the features on her own face.
But below the waist, they were not alike.
The land-people stood upright, moving around on limbs that appeared to be attached to their waists, like an extra set of arms. Some moved slowly down the beach while others bolted as quickly as she could swim. A few older creatures appeared to be hunched over sticks that they used to assist them.
It was a hot day, and so the island was filled land-people, many of whom came down to the water to cool off. She stayed far back, away from the strange creatures on the sand, secure in the knowledge that she wouldn’t be spotted; although they occasionally waded out into the water a bit, they mostly remained onshore, laying their bodies out and then turning over after a few moments. They huddled under yellow structures that provided a minimal amount of shade and slathered white creams on their faces, arms, and legs. Some wore items on their heads – in order to take the shade with them, she supposed – and those came in a wide variety of colors, too: purple, black, gold, orange, some with wide, floppy brims that extended out on all sides, and others that covered only the front of the face.
She sighed, using her powerful tail to push herself just a little bit closer… and suddenly, saw a flash of sparkling, shimmery green scales near the beach.
‘Who got too close?!’
They’d often play games, testing each other to see who could get the closest to shore before turning back. But there were strict rules on remaining hidden from the strange land-people, who were dangerous and unpredictable. She had grown up listening to tales of the old days, when the land-people would catch her kind in huge nets, hauling them out of the sea and onto boats that took them far away, never to be seen again. They still came, with boats and nets, rods, and traps, to hunt for fish. But legend said they had forgotten that the mer-people existed in the deep, and her kind planned to keep it that way. It worried her when they filled the beach on days like today, in droves, splashing around in the waves on their strange waist-arms. They didn’t belong in the water.
Diving down into the cool, blue deep, she swam as close as she dared to a sandbar just to the right of the main beach. The land-people never swam out far enough to reach it, but it was so close that one of them might be able to spot her if they looked hard enough. She huddled behind it, peeking over the edge intermittently. The sandbar was the absolute closest she had even been to them. She saw the flash of blue-green near the sand again.
‘I bet it’s Rami,’ she thought to herself, and sighed. Her older brother would swim right up to the sandbar and even past it, to prove he had no fear of the land creatures.
“Look at those tiny arms on their waists!” He would boast. “They are no match for my tail!”
And it was true: Rami had the strong, silver tail of a bluefin. But Raven’s own yellowfin tail was almost as strong, and far more beautiful, with its yellows and blues woven into the shimmering silver. It would only be a few more years before she could certainly beat him in a race, and look pretty doing it.
‘But not if he gets captured by them for getting too close.’ So she circled the sand bar twice more, before conceding that there was no one else there.
‘So whose tail did I see?’
Rising carefully to the surface, so that only her eyes were visible above the water, she scanned the beach.
It was one of the land-girls. She wore two blue triangles across her chest and a shiny green… something wrapped around her waist, falling to the ground and trailing across the sand behind her. A string of golden coins danced at her midsection. Her skin was a rich, deep brown that gleamed in the sun, with golden highlights at her cheekbones, and she had wild, jet-black braids fell to her hips.
Raven was intrigued. Her own skin was a deeply tanned brown color, warmed by many years spent sunbathing on the rocks, and she wound one of her curly black locs around a finger. She’d never seen one of the strange land beings so closely resemble her.
‘Did she lose her tail?’ She wondered to herself. For there was a legend of that as well: mer-folk that washed ashore and stayed too long, growing the strange waist limbs and forgetting how to swim. Against her better judgment, Raven began to sing. She knew that her voice sounded at a certain frequency, one that could only be heard by those in tune with the sea. Her kind had lulled sailors to sleep over the waves, and pulled cruel fishermen to their deaths. Would the land-girl hear her call?
“Come to me,
I summon thee,
Heed my call,
Creatures of land,
Fall under my thrall,
Come to me, I summon thee,
I’ll keep you safe,
Come to me, I summon thee,
Here beneath the waves.”
The tune drifted across the water. Raven lowered her head back into the sea, and watched as the words reached the shore. Some of the land-people paused, cocking their heads in her direction before going back to their activities; a handful stood up, gazing out into the water. Most carried on, having heard nothing.
But the girl with the brown skin walked to the edge of the beach, where the water met the land, and looked directly into Raven’s eyes.
Banner by frogmakesart
Story by Seren