(For those that have read my short story Solitude of a Siren, this is a short backstory to the main character. For those that haven't, hopefully this will spark your interest in the original story that I might post later on.)
Orphaned as a toddler, I was always the weird, quiet girl in school. My name was unknown and I didn’t belong. Both then and now, my solitude was strange. It seems like girls would disappear from existence without attention. Apparently that's what we live for—attention. Not me. I prefer solitude, being away from others, especially other teenagers. But even when I’m alone, I’m never truly lonely. The ocean is always there for me.
I live a few miles from the east coast of Florida. I take the daily trip on my bike to the deserted private beach, where the rich and elderly live; this pretty much guarantees solitude. The golden sand of the shell-adorned beach usually remains untouched. My favorite place, the jetty, stands at one end of the beach and prevents its shores from spilling into the channel. I spend most of my time here to avoid people and life itself. The jetty and the crashing waves around it are, as always, my sanctuary.
My bare feet sink into the damp sand on the shore as I make my way to the jetty. The water seems to caress my ankles before being sucked back from the land. I gaze out at the ocean, watching how it slowly darkens with the setting sun. When I reach the jetty, I shuffle to the end of the concrete, then hop down onto the nearest rock with my back towards the sun. I close my eyes and let the sun's last rays warm my skin through my shirt. Something about feeling like I am surrounded by nothing but the salty ocean water is soothing. When I close my eyes, I can imagine that the rock I'm perching on is an island of my own, caressed by the ocean on every side, protecting me from the outside world I've never felt a part of.
I can feel the exact moment the sun sets. It's gone almost too quickly. The warmth fades and the wind suddenly picks up, stinging my cheeks and eyes with its intensity. Soon after, the waves get too rough, too tall, and too unrealistic before my eyes. The warm salty waves seem to form hands as they crash on the rocks inches away from me, soaking my clothes as it struggles to grasp my skin.
Throwing a desperate look down the beach in attempt to call for help, my heart sinks. The only footprints left in the sand are my own. Of course, it’s deserted as always.
Salt water stings my eyes and I already know it’s too late. The ocean grabs me with wet hands and drags me under, scraping my legs and back against the ridged rocks as I'm taken from the land and hauled into the darkened water.
I don’t struggle.
No one would miss me. They would find my body, bloated, cut, and wrinkled, washed up on the beach and rule it as a suicide. And that’s okay. I belong to the ocean now, more than I've ever belonged anywhere else.
I await a painful death, eyes clenched shut, as my body is tossed beneath the surface and water rushes into my lungs. I don't cough or convulse as the ocean invades my nose and mouth. The ocean continues to twirl my limp body beneath the surface, coming to a slow and steady rocking motion.
My neck and sides sting, but other than that, I feel...the same. I don't feel pain, which I expected plenty of. Strangely, my body welcomes the sensation of water in my lungs...
And I can breathe.
I've heard the two worst ways to die were by fire or water. But I'm comfortable, almost like I died instantly without realizing it and now my soul is trapped in the ocean. But as the water continues to filter through my lungs, and small bubbles part my lips with every exhale, I know that I'm somehow still alive. Somehow, I'm able to breathe where no human should. Maybe this is a hallucination my mind created to distract me from my own agonizing death.
The sides of my neck and torso itch where they had stung a few moments ago. I reach up and rub my hands along my neck. I jerk at what I feel there. One each side, I feel ridges. Ridges that flutter with each breath. Slowly, I open my eyes. It's not as difficult to see through the dark water as I expected. I peer at my sides and, just below my ribcage, see ridges there, too. As I trail my fingers along them, I notice that they feel the same as those on my neck. These ridges flutter as I breathe, too.
Squeezing my eyes shut, I hope that when I open them, I'll be back on the jetty where I fell asleep. But, when I open my eyes again, all I see is the blue of the ocean darkening into the distance. That's when I notice that the rocks of the jetty are out of sight. How far out was I taken?
The moonlight casts a pale glow above me, barely penetrating the ocean's dark surface. Raising both arms above my head, I attempt to swim to the surface, to the air I'm supposed to be breathing. The water above me seems to be parting rather than pushing against me. And I realize why. I stop my ascent when I catch a glimpse of my hands. Thin pieces of skin were growing right before my eyes in the spaces between my fingers. The webbing curved no higher than my knuckles.
Panic grows cold in my water-logged lungs and I paddle faster towards the surface. I hear a faint laught, sounding malicious as it echoes around me. My webbed hands break the water's edge.
My legs suddenly slow to a stop. I can't move them. I'm so close to emerging, but now I'm sinking faster than my hands can carry me up. I can no longer feel the air on my hands. Struggling to kick my legs, I only sink faster. I look down. And scream.
The scream comes out strangled and bubbly, muted by the water. The skin of my inner thighs and calves are molding together, ripping my jean shorts and stitching themselves to each other, growing a thick bond before I have a chance to stop it. Not that I knew how to.
Water surges in and out of my lungs much quicker as my heart pumpes adrenaline through my body. I continue to rake my hands through the water, desperately trying to resurface. The water tugs me down harder. Like it doesn't want me to leave.
I watch as my fingernails grow an inch more, coming to a sharp point at each end. My legs--what used to be my legs--begin looking discolored, sprouting a variety of colors on scales. Fish scales. I'm literally growing scales.
The ocean’s voice whispers, “You’re mine now, darling, forever and always…”