© 2014 Tara Lesley Gregory All Rights Reserved
Deep down in the depths of my ocean, I see the world inside out. Sea grass curls and exists in every corner the coral has to offer. Bubbles drift upwards as if the coral itself were breathing. There is no sound here; only the gentle tossing and turning of the waves as the current brushes my skin. It is cold. I have travelled far beneath the surface to come here. The chill seeps into my bones and turns my fleshy scales a pale dead colour. This is my hiding place – the only place I have that is hidden from the rest of the world. From here none of my sisters can find me. From here I can’t hurt anybody.
My body shudders, rubbing itself into the coral wall. I can feel scaled release from my lower back, and almost instantly there is a cloud of red at my waist. A shark leers from the distance. I have seen this one before. He has a scar across his face, a deep cut that nears his eyes. A chunk of his dorsal fin is missing. He has been circling my cove for weeks. Humans see them as the ocean's most dangerous predator. How wrong could they be?
Killing and seduction are not strange to my kind. In fact, it is rewarded. The bones of dead sea men scatter the sunken ships and skulls are horded like trophies in our rocky caves. The decaying ships house the orphaned fish and the lost creatures that dwell in the dark recesses of the ocean. Their empty skeletons play host to the lost creatures that don't know where to go. The poor souls of men wander the caves and ocean floor, sinking even in the afterlife. They are the men who have been tempted by our appearances, and everything that made them an individual is torn and ripped from their bodies while sharks are invited to the frenzy. Hundreds of men have fallen to my sisters – men with parents and wives and children; men with good intentions and good hearts and men who prey on others. Young and old, they stand no chance. They named us sirenes and mermaids and sea demons. At least that is what we are called until they see us.
"Goddess" They cry from their ships;
"My love," "Sea Fairy," "my Queen."
Many jump do their doom to touch us in person, to see if our skin is really as soft as it looks; some even to save the women who swim aimlessly. They are driven to insanity just by hearing our voices. Our melodies put men to rest in the most permanent ways.
They say good men taste the best. I have been told that they are more fun, because my kind love challenges. My sisters are excited to show off their prizes after a kill. They ask where mine is. I tell them I ate him already, that I shared him with the sea. And they believe me. They are the ones who have known me since I was born from the violent stormy waves and they still do not know that I hide in my coral cove when they take down a ship. There are too many of us to keep track of during a kill. When a ship nears our caves hundreds of other folk draw near to enjoy the hunt. It is easy to be lost in the chaos. It is all part of the excitement.
My sisters are all beautiful; it is in our nature to be attractive to those we hunt. Our scales are meant to hypnotize, our fleshy fins and tails are meant to mesmerize. The subtle changes in our bone structure that make us more appealing shift when we must adapt to a new situation. Our blood runs cold when we swim deep into the darkness, and our sharp edges are hidden when we breach the surface during a hunt. To our prey, we look almost human. There are hints that arise, though their mind does not see what it does not recognize. It is a shame that they do not see us at our most beautiful. It is a shame that they are willing to die for us when we look our worst. But that is what humans are. They are weak and foolish and impulsive. They do not remember the rumours and the tales of the men that survive. They forget the danger as soon as they forget that we are the ones in charge.
Small fish dribble past me, tiny bubbles escaping their small bodies and pulled to the glassy top. Surface is far from here. Even when I look up I can only see a hint of light. I prefer to stay down in the dredges to avoid the men's blood that fills the water. It is a guilty taste that I cannot help but love. I touch the coral fingers that stick out from the small cove, pushing myself as far as I can into the smallest crevice I can find. The cloud turns a thicker shade of red, which lures the shark closer. Staying here for much longer is not an option. The longer I stay and avoid my sisters the more likely they are to realize that I am not with them. The longer I stay here the more dangerous this predicament is. I lock eyes with the shark and he turns quickly, sinking into the darkness.
When my sisters return from their pillaging, I will welcome them. I will cheer and dance in the blood filled waves that roll through our caves, billowing from the corpses that I fear are still alive. With their eyes open, I can almost still hear the screaming.