The Fate Of The Muse

By: Derrolyn Anderson


The sun sank lower on the horizon, deepening the sky to a dark indigo blue. I sat up on my board, watching the water trembling with golden reflections, tasting the salt when I licked my lips. I couldn’t imagine why I’d waited so long to come back out. My head was cleared of all the fear and doubt I’d been harboring for the past few weeks, and I felt better than I had in a long time.

“I know,” smiled Lorelei, splashing me with water.

I turned my focus back to the waves as the sky grew darker, “Let’s go to the point!” I heard Lorelei say. I looked around to see her glowing under the water. It dawned on me that I had just heard her thoughts, and I sat there stunned for a moment, grappling with what it meant.

Ethan wouldn’t like it, I thought with a start. Ethan! I’d made plans to see him after his last final. He’d be worried, and so would Abby.

Lorelei’s face broke the surface, “Do you have to go already?” she asked.

I nodded, my mind racing as Lorelei towed me back. Now that we could hear each other, I had to wonder, was it just another facet of my ability to communicate with them, or was I changing?

Transforming.

I thought about Ethan and cringed. I shouldn’t have come here… I should have gone to him when I was upset. As we got closer to the shore both Lorelei and I tensed up. We were partners in survival, and like all wild creatures, we now shared a heightened awareness of our surroundings, scanning the waters around us with bestial caution.

“This is close enough,” I told her without speaking.

“Will you come back soon?” she asked.

“Yes,” I replied audibly, looking at the distant beach and feeling my human concerns settle back onto my shoulders like a heavy cloak. “Lorelei, what happened to Nerissa? How is she?”

She smiled her resplendent smile, opening her eyes wide as a new thought occurred to her, “She is so lucky! Let’s go see her!”

I shook my head no, amused by her transparency, “I’d like that… but not right now.”

I said goodbye and made for the darkening beach, looking back to see nothing but water. As I found my footing I noticed a lone figure wandering along the beach. It was Stella, the elderly woman who fed the cats.

“Hey Stella,” I called out.

“Dollface!” she smiled wide, waggling a finger at me, “You’ll be in a load of trouble if your gang sees you coming out of the water!”

“What?” I snatched my bag and followed after her. She walked up the sand to a bench at the foot of the stairs and plunked down.

“Stella, you saw her, didn’t you? A girl in the water… A mermaid.”

Her eyes flew open wide and she put her finger to her lips, “Sssh! Mums the word!”

I watched as her eyes glazed over, and she sat there humming an old-fashioned song to herself. I changed out of my wetsuit and into my street clothes, sitting down next to her to slip on my sneakers.

“She came out of the water to see you, didn’t she?” I asked gently.

“Oh yesiree,” she giggled, “She wasn’t supposed to… but she couldn’t resist the music. I took her to the dance and she had two left feet! Oh, but I could sure cut a rug in those days…”

I remembered how awkward Lorelei was when she was forced to transform. I could scarcely imagine her trying to swing dance. Stella’s face clouded over, and she started singing under her breath again.

“What was she like?” I asked. I patted her arm, but her moment of lucidity was gone, visibly slipping away, just like the sun sinking below the horizon.

“Who?” she asked irritably, getting up from the bench and shuffling away, humming the rest of the long forgotten tune. I picked up my board and started climbing the steps, looking up to see Ethan coming down.

“So… You’re back at it,” he observed tersely, taking my surfboard for me.

“Looks like it,” I said lamely, “I’m sorry… I forgot about our plans. It’s just that–”

“I heard. I knew you’d think it was your fault. It’s not.”

I looked at him with tortured eyes, “How can you know that?”

He held out his hand, “C’mon, let’s go.”

We climbed the stairs slowly, neither of us sure of what to say.

“So… how was she doing?” he finally asked.

“Stella?”

“No, Lorelei,” he said, “She didn’t look too good before.”

I was surprised he wanted to know. He usually seemed to wish she didn’t exist. I remembered the fragile state he’d last seen her in; she was an entirely different creature now.

“It’s like it never even happened… She’s completely back to normal.”

“That’s good,” he said, “What about the other one?”

“I don’t know,” I frowned, “Lorelei wanted to take me to see her, but I had to get back.”

He didn’t say anything until we got to the landing midway up the stairs. He set my surfboard down purposefully and turned to me, “Marina?”

Here it comes, I thought. He’s going to tell me to stop going out alone, or ask me to stay away from Lorelei. I knew how much he hated the thought of us surfing together.