“Once upon a time, there was a mermaid. She used to always sing with her sisters, and it was by far the most beautiful sound she had ever heard.”
Once upon a time, there was a mermaid. She used to always sing with her sisters, and it was by far the most beautiful sound she had ever heard. She missed hearing and singing with them a lot. She had six sisters.
A half-bald man had a stepdaughter who became a “sister” with the mermaids because she so badly wanted to get away from her stepfather. He was mean and cruel and hated his stepdaughter and the mermaids more than anything else, and he hated a whole lot of things.
He hated the mermaids so much because his own stepdaughter left him to go to them. The half-bald man’s stepdaughter’s name was Charlotte, and she heard the most divine sound in her life — the seven mermaids singing that very moment. Charlotte, at that point, was thinking about her mother, who was presently on a seven-month business trip. When Charlotte heard the singing, she walked toward the ocean, which just happened to be right outside her house. Charlotte listened to the sounds of the mermaids and knew her stepdad wouldn’t understand to care to listen to them.
“Here.” Charlotte heard a thin and high-pitched voice. She turned and saw one mermaid, with six following behind her. For some strange reason, Charlotte was attracted to both their beauty and the thought that mermaids actually existed.
“Become one of us,” said the first mermaid.
“Grow into us,” said the second.
“Develop into us,” said the third.
“Turn into us,” said the fourth.
“Emerge as us,’’ said the fifth.
“Eventually be us,” said the sixth.
“Come to us,” said the seventh.
“Um, no offense, but you’re making this whole ‘come be us’ thing weird to the extreme,” said Charlotte.
“Sorry,” said the first.
“Regrets,” said the second.
“Apologies,” said the third.
“Remorse,” said the fourth. The fifth mermaid was about to say another synonym for ‘sorry,’ but Charlotte interrupted, “It’s okay. But why do you have to use a different word for everything you say?”
“It’s our thing,” said the first.
“Instinct,” said the second.
“Sixth sense,” said the third.
“Intuition,” said the fourth.
“Aptitude,” said the fifth.
“Impulse,” said the sixth.
“Inclination,” said the seventh.
“Please, one of you talk. I can barely understand what you’re saying, and if this is typed, it would be extremely long and tedious work for the typer. Agree?” said Charlotte.
“Yes,” said the first.
“Precisely,” said the second.
“Gladly,” said the third.
“Beyond a doubt,” said the fourth.
“Naturally,” said the fifth.
“Unquestionably,” said the sixth.
“Yep,” simply said the seventh.
“Okay, do not answer me. This is all too much for the typer. If I ask a question, one of you will get to answer me and explain what is happening.”
“Wait, someone’s recording what we’re saying?” said the first. “That’s awesome!”
“That’s amazing!” giggled the second.
“Psychoneurotically disturbing,” muttered the third.
“Sick!” exclaimed the fourth.
“Stop talking!” screamed Charlotte.”We need to find a way to settle this.”
“She’s triggered!” whispered-screamed the scared first.
“I swear, if any of you join in, I will lose it,” said a triggered Charlotte, trying so hard to stop them.
“One person,” started Charlotte, “I mean, mermaid, will explain everything to me. And there’s a lot I’m confused about. I don’t know how to choose though, because I realize how much you all love to talk.”
“Rock paper scissors!” exclaimed the first.
Charlotte agreed, and all seven mermaids played at the same time. The first mermaid beat the second, who was also beaten by the fifth and seventh who were both beaten by the sixth, who was beaten by the third and fourth, and the fourth beat the third who was beaten by the first. This was all very complex. Charlotte figured the first mermaid won.
“Okay, you are officially one of us mermaids. We can’t stay in such shallow water for much longer so come in with us,” said the first mermaid.
Charlotte dove in the water with the first mermaid and her sisters.
“Here, this may sound ridiculous, but trust me, if you use something of mine, like this pearl necklace, you will be able to breathe.”
Charlotte took the necklace and held it to her lips. It actually worked, but strangely Charlotte wasn’t surprised. That was probably because of the series of astonishing events that had just happened.
Emma didn’t mention the fact that whoever wore the necklace would transform into a mermaid, but Charlotte found out soon enough. In Charlotte’s eyes, everything turned black for a nanosecond. Charlotte’s eyes weren’t closed, but soon the faze stopped. She looked down and didn’t know what to think. I mean, she put on a pearl necklace and now looked exactly like Emma and her sisters. I don’t exactly have experience with that kind of situation either.
“Um, how do I turn back into… into myself?”
“Take off the necklace.”
Easy enough, I guess.
“So where do you sleep?” asked Charlotte.
“In a pineapple under the sea,” said the first mermaid, rolling her eyes.
“Really?’’ asked Charlotte.
“No, I’m not a sponge. I’ve heard it before, but don’t ask questions just yet. We don’t really sleep, only swim around, not exactly thinking at that moment. It’s really hard to explain.”
“What’s your name, anyway?” asked the first mermaid. “Mine’s Emma.”
“Charlotte. Charlotte Olivia Williams. What’s your last name?” asked Charlotte.
“Well, I don’t have a last name, or even a middle one. I can’t remember who my dad is or even if I have one. Did anyone ever mention you have the initials ‘COW’?” said Emma.
“Yes, I realized that. But everyone has a dad. Maybe not mermaids, though, as I’ve never even seen one before today,” said Charlotte.
“I’m not really sure, but we have more necessary things to talk about,” said Emma.
“Significant,” said the second.
“Crucial,” said the third.
“Relevant,” said the fourth.
“Essential,” said the fifth.
“Urgent,” said the sixth.
“Substantial,” said the seventh.
“You promised that you wouldn’t all talk at the same time!” cried Charlotte.
“As I was saying… ” started Emma.
“You were saying we had more important things to talk about. Here’s one. Why do you and your sisters always use a different synonym for every word?” asked Charlotte.
“That’s insignificant in comparison to what you really need to know,” said the third mermaid.
“Shut up,” said Emma.
I never knew that even mermaid sisters said “shut up” to each other. Anyway, Emma explained Charlotte’s question.
“Well, we’re so close that we used to say the same exact thing at the same exact time. So my sister, Sophie, the sixth one in line, thought we should think of other words while we’re talking in line and all use synonyms for every common word, so we don’t sound so ‘weird to the extreme’ like you mentioned earlier. We don’t get all that many chances to talk to other mermaids, much less humans, besides ourselves because both acquaintances are quite rare, so we take the chances we can get,” Emma explained.
“I’m sorry I said that. I’d like to see you guys tomorrow. What should I tell my stepdad I was doing? I’ll figure it out by the time I get home, in about seventeen seconds.”
But Charlotte’s stepdad did notice. Charlotte’s mom definitely would have noticed, if she wasn’t on a seven-month business trip. Charlotte’s stepdad noticed because every night Charlotte would leave to go to the ocean. He was horrified that anyone would prefer someone else more so than him. Even if it wasn’t a human. (That’s how ignorant he was.) He noticed her move her lips and go deeper into the ocean on Day One. Charlotte clearly never noticed his watching because she would have informed the other mermaids. Day One was the first day Charlotte saw the mermaids. That was 33 days ago.
Soon, Charlotte became good friends with each of the mermaids and memorized all their names. In the line in which Charlotte saw them on Day One their names were Emma, Grace, Hannah, Lily, Nora, Sophie, and Zoe. The seven mermaids had a thing with alphabetical order.
They all looked very similar, and each resembled her sister even more so than herself. I don’t know if that is physically possible, but it was true for them. All of them kind of had the same face, yet different color eyes, colored hair, and texture hair.
Charlotte came to the ocean and met the mermaids. She loved them more than anything. She asked to become one of the mermaids, as that was what the mermaids wanted her to do on Day One. But the mermaids regretted saying that because they thought she should stay with her own kind above the waves, because she should get used to not being around the mermaids so much. The mermaids didn’t want her to have a hard time in the real world and didn’t want her to become a sister with them, regardless of their love for her. It was because of what happened the last time they made a human girl a sister of theirs.
But then the mermaids learned that she was too sick without the care of the mermaids, and if she stayed with her cruel stepfather, she would surely die. They noticed her changes in behavior, like how she seemed to never want to leave the mermaids and knew she needed their help. And so the mermaids relented, and one night Charlotte joined them, and there were eight sisters. Charlotte loved being one of them, and she was no longer sad. The only reason she was sad was because she was without them. Pain can only be felt if experienced.
Charlotte soon realized that her stepfather was furious. He went out to the ocean with an extraordinarily large fishing net. He was an especially good swimmer, and he put his one and only talent to work. Of course, he didn’t hear the mermaids singing. Only people who really cared about the mermaids could hear them singing. Neither Charlotte nor the mermaids knew about the half-bald stepfather and his trying to murder mermaids, until Charlotte did, which was too late.
Before I go on, I suppose I should tell you several things about that ugly half-bald stepfather of Charlotte’s. The first thing is his name is Farley. Yeah, you heard it right. His name is Farley. That was part of the reason he was so evil, corrupt, unpleasant, cruel, vicious, bad, and downright ugly. I don’t think I had to use seven synonyms for the same kind of word, but I was kind of used to doing it because that’s one of the things the mermaids would say in line.
So when Farley (yes, Farley, get over it, I have to call him Farley too) first set out with the net, Charlotte quickly went over to the mermaids to warn them. But that was no help. Grace was long gone. (I think that was the most depressing sentence I’ve written so far besides “his name was Farley.”) Emma and her sisters realized that the seaweed beds and plentiful food were a trap from Farley, so they made sure to steer clear of them. Charlotte informed them to move to the colder, more dangerous waters where Farley (hopefully) wouldn’t find them. Unfortunately, the mermaids weren’t very lucky, and the results weren’t very hopeful. Charlotte had no idea how it happened, and she would soon find out, but about a month later, he had captured Hannah, Sophie, Lily, and Zoe. A week later Farley had Nora in his clutches. Emma and Charlotte were worried sick about the other mermaids and devastated, dismal, sorrowful, perimmistic, sympathetic, pitiful, and very, very, depressed. (Again with the seven synonyms for one word thing. I need to stop.)
Charlotte didn’t want to, but she had to. She bid Emma farewell.
Charlotte thought she knew where Farley was spending all his free time — at home, but it wasn’t there. Charlotte decided to follow Farley to wherever he was keeping the mermaids. In order to rescue them, she needed to know where they were, of course. From their house, Farley swam underwater until he reached a continuous dim and shady tunnel. There was an immense glass box filled with water where Lily and Hannah, the mermaids three and four, were in. Their vivid and innocent eyes shone with delight in hopes that Charlotte would be able to rescue them. Of course, they couldn’t talk, because Farley still hadn’t seen that Charlotte was right behind him, and Charlotte hoped he wouldn’t.
Charlotte saw the other tanks in front of her. She looked at the spiral staircase where viewers could go up and see the mermaids from there if it was too crowded, which of course had never happened before. There were a lot of ways to see the mermaids. For example, next to the risers above the staircase, one could sit on the reclining comfortable and large chairs.
Charlotte viewed the modern and comfortable looking aquarium. The well-lit room easily expressed the mermaids in a beautiful way. A soft and mellifluous voice echoed through the room.
“Charlotte, we’re here… ” the mermaids’ voices drifted off.
“We have so much to tell you!” the mermaids whisper-shouted at once.
Charlotte turned on the opposite side of the glass and walked under the glass arched tunnel where mermaids could swim inside. Charlotte could see Emma right beside her inside the glass. Charlotte didn’t know how to react or respond to Emma. She hadn’t seen her in months.
“I’ll find a way. I promise,” Charlotte declared.
“What we need most is a plan. We can discuss it after Farley leaves but please don’t talk, because I know how much you love to, and it can get way out of control.”
All the mermaids seemed extremely excited to speak for the first time in months.
“Okay,” said the first mermaid.
“All right,” replied the second.
“Permitted,” declared the third.
“Fine by me,” said the fourth.
“Approved,” replied the fifth.
“Tolerable,” said the sixth.
“Surely,” declared the seventh.
Charlotte tried to be sensitive about how the mermaids hadn’t spoken in such a long time and allowed them to talk as much as they did, but it became difficult for her to tolerate. Charlotte gritted her teeth while smiling. She attempted doing this a lot, and most times she didn’t realize how ridiculous she looked while doing it. It is, as one most likely knows, one of the most preposterous actions one can do.
“I have to find out more about Farley before I can help you, okay?” Charlotte said hastily.
Charlotte sprinted past the glass tunnel, tanks, and an unfinished kind of snack shack on the far left through an exit. She found another door with buttons for numbers locks, a keyboard, and switches. I know the drill by now, Charlotte thought confidently. She turned the handle and grinned as the door creaked open.
Charlotte was shocked by what she observed in the bright modern-looking corner of the room. A desk. No, not a desk, but what was on the desk. A laptop. Well, not that either. Charlotte didn’t find laptops that exciting and exotic. It was a progress report on Word on the screen. Charlotte didn’t find it shocking until she read it. Charlotte revised all the spelling and grammar mistakes and changed the font as she read the reports. She also interpreted it the best she could because it could be vague and difficult to read. After revisions, it read:
Progress Report #1 4/7
I captured the mermaids today. Two of them. They all look the same so I can’t tell which one is which, though. I only realized that there were mermaids today anyway. I was wondering why Charlotte was spending so much time in the ocean. She appeared to be talking, also. I thought maybe she had gone insane, like me.
So I thought there was something in there. I decided to look. I couldn’t find anything at first. But I began to discover, little by little, more about mermaids. They like to rest near beds of seaweed. They love coral and live near it. They also can’t stand to be away from fish and all sea creatures and their sisters. I made all of these things they like happen. And they were baited.
My plan had worked, and I was so proud! And I found a few things in Charlotte’s room. She had journal entries describing what she had learned about the mermaids, which also helped me grasp the knowledge. I figured out that mermaids only present themselves to little girls, so this was going to be more difficult than I thought. The mermaids had given Charlotte the gift of being able to transform into a mermaid whenever she wanted.
Anyway, I baited the mermaids. I knew that the best time to capture them was when Charlotte and the mermaids were talking together. The mermaids were so close to me, I felt the urge to just snatch them.
I don’t know why.
Now Charlotte just wanted to hurl the laptop against the wall. She wasn’t even editing the report that much. She knew that it was important, in order to see change, to not edit. By the end, it didn’t even sound like Farley anymore. But it was. She continued reading. Barely even editing. Regardless, back to the report:
I grabbed my fishing net and tugged it underwater. I scooped up the mermaids with the net. Mermaids #1 and 2 were light and easy to pull. I had already created the tanks. On the bottom ocean floor, I created a path of stones to the tanks. After following the stones for a long time, I reached a small, round red door. But when the door opened, water wouldn’t gush in, either. I don’t know how it works, it just another thing that’s magical I discovered.
I repeated this process several times, until there were no more mermaids seen. They tried, they tried, they tried to escape but it didn’t work. NO. Nothing worked for them. They were emotionally hurt, vulnerable and I just mindlessly took them away, out of a place where they were once so happy…
She pressed her head against the keyboard as she struggled to think up a plan. A plan that would work. But she couldn’t think here. The perfect corners in the room seemed to be limiting her imagination.
But the gears in her brain began to turn as she gathered all her information and researched more. At first, Charlotte thought it wasn’t complicated at all.
“All I have to do to rescue you,” Charlotte started explaining, “is come to the aquarium at a time where Farley isn’t, smash the glass tanks, and bring you right back into the ocean. Then all will be settled, and we’ll live happily together. I know it has to be more complicated than that because everything looks easier on the surface than it actually is.”
Charlotte was used to hearing that response. Emma knew everything Charlotte knew.
“I mean, I feel, like you, as if nothing will work, and my sisters and I will be worse off than now,” Emma added.
If a mermaid shuts down your idea to save their life, well, let’s just say you need another plan. Mermaids are known for some awful lies like taking sailors to the bottom of the sea and drowning them in the process, but you won’t hear about a pessimistic mermaid. Like, ever.
Charlotte wasn’t about to waste her time reading another progress report or research any longer. Now, she was onto doing.
“It’s now or never,” Charlotte began, “I’ll rescue you now, or never. It’s simple. Either it happens or it doesn’t. Farley’s gone, but soon he’ll have security guards. My mom’s gone now, but in a few days? She’ll just have to know about you. And some things are just easier not to have to explain. So is this what you want? To stay here forever and never had tried to escape? Do you want to feel hopeless for the rest of your life? If we do get caught, what’s the worst thing that could happen? Farley’s an idiot, but not idiot enough to have you killed. He realizes how important you are. If we wait any longer, the whole world will know about you. Do you want that to happen? You know what? I’m going to try, no matter what you say about it. I don’t care if it doesn’t work. I don’t care if you don’t want to risk it. I’m doing it for you.”
“I didn’t predict that that was going to come out of your mouth,” Emma admitted. “And I’m sorry for what I said.”
“Also, your mother would completely understand years ago, but not anymore. What I need to tell you is that the mermaid who abandoned us years and years ago is uh, well, there’s no easy way to say this. She’s your mother,” said Emma.
Soon, all the mermaids emerged into Charlotte’s sight next to the transparent tunnel.
“We detect regret,” Grace announced. “That doesn’t exactly happen frequently to us.”
“What’s the matter? My sixth sense has been off all day,” said another.
“I told Emma my true feelings, and I want to rescue you, if you’re down for it or not,” Charlotte explained.
The sisters smiled sadly and for once, in unison said, “My beautiful, brave girl. Even though you’ll free us now anyway, we’re down for it.”
The mermaids watched as Charlotte vanished away to Farley’s headquarters. The doors were all created with those pulleys, codes, and combinations, and all had the same way to unlock them. The top-secret room with the most valuable items was located in one of the most genius and basic ways possible. It was located from the tanks in the rudiment of a paradiddle. I don’t even know how Charlotte knew to find it this way. My guess is that she had way too much experience in locating things by now. Anyway, she took the exits in the order of right-left-right-right, then looked for the room. It wasn’t there. Then she took the opposite paradiddle – left-right-left-left. She found a small round red door with the same pulleys, codes, and combinations. Charlotte smiled as she turned the doorknob open, but she wasn’t grinning anymore when she heard a blaring alarm go off.
Farley probably only created this alarm because he realized if anyone was smart enough to get into the building and figure out the order to finding the most valuable room in the building, they are most likely something along the lines of psychoneurotically disturbed.
Charlotte’s mouth dropped open at the sound. She looked inside the room and saw that there was nothing at all in the room besides a fishing net. It wasn’t valuable, but was all she needed at this point to free her sisters.
Charlotte had never run so quickly in her life as she had that day. Nothing mattered right now besides the mermaids, and it was her job to save them.
The fishing net trailed behind Charlotte as she struggled to remember which turns she had made. She found herself in the wrong place several times, and was not merely nervous about it. She was completely anxious. Nervous and anxious are two very, very different words. I’m joking. I’m not going to explain something to you that you already know at a time like this. Also, I have no desire to be educational. You are probably one of those two while reading this — nervous or anxious. If I were reading this instead of writing it, I wouldn’t be nervous or anxious because I would have no control over what was written. I know, I know. No one asked me.
Charlotte was anxious because she had complete control over what would happen. But she wasn’t feeling or thinking as she gripped the fishing net harder and sprinted faster. Trial and error, she thought. She wasn’t doing trial and error, but thinking about the paradiddle. She thought about how the mermaids needed her desperately. She thought about how it was it her fault if she didn’t succeed. And the alarm was still going off. Charlotte grit her teeth, and, eventually, out of sheer willpower, got back to the mermaids.
Charlotte sprinted past the mermaids. She opened the entrance to underground, as it was the easiest and fastest escape route. Charlotte first followed the path she had taken to get to the aquarium following Farley to make sure that it would lead her to the ocean. As she darted along, she noticed a perfectly ordinary, barely noticeable, heavy rusted door.
The door creaked as Charlotte pushed it open.
She took in the briny sea air and observed the vast and turbulent body of water in front of her. Her eyes lit up at the thought of rescuing her sisters.
Charlotte knew that she had an opportunity, and she had to take it right away or else she’d never be able to save the mermaids. Eventually she’d forget about them and if not forget, she wouldn’t care about them anymore. The mermaids told her that. When they had made one other girl with them, the new sisters weren’t faithful to their promise — to never forget about her sisters and always help them through tough times. “It was one,” Emma told Charlotte months before. “We were sad for so long, and we tried to forget her but we couldn’t. We promised not to forget her even if she forgot us, but it was so, so hard to get past the thought that she would abandon us that way.”
Charlotte had always wondered why they spoke about her so frequently. It was about her connection to her mom. The mermaids had always hinted at it but never had gotten into detail. Charlotte wondered why her mom abandoned the mermaids — her guess was that it was because of Farley, her work, Charlotte, and mostly the whole scheme of things.
Charlotte left the small iron door open as she ran toward the mermaids’ tanks. She spotted all of them fluttering around anxiously in the tall water.
“I have an escape plan!” Charlotte declared.
Of course, for any sea creature to survive in captivity, over the tank there must be an opening. If the glass is hacked away with an axe, it will all shatter, and the mermaids will not be able to survive without water. They can survive without water for about 30 seconds, at most. It’s not like how humans can stay underwater for about two minutes for mermaids.
“I have something to tell you, even though it may seem ridiculous,” Zoe, the last mermaid said. “Because I’m last in everything I wanted to tell you this: Us mermaids can live above water for as long as we want if we are holding the seashell we had given you way back. It works for mermaids on land as it does for humans on water. Do you still have it?”
Charlotte undid a hook-latch in her neck and showed the seashell necklace to Zoe. “Tonight you’ll be the first one saved,” Charlotte said.
With that, Charlotte vaulted, grasping the fishing net, up to the top of the tank. She gripped the top end of the glass with her right hand. Pain surged through her body, but Charlotte was willing to experience pain for the mermaids. Charlotte dropped the fishing net, and Zoe got in, while swimming to the top of the tank. She pulled herself over and plummeted into Charlotte’s arms. Charlotte quickly put the pearl necklace around Zoe and placed her on the ground. If it weren’t for the necklace, there would probably be no other way for the mermaids to be set free.
Charlotte and Zoe didn’t at all talk the whole way, except when Charlotte asked about 20 times in five minutes if she was breathing all right. She was so worried about Zoe that she nearly missed the open exit. Charlotte finally reached the opened door. There was a very short walkway outside it. Charlotte ran onto it and dropped Zoe into the water, already inches away.
Charlotte repeated this process with Sophie, and she joined Zoe in waiting for the rest of the mermaids. The process was then repeated five more times.
When Emma and all the sisters were freed, Charlotte joined the mermaids, bright-colored fish tails shimmering in the dark and deep sea.
Even though they had their differences and an entire world that set them apart, the eight sisters would never forget each other, because they were sisters no matter what.
Farley notices the mermaids gone, and now realizes that it’s better that way. He was wrong, and like most bad things, misunderstood. Regardless, Charlotte’s mother realizes the truth about him.
At 40 years of age, Charlotte continues to visit the mermaids daily. She has a daughter who learns about the mermaids and how her mother saved them. She eventually becomes a mermaid, too.