Zomg, I actually did one of these challenges and it’s not YA. (I’m as shocked as you on both counts.) This is a piece for Chuck Wendig’s weekly Flash Fiction Challenge. This week the goal is to write a story in 10 chapters while keeping it under 1,000 words. Obviously I wrote about a mermaid. My word counter says it rings in at 999 words. (Thanks to Ben for glancing it over for me.)
Lana watched the waves crash against the breaker with a mechanical detachment. She would not let herself miss the sea. She had given up too much to miss it. She turned and walked back to her Corvette, heels clicking on the pavement. Her feet no longer bled.
“There you are, love,” Melinda said, standing at the wet bar in their beachfront mansion, holding a martini. Salty sea air blew in through the open windows. Melinda wore an elegant blouse and pearls. “I’ve missed you.”
Lana started to say she’d missed her, too, but found the words wouldn’t come because they weren’t true. And after all these years, the witch’s magic still held her to that: she could not tell an outright lie. It made navigating the mortal world difficult, but not impossible. It had been impossible with a fin.
There was one message on her phone, from the Sea Witch. “You still owe me a child.” Lana hit delete.
“You want another drink?” her friend Kara asked. Lana considered her empty cosmo glass and the loud bar. Plenty of men here. Plenty of easy marks.
The man was standing in a corner, laughing with friends. He was handsome, with sandy hair and a strong jaw.
“No thanks.” She adjusted her lipstick and fussed with her white-blond hair. Then gave the guy a broad smile from across the bar.
He was sloppy but the end result was the same.
Six weeks later, the test still showed a minus sign. Lana wrapped it in paper towels and shoved it into the kitchen’s trash compactor.
Melinda was dark skinned and blue-eyed with gorgeous curly black hair. She had high cheekbones and sensual lips. She curled her arms around Lana on the sofa, and caressed the back of Lana’s neck while they watched movies on the flat screen. Melinda leaned over and kissed her, her mouth hot and demanding.
Five years ago, this closeness and these kisses had been all Lana had wanted. She had been consumed by her need of it.
She had bargained away her fin and given up her family and friends. And the Sea Witch, who often took the form of a merperson, had demanded payment, too. Lana had all of the riches of the Ocean Kingdom, but that meant nothing to a woman who had plenty of riches herself and magic to boot.
“You must make the girl love you within seven days,” the Sea-Witch demanded. “And then you must conceive a human child. You have five years to do so.”
Back then, Lana, a seventeen-year-old mermaid who knew little of the human world except that it was full of wonder, hadn’t understood that human reproduction had to be a male and a female. It was only after she’d managed the first part that she’d learned the cruelty of the witch’s demand.
“Don’t go,” Melinda murmured, shifting in their bed. She had her arm wrapped tightly around Lana, who was extracting herself when Melinda awoke.
“I can’t sleep,” she said, pulling out of her grasp.
“Then let me make you sleepy,” Melinda said, smiling drowsily.
“I’m not in the mood.”
This man was no one, a transient who came to the beachside town in the Summer and slept on the sand, busking for money with his guitar. He smelled of marijuana and wore faded knits. He claimed to have ten children scattered around the country. But maybe he was lying. Humans lied so easily.
They did it in the surf, the salt water and sand covering them as they moved. It felt like being home.
But it didn’t work.
“My sister saw you on the beach.” Melinda wouldn’t meet her eyes. She chewed on on her pinky nail. “Who was he?”
“No one. I don’t love him.”
Melinda sobbed. The sound made Lana’s insides ache. “How could you?”
“I had to,” Lana said. She had spoken it, so it was the truth, but Melinda did not know that. She jokingly called Lana her mermaid because Lana had said she came from the sea, but she never really believed it. Humans were funny that way.
“I thought you loved me.”
“I did love you.”
“You mean you do love me,” Melinda corrected, wiping her eyes.
Lana did not answer. Melinda kicked her out of the house.
There was no where to go, so she walked down the beach to the pier where she’d first spotted Melinda two years ago. She’d been instantly smitten. Melinda had worn a bright pink bikini that complimented her dark complexion. She’d dangled her long legs over the edge of the pier. Lana had tugged on her foot and Melinda had giggled, setting Lana’s heart on fire. And from that moment on, she’d wanted nothing but escape from the water.
Lana sat in the sand, extending her flip flops into the surf. She finally longed to go back.
“Your time is up,” the Sea Witch said. Her voice, so smooth beneath the waves, was craggy in the air. “Are you with child?” She smirked and clearly knew the answer. Lana drew her knees to her chest and shook her head.
“Of course not. You should know your kind cannot breed with a human. Idiot girl.”
“What?” She jumped to the feet she no longer wanted, protesting only because she felt used. “Then it wasn’t fair! You cheated!”
The Sea Witch’s smile never faltered. “My dear, I didn’t cheat. You agreed to those terms.”
Lana glared at the witch, but secretly felt a little relieved. “Fine. Send me back into the sea.”
The Sea Witch laughed. It curdled Lana’s blood. “You’re not returning to the sea, my dear. That is your punishment.” The Sea Witch pressed her slug-like lips to Lana’s forehead. Lana’s whole body tingled. A slight glow surrounded her, like when her fin had been turned to legs, but this time nothing changed. The witch vanished.
Lana was alone on the beach, with legs.