For the Oceans
Daniel Clifford’s smile was euphoric as he emerged from the warm Cerenarian Sea onto the small, rocky atoll marking the spot where the waters of the Cerenarian Sea and the Twilight Sea met. He was happy to leave London and his troubles behind. He hoped to find the beautiful sirens whom he met as his body dozed in his childhood bedroom while his mother and sister argued, his brother-in-law tried to play peacemaker, and his poor, befuddled father was caught in the middle of the maelstrom.
“Lovely maidens of the sea, thy bonny Prince Daniel has returned to thee,” Daniel called to the waves. “I’m here, my darlings, here ready to serve at your pleasure.”
Daniel watched as something swam towards the atoll. His heart fluttered in anticipation. He had been near to knowing bliss at the talented hands of the lovely mermaids. He smiled and ran his hands through his honey-colored locks, hoping to appear more the suave swain than the overeager thirty-three-year-old virgin bubbling over with anticipation at the prospect of finally ending his virginity with the assistance of the delightful denizens of the deep.
“Here I am, me darlings,” Daniel cried, holding out his arms. “I told you I’d be back. Now, how about we pick up where we…crikey!”
Instead of a seductive siren, Daniel found himself looking into the unblinking gray-green eyes and fishy face of a Deep One hybrid. This Deep One was known to Daniel. Her name was Eleanor Varela. She had once owned Ellie’s Rag Bin, a Crouch End consignment shop that Daniel’s sister Amber and his cousin Alice frequented. She was a delightful soul who enjoyed providing gratis culinary creations to her clientele.
Daniel had been sad when Eleanor’s transformation became complete three years ago and she returned to the sea. He missed taking tea with her, his cousin Donovan, and his brothers-in-law, Vance and Tamar, while Alice and Amber went wild, outfitting themselves with unique finery. Although Eleanor was eighty-seven years old, she had a spry spirit and was always able to coax joy from the depths of Daniel’s brooding soul.
“I take it 'twas not a venerable fish-woman that ye were expecting, Danny me boy,” Eleanor teased as Daniel threw his arms around her.
“It wasn’t, Eleanor, but I’m so happy to see you. I’ve missed you awfully.”
“I’ve missed you too, Dan. I treasure the moments I spent with you and your family. I am so very saddened to hear of your father’s illness. I watched him and your Uncle Paul growing up together, thick as thieves always. I comforted your aunt Lotus as she struggled to understand why that terrible man robbed her of her innocence and, I hope, I helped your Uncle Kane to embrace who he is. Your family is dear to me, and I hope I can aid you now.”
“Is there something happening tonight, Aunt Eleanor?” Daniel inquired. “I see many tiny lights in the distance, but I am, after all, human, and it may be just phosphorescence from the plankton.”
“Let yourself see true, Daniel,” Eleanor encouraged. “The blood of the Annegare flows through your veins. You possess the ability to see in the dark and underwater. You also possess the ability to breathe underwater here in the Dreamlands. Would you like to join our celebration? We would be delighted to have you as our guest.”
“Cer, I’d love that,” Daniel agreed. “I didn’t know that I was able to breathe underwater now. That’s quite a happy surprise. Funny question—will I have a tail when I jump in the water, or will I keep me legs?”
“However you like,” Eleanor responded. “Sirens are shapeshifters. Most seem to find the tail increases their speed when swimming, but as you are new to the water, you may prefer to swim as you normally do until you have time to adapt.”
“Splendid. Take me to your celebration, Aunt Els. I’m so well chuffed for us to be together again.”
Eleanor strode back into the ocean and Daniel followed her. He was thrilled to discover that he could see clearly under the waves and he didn’t have to surface to breathe. He became aware that he now had gills. He slipped through the water with ease, his tail streamlining his movements. When Eleanor glanced back at him, he gave her a thumbs-up.
A myriad of fish swam below Daniel and he could see the sea plants clearly. He loved this place and was excited to be part of a celebration that few humans would ever participate in.
“I ain’t really human anymore though, am I?” Daniel wondered to himself. “I’m a merman now. I belong to the world beneath the sea. I feel as though I’ve come home at last.”
As they swam, Eleanor and Daniel were surrounded by more and more Deep Ones, both hybrids and full-blooded. All of them welcomed Daniel, and his heart swelled as his desperate yearning to belong was fulfilled. He did not look like the Deep Ones, but he was one with them.
On an impressive atoll composed mostly of the peculiar metallic black stone so loved by the Deep Ones sat Hydra, mother of the amphibious folk. Daniel stared in awe at the tremendous size of the Queen seated upon her throne and was even more astounded when her mate, Father Dagon, rose from the depths, towering over all including his consort.
“Crikey, he’s as tall as a bleedin’ skyscraper!” Daniel gasped.
The King of the Deep Ones raised his hands and chuckled merrily as shoals of fish leaped from the depths and into the hands of the celebrants. Daniel handed his fish to Eleanor.
“I ain’t much fer sashimi,” he said. “But I’m happy for you to have it.”
Eleanor smiled and placed the fish back in the water.
“We’ll give that one a reprieve,” she said. “It wasn’t its turn to become food yet. Would you like a cup of mead?”
“I can’t drink alcohol, I’m afraid,” Daniel demurred. “Me epilepsy, you know.”
“That isn’t a problem here. But perhaps we can enjoy the milk of a freshly cracked coconut instead. Come, Daniel, and I’ll introduce you to Mother Hydra.”
“If she ain’t too busy. I’m sure she’s many guests to attend to. I’m quite well chuffed just to be a part of this celebration. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and I don’t feel out of place at all like I usually do at parties.”
“That is because you belong here, my boy. You love the seas, and you have respect for the creatures that dwell therein. You always treated my people with kindness. I told Mother Hydra about you and about your recent initiation to the water realm. She knows that I think of you as my own nephew and she is eager to meet you.”
As Daniel moved onto land, his tail morphed back into legs. Knowing that her friend felt self-conscious about his nudity, Eleanor handed him an ornate robe.
“Your Aunt Eleanor thinks ahead,” the venerable lady laughed. “Come, let us meet Her Majesty.”
As he approached the enormous fish-woman, Daniel dropped to one knee and bowed low.
“Your Majesty, I’m most honored to make your acquaintance,” he declared.
“And I yours, friend Daniel,” Queen Hydra replied. “I have grilled fish and coconut milk for you to enjoy. Help yourself to as much as you would like, and we will enjoy one another’s company.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty. What I say next I don’t say lightly. Much though I enjoyed making the acquaintance of the Annegare, I’m even more delighted to be reunited with me dear Aunt Eleanor, and to be introduced to you. I always secretly wished that I could be one of your kind so I could one day return to the sea. It’s magical here, and I wish I never had to leave.”
“When the time comes, you will join us as a treasured member of our society,” Mother Hydra promised. “Until that time, you are always welcome in our realm. You were one of the original souls in this world, dear Daniel. You have seen much suffering, and your heart is heavy.”
“Me da always said that I had an old soul,” Daniel mused. “I’m troubled, Mother Hydra. I know that me sister and me da need me, but whenever I’m awake, all can think of is getting back to the water and the sirens. Now it’s important for me to declare my allegiance to you. I wish this could be the night that I come home to stay forever. I’m bloody tired of feeling torn and broken.”
“Dear Daniel, no-one else can make the decision for you, but I think that you realize that now is not the time to end your Earthly life,” the monarch counseled. “Wait for a while, my boy. Life in the waking world is always difficult for sensitive souls, but you can channel your pain and dissatisfaction. The oceans of your world are in trouble. You can use your talents to bring awareness to your people about your planet’s suffering. Without the oceans, there is no life.”
“But Your Majesty, I possess no real talent. I’m afraid that I’m the sort of bloke that everyone overlooks. I ain’t tall or muscular or handsome, and except with me family, I tend to be rather shy. I ain’t even got much in the way of friends. Me sister Amber is me best mate. I live with me sister and her husband, you know. I can’t live on me own because of me seizures. I’d rather not live on me own anyway. I’d be very isolated if I did. But in any case, I can’t, as I’m unable to even do ordinary work. Bloody waste of a somewhat clever mind, I’d say.”
Mother Hydra looked at Daniel for a moment. A great, rumbling laugh rolled through her body. She reached to caress his face with her great webbed hands.
“Why do ordinary work when you can do extraordinary work?” she inquired. “Was it not you who painted a most striking portrait of me and Dagon? You are inspired by the seas, Daniel. Let them inspire you! Let these journeys to the Dreamlands feed your imagination. We are about to raise the energy to connect all oceans everywhere, bringing healing to many worlds. I do hope that you will join us.”
“I’d be honored to, Your Majesty.”
“One word of caution, my boy. I am aware that the blood of the sirens flows through your veins. They have given you a wonderful gift which you can use to a good advantage. I am aware that the sirens offer other gifts that are quite irresistible to a young man who has not declared his allegiance to one specific love. There are some among the sirens who may feel genuine affection for thee, but never will any of them pledge fidelity to one man.”
“I understand, Mother. I wouldn’t expect the Annegare to be faithful to me. They belong to themselves and are free to choose whose company they keep. I am honored that they selected me to be among their lovers.”
“Your position is wise. There is one further caution that I offer. The word you use, Annegare, means to drown in the Italian language. The sirens can drown a man in more ways than one. They are, as you have doubtless discerned, vampires. They serve Mormo.”
“Me father and me Uncle Paul have often spoken of Mormo,” Daniel revealed. “They’ve many books about magic and spell-work and the land of Dream and the beings who ruled Earth before the rise of humans. I must admit, I haven’t delved deeply into these volumes. My interests tend to lie in the more pleasant side of the Dreamlands, particularly the seas, as you are surely aware. Perhaps it is time to expand me knowledge.”
“As your father and uncle have doubtless explained to you, the books and magic you are referring to should also be approached with caution. Ancient magic can be dangerous and expose the spell-caster to powers that they may find overwhelming. Do not shy away from seeking the assistance of your Uncle Paul, or your new friends Ace and Thomas. Do not feel that you are in this fight alone. You can always seek the counsel of your Aunt Eleanor or me. You are one of my children now, and I am pleased to count you as part of my family. Come, join us in raising the energy to unite all the seas!”
Queen Hydra strode into the sea to stand beside her husband. The enormous beings began to chant, and all the celebrants joined in. Full-blood Deep Ones, hybrids in various stages of transformation, sirens, and a select few humans chanted as one, creating glowing globes of energy between their outstretched hands.
Daniel watched in wonder as a spark of light formed between his hands. He knew the basics of spellcasting but rarely practiced the skill. He thought about the clean, clear seas of the Dreamlands. His thoughts then turned to the troubled oceans of Earth.
Oil spills and other toxins poisoned the oceans and killed the coral reefs. Islands of plastic and other garbage floated across the water. Sea birds ate the plastic and died. Creatures became tangled in discarded nets and plastic drink holders. Global warming was causing the polar ice to melt, elevating sea levels and endangering arctic animals such as polar bears.
Daniel knew that he needed to bring attention to the peril of the oceans and the creatures that dwelt therein. Perhaps he was not the most technically adept artist, but his pictures were eye-catching. Perhaps it was time to swallow his pride and ask for Uncle Paul’s help.
Daniel had never wanted to call attention to his work because he was Gerry Clifford’s son or David or Paul Clifford’s nephew. He didn’t want to be accused of nepotism. He wanted his work to stand on its own merit. But Uncle Paul knew people, and perhaps it was time to take advantage of those connections.
“It’s for the oceans,” Daniel said aloud. “I dedicate my work and any profits earned from it to saving the oceans!”
Daniel tossed the energy orb towards the sky. It joined with the other orbs and rose to the zenith, filling the night with a burst of light before disappearing into space. A moment later, each of the stars gave a bright wink and minute sparks fell from the skies into the Cerenarian Sea, causing the plankton to glow even brighter and light to sparkle from the scales of the fishes.
Daniel gripped Aunt Eleanor’s hand and the pair joined the rest of the Deep Ones and Sirens in a celebratory dance. Feeling that his body was waking back on Earth, Daniel embraced his friend.
“Aunt Eleanor, I’m ever so happy that you found me tonight,” Daniel declared. “I must confess, I came to the Dreamlands hoping to have a go of it with some willing mermaids, but I’m jolly well chuffed to have joined in this ceremony instead. Please tell Her Majesty that it was an honor.”
“We were honored to count you among us, Daniel,” Aunt Eleanor replied. “You may not realize it now, but your enthusiasm truly strengthened our spell tonight. We look forward to having you join us again. I hope that you can see now that you do have a purpose. You may not be able to do what everybody else does, but no-one else can’t do what you do. That includes me, dear boy, and it even includes Mother Hydra and Father Dagon. There is only one Daniel Clifford, and he has work to do. So, off with you, my boy. When you visit again, we can enjoy a spot of tea. I still do treasure a good cup of Darjeeling.”
Daniel allowed himself to be carried away on the night air. He drifted into the skies of the Dreamlands and moments later found himself floating over London. The storm was letting up and everything was sodden.
Daniel drifted through his window and back into his body. He woke with a start.
“Ooh, crikey, have I gotta drain the old dragon!” he expounded, leaping from his bed and hurrying to the bathroom. His service dog Scarlet, an impressive old-style sable Dachshund, rose from her post at the end of Daniel’s bed to join her master.
“No worries, Scarlet,” Daniel assured his companion. He washed and dried his hands and patted the dog on the head. “No worries at all. In fact, I’ve a new sense of purpose.”
Daniel gazed out the window. A slight band of pink was starting to form along the horizon, and he could see stars peeking through openings in the parting clouds. He saluted the stars, a rare smile brightening his often-dour countenance.
“For the oceans,” Daniel declared. “I must live another day, and from this day forward, whatever I may do, I do it for the oceans.”
Earth’s Dreamlands, its various locations, including the Cerenarian Sea and the Twilight Sea, and the Deep Ones are the creations of H.P. Lovecraft, appearing in several of his works.
This chapter was written for https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/ utilizing the Write a fantasy story about water gods or spirits prompt and the Start your story with someone emerging from the sea and end it with them looking up at the stars prompt.