Trigger Warning: Abuse
This story is dedicated to any and all victims of abuse, in any way, shape, or form. Be brave, we believe in you. ❤︎
Echo gazes up at the mansion with her stony gray eyes, her now almost dry hair whipping in the cold breeze. She watches the candlelight in the uppermost room flicker, casting shadows that dance against the faded wallpaper. A child comes to the balcony doors and steps out. His thin nightdress flutters, an insufficient protection against the frosty night air. He comes to the edge of the railing and looks down at her.
“Hello, Echo,” he says quietly, his soft voice nearly carried away on the breeze.
“Hello, Ian,” Echo replies in her melodic voice.
“How are you tonight?”
“Fine, thanks,” Echo says, drawing out the ‘s’ ever so slightly, “And you?”
“Same as usual.” Echo’s gaze drifts to the boy’s bare legs and arms. Purple bruises and shallow scratches mar his pale flesh. She felt something cold stir in the base of her stomach.
“Soon,” she whispers to the boy, “soon it will all be over. Soon you can come live with me at the bottom of the sea. You won’t have to hide anymore. No one can hurt you there.”
The corner of Ian’s mouth lifts in a slight smile, “Except for the sharks.”
Echo laughs, and it sounds like the tinkling of wind chimes in the breeze. “Except for sharks,” she amends.
“I’ve always wondered what it’s like to be a mermaid,” Ian says, a faraway look in his deep-set brown eyes.
“It’s like a dream,” Echo whispers, gently swishing her dark blue tail. The flecks of silver scales flash in the moonlight, casting an eerie glow around her. Echo traced her fingers over the bracelet of pearls on her wrist, shining against her ebony skin. She squints her eyes shut and takes a deep breath, the pearls reminding her of her true purpose in life.
“Echo?” Ian questions, a note of concern in his voice.
“It’s nothing, I just-”
“Ian! Get away from the balcony!” Echo flinches and dives beneath the surface of the cove. She peers up through the water at the balcony where she sees a man dressed in a black suit step through the doorway. He grabs Ian’s frail arm and wrenches him towards his room. “Come, now!”
Time seems to freeze. All of the oxygen seems to leave Echo’s gills as she gazes up, stunned. She knew it would be soon, but she didn’t know it would be this soon. But she could feel it. The deep, achy chill ran along her body, starting at the base of her tale and creeping up her neck.
“What did you say to me?” she hears Ian’s father ask, in a low, dangerous voice.
“I said,” Ian whispers, his voice quavering, “no.” Echo’s heart aches for the brave boy.
“You have one more chance, Ian,” his father growls, “or you will be sorry.”
“I won’t come with you,” Ian says, “I won’t let you hit me.” He seems to grow stronger by the second, “You can’t hurt me anymore! I won’t let you!” With these last words, Ian wrenches his pale arm out of the man’s hand and staggers away, shaking with barely contained anger and fear. Echo felt goosebumps run along her arms as the chill swept over her again, making her feel slightly nauseous. It wouldn’t be much longer now.
“What is wrong with you?” the man roars, lunging forward and grabbing Ian by the shoulders. Echo watches in painful silence as the man raises his fist and punches Ian in the stomach. Ian sinks to the ground with a noise like a wounded animal, the tears running down his face flashing silver in the moonlight. His father grabs his arm and wrenches it to the side. Echo squeezes her black eyes shut, bile rising to her throat at the sound of the snap of Ian’s bone.
“Stop!” Ian wails, coughing and sobbing, pressing himself against the railing of the balcony. Echo watches as his tears fall into the ocean water below, mixing with the waves.
“I warned you!” the man roars, driving his foot into Ian’s side. Ian wheezes and coughs, blood flying from his lips. The blood lands on the man’s pristine suit. He snarls at the boy and drives his foot into his leg.
“Please!” Ian cries again. Echo’s heart shatters into a thousand pieces, helpless to do anything but watch. She grips the pearl bracelet on her wrist, feeling for the familiar warmth.
“You are nothing!” the man growls, backhanding Ian across his delicate face.
“No,” Ian whispers. The man freezes and Echo feels another chill. “You’re wrong!” Ian coughs again, blood spattering his nightclothes. Echo watches as Ian grips the edge of the railing with his uninjured arm.
The man lets out a mirthless laugh. “Going to fight, are you, boy?” Ian continues to struggle to his feet. Echo watches with tears in her eyes as he throws one leg over the metal railing, his small body trembling violently. He sobs as he throws the other one over. “Going somewhere?” the man growls, lunging towards Ian again. But he is too late.
“Jump,” Echo whispers, her voice reverberating through the air like ripples on a pond. Ian lets go. His small form falls through the air, nightclothes billowing around him. His messy black hair whips in the wind.
His pale eyes take in the sky for the last time before he is safe in Echo’s arms.
Tears slide down Echo’s face as she looks down at the frail soul in her arms. She looks back, seeing the boy’s broken body floating in the cove, eyes blank and staring.
“Echo?” she hears Ian’s voice. He stares up at her, confusion in his silver eyes. “Am I safe now?” Echo’s beautiful face breaks into a smile more dazzling than the moon as she looks down at him through her tears.
“Yes,” she whispers as she dives beneath the waves, “you are finally free.”
This story is dedicated to 𝔘𝔤𝔬𝔠𝔥𝔦 𝔑 for being such an amazing friend, an incredibly talented author, and for making a cover for one of my novels! Ugochi is so sweet and she deserves so much more credit than she is given!! :) You can check out her stories at: https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/author/7a5f77/