Saturday, February 20, 2010

Faerie Hunter - Chapter 1: The Mermaid's Lure

The dim, red lights of twilight filtered into the beach house as Kyle shook me awake, and I groaned, annoyed at him for waking me up so early. I sat up and looked at him. His eyes were fierce, wild, and bloodshot: he hadn't slept at all. Suddenly adrenaline washed over me as I remembered last night's conversation.

"It was a mermaid. I swear that's what it was," he had said. "She was lying on a rock, and she was singing, Brad! Her voice was so clear and beautiful. I swam out to her, but she jumped in the water before I got to her."

I'd looked at him from the bed across the room, puzzled. "A mermaid, Kyle?" I asked.

"You gotta believe me!" he said fervently. "I wasn't seeing things! It had a long fin instead of legs, and above the waist it was human. And singing, too!"

"Are you sure it wasn't a manatee, Kyle? A lot of people think that the old explorers saw manatees and mistook them—"

"No! It wasn't an animal!" he interrupted, sitting up in bed. "It had a human upper body, human head, hair, and it was a woman. I mean, it was female, you know with, well—" He paused awkwardly, then finished, almost mumbling, "You know, it had, like, boobs."

I chuckled at his embarrassment.

"You don't believe me, do you?" he said, starting to get angry.

"No, it's not that, really!" I said quickly.

"Look, tomorrow morning I'll show you. We'll go and find the mermaid, and you can see for yourself."

Now, in the morning, as my dreams were slowly dissipating, it was hard to separate fantasy from reality, and it seemed just as likely as not that there was a mermaid out there. I threw on some swim trunks, grabbed my pocketknife on a whim, and rushed after Kyle, who was already out the door and heading for the beach.

I caught up to him, and we walked back and forth down the shore, looking out into the ocean for a sign of something unusual. Soon the sun rose high into the sky, but we still hadn't seen anything. My parents were probably wondering where we were about now, and I started to wish I was hanging out with Lizzy. I grew more tired and frustrated as the time went on, but Kyle became frantic, almost panicky. Finally I reached a hand out to stop him, about to tell him it was time to call off the search.

Just then an eerie song reached our ears, coming from behind us. Kyle jerked his head in its direction, and began running toward it. I followed after him, excitement racing through me.

Kyle jumped in the water and began swimming toward a rock that was about a hundred feet out. I waded into the water till it lapped up to my knees. Kyle had just reached it and was looking at the source of the strange song. There, lying on the rock, was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Her red hair fell in graceful locks around her face, winding downward, clothing her otherwise unclothed body, teasing and tempting my basest desires. The curls left off just above her navel, and my eyes moved downward to her waist, which slowly shifted from the smooth peach skin to rust colored scales that ran down a long tail that lay in front of her, with two fins that shot out from the tip. There was no question about it. She was a mermaid.

The song reached a climax, and somewhere inside, I felt an urgent desire to swim out with Kyle, to obey the call of the song, but stronger than the desire was an intense fear of this mermaid. An instinct judged that the voice was by no means friendly, but rather meant to ensnare those who heard it. This was no Disney princess singing to my brother. Instead, the image of a screaming Ulysses tied to his ship's mast, listening to the sirens who wished to lure him to his death, came to my mind. I stayed where I was, caught between wanting to swim out to protect Kyle and getting far away from the enticing song.

The song ended, and the mermaid looked intently at Kyle and said something that I couldn't hear. Fear began to build inside me. I tensed in anticipation. The air around us stilled, and the waves died down. Time seemed to slow as the mermaid gazed into my brother's eyes, and Kyle stared back at her stupidly.

Suddenly I heard footsteps behind me. I turned to see a man walking toward me, gazing intensely at the mermaid out in the water. He stood next to me, still staring into the ocean as if he didn't even know I existed. He was tall and wore a leather jacket, brown leather chaps and boots. His black hair was tied in a small pony tail, and his face was covered in creases and scars. Strangely enough, my mind had a harder time coming to grips with this mysterious man's existence than with the mermaid's. I wondered if he realized his boots and chaps were getting wet.

I looked back at the mermaid, who was hissing at the man and crouching menacingly. Kyle was treading water and still looking at her entranced.

Suddenly she dove onto Kyle, shoving him underwater, and they disappeared, leaving only ripples behind. I screamed and began running out into the water. A rough hand grabbed my shoulder before I got too far, twisting me around to face the man's piercing grey eyes and perfectly calm expression.

"Let me handle this, boy," he said as if nothing more unusual had happened than a spilled glass of water.

I wrested myself from his grasp and shouted at him, "That's my brother! I'm going after him!"

He looked at me carefully. It was only for a moment, but I couldn't help thinking that every second, the mermaid was swimming farther and farther away.

Finally he spoke. "Alright, but you'll need this."

He handed me a piece of Hershey's chocolate, and I stared at him blankly.

"Eat it. Trust me."

Trust a stranger that wears chaps and a jacket to the beach in the middle of summer? But time was moving quickly, and whatever this man was, he didn't feel crazy: instead, every instinct told me this man deserved the utmost respect from me. I grabbed the chocolate from his hand and shoved it into my mouth, then turned back to the water.

Suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my hands and feet. I held my hands up and watched as they elongated, and thin webs appeared between my fingers. Then my legs buckled beneath me, and I fell into the shallow water. My knees bent the wrong way, and I found myself touching my feet to my stomach. With a cry of horror, I tried to push them back to their normal position, but as I pushed on my now webbed foot, it too bent the wrong way.

"Don't be afraid!" the stranger said. "It's part of the transformation. In just a few moments, you'll be able to move and breathe underwater as well as the mermaid for almost an hour."

Everything was becoming blurry around me, and soon my breath stung in my throat. I looked up at the stranger, and he placed his boot on my chest, forcing me underwater. I struggled for a few moments, holding my breath. Spots danced before my eyes, and just as it became unbearable, I swallowed water. Immediately my head cleared as if I had taken a breath of fresh air. The man lifted his foot off me, and I knew what I had to do. I swam out to the rock the mermaid had laid on. My heart sank; she was nowhere to be seen.

As despair overtook me, I noticed a trail of mist like small bubbles leading farther out into the water. Quickly I began to follow it, hoping beyond hope this was the trail of the mermaid. It led toward the ocean floor, then along it as the water grew deeper and the light darker. Just when the trail began to disappear in the gloom, I noticed movement in front of me. I swam faster, trying to catch up. My new webbed feet and hands, along with the ability to twist my legs in any direction gave me more speed than I'd ever experienced underwater. Soon I was close enough to see that it was indeed the mermaid dragging Kyle behind her. Suddenly she disappeared. I hurried to the point where I had last seen her, and noticed a gap in the ground, a crevice that she must have dived into. Hoping that my ability to breath underwater would last, I dove in after her.

The darkness turned to pitch black, and I put my hands in front of me, feeling my way downward. The cave became smaller and smaller until I barely fit. Eventually the passage turned horizontally, and I saw a light coming through the end of the tunnel. Cautiously I made my way toward it. A few swaying plants blocked the entrance, and as I pushed them aside and swam through the opening, I looked around amazed. I was in a large cavern, bigger than a house, lit by blue, luminescent plants that climbed the walls and covered the ceiling. Only half of the cavern was underwater; as the floor sloped gently upward from the opening, the water grew shallower until the rock shelf emerged from the water. Where the water met the land lay the mermaid, bending over Kyle. As I looked at her I realized with a shock that she was biting his neck and drinking his blood.

With an unfamiliar fury, I hurled myself toward her. She turned and hissed at me, baring her bloodstained teeth before jumping in the water in front of me. Just as I was about to grab hold of her, she slipped to the side, and I hit rock. A claw grabbed my leg and pulled me backwards. I twisted around toward the mermaid, who dug her claws deeper into my leg. As pain raced through my brain, I managed to kick her hard in the stomach with my other leg, and she let go. Quickly I turned to face her. She darted towards me, her hands enveloping my head, and her mouth opened wider than I thought would have been possible. Staring into her sharp teeth, I reached my hands in front of me and pushed her face away from mine. Then I shoved my finger into her eye, and she pulled away from me, her eye bleeding. As she turned, I grabbed her tail, but it slipped away from me. Pain shot up my arm, and I looked at my hand. There was a long gash where the tail had cut through it; it was as sharp as a knife. Suddenly she began attacking me with her tail, slashing back and forth as I swam away from her, barely out of reach. Just as she had me backed against the wall on the side, I saw an opening in her attacks, and as she swung her tail back for the next strike, I lunged toward her, grabbing her face and twisting it sideways to break her neck.

I had her; this was the final blow. All I had to do was push a little more, and she would die. But suddenly she began singing to me. My grip softened. The words of the song, in some language I could not comprehend, entered my mind and touched some sort of switch in my unconscious. I stopped caring about where I was or what I was doing. All I wanted was the melody that floated around me. It was mesmerizing, filling my head with a blissful peace that left me unable and unwilling to do anything but listen to the song. The mermaid took my hands and drew them away from her head to my side. She leaned in close to me and smiled as she sang. I smiled back. I knew that she was killing me, that I would die soon at her hands. She would probably drink my blood, weaken me like she did with Kyle, but as long as I could hear this song, I didn't care.

But at the same time something else in my brain lit up. A very small area in my mind was working outside of the spell of the mermaid's song. As if watching myself from above, I tested my limbs one by one to see if they would move while she dragged me toward Kyle. Nothing moved. I tried again. This time I managed to twitch a finger. She laid me down in the water, and then dragged a claw across my cheek, as if caressing me. I shuddered in disgust, and suddenly, something snapped. That little part of my brain that was in control grew bigger, and now I could move my arm. Quickly I reached into my pocket and felt for my knife. I grabbed it, flipped it open, then thrust it into the heart of the mermaid, before she even knew that she had lost control. Her face changed quickly from triumph to surprise.

Her skin began to bubble, as if boiling. Her eyes and mouth turned downward at the corners as if melting. Then suddenly she burst apart into a mist that floated to the surface. Nothing was left of her. My head was reeling from the song that was still playing softly in my mind. I shook my head to get rid of it, and tried to think of other things. Kyle was still on the shore. I swam toward him, took a deep breath of water, then climbed next to him. He was pale and cold to the touch. Fear swept over me as I thought he might be dead, but then I noticed he was breathing softly. I felt his pulse; it was slow and light. It dawned on me that it would have been impossible for the mermaid to bring him down here under normal conditions without drowning him. She must have put him in some sort of trance in order to survive the trip. We had to get out of the cave before he woke up, or he would be stuck in this cavern. Then I wondered how long my ability to breathe underwater would last. I had been out of the water for a minute now, and was breathing almost normally. Panic overtook me and I dove underwater again, and cautiously took a breath of water. I could still breathe, but I also noticed my hands and feet were shrinking. Hurriedly I took Kyle in my arms and swam for the entrance.

I had thought the tunnel was small before, but now I was with my brother, and the rocks scraped against my back as I tried to keep Kyle from the same fate. The tunnel turned upwards, and I saw the light far above me. As we emerged from the cave, I found that I couldn't breathe anymore. Then suddenly my knees and ankles snapped back into place. My hands and feet were normal sized. Now each kick brought me only a few inches upward, and with the lack of oxygen, panic rose in my mind. I struggled not to surrender to the strong desire to take a breath. The sky was still hundreds of feet above me.

Just as I was about to give in, something broke through the surface above me. A man dove toward me, swimming faster than I'd even seen anyone swim. As he grabbed Kyle with one hand and me with the other, I saw his piercing grey eyes flash toward me. Soon the surface drew nearer and nearer until we broke through, the sun shining directly on my face as I gasped for air like I had never breathed in my life.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Faerie Blog

Hello World!
8:23 PM, September 15

Hello everyone, or as it's more likely, no one. I don't write that often, and I've always been horrible at keeping up with blogs, and journals and things like that, but something happened recently that I felt the world needs to know. And where else can I do it but online, where no one will think I'm crazy, because no one knows who I am, right? So here goes.

Yesterday, I saw a faerie.

Really! I'm positive, because I saw her when she thought no one was looking.

My last class ends at three, and I decided to go into the woods for a bit of 'nature absorption,' as my boyfriend J. calls it. The path follows the creek and crosses it at several points. What I like to do is wade down the stream from the first crossing to the second. J. was of course the one who got me into doing this. Before him, I generally stayed out of the woods, and especially out of the water for fear of the water moccasins, crawdads, and other creepy animals. I still get a bit freaked out if I think too hard about it.

As I was getting near the second crossing, I saw someone coming down the path, so I stopped, preferring to stay out of sight until I knew who it was.

It was K. I know K. a bit, but I really didn't feel like talking to her, so I stayed where I was. As she came to the water's edge, instead of walking across on the stepping stones, she lightly sprang into the water. But get this: she didn't wade through the water: she walked on top of the water! I couldn't believe it! In fact, I figured I was seeing things, but then she reached the other side, bent over, placed her hand on the ground, and immediately a flower sprang up. She laughed, picked it, and stuck it in her hair behind her ear, then ran off as if this was all normal!

I was reeling, but strangely enough, it all made sense. K. dresses ridiculously, wearing almost nothing at all even in the winter. She always wears pastel or earthy dresses, hardly ever wears shoes, and her ears definitely look a bit pointed at the tip. And she changes her hair color almost every week. I don't think she has wings, though. I'll have to look that up to see if all faeries have wings. Maybe she was hiding them, or they're invisible. But I know she's a faerie. Once the word entered my mind, everything clicked into place. I told J., who was a bit skeptical, but he wants to ask her about it. I told him he wasn't allowed unless I was there. He would do that, though, go ask her if she's a faerie just for fun.

Please don't think I'm crazy. I wouldn't believe it myself if I hadn't seen anything. I mean, I'm a physics major! But even if people forget it, science is about observation, so I have to live by what I observe.

Anyway, I'll let you know once we talk to K., and see if we can force her to tell the truth about herself.

My Boyfriend Isn't Gay, but...
6:07 PM, September 16

So I thought that discovering the existence of faeries was world-shattering news, but I found out something that shakes my world up even more.

Today at lunch, J. and I got our food, and as we were looking for a seat, we spotted K. sitting by herself in a corner. I nudged J., and we walked over to join her.

Before I could even confront her with what I saw in the woods, she looked oddly at J. and said, "You're a faerie."

It wasn't a question, it was a statement. My jaw dropped to the table, and J. started laughing. I was speechless for a full minute. My mind raced through this ridiculous conjecture, as I tried to imagine why she would say this. Finally I came up with the only reasonable explanation.

"He's not gay," I said, oddly praying that this was what she meant. It wasn't, of course.

"Duh," she said, as if I were the stupidest person on earth, "I don't mean that kind of fairy. I mean the magical kind of faerie. The ones that leave changelings in place of babies, stick around humans because you're so fun to tease, and are mostly immortal."

"But we came here to ask if you were a faeire!" I protested.

She laughed. "I am," she replied. "And so is he."

I blanked for the rest of the conversation. J. and K. talked like they were long lost family. I guess they are. I left them still talking to go to my next class. I haven't seen either of them since. I think I've lost my boyfriend....I mean, how can I compete with a faerie?

Maybe It's Not All Bad
11:43 PM, September 16

An hour ago, J. burst into my room to show me what K. taught him. He cupped his hands together, and slowly pulled them apart. Inside was a blue light that grew as he opened his hands. Then he smiled and shoved the light onto my chest, right over my heart. Immediately I felt a warmth spread over me. My depression lifted a bit. He tickled me, as if to make it clear that he really does love me still, even if I'm not a faerie like K. I think things are going to be okay.

And by the way, I checked Wikipedia: Faeries only started sporting wings in 19th century art and literature. Before that, faeries flew around on the backs of birds. They also come in all shapes and sizes, some being taller than human, and some just a few inches tall.

Maybe It Is Bad...
8:16 PM, September 25

This week's been a living hell. I don't think I can take much more of this. J.'s been hanging out with K. non-stop all week long. And then he sends me mixed signals by doing extra nice things for me, like taking me out on an expensive date, and surprising me with chocolate at the beginning of a class period. I can't tell if he's just super happy to be a faerie, or if he feels guilty for spending so much time with K. Every time I think it's the latter, though, I look in his eyes, and I think I see his love for me. He's never been one of those sort of people who's subtle, hiding his feelings. Everything's pretty straightforward with him.

And he still teases me like normal. I mean, I hate it when he does it, but I think if he were feeling guilty, he would stop teasing me so much.

Either way though, the feeling is growing on me that he's losing perspective on life. K. will start talking about her 'true' home in Faerie, then sort of glance at me and change the subject. But K. and J. talk about it when I'm not around. From what I can drag out of him, it's not a place that humans are allowed to go, and it's sort of a place to rest and recharge, filled with magic, and amazing food, and blah, blah, blah.

I just want him to stay here, and I tell him about finishing up his degree and getting a job, but he just stares at me, his eyes asking why he should care. He can't connect with anything except K. anymore. I've spent a lot of nights crying myself to sleep.

I really can't take much more of this. I wish I'd never seen K. in the woods. Why didn't I just shout "hello" to her, or something? Why did I have to be in the woods at all?

K. Hates Me
9:37 PM, September 27

Today at lunch, J. and I were sitting across from K. like normal. J. had a meeting, so he left early. It was just K. and me, staring at each other. I decided to try to be nice, but after a few attempts at small talk, I gave up. Then after a moment of awkward silence, K. spoke up.

"S., Why are you still dating J.?"

I looked up, surprised.

She continued on, "I mean, he's a faerie. We aren't meant to be tied to humans. You're just bringing him down."

I was reeling with shock and anger. I probably shouldn't have said anything, but I nearly shouted at her, "J. loves me! How dare you try to break us up!"

A crooked smile slowly appeared on her face, and she raised her eyebrows. "Hey, I just want what's best for J. He really wants to come with me to Faerie, but he doesn't think you'd appreciate that. You're the reason he won't come."

I wish I could say I was mature in this, but I wasn't. I won't even repeat what I yelled at her as I furiously picked up my tray and raced for the door.

Now in retrospect, I have to wonder if she's right. J. truly loves me, I think, but it's true. He gets a far off look when K. talks about Faerie. I don't think he really belongs here.

And that makes me think about myself. Why did I start liking J.? I mean, obviously, he's gorgeous, but that sort of thing by itself doesn't warrant dating someone long term. I guess what really intrigued me about him was the fact that he got me to do things I would never do if he weren't around. I never used to go into the woods, now it's an almost daily ritual. I used to care about what people thought of how I dressed. Lately I've been experimenting with all sort of different looks, not minding, and even loving the unusual stares people give me. And last month I even went with him to T.P. Prof W.'s house.

But is that really a good thing? I keep thinking about my future. I'm incredibly good at physics, and I have an eye on all of the top graduate schools in the country. I think I might even be able to get into M.I.T. But I think I might just be blind about this. J.'s not going to follow me to a graduate school. I know for certain that he wouldn't be able to handle a long term relationship. And he's definitely bringing down my grades. I could push them back up before the end of the semester, if I weren't dating.

Life sucks. Why does anyone even get into relationships? They suck. There's no easy way out.

4:03 AM, October 1

After struggling for a week with my conscience, I did it. I told J. to go to Faerie, to leave me behind, that our lives were obviously going two different directions. He didn't wait an extra second; I saw him and K. running into the woods an hour after we talked. He's probably not coming back. Ever.

Goodbye, J. It was fun while it lasted. I should have known it had to end, you're so very different from me. I think I just changed myself to fit in with you. I guess I can be myself now. Maybe it will feel better, less cramped.

Maybe not. At least, not for a while. Right now, I just feel a heavy weight in my stomach. I can't find a reason to go on, to keep living. I can't sleep, I just keep thinking about J. Even though I know it's not true, I feel like the world will never be right again.

Life Goes On
9:02 PM, December 18

Today I went into the woods for the first time since I broke up with J. A flood of memories swept over me, and I wondered, did I really make the right decision to break up with him?

I mean, obviously it helped me. I graduated summa cum laude, which I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have done if he had stuck around. And I haven't gotten into any sort of trouble. My life seems a lot more stable, which I like.

But I keep feeling like I'm missing something, even after I 'got over' J. Last night I went on a date with this guy, L., but it just wasn't exciting. We just talked, and he was really, really nice, and I liked him. But J. was so alive. L. was, well, he's just like me, I guess. He took me to a restaurant that J. took me to one time. That time, J. had talked the whole time with a middle-eastern accent just to see how the waiter would react. Last night L. was as polite as possible with the waiter, cracking all the right small-talk jokes, and giving him exactly fifteen percent. Part of me was relieved not to feel embarrassed the whole time, but another part missed the excitement of it.

After going into the woods today, I thought that I would go to class with my shoes off, but I chickened out as I got to the building. I needed J. there to do it with me. Otherwise, it just seemed too silly.

Of course it doesn't matter. I think J.'s gone for good, and even if he ever comes back from Faerie, it's not very likely that he'll want to come back to college. He'll probably just live in the forest, flitting from tree to tree or something. Oh well.

Goodbye World
7:09 AM, December 24

I don't have much time for this, but I don't think I'll have access to the internet for a very, very long time.

J. came back! He said it's only felt like a week or two in Faerie, but he still missed me, and he came back for me! He wants me to come with him to Faerie!

Technically, humans aren't allowed into Faerie, but J. just says "That just makes it all the more fun!"

He wants to disguise me as an elf or something; he says that he can do glamour pretty easily now, whatever that really means. We'll stay until they kick us out, and then we'll go who knows where! I don't care. I mean, I can start my life as a physicist anytime, if I really want to. I've finally figured out that it's secondary to the things that make me love life.

So this is S., signing off. Maybe someday I'll come back and tell everyone all about Faerie. It sounds pretty cool. J. says that there are some Faeries with wings, and he was even thinking about growing some himself.

Anyways, goodbye world, take care of yourself while I'm gone! Hope no one misses me too much; I don't think I'll miss you very much.