Note: This one is a little scary. Just a warning. Header is a painting by John Waterhouse (From Wikipedia Commons.)
The moon fell in waves of muted light across the estuary.
It was the third night in a row they watched the sunrise together. Dylan relaxed in Becca’s arms, water soaking their feet. Even near dawn the heat of the previous day hung over the beach.
A soda bottle of wine, pilfered from her parents cooking supplies, laid between them. The occasional sip of the bitter liquor was all the two teenagers could manage. They didn’t want to be drunk anyway, just pass the night in a peaceful haze.
As the sun rose Dylan fell asleep, her warm body tangled with his. Back in the sand, arms spread, the day rose around him.
Hours passed before he woke with a start. The sun fried him, light piercing his half-lidded eyes. Every patch of exposed flesh reddened. Dylan sat up, crisp skin protesting. Blue skies and a devil sun tormented from above.
He stood, dusting sand from his shorts. His Jeep gleamed in the morning light with the top down. Dylan stumbled over to it, one hand reaching for the door handle. With his back against the heated leather and and the engine started, it hit him.
“Becca,” he said.
A glint of light told him the bottle was still in place. He walked over, looking down at the marks their bodies left in the sand.
The wine was pink. She’d only snuck out a few cups. In the past few days they’d almost drained her parent’s bottle. Becca must have stayed up drinking, just drops remained in the bottle in front of him.
“Becca!” he shouted, looking out over the water. Her phone was gone, her expensive shoes she hadn’t wanted to wear on the sand missing. Dylan doubted she went for a swim, but he stared out over the water anyway.
Nothing moved in the sparkling ocean. He ran back to his car and dragged the door open. A gull called somewhere in the distance. Taking in lungfuls of sea air and sunshine, Dylan grabbed his phone.
Before he could unlock it, the voice sang.
Low and far off, a mournful tune about a lonely girl rang down the beach. An old one, a shanty. The song told of rocks and ships, of lost loves dashed against the waves. Of an end to sorrow. Peace that could be found in the water.
Dylan liked the idea of peace right then. All thoughts pushed aside he stumbled after the promise in the song. Soon the sand was ending, the beach breaking up into boulders. Ages of the tide’s slow destruction left the gray rocks smooth. He climbed over and around them, weaving his way toward the low hum.
A red shoe lay crushed between two rocks. The leather sneaker lit up in the morning sun. Something about it cried familiarity. He pushed thoughts of the shoe away, continuing over the rocks.
Lost in the melody, he stumbled. The phone slipped from his grasp, clattered against a rock, and sank into sea, all without his notice.
At last he crested the final rock. Fifty feet of water separated Dylan and a small beach, hidden at the base of a cliff. Two women sunbathed on the sand, their bodies covered only by shining golden hair. Becca lay between them with a smile on her face. He couldn’t see her eyes or lips, but peace blew like the breeze. They were safe, he could feel the promise in the woman’s song.
The women sang more, calling him to join. Becca writhed on the ground as the women ran their hands over her tanned body. Their skin looked odd, one tinged pink, the other a faded green. Their legs were held tight, close together.
Dylan slipped forward, jumping into the surf. Water flooded his shoes. He sank to his waist but stayed untouched by the cold. One of the women laughed, a harsh screech that slowed his steps. She lunged into the water, flopping with stiff legs. She crawled toward him, the odd motion didn’t slow her down. As she closed the distance the singing stopped and the spell broke.
The pale pale pink one shifted, once-full features shrunk into the body. Where her legs had been were dark red scales. Her straight hair became a tangled mass, pink as blood in the water.
Dylan stumbled, landing against a rock. His head flew back connecting with a rock, vision sparked as he hit. The fish-woman crawled slow, savoring his fear.
Stunned he sat in the water as the creature leaped. Thin arms, strong as the tide, wrapped around him. Her clawed fingers ripped into his back.
She opened her mouth wide before catching onto his shoulder. Her teeth were dirty needles. He screamed until the singing started. The other one sang loud and happy. A feasting song.
The song drove Dylan to silence. He watched as if from a distance. The fish-woman dragged him to the beach and laid him beside Becca. The other one, a male, green scaled and sickly white, stopped singing.
Dylan shook as cold rolled through him. Glancing at his shoulder there was blood, chewed meat hung from the wound. Venom thickened his thoughts and a deep nothingness flowed from the point.
A hand closed over his face, fingers pulling at the skin. He twisted away, screaming against the touch. Dylan’s eyes fell to Becca, to her face. Clean bones were all that remained. Her eyes were plucked. Soft cheeks were reduced to edges of jagged meat.
Dylan knew now why he couldn’t see her face before.
That was where the mermaids began their feast.