Part V

For over a year Michael visited Shara and became more infatuated with her every day. His whole life began to evolve around her and the world around him faded away. He left his job, abandoned his friends and was content to live in the little shack built by his grandfather or in a tent beside the Swimming Hole. While his love for Shara remained platonic, it was very real and consuming.

He grew lazy and careless in all aspects of his life. On a daily basis he would severely lacerate himself, break a limb or receive some kind of fatal injury from any number of sources. But it didn’t matter, no matter how deep the wound or how battered his body, he healed instantly. This accident prone nature became part of who he was. He became so use to injury that, while on a trip to visit Shara, it took him five minutes to realize his arm was broken and hadn’t healed.

Michael ran up to the pool in a mild panic, being reintroduced to a long period of pain for the first time in over a year. Just as he got to the point where he could first see the water he realized he wasn’t being greeted by the bubbly, childish mermaid he had adored. Instead he saw the cold and mysterious creature that only lifted her eyes out of the water and let her hair obscure her body. This was the dark and foreboding creature he saw when he first became immortal. And even from his distance he could clearly make out the eyes, the eyes he had all but forgotten about as time had passed.

He paused at the fifteen foot mark where he always had when he approached the mermaid with caution. “Shara?” he asked. He tried to mask the tremor in his voice.

The mermaid lifted her head just high enough to get her mouth above the water. “Hello Michael,” she said simply.

“I . . . I’m hurt . . .”

“I know,” she whispered. “We’re connected; you and I. Everyone I’ve ever kissed is connected to me, I can feel you inside me. It’s how I knew the first time you healed, and how I know it’s the first time you need to eat. And since you need to eat now, so do I.”

She turned her head and looked down at the water, staring into her own eyes. This was the first time Michael had ever seen her in deep thought. “I’m so beautiful,” she said matter-of-factly. Her hand rose out of the water and caressed her cheek. Michael noticed yellow blotches on the back of her hand, and suddenly realized even her face had several blotches and her skin color was darker than usual.

Looking back at Michael she said, “Mermaids are constantly dying, Michael. We’re humans too; we can’t breathe underwater. But we’re damned to always live in the water because of how our bodies change. Michael, I can’t even begin to describe the day I was changed.” She had sadness in her voice, a depth of emotion Michael never imagined from her. “Scales suddenly growing on my legs; my hair growing wildly and moving in unnatural ways; the pigment of my skin changing; my legs turning to liquid and blending into one another.” She looked back to her reflection. “I flopped and cried on the beach of an hour knowing I could never stay on land, knowing I would always be like this. I can never be free to run in the fields, or climb a mountain or a tree. And the whole time the mermaid that made me laughed and played in the water, wanting me to come join her.

“But I am beautiful; I have that. I can not ever give that up. That’s why mermaids have to eat, Michael.” She looked up to him, he imagined tears were streaming down her cheeks, hidden by the water. “Nothing is more important to a mermaid than being beautiful. That’s all we are.”

“But you said you had some food in your den, right? We just need to eat that to heal don’t we? Isn’t that what you said?” Michael’s voice was pleading.

“Are you ready to go, then?” Shara’s voice perked up a little and she lifted her entire head and neck out of the water with anticipation.

Michael nodded frantically and started to walk towards the pool. Shara suddenly flew out of the water. Her body had changed more than Michael had realized. The soft shimmer was gone, replaced by yellow blotches and patches of peeling skin. Her hair fell out, swirling around her as she lifted up. There was no rainbow aura.

For the first time, Shara put both hands on shore and pulled herself out of the water, dragging her tail behind her. Michael fell back at the shock of seeing his water bound angel transformed into a demon crawling along on its belly. He placed an arm behind him and twisted his body, preparing for a quick scrabble to his feet. Shara quickly noticed the weight shift and a grimace spread across her face as her eyes narrowed. This was not the childish pout Michael couldn’t help but smile at, this was look of a predator sizing up it’s prey, and it sent shivers down Michael’s spine.

Shara’s eyes shot fully open and her tail flicked with incredible force. In a grotesque contortion - thrashing the ground with her tail; twisting her body and flailing wildly with her arms - she propelled herself forward with staggering speed. Every inch she moved caused flakes of skin to peel off and hair to be torn from her head. At the sight of this unnatural deformation of his beautiful mermaid, Michael flipped over and kicked his legs in an attempt to escape. Before he could get fully to his feet he leaned on his broken arm, snapping it completely in two and sending him collapsing to the ground. His face slid across the rocks, tearing his skin to ribbons.

Feeling a sudden jerk, he realized Shara had grabbed his leg. He closed his eyes and screamed as his fingers dug into the rocky ground. While Shara was smaller, she was easily three times stronger than him. The rocks under Michael’s hands only tore at his flesh and snapped his fingernails and bones as he tried to hold tight to them. Then he felt water rising around him and his screams became muffled as it filled his mouth.

Shara’s grip tightened as she dove underwater and swam with remarkable speed and force. Michael could feel the water moving past them. As he looked up he saw the light from the top of the pool shrink in the distance. Then the light disappeared fully as they took a sudden, right turn. His lungs burned and pleaded for air as he still tried to scream. It was dark and cold and he didn’t see any end in sight. The mermaid’s tail whipped and kicked, sending them further and further into the abyss. He felt dizzy and confused, and in a sudden moment of desperation he tried to take a breath. Water rushed into his lungs and he convulsed and struggled in agony until he went suddenly still.