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Artemesia

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The Angel Island Ferry cut the surface of the water like a scar, splitting the crystal clear surface. I stood at the flat prow,
my chestnut colored hair blowing in the wind. My aquamarine eyes flashed in the sun. It was summer, and I was working on my family’s ferry for a little extra cash. It was a most serene setting, what with the Golden Gate Bridge to my right and Angel Island looming in front of me.
The serene setting was abruptly changed by a SPLASH!
I rushed down the steep steps to the first deck, then to the emergency exit. Some boys about my age were standing by the open door, looking guilty.
“What happened?” I roared.
“Uh, Ben, um, jumped in,” one guy mumbled, head down.
I groaned. Then I acted fast, and removed my shoes, socks, and wallet, tied a life ring to my ankle, and dove off the boat.
The water hit me like an electric shock, but by now, after my many rescues, my body was used to it. I started my fastest freestyle towards the stupid guy. The life ring tugged at my ankle, but I pulled harder and further with my arms, and my muscles did their job.

When I got to the guy, he was huffing and puffing and barely staying afloat. I gave him the life ring and he hung on to it for dear life. By now, the ferry had stopped and deployed a life boat.
Suddenly, my legs hurt. Not just a cramp or anything.
They REALLY hurt. Bad. After a couple seconds, I couldn’t even feel them anymore. Then the tingling began. All up and down my thighs, calfs, feet and toes. I tried to bring on leg up to massage it, as I had been instructed to do in a water rescue class I took, but I couldn’t move it away from the other leg.
Frantically, I looked down, and what I saw is something I would remember for the rest of my life.

In place of my two legs, there was one shimmering, blue tail.
A mermaid tail. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I looked over at the guy, Ben, and saw that he was looking at my tail too.
“Do you see a tail?” I asked, cautiously. He nodded.
“Look, you can’t tell anyone about this. I’ll figure something out. But you can’t tell anyone, you hear?” He nodded again, his eyes still on my tail.
In the time this amazing metamorphosis had happened, the life boat had come up to us.
“Um, Dad? When I dove in, my shorts came off. Can I have a towel?”
“Uh, sure honey.” He threw me a towel, and I wrapped it around my tail, silently thanking Mom for always putting extra big towels in the life boat. I pulled myself into the boat, trying not to make my tail flop too much.
It may seem to you like I was totally calm, which I was on the outside, but on the inside, it was total chaos. I was flipping out, wondering why this had happened and at the same time trying to figure out what to do.

Despite my inner chaos, I calmly sat on the bench, feeling awkward with my tail. My inner chaos was unnecessary, though, because halfway through the trip back to the ferry, my tail transformed back into my own two strong legs.
The rest of that day I avoided the water, making sure not to get even slightly wet. I had a plan though, and I was going to carry it out that night.

The night of the transformation, I woke up at midnight. Dad was asleep. Mom’s light was already out, too. They always got tired after a day of working on the ferry. It was easy to sneak out of the house, what with Dad’s snoring hiding any noises I made.
I pulled on a bathing suit and a jacket. Then I opened my window, grimacing when it squeaked. I popped the screen out, put my leg over the sill, and reached for the vine trellis. I knew it was safe because I had strengthened it. Using the excuse that it flapped against the house on windy days, I screwed the trellis into the siding, making it able to support me.
I climbed down the trellis, jumped down and landed as softly as a cat. I had such light feet because I had sneaked around many times, and jumped many times from trellises. But as to why, that’s a totally different story.

I made my way silently down to the docks, where we kept our private boats. I wasn’t looking forward to swimming in that murky water, but it was all I had to work with. I was hoping that I could swim farther out and thus out of the bad water.
When I got to the docks, I had second thoughts. It was really freaky, being there at night. I had only ever seen it at day time. The sail boats’ poles were clanking, the water was rushing, the dock walkways were creaking, the seagulls were calling, and I was about to run home to my mommy. But I gathered my courage, took my jacket off, and dove into the frigid water.
This time, instead of feeling like an electric shock, the water felt like a soft, warm blanket enfolding me. I surfaced, and looked around. I saw nobody. I started swimming out. I passed the docks, and then the little light buoy, and still nothing happened. I was almost ready to go back when the tingling started. This time I was ready. I braced myself, and then when it finished I looked down, and there it was again! My tail! I had always liked mermaids, and deep down, somewhere in me, I had always wanted to be one. And now I was one!

I swam in little circles. I swam right. I swam left. My tail was so strong, I didn’t even have to use my arms! I dove under, and according to my watch, I stayed under for ten whole minutes, without even getting a breath! I could breath underwater!
I was so ecstatic, I didn’t even hear the splash, until I felt the ripples from it on my now finely tuned skin. I had drifted quite close to the docks, and now I saw that there was a head bobbing in the water, coming closer to me.
I couldn’t let anyone see my tail! I started to dive, but before I could, the head shouted:
“Stop! Please! It’s me, Ben, remember?” Of course I remembered him, but that didn’t mean that I wanted to see him. I swam over to him anyway.

“What are you doing in the water? You’ll freeze to death, and then I’ll have to save you again!”
“I knew you would come here to swim, so I hid on the ferry and rode back instead of staying on Angel Island,” he said, a little cautiously. He was serious. He didn’t just want a picture of me,
he actually wanted to share my secret.
“What about your parents and the rest of your group? Won’t they wonder where you are?”
“I don’t have any parents, and the adults won’t notice that I’m gone until they come back and do a head count. By then I’ll be back and they won’t even have noticed that I was gone.”
“Oh.” I couldn’t think of much else to say.
“What did you say your name was?”
“I didn’t say. But my name is Clementine,” I told him, a bit reluctantly. And then I noticed that he wasn’t shivering or even slightly blue. Then I looked at his legs, and I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. Almost.
“You’re a mermaid too? How can it be?!?”
“I don’t know. I dove in just now and then I wondered why I wasn’t cold. I looked down, and I saw it.”
I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t even know if I was happy or sad. Then everything went black.

When I woke up from my faint, I was laying on the sand by the docks. My tail was gone. Ben was sitting on the rocks above me, his tail gone too. I sat up, and looked around. My watch said it was three o’clock in the morning. People would start coming to the docks soon. I had to get back home.
“Ben!” He came down from the rocks.
“Where are you going to sleep tonight?”
“Oh, I don’t know, on a bench close to the ferry terminal so I can be there when my group comes back from the island.”
“You can come to my house, but you have to sleep in the treehouse.” I didn’t know why I said that, I just felt like I had to.
We walked back to my house, and I showed him to my treehouse, and told him to stay there until I got him. Then on cat’s feet I crept back to the vine trellis and climbed into my room. I changed, and fell onto my bed where I went out like a light.

The next morning, I was awakened by the lovely aroma of my dad’s Belgian waffles. I got up, and scribbled a note explaining what was going on-I lied, of course. I said that I needed time to myself and that they could find me around Angel Island. I was always doing things like this, so I knew that my parents wouldn’t worry. Then I remembered Ben, and got dressed and went downstairs.
“Good morning Dad. I’m gonna take a couple waffles and head out. I’m going to go to Main St. and window shop with some friends. Bye!” I gushed, before he could even answer. I pretended like I was getting my bike, but instead I ran over to the treehouse, called Ben, and then we both rushed to the docks.
Ben went over to a bench and sat down.
“What are you doing? We have to do something! We can’t just sit around!” I fumed. Then I marched all the way to my family’s boat and untied it. I started the engine, and turned it towards Angel Island.

I cut the engine. I was in a small, secluded cove on Angel Island.
I set the anchor, making sure that it stuck. Then I took off my clothes and dove off the small boat, setting it to rocking.
The tingling started this time as soon as I was fully submerged in water. When it stopped, there was my sparkling, deep blue tail.
I gazed at it for a moment before I dove under the surface.
I had a mission. It was going to find other mermaids and mermen. And I would not quit until that mission was successful. No matter how far it took me from home, or what dangers I had to brave, I would succeed.
With that brave note, I started swimming into the bay. At first,
I didn’t quite know what to look for, but as I swam, I thought.
I figured that anything from mermaids would look a little out of place. So with my newly sharp mermaid eyes, I looked. I swam under the Golden Gate Bridge, looking at the famous, massive structure from a different angle than usual. I saw Mount Tamalpais, the top shrouded in clouds. Then I headed out of the secure San Francisco Bay. The moment I left the bay, I felt a change in the waters. It felt more hostile, but it also felt more free. It gave me hope that I would get to my goal.

I was tiring, though. I needed to stop. But where could I rest?
If I hauled up on a beach, then someone might see me. I didn’t know what to do. My tears mixed with the salty water, and somewhere on the ocean floor they turned into pearls.
Without any warning, something bumped me from behind.
I spun around, but nothing was there. Before I could even start to wonder what had bumped me, I was bumped from the back again. This time, though, I didn’t spin around. I waited, staying as still as I could.
Then out from behind me, a bottle nose dolphin swam into my view.  
“Well, hello there, little dolphin. You’re a sight for lonely eyes.” The dolphin made a clicking sound, and then swam off a little ways. I didn’t know what it wanted, but I didn’t want to lose it either, so I made my tired tail paddle after it. I decided that it needed a name, so I named it Aurelia.
After a while of this tag, my tail started to feel heavy. After a little longer, it felt like lead. Literally.
“Aurelia! I can’t go any farther!” Already I was slowly sinking in the water. Aurelia doubled back and moved her dorsal fin under my hand. I understood, and took a firm grip on her fin.
She flicked her tail and we zoomed off.
I was so tired that I closed my eyes, putting all my trust in Aurelia and her strong tail.

When I opened my eyes, I almost thought I was dreaming,
but then Aurelia jostled my shoulder, and I knew it was real.
What I saw was breathtakingly beautiful and gloriously gigantic. It was a mer city.  
There were mermaids swimming everywhere, swimming fast, swimming slow, swimming up, and swimming down. Swimming into buildings, swimming out of buildings, and swimming through windows. There were mermaids and mermen with blue tails, purple tails, green tails, pink, orange, red, yellow, black, and any other color that I could think of.  It was amazing.
Aurelia bumped me out of my daze, and led me away from the bench I had been sitting on. She led me down the mermaid streets, to the biggest building that I could see all around.
We came to big double doors, with two huge seahorses posted on each side. They nodded their heads to Aurelia and opened the doors. We swam into a large hall, where Aurelia stopped in front of two even larger double doors. Two big seahorses were again posted on either side, and again they nodded to Aurelia and opened the doors.

Behind the doors were two thrones made out of seashells, coral, sea stars, rocks, and lots of multicolored sand, one smaller than the other. Atop the bigger throne sat a very muscular merman. On his perfectly combed red hair sat a golden crown with a ruby in the middle. Grey eyes like storms inspected me, making me improve my posture. His tail was a blood red. He had a three pronged stick in his hand. He sat with an air of authority, his head held high, and his posture perfect.
Next to him sat a mermaid, obviously his queen. She was the most beautiful being I had ever seen, mermaid or human.
Her hair was a perfect blond, flowing with the waters in the room. Her soft blue eyes looked at me kindly. Her skin was pearly and flawless. She had two teal shells as a top, woven with seaweed. The Queen’s belly was round, and she was obviously going to have a baby soon. Her tail was not one color, but instead shimmered all the colors of the rainbow, constantly changing. Her posture was perfect too, although she did not have that same air of authority that the King had. Rather, she had an air of uneasiness about her.

Aurelia bowed, and I took her lead and did the same, hoping I was doing it right. When I came up from my bow, I saw that there was a smile flickering on the Queen’s face.
“Child, I welcome you to Kingdom of Aquaria. What is your name?” The King looked at me expectantly.
“M-my name is Clementine, Your Majesty. I turned into a mermaid for some weird reason, and I went off in search of more mermaids,” I answered, nervously.
“Tell me more, Clementine, and perhaps I can help you.”
So I told him. He sat there, regally, on his throne and listened to my story. Then he said:
“I know what happened to you, my child. Since you have done so many good deeds, the Sea has decided to change you into one of it’s servants; mermaids. You will be a mermaid your whole life,
so guard your secret carefully. Does anyone else know about this?”
“There was this boy I saved when it happened, and he saw it.
Then when he was looking for me, he turned into a mermaid too.” The King’s tan face became a shade darker. Then he banged his trident on the floor. Immediately, a blond mermaid, not much younger than me, hastened to the King’s side. The King whispered something to the mermaid, and then the mermaid scurried away again. 
“I must tell you something, and it may be a little disturbing.
But you have to be strong, because all of Aquaria’s people depend on you. There is a sea monster called Maxim Metu, and he plagues our city. He is a giant squid, believe it or not, and he has taken many merpeople and eaten them. I am telling you this because there is a prophecy that states that a human girl, changed into a mermaid, that can turn other humans into mermaids,
will save Aquaria. How you will do it, I do not know. All I know is that you must. Now you will have to stay -”
He was interrupted by the big double doors opening and a merboy being shoved into the room.
The boy was Ben. Just when I thought I had gotten rid of him,
he found me again. ARGHHHH!! He looked at me frantically, then swam quickly to my side.

“What are you doing here? What happened? Are they trying to hurt you?” His green eyes glowed with nervous fright. He looked so sincere I had to laugh. Then I explained to him what the King had said, and about the Maxim Metu problem.
He just stood there, his black hair waving back and forth in the current, looking at me in awe.
“So, um, what are WE going to do about this, huh? We’re two kids.”
“I don’t know, Ben. All I know is that we have been made Servants of the Sea, and we have to serve her.” I looked at him, resolved in my actions, then turned to the King. I bowed. He nodded his head at me, then banged his trident on the floor. The young mermaid came in promptly.
“Take these children to a room in the palace, and make sure they have something to eat.” The mermaid nodded, then motioned for us to follow her. But I wasn’t done talking with the King yet.
“Your Majesty, you will release us after I have accomplished your task, will you not?” Through some mysterious way, I had regained my usual confidence. I stared him square in the eyes, unblinking. His grey eyes stared back into mine, and he slowly nodded.
“Say it. Say you will let us go.”
“I give you my word that I will let you both free after you have solved the problem.” With those words ringing in my head I followed the King’s servant out of the throne room.

When I woke up, I didn’t know where I was. Then it all came back to me; my tail, the journey to Aquaria, the King and his deal, Maxim Metu. Maxim Metu! What was I going to do about him?
I got up, opened the door, and smacked into the back of a turtle shell.
“OW! What’s the big idea?” I yelled at the shell. The shell turned around and revealed a tall merman frowning down on me.
My confidence instantly vanished, and I cowered.
“Sorry?” I murmured, nervously. Then the guard bursted out laughing.
“I love it when people do that! It cracks me up!” I scowled at him, but his laughing was contagious, so I laughed along with him.
“Could you show me where Ben is? I need to talk to him.”
“Sure. Follow me.” He led me a couple rooms over. I thanked him, and then he said:
“If you ever need any help, just ask for Tullock, and I’ll come a swimmin’!” He gave me a goofy smile and swam off down the corridor.
I knocked on Ben’s door and he opened it immediately. He pulled me in and then quickly shut the door. I shook myself free of him, and frowned.
“What is the matter with you?” I asked him, frustrated.
“This place doesn’t feel right. I don’t trust that King. I think he’s going to lay one over on us.”
“The King gave us his word, in front of the Queen and his servant. He wouldn’t lie.”
“How do you know? You don’t even know him!” In the midst of our arguing, there was a knock on the door. We were silenced immediately. We held our breaths as the door slowly opened.
A blond head peered around the door. It was the King’s servant. She came in the room, bearing a tray with an assortment of seafood. A smile was pasted on her mouth, but the rest of her face was dark and sad. Her beautiful sea green eyes were red and puffy from crying, and there was a deep sadness in them.

“I’ve brought you some food. I hope you like it.” She turned to leave, but I stopped her.
“Why do you look so sad? Is there anything I can do for you?”
“Yes, there is! Overthrow the King!” The second those words had come out, she clamped her hands over her mouth and started sobbing. I stared at her. My head was spinning.
“See, I told you! The King can’t be trusted! I knew it!” Ben exclaimed. I gave him an icy look, then turned my attention towards the crying mermaid.
“What can you tell us about the King? And what about Maxim Metu?” The mermaid took a deep breath, and began her story.

She told us her name was Celia and she was the Queen’s daughter. Her real father had died. He had been a good and just ruler.
She thought the current King, Orlando, had poisoned her father so that he could rule. Orlando had then married the Queen against her will, and made Celia be his servant. If it weren’t for the Queen being a seer, Orlando would have had both Celia and her mother banished from the kingdom. The people hated Orlando, but he didn’t care. All he cared about was being in control of Aquaria and it’s people. There was no Maxim Metu, as far as she had heard.
“Why is the King holding us prisoner then? And why did he lie to me about Maxim Metu and the prophecy?” My head was really spinning now, full of questions that had no answers.
“I don’t know why the King is holding you, but I do know that there is such a prophecy like the one the Orlando told you about,” Celia answered. “Please do something! My mother is about to have my father’s baby, and Orlando makes her see into the future a lot. It drains her energy, and I’m really worried about her.
Oh, I’m so afraid!” With that Celia burst into sobs again.
This time I took her in my arms and tried to soothe her.
After she had settled down a bit, I thanked her and told her not to tell anyone that we knew these things. She left the room in a hurry.

I didn’t know what to think about all the things Celia had told us. I sat on Ben’s bed. In my head, wheels were turning. I let them turn and turn and turn until it was somewhat orderly up there. Then I stood up suddenly.
“I know why the King is holding me! He thinks I have some kind of power, and he wants to control it. Well, I’ll show him that I have power!” I stormed to the door, but Ben grabbed me before I could open it.
“Have you gone completely insane? What are you going to do? Orlando is a crazy king, and we’re two half-mers!”
“Weren’t you listening to what Celia was saying? The merpeople detest the King, and they’ll help us rebel against him! I can’t back out now! And besides, there’s a prophecy about me saving Aquaria, so I have to do it, wether I want to or not!” I shook him off and swam quickly out into the corridor. Ben followed me, reluctantly.
“So, what’s your plan?” he asked, quietly.
“First we’re going to find Tullock, and have him sneak us out of the palace. Then we’ll see what happens next.” I have to admit,
I didn’t really have a plan, but I couldn’t let Ben know that.
We found Tullock at the end of the corridor, snoozing while on duty. We woke him up, and I told him what we planned to do, somehow sensing that I could trust him. He pondered for a moment, then told us that even if all the merpeople and the whole army turned against the King, they wouldn’t be able to overthrow him because of his trident. It had a lot of power, and without it, the King was nothing.
So now I knew what we had to do. We had to steal the trident.
Tullock led us to the kitchen, which was off to the side of the throne room.

“The king is in the throne room, and he has his trident with him. I don’t know how you’ll get it away from him.” Tullock was looking puzzled, but I had an idea.
“Tullock, you walk in behind us when we go in, pretending to not know us and just be our guard. Then I will-well, we’ll see what happens next.” With that I swam into the throne room before I lost my courage. Ben was right next to me, and as we swam in front of the King, he grabbed my hand. I stared at the King. Then, a voice started talking. It took me a moment to realize that it was my own. I  had never sounded so sure and confident.
“You have been a cruel king, not caring about the people, only thinking about your own power.” Something had come over me,
a cool calm that made me rise higher in the water. In spite of all my new-found confidence, the next words that came out of my mouth surprised even me.
“You are not fit to be king. You are not fit to have something as powerful as the Trident.” I opened my hand, and to my astonishment, the all-powerful Trident glided into my outstretched palm.
The king sat on his throne with his jaw hanging. His authoritative air was gone, replaced with that of fright. His grey eyes were no longer storms, but watery puddles. He sat hunched together on his throne, cowering, awaiting his fate. I pointed the Trident at him.
“Give him what he deserves, and banish him forever from this kingdom. Give the Queen and Celia their rightful places back,
and restore all that was stolen from the good people of Aquaria. Protect this and all mer kingdoms forever. When all is finished, hide yourself in the most remote place of the Seven Seas, a place no one will ever find you.”

With those last words, a bright light filled the room, blinding me.
I averted my eyes, and when I opened them, in the former king’s place swam a small clownfish. The Trident had vanished, and on the king’s throne sat the Queen, looking relieved and happy.
On her head sat the same crown the king had worn, but a stone that shimmered with all the colors of the rainbow replaced the blood-red ruby. Celia sat on the smaller throne, an equally beautiful crown resting atop her blond tresses. Instead of eyes swollen from crying, her eyes glowed with joy.
She rushed over to me and hugged me with all her might.
“Thank you, Clementine. You have truly fulfilled the prophecy, but you’ve done even more than that. You made our kingdom happy again!” Celia was fairly bursting with excitement, and so were all the other people in the room. They were all shouting and jumping and laughing.
“I think it’s time to go, Ben.” I swam out of the room, which was quickly filling up with celebrating merpeople. Ben followed me.
Just as we reached the door, Celia swam up to me.
“Where are you going? Aren’t you going to stay for the feast? You’ll be a heroine, and will be treated so for the rest of your life! Don’t you want to stay?”
“I thank you for the offer, but I have a family too. Don’t worry though, you’ll see more of me, I promise.” I hugged her again and swam out the first double door. By the time I got to the second double door, I had gone through at least twenty handshakes.
I went out, and with Ben on my heels, er, fin, swam the whole rest of the way back to Angel Island.

My head broke the surface of the water, and I saw the boat a little ways off. The sky was blue, the water was perfect, and the sun was shining. A beautiful day. I started swimming towards the boat,
but Ben stopped me. Before I could say anything, he kissed me, full on the lips. His hair brushed my forehead, and my hair fell around his shoulders. It wasn’t at all how I had imagined my first kiss; it was much better.
“So that you don’t forget me,” he whispered.
A seagull cried above us, and brought me out of my trance.
I dove under the water and swam towards my boat.

I docked the boat and got out. Ben followed me. There were a whole bunch of kids milling about. They were Ben’s group.
He saw them, and his eyes got all sad. He kissed me again, pressed something into my hand, and then ran into the crowd.
I just stood there, awestruck.
After his group had left, I walked home. Mom and Dad hadn’t worried; they knew that sometimes I just needed my space and they trusted me to not do anything dangerous.
Not until I was locked in my room did I open up my hand. In it rested the daintiest little shell. It was white and blue, and it was pearly and shiny, a perfect mother of pearl. I put it to my ear to hear the waves, and a piece of paper fell out. It had a number on it. Ben’s number.
I put it in my keepsake box for another day. I liked Ben, but I didn’t want a boyfriend.
Right then, I had too many other problems, and I didn’t need to add boy problems to the list. I’d call him one day maybe, but not tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.
I was content with the way I was, tail and all.

THE END (for now...)

 

9 comments

Ella I. on 10 March, 2018

Artemisia, that was a really nice read! My only suggestion would be working on the way the sentence flows. The structure of the story was nice, and I thought that the plot was very coherent. I liked it! (I'll have to read it to my youngest sister... She LOVES mermaids!)

Meghan N. on 14 January, 2017

Artemesia- Great story!!! I absolutely LOVE,LOVE, LOVE it!!!!!!

Kitty Leung on 9 April, 2016

That is AMAZING! Are you going to write a sequel? Please pretty please with a cherry on top? I LOVE IT!!!!

Artemesia on 31 October, 2014

Dearest Lollypop and Hannah Begley, thank you so much for your kind words!! I love it when people review my stories! Hannah, Clementine didn't turn into a mermaid previously because the Ocean hadn't previously decided to turn her into a mermaid. The Ocean only now decided to change her into a mermaid because she had previously helped the Ocean and people so very much. I hope that cleared up your questions!! And thank you both so much for your reviews!! ~Artemesia

Lollypop on 3 July, 2014

Oh dear, I love it!!! I am soo flashed. I love your end (for now... ). So please, please, I really want more of these wonderful words... Lollypop

Hannah Begley on 21 May, 2014

Very cool. Isn't turning into a mermaid the desire of every girl? The only thing I didn't understand was that she mentioned that she had executed rescues before. Why hadn't she turned into a mermaid then? Maybe I missed something.

Artemesia on 26 December, 2013

Dear Isobel, thank you so much! That is so nice of you to say. I do try.

Isobel C. on 23 December, 2013

Dear Artemisia, Purely magical. I love the way the story flowed and the words you used to describe the settings, people, and feelings fit perfectly! Wowee. Isobel

AS on 8 November, 2013

It is a beautiful story.