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The Radcliffe Gardens
Author's note: I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of mermaids and what their lives would be like in the ocean full of mystery and wonder. I hope that my story will entice readers and just be an interesting and fun read and make you realise that the mystical creatures you read about in fairy tales aren’t always as innocent as they seem, just like humans in the real world.
Plunging my body full force into the deep blue-grey kingdom, I entered a world filled with danger, beauty and adventure. My lungs pumping back and forth, dipping my head in and out, allowing my long fiery red hair to float gracefully behind me. I had always been a good swimmer and I had won several competitions prior to the ‘move’. The feeling of water gliding over me, cleansing me of my reality was immensely refreshing.
Treading water, I gazed up at the beaming twilight, the spherical moon reflecting against the water. Glancing around I suddenly noticed how vast this place was and how the sandy shore and beach houses were so minuscule.
A ripple of water increasing in scale sounded nearby making me jump. Then it repeated. It was stemming from all directions making it hard to keep up with the sudden movement. Someone or something was out here, forcing concern, anxiety and panic to surge through my body, making my veins pulsate dramatically.
I started spinning around frantically wondering what clever move I should pull to defend myself but to my surprise it had suddenly stopped. The rings of ripples surrounding me froze and the only sound that could be heard was my heavy breathing making my lungs expand in quick short movements.
“Who’s there?” I shouted; my fists clenched in tight balls as I felt my face flush crimson, the suspense and annoyance at the sudden disappearance frustrating me.
I looked around gathering my composure and trying my hardest to not drop my guard. Something moved abruptly below me and I jolted only to feel a sharp burning pain in my stomach. The discomfort brought out my defence mechanisms immediately and without thinking I flashed my fangs and screeched with all the strength my vocal chords could conjure up. Baring my pointy teeth that had developed and flashing my flaming red eyes I dived forward, my indigo scaly tail thrashing against the strong waves.
Moving my tail up and down, I tried to battle my way through the strong bellowing forces of nature and get to my destination as quick as possible; The Radcliffe Gardens aka my home.
It wasn’t much of a home if I’m honest but it was good enough. When I was just nine years old my parents told me we had to move away from our little house that sat content in our serene neighbourhood. We had always lived by the beach; I guess mum and dad loved the smell of the sea and the sound of squawking seagulls as an alarm clock.
On the morning of 7th April 2007 my mother grabbed and shook my shoulders to wake me up from my deep sleep. “Come on Eva! We have to go now.” Her stern voice and sharp expression boring into my face, portraying the seriousness of the situation. We fled our home that day, dropped everything and abandoned our friends as our safety was being targeted and jeopardised by some unknown identity.
My parents, along with my brother Enzo and I all rushed to Lordswood Bay and dived into the wide glistening sea before us, with no intention of returning. And after eight long tiring years, we had finally built The Radcliffe Gardens for ourselves. Made from rocks, seaweed and various other bits and bobs we had created a safe environment for us to adapt, learn and grow.
The humans who lived on the land were very ignorant and were so oblivious to us yet night after night they told stories about beautiful mermaids that lived in mystical kingdoms and had wild adventures in the big blue ocean; yet they couldn’t be more wrong.
I soon came to realise that there are a number of threats to our species. Other underwater creatures are a threat to us, so like humans we will fight to defend, we will be selfish and we most certainly will kill if we needed to.
So here we are, it’s the 23rd August 2015, living hidden away and exploring the grand ocean we live in. Swimming is a wonderful hobby of mine, I love letting the water guide me along with the robust power from my tail. However the gut clenching throbbing pain burning from my stomach told me that things were about to change drastically, and not for the right intentions.
As I neared my home, half swimming half floating, I pushed my body as hard as I could, giving one last burst before I completely collapsed into unconsciousness. The large stone wall dominated above me, generating an unwanted feeling of nervousness. Using both hands I pushed down on a smooth stone sticking out of the rough sea bed, releasing a vibrant emerald glow – conveying a message to my family to say I had arrived. The sudden bright light blinded me for a few seconds and I blanked out, feeling myself falling with no energy to climb back up.
I woke up to the sight of my mother’s red pitiful eyes staring down at me, her soft hand stroking my forehead that dripped with multiple beads of sweat. I glanced down at my wound, now looking much better now that it was cleaned up. But something was wrong.
“Why… why is there smoke coming out of me?” I asked, my voice shaky and uncertain. A steaming gas seemed to be floating out of my deep cut at an alarmingly fast rate like a dragon puffing out smoke from its large flaming nostrils.
“We don’t know.” My brother said slowly with his arms folded, his forehead crinkling. My father was stirring in his seat in the far right hand corner of the room, unable to stop himself from fidgeting. “This is something new and unheard of, which means we need to be prepared for anything that can come our way. We need to gather weaponry and get everyone prepared; this may be the start of a long battle, perhaps even a war.”
War? I thought. The tone of my dad’s voice told me that this was inevitable. I wondered if our enemy was the same as whatever we were running away from eight years ago…
My mind was spinning and bursting with questions left right and centre. I tried to rummage and fish around for a question that made sense but I decided to stay quiet, understanding that this wasn’t the time and place for stupid questions.
Only a few minutes had passed when the boom of an underwater submarine cannon sounded and threw me aback, creating ongoing ripples around us. “What the hell?” my brother cried along with groaning from my parents. The ringing continued in my head making me scream with agony. My head was imploding as I cupped my head in my hands, trembling uncontrollably.
A gloomy shadow seemed to emerge from nowhere, only glimpses could be seen outside the encompassing stone walls. I spotted a dark outline of a tail but it was difficult to put the pieces together and form a clear picture.
Only I had seemed to notice the eerie figure creeping closer and closer into the safety of our home. Finding it hard to swallow, my throat scratchy and sore, I tried to use my tongue but nothing escaped. Locking my eyes shut and then opening them, I did this several times but it made no difference to this intimidating monster that was progressively approaching.
I closed my eyes once more to hide myself from my surroundings, hoping that this was all just a terrible nightmare I would soon wake up from. I huddled in a corner, holding myself whilst watching all the commotion and blurry movements, until it revealed itself. Misty smoke protected the creature just like the smoke that had emanated from my wound. Nothing was visible and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t make out a face. I shivered, waiting in anticipation at the arrival of our new guest.
Out from the twilight surfaced dazzling blue eyes, a colour I had never known to exist in any underwater creature. The eyes had seemed to fish me out from the rest and pierced into my face, like I was receiving a deadly punishment for a horrific sin I had committed. Opening my mouth wide to scream and grab someone’s attention seemed to have failed; I was drowned out by the deep roaring groan spewing from the monster before me.
My family were lying still on the sea bed, unconscious and utterly oblivious to what was going on around them. Rising from the misty smoke appeared long black spindly fingers, creeping out from the darkness and making a beckoning gesture.
I had no choice but to obey its command.
Cautiously I sidled towards it, with heavy unsteady breathing. What was this thing? Only a metre away now it turned nonchalantly and I guessed it wanted me to follow. It floated out of the ruins as I reluctantly followed leaving my life behind me.
We seemed to have swam for about half an hour without stopping. The whole time I was desperately thinking of ways to escape its strong clutch, to somehow pluck up the courage and fight back. Bursts of audacity conjured and swirled inside of me but seemed to seep out instantly.
It stopped dead on the spot and forced me to jump backwards to stop myself crashing into it. Dark figures similar to the one in front of me appeared from left and right. There were two of them. If there was any hope of me escaping it had definitely vanished now. Standing frozen in one spot, as if I was stuck in a block of ice rather than a wide ocean, it was impossible to move any muscle in my body. A thudding sound clanged as my head met with what felt like a large piece of wood. I was splattered on the seabed in a matter of seconds.
Pushing my eyelids open was tougher than I thought. But after the sight that was revealed I wish I didn’t bother.
A man’s body was lying next to me, his heart started to pump viciously back and forth, forcing the thick crimson liquid to race through his body at an alarmingly fast pace. The melting flesh surrounding the organ was carpeted in needles and made me gag uncontrollably. I had seen pictures of violence at this kind of extremity but seeing it with my own eyes made the whole ordeal much more terrifying.
Salty tears were bubbling around my red eyes as my wrists started to itch and swell from the thick rope tying my hands together. Only muffled sounds could be heard from my tape-covered mouth but no matter how loudly I attempted to scream, there was no chance that anyone would hear me out here in the middle of nowhere.
A thin line of blood crawled towards me and dispersed into various directions. I shuffled to the right in an attempt to dodge the train of death pretentiously chugging at me, taunting and forcing me to question my next move. My whimpering seemed to have travelled into the near distance and had interrupted and most probably annoyed my capturer. It reeled and made me squeal making me lock my eyes tightly.
It was silent as if someone had stitched its mouth shut and it couldn’t break free from the seam. Its long odd hands curled into fists and its dark exterior bore into me until I finally gave in and looked away, not wanting to trigger its anger. After a few moments of hot rage and frustration he gave in and floated away. I sat completely still on the seabed, not daring to even breathe, whilst the man’s throbbing heart slowed down and came to a sharp halt. Of course he was dead I concluded, a man can’t survive under water like mermaids. Strangely I felt deep sadness for him, this person who I didn’t even know.
I was so confused at my inconsistency of emotions. I wasn’t sure whether I was delighted that the poor man was finally rid of the immense pain or full of dread and panic since there was a chance that I could be next. It felt like many hours had passed since my arrival and that the sun was setting since the water was dimmer and my surroundings were gradually darkening.
I tried to think back at the last few hours and recall the events and the process I went through to end up here. These thoughts made me shiver and resulted in me making a mental note to not think such awful tragic thoughts in times like this.
I could hear shuffling coming from nearby and voices talking in a hushed manner. My eyes and mind were refusing to adjust leaving everything around me a blur. Sitting still and trying not to make a sound didn’t work; I still couldn’t hear anything they were saying. A moment later a loud thump sounding like a punch was delivered without warning and our new guest was about to emerge.
“Sorry Eva.” I instantly recognised the familiar voice and relief rained down on me. Enzo reached down to untie me, trying his best to avoid the lifeless body that was keeping me company.
He pulled me up and I jumped into his safe arms, my arms tightening with every progressing second. We left the body and didn’t bother looking back; I had seen enough of that poor guy. We swam out of the horrid prison and straight towards The Radcliffe Gardens. The whole time I felt unfriendly eyes glaring from hidden corners, most likely smirking at our stupidity. Something told me this wouldn’t be the last time we would hear from those monsters…