Sample Sunday – Mermaids in Peril

Here is a mermaid (or, as I call them here, mermayd) scene from EEL’S REVERENCE. Aunt Libby, who reports the story, calls them “he” although they’re hermaphroditic (mermaphroditic?) because they don’t have breasts. (Ha! Take that SEO keywords, me proud buck!) My apologies: This is not exactly as it appears in the book, as I’m here in Columbus, Ohio, and the final copy is back in Indiana.

They were in an enclosed natatorium, dumped down the chute used to deliver ice blocks in summer and hot lead in winter. At the other end of the rectangle, concealed and muffled pumps forced a cascade up from the water table, through a series of un-life-like stone shells, and into the pool. Loach could see fastenings for ladders half-a-dozen places around the pool, but the ladders had been removed, as half of the water had been drained, to make the pool a prison. The natatorium’s walls were about six feet back from the pool’s edges; Loach couldn’t see the door.

Aunt Isabella had the biggest and most ornate natatorium in Port Novo. Loach had no doubt of his location, or of the grimness of his immediate future.

He and his people, at the mercy of Aunt Isabella and Uncle Phineas—

“Aunt Isabella doesn’t want to wipe us out. She’s using us for something, I’ll just bet you. Some of us might end up killed, because Aunt Isabella’s crazy and hateful, but they’ll rescue most of us, I know it.”

“Who’s ‘they’?” Jack asked.

“The other priests and the rest of the landfolk.”

“The other priests! Landfolk! Oh, yes, I am so…”

“You wait. You wait and see. Meanwhile, old seabodies like this one are going to die without being killed, not to mention the tads and weaklings.” Loach pointed to the edge of the pool, where two churchwardens looked down with expressions of rapturous contempt. “Are we going to act like fish, like they call us, and do their job for them? Or are we going to make a little effort and show those air-sucking barracuda how real people behave?”

“Great speech,” said Mollie. “Wonderful speech.” But he grasped the shoulder of a wailing young mermayd and shook him till his eyes focused. “Quit it,” he said, “and help us sort folks out. Who’s hurt? Does anybody need help healing?”

Loach’s “old seabody” regained some color and slipped quietly into the water. He must have spread Loach’s words, or perhaps the same spirit of constructive defiance infected others at about that same time; pools of order began to form.

Then the sluice door opened, and another fifteen or so mermayds came shrieking down.

Don’t be scared. Things work out in the end.

WRITING PROMPT: How would your main character rescue the mermayds? You may posit whatever security arrangements you need.


I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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