A short love story about an unlikely couple, each of them craving what the other has in abundance.
Josiah had seen them before, of course. But never this close.
When you spend every night alone at the top of a lighthouse, you understand how the water shimmers. You also understand what it looks like when the shimmer disrupted by something moving directly toward you across the surface of the water.
As Josiah descended the spiral staircase to greet the arrival, he speculated as to its nature. It seemed too small to be a boat from the mainland. But it was shinier than a dolphin.
So when he opened the door and picked his way over the rocks, the realization hit him at same exact moment he looked up and saw her on a rock. The mermaid was lying peacefully, propped up on her elbows as the waves lapped at her tail. She didn't move, but her eyes flicked up at him, and she offered a tight, closed-mouth smile. He returned it.
Josiah glanced at his watch and saw it was almost midnight. He wouldn't be that lucky, would he? The two stared mutely at each other, waiting, before the song finally began.
The mermaids sang on most warm nights like this one, their mournful and hauntingly beautiful song, longing without articulated words for something unspecified. As the harmonies converged on the island from all directions, he felt the chill they never failed to bring, and the hair on his neck stood on end.
Somehow, over the years, mermaids and sirens had diverged in popular lore. Josiah knew. He'd been around them long enough, and retained at least most of his sanity, he figured. And God knew he loved to listen to mersong. Was it so entrancing that he felt compelled to fling himself into the sea at all costs? No. But if they had come as close as his guest currently was, and if they were all as gorgeous, he might've just had to reconsider.
She didn't join the choir, though. She threw her head back, tossing back her silver hair and revealing her smoothly-sloped, hydrodynamic breasts. Her eyes shone bright, their whites contrasting with her deeply dark and unblemished skin. Josiah hardly noticed. He was staring at an indistinct point in the sky, a hand cupping his ear, enraptured once again by the music that he'd been hearing on and off for years. It never failed to stir up an emotion that it had taken his isolation for him to realize he possessed.
Eventually, he tore his attention away, and noticed that the mermaid was similarly fascinated. She was staring up at the beam emanating from the top of the lighthouse, appearing hypnotized by its dependable, repeating flash. Josiah figured that made a certain amount of sense. Mermaids only came out to sing at night, and they were gone again long before dawn. Then, during the day, not a lot of sun probably made it all the way to the seafloor. To her, the light shining from the enormous lamp must have been fascinatingly foreign, and maybe even beautiful.
Despite having seen mermaids from time to time, he still found their culture very much a mystery, since usually (present company excepted) they were too shy to do much more than show themselves for just a moment, darting and diving between the waves. So it was with trepidation that he approached her, hand extended, palm facing upward. He suspected the legends of mermaids dragging men to their deaths were most likely just that: legends, exaggerated like those of the supposed malice in their songs.
The mermaid snapped out of her trance and eyed his hand warily for a moment. Then, in a single fluid motion, she offered her own hand, and slipped her fingers into the cracks between his. Her touch was almost magical. Josiah felt both the cool surface of her skin and the latent warmth underneath. She smiled at him again and then glanced up, taking one last look at the lighthouse, before letting go of his hand and slipping away back into the sea, faster than he could even fully process.
He stared at the spot where she had lay, and at his palm where her hand had rested, for some time before returning to his tower.
For the next several days, Josiah felt almost embarrassed by the eagerness with which he waited for the mermaid to return. Was it just the novelty of contact with someone else, or was he truly lonely? He wasn't sure. Also, he wasn't really the type to admit that loneliness bothered him much. After all, that type didn't tend to sequester themselves in island lighthouses.
He honestly wasn't sure what he would do when he saw her again. Talk to her? That didn't seem likely. He didn't even know if she was truly mute or simply not one to waste words. For his part, he wasn't much better, and didn't think he would be the next time, either. If there was a next time. He hoped there would be, with a power he normally reserved for his duty: upkeep and operation of his home.
During the following week, he didn't once hear mersong, until the night she returned. When he saw a sleek form cutting effortlessly through the water, he no longer had to wonder what it might be.
Josiah flew down the spiral staircase, wanting to be there waiting when she arrived. He succeeded, by a slim margin. He stood nearer to her preferred boulder this time, and as she slid onto it, she brushed by his arm.
As he stood there, unsure of what to do or say, his thoughts were interrupted by a wandering melody that had been notably absent the last several days. But unlike in their previous meeting, after a moment luxuriating in the honey-sweet mersong, he managed to shake himself out of his reverie.
He turned and looked at her, only to find her gazing again at the light as wistfully as he'd been listening to the music. She noticed his attention and caught his eye. Once she had it, she pulled herself farther forward onto the rock, back straight and toned abs tight.
She pointed directly at Josiah, finger inches from his breastbone, and held it there. He reached up to take her hand, but she withdrew it and brought it to her ear, just as he had done the previous week. Seeing that he seemed to be following, she next pointed at herself, and finally at the lighthouse.
Josiah considered several different ways to interpret that message. He settled on the one he found most favorable: a promise. He inched closer to the rock, and held out his arms, ready to carry her. She seemed confused at first, but when he finally reached out to her, she shook her head vehemently and gently swatted his hands away. She then directed his attention to her tail, wiggling the tip that rested in the sea.
Josiah couldn't help but notice the gradient in her lower back where human flesh faded into scales, the bottom-most fleshy portion just barely beginning to indent and separate into what would normally be cheeks. Instead, any hint of a division merged back into a muscular, glimmering tail, whose strong curve in that spot was nonetheless very enticing.
He returned to the present as the mermaid lifted her tail fully out of the water and laid it on the rock. Within seconds, she was gasping for breath, strangely, with her human lungs, until she could take no more. She collapsed and rolled sideways off the rock, falling back into the water. Reinvigorated, she hoisted herself back up, making sure her tailtip maintained her physical (or magical) connection to the open ocean.
A seedling of an idea sprouted in Josiah's mind. On a dock nearby, which had a clear line of sight to their area, sat a bucket he used occasionally when fishing. Making his way between the rocks, he reached the dock, emptied the rainwater out of the bucket, and returned to his now-curious guest with his prize in hand.
When he was near the rock on which the mermaid was lying, he dipped the bucket into the ocean, and seawater swirled into it. Hanging the bucket in the crook of his elbow, he once again reached out to her, but this time pausing before making any contact: these encounters were too precious to risk ending prematurely.
It took a moment, but her face lit up with pure delight. Enthusiastically, she pulled herself sideways into his open arms, and once nestled in, she dipped her hand into the bucket and beamed at him. Mentally counting to three, Josiah lifted with his knees and pulled her upwards, off the rock and out of the water.
But Josiah had barely taken a single step toward the lighthouse when she began to squirm. Clutching her throat, she struggled, the eyes that were filled with joy moments before now showing terror. Ensuring there were no rocks directly below her, he dropped her back into the water where she had originally emerged. The mermaid recovered quickly, but didn't climb back onto the rock, opting instead to keep everything below her navel in the ocean.
She looked at him with an expression he couldn't quite parse, and then she opened her mouth as if to speak, or sing. She did neither. There was only silence, the mersong having already stopped. Appearing close to tears, she dove back into the water and darted off. Josiah understood she wouldn't be back that night.
Josiah had a lot to think about the next couple days; more than he'd had in a long time. The whirlwind in his mind was primarily focused on the memory of touch, and having held her. Even where she was scaly, feeling her was still soothing, just knowing the texture, scaly as it may be, belonged to another person.
And what a person she was! Her beauty, while undeniable, was almost beside the point. So was her nudity. Most importantly, she TRUSTED him. Even when he was living back on the mainland, how often does one person lift another? And how often is it as intimate, and meaningful? Yes, the trust was evident, regardless of his plan not having worked. Whenever he went to sleep, he recalled the impression of her weight against his arms and chest, and the hope she'd held that he would be able to help her. The memory was seared into his skin.
It wasn't nearly as long a wait until their next encounter.
By this point, Josiah was regularly scanning the horizon for any glimpses of mermaids. He never saw any, other than the days She visited, but that wasn't so unusual. Even so, he couldn't help feeling disappointed, thanks to his newfound investment in the hunt.
When he eventually did see her approach, his chest clenched as he rushed down to the base of the tower and out the door. The mermaid was waiting, in the usual spot, with her eyes on the usual target. She didn't need to point this time. He already knew. He hooked an arm around her shoulders, and she didn't resist, letting him simply hold her. The way she slumped into him made it clear she thought the quest was futile at this point.
So why had she come back?
Although the obvious answer never crossed his mind, Josiah still knew enough to enjoy it while it lasted. They stayed in that position, awake but silent, for what could have been seconds or hours. Mersong briefly rose from the sea, but it was barely tempting now that he could feel a certain someone's breathing against his side. Everything and nothing flowed between them in a wordless exchange.
A lighter haze filled the night sky, but not knowing how much time had passed, Josiah wasn't sure if it was dawn or zodiacal light. In any case, he snatched a passing thought out of the air as it drifted by, and decided that if he couldn't bring her to the lighthouse, he'd just have to bring the lighthouse to her. Releasing her, to her surprise, Josiah stood up and extended a single finger: he would be right back. He went inside to retrieve something to show her, but to his dismay, by the time he returned with it, the mermaid was nowhere to be found.
Josiah was distraught.
Days passed, and he eventually concluded that she'd come by one last time to say goodbye, and it felt like a hole had been torn in his heart. Could this be love? It had been so long, did he remember what love was even like? With every passing day, his regret that he hadn't asked her to stay, or at least come back often, grew deeper. Even if he did love her, it was too late.
This all made perfect sense to Josiah. What did love do but hurt anyway? Sure, it felt good for a while, but the greater the high, the greater the distance he had to fall. Did it matter whether it ended in a shipwreck; in chaos; in violence; or in calm, quiet abandonment? At least this latest heartbreak didn't bestow on him any more duties.
Every day, he paced the perimeter of the tower, clutching what he had never gotten to show the mermaid. Every day, he buried himself more in his work. He stopped looking for mermaids, and tried to will his lungs to stop tightening whenever a dolphin ducked through the waves. He took inspiration from mythology, and made himself a pair of wax earplugs. He simply couldn't handle mersong.
Thankfully, he knew he wouldn't have to put up with it for too much longer. Summer faded to fall, and pleasantly warm nights became few and far between. But on one of them, months removed from his original midnight meetings, a miracle.
A familiar shape was moving slowly, almost hesitantly, distinct against the momentary reflections of light off the waves, and against the inky sea. Josiah looked at it over and over, then circled the tower, then went to look again to make sure his eyes weren't deceiving him. It was there every time, and still moving. He stumbled down the worn stone steps, almost terrified of seeing the day he'd worked so hard to convince himself would never come again.
He met her at the rock and stood stunned. He wanted to throw his arms around her, but couldn't move until she raised her arm and offered him a timid wave. That broke the spell, and he clutched the mermaid against him, her warm breath on his neck feeling like he was home.
When at last they let go, Josiah remembered what now lived in his pocket, and his heart stopped at the thought that he'd be able to give it to her at last. Cautiously, he introduced the idea of what he was trying to do. He pointed at her, and she nodded. He pointed at the lighthouse, and she nodded again, this time accompanying it with a forlorn smile, a hybrid of emotions. Reaching into his vest pocket, he finally produced the object.
She squinted, slightly confused, never having seen a candle before. But her eyes widened in amazement when Josiah struck a match and lit the wick, which fizzled briefly before settling into a steady flame. Her jaw dropped, and she pulled it close for inspection, and subsequently recoiled from the surprising heat. She watched, fascinated, as a drop of molten wax rolled down the side and came to rest on the metal tray. Her gaze returned to the flame, joyfully following its every flicker.
The two of them sat there for hours, hand in hand, and perfectly content to watch the candle burn to a stub.
With no ceremony, the flame simply went out, letting off a final wisp of smoke. Josiah's vision hadn't adjusted, so beside him he only saw a sleek silhouette. Her face was just starting to fade into view, thanks to the moonlight, when he felt a pair of cool hands cupping his chin. Pulling him forward, she kissed him.
The mermaid's lips were soft, and only the slightest bit salty from seawater. She brought a fiery energy to the union, and he slightly opened his mouth to admit her tongue, which she happily obliged. Briefly separating, she pushed off the rock with her tail, and sent them both toppling backwards into the ocean.
The water would have been cold if either of them had been able to feel it whatsoever. As she propelled them both downward, he found himself somehow able to breathe as long as he stayed attached to her. He wished his clothes were gone, and then they suddenly were, and there was nothing left between them.
Josiah pressed the full length of his body firmly to hers, and the mermaid—his mermaid—gasped, or she would have, had the water pressure not sucked it out of her mouth. His hands were everywhere, gliding through her hair as it floated in the water behind her, and finding her firm breast. She bucked forward, her muscles articulating the moan that her vocal cords could not.
He gave it an experimental squeeze as his other arm snaked around her toned waist, finding her back first, then the root of her tail. Impatiently, it curled around his hips, gently stroking his behind as it passed by. He then realized her impatience as she held him by the waist, and guided him into a soft opening whose specific location on her front-side he didn't quite know.
Despite being surrounded by scales, her slick grip was undeniably warm, mammalian flesh, and he sank deep into her with a groan. She shook at the sensation of being slowly opened; the friction of her firm pressure yielding to a wonderful thickness. Josiah paused, to let them both catch their breath, mouths still passionately pressed together.
It was the mermaid once again who demanded more, her shuddering tail ineffectively trying to push and pull him in and out of her. He allowed it at first, content to be used, but before long his own desperation had reached a peak, and he thrusted, at the edge of control as he attempted to sate it. He moved both of his hands down to the junction of tail and back, and held onto it almost as tightly as her sex was holding his.
His eyes flickered open for the first time since they'd been submerged, only to find they had sunk deep enough that their surroundings were pitch black; light from neither the moon nor lighthouse could penetrate this far. The couple's heated embrace somehow held the water's frigidity at bay, as all their senses screamed instead for more of each other.
They never slowed, and their bodies kept sliding, every part aching to touch every other. Josiah and his mermaid lit up the ocean floor with every motion; every needy thrust. His chest pushed and rubbed against her sensitive breasts as they made love, and her dam began to burst. Through the kiss, he felt something catch in her throat, and he knew he was ready to pour fire into her.
He felt her clench one final time around him, the first spasm of many, and he came, and so did she. And with their bodies entwined in the water, giving and receiving the purest pleasure, she sang and sang for the light of her life in the abyss.