The ocean was thrashing violently and was alive with its force. The darkness of the clouds made it tough to distinguish what was rain and what was the spray of the sea.
"We've got one!" a deckhand called out as he ran to help.
"Bring her here," the captain demanded.
All he could see was her crimson hair that looked like it had never been cut and her hands that they had bound in front of her. Four men were carrying her as she flailed about, fighting them.
A faint sound was struggling to come forth through the roar of the sea. It was unrecognizable but the captain wanted it to be louder. He wanted the sound to engulf him. He had never heard something so intoxicating before. His beloved home, the sea was betraying him. "Quiet!" he thought, "and let me drown in this beauty."
He finally got a better look at the girl who looked like she could not be more than eighteen. She held still as the men began to place her on the floor with reverence.
One of the captain's men stepped to the side, finally allowing him to see her fully. She was missing legs and had an iridescent blue and green fin instead. Her beauty was beyond what the legends had told. She turned to look at him. "Yes, fix your gaze to me, your captain," he thought.
He strained to hear the sound that he could not name and then, in horror, he saw that she was singing.
He yelled, "You fools! I told you to gag her!"
She smiled as she put her hand out as to present the men closest to her. All four bowed and then jumped off the side of the boat, to the treacherous waves and ultimately to their deaths.
"Gag her!" the captain screamed. Two more deckhands attempted to get closer and after hearing her song, jumped to their deaths too.
The roar of the sea had not betrayed the captain. It was the only thing drowning out her song enough to keep him alive. He eyed a glow on her chest that pulsed as she sang. He needed her alive but maybe...
He felt for his dagger in his boot, aimed, and pierced the glowing object on her chest. The object went black, the girl collapsed, and the crew came back to their senses.
"Bring her to my cabin," the captain demanded, "Time to get back to work."
The captain stormed into his cabin, expecting another fight but the mermaid was passed out on his bed. He walked over, studying her. "Fin or legs, you'll learn your place," he thought as he felt his superiority at capturing her. He found the obsidian object that was glowing on her chest and ripped it off the chain that was holding it around her neck. He ran his fingers along the outside. It was perfectly smooth without a single dent or scratch but he knew that he hit it with his dagger. How was it so perfect?
He heard her stir. At first, she brushed her hair out of her face as if she had forgotten what happened and thought she was just waking from sleep. She noticed the rope keeping her hands together and tugged at it with no way to free herself. She finally got a clear look at the dark cabin, only being illuminated by candles and oil lanterns. It was cramp like a cave. There was an extremely hairy, dirty man looking over her. His face looked both angry and happy and she wanted him gone.
When she sat up, the captain got a better look at her bodice and realized that the legends were true. Not only were there mermaids, but they covered and adorned themselves in gold and gems and pearls. Probably found at the bottom of the ocean from ships that sank too deep for people to salvage their riches. He grabbed a chain of gems from around her neck and pulled her closer to him, "It seems like such a waste. You flittering through the ocean wearing these, with no idea how much they are worth." He loosened his hand and ran his fingers along the jewels, "These were the reason why we hunted you. So you could lead us to these. But this," he held her amulet in front of her face, "This is no jewel. So, what is it? Why does this glow when you wear it?"
She lunged for it and the captain pulled it away, "Ah, this has power, doesn't it? Riches are fine, but power is the greatest thing one can have. Well missy, you have no power here. Here, I am the real power and you better start respecting that."
She watched him, her eyebrows furled. “How much does she understand?” he thought.
He watched her, "Do you understand what I'm saying?"
The girl matched his eye movements and it was hard to tell if she understood him or she was trying to read him by his expressions.
"I've noticed that you have not said a word since I took this from you. Could this be the source of your power?" he asked as he walked around his cabin, studying the amulet. "Having the power to make people do as I please with just a song. Oh, that would be a fine treasure in deed," he mused.
Turning back to her, he said, "How does it work? Teach me and I'll let you go."
She stared at him. She looked like she was studying him now, not afraid, just watching him.
The captain became enraged by the lack of her response. No words, no terror, who did she think she was just sitting there like an entitled guest waiting for his hospitality. He took a handful of the jewels around her neck and pulled her to him. She cringed as she was forced to be inches from his face. "You tell me how to use this or I will tear you apart and feed you to the sharks!"
She pushed against his chest, not showing any sign that she understood what he was asking.
He threw her back onto the bed and waved the amulet in her face again, "Teach me!"
She put up her hands in a surrender motion as she tilted her head down. "She knows who's in charge now," the captain thought.
The mermaid put her palms out as best she could, gesturing for the amulet.
The captain grabbed his dagger and cut her ropes with one hand as he threatened, "Don't try anything funny.”
She nodded in compliance and put her hand under his hand and gestured for him to place his other hand on top of the amulet. "Ah yes, I am holding it so I am in control," he said as he did what she requested.
Her hands were warm on top of his and for a moment he was concerned, but she wasn't singing. She couldn't sing. He was in control.
She smiled at him and he felt a warmth that he hadn't felt since he was a child, back when he and his dog Clyde would spend days exploring and the world felt like it was made of love.
He felt a wave surround him and he was immersed in water but it was warm and comforting, not icy like the sea. He felt himself sinking further and further with no worries about breathing. Breathing seemed to come naturally as he went down towards a light.
The captain heard the voice of one of his crew but it sounded like it was miles away. “Captain, we see something on the horizon. It’s coming towards us.”
The light turned into many lights, blinding and beautiful. The glow of the amulet shined in the distance and he saw the girl, younger and happily swimming around a tiny, dog-sized octopus. She looked like she was cuddling up to the orange beast, tentacles wrapping her in hugs.
“Captain, it’s big and it does not seem to be changing its course,” the crewman said, but he sounded so far away. Why worry when he is so far?
Another wave pushed the captain further back and he saw the girl even younger. So young that she was being cradled in the arms of a large, muscular merman. The octopus was resting on his shoulder, even tinier than before. It looked like it was admiring the babe with his master. The octopus had one of its tentacles wrapped around the amulet. The merman received the amulet and placed it around his daughter’s neck. The octopus drifted to the girl and cuddled into her neck. She seemed to giggle with delight. Was it her pet?
The captain became woeful and said, “He was your Clyde.”
He was absorbed in this vision. He forgot what he wanted her to teach him. "Why am I here? How does this help me, do...what? What did I want to know?" He felt lightheaded and struggled to clear his thoughts.
He stared at the amulet.
“Captain! We need your help,” the screams were growing louder from the deck.
The captain grew angry, “This is not the source of your power.”
“Captain! We can’t hold it back,” the screams continued.
“This is nothing more than a way to call your pet,” he said with disgust.
The screams from the deck turned to despair, “Captain, it has taken the ship.”
He threw the amulet at her and started towards the door. He screamed at his crew, “What are all of you barking about? I leave you for,” he opened the door to the sight of bright orange amongst gallons of water. His crew was screaming. They fought a chaos of orange trunks that flailed around the deck, knocking over shrouds and the crow’s nest. A billow of orange that moved like a sail in the wind swung around and the captain viewed an eye the size of his head.
“It’s come for her,” he yelled, “Get her off this ship now!”
Not a single crewman could get to him. Every path was blocked by the beast.
“Off my ship! Get off my ship,” he said to himself as he looked for a plan.
He turned to his cabin and opened the door and yelled at the girl, “He’s here. What are you waiting for?”
She stared at him and he realized that she was afraid to cross his path, even with the hell she created for him on his boat. He walked further into the room and left her a clear path and snapped his fingers, “Go on!”
She rolled off the bed and started to drag herself across the floor. A tentacle found its way through the door and felt her. She wrapped her arms around it and it pulled her away.
The captain ran after them to make sure they were leaving. He saw the beast hold her close to it and it slowly drifted back into the water.
He was quiet as he surveyed the damage, relieved that they were still afloat.
The roar of anger and orders that would have usually followed never came. The crew considered themselves lucky and started repairing damages.
The captain was sullen as he watched the ocean. He was untouchable and it felt good, powerful. Was a child and her pet going to be the thing that pierced his heart and make him feel...mercy?