Child of the Sea
Ella Grey (2015)
I wasn’t born. I was discovered. A month before I was adopted by my parents, my mother had a miscarriage. She’d been making cookies, mixing the batter with a wooden spoon, when the first stab of pain went through her. My dad rushed her to the hospital, she hadn’t even hit her first trimester yet and they both knew how dangerous that time could be. She hadn’t even had her first meeting with the midwife, it was supposed to be on the following Monday. At first they went to the doctors, then they shipped her off to the hospital, only to find out that yes, she’d lost the baby. That moment broke her. Even when they retold the story to me I could see the pain in her eyes for the lost baby.
In the end dad took her to recuperate at the beach in a home he rented. She spent her days wrapped up in a blanket, curled up in a chair watching the wave’s crash against the shore. The clouds were thick, grey and she knew that a storm was coming. There was a tension that threaten to overspill, like a river kept back by a dam.
Dad had called her in but she hadn’t heard him. A shimmy silver object laid on the beach and it had caught her attention. Then she’d heard it, a baby crying. At first she thought she’d lost her mind but then she saw the object on the beach moving. She scrambled to her feet and down the wooden steps. The blanket flapped around her shoulders but she held onto it tightly. At first she didn’t know what I was, only that I was small, small enough to be a baby. Though I didn’t look like any baby she’d ever seen. I had a tail, like a mermaid from one of my fairy-tale books. With skin so white it glowed and pitch black eyes, they knew I wasn’t human. I wasn’t like anything she’d ever seen before. She could have left me there but she didn’t. She used the blanket to scoop me up and took me back to the house.
As she showed dad, I started to change. My skin lost it glow, my eyes turned blue and while I hadn’t grown hair yet by the time I turned two, black strands covered my head. I looked like a human baby. They talked about it a lot. Should they keep me? Should the report the alien baby she found on the beach? What would happen to me if they gave me to a hospital? Dad could see how finding me affected mum. I was the baby she lost, like the world decided that the pain she endured was too much and gave her, me.
I didn’t have any clue that I was so different, sure my mum was a little over protective but I knew that some parents were. There was also only one rule. I wasn’t allowed in the sea. They didn’t know what would happen. Would I change back? Would I leave them?
Everything changed when I turned sixteen. I fell into the sea. It was stupid. I’d been playing with my friends at the beach and Scott ended up pushing me into the water. It couldn’t have been more than a few seconds but something inside me changed. I started to have dreams. After a few months I knew that they weren’t normal. I fell asleep thinking of Fiona and I dreamed of her. It had been really strange, in the dreamscape she’d become a dog and chased cats. The next day in our science class I heard her talking about it with one of her other friends. I’d dropped the glass beaker in surprise. We’d shared a dream? How was that even possible? I started to experiment and kept a dream journal to keep track of them. Then I started to influence them. It was stupid, mostly small things, like planting an idea that the teacher should wear blue trousers or the dinner lady to sing a particular song as she dished up our food.
Then other things started to happen. The marks on my forearms, white stripes that made up strange patterns that I had no clue to what they were, appeared. They glowed when I got upset and that was happening more and more. I worked hard on hiding my differences, but my self-confidence had taken a serious hit. Most of the time I wore thick jumpers and long gloves to hide my forearms. I cut myself off from my friends. None of them could understand what was going on with me. I didn’t know myself. How could I accept anyone to understand when I didn’t know myself? My life was spiralling out of control and I didn’t know why. It all came to a head one night. The night my parents told me the truth. I wasn’t normal. I wasn’t even human. It didn’t mean they loved me any less. I was their miracle child but all that good intention didn’t mean anything to me. Lost. Alone. A freak. An alien. Not human.
I ran to the beach and sat down on the sand. The only light came from the moon which reflected off of a calm sea. I didn’t know why I went there but it felt right. I crossed my legs, rested my head onto my hands and closed my eyes. I didn’t what to feel lost, disconnected from the world. I wanted to belong. I wanted all the things that a sixteen year girl wanted. A identify, friends I could trust. Hell, even a boyfriend but I couldn’t have any of those. I didn’t know what I was. Where did I come from? Did I have a home under the sea, people who missed me? Did I come from somewhere even further away? I glanced up at the stars. No, I couldn’t even comprehend that I came from a different world.
A lot of time passed and I fell asleep. The dream was different. It wasn’t a dreamscape I reconsidered in the slightest. An underwater city. A dome made out of glass. An unearthly light filled it and I swam closer, curious. There were people in there, creatures that resembled mermaids but they weren’t beautiful, instead they scared me. They didn’t look human in the slightest, more like wispy wraiths with cold black eyes. Was I one of them? I glanced down at my hands, white skin that appeared to glow, webbing between the fingers.
“What are you doing here?”
I whipped around to see one of them behind me. The deeply masculine voice seemed to vibrate and echo in my head and I grabbed my ears but they weren’t there. A nightmare, it had to be a nightmare and I wanted it to stop. I tried to swim away but his hand shot out and he grabbed my arm. Instead of the coldness I half expected, a warmth swept through me. I tugged my arm free.
“Don’t touch me. I shouldn’t be here. I don’t know how I got here.” My whole body felt strange, heavy but light and I glanced down to see the tail, my tail made up of shimmy white scales.
“You need to come with me.” He reached out again as this time I flinched, moving away from him before he could make contact.
“Excuse me?” By the sound of him he didn’t think I’d argue with him. It was hard to figure out what he thought since his face was so unlike anything I’d ever seen before.
“I said no.” I pulled my arm free as emotions swirled to life inside of me. A dream I could manipulate so I tried that tactic. “You’re going to leave me alone.” I said sternly but my lips weren’t moving, somehow I was communicating with him the same way he talked to me.
He cocked his head to the side, the move alien and unsettling. “I’m a part of the royal guard, any visitors announced or otherwise need to be taken to the throne room. I don’t even know who you are, which means you’ll be coming with me.”
This wasn’t going the way I thought it would, a dream I couldn’t manipulate, that I couldn’t change? I’d gotten so used to being able to do that for a brief second I didn’t know what to do. Instead I did the only thing I could do. I swam away. My new body helped me swim faster. I cut through the water like a fish but it wasn’t going to be enough. I didn’t know where I was going so I swam for the surface.
A hand grabbed my tail and sharp shards of pain went through me, damn that hurt. I twisted in the water and I noticed that my scars on my forearms were starting to glow. I tried to flick out my tail but his grip just got tighter. In the end I punched down with my arms, hoping to make contact that way, anything to break his hold on me but I couldn’t reach that far. “Let go of me!”
“Why are you fighting me? Who are you are?” Light poured out of my skin, surrounding us and he grunted in pain. Suddenly my tail was free. I didn’t question it, or the blinding light. All I needed to do was get to the surface. If I got there. I would wake up, I would be safe. Dream logic, it was all I had at that point. He recovered quickly but there was more distance between us. “Wait!”
“Leave me alone.” I shouted back. “I don’t belong here.”
“But you do. Stop for a second, let me explain.” He sounded surprised, like he couldn’t believe it himself. “Alia, wait.”
The name didn’t mean anything to me. I risked a glanced over my shoulder and noticed that he’d stopped chasing me but that knowledge didn’t stop me. I kept swimming, my hand reaching out for the almost glass like surface of the water. “This was a mistake.” I broke through and as soon as I breathed in fresh air, reality slammed into me. I got to my knees and glanced out at the sea, half expecting him to be there, to be watching me. It couldn’t have been real, could it?
“Winni?”I turned around and saw that mum stood on the beach, a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. She looked older, weary. The wind caught strands of black hair, streaked with grey and danced around her face. “Are you okay?”
“No.” I wanted to lie but there wasn’t any point. I wouldn’t be alright with the path my life was taking but it wasn’t their fault. They loved me like I was their own. “But I will be.” A tiny white lie to take away the pain in her eyes. There was a lot that I needed to deal with but I needed to face it by myself. I couldn’t drag them into it.
“Are you going to leave us?” Her voice caught on the last word and I noticed the tears. That was what she was really worried about. That I’d leave them to find the place where I’d come from.
I got to my feet and rushed over to her, hugging her. In that moment I noticed how fragile she was. Losing one child was hard enough but if I left? It would hit her harder because it would be my choice. “I’m not going anywhere, mum.” The world I saw in my dream. I wasn’t a part of that. Sure I looked like them but I’d been raised human and I couldn’t change that. I wouldn’t. “Let’s go home.” I smiled at her. “It’s cold out here.” We were half way up the steps, my dad standing on the porch when I heard it. A voice I thought I left behind in the dream.
“I will find you princess.”