This is a short story I wrote and submitted for my Creative Writing course in my first year.
They used to wash up on the beach occasionally. It wasn’t very common and there was always a spectacle when they did. Usually the Marine Rescue Squad would show up and pull them back into the sea. MRS had these huge net things, and cars that could drive into the water, so that they didn’t have to touch them. They always looked confused to be there, and it wasn’t like you could talk to them to tell them the way the tide works. Sea creatures don’t understand why going near the shallows is a bad idea.
It hasn’t happened for a few years. I almost miss them.
I have to walk along the cliffs to get home. Every now and then I glance down at the golden sands where the sunset shimmers on the waves and turns the deep dark blue sea into a dancing fire. I used to use this time to remember those days. And then one day, I didn’t have to remember any more.
One of them had washed up high on the sand, thrashing its tail everywhere with its mouth agape. It was gasping and trying to scrabble back to the water. I zig-zagged down the steep path towards the beach and it stared at me with its wide yellow eyes. I had no clue what I was supposed to do. It looked like it had been there a while; its skin was dry and crusty with dirt and the more it moved the more tired it looked. The MRS would take too long to arrive. I tried to get my arms around it to move it, but it started to screech and waved around more. I hated it when they did that.
“It’s okay, don’t be scared,” I tried to tell it.
There’s no safe place to grab them from. The tail moves around too much and everything else is spikes or teeth. I had my arms around its middle and its webbed spines jabbed my stomach as it wriggled. I wasn’t expecting it to be so cold, or for its scales to be so smooth along its belly. I also wasn’t expecting the strong salty, fishy stink that filled my nostrils when I held it close.
Suddenly a thought occurred to me and I said, “Wait here, I have an idea.”
I got up in a rush and ran around the beach until I found a lost bucket. I filled it with sea water and ran back, then upturned the bucket over the wriggling creature. It flinched in surprise and stilled as the cool liquid spread over it.
“There, now you won’t dry out,” I said. It seemed happy.
As the water washed away all the sand and dirt, I saw the true colour of its scales. It was aqua blue with a white belly. Purple stripes ran all along its body, along its jaws and all the way down its tail. Its fins were nearly see-through with thick blue spines, and the tuft of hair on its head was a mix of pale yellow and green. It had a broad, flat nose and a beautifully decorated brow over huge golden eyes.
I crouched down next to it and asked, “What’s your name?”
It didn’t answer me. Instead it parted its thin lips and grinned with all its pointy teeth.
I was disappointed, even though I knew they couldn’t talk. At least it was calm now, and wasn’t flailing everywhere. I began to pat at the sand, trying to make it as smooth and flat as possible. When I had done what I could do, I filled the bucket up again and poured it over the sand, making it smooth and slippery.
I grabbed the sea creature’s tail and it struggled for a moment, but then saw that I was pulling it towards the sea. The fins were rubbery and twitched a little under my touch .It was lighter than I thought it would be. The slippery sand made it easy to get to the tide foam. It slid easily across the wet sand, like a snake on ice.
As soon as it was in the water it wriggled out of my grasp and jerked its tail once, shooting forwards before vanishing into the dark watery abyss. I was alone again.
When I finally got home, I made sure to call the MRS about what happened. They set up nets over the next few days all along the coast designed to keep the larger sea creatures from washing up onto the shore. It was set so deep and far back that even if they did swim up to the nets, we wouldn’t see them. Still, it didn’t stop me from looking down at the beach every time I walked home.
After that, I never saw any of the Merfolk ever again.