Beach Glass Blues
By Sara Codair
Desperate for a fix, I crawl out of the surf. My fins separate into feet. My tail splits until I’m crouched on four scaly limbs. My muscles ache as I push myself upright. It’s not a position I hold often. Normally, water surrounds me and supports me. The air is thin and dry in comparison, so my muscles have to do all the work.
I don’t need to be on land. I’m not built to be on land. Most of my kind will go their entire lives without ever setting foot on it. Those who do seldom return. The other females don’t understand why I risk myself venturing to it over and over again.
This morning, when they saw me break away from the school, they grabbed my fins. The hunt leader’s voice hissed in my head, “stay in formation!”
I kicked hard, broke away and pled my case. “I have to go. I feel the land pulling in my blood, just like the whales who follow the pull of the poles.”
“You merefolk, not whale,” snarled the leader. She gestured for the others to grab me, but I was too quick. Only the head huntress herself could keep up. Once she realized this, she propelled herself to the front of the group and grabbed the tip of my tail. “You think too much.”
I kicked harder.
She did too, clawing her way up my tail. “You strong swimmer. Good hunter. Fertile eggs. Stay in school. Find food. Feed males. Make young.”
“No. I need to go to land. I need to use my gift. I need to feel.” With one final kick of my mighty tail, I broke free and pulled ahead of her.
She didn’t catch me again
Once my muscles adjust to the thin air, I put one foot in front of the other and begin walking over the hot sand. Deep purple swirls through powder white and pale yellow. Scallop shells and black rocks peek above the grains, but those are not what I am looking for. My gift only works on manmade objects.
When I was young, Mother often snuck away from the school she hunted with and sometimes, she snuck away from the caverns before the hunt even left. One day I followed her until the water got shallow and ended on a strand of fine pebbles.
I watched her climb out and transform into a creature that walked on two legs. I followed her out and screamed as my tail split in half. I passed out from the shock of it and when I woke, she was sitting on a rock, stroking my hair.
“You have gift,” she said. “Like me, you can walk on land. If you touch an object made by human hands, you can not only feel its history with all your senses, but also experience the life of the last person who touched it.”
“What do you mean?” I asked staring up into her black eyes.
“You’ll see,” she smiled. Despite her rows of pointy teeth, it was soft, and spoke of love. It wasn’t the predatory grin the other females made before venturing out on a hunt.
Mother has been dead for many tides now. As far as I know, none of the other females have our gift. But then, most of those females have never set foot on land and don’t understand why I would ever want to. They are content with their mindless life of feeding and fornicating. They believe humans are killing the earth, and merfolk have no need for the objects and memories of such a destructive species.
To me, humanity is beauty. Objects are their legacy, evidence of their love, life and flaws that will be around long after they vanish. Merfolk don’t feel like humans do, so every taste of human extremes, whether it be rage, pleasure or pain, is the most addicting substance I have ever consumed.
A flash of deep blue catches my eye. I crouch down and stare. It’s a shard of cobalt glass with symbols carved in its surface. The glass is opaque and its edges are smooth.
It’s not a whole object, merely a fragment of one. I can’t picture what it looked like whole, but I want to. My stomach flutters and my heart races as my fingers creep closer to it. Gentle currents of desire course through my body as my fingers brush the smooth surface. I close my eyes, inhale, and squeeze.
I fall downwards; racing against the current as the gritty sand that stripped my edges spits them back out. I’m floating in the dark blue, blissfully free in the ocean until I am back on the land, drowning in a pool of blood. I fly through the air, bounce off of dark skin, and return to the bottle from which I came.
The flow of feeling freezes as I come to a crossroads: the moment when a human last touched the object. It returns me to my present, crouched in soft sand, staring at shard of glass as the waves pound in time with my heart. I inhale the scent of oil, salt, rotting seaweed and decaying shellfish.
I have a choice to make. I can keep flowing through the history of the object, or I can branch off to the life of the person who touched it last. As much as I want to know what the object was part of, I am even more curious about how it came to be sitting in a pool of blood. I focus on the blood, brace myself and squeeze.
I’m giddy with excitement as I pull the cork out of the blue bottle and pour sand-colored liquid into two delicate glasses. I sip tangy, bittersweet wine from one and a man with smooth, copper skin sips from the other. Even as he drinks, his dark chocolate eyes never break contact with mine.
“Happy Birthday,” he says brushing my cheek with calloused fingers.
My face leans in closer to his until our lips our touching. My body ignites with a hot buzzing feeling, a need to be close to him and have him inside me. Soon, the wine is forgotten, our clothes are off, and he is gliding in and out of me until the pleasure crescendos and I become one pulsating explosion of bliss.
I lay on the bed, gasping for air, tangled up in his arms until I hear a pounding on the door. I throw my dress on, get off the couch and peek through the window. Monsters roar inside me at the sight of the man who sired my lover.
“Who is it?” asks my husband from the bed.
“Your father,” I snarl.
“He must of made parole.”
“I won’t let him hurt you.”
A wave of euphoria washes through me as I hear the bottle shatter on the man’s head. He collapses into a still breathing heap. I’m disappointed he’s alive, then I’m drowning in guilt, so I pick up a shard to blue glass and stick it in palm, letting blood pour out in a cleansing stream that takes my rage and guilt with it.
I take a deep breath. It feels like sandpaper grating the inside of my throat. The sun’s golden light is beating down on my skin, sucking the moisture out of it. My stomach growls. I need to return to the ocean and feed.
The glass falls from my hand as I stand. I force myself to my feet and stumble to the white foam. Rotting wood stings my toes and I fall like a heap in the damp sand, still shaking with exhaustion and ecstasy.
I have no energy left for walking, so I roll until cold water laps my scales. My legs melt back into a tail and flippers. I kick and kick and kick until I am flying off the shelf, soaring through icy water. The pressure builds around me, supports me, takes the weight from my aching muscles and numbs every inch of my being.
Numb is the best way to define the life of the female merfolk. We swim and hunt with other females. We offer our bodies and catch to the males and hope their seed is fertile. Then we sleep and repeat the cycle when we wake.
I consume as many fish as my stomach will hold on my way back our underwater cavern. It shelters us from current and predators while we rest and mate. All fish taste the same to my tongue, but as the flesh and bone pass through my lips, I savor the flavors of human memories: bittersweet wine, decadent chocolate and spicy curry.
When my stomach is so full that another fish will burst it, I ride the currents back to the cavern. The other females have already returned from the hunt and are in engaged in spinning gyrations with the males.
Large hands grab my waist and a seed-spewer slides inside me. A man swallows my head and soon we are spinning and gyrating like the others. It doesn’t hurt, but it doesn’t evoke any pleasure, either. In fact, I can barely feel him moving in me at all.
In my boredom, I think. The way his hands grab me and the force with which he thrusts is not quite like what I just experienced in the human memory. Her body sung with pleasure as her mate glided in her.
The memory was brief, but I play it over and over again, imagining I can feel the same thing. I don’t let the memory advance until the male is pumping as hard as he can. Then I play the part where she reaches a crescendo so powerful she cries out with pleasure. His seed surges into me, pushing up until liquefied food expels from my mouth into his.
He swallows and pulls away. I watch him swim off to a corner to sleep. His body is covered in green scales. He has two legs, each ending in fin. His seed-spewer, having expended its seed, sags down to his knees, making it nearly impossible for him to swim. He curls up on a ledge, tucking his shark-like head between his knees. He has no eyes, no ears and no nose.
The males have simple lives. They inject seed into females in exchange for food. Then they sleep until their store of seed is replenished. They don’t speak, think or hunt. They can’t even digest a whole fish. We have to do that for them. All they do is eat regurgitated food and provide the pieces of DNA that the female cannot produce on their own.
Still, I try to imagine he is human. I try to conjure the contentment the female felt cuddled up with her mate after they made love, but before I can fully capture the memory, another male slips inside me. My belly is still too full, so I welcome him.
A female’s stomach can hold enough food to feed ten males, but if she feeds ten, there is nothing left for her to digest, and she must hunt again before she sleeps.
I replay memories of human reproduction while seven males who take me. By number eight, I’m tiring. By number nine, I’m exhausted. When he finishes, I swim towards my resting spot. I’m almost there when hands grab me and another seed-spewer goes in me, eventually forcing the last of my food out of my mouth.
Exhaustion weighs me down like lead. I want nothing more than to curl up and sleep, but to do so after giving all my food to mermales will mean the kind of sleep I will not wake up from. I’ve watched it happen to dozens of other females.
I force myself out of the cavern and follow the call to land, eating as I make my way there. I want more than a life of numb feeding and fornicating. I want to feel like the humans do, even if it means never giving birth to my own off spring.
I don’t know where the humans hide, but this time, I do not plan to merely content myself with their memories. I will venture beyond the beach, to see if any are left alive. Perhaps, if I find them, they can teach me how to feel. If it kills me, well, it will be a better death by mating.
Sara Codair has been writing fiction since she learned how to hold a pen. Now, she teaches writing at community colleges in the greater Boston area and writes whenever she has time. Her short story, “Above the Influence,” recently appeared on Mashstories.com. She tweets at @shatteredsmooth.