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Fish Tales

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Kristen had seen many wondrous things during her time as a sailor on the USS Daily, but nothing could have prepared her for the sight of a luminous green fishtail swimming towards her as she sat and dangled her feet in the quiet pools of the cove. For a moment, she considered pulling her legs in for safety, but it wasn’t like the thing was a fucking shark, after all.

And then a woman’s head surfaced to join its tail, and Kristen wondered if the last six months at sea had finally driven her mad.

“Oh,” said the head. “Hello there.”

“Hi,” Kristen replied, a little shy. What else was she supposed to say when a mermaid suddenly appeared at her feet? “Sorry, uh—am I—should I leave?”

“Huh? No, you’re fine.” The mermaid shook out her long dark hair, splashing Kristen’s bare legs with cool droplets in the process. “Not many humans come here anymore, I was just surprised. The name’s Olivia, by the by.”

“I’m Kristen.”

“Kristen?” Olivia giggled, a sound like seashells jingling against each other. “That’s a cute name. You a pirate, Kristen?”

“A pirate?” Kristen plucked at her blue-and-white sailor suit, offended. “Does this look like a pirate’s outfit to you?”

“Not really, but—” Olivia winked. “If you’d said yes, I might’ve asked you to plunder and ravage me.”

Kristen had the grace to blush while Olivia laughed again, her fishtail splashing happily against the water. But before Kristen could come up with a suitable response, a blue-and-yellow striped fish popped its head out of the water by Olivia’s side.

“Princess Olivia!” the fish squeaked. “It’s almost teatime, and besides, you shouldn’t be here! What would King Aasif say if he knew—”

“Oh, don’t be such a guppy, Demetri!” Olivia sighed when the fish gave her an impressive evil eye. “Fine, fine, I’m going. Kristen, it was nice meeting you...”

“Wait!” Before Olivia could dive back underwater, Kristen took off her sailor hat and tossed it to the mermaid, who caught it easily. “You can keep that—there’s plenty more where it came from.”

“Seriously?” Olivia set the cap rakishly on her head and posed. “How do I look?”

Kristen grinned. “You look gorgeous.”

Olivia grinned back and blew a wet raspberry. Just as she started to sink back under the surface of the pool, Kristen called, “Will I see you again?”

“Depends.” Olivia kept her shoulders level with the water while backstroking away from Kristen, out towards the sea. “Do you want to?”

Kristen thought of her ship back at the port, of Captain Jon’s tales of singing mermaids who could lead her to her death as easy as blink at her, of First Mate Stephen’s warnings never to let one win over her heart, and said, “Yes. I do.”

Olivia smiled, and Kristen felt something inside of her grow warm. “Then, you will.”

And with the faintest of splashes, the little mermaid was gone.