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The Trade

I shake softly as warm tears fall down my cheeks and my nose. They taste salty on my lips, and for one moment I forget. I forget them laughing, taunting, and chanting. It lasts for only a second, though. Then, it all comes back full force.

Emmeline forcing me to sing along with her beautiful soprano; I could feel my face turning red as my voice ruined the sweet melody of the piano. I stopped singing after only a moment, but it was enough. The laughter of the other teens all around me and the pity in my friends’ eyes were unbearable.

I ran from the lovely lit dance floor, and escaped into the nearby trees. Now, I feel as if the whole world has turned upside down, humiliating me for its own enjoyment. I gasp out sobs, and I run my hands through my dark tangled hair.

The trees bend over in the nighttime breeze as if to give me comfort. I creep further into the dark shadows of the forest, getting away from the taunting music behind. Crisp silence follows, and I am quiet as to not awaken the forest’s inhabitants. Moonlight shines down to illuminate squirrels heading into their hole for a good night’s rest. An owl coos in the distance.

My tears begin to ebb, and my walking slows. I stop for a moment to sit down, but before I do, I hear the enticing trickle of water. The gentle rush lulls my throbbing head. I head towards the gentle sound. I part lush emerald ferns and bushes, their leaves glistening in the moon’s luminescence.

Finally, I arrive to the source of the wonderful sound. A small stream running into a dark pool with a weeping willow bent over it, as if to let its’ tears flow along with the rest of the water. I walk carefully, and I fall to my knees underneath the soft vine-like branches of the tree. My hand curls around the lovely branches that hide me from everything except the pool.

My other hand moves down and swirls the cool water. As I do this, I hum softly, and I ponder what has just occurred. I was foolish to run, because I am sure that made them mock me more, but I just couldn’t hide my tears any longer. Why do they get so much joy out of others' failures? It appears to give them some satisfaction to see a fellow human being suffering. I cannot wait until my teen years are gone and past. I am so tired of these immature games that kids my age seem to play. I am tired of crying.

Sighing, I continue to hum, and I try to clear my mind of the thoughts that make my heart ache in pain. I increase the volume of my humming, but I make sure it is not too loud. I also make sure not to open my mouth and sing. That has gotten me into enough trouble already. All the while, I move my hands through the silky calming water.

I close my eyes and breathe in the nighttime air. When I open my eyes again, I do everything I can not to scream. I stare into pitch black eyes that are raised just above the water. I back up slowly in terror. They are like human eyes but, not, at the same time. The creature watches me with uncanny stillness.

The silence of the night, which had been my haven a moment before, suddenly becomes unbearable, and needing to break it, I ask, “What are you?” not expecting a reply.

The creature disappears under the surface once again. I sigh with relief and attempt to rise and get back to civilization, but the creature rises up almost fully out of the water no farther than six feet away from me. This time I yelp in surprise and fall backward. I quickly regain a standing position, and I turn to run, but I am stopped. The creature is beautiful.


A girl with long dark brown hair that falls to her waist in wet tangles stares at me with dark, unnerving eyes that once again seem to bore into mine. She has a pale slight frame with visible veins of blue just below the surface of her skin, and she wears no clothes. She appears to be a girl, perhaps of around fifteen, caught between child and woman, just like me. She smiles at me to reveal rows of sharp pointy teeth that are somewhat clear like a snake’s fangs. Though it is somewhat frightening, I can tell it is a kind gesture.


Something splashes in the water, and I look down to her waist to discover a long green tail. There are no scales that I can see, but the skin is smooth and green like an eel’s. Her tail fans out at the end like a small, ridged whale tale in a lighter color green. I freeze and gaze at her in wonder. “I am a friend,” the creature says, in a grating voice worse than nails on a chalk board, and I wince.


“Forgive me, but my voice is not made for the air. If you come to the edge of the pool and lower your ear to the water you can hear me better.” I barely manage to make out her garbled words. I do not want to get any closer to her, and yet I am curious at what this strange creature has to say.


It is like a fairytale come to life, so I walk towards her, “You go over there to talk, please,” I tell her. She seems to understand why I am frightened and, giving a closed mouth smile, she obeys. I watch as she sinks beneath the water so only the top of her head is visible, reminding me of a crocodile. As I near the edge of the water, I do not take my eyes off of her murky form. I kneel down slowly. She hasn’t moved. Praying she stays put, I lower my left ear so that it is just under the surface, and the sound that greets me is incredible.


The purest soprano fills my ear. I can almost feel and taste the sweet melody that flows like honey. I lower my whole head into the water needing to hear the song. All around me the water carries the tune, and I want to cry, scream, and laugh all at once.


I feel hands gently running through my hair as I listen to the woeful tale of a fisherman caught in a storm. I feel the emotion of the fishermen, the crew, and surprisingly, the storm. I feel the real world slip away as I fall into the wonderfully twisted tale of lost love and mystical lore. My heart beats with the music.


Suddenly, my senses explode with fear as my head is jerked violently below the surface by my hair. I struggle to lift my head back up and breathe. I twist and turn as the song becomes a lovely laugh with a hint of dark mischief. All of a sudden, the grip on my hair loosens and I spring up out of the water, and roll away from the edge of the pool.


Coughing and shaking, I look up to see the creature smiling twistedly, and it snickers hoarsely. “You humans scare so easily. So scared of death,” the creature says in its now horrid voice.


Angry, I shout, “Well if I tried to drag you out here and cut off your head I would like to see how you react to that!” The creature gives me a look of surprise at my candid snarl, and she backs up.


“You wouldn’t dare,” it challenges.


“If you try to kill me or someone else again, I would dare,” I counter, meaning every word while still filled with gnawing fear.


Her look becomes that of a sweet upset child. Her face looks angelic and mournful. “I wasn’t trying to kill you. It was just a trick. I wanted to play,” she surprises me by saying.


“Well, I didn’t like that game,” I say gently but firmly, trying to seem strong while still shaking.


“I can make it up to you,” she says out of the blue, and an eerie feeling creeps under my skin. “You want to have a lovely voice. I can give it to you, for a price,” she screeches out. Her head cocks to the side and her wide eyes exude honesty.


I open my mouth to tell her, flat out, “No”, but then I picture myself singing beautifully in front of Emmeline. Everyone would be shocked, and they would have to take back what they said. Hesitantly, tempted by the thought of redeeming myself, I say, “Go on.”


“If you give me one song, I will give you a magically lovely voice for one song,” she explains with the twisted grin coming back, as if she has found a new fun game to play.


“What do you mean, give you a song?” I ask pointedly, trying to keep fear out of my voice.
“I will get to kiss you and take one song from your mind. You will not remember it, nor will you be able to hear it again. I, in turn, will give you the ability to sing for one song,” she explains, her grating voice descending into what seems to be a soothing, almost seductive, purr.


The idea of kissing this creature, with her rows of shark teeth, does not excite me in the least, but to see Emmeline get a taste of her own medicine, when I beat her at her own game, and stop her from bullying me would be amazing. Maybe that will teach her not to mess around with people for sick amusement.


Struck by this hope of redemption, I brazenly walk over to the edge of the pool. I kneel down before the creature so we are the same height. I feel water gather into the ends of my dress as I watch the creature lean forward. Her breath hits my face, and I gag. She smells of rotting fish. I go to move away as I begin to fully comprehend my choice, but she grabs me and places her lips firmly over mine.


Suddenly, I feel a sharp pain explode in my head and try desperately to get away from her. I scratch and pull and even try to shriek, but she has me in a death lock. A new wave of tears springs from my eyes, and I lose sight, for the pain is really blinding. I feel like my brain is opening and she is clawing inside it. I am dying. Just when I think I cannot take any more agony, my world fades into darkness and lets me escape.


My head aches, and though I open my eyes, I don’t know where I am. Every color swirls and spins together into a disorienting kaleidoscope of chaos. Luckily, my sight becomes clearer and clearer as the moments tick by. I slowly become aware of water lapping at my left side, its’ chill seeping into the silky fabric of my new dress.


Wait, my new dress! I sit up quickly, making my world spin faster. Thoughts of the humiliation and the uncanny thing that I witnessed flow back into my head like the stream into the pool. When my vision becomes clear enough, I stare into the pool expecting to see my new acquaintance staring back at me, waiting for me to awaken, like Victor Frankenstein waiting for his monster to come to life. To my astonishment, I find the pool still, with the creature nowhere to be seen. I turn over and place my hands into the water’s edge. I peer into the pool, now realizing how deep it appears. I can see down about fifty feet because of the moon overhead, but then everything goes black as the hole continues. Well, I am not curious enough to dive down there and have a look.


I stand up shakily. I need to get out of here before Dracula comes to have a “bite” to eat with me or a werewolf comes to play fetch. I honestly don’t know if I could handle it. Stopping short at the edge of the clearing, I remember our deal. I gave her a song, and she gave me one. I shift through my memories to try and think of the song she took, but of course I can’t remember it. I open my mouth to try out my new singing abilities, but I stop myself. I only have one song, and I am going to use it right.


I take one last look at the magical grove before I disappear into the trees. Why do I have a feeling that is not the last time I will see that place? As I race through the woods, I try to figure out how long I have been gone. It seems as if time slipped away from me, and I haven’t quite caught up to it yet. I can only hope that the dance is still going on.


I push my exhaustion to the back of my mind as I race back the way I came, ignoring my aching muscles by focusing on the pounding of my feet against the ground. Soon I can hear the latest dance song blaring though the night. I see the light and the twirling figures up ahead. I haven’t missed it! I slow to a walk as I enter the dance once again.


People stop and stare at me in surprise. I am sure I must look like a fright, but I don’t care about that right now. Surprisingly, the usual feelings of nervousness and intimidation that used to control me are missing.


Up ahead, Emmeline has herself pressed up against the school’s number-one quarterback in a seductive way that makes me want to avert my eyes and throw up. Her tight short dress glows a horrible hue of hot pink under the lights. She is about a head shorter than me. How could I ever have been scared of her? I march right up to her, finally grabbing her attention.


“Oh, my god! What happened? Did you get hit by a truck and dragged into a pig pen?” she laughs wickedly. She smiles up at me cruelly, but she is no match for the creature or me.


“I want a rematch!” I announce bravely. I can see that this startles her.


“You want to show everyone how much you suck again?” she snarls, which is not a very appealing look on her.



I stand my ground, despite the insult, and look her straight in the eye. “No, I am going to show you that you are not the queen of the world. Now, shut up and show me what you’ve got,” I snap right back at her.



She sticks her nose up in the air and hops up on stage. For two agonizing minutes I listen to her voice, which I realize now is nice but nothing special. She sings “Toxic” by Brittany Spears. She dances around the stage in a manner that I suppose she thinks is enticing. Finally, she gets off and hands me the mic.



“You know, now you look even uglier than your voice sounds,” she goes on, sounding like an annoying bug buzzing in my ear that needs to be smacked with a fly swatter. I don’t even comment on her rude remark.



“What song?” the guitarist asks nicely.



“‘Taking Chances’ by Celine Dion, please,” I respond just as nicely. I have always loved this song but have never been able to sing it.



I turn to the crowd. I see Emmeline and all of her friends laughing and sneering at me. I see my friends looking very worried due to my crazy behavior and relieved that I have returned alive. I see that there are leaves stuck in their hair, and there is dirt on the bottoms of their pants and dresses. They have been looking for me.



The music starts, and I pray the creature came through on her deal. I open my mouth and let the music flow out of me. A melody, so pure and clear that it sounds inhuman, echoes from my mouth and swirls around the people and surrounding forest. My fellow classmates stare at me in awe, and Emmeline’s expression goes from utter shock to embarrassed anger as my angelic voice flows like a river through her ears. They won’t make me feel bad about myself again. As good as it feels to get back at them, I know that I don’t need magic to make myself better. I am perfect the way I am.



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