The Storm Chaser

April 15, 2010
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The storm. I could feel its energy all day, rising up from the floorboards and into my body. My fingers stroked the cold glass windowpane as I peered out at the changing landscape. Clouds, like two-toned sea pearls, floated towards me in clusters, like bold warriors coming to invade a strong city. The gray sea crashed angrily beneath them, eating up the rocks and sand in protest to the whirlwind that would soon arrive.

Most people are afraid of storms, but I am not. To me, storms are comforting. I love to stand out in a storm, with the rain caressing my cheeks, the lightening playing a dazzling lightshow before my eyes, and the thunder—it’s like music to my ears.

I pressed my forehead against the window. The wind was picking up, the storm was growing stronger. I longed to be out there, my whole body ached with the separation. I glanced back into the small, dark, room of the tiny house that I shared with my grandmother. Everything was still and quiet. There were no sounds except for the growing storm. My heart leapt. Quietly, I tip-toed to the front of my house and slipped out the door.

The storm embraced me and quickly ushered me down to the beach so that I could see its full form. My bare feet glided instinctively over to the rocky cliff. I knew the way down by heart, but the rain slicked my path. Relief rushed through me when my feet finally touched the soft, wet, sand. Slowly, I turned to gaze upon the majestic dance of a summer storm.

My heart filled with wonder as I stared at the scene unfolding before my eyes. The wind whipped at my face as the waves rose tall, like towers, before crashing onto the beach. The water slid up the sand and touched my toes. I stepped forward. The water rippled in delight and swirled round my ankles. I walked closer, my mind hypnotized by the sounds of the waves.

“Caitlin!” my grandmother called from the top of the cliff. “Get back here!” I sighed. She hated what she thought was my “reckless” addiction to storms and the sea. Ever since my parents went for a cruise on their anniversary and never returned, my grandmother has feared water. Any shape or form of it reminds her of the son she lost, the only child she ever had. She blames it for his disappearance. I don’t say death because my parents’ bodies were never found, but I have long since accepted the fact that they are gone forever. I was only three when they left me in my grandmother’s arms. I didn’t know that I would never see them again.

I stared up at the cliff before me. I did not want to leave the storm but I knew that if I did not, I may never be allowed on the beach again. I shuddered at the thought. I wasn’t sure what my life would be like without the feeling of sand under my feet and the sounds of the waves in my ears.

The cliff was wet, dangerously wet. “Caitlin!” my grandmother called again. The storm was picking up, its energy more angry than calming. I ran to the cliff and began to climb it as quickly as I could. My heart pounded in my chest, rain mixed with sweat dripped down my forehead. Higher, higher, my hands reached for every jutting rock. Finally, I could see my grandmother’s feet at the top of the cliff. Almost there……NO! I sucked in my breath as my feet slipped on the wet rocks. I held the rocks in my hands as tightly as I could.

“Grandma!” I cried anxiously. The old woman kneeled down and stuck her head over the edge of the cliff.

“Caitlin! What happened?” my grandmother called back. The wrinkles on her forehead were creased with worry.

“I slipped! I can’t get up! Help me!”

“Grab my hand!” the old woman extended her thin, bony, hand towards me. I reached up carefully to grab it. My heart clenched in terror as the fingers on my other hand began to slip. A tear trickled down my face and landed in the angry water below. I stared down at the foaming waves. Was I doomed to share my parents’ fate?


Ouch! A sharp pain tore through my head. For a moment, everything was a dark blur of confusion. I opened my eyes, trying to focus. After a few minutes, I realized that I was on my couch, staring up at the plain white ceiling of my home. A wave of uncertainty washed over me. The last thing that I could remember was standing outside in the storm. When had I gone home?

“Grandma?” I could barely make out the words. My energy felt completely drained. What had happened to me?

“Caitlin!” My grandmother flew into the room. Never before had I seen the old woman move so fast. “Are you ok, dear?”

“I don’t know. What happened?”

“You don’t remember?” she asked, concerned.
I tried to remember what had happened while I stood in the storm. I recalled being mesmerized by its beauty, how it put me in a trance………my grandmother’s fear………...the cliff……….oh! I gasped.
“Did I…fall?” fear gripped my chest.
“Yes” my grandmother sighed. “I jumped in after you. It’s ok, you’re safe now.”
“You? But, aren’t you afraid?” My eyes widened in astonishment.
“No, Caitlin. I was never afraid of the water.”
She looked down and slumped a little in the chair opposite me, where she had sat a moment before. Guilt glistened in the corner of her eyes. I stared at her, not knowing what to say, how to feel, my entire body had gone numb. My grandmother braced herself against her seat for a moment, as if the weight of her lie had become too much to bear. Finally, she looked up at me once more, her expression sad and heavy.

“Caitlin,” she began, “we have many things to discuss. Some of it may come as a shock to you but be patient and you will understand.”
I looked at her, my whole body trembling with fear. Everything I thought I knew was a lie. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to hear what she had to say but there was no stopping her. All of a sudden the truth came pouring out of her mouth, as if it had been kept bottled inside her for a long time and she couldn’t hold it in any longer.
“I grew up in this very house, the only child of my two loving parents. They cared for me here and when they got old and sick I cared for them, until eventually they both passed from this world and I was left alone in this house. I never left; I never had the will or desire to do it. The house has become a part of me, one that I can’t live without. I wasn’t interested in friends or romance, the house alone was always enough for me. But the one thing I did want was a child. I knew that I could never get one without a lover, but I always secretly hoped that one day I would wake up and find a baby abandoned on my doorstep. I dreamed about it every night. It was my own private fantasy. And one day, my prayers were answered.”
She paused then, letting it all sink in. I wasn’t afraid now, just curious. I couldn’t understand how her story had anything to do with me.
“One day, I was walking along the beach down there-I used to go down every day-and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a young couple popped out from under the water and began swimming towards me. They were great swimmers, despite the fact that the woman only swam with one arm. She seemed to be holding something in the other. She had long, wavy, red hair adorned with pearls, seaweed, and seashells. I didn’t think much of that. She looked pretty. The man had red hair too but otherwise looked normal. They seemed pretty anxious to get to me, so I waited for them. When the couple finally reached the shore, I was surprised when they did not stand but rather flopped down on the beach as if they had been shipwrecked. The woman dropped the bundle she had been carrying at my feet. “Please,” she said. Her eyes filled with tears “Take her.” I was so shocked that I couldn’t reply. I just stood there, frozen. The man and the woman both leaned over to kiss the bundle, stifling back their tears. Then they swam away. When they did, I swear I saw a flash of green scales and a bright green tail fin peek out of the water. Sure I was hallucinating; I picked up the bundle and found that inside was a baby girl only a few days old. My dear Caitlin, that baby girl…was you.”


My mouth dropped open. I was frozen in my place, shaking, desperately trying to process the story that my grandmother had just told me. I didn’t know who I was anymore.

“Caitlin…are you ok?”

My grandmother’s words sounded so far away. I uttered no reply. As if moved by some invisible force I stood up, walked over to the door, opened it, and left the house. I could hear my grandmother’s faint cries from inside as I left but my mind was already somewhere else. I moved robotically across the ground, one foot in front of the other, until I found myself face to face with the sea for the second time that day. I didn’t know what had propelled me to go back there, but when I bent down to gently stroke the water I knew. I had to find out the truth.

So I dove in. It didn’t matter that the air around me was chilled and the blue sky was fogged over with gray clouds. It didn’t matter that I was fully clothed. The water called to me. It offered quiet, gentle comfort from my shattered world. It lay calm as my insides were turning like the storm that had lured me outside in the first place. I held my breath and lay suspended underneath the waves for a few moments, relishing the distant echo of the underwater world. I began to lift my hands to pull myself to the surface for air but I realized that I didn’t need it. I could breathe here. Suddenly the image of the man and woman swimming towards the shore, to my grandmother, popped into my head. Then I saw the flash of green tailfin as they left, just as my grandmother had described. I knew then, as I sucked in water instead of air, that every word of her story was true. No wonder my grandmother never let me take swimming lessons. No wonder why she did everything in her power to keep me away from the water even though all I wanted was to be close to it. She knew what I could become.

A mermaid.

My mind raced with questions. I had to find my parents. They were here somewhere, I could sense that. I couldn’t believe it. All this time I had grown up thinking my parents were dead when in reality they were right here all along. I was stung. I tore through the water, ripping it apart with my hands. I didn’t know where I was going, nor did I notice when my legs twined together to form a sleek, green tail. All I knew was that I had to keep moving.

Finally, I heard a faint noise. A soft rumbling, almost like the mindless chatter in a crowded restaurant. I stopped moving and listened. I could make out words. They sounded foreign but somehow I understood what they meant. There was discussion about some kind of recent disturbance in the water. I slowly swam closer until I could make out some distant shadowy forms. They hid just behind a beam of light that pierced through the ocean floor. Gently, I slipped into the spotlight. The noise ceased.

Panic gripped my chest. Had I done something wrong? I heard a soft clicking noise and understood it to mean it’s her.

“Do you…” I began. I stopped when the same strange sounds I’d heard before poured out of my mouth. The others were still hidden in shadow but I could feel them listening. I sucked in some fresh water, let it our slowly, and continued.

“Do you know where my parents are?”
Of course we do, they hissed. They will be delighted to hear that you have found your way home. Follow us.

I swam forward blindly. I didn’t even have a chance to look at their faces before they turned. Six green tails swam before me. Their faces were hidden but I sensed that they were all female and much older than me. It was strange that the water could make me feel things I had never felt before. It was as if I had a sixth sense. For the first time in my life, I felt complete.

I looked up. A murky palace-like structure loomed before me. The green tails stopped. One of them turned to me. Her hair was long and pearly white, her skin wrinkled with early aging, her smile a little too…smiley. I stared at her, not knowing what to say. She tilted her head a little, gesturing to a spot right in front of me. My eyes followed her movement and then I saw them.

I knew at once that they were my parents. My mother had beautiful long red hair that fell in soft waves halfway down her back. It was decorated with seashells, just as my grandmother had described. My father was bold and strong, his red hair so dark that it almost looked brown. I touched my own red tresses, catching the silky strands in my fingers as they floated in the water around me. It was as if my hair was the link between us, one look and no one could deny that I belonged to them. The mermaids swam towards me. My heart thumped in my chest. My father opened his mouth and some faint clicks, hisses, and whistles escaped.

Caitlin. We hoped that it would not come to this. The sea isn’t safe for you. You must go. Now.

My mind exploded within me. I stared at my parents, incredulous. How could they look so grim when the daughter they abandoned sixteen years ago had finally returned to them?

You were born with a power too great for your own good. Stay here and it will consume you. We abandoned you so that you could live. You have to leave. My mother clicked uncontrollably, her eyes wild with terror. I could hear the insistent clicking of those around me. I knew it! It was her. She caused the earthquake when she jumped into the water, the blessed child of the king and queen, I heard them mutter.

Please mom, dad. I just want to know who I am.

My parents gave each other questioning looks. I could sense the thoughts running through their heads. They didn’t want me to know the truth, they were afraid that it could hurt me, but figured that if I already knew as much as I did I might as well find out the rest. The sight of me tore them apart. They felt guilty about what they had done, even though they thought it was best for me. I sighed heavily, trying to take everything in.

We are the monarchs of this realm and you are part of the royal family. There is an underwater legend that the fifth royal daughter will be born with power beyond anyone’s control. Only the gift of humanity can contain it. Yet, a true mermaid can not resist the lull of the ocean. Its inconsistency provides her with balance; its power to heal and destroy is the only thing that can tame her restless spirit. Admittedly, we chose to contain your power because we don’t know the extent of what it can do. All we know is that it can not be controlled, not even by you. As much as it hurts us to do this, we must ask you to leave. Return to the land. It is the only place where you can be safe.

If we hadn’t been underwater, my mother would have burst into tears. I gazed at my parents for a little while longer. They looked at me with sadness in their eyes. I knew that there wasn’t much more to be said. Whether their story was true or not it was clear that I was not wanted. I slowly swam away, letting the water envelop me in my confusion and grief. As an old wound healed, a fresh one was torn in its place. I guess that is the beauty of water. It has the power to be both night and day, to bathe the world in its calm essence and to shroud it in the darkness of destruction.

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