The Little Mermaid

August 13, 2008
Inspired by Virginia Woolf’s The Waves and Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid

“I will return before dawn,” said Susan. “Above the surface of my world, the sun is sinking. Flamingo clouds spread across the expanse of the sky, shrouding the ocean, diminishing its mystic. Birds soar against the breeze, slicing the air into invisible shards. The pearl-white sand glistens, waiting to be devoured by the water’s foamy clutches. How calm, how refreshing a breath of evening air is after seventeen years of living underwater! An inhalation of still atoms fills my lungs as a gentle kiss of a wave with its undulating flap delivering a flood of exhilaration. A large ship adorning three masts creates wrinkles upon the water. The sounds of laughter, revelry, discourse are astonishing -- my first encounter with mortals. As the sun strolls farther from sight, thousands of lanterns are lighted, casting streams of artificial light across the deck, illuminating the youthful form of a prince. I peer at him through the glass window panes, drinking in the rare sight of his beauty; his tousled raven hair, the depths of his glossy ebony eyes, the ivory tones of his fair skin; intoxicated by his earthly allure. Hundreds of rockets rise into the air, blasting flashes of light that could rival the stars’ radiance into the sky. I dive under the water, frightened by the cacophony. The moment I return above the surface, I catch a glimpse of the prince’s smile. Oh how I could watch him all night.”

“I will return after a few days,” said Bernard. “The zephyr of salt fans my tranquil countenance, ruffling my chevelure. How free, how absolutely liberating life on the seas is! There are no enclosing marble walls, no servile sycophants lying to earn my approval, no royal duties, only the gentle rocking of the ship and the fanatical existence with nature. This and perhaps love is all one needs to live for.”

“A growl of an impending storm resonates hours after the men head for their cabins,” said Susan. “The prince leans against the railing, gazing at surrounding blackness. What could he possibly be thinking of? The storm clouds loom ominously overhead and tumultuous waves barrage the ship. A mountainous tide tilts the ship and inundates it with a wall of brackish froth. The young prince tumbles into the ocean’s perilous depths. I swim with a rush of adrenaline, narrowly avoiding the ship’s plunging sails and planks. When I reach his unconscious body, I grasp his arm, and wrap it around my shoulder. He must not die; I will not allow it. I navigate the turbulent waters until detecting a pearl-white shoreline. With the last of my strength, I manage to pull him onto the moist sand, away from encroaching waves. The first fibers of light and a group of young girls’ chatter prompt my departure. I hide behind a boulder; the prince arouses. He smiles at a lovely little girl, a smile that I deserve. At least he is alive. Some day, my prince, we will meet again.”

“I hear a melodious sonance,” said Bernard. “So the owner of this voice is my savior? I am forever in debt to her. I will remember her for her dark lashes, captivating eyes -- her hospitality. I promise her my life and love.”

“It has been years,” said Susan. “Years of rushing to the surface whenever a shadow resembling a ship moved overhead, years of tears, waiting, wishing. Where are you now my prince?”

“It has been years,” said Bernard. “Years since my last voyage on the seas which ended with my drenched body upon a shore. I miss the caress of the ocean breezes and the serene creases rolling across the water. Before dawn, the horizon is a vague dark stroke that does not differentiate the sky from the sea. I shall revisit after I find the girl I have searched for all these years.”

“My sisters have told me that they know where the prince is,” said Susan. “I arrive before his palace of roman pillars and primeval majesty. Here, within these walls, behind those barred doors is the one I have loved upon my first entrance to the mortal world. I shall wait patiently until I can confirm that I am not simply dreaming.”

“I heard of the praises the fisherman gave the prince,” said Susan. “His name is Bernard. He is a man of integrity and virtue. I am willing to make any sacrifice to become a mortal, to introduce myself to him, even if I were to lose my mermaid tail and leave home.”

“I will not regret my decision,” said Susan. “In exchange for a potion to become mortal, I have given the sea witch my dulcet voice. I will have an ethereal beauty, the gracefulness of a dancer. The witch told me that my tail will transform into human legs; however, I will experience excruciating pain with every step. Physical agony no longer daunts me. The moment the potion touches my lips, I cannot change back into a mermaid. If the prince should marry another girl, the price I pay is death. I am forsaking my home, my voice, everything, yet I must not regret because I venture for happiness.”

“I found a beautiful creature on the marble steps leading to the palace,” said Bernard. “She trembled from an unidentifiable source of agony. She could not speak when I asked her for her name and why she was there. She gazed at me with absolute desperation; the hopeful longing that I would understand; I could never forget her solemn blue eyes brimming with frailty and sorrow. I agreed to allow her entrance into the palace. How could I have refused this lost girl?”

“The prince is all that I have imagined,” said Susan. “His magnanimity the fisherman spoke of was not an exaggeration. I followed him into the palace with nimble steps, ignoring the piercing stabs of knives beneath my feet. This is the life I have chosen now.”

“Susan performed a dance today,” said Bernard. “She glided and twirled, barely touching the ground, entrancing everyone. I have never met a girl with such grace. I can almost always read her eyes; spoken words are unnecessary. There’s a delicacy to her that reminds me of the girl who saved me.”

“Bernard brought me horseback riding in the countryside,” said Susan. We rode beneath the hardwood trees that shielded us from the summer rays; their green leaves brushed our shoulders, and the silence was filled with the song birds singing melodies. We ambled through the meadows. Bernard spoke of a girl whom he said I resemble. He professed that he shall love her and no other, for he made himself that promise years ago. He doubts whether he would ever meet her again. He does not know that it was I who rescued him from the sea; it was I who brought him onto land. I cannot replace her; I never could, but I will stay by him. I will love him, protect him. There is nothing that I have not already endured to be with him. Bernard, although you can only think of her now, one day you will realize how it is I who you rely on, who you cannot live without.”

“Mother and Father have arranged for me to meet a princess,” said Bernard. “I certainly will not agree to marriage. If I were to marry, considering how I may never find the girl from the shore, I will choose Susan. Please wait for my arrival, Susan; I will not make you wait long.”

“Of course,” said Susan. “Of course I will wait, I have always been waiting have I not? I pray for your safe trip Bernard.”

“The girl whom my parents wanted me to meet is the one I have been looking for all these years,” said Bernard. “So the hearsay is true; she has grown more beautiful than before. My prayers are finally answered.”

“I have never seen Bernard so happy,” said Susan. “A part of me wants to embrace him and congratulate him for finding her, but I cannot find the strength to do so. How can I even continue to look their way? My body, my heart, my senses have ceased. I feel nothing, taste nothing, see nothing. I am that fungi-infested tree with a blacked soul, consumed from the center outward, waiting to topple. The torment from walking on land cannot compare to this, this void where the heart should be. His wedding morning will be my last day.”

“Before the streaks of copper touch the windowsill, I must see you for the last time,” said Susan. “You embody serenity, reminding me of your younger self the night of my seventeenth birthday. I hear you whisper her name in your sleep. Those words puncture my being with excruciating force, thousands of times more unbearable than renouncing my world, identity, and family. You have her now; I am only the docile pet you have kept around for entertainment. You will easily forget, as all mortals do. Bernard, even when we are apart, my heart will always belong to you. So this is farewell my prince.”

Susan plummets into the ocean’s depths below the open window. The waves break on the shore, spilling sea foam across the pearl-white sand.

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