The edge of the forest was his sanctuary with solar-powered fairy lights, homemade wind chimes and sun catchers. Ivy – that had been ripped from the outer wall of his home – acted as a doorway to the lake deeper within the forest.
Erik grabs one of the sun catchers and starts to polish the glass on it. His eyes are focused on the door he had created. His heart beats with the sound of the chimes while he imagines the moment she will appear.
Mum had purchased the property a month ago. She had given him a simple rule. He was not to go to the lake within the forest.
“The mermaids will try to trick you,” she had said. “They are not to be trusted.”
He partially obeyed, but his curiosity brought him to the edge of the forest before the lake started. The grove between his yard and the forest was somewhat hidden, and it was nice and quiet – away from his four sisters and baby brother.
On the first day, he sat relaxing and reading a comic. After a few minutes, Merina appeared. He looked up at her, and she jumped at the sudden movement.
“Hullo,” he said, standing up to greet her.
She stepped back and lowered her head.
Erik introduced himself in an attempt to calm her down, but she stepped back again. Her eyes examined the tops of her toes.
“Where are your shoes?” Erik asked.
“I… don’t own any… shoes?” she answered.
“Oh! We have plenty at home. I can get you a pair!”
He turned to run back to the house, but when the wind blew, he heard a soft song. His focus went back to the tree, but she was gone.
He came back every day after, but it was a week before she returned. They talked for what seemed like hours before the wind hummed, and she was gone all over again.
She told him how she liked the sun and shiny things. Her home was cold and dark all of the time, so he set to making the trinkets of his enchanted grove. Her visits became more frequent, and soon she was willing to even look at him in the eyes. Her blue-green gaze pierced his. He was ten, but he knew he was in love.
He sits on the tree facing the lake. The door of ivy blows in the wind, and he hears the whisper again. The hum grows in his mind, and for a moment, he turns to look at the lake. The normally still water ripples into a heart. Without even realising it, he moves toward the lake. The heart expands, and another takes its place. The hum turns to a song, and he is certain that with each note he can almost hear the words of it.
Behind him, Merina cries out to him. She stands in the doorway of his miniature garden, her hands grabbing his. Her words are lost in the song.
His focus remains on the water. He pulls his hand away and continues his walk. His ears are filled with the sound of the melody.
Merina jumps in front of him. Her bright eyes pierce his, but still he keeps walking.
His feet reach the water’s edge, and he slips off his shoes.
The song reaches crescendo, and he can hear the words at last.
“Come to the water, come to the bottom,” the voice echoed. Every note reminded him of Merina. “One thousand leagues to me.”
He steps forward, and his feet touch the water. Cold fills him from head to toe, and he falls forward into the lake. A rush of sound speeds past him. He hears his mother running and screaming behind him and realises he didn’t say goodbye. He hears the rush of water as if caught in the surf. The water pulls him down to the bottom in a whirlpool.
Then he hears Merina. He feels her hands on his face, the touch of her lips on his, and the cry in her voice.
“I love you,” he says.
“You dolt!” she says. “Why couldn’t you say that on the surface? I could have stayed! My mother tricked you. Mermen aren’t born… they’re taken …Now you’re trapped here.”
He blinks and realises he can understand her. That feeling of encroaching death diminishes, and he turns his head to see fins where his feet and legs had been.
“We’re both trapped here,” Merina sighs.