Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Mermaid House: Part Fourteen

    A terrifying mermaid lived in a house that was sometimes a ruin and sometimes not and a girl who might not be one of the living had kissed him.
    There followed a series of grim days through which Leander moved as if he were a clockwork thing, his nightmares reels of pirahna-teethed mermaids and corpses wound in seaweed. After the funeral, his mom had found a job at the hospital. She now slept through her days and worked nights. He was alone again.
    He went out to the well one afternoon, with a large flashlight, and pushed away the board to peer into the darkness below. The light hit moss-furred stone, a pool of sinister black water.
    "Hey!" he called, feeling like an idiot. "Whatever you are -- I want to talk to you--"
    Something struck him in the forehead. He fell, gasped when the board slid back across the well. As if to emphasize its intentions, the invisible entity slammed a piece of stone from the wall of the church behind his house, over the board.
    Leander scrambled back. The projectile that had hit him had been an old soccer ball.
    "Then you tell me!" Leander pushed to his feet, turned in a circle. "Come on, ghost boy! How do I help Violet?"
    A wind swirled through the yard and Leander thought he heard a male voice whisper, Sutro.

He waited until the sun began to set before driving to the ocean road and clambering down the stairs to the remains of the Sutro Baths.
    Violet sat on a crumbling wall, swinging her feet and gazing at the sea. He wanted to run to her.
    She turned her head slightly. "Go away."
    "Look at me." She rose to face him. There was a bruise on her cheek. The sun had set. Her eyes were dark. There was no inhuman silver glint. He strode toward her, reached out. She raised her hands and twined her fingers with his. She looked like a waif in her old jeans and denim jacket.
    "Your hands," he whispered, "they're warm."
    "And this." She pressed one of his hands to her breast. Her expression was pleading, but he scarcely noticed that, with his hand where it was. She said, "Not my breast, idiot -- what's beneath it. My heart shouldn't be beating."
    "And I bleed. Do you know what you've done? Then you go and practically bare your throat to
    "What is she?"
    "What are any of us?" The new voice made Leander hurtle around to stare at the shadowy figure leaning against a pillar. Violet gripped his wrist and pulled him back with her. She didn't drop her gaze from the shadow as she whispered a name.

(Illustration: Arnold Bocklin)

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