As you may recall, when we left poor, lonely Frank, he was just sitting on the dock of the bay, killing time. Staring out into its cold murky waters, and thinking about the young, beautiful Captain Al, whom he had just met.
Frank knew that he didn’t “know” the Captain, and by that I mean that they’d never met before, but seeing her filled him with an old feeling, one that he’d not felt since he was a child, he was filled with an innocent love from long before. He sat there watching the waves gently roll in with the tide, and wondered why this dream he was trapped in felt so real, and why the other girl on the ship had acted like she couldn’t see him.
Frank had been sitting there for quite sometime, longer than he could have given a recollection of, before he noticed that there was a face in the water looking back up at him. It was a young face, the young face of a girl, the young face of a gorgeous blonde girl with eyes as blue as a tranquil sea, which made a certain sense, her being in the sea and all.
Frank sat there watching the face just below the surface that was looking back and watching him, and then a hand reached up out of the water. Frank looked down at the hand, that wasn’t wrinkled up and pruney at all, but instead was smooth and young like the face, and had a certain glow about it. Frank, thinking he was meant to go with this girl reached down to take her hand, and as he did the hand whipped back and threw something that smacked Frank in the face.
It was a cold, hard, wet something, that landed in his lap, and as he regained his senses Frank saw that the hand had withdrawn back under the surface, and the face looked now as if it was giggling.
Frank picked up the small object in his lap, and removed the seaweed that had been wrapped around it. What he found was something just as out-of-place as everything else in this dream. A cassette tape. Frank couldn’t help but let out a laugh of his own as he thought that even back in his real world this would be quite out-of-place by nearly twenty years. But as Frank looked at the cassette he noticed that there was still a label on one side, well that is to say that there was a part of a label on one side, a handwritten label, and the ink was so blurry it could barely be read…but it could be read, and what was left of the label said “…Call Me Al”.
That’s what the pirate had told him, Frank thought, “…just call me Captain Al.” he remembered her words. This must be her’s, maybe it’s some manifesto, maybe it holds the secret to who she really is, and why she seems so familiar.
Frank looked back to the face in the water, “Do you have the machine too? So I can hear what it says? I must know what’s on it, so I can get back on the ship.”
The face below the water beckoned him to join her, waving him down with the motions of her sensuous hands.
Now at this point I should tell you that Frank thought he was in a dream, but of course he wasn’t. He was just in another world. You see, there are many other worlds. There are the worlds beside ours, that are very similar to our own, but with very slight changes. There are the worlds behind ours, that take place in what we would think of as the past. There are the worlds ahead of ours, that take place in what we would think of as the future. And there are worlds off to the diagonal, some of which we wouldn’t be able to recognize at all. The world Frank had fallen into was behind ours, and only a little off to the side.
Now in this world there were things that would have been considered make-believe to Frank, as well as to you and me, but here they were quite real. Like Frank’s being invisible to everyone on the ship except Captain Al, the reason for which we’ll get to later; or the talking mice aboard the W.S.S., which Frank had no idea could talk; or this girl in the water, that was actually a mermaid.
The merpeople were the first children of Naptuna, one of the first gods, and by far the oldest thing to ever live in the great seas. For thousand of years, or perhaps even thousands of thousands, the merpeople lived in the seclusion of the ocean’s great depths, forbidden by Naptuna to go near where the waters ended. But every so often the great fish god slept, and when he did there was no one to enforce his strict rule. And so it was during one of these slumbers that a small band of merpeople, led by Tangaroa, ventured up near the surface and gazed upon the primitive people who lived above the water, and they were very primitive indeed, for the seas and all that lived in them, were much older than the land.
Tangaroa and his followers spent many long days watching these land dwellers, who had many strange practices that were quite foreign to the merpeople. They watched the exchange of small shiny discs for food, how they covered themselves with the hides of the creatures they killed, and how some stayed in the shade and directed, while others worked in the fields along the coast by the sea, and some did nothing at all but look fat and happy.
Now all of this looked strange to Tangaroa and his group of observers, because life was much different down in the sea. The merpeople had never worn clothes and felt no shame for it, and they didn’t have money because they didn’t buy and sell goods. There were no masters, or servants, or rich, or poor. The sea had always been a bountiful place, with more than enough for all, and they all worked together, and none went without. Still, there were those among the merpeople that always secretly wanted more.
Then one day, about halfway through Naptuna’s great slumber, while Tangaroa was studying the strange people at the shore, he saw something he hadn’t seen in all his years of watching. It started as what seemed to be just another simple exchange, the shiny discs were offered, but this time the one they were offered to declined to take them. The offerer grew angry and pulled out more shiny discs, and again the one they were offered to refused to take them, instead laughing in the ever reddening face of the man with the shiny discs, the man they were offered to turned and proceeded to walk away. The man making the offering drew a shiny sharp object from his side, one that Tangaroa had seen used to butcher and skin the beasts of the field, and he slid it straight through the man who was walking away. The man fell where he was, and the one who had been doing the offering earlier took what he wanted and made off into the darkness.
Tangaroa had never known the idea of simply taking something from another without it having been offered, or of having something and being unwilling to share. And thus began the reign of the sinister King Tangaroa, who formed an army of mermen and started a great war, for why should they labour side by side with the others, when they could armour themselves with giant shells of the deep, and arm themselves with the spines of the ancient sea urchins. And nearly three thousand years later, when Naptuna finally awoke, he no longer recognised his first and most beloved children, and they no longer knew him, for now they only worshipped themselves.
For what existed now deep under water was a corrupted reflection of life on the land, Tangaroa had built a kingdom, and declared himself a god, and he had made war with the other mermen that would not submit to him, until only his loyal soldiers remained, and he made prizes of the mermaidens, and slaves of the lesser creatures of the sea. And all of this upset Naptuna a great deal.
In a flash of anger Naptuna swallowed up Tangaroa and all of his mermen, he released the mermaidens from their bonds, and the sea creatures from their servitude.
But this left the mermaidens with no one to help them bear children, for Naptuna had decreed that there would be no more treacherous mermen. However, Naptuna could not stand the sorrow this caused his beloved first daughters, so once in each mermaidens life she is allowed to go to the surface and seek out a true love. And this is how the people of the surface came to know of mermaidens, for the sailors of yore would bafflingly jump overboard to be with these creatures, for the gaze of a mermaiden floods a man with desire that he can not withstand.
And such was the trap that Frank found himself now in, after staring into the blue eyes of the beautiful face below the waves, he didn’t even realize that he had thrown himself from the dock, nor did he know that Captain Al watched on from the window of her cabin.
Now it’s important to note that the charms of mermaiden only work thru the veil of the sea, and once in the water Frank quickly saw his new love for what she really was, a girl who is half-fish, with gills hidden behind her wavy blonde hair. But there was scarce little Frank could do in way of changing his mind, for once in the water she had grabbed hold of his hand and propelled them toward the sea bed below. And when the light from above was a faint distant thing, she pulled Frank close and kissed him, and waited and watched. Frank fought to free himself of her grasp, but found his struggles were in vain, for her grip was unyielding, and her strength much greater than his. And as Frank felt his lungs screaming, and his eyes about ready to pop from his head, he thought one more time of Captain Al, and the red apple she held, before his body gave in, and he gasped, filling his lungs with the cold, salty waters of the deep.
Drowning wasn’t at all like Frank had imagined, in fact he wasn’t feeling any pain at all, and when he opened his eyes expecting to see a light that he should follow, he instead saw the young mermaids face giggling before him. Frank inhaled again and could feel the chilly water go in through his nose, but his chest did not rise, he did however feel a cool draft run down the sides of his neck, and tentatively he raised a hand to feel what it was, ‘My god I have gills!!! What has she done to me!!!’ he thought, as he looked at her quite bewildered.
“A mermaidens kiss is a magical thing, but only magical once, and only to her true love.” she told him.
He understood her words perfectly, they were not garbled at all by being underwater. “I think there has been some sort of mistake.” Frank replied, “I can’t be your true love, I don’t even know who you are.”
“My name is Ariel, and you most certainly are my true love, for you accepted my gift as you sat on the dock, and now we will be wed first thing in the morning, and you will father my children before your transformation is complete, and Naptuna swallows you up.”
“Ariel…like ‘The Little Mermaid’?”
“I’m not a little mermaid.” Ariel said quite perturbed, “I’m a perfectly average sized mermaid, and how dare you insult your soon-to-but-not-for-very-long-be wife.”
“Lets not go ringing the wedding bells quite yet, and what is this transformation you’re talking about? And what’s a Naptuna?”
“My kiss will not stop at giving you gills, you will be a merman by the setting of the second sun, and Naptuna, the great god of the sea, does not allow any mermen to live.”
“Not me sister, I’m not ready to die, or be half fishy.” and with that proclamation Frank began to swim for the surface.
He didn’t get far before Ariel grabbed him by the hand once more, and against his protests pulled him further down into a trench, and then into a cave that was there in its side. Where she left Frank after closing his foot inside of a giant clam’s shell from which he could not pry himself free.
“I’ll be back to get you for the ceremony in the morning, until then, rest well my love.” and then Ariel disappeared off into the distance.
Frank was becoming more and more concerned because he had noticed that he was beginning to form blotches that were made up of scales, and the spaces in between his fingers looked as if they were starting to web. ‘This can’t be real, this dream must be over soon, people don’t really get turned into mermen, and then eaten by nappy tunas.’ Frank thought.
As Frank still struggled to free himself he saw a girl near the entrance to the cave. “Ariel, come here, you must send me back before it’s to late.”, but as soon as Frank finished talking the girl disappeared out of view.
A few minutes later she returned, and this time Frank tried in a somewhat calmer tone. “Please Ariel,” he said, “I need to talk to you, let me help you understand.”, and again the girl withdrew out of view.
When she appeared for a third time Frank again tried a new approach, “HEY! GET IN HERE!”. The girl startled, and froze, and then slowly crept forward, and as she came into view Frank saw that it wasn’t Ariel, or even a mermaiden, but it was a different creature all together, “Are you…part octopus?” Frank asked as he looked at the arms coming out from her lower half.
“Oh no, the meroctopusses live only in much colder waters. I’m a mersquid.” the girl explained to Frank.
‘A squid girl, of course, because this dream wasn’t strange enough already.’ Frank thought. “What in the world is a mersquid?” Frank asked her, not entirely sure if he wanted to hear the reply.
“Well, after Naptuna devoured all the mermen, the mermaidens tried to find another to help keep their species alive. The meroctopusses, mersquids, and merhorses were all born before the great Naptuna allowed the mermaidens to go up and take men for lovers.”
“Meroctopusses and mersquids I sort of understand, but what was a horse doing down in the sea?”
The squid girl laughed, then replied, “Not a horse a seahorse, but they turned out quite the opposite as the rest of us, and can only run about the bottom of the sea floor kicking up silt.”
“Squidgirl, you must help me get free. That mermaid means to force me to marry her, and then feed me to some fish god.”
“Oh it’s a great honor to be eaten by Naptuna.”
“I don’t want to be honored, I just want to go home.”
“Then why did you accept her gift when she offered?”
“You mean the cassette she flung at my head? I only kept it because it’s about Captain Al, and I have to know more about her, she is the one I’m truly in love with.”
Hearing this declaration of true love melted the young squid girls heart, “I’m tired of watching these mermaidens trick men into marrying them, I can help you get free, but you’ll need the assistance of Lady Bah to stop the transformation. By the way, my name isn’t Squidgirl, it’s Legasea.”
Legasea grabbed hold of the clam, and with her eight powerful leg-arm-tentacle-things, and easily pried it open, freeing Frank. Frank then held tight to her and she propelled them far out to sea cutting through the depths of the ocean like a torpedo. Until they reached a tiny island, not much bigger around than the average house, but it reached up to great heights, “This is the island of Lady Bah.” Legasea told Frank, “and at the very tippy top, you’ll find the great lady, she’s the only one that can help you now.”.
“Thank you.” Frank told her from the bottom of his heart. “How can I ever repay you.”
“You can’t. You’re a land dweller, and I’m a girl that’s half squid. What could you possibly do for me? I’m just glad I get to stick it to those mermaidens for a change. They think they’re so special.” with that Legasea turned, and with one powerful flap of her arm-tentacle-leggy-things she shot off, disappearing back into the depths of the sea.
Now out of the water, Frank found that it was much more difficult to breathe, he felt as if his lungs had shriveled up and disappeared, and his legs felt as if they were trying to come together and become one appendage, ‘Not much longer and I’ll have a fish tail’ he thought, as he began the desperate climb to the top of the mountain that towered above him.
There were several points along the climb that Frank thought he’d have to just give up, his webbed hands made it nearly impossible to grab onto the sharp rocks, the scales that were starting to cover his body were drying out and feeling quite crackly, and his newly formed gills burned and longed to be back in the cool water below. Despite all the pain he was in he pushed on, until finally he pulled himself over the last ledge, to the tiny circle of rock that was the top of Lady Bah’s island, and as he looked up he saw Lady Bah standing there before him.
Lady Bah was not what Frank had expected, although he wasn’t really sure what to expect anymore, she was what we would call a satyr, a being that is half person and half goat. You see, in this world the animals were created long before the people, and in between the animals and the people there were the creatures that were a half of each. Lady Bah, the leader of the light brigade, was the first satyr, and that’s why she was the leader, and also the most wise and powerful.
“Are you Lady Bah?” Frank asked very meekly.
“Yes, and you are trespassing on my sacred island, and will now be food for my children.”
Frank looked around and saw many more half goat people starting to edge out of the underbrush. “Please, you have to help me. They’re turning me into a merman, and then they’re going to let some fish eat me.” Frank pleaded.
“And why should I care about the affairs of the stinky fish people?” Lady Bah questioned.
“Because I’ve just met Captain Al, the girl I’m destined to spend the rest of my life with, and I haven’t even had the chance to make her see I’m really real yet.”
“Stop!” Lady Bah called out, just as one of the goatmen was about to run a spear through Frank from behind. “Captain Al you say, the Captain Al, Captain Alex Ferdinandles of the W.S.S.?”
“Actually, I believe if it’s Captain Alex Fluffydander, but yes she’s the one.” Frank exclaimed.
Without another word Lady Bah charged forward headbutting Frank and knocking him unconscious. When he awoke he noticed that he was not so short of breath, and when he looked at his hands the webbing was gone, and when he checked his torso the scales were gone, and to his everlasting relief when he touched his neck his gills were gone too. “Why?”
“Because the prophecies foretells, once Ferdinandles finds love, the great ending begins.” Lady Bah explained, “And now you will return to the land of the people, and profess your love for this girl.”
“Well that makes no sense, and I’m not hearing a plan that will make her fall in love with me, and I’m still pretty sure her name is Flaffydoodles.” Frank told her, “But, since I’m not going to be a fishguy, and get eaten by some tuna, I’ll give it a shot. Do you have a boat I can borrow? And I go that way right?” Frank asked pointing in the wrong direction.
“I have a far better idea. Come here and look, do you see that point far out on the horizon?” Lady Bah asked him as she pointed at something far out of sight.
“I don’t think so…you mean that…OWWWW!!!” Frank screamed as Lady Bah’s back hooves kicked him square in the behind, and sent him rocketing through the air. Frank’s rear stung for half the flight back to the bay, and he splashed down not far from the dock he was sitting on earlier. He finally pulled himself to shore, removed the seaweed from his hair, and turned to look where the W.S.S had been earlier before it sailed away.
written for: GoodReads.com Weekly Short Story Contest Week 193 – Topic – Cassette Tape
photo by: EazzyWc