By Rachel H Grant
The sea slept under the moonlight, silent music in its waves, the hum of eternity in its hidden heart. Dreams and nightmares tangoed together in the depths, a world of wisdom unseen.
Donald stared in to the distance, answers eluding his searching eyes. He had never seen her again. Perhaps he never would.
Merlina, the most beautiful woman he had ever met. It was the night of the storm, when he had suddenly been tossed overboard like a used cloth, monsters alive in the murderous waves. The sea threw its icy arms around him, a mighty beast from a darker world. Powerless to their fury, the waves devoured him, the sound of molten music fire in his ears.
And then she was there. Arms of steel gripped him. Rising to the surface, he gasped deliriously for air. Azure green eyes stared in to his own. She swam with him to his boat, climbing onboard with him. Then he saw the mermaid tail. “I am Merlina. You must write, you have a book in you.” Then she was gone, disappearing in to the waves like a dream that could not survive the daylight. Dawn brushed the sky with rose hues as the storm subsided, the soft song of daybreak shushing the storm, the ghost of its memory silenced.
Denise unlocked her shop door, a smile painted on her face, glee glistening in her eyes. Her own shop, she still could hardly believe it. “Sea Spa” offered lotions and laughter, soap and solace, cream and comfort. Therapists used her back room as a base; the shelves were crammed with beauty products and new age books. She had something for everyone, even if a smile and a word of comfort were all that was needed.
One day the most beautiful woman she had ever seen entered the shop, long auburn locks shining and sea green eyes sparkling. “I have a perfume you may wish to stock, I call it Mer Music.”
Denise sniffed a small bottle shaped like a wave. The scent hit her heart like a ball of bliss. The fragrance was as beautiful as the woman before her.
“I would love to stock this, I am Denise, and … “
“Merlina,” answered the woman to the unspoken question. “I see a notebook on your counter, do you write?”
It was the effect of the perfume, she was sure. Denise opened up like a seashell. “I am finishing a novel started by my great grandfather, Mer Monsters, which we found recently in the attic of my grandmother’s house. I would like to see it completed, as a legacy to him. I never knew him, in fact he was a fisherman and he died young at sea.”
Merlina stared at her with a still yet penetrating gaze. “You wish he had lived, so as an infant you might have met him.”
“Yes,” admitted Denise. “Reading his manuscript, getting used to the old-fashioned hand and reading his mind by uttering the words on the page, yes I wished I could have met him as a little girl. My great grandmother lived until I was six, so it may have been possible. But not to be I am afraid.”
“What is to be will be, but everything else can change just like that.” Merlina smiled with mysteries behind her eyes. “Fate is a fickle future, it can alter its course like a boat lost at sea. I will return with more perfume bottles.”
With that, the mysterious lady departed.
Denise stared after her, unformed questions on her lips, a feeling of the unexpected in her heart. It was a day like no other, the day destiny painted the walls of her life in golden yellow, a new beginning and a vanished past.
When she returned to her upstairs flat at the end of the day, her mantelpiece bore a new and utterly impossible piece of fruit.
A framed photo of herself as a toddler, sitting on the knee of an old man she had never met.
She carefully tool the photo out of the frame. “Great Grandfather Donald and two year old Denise,” proclaimed the writing on its back.
Denise gasped as mysteries surged in her heart, the sound of the sea in her ears. Like a monster from the deep, an alternate reality had sliced through her life and muted her memories.
The past had been rewritten.
Donald pondered on the mysterious mermaid’s words. “You must write.” How could she have known about the half written manuscript under his bed? Mer Monsters, a private project to be perused by no one. Who was he to believe he could write? He was a fisherman first and foremost, he had been born for the sea, not for a world of words.
And yet, how he loved to write. Slowly, he smiled. He would forget about “Mer Monsters,” a story to nowhere.
It was time to write about mermaids, the mer music in their hearts, and a hidden land of secrets under the sea.
Denise slept as if she had been at sea for months, dreams like a bottomless ocean in her head, deep and mysterious.
When she awoke at dawn, it was there like a treasure map in her head. The plot of Mer Monsters. It was time to write, it was time to finish her grandfather’s book.
A memory crept in to her mind like a lost bird. “This half-finished book, it is yours to write one day. You can have it, and always remember me.” She was on her great grandfather’s knee, leaning to see the series of books by him on his bookshelf. He gave her a scrawled incomplete manuscript instead. It had been her secret for too long. Now it was time to navigate its seas one last time.
Another stray memory flickered like a candle in her head. Her great grandfather, swept away to sea before she was born. She rubbed her eyes in disbelief. Where had that come from? Granda Donald had lived to be 98. She could almost remember the funeral, too young to attend the service but there in the hotel afterwards, a distant dream from an infant brain.
Denise yawned. It was a new day. Time to finish this novel, her final goodbye to a dearly loved great grandparent.
Donald had finished The Mermaid’s Jewels. He laughed. He had done it, him! Of course, it would never be published.
Ten years later, fishing a distant dream from another life, Donald ran his finger along the spines of ten published novels, the “Mermaid” series of tales.
He smiled. A mermaid had saved him in more ways than one.
Denise smiled as she turned over the shop’s open sign. Another day.
The bell tinkled as a customer entered. It was Merlina, the perfume lady from yesterday. For some reason, Denise struggled to recall their conversation.
“I have more perfume bottles!” said Merlina in her silken tones. Her eyes sparkled. “How’s the novel coming along?”
Denise laughed. “I was up at 5am writing, it’s finally coming together.”
“I can’t wait to read it.” Merlina’s smile was as mysterious as the sea in a storm, her eyes refusing to smile with it, serious wisdom winking from within.
Denise laughed again. “One day, perhaps you will.”
Donald wrote the final paragraph of the ultimate book in the Mermaid series.
The mermaid swam in to the night, one final good deed defining her life, for tonight she had saved a life. Like a stone thrown in to the sea, ripples would reach out further and further, so many lives touched by this one act of grace. And in the end, only the mermaid knew the alternate story without her intervention, a stolen secret in her heart. The mermaid smiled inside as the ocean laughed with her. The sea would keep her story safe, hidden in its depths now and forever. For once you have known the sea, and swam in to its heart, you can never know a better friend.
Denise wrote the final paragraph of Mer Monsters.
Donald stood on the deck of his ship, and closed his eyes. The storm raged all around, ravaging his hair with mer rain, savaging his clothes with mer pain. He waited. A mer monster would appear any moment, just like they had before, beasts of the deep, with eyes like molten volcanoes, fires in the sea.
However not tonight. When the waters opened up before the ship, the most beautiful woman appeared, azure green eyes like a window to a mer heaven. She smiled. As the sea surged higher, he was flung overboard. Arms like steel gripped him, guiding him to a world beyond time, a reality with no rhyme.
Mer music roared in his ears as the mermaid held his hand. Perhaps this was it, The end. Or was it only the beginning?
“Tonight is the door to a better life,” whispered the mermaid above the screams of the sea. “Take this key, unlock the stories of your heart. Write my novel, write of my adventures … and be as free as me!”
Donald woke up on the shore. He stared at the now silent sea, and wondered what secrets it held within.
It was a new day, the first of a new life. The story of a man who had met a mermaid.
Mer music roared in his ears as he smiled. The sea was a savage beast … but it could also be the best friend you would ever find.
The sea sighed under a bright moon, nursing secrets and whispering wisdom unheard. On the horizon, a ship sailed in to the moonlight as though striving to find a better tomorrow. The man on the shore did not see it. The mer music had silenced his thoughts, a ballad of bitter beauty. It was time to believe in seafaring stories of old. It was time to dream. It was all time, it was no time.