It was the quiet Grant remembered; a muffled quiet of pumping blood and depth, light disappearing to green-grey; a sensation of falling slowly towards equilibrium, where buoyancy would reassert itself. He’d smelled tarred rope — tasted it.
They hadn’t known, up in the sunshine there, that he was caught. His friends were laughing like gannets. Grant watched a bird plummet in a flurry of bubbles; fly through the water and up, up. It broke the surface and flew in the air.
Jimmy was next to jump from the dock. Jimmy was no diver and he didn’t come deep enough to see Grant waving — and as he struggled to be noticed, the rope tightened its hold. Why did his friends not miss him? He fought against black tendrils of wiry weed. The breath he’d taken in was almost spent. He felt his lungs would burst with holding it.
Then Grant saw the seal swimming towards him — no, not a seal. A sleek figure, copper-green body and long, brassy hair but its eyes were like a seal’s, black, round and impenetrably deep. The face was an expressionless mask, but beautiful. As it approached, limbs unfolded from its sides and it made a horizontal wave signal with its hands. ‘Calm waters,’ thought Grant, ‘calm waters.’ He caught a scent of fresh air and sea foam, and then knew nothing.
A moment later he bobbed to the surface gasping.
“I was rescued by a mermaid,” he spluttered.
Everybody told him that when you’re that close to death, you see strange things. They all said that. How would they know? When you’re that close to a mermaid, you never forget.
He’d never forgotten. Over seventy years he’d been telling the same tale. Now he was going to die anyway, he’d find out for sure. He wondered just before he jumped, whether his friends would miss him.
Oonah V Joslin lives in Northumberland, England. Winner of Micro Horror Prizes 2007 and 2008. Most read in EDF, Jan 2008. Guest judge in the Shine Journal 2008 Poetry Competition. Bewildering Stories Quarterly 4 2007 and 1 and 2 in 2008. She has had work published in Bewildering Stories, Twisted Tongue, Static Movement, 13 Human Souls, Back Hand Stories and The Pygmygiant, Lit Bits, The Linnet’s Wings, The Ranfurly Review and Boston Literary Magazine. The list is growing every month which pleases her immensely! Oonah is also Managing Editor of Every Day Poets. You can link to work, follow up-dates and contact Oonah at http://www.writewords.org.uk/oonah/ or http://www.oonahs.blogspot.com. She thanks all of you who take the time to read and comment.
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