tagErotic HorrorThe Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid


"Beautiful dreamer, out on the sea,
Mermaids are chanting the wild lorelei;
Over the streamlet vapors are borne,
Waiting to fade at the coming morn."

-Stephen Foster, "Beautiful Dreamer"


Lorelei lived in many-columned Y'ha-nthlei under the sea, with its submarine obelisks and tiered palaces and sunken treasures scavenged by cold hands from ruined ships, and in all her life she had never seen the sun.

For most of it she'd never wanted to. She loved the always-black world beneath the waves, where she swam with her sisters and sang the oldest songs ("Iä-R'lyeh! Cthulhu fhtagn, Iä!") with a voice so beautiful it could seduce any creature that swam or crawled.

Of all her sisters, Lorelei was the most splendid singer, and the others looked on her with envy. But she never thought to keep her songs to herself; "It's my song, not theirs," she told their grandmother. "They can stop up their ears if they want, but they can't stop my voice."

And Grandmother had nodded, approving.

As Lorelei became older her hair grew longer, her arms and legs became stronger, and the scales on her limbs became more lustrous, and she found that more and more often her eyes drifted upward to where the barest, bravest rays of the sun penetrated the ocean, glittering like gold in the waves.

This was to be expected, of course. Grandmother had gone up to the land world for a time when she was this same age, and each of Lorelei's sisters had too when their times came, and they sometimes went up still when they had mischief in their hearts.

There was her oldest sister Thessalonike, who delighted in calling up storms to wrack passing ships, and who gave cold kisses to drowning sailors to steal the air from their lungs when they tumbled overboard.

"As mercy," she explained, although always with a smile.

Next oldest was Derketo, who considered every fish in the sea her cousin, and woe to any fisherman she caught in HER net.

Despite her protective spirit, she ate freely of their fishy cousins herself. "It's only proper," she always said.

There was Zennor, who before Lorelei came along had been the most beautiful singer in all the black seas. But no one was alive who could say what her voice sounded like, since a few notes was all it took to kill most any listener.

Once, because she asked, Zennor sang a single note for Lorelei, and Lorelei left so disturbed that she hadn't visited again since.

Next oldest was Li Ban, the only creature in the sea who had an immortal soul, like the men and women on land did. But she hadn't been born with it, and Grandmother had warned Lorelei never to ask how it had been acquired.

"Some secrets are too big even for the sea to keep," she said.

Finally there was Lorelei's favorite sister, Ceasg, who offered wishes to human men who struck her fancy. Whatever the wish was she always granted it, and the man always died, but whether this was something Ceasg did on purpose or whether land men just couldn't help but make foolish wishes no one knew.

"It depends on your point of view," was all she ever said.

And there was Lorelei herself, the youngest and most lovely granddaughter of Atargatis, queen goddess of the sea, who had ruled Y'ha-nthlei for 80,000 years. Lorelei, whose scales were all of gold, and whose songs charmed the very tides.

She would live forever as a princess here, inheritor of a dynasty that extended before the beginning of the world. But as she grew older, Lorelei realized for the first time that no matter how much she loved her home something would always be missing for her here.

"It's normal to feel that way at your age," Grandmother said, as the two of them swam together through the brooding cyclopean columns of the palace. "When the time comes you'll leave us for a bit. And when that time is up, you'll come back."

When would the time come?

"If you have to ask, that means it's not now," Grandmother said, in a voice Lorelei knew meant there was nothing else to discuss. Everyone else said the same.

So with that, Lorelei did all there was to do: she waited.


When it finally happened, she was alone.

Lorelei had been swimming with Derketo through caves that served as a shark's graveyard, where all that remained of the dead beasts was their teeth, picked at by beautiful jeweled crabs, some of the ancient fangs millions of years old and bigger than Lorelei herself.

But she'd wandered off on her own without quite knowing why and lost her way in a forest of gently waving kelp, where the sneaking tendrils of monstrous octopuses waved in time with the fronds and waited for prey to stray too near. (Although every creature in the ocean knew better than to try to harm Lorelei or any other member of the royal family).

It seemed that something was pulling her, like a hook on the end of a line. She realized, gradually, that it was a song; not one she heard with her ears but rather with her heart, which the tune wrapped itself around and then tugged, until she had to follow or risk having her heart pulled right out of her.

The song drew her upwards, toward where the waters became brighter with the hard golden glow of sunlight. It was a song that had always been there, a longer and stronger song even than that of the ocean, but for most of her life lost in the turning of the waves.

Now that Lorelei was older—100, perhaps, or perhaps older than that (why bother keeping count when you had forever to live still anyway?)she was finally able to hear it.

Lorelei wanted to follow that song, to break above the waves and hear it clearly for the first time. But the higher she swam the harder it became; the light was too bright, the heat too intense, and sooner or later she always sank back down again. Her sisters had warned her about this; coming up took time and change.

"And the strength not to die first," oldest sister Thessalonike had warned.

So Lorelei did what they'd taught her: lying back in the cold black water, she allowed herself, very, very slowly, to float upwards.

This would take weeks, she knew. The longer it took, the better her eyes would adjust to the brightness, and the better her skin would be acclimated to the heat. When she finally came all the way up it would take another week or maybe more to train herself how to breathe the air, and Thessalonike had told her about the burning agony that waited in those first few failed breaths. But it was necessary.

In the meantime, she taught herself a new song. At first she tried to sing along with the song from the world above, but it was still too distant, and too many of the notes went missing.

So she filled them in with notes of her own, from the songs of the ocean floor that she'd known her entire life, and even from the oldest of the old songs, songs that were old even before the oceans were young ("Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu, Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn...").

What she eventually created, she realized, was a new song all her own As she sang it, she changed; the scales on her arms and legs, so beautiful and so bright, flaked away one by one, falling like lost doubloons to the ocean floor and revealing soft, pink, sensitive skin underneath, skin that made her flinch every time it touched so much as a grain of sand, and for the first time she knew the vulnerability of nudity.

This was normal, she knew, just as she knew they'd grow back again after enough time in the ocean. But still, she was sorry to see it happen.

The song changed her inside too, made her stronger and stranger, made her body yearn to breathe the vacant poison of air instead of water, and made her hungry for the orphaned world of the land above, where the sea no longer surrounded her like swaddling clothes, as it had every day of her life.

And finally, one day, when she was sure she now knew the entire song by heart, she looked up toward the light and swam as hard as she could. This time when the heat of the sun touched her skin, she didn't turn away from the pain.

Instead Lorelei swam toward it harder, and the great empty canopy of nothing called the sky beckoned for her, and, bracing herself, she closed her eyes and for the first time in her life dared to rise up out of the water.

And although it hurt worse than anything she'd ever known, Lorelei took her first breath of the air. And when she breathed it out again, it became a song.


It took Tristam all day to decide that the voice was not just in his head. And that it was becoming louder the longer he hiked.

This seemed amiss, as this part of the coast was remote, dangerous, and normally entirely vacant, which is why he had come here.

The only signs of onetime habitation were the ghost towns along the shore, former fishing villages, places subject to strange rumors and superstitions that kept even curiosity seekers away most of the time.

Tristam had chosen this route expressly because nobody would be here now. Friends had begged him not to go off alone, but he persisted, confident that the potential danger would help enforce the isolation he craved.

He preferred to be alone almost all the time now. Ever since his accident, that day he had taken his boat out on the water only for a rogue wave to dash it to pieces and throw him on the rocks and nearly break his back, leaving him scarred and limping probably for the rest of his life, solitude had seemed the best balm.

It wasn't really the accident itsel, or even the psychological trauma, as the doctors had predicted. Rather, it was the dreams.

Almost every night since his recovery, Tristam relived it all in nightmares. Sometimes in the dreams the boat wrecked and he really did die, but somehow death wasn't the end, and he remained eternally conscious in his own broken body lying on the rocks, feeling the tide come in around him and the scavenging fish begin to nibble at his waterlogged flesh.

Other times he dreamt that the boat capsized in deeper water and he fell into the waves and never came back up. In this dreams he wouldn't drown; he just sank forever into an ocean with no bottom, and down deep there were monsters, and deeper than that there were worse than monsters, and deeper than that were the most horrible things of all, though it was so dark that he could never see them, only sense them swimming by and, now and then, feel one brush against him as it passed...

And then he'd wake to fear and confusion, and the memory of those dreams would last all day, and for most of those days he couldn't bear to see anyone. He was too afraid that whatever evil had hovered over him since the accident might bleed out into their lives as well.

So he left. He had supplies and a reasonable understanding of the coastline. Against everyone's admonishments he had set out, promising to be back in nine days and cautioning against anyone trying to follow him, even if they thought it was for his own good.

If they really wanted to help him, he said, the best thing was to let him go.

And yet, after only two days hiking on the coast, he discovered that someone else was out here. In fact, someone was singing, and the music seemed to chase away the promise of his sought-after solitude.

It was a curious song; he didn't even recognize the language, for one thing. And the voice, whoever it belonged to, was so lyrical and lustrous that he had trouble believing it wasn't his imagination. It sounded beautiful, but also unyielding and somehow threatening, and it gave him fitful thoughts.

It was also getting closer. As Tristam walked, with his backpack slung over one shoulder and a long stick in his left hand to lean on from time to time when his bad leg acted up, he set on the idea that the singer was traveling towards him on an opposite course, and that they were set for a collision of sorts, head to head.

But there's no reason to think that, he chastised himself. Walking along a brown beach, Tristam sat down on a driftwood log and sipped water from his canteen. Although it was a moody, foggy day, he was sweating just the same.

He tried to squint through the fog, but it blocked off everything more than 100 yards out. He expected to hear the sound of a foghorn, but of course, there wasn't one; nobody lived here anymore to keep it working.

He tried to imagine some explanation for the singing. Perhaps a long abandoned radio in one of the ghost towns picking up an errant signal; or maybe it wasn't singing at all but just the sound of the wind in the chimneys of abandoned buildings, and Tristam, unused to isolation, was imagining it was a human voice...

None of these suggestions seemed particularly convincing though. Wiping the sweat from his brow (why should he sweat on such a chilly afternoon?), he set off again, more convinced than ever that something was out there and that he had, at most, a few hours before he encountered it.

He thought about turning back, but he didn't. Later he would realize that in fact he couldn't, and that by that time it was already too late anyway, and possibly had been from the time he took his first step on the beach.

But for now all he thought about was the fact that turning back would mean going back to his old life, and no matter what strange thing might be happening on this beach it was, for the moment, the source of less anxiety than that. So he kept walking.

The collision he'd expected did come but not until later that day, when the overcast sky grew even darker and the hidden sun began to slink away, and Tristam first caught sight of that strange and misshapen rock formation off the coast that the locals (back when there were locals here) used to call "Devil Reef."

A woman was standing on the beach, her feet sunk halfway into the sand, stark still and naked as the day, and she was letting the tide come in around her one angry wave at a time.

She was about his age, he imagined, or maybe a few years older, with hair that hung all the way down her back and powerful limbs. She had incredibly smooth looking skin, and looked as if it had never seen a day of work or sun.

Standing in the sea spray at dusk without a thing on should have left her shivering almost to death, but she barely seemed to notice it, wrapped as she was in singing. When Tristam first heard the song he'd imagined the singer throwing her head back and wailing with all of her being, but the woman on the beach looked almost inert, her open mouth and the tremble of her lips the only indication that she was doing anything.

It would have made sense to guess she was a hallucination, or maybe even that he'd somehow fallen asleep in the midst of his hike and this was a delirious dream.

But Tristam had no doubt that the woman was real. And as he stopped in his tracks (some 50 yards away from her, with his boots in the sand) he realized a kind of dilemma had emerged; because on the one hand he couldn't very well just walk away as if he'd seen nothing, but neither did he feel he could safely approach...

That was when she turned to look at him for the first time, her silhouette framed against the violent, gray-black waters, and Tristam flinched. Details that he'd initially overlooked now stood out, like he seaweed clinging to the woman's hair and trailing from her limbs, and the grim, too-pale color of her skin and her lips, like the body of a drowned woman pulled from the depths.

And most of all her eyes, which were green and swirling and absolutely awful in the most arresting way. When Tristam looked into the woman's eyes he sawor could imagine that he sawdark and fantastic things, things that no living person was ever really meant to see.

He imagined sunken subterranean obelisks, and statues cradled by the bottom of the sea depicting figures no human being had ever seen and no human hand had ever carved.

He imagined ancient shipwrecks with their sides split open and the skeletons of their frames exposed, and cold hands liberating waterlogged treasures from the covetous ocean floor.

He imagined great, waving gardens of undersea plants, glittering rainbows of multi-colored fish, the shining shells of jeweled crustaceans, glorious pearls held tight by glitter-shelled oysters, and even the mammoth bodies of whales and bigger things gliding through the abyss, ancient and immortal, living eons that never stopped moving, knowing that nothing could end their existence except stillness.

But he also imagined terrors: hungry things in black underwater caves, countless bones buried in sand so deep that nobody and nothing would ever know they were there, and places where the ocean became so deep and dark that it was a void, and even thinking about it threatened to crush him.

All of this he imagined in just the first second that her eyes met his...

And after that there was no opportunity for more, because as soon as he was able Tristam ran.

It was a gut-instinct reaction, which sent him running from the beach, the shore, and altogether from the ocean. That same instinct expected the woman to chase after him and, he reasoned, probably to catch him, but to his surprise nothing happened.

Tristam ran, and even when he thought that he'd escaped he kept running, going all the way to the wooded bluff where the few stunted and scraggly trees native to this place lived that had escaped logging decades ago still stood, and only then, when he was no longer out in the open, did he let himself stop and fall down.

Breathing was painful, and he waited to see whether he would and could keep doing it. He'd lost his walking stick but kept his backpack, which he now used to cushion his head as he lay underneath the bald tree trunks. His lame leg was agony. It was cold, but that wasn't the reason he was shivering.

Pausing, he listened for the telltale sound of bare feet closing in on him, but there was nothing. Even the singing had stopped. Despite this, he felt no relief.

Had it not been for his panic, Tristam might have realized sooner why the woman on the beach didn't chase him. And why she had no need to.

As it was, he didn't conceive what was really going on until he woke up with a start, never having realized that at some point while lying on the forest floor and trying to calm himself he had fallen asleep, or perhaps more likely fainted or passed out in a bid to keep terror from overwhelming him completely.

Now he was awake again, and somehow he was back on the beach. It was night, but the clouds had finally broken and the moon was full enough for him to blink through the gloom and see his own tracks in the sand; he'd been walking in his sleep. And he was still walking. And, awfully, horrifyingly, he knew why:

The song.

It was louder now. Slowly, grudgingly, he marched in its direction. It was like a hook buried deep in his chest, and every note pulled him one pained step at a time.

It wasn't right to claim that he couldn't stop; rather, the song made him not want to. He had been walking toward it all day, he realized, although for most of the time he'd tricked himself into thinking he was just following the route he'd planned.

The truth was that the trail he had really followed to this spit of land and the creaking old ghost town just off of Devil Reef was the sound of the terrible woman's voice, each note of her song laid out like a footprint in the sand for him to follow after. And he was the only person around for miles and miles to hear it, and follow.

Down he came to the shore, where the fog swallowed up the murky ruins of wood-slat buildings tilted and creaking and older brick buildings that sat as silent behemoths in the dark.

The song drew him toward the sunken and rotting docks and, beyond that, to the lonely lighthouse that once faced the reef, like a tremendous white whale's tooth cast up on the rocks.

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byTamLin01© 6 comments/ 17312 views/ 21 favorites

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