Mermaid, mermayd — “Same thing, only different,” as my Grandpa used to say. “Line of Descent” is a short story set in the world of EEL’S REVERENCE, but in the sea culture of the mermayds. It’s all about sex. Of course, it’s all about mermayd sex, which is more like fish than people, so it isn’t … you know … sexy sex. But still.
Here’s a sample, and a free PDF download of the entire story. This is not part of the sexy bit. I mean, it is Sunday. Just sayin’.
“Line of Descent” excerpt:
He stuck his head above the surface, letting the wild waves take him for a swooping, directionless ride, while more water fell from above to join the sea.
Deafened by the racket of rain and wave, he didn’t hear the two-tails’s shell approaching, didn’t see it until it was almost upon him. He wriggled away with a few powerful strokes of his tail and, turning head-down, rushed back into the serenity of deeper water.
His heart thudded. The shell had come so close! He could almost have touched it. He wished he had. Still, he would have a fine boast to make to his peers, and it would be gratifying to compare his experience with those of the few others in the pod–all much older than he–who had also seen the shells pass.
With a crash he could hear, deep as he was, a two-tails plunged toward him. It wasn’t swimming with purpose, though; it was thrashing the way the old folks said two-tails do when they’re dying. Bubbles poured up from it as the weird thing flailed and fought the water. Its skin was loose and it had two scalps, one on top of its head and one under its mouth, both covered in thick black hair. Its loose skin sloughed off in pieces, and Goby realized it was artificial skin made out of something else, intended to protect the two-tails’ real skin. He wondered who had made the artificial skin and put it on the creature.
He had to admire its courage. How it struggled against its death! It got its head turned upwards and its tails downwards. It flicked its tails separately and worked its way back toward the surface.
Maybe this one wasn’t sick. Maybe this one fell out of the shell by accident–flung out by the storm waves. Maybe the shell would come back for it, if it could stay where the other two-tails could see it.
Drawn by curiosity and an urge he couldn’t explain, an urge that had to do with helping life continue, he followed the two-tails up into the storm.
The creature flickered its tails and swept the water with its arms, trying to keep its head above the water. Waves washed over it, and it heaved its chest, making odd rasping sounds that seemed to push the water out.
Suddenly, Goby understood. The two-tails were like whales and dolphins: They needed air or they would die. They didn’t die in the water because they were sick or old, but because they couldn’t breathe in it!
Impulsively, he grasped the animal around the waist and, undulating his tail, hoisted the two-tails farther out of the water. It jerked and cried out and stared at him with eyes unprotected from the spray by a nictating membrane, as his own were. It was a clever creature, though, and understood he wanted to help it. It put an arm around his shoulders and waved the other hand–a hand with no webbing between the fingers!–over its head, pushing a cry of distress out of its mouth that went, “Hi! Hi! Heer! Heer!”
The storm swept over them, and then was past. They watched it wash over the ocean until it was out of sight, carrying the shell with it. The shell didn’t return.
And now what did he do with the thing? If he were right, and it needed air, he couldn’t take it home with him. It would be unkind to leave it to sink, and he could hardly stay with it.
WRITING PROMPT: How does your main character feel about family? What would make him/her change that feeling? What would intensify it?