"She's coming," said Keith, training the binoculars on a spray of foam in the distance.
"She'd better be," came a voice from just above the water. "I'm not putting this outfit on again."
"Shut up, Mike," said Keith. "We're only going to get one shot at this." He glanced at his partner in the water, draped with over twenty pounds of seaweed. They'd had to fill airbags and shove them in Mike's wetsuit to keep him afloat. The ruse was perfect though. There was no sign that anyone else was nearby. Keith looked to be perfectly cast adrift, though the heavy weight attached to the underside was keeping his movement to a minimum.
He sharpened the focus on his binoculars, and studied the mermaid coming toward them through the surf. Everything was happening the way the old man at the bar said it would.
* * *
"Can't resist a fellow in distress,” the old sailor had said, “It's true!" He cackled and swigged deep from the third drink Keith had purchased for him.
Keith had the sense he was hearing secrets men would have died for not too long ago. Funny though, how age, addiction, and loneliness would drive a man's price down.
Mike and Keith had heard the stories of mermaids rescuing lost sailors before. They'd devoted months to collecting any and all stories about the creatures. What they were after with old Captain Rummleton was a piece of lore that they'd never heard before.
"Tell us, Captain," Mike had said, "about the eyes."
The old man got very quiet then – realizing he'd said too much. One drink later, he gave up, and said, "If a man loves a mermaid, and a mermaid loves a man, her magic will protect him under the sea, and he can swim as if he'd been born a fish."
"And the eyes, Captain?" Mike insisted.
The old man sighed, and Keith felt his first pang of guilt.
"The power's in their eyes, lad," said the old sailor. "Take and hold the eyes, and the result's the same." He was staring at the table now, and wouldn't look up. "Do me a favour, leave me be now. Please."
* * *
Keith stowed the binoculars. It ... she, was almost here, and he had to look as helpless as possible. He lay back on the raft.
Waiting was intolerable. If Keith had had more patience, he and Mike wouldn't be on this insane path to quick wealth. What might have been thirty seconds, or thirty minutes later, he heard a disturbance in the water close to his thighs.
"You poor thing." said the mermaid. Her voice was soft and melodious, like the soft lapping of waves on a beach at sundown. The effect this had on Keith was immediate and alarming. His water-soaked pants felt too tight, and he sat up to confront his would-be rescuer. He took one look at the mermaid, and found he was unable to speak. They had expected she'd be beautiful -that had been a constant in the stories - but this was simply unfair.
The mermaid was feminine perfection. She had the body of a sex goddess, with soft womanly curves and high, firm breasts that were just the right size for someone who lived in the water. She pulled herself up on the raft, and sat there, looking at him, completely unselfconsciously. Keith could see the legends had gotten a very important fact wrong – the tail started much lower down. She was woman enough to make his every dream come true.
Her face was the distillation of every innocent girl-next-door that Keith had ever pined for. She wore concern in the shape of her lips and the arch of her eyebrows. Her eyes though, were something entirely different. Where the whites should have been, her eyes were seawater green. The colour shifted and changed in the light, and made her black irises seem to float like tiny islands in a magical tempest. She pulled a long, lustrous lock of wet auburn hair behind her ear and smiled at him.
Keith reached out to her, and she clasped his hand in her own. Her skin was warm.
She opened her mouth to speak. Instead, she screamed. It was a broken, anguished cry, and blood began to run freely from the corner of her mouth. A moment later, the stainless steel point of Mike's harpoon emerged between the mermaid's breasts. It grew and grew, like a whale breaching the waves, dragging freshets of blood behind it. The mermaid tried to draw a breath, found she could not, and collapsed between the two men.
"We got her!" shouted Mike. "I don't believe it, we got her!"
Keith couldn't reply; he'd buried his face in his hands.
Mike hauled himself onto the raft, unsheathed a knife, and claimed their prize.
* * *
"So ... did it work?" asked the young sailor.
"Yeah, it worked," said Keith, scratching again at his white-stubbled cheek. He was so tired these days. "The good old Captain left something out of his story, though."
He turned the container on the table around and said, "We went to the bottom of the ocean; found a fortune there too - stuff worth millions. But, when we got back to the surface, everyone on our boat was dead - killed in a freak storm."
Keith turned the jar to look at the contents, and the contents looked back. "We tried a half-dozen times, and it happened each and every time – riches ... storm ... death."
"So why keep it?" asked the younger man.
"A reminder," replied Keith. He wanted a drink. He wanted to go to bed. "I keep the eye in this jar to remind me that I saw a real miracle once ..." he trailed off then, and didn't speak again until the young man had left him in an awkward silence.
Keith looked at the eye, "... saw a miracle," he said again, "and I killed it."
"Treasures of the Deep"
Copyright: © 2010 Chris Allinotte