tales for dreamers: a mermaid stranded on the beach in winter

If you see a mermaid washed up on the beach in the dead of winter, would the sight fill you with concern? Or fear?

tales for dreamers: a mermaid stranded on the beach in winter
tales for dreamers: a mermaid stranded on the beach in winter

She’s washed up on the shore like a ragged doll. That’s what she appears like from a distance.

It is not the season for mermaids, you remember, and that fills you with concern for her.

As you approach, you see she’s clothed in winter gear, as though whoever or whatever plucked her out of the ocean had been thoughtful enough to make sure she didn’t freeze to her death on the beach.

“Where did you come from?” you ask her.

“From the ocean,” she whispers, her voice a strange underwater sound that makes you feel as if you’re in a dream.

“Would you like to return?” you ask.

She tries to nod but it is too much effort. “Yes,” she croaks. And then she says something else too but her voice is garbled and feeble and you have to lean in closer to try and catch her words.

It occurs to you that she might be a being of magic and it may do you no good to stray too close to her. She could easily reach out and snatch your heart or, worse, your soul. Still, you don’t let that stop you from trying to help her. Sometimes, your kindness is your own undoing.

But she does nothing of that sort. She’s touched by your concern. So she pulls herself up a little and makes an effort to speak as loud and clearly as she can manage. “B.. b.. but … I can’t … I can’t make … the j.. j.. journey … alone,” she says at last, then falls back on the sand, the last ounce of energy slipping away from her like a spent wave being dragged away from the shore.

You look around. There are no other witnesses to this conversation. You look back at her. This little creature from the ocean, so out of place on the shore and in human garb.

There is only one thing to be done. You take off your boots and socks. You slip out of your winter gear and drop it on the sand. A little clue, should anyone ever come looking for you.

You change into your diving suit, the one you always carry with you no matter the season. Then you scoop her into your arms; she weighs no more than a newborn.

And without hesitation, you walk into the freezing waters with her, determined to find a way to her home.

Often, your kindness is your own undoing.

*Image attribution: A rare public image of little D when he was five years old