The Forgotten Mermaid. -All lost hearts may be redeemed.
By Gregga J. Johnn
The trio around the smoking bonfire took a rest. Barrel had tears of hope in his eyes as they watched the flare burst up from the deck of the small ship and slowly ascend with their spirits into the sky. They had been seen. Now they only need be rescued, if the ship could make land without wrecking.
On board, Daves put the flare gun away and returned to the prow of the ship so he could better follow the progress of his underwater Captain who led the way passed all the treacherous rocks from beneath the surface. He tried holding his breath as long as the swimmer, but could not keep up. He was quite amazed at the lung capacity of this great seaman whom he’d come to love with the loyalty of a faithful follower.
Young Dan came down from the crow’s nest to watch with his brother. Then he said the oddest thing,
“’e stays down there s’ long. Its almos’ azzif he forgets to come up fa air.”
Daves snorted, scoffing. He ignored the nagging feeling that the boy was onto something. Instead he laughed and instructed the boy,
“Tha Capt’n told me ‘e almost drowned as a kid. ‘e’s been workin on holding ‘is breaff for longer ‘n longer times since. Tha’s all.”
Bailey joined them from where she’d been watching seated on the sails half-way up the mast.
“It is an unnatural long time to be under.” She commented just as Brice resurfaced for another breath and dove beneath the waves again. Then she slipped away, presumably to check on her husband below deck.
Bailey had other ideas in mind though. She stepped up to speak with Dereck by the wheel for a moment.
“You seem rather close in thought with your brother.” She observed, as the wheel man followed the directions his brother pointed out, following the path of the Captain swimming beneath. Leaning against the Captains coat that hung over the wooden fencing of the wheel lock, she left the statement in the air as a question.
“I’ve been with ‘im since we were inside our mum.” He winked at her. “That’s a long time to understand someone.”
“I guess it is.” She inquired with genuine curiosity, “Are there drawbacks to being so close to someone?”
“Well, we did just fall in love with the same girl and both almost got hanged for it. That wasn’t so much fun.”
“That would be a bit of a downer.” Then she wandered back down below deck.
Once inside the darkened corridor, she closed the hatch so she might be alerted to any one following after her. Then she proceeded down the short hallway toward the Captain’s cabin.
On this small boat, the Captain’s lodgings were on the same level as the galley and food storage locker, just at opposite ends. Beneath that was the crews open bunk quarters and more storage. There was a locked trapdoor at one end that lead to the lowest level and Bailey had only been down there during the worst of the storming to work the pump that pushed excess waters back out of the hull.
She peaked down to the crew bunks and heard her weary husband snoring uncomfortably through heavy lungs. Her heart ached for his well-being. So she set it even harder toward the task she had in mind.
The rest of the crew, including mama D, were on deck watching for rocks and a way in to the island. There was a loud, long scraping sound beneath her, and Bailey held her breath a moment as the boat shifted direction and the rocky outcrop passed a little too close beneath her. She didn’t have much time, so she hurried to the Captain’s door.
Pulling the key ring she’d stolen from his coat pocket, she unlocked his door, entered quickly, and shut it again behind her. Looking about, nothing seemed out of place. Carefully the woman stepped toward the large desk by the back windows. The sun was let in only a little as the glassy openings were small and high. But enough light shone upon the desk that she could readily read the mapping charts that covered them. Most she recognized… no, all she recognize.
Her heart sank. She was so hoping to find… Bailey didn’t know what she wanted to find. But, she just knew that something was not what it should be. Or at least, what it should be according to her perception.
The ship shifted suddenly again to avoid a gentle scraping and Bailey lost her balance. Steadying herself with both hands on the desk top a light suddenly glowed up at her and she gasped, stepping back against the wall cabinet behind her. A mildly hidden panel in the cabinetry pressed open at her weight and the light on the desk disappeared as quickly as it had blinked up at her.
Glancing at the open door, she moved to what was more familiar first as she noticed several small vials that looked like medicine… or in her more pagan understanding… potions.
She read the labels on them and discovered they were tonics for healing, only more elaborate and whimsical in their appearance. There was something for pain, and something for anxiety, and something for mind expression (whatever that was), but then she saw one for easier breathing. Instantly Barnabus’ belabored lungs came to mind, so she took the bottle to pocket. Behind that was what looked like a small rum bottle with a silver label stating, “Dragon Tears Mineral Water.”
Bailey considered taking a swig, but the ship bumped up against another section of island rocks and she was tossed against the desk again. This time, her attentions fully turned to the glowing that arose from the flat surface when her hand landed upon it.
She gingerly stood straight, startled by the glow that disappeared again. She lifted aside a couple of the paper charts and tentatively poked the desktop with a finger. Magic words suddenly glowed up through the translucent wood.
Bailey’s biblical learning from her husband had her wary of dark deception, but her curiosity and undeniable trust and affection for her Captain comforted her fears just enough to poke it again. This time, she left her finger upon it long enough to read what the words said.
They were not mystical secrets hidden in the desk. There was no dark magic spells written upon the wood. It was the weather report.
Bailey almost laughed at the mundane words. She laid her whole hand upon the desk and shifted more papers around to get a better view of the circular notations.
The moving words flashed across telling a tale that sounded, (were she to read it out aloud), like the town crier reporting important decrees from the governing officials. In fact, it was a story about a successful military raid on a homestead that was hiding a treasonous family. Another column of words alternated with a picture declaring the birth of some important and rather ugly child.
Then, Bailey saw a small circle within a long rectangle that flashed at her as if inviting her to touch it. So she did.
The circle expanded into a series of other open circles that had symbols in them, many of them letters arranged in some odd alphabet whose order she’d never seen before. So, naturally she touched one of the letters she knew. The letter B. The letter B flashed up inside the top rectangle. Bailey touched the letter A. It appeared next to the B.
“Hmmm,” murmured the woman and continued looking for the remaining letters of her name. “Do you not know the order of the alphabet, you silly?” She muttered amused to herself as she wondered why on earth the letter Y might be next to the letter U?
It gave her much satisfaction to see her name written in blue glowing letters upon the Captain’s desk. She troubled not her heart as to why she like it so much. But rather cast her eye to the end of the rectangle that her name was written in. There was an odd circle symbol at the end. It seemed to have a straight tail hanging off it. So she touched it and instantly a spinning star swirled upon the whole desktop as if it were looking for something.
Bailey stepped back terrified she’d broken it. The desk when dark again. She reached out to touch once more and saw that just as quickly as the star appeared, it disappeared, and was replaced by a long list of informative words that all had something to do with her name.
Apparently there were many others who shared her name, and some variations of spellings even had mechanical definitions. There was even some record keeping system with her name.
“Interesting,” she whispered, but then she had a flashing, brilliant idea.
Bailey repressed the first little circle that brought up all the letters and typed in another name: Captain Brice Deluse. The same star flashed only for a second as if it already knew this name very well… and then Bailey began to read.
She’d only gotten about halfway through when she heard shouting on deck as the ship suddenly veered toward the island. She stood up to glance out the high windows and saw only ocean behind. Listening at the door she could discern that the Captain had found a way in, and that her husband was calling for her.
The desk had turned to normal wood again, so she rushed to answer Barnabus’ call. Locking the door behind her, she re-pocketed the keys and pulled out the small “Easy Breath” vial.
At her husband’s bedside, she put the open vial to his lips and bid him drink a little. When he swallowed, a sudden cough burst up from his lungs. But then he took in a deep, deep breath and smiled at her like he used to smile at her when he was well.
“My darling, you look so tired?” He took her face into his gentle hands and kissed both eyelids as she closed them.
The missionary wife’s heart melted and she fell into his arms as he sat up to hold her with strong comfort against his chest. As her ear pressed against him, she heard no a rattling sounding from within, only the strong beats of his dedicated heart.
Bailey cried with relief.
On board, Dereck gripped the wheel tightly as the Captain swam them toward an alarmingly solid looking cliff face. Daves exchanged a worried glance at his brother as he directed him straight at it. Yet, the Captain surfaced again with a smile and assured the man to trust him, then dove beneath the waters again steering the ship right into… and through the cliff face illusion.
The ship settled in the calm waters of a long corridor between tall cliffs. There was a gently flowing waterfall at the far end and the ship was guided quietly and calmly toward it. At its base, the Captain climbed back up onto the deck of the ship and suggested they cast anchor there for the night.
Above them, the three men who had signaled from the fire on the beach around the far end of the island, suddenly appeared. The biggest of them jumped into the cold waters with a massive bombing splash. And while his two companions settled into camp at the top of the cliffs, Barrel clambered on board “the Pursuit” to report the tale of woe, terror, and magical wonders of the island.
The crew listened with growing superstitious fear. But Brice smiled and looked very pleased with himself. He had finally found what he was looking for.
Barnabus, strangely well and in full health again, warned them gravely of dark magic and set himself up to spend the night in prayer against such an onslaught.
Bailey cast accusatory glances at Brice and he wondered what ill will she suddenly held against him. But then he returned to his cabin. After closing the hidden medicine cabinet noting what was missing, he sank sadly into his chair, understanding all that had and was about to happen. But it was not until he checked his news report and saw the search history and read what had been read while he was gone, that he began to truly grow concerned.