U stumped me. I thought by now I would have something–anything–to share with a word that starts with the letter U. But no, nada. I don’t have a fancy schmancy U word to feature…until I saw this picture and realized, Hey! I know what to do. I’ll share a short story that takes place Underwater.
So here ya go, and I hope you’ll enjoy this.
By Cherie Larkins
She dreamt of skin. Smooth, not undulating…pearly pink but ruddy once under the heat of the noonday sun. Sometimes when the others had crawled inside the crevices of their rock, their bodies curled tight as if seeking for warmth, she’d go up just shy of the glimmering surface. Chin tilted up, eyes squinting, letting the dappled, layered light filter through the water to touch her face.
A caress. A promise of love.
Diamonds glinting off the eternal gray that is her prison. Yes, she’d heard of diamond rings and dancing feet and human touch. Her heart sighed as she whirled around, the viscous lake hindering her natural form and grace.
Her mother’s quiet call seeped into her consciousness. Despite the miles between them, her mother’s probing mind reached hers, long-tentacled thoughts grasping and prodding for a hold. Melusine blocked her mother out and sighed.
She gazed upwards with longing, at the dying light abandoning her into the abysmal darkness of her home. Melusine coiled her two-pronged serpentine tail around her tiny waist. If she closed her eyes, she could pretend they were arms wrapping her in an embrace. Just like in grandmama’s stories.
Before the curse.
Melusine, her mother called again.
She frowned. Mother disapproved, of course. Men are brutes, their hearts impure, she had said. Her mother, who once loved too.
Melusine let her fingers trail over her slick, obsidian scales, tracing where they end and where her pale, almost-human skin began. Scutes peppered her shoulders and around her elbows, running down her arms to pool at her wrists like thick cuffs. Her tender breasts escaped this monstrosity, however, and she rubbed her dark nipples, reveling in their untarnished beauty.
Grandmama once thought-whispered to her the scent of ripe olives lingering in the air. Of the cool, tangy taste of wine, running like fire down her throat. Of warm, soft lips pressing hot breaths against plump thighs. Grandmama, who clung to the edge of the lake day after day after day. Hiding among bulrushes and cattails, and all to catch a glimpse of the man with the hat. One day, he didn’t come and grandmama coiled inside her hole never to surface again.
Mother’s frantic thoughts intruded into Melusine’s head. Come back, come back, they said. She’d forbidden her children from rising out of the depths of their sanctuary. Or hell, as Melusine thought of the algae-covered rock they lived in at the bottom of the lake. Melusine thrashed her tail in anger. Why couldn’t she turn human, even for a day? Grandmama had a year, her mother a month. They’d lived on two legs in the land of men, flaunting their wondrous beauty, catching kisses on red, red lips. But the curse became stronger as they got weaker living on tainted waters and broken dreams. By the time Melusine was born, her mother could no longer keep her human form.
I want to feel. Melusine’s thought overpowered her mother’s, drowning out her voice.
The surface broke. A body plunged down—arms and legs flailing, kicking. Murky bubbles rose up to cover the human’s face. His torso twisted, brilliant gold hair fanning out around his head. Melusine reached for him, her fingers clasping fabric. His eyes widened as they met her gaze.
Beautiful, beautiful human.
She pulled him down, her tail embracing his body, siphoning off the last vestiges of warmth from his blood. Her hands explored his skin, muscles taut underneath, her fingers splayed against his chest.
Melusine leaned forward and touched her yearning lips to his cold ones. His thrashings ceased.
The water sent out one lone ripple and stilled. Melusine loosened her grip and the body sunk down into nothingness.
Her tail glimmered. Melusine raked her hands over her breasts and down her stomach, leaving red streaks where her nails had gouged her. A cry lodged in her throat, swelling, suffocating her with grief. Melusine notched a fingernail underneath her scale and pulled, tearing off the layer. She flinched as the raw skin was exposed. Pink and smooth.
Her hands worked quickly, pulling and ripping. Melusine bit her lip as each tear exacerbated the fire scorching her body. Finally…finally, her dream had come true.
Her arms outstretched, Melusine smiled and stared at the crimson water until her vision blurred, and there was only darkness to accompany her descent home.