Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Mermaid House: Part Twelve

THE WHITE-SKINNED GIRL, wearing a dress of ivory cotton, looked as though she'd been standing in the rain. Her hair was black and sleek. She was beautiful, but it was an unhealthy beauty, with the pallor, overripe lips, and dark eyes of someone in the last days of their life...a vampire's victim. The tattoo on her brow, a tentacled sea star etched in black ink, seemed to move.
    "Leander." Her head tilted to one side. "Why have you come to my door?"
    She knew his name. His breath whistled in his throat.
    She stepped closer and it was as if a shark had appeared as he swam. He backed away and hit the door, which opened behind him. He twisted around to see the cozy parlor and lamplight caressing sea fossils. Old-fashioned music scratched at the air, an unnerving melody that sounded as though it was being played on a phonograph. The beautiful girl slipped past him. "Come in."
    He was compelled to step into the parlor. The door shut behind him. The girl prowled around the false parlor, her gaze fixed upon him. "You came here for a reason. Why not tell it to me?"
    His dad was dead. "I want to see Violet."
    "Violet." The girl stood before him now. Water seemed to cling to her skin and hair. "Violet is mine."
    He whispered, "Let her go."
    She stepped closer. He could smell dark things, old stone and the sea. He felt as if he were submerged. When she glanced away, he breathed easier.
    "Let her go?" The thing that looked like a girl began to circle him again, her bare feet leaving wet prints. "I don't hold her. She made her choice."
    His voice grated, "Did you trick her?"
    She stood close to him again and her eyes were black -- he thought his heart would stop as she whispered, "Boy. What do you want? To free her? Be very careful what you ask for."
    He wanted to run out the door, away from this creature whose proximity leeched the warmth from his blood and bones. But he had lost his father. He couldn't abandon Violet. He wouldn't. And the worst that could happen to him...well, that would happen anyway, wouldn't it? Whether it was a heart attack, a car accident, or something else. Death was inevitable.
    He reached out, grasped the cold hands of the girl who was not a girl. He said, "I don't want to die."
    Her mouth curled. She placed her hands on his shoulders. Then she glided with him around the room. The crackling music grew louder. He steeled himself as she wound her arms around his neck and her lips glistened like some delicious, poisoned treat.
    Her kiss thieved away his warmth, but his arms slid around her. His fingers tangled in her heavy hair. He closed his eyes. His skin began to ice. His fingertips went numb. He couldn't breathe...

(Illustration: John William Waterhouse)

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