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The Curse of Life
The Curse of Life
One day I was putting on my diving suit to go swimming for the first time after my broken arm had healed. It's very cloudy and colder than usual outside, but even if it were sunny, it would still be cold. We live in Crescent City, California, which is almost at the Oregon border.
The beaches here aren't at all ideal for swimming, surfing, or tanning, because of the near constant cool temperatures and the rocky beaches and coast. Once you get past the cold water and the larger rocks, you can dive down and explore. You can't do this every day, but that day the riptide was almost nonexistent.
My Dad, Joey, and my 2 year old sister, May, were waiting on the shore. I'm 16, I can go out alone, but my Mom would have a heart attack if she found out my Dad let me go out alone. "June! Watch out for that rock that's hidden under the water! It'll tear your leg wide open if you hit it!" shouts my Dad as I waded out in the frigid water.
I swim out to my favorite spot at the end of a long chain of large, flat topped rocks that have a sudden drop off. I sit on the end of the last rock to catch my breath. My previously broken arm is very weak. I had fallen off of our trampoline and broken it. When I can once again breathe at a normal rate, I hop off the rocks into the deep, dark, eerie water.
I am almost at the bottom when I see a flash of silver scales. I figured it was some sort of oceanic fish, because most of the marine life up here are mammals. I get out anyways. Many of the fish out here have shark-like teeth. I didn't want to anger it.
"What wrong Ju?" asked May in her uneducated toddler voice. I told my Dad about the fish, because I knew he was thinking the same thing as May. "What did I miss?" asked my Mom, April, who was coming down the wooden steps to the beach.
My Dad replies, "June thinks she saw a big fish out there." By the tone of my Dad's voice I can tell that he doesn't believe me. My Mom, however; was concerned and asked, "Are you sure it was a fish? If it was big it might have been seal." I sarcastically replied, "Well last time I checked, seals didn't have big silver scales."
The image of the fish began flashing back in my head. I could have sworn its tail was moving up and down like a dolphin's. My thoughts were soon interrupted by as boom of thunder. "Everybody get inside before lightning strikes!" shouted my Mom. My Dad yanked up May and ran her up to the house. My family was in the house already, but right before I got in the house I turned around and looked at the beach. I was stunned when I saw a bolt of lighting hit the same spot where I saw the fish.
What was even odder, is when I thought I saw something big and scaly jump out of the water. It must have been the fish, I thought. "June what are you doing?" called my Mom. I shook my head and continued my quick jog up to our house. My very frightened Schnauzer, Lilly, jumped up on my legs. She barked and whined, because like most dogs, she is afraid of thunder.
She soon abandoned me, and ran to hide behind our sea green couch. I looked at the time and it was just past four o'clock. "Well, I have salmon fillets in the oven and a salad ready. It's a perfect time to have a good old fashioned family dinner," said my Mom.
Half and hour later, dinner was ready. We sat down at our round, oak table and ate my Mom's perfect salmon fillet and restaurant-quality salad. For about five minutes it was quiet. I had considered telling them about the lightning strike and the mysterious jumping object, but I doubted they would have believed me. Knowing my Mom, she probably would have sent me to therapy.
"So you said you saw a large fish?" asked my Mom. I knew it was coming. I loudly swallowed my food and replied, "Yeah, I was at the bottom of that little chain of rocks and it swam past me," I vaguely replied. My Dad nodded his head and my Mom didn't react. After a very silent rest of the dinner, I had decided to go up to my bedroom and go to sleep early.
I was awakened by a horrible nightmare around midnight. To calm myself I got up and looked out the window. It was very cloudy and eerie. The bright, full moon was peeking out above the thick, dark clouds. I am calming down when I think I hear someone singing. I don't know why but I go downstairs to the living room looking for the source of the sound. I didn't see anybody downstairs, so for some odd reason, I went outside to the spot where I had seen the lightning and the fish.
The noise kept getting louder and louder, so I knew that I was getting closer to the source. I jump to the slick rocks. I look out by the large rock that I often swim out to, for there is a little ledge I can sit on on the other side. I peeked out beyond the rock and saw a young woman. Inhumanly beautiful. Long, wavy blond hair. She had a silver sheen to her golden skin.
I stared into her sea green eyes as SHE sang. I became more and more intrigued. Before I knew it, I was in the freezing cold, wet, and pitch dark water. I presume that I passed out, but I woke up.
I was on the chain of rocks that I had fallen off of. I looked out at the horizon. The sun was barely peeking above it. I felt a presence behind me. I looked up, and the girl was there, but now I could see her whole body. She didn't have legs, she had a fish tail! She was a mermaid!
"Who are you?" I asked her. Her beautiful green eyes turned into a dark, glowing, shade of red and she hissed at me, revealing sharp, vampirish fangs. I would have ran, but I was too in shock. She jumped back in the water. I know she could have killed me easily, but why didn't she? Instead, she chose to save me.
When I gained strength, I slapped myself in the face, sure it was a dream. I managed to stand. I stood up and ran to the house.
"Mom! Mom help! Dad! Somebody? Somebody help!" I shouted as I entered the silent house. My Dad came running down with a bat in hand, Mom shortly followed. My Mom threw up her arms, and shouted, "Oh my baby, you're soaking wet! Why were you out there at this time?"
I didn't want to tell her about the mermaid, because I wasn't even sure if I saw her. I simply replied, "I don't know, I just woke up, and I was out on the rocks dripping wet." My Mom ran down our staircase and wrapped me up in a warm, fuzzy blanket.
"Did you sleep walk?" asked my Dad. I shrugged and replied, "I just told you what I remember." Mom didn't seem to care what happened, she just wanted to help get me warmed up. My Dad on the other hand was more curious as to what happened to me. He peeked out the door and shouted, "Hello? Is anyone there?" Of course no one replied.
My Mom sent me back to my bedroom to get a change of clothes. I took off my wet pajamas and put on simple, grey v-neck, long sleeved shirt and some matching sweatpants. I couldn't possibly have went back to sleep after what had just occurred. I instead went back downstairs and sat on our couch.
My Mom continued her pacing. I think she was freaked out about the "possibilities" of what could have happened to me. My Dad sat in the love-seat very deep into his clearly portrayed thoughts. Then he looked at me, very directly, almost terrifyingly, and demanded, "June, you tell me right know what happened to you. Are you telling us a lie, or do we need to call the police?"
He was going to call the police, that was serious. I had guessed that I had no choice but to tell the truth. He wouldn't believe me, but I had to try to make him believe that I was not a delirious, mentally sick person.
"I didn't lie to you. I just left out a part, because I know you won't believe me. I'll tell you, but you have to promise that you won't think I'm crazy. Will you promise me that?" I asked him. He sighed and replied, "Why would you think that we would think that you're crazy? What happened?"
I looked him directly in the eyes and demanded, "Promise." He sighed again and half rolled his eyes, but then said, "Okay, I promise that I will not think that you are crazy."
"Good. I'll start from the beginning. I woke up from a nightmare that I can't quite explain. I got up and looked out the window while I tried to calm down. I heard someone singing. I don't know why or how, but I followed the voice outside. I ended up out on the rock chain where I saw someone, no something, I don't know. It was a girl. She was beautiful."
"She was singing. She was staring at me; very intensely, but more out of fear or shock. Before I had time to stop myself, I was in the water. I guess I passed out, but I woke up on the rocks. She was behind me, but now I could see her whole body. Mom, Dad, she was a mermaid! She hissed at me, and swam away," I explained.
I looked at their expressions, and I could tell that they didn't believe me. They thought I was insane. They promised! I knew that I shouldn't have trusted them with something like this. The question was; what will they do now?
"Say something," I murmured. My mom finally spoke up, "Honey, are you sure she was a mermaid and not just some psychotic girl? I mean, mermaids don't exist." I stood up and huffed. I shouted at them, "I knew you wouldn't believe me! I know what I saw! You promised and you still think I'm crazy!"
I began crying and run upstairs to my room. I stayed there the rest of the day. My Mom occasionally knocked on the door, but when she did I would just yell at her to go away. Normally I would have felt bad for her, but I didn't feel at all. Well, I may have felt, I just didn't know what I felt exactly. Hurt? Anger? Fear? I had no idea what I felt.
I didn't go down to eat, though my mom did leave a wrapped up peanut butter sandwich outside my door. After everybody was asleep, I reached out to get the sandwich, and headed down to the rocks.
I sat down at the same spot as I did last time. I heard a distant humming. The tune of the hum was the same as the singing from the previous night. I sat down, gently and silently, and said, "I know you're here. Show yourself."
I saw her outline in the water and jumped back preparing myself. She got up on the rocks and angrily hissed, "Leave!" Her eyes were blood red, like they were when I spotted her the night before. I don't know why, but I stubbornly shouted, "No! I won't leave until you tell me who you are!"
I waited for her angry return, but what comes forth to the rocks is not the ferocious creature, but a gentle, kind soul. "How come you're not angry like you were before?" I asked her. Her eyes are once again that beautiful, green color.
She remained silent. I once again urged, "I know you can speak english." She looked downward, as if contemplating if to flee. She almost dove back under when she said, "Evil not, but born under the devil we are. Breaking free of devil's grip be like not speakin'; not breathing. We try to break, but mer folk aren't not to be trusted. Keep distance all who care for one's self."
I asked her, "If you are dangerous? Why did you save me?" I almost couldn't hear her when she muttered, "Evil not. We must break free." She then dove back under the water and vanished.
I wandered back into the house and looked at the time. The clock had just struck twelve. I heard one of my parents open their bedroom door. I ran upstairs, making sure I didn't pound on the staircase as I trotted up.
I jumped in my bed, listening for my Dad. He never knocked, so eventually I got back up and changed into my pajamas. The house was cold, so I put on my fuzzy, pink pants, and a matching button-up top. I was on high alert, but after an hour of sitting and waiting, I fell back asleep.
That night, my nightmare reoccured. Though now, I can explain it further. I saw hands. Wet hands, coming out of the water, handing me a necklace. At that point, it wasn't scary, though caused me unease. Then I felt a choking sensation when I put on the necklace, which I realize was a green locket. I open the locket and see a mirror.
Inside the mirror is a distorted vision of myself. My face is devilish, and then I turn beautiful. My tangled, short, brown hair turns into a wavy bundle of fluff. My eyes began to fill with blood. When the blood is all cried out, they turn sea green, like the mermaid's. Eventually, I try to remove the dreaded locket from my neck, but it glues itself to my skin. I am imprisoned in the scaly body of a mermaid.
I am yanked into the depths of the cold, dark, unforgivable ocean. I heard my Mom screaming my name, and my little sister crying for me. The hands that had pulled me into the water are wrapped around my shoulders, shaking me.
"June! June Daphne Love wake up!" screamed my Mom, as I began to wake up. As I came into conciseness, I realized that I was still screaming. My Mom wrapped her arms around me and said, "You've been screaming my name for nearly half an hour."
"I have?" I asked her. My Dad came into the room and said, "The therapist is here."
I asked her, "What therapist?" My mom looked down at me and confessed, "Well when you were freaking out about that whole mermaid thing yesterday, I called one and asked her to come."
I rolled my eyes and grumbled, "I can't believe you called a doctor. You promised that you wouldn't think I was insane too. Now leave, while I get dressed." She left my room, and I put on a pair of blue jeans and a purple sweater.
I headed downstairs, when the therapist met me on the staircase, and sent me right back up to the room. She pulled my desk chair up to my bed, as if we were in her office. I sat down on my bed awkwardly and waited for the lady to say something.
She began by saying, "Hello. You must be June. I'm Dr. Sanchez. I hear you are upset with your parents. Why don't you tell me why you are upset with them?" I huffed and said, "Look, can't a teenage girl get upset without being called a maniac?! Thank you for your time, but your services aren't really needed here."
"Clearly something has gotten you tense. Why don't you tell me what?" she urged. I shouted back, "Look lady! I know my mom told you I went nuts and started screaming nonsense about mermaids! It was a dream that spooked me so bad that I thought it really happened. I had the same dream last night! It's no big deal! I'm mad at my parents for calling you! You're the problem not me! Get out of my room!"
I realize now that my angered speech just confirmed all of HER suspicions. She gave me an odd look and quietly walked out of my room. I let her here the door lock behind her. Once she is downstairs, I sneak out of my door and ease-drop on her conversation with my parents.
Dr. Sanchez explains, "Well, she called me the problem and locked me out, but I think she might need more support from you and not so much professional help. Talk to her like you believe her, make her think that you are on her side and....."
I'd had enough of that idiocy. I stomp out to the top of the staircase and shout, "But they won't be! They think I'm crazy! I just want all of this to go away! I made a mistake, and you treat me like a nutcase! No wonder I'm "tense"."
"June! Wait!" shouted my Mom. "I'm going for a dive!" I growl at her. I run up to my bedroom and toss on my wetsuit. I waited for Dr. Sanchez to drive away before I left the safety of my bedroom.
When the coast was clear, I ran downstairs and out the door. My parents chased after me, but by the time they were half way down the stairs, I was in the water. I had brought my snorkel that is built to store a little air (no more then a breath or two) , because I had planned to be near invisible to my, no doubt, terrified parents.
The undertow wasn't awful, but it was enough for me to be on alert. I had jumped off the rocks into the deep part of the water. It didn't even bother me that the mermaid could be there, something told me that she wouldn't come near me during the daytime.
I took a deep breath and went under water to the bottom. My hands were resting on the barely visible bottom. I love being under water, because when you just want to pull on your hair and swear at the world, no one can hear you.
I reached back to pull my hair out of my face when a forceful hand grabs my wrist and begins to pull me who knows where. I knew who it was, but I still fought her grip. When we approach a hole in a rock, she pushes my head down and pulls me through. We come up and are inside a hollow rock with two ledges on the inside.
"What the? Why did you do that?" I asked her as I tried to catch my breath. Her eyes weren't red, and she wasn't angry, but she looked scared as she replied, "What are you doing here? I told you to stay away!" I pulled off my mask, wondering why it wasn't pitch dark in there. I looked up and saw a quarter-sized whole in the rock.
"I'm not here for you! I was escaping from my parents, because they called a therapist after I first saw you. I told them that it was just a dream, but that still doesn't explain why I was soaking wet! If they ask about you, I don't know enough about you to tell them! You are ruining my life! Why can't you just go away?" I frantically asked her.
She looked completely overwhelmed, but still very scared. I demanded, "Say something!" She finally spoke up and said, "There's nothing to say." She spoke in an odd British-Caribbean accent.
"Yes there is. What about your name? You must have a name," I urged her. "No mother, no name," she replied. Still, I felt awkward referring to her as the mermaid, so I suggested, "Well then let's give you a name." She cautiously leaned in and whispered, "Moon. My companions call me Moon."
"Companions?! You mean there are more of you?" I asked her. She shook her head in fear and shouts, "I shouldn't have said that! Eye! I should not have said that!" I tried to calm her and whispered, "It's okay, it's okay. I won't tell anyone; Moon."
"Are your companions like you? I mean as kind?" I asked her. Her answer was immediate, "No. You would not be alive if they were lurking by the rocks instead of me." "They would have let me drown?" I asked her. Her face turned into a expressionless statue, and replied, "They would have killed you before you fell in."
I gasped. That is when it truly hit me. Moon isn't like Ariel in The Little Mermaid. That this was a life or death situation. If Moon's companions would kill me, why didn't Moon.....and what was stopping her from turning her back on me?
"Why didn't you kill me, or at least let me drown?" I asked her. She looked as if she did not hear me, so I repeated myself, "Moon, why didn't you kill me?" Still, she looked as if she weren't right here in front of me. "What's wrong?" I asked her. She remained expressionless, but she replied, "They are coming."
"What? Who?" I asked in absolute horror. The way she said it sounded like a line from a horror film. She whispered, "The others, they're coming for me." I gasped and asked, "They want to kill you?" She shook her head and replied, "No, much worse, they will torture until I'm on death's door, but then they will leave me there. A human would be dead, but we are immortal, so I will remain in pain forever."
"Why would they want to do that?" I asked her, ignoring the grotesque images now arousing in my mind. "Because I have done the worst thing imaginable for our kind to do ; I have helped a human."
"They'd do that to you because you helped me?" I asked her. She nodded and said, "We have orders to kill anyone who sees us." At that point I was more concerned about her, but then I realized that I was in just as much danger as her, "Wait, if they'd do that to you, then what would they do to me?"
She looked down at the water that was lowering to our ribs, because of the tide going out. Her expression was grim, and certainly not promising. Then she pulled off an emerald locket off of her bare neck. I never really payed attention to what she was wearing. Her hair was always covering her chest.
As she removed her locket, she revealed that she wore nothing but that locket. She handed it to me, and as I reached out for it, I jerked my hand back, because this is the image from my nightmare. "What is it going to do to me? This looks like an image from the nightmare I had last night," I asked her.
"Put it on or they will get to us and they will kill you and take me. This will get you out of here safely," she urged. I cautiously took hold of the locket. I put it around my neck and I began to have some sort of seizure.
I managed to shout out, "Moon, what have you done?!" She looked down sadly and said, "Look down." I look down to find my legs gone and a silver tail in their place. I stopped seizing. My swim top was all that remained of my old body.
My braces were gone, and my teeth were perfect. My short brown hair had grown into a long, brown, wavy bundle of curls. My pale skin had turned into a moonlight color. My vision, had changed. I didn't know how, but it was different.
"Moon! What have you done, you said I would live if I put on the locket! I'm a mermaid! I said I wanted to live, not live forever!" I shouted at her. She looked paler than she had before. "Moon?" I asked. She mumbles, "You are one of us now. There is no way you can turn back. I have turned you into a monster. They won't kill either of us now. They will take us to our territory, where you will be safe, but I must warn you, the territory is not a pleasant place."
I heard screeching in the distance, it sounded like a cross between a seagull and a snake hissing. I determined it must be the others. "What do you mean by not pleasant?" Moon dove under the water and swam out of a hole at the bottom of the rock. I followed her and I realized that I could breathe under water now.
I was so distracted by my new abilities, that hardly saw the stampede of mermaids heading straight for us. "What are they going to do with us?" She quietly and fearfully answered, "They will probably surround us. They will take us to the opening in the kelp field, where they will question us, and punish us for leaving the sanctuary. Whatever you do, do not fight them!"
Within seconds, they were upon us. One with deep skin, red eyes, well-sharpened fangs, and twisted up black hair poked me with a spear. It hurt, but I didn't show it. I began to step forward, when I tripped, forgetting that I now had a tail. Instead, I moved it up and down like Moon does.
It worked. I swam in between them. I didn't dare try and escape. There were at least fifteen of them. A spear to the back is all that I would get out of my escape. Escaping would have been pointless anyways. I didn't know my way back, and I wouldn't be able to go ashore anyways.
That's when it hit me. I couldn't escape. I was stuck in this oceanic prison. Never to see my family again. Never to hear my little sister laugh. I could never be her big sister again. My Mom and Dad will have to face the police, and the press. I will be reported missing, but to no use. Everyone will have just thought that I drowned. My Mom and Dad will never get to see my body, because I am alive. Alive under a horrible curse. The curse to live.
A tear begins to form, but it turns to blood, that streams behind us in a thin, red trail. I look ahead and see a dome. The dome looks like glass, but as we approach it, we go right through the thin barrier.
I try to swim towards the others in the territory, but a spear jams into my side. This time blood flows. I follow Moon into the kelp forest she was talking about. We came to an opening in the thick, dark, green terror. We are shoved down to the ground.
A figure comes forth from the kelp. As it comes forward, I can see that it is a mermaid with deep brown hair. Wavy, but not as spiraled as mine. She spoke in a deep, raspy voice, "Leaving the territory is forbidden. Punishment is one hundred years in the clouded land." They began shoving us up towards the surface.
After several minutes of swimming upwards, we finally reach the cold, dark, foggy surface. "What's the clouded land?" I finally get a chance to ask Moon. She says, "No one knows. When a mermaid gets struck by lighting, she disappears for many years. One hundred years is just an estimate. It could be as little as twenty years, or as many as one hundred."
The mermaid that had sentenced us reached the surface. She held a cane up and a bright, white, flash came out of the end. I guessed that this was another version of lighting. I fell unconscious, and woke up. When I woke up, my legs had grown back. My hair was once again short and straight. My braces were back on my teeth, and I no longer had fangs. I was normal again.
My ran downstairs, looking for my parents. Begging for forgiveness. I saw my frantic Mom talking to the police. She saw me and wiped her eyes, making sure that I was really there. "June?" she shakily asked. "Mom, you know I was in the water the whole time right? I fell asleep on a ledge," I told her. I gave up on apologizing, because I didn't want the police around when I did. All they needed was an explanation.
I ran to her arms, and hugged her frantically, holding back tears. My Dad ran up behind me also hugging me. "Don't ever go out there when you're mad at us. You'll make us worry."
That wonderful day was 80 years ago. Today I am 96 years old, I have been widowed and have great grandchildren. Today I am very ill. I have been diagnosed will lung cancer and am on my death bed. I fear for when I die, because everyday of my life I have remembered what that one mermaid said. She said I would spend one hundred years in the clouded land. I now know what they meant.
They were talking about the human world. Moon said that their sentences were never accurate. I know that a mermaid will never die. I will return back to that cold, wet, prison that people call the Pacific Ocean. I take a deep breath in, but I never let it out. I have finished my sentence.