This is a sample from one of the mermayd stories in OTHER EARTH, OTHER STARS, my collection of science fiction short stories. I included the mermayd stories in it because my mermayds aren’t fantastical creatures; they’re another life form.
In this excerpt from the beginning of “Blood of Mermayds,” Muriel and Loach meet for the first time.
excerpt from “Blood of Mermayds”
by Marian Allen
I heard the mermayds coming from halfway down the street, even with my restaurant’s door closed. It sounded like a whole pod of them, which wasn’t surprising ‑‑ you didn’t often see the younger ones alone on the land, and the older ones got that way by not attracting undue attention.
“Don’t you open that door, Muriel,” my cousin said. “They’ll think they’re welcome.”
Mermayds didn’t often have money, but I didn’t mind bartering a meal for some fresh fish or seaweed, and I could always find a market for the odd pearl or such. My cousin Iris was older by ten years, and some would say I should have obeyed her. Still, it was my restaurant and she worked for me, so I opened the door.
There were three of them, taking up half the street, gliding over the cobbles with their long, muscular, fluked tails glistening, rippling behind them. Older ones usually wore tops that covered their featureless chests, disguising the evidence that they weren’t mammals, but these tads were bare-chested. The two with dark hair wore high-quality gill-bands that would filter oxygen for them for up to two weeks, but the band on the blond tad was cheap and good for no more than a day. First time on land, was my guess.
They called back and forth in the clicking, squealing language they used to each other out of the water.
Iris looked past me and shuddered. “Ugh! Nasty things. Talking snakes, is what they are.”
“People with tails,” I said, just to be contrary.
“Uncle Phineas doesn’t like them. You can see him staring at them in here and in the street.”
“Uncle” Phineas was one of those new priests who claimed districts and demanded tithes. I thought they should call themselves something other than Uncle and Aunt, which is how the true priests of Micah title themselves. Iris can say mermayds on land are unnatural all she wants to, but I say a priest making demands is worse.
I pulled my wild black hair back and tied it at the nape of my neck with a bit of twine.
The blond one turned toward me at my movement, flailing for balance as it found itself whipping around with unexpected speed. New out of water, like I thought.
They all looked at me then. The black protective lenses that shielded mermayd eyes from straight sunlight gave them all an eerie look, I had to admit.
“Don’t let them in,” Iris said, already knowing I would.
The blond one recovered its balance, laughing along with the others, showing its teeth in what looked like a grimace, but passed for a smile with them.
After they traded some noise, the dark ones approached my door, the blond one behind them.
“I’m on break,” Iris said, heading for the back door.
As they got closer, I recognized the dark ones, and even remembered the landfolk versions of their names.
“Jack. Skate.” I mangled as close a version as I could manage of their greeting noises, and they laughed and returned it. “Who’s your friend?”
They described the fish to me in much better land talk than my mer talk attempt, and I said, “Loach, I guess.”
After a few more clicks, squeaks, whistles and practice tries, the blond tad had its first land words: Loach and Muriel.
Buy OTHER EARTH, OTHER STARS:
A WRITING PROMPT FROM ME TO YOU: How did your main character meet an important friend. OR how did you meet an important friend?