Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Mermaid House: Part Nine

HE WENT TO HER house after dark.
    Although there was no address, he knew it was the same house becaue of the mermaid door. But the windows weren't boarded up, the garden was neatly chaotic, and the Medusa head was a beautiful stone face with swirling hair and a smiling mouth. He moved carefully up the steps, wincing when they creaked. He peered into the cozy, sea-themed parlor. It was an illusion. The whole house was an illusion. He wondered what he was really looking at, what his brain wasn't registering.
    The front door flew open. He slammed a hand over his mouth to keep from yelling.
    Violet stalked onto the porch. "Idiot," she whispered, grabbing his other hand, dragging him off the porch. "They're home."
    "Your family? Why can't I meet them?"
    She stared at him. Then she pulled him from the house, down the street. She said, "I've told you, haven't I, what I am."
    "No, Violet." He turned on her. "You haven't. You've implied some pretty unbelievable things."
    "The houses in the woods, in fairy tales, the ones that belong to monsters...that's my house."
    He swallowed, said, "Again with the implications."
    "A shipwreck of a house. A gorgon face outside of it. They are from the ocean, and as old as the ocean. Don't come here again."
    His common sense decided she was elaborating on the truth, or that she was crazy. He said, "Then you come with me. We'll drive somewhere -- where do you want to go?"
    She glanced back over her shoulder. She looked down, frowned. He resisted an urge to reach out and touch one of the brown curls falling against her cheek. She narrowed her eyes at him. "Okay."
    They began walking towards his car. Idly, he said, "So...can you do magic and stuff?"
    "Not the kind you'd want to see."
    She said she wanted to go to the seashore, which was ironic, but he drove there, through the mist-shrouded night. She directed him to the oceanside road, where they parked. She led him down a stairway, to massive, concrete ruins on the beach. Graffiti and metal girders glittered against the ocean darkness. He saw stairways that led to the sky and knots of sea vegetation. Cypress trees twisted around columns. It was an eerie, stark landscape.
    "These were public baths, a long time ago. Indoor baths." Violet balanced on a low wall, her arms outstretched. "There were potted trees and chandeliers and statues and lots of elegance."
    Burningly aware of Violet's strangeness -- her eyes would catch the light and silver -- he stared at the ocean, and thought, She isn't human.
    Then: So what? What was so special about being human?
    She was suddenly very close, and her eyes went dark. And he was kissing her, his hands in her hair, her scent of flowers like a drug, her mouth soft as a plum.
    She pulled away and he gasped as air filled his lungs. She stepped back with a crooked smile, set her hand on a pillar.
    She flinched, drew her hand down, stared at it. Her eyes were wide.
    "Violet?" he spoke cautiously.
    "I cut myself on the stone. I'm bleeding," she whispered. She sat down on the low wall, staring at her hand.
    "Is it bad?"
    "Do you know," She drew up the hood of her jacket, "blood plasma is like sea water? Almost the same chemical constitution."
   "I did know." He sat beside her, watched uneasily as she touched the beading blood on her palm as if it was gold.
    "I have to go back." She slid to her feet and began trudging across the sand. "Come on."
    He stubbornly wasn't going to follow her -- let her wait at the car -- but he drew his gaze from the black and wild ocean and trudged after.
(Illustration: Richard Dadd)

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