When I return home there is blood in the water. Bodies litter the floor, my sisters rejoicing. Even in murder they are beautiful. Even with blood in their hair and bones in their teeth they are stunning. I join in the cheers and swim to find my court. They are my generation, the sisters who were born in similar years. In our cave there are only five. In our ocean, there are hundreds. My court was born from the same storm, a lightning storm that brought dozens of ships to their deathbeds. We are known to many as natural born killers; and I have strived all my life to prove them wrong. When I was young I was taken on my first hunt. I was old enough to fend for myself, old enough to watch from a distance as my sisters taught us how to kill. I remember hearing the beautiful voices lulling the men into a trance, and luring them towards the water. I nearly swam to them, bizarrely entranced by their song as my sisters held me to the coral. But I could still here the voices. I heard men fall in love and I saw men die for the woman they thought loved them back. I saw them scream underwater, and I saw as life escaped them. They were dead men the moment they entered our domain. I saw death for the first time that day. It was not the first time I had seen a corpse or the death of an inferior sea creature. But this was the death of men who were so similar to ourselves. Their voices, deep and strong could break so easily, and when I followed one man on his way to his death, I saw in his eyes that he had given up. The defeat was unbearable, and as I followed him deeper we found ourselves in a coral cove far beneath the surface. His eyes were drifting open in exhaustion, fingers searching under his chest. When he pulled out a locket I helped him open it to reveal a family. Two beautiful young girls who sat on their father’s shoulders while a woman with pale skin held a baby by the chimney. She wore the look of death in her tight smile and fragile arms. She looked like she could barely lift the baby on her hip. It made my insides ache to see what my kind had done, and I yearned for the family in the picture. Somehow, they had to be okay.
When the strange man saw the picture I knew he was gone. He was lost to the sea. I did not understand why he had to die. He had people out in his world that needed him. It didn’t make sense. I hid his locket in the coral and return when life feels helpless., which is becoming even more frequent. Sometimes I can feel myself searching for my cove in my dreams. Night after night I wake in a dark hole surrounded by the items I have collected. The man’s locket, the pocket watch of a young boy aboard a doomed vessel, and an engraved sword that has shed the blood of my sisters; they lie in corners and in nooks and crannies. Somewhere, someone is looking for these, and someday, I will return them.
Tonight a feast will be held. It is custom for our kind to eat what they kill, though today is a special day. Today, our queen is visiting our caves. She lives in an ocean far away, and though I do not remember meeting her when I was young I can see her in my head the moment her name is spoken. Her presence has been rumored for months, even the water grass whispers of her arrival. Hundreds of folk have been pooling into our caves in the last two weeks. Our numbers soared from a respectable 89 to an astounding 1465. Sister Folk from all over the seas have come to see the Queen Elphyraa in person, to witness her tragic beauty firsthand. In my life, I can only recall three or four visits, though I know that is more than most folk will ever receive in their lifetime and I am only nearing my 18th year. It is a privilege I do not fully understand, though I have heard stories from my older sisters. They speak of an inheritance, and a cycle that must be fulfilled. Elphyra has been the Queen for over a hundred years. She is one of our oldest now. She has been waiting for the right moment to step down.
Queens do not often leave their position. The more preferred option is dying in battle. It is the more honorable death than being murdered in sleep the moment you are not queen anymore.
With all my sisters from caves and homes who know of our domain, it is easy to be lost in the crowd. The caves are overflowing, and the ornate ocean floor was not meant to support such a vast amount of sea people. Scattering the rock tables that have been prepared for the Queen’s banquet lie the hundreds of bodies brought in from a dozen ships. War uniforms with badges and glittering metal decorate their bodies, while blood clouds slowly seep from the wounds of battle. Teeth marks on throats, venomous nail scratches, and all manners of injuries turn the lifeless bodies into a work of art. My sisters and I crowd around the feast, complete with shark and fish and exotic plant life that grows in the areas nearby. The feast has to be perfect, it has to be fitting for a Queen to join us, especially when her standards have risen so high as to eat her own kind on occasion. She is ruthless. Our stories depict her as the greatest warrior our kind has ever seen. Her beauty is fascinating and charms even our kind to draw near though danger lurks within her. Her danger terrifies and excites me all at the same time. I can feel my insides shivering in anticipation, and quivering with anxiety. She is a killer, and we worship and bow to those who can kill and murder their best friend without hesitation. The idea of a banquet does not suit me well. Feasting in public is not something I am keen on; it runs through my mind like teeth sinking into flesh. It has been weeks since I last ate like this. Now, with the Queen watching over me, I have no choice.
When she arrives the whole cave is hushed. My sisters cower to the walls and bow to her as she passes. Many try to avert their eyes, as one of my younger sisters from a cave I have never been to has already looked. She stands from her crouched position under her rock face and climbs into the procession. The guards don’t even see her sneak past them. She is a young girl, perhaps only ten years old. She does not know how dangerous our queen is. She will never have the chance to learn, as she reaches out and touches the Queen’s shoulder. She will never understand why what she did was wrong, and without a second thought the Queen turns and blood sprays into clouds around them. Hundreds of gasps and tiny cries escape the folk surrounding the scene, and though they press themselves even further into the walls I cannot help but draw my face closer. The trails of blood of mesmerizing and I once again remember why I do not hunt. I remember why I abstain from killing. It brings me too much joy, too much satisfaction. Omething so evil should not be considered a good thing. My sister is dead, and as she floats to the ocean floor her sisters from home crowd around her and weep at he small body. Her pale blond hair flowed seamlessly, golden to the roots. Her tanned skin paled and small scales peeled from her body where a sharp knife now resides. She was beautiful in her small way. Her name was Leila, I learned, as her sisters held her hands and kissed her face. They would not be allowed to bring her home with them. There would be a ceremony tonight after the feast where the Queen would speak. She would say something that would enrage the girl’s sisters, and they will go home without their friend. She would not be buried, but dropped into the deepest trench the Queen’s guards will find while they travel in the next few days and her body will decay on a floor she doesn’t recognize. Her soul will seek freedom but without a body she will sink even further. She will not rest with her family, but with the grotesque fish that dwell in the deepest darkness that will tear her body to shreds the moment they catch her scent. This fate is evil, and this girl does not deserve it. She deserves sunsets and another hundred years of life. She deserves what she will not get. She died for nothing.