Who Believes In Mermaids?
By Mhairi Grant
Two young tour guides head out to sea to see if they if they can spot a mermaid …
You are so gullible, Sam,” said Andrew, shaking his head.Sam looked back to the hidden cove. It was starting to get dark now and all that could be heard was the gentle splash of the oars in the waves.
“I’m not gullible. I have an open mind.”
This was more than could be said for her friend and colleague. One season being a holiday representative with Andrew on the Greek island of Corfu was testing her patience to the limit.
“Exactly. That’s what I mean – gullible. You hang around with Nikos and Demetrius too much. They put ideas into your head.”
Nikos and Demetrius were coach drivers. They carried worry beads and left things to the fates.
“Then why are you out here?”
“To prove you wrong: there is no such thing as a mermaid.”
They lure sailors to their deaths …
Sam smiled in the gathering dark. Andrew was nothing if not consistent. She knew the talk of mermaid sightings would get right up his nose and she loved to tease him – and so did Nikos and Demetrius.
“They lure sailors to their deaths,” Nikos had said.
“The song of the siren,” put in Demetrius, “it drives the sailors wild.”
“Yeah.” Andrew had laughed. “I
know all about Jason and the Argonauts stuffing their ears with wax and being tied to the mast – but you wouldn’t catch me jumping overboard.”
“What? You wouldn’t jump overboard for a beautiful woman?”
“Nope, not even for a mermaid.”
“He is, how you say it…” remarked Demetrius, “a cold fish.”
A cold fish, thought Sam, looking at his outline in the dusk. As she trailed her hand in the sea, she thought of the rumours that had spread through the tavernas and along the beach like wildfire.
It’s true, she slid off the rock … she had long green hair… it definitely wasn’t a seal.
“That will be a boost to the boat hires,” had been Andrew’s first remark when he’d heard about the mermaid – and he was right. What had been a sluggish start to the season was now looking more promising.
There was definitely something there
Sam looked at the rocks.
“Andrew, look! Over there!”
“There,” she exclaimed, standing up and pointing, rocking the boat violently.
Sam slumped back in her seat, but she was excited. There was definitely something there.
Andrew stilled the oars and stared.
“Do you see it?” she whispered.
“I see something.”
The boat bobbed gently on the swell as they stared. It could be a marine mammal – but then they heard it. An unearthly music. Music from the deep, haunting and beautiful.
“It sounds like pilot whales,” said Andrew dismissively.
Sam punched him on the arm. Where was his soul? She strained to see in the gathering dusk.
“I think it’s a seal.”
“No, it’s not,” replied Sam. “She’s combing her hair!”
“So she is,” exclaimed Andrew, bug-eyed. “It is a mermaid!”
The mermaid slithered off the rock
He started to row the boat in the direction of the mermaid while Sam thought of Jason and the Argonauts and the singing that had almost lured them to their deaths.
“Don’t get too close,” she whispered. “The boat might founder on the rocks.”
“OK,” he whispered back.
Their knees were touching in the small boat and Sam felt a shiver of excitement flow through her.
“Slowly does it, we don’t want to frighten – whoa, did you see that?” she exclaimed as the mermaid slithered
off the rock.
The music stopped and, for a split second, the outline of her tail could be clearly seen among the disturbed waves.
“Andrew,” she repeated. “Did you see?”
“My God – I wouldn’t ever have believed it, but… but…”
He stared at her, shocked into speechlessness. She had never known him to be lost for words before.
“See,” she exclaimed, “It was true!”
Why couldn’t he appreciate mystery and romance?
Suddenly Andrew started to laugh. He had a lovely, open laugh but Sam wasn’t in the mood to appreciate it.
“OK. Which one was it? Nikos?”
“Come on! It wasn’t him. What makes you think that?”
Yet even to Sam, her voice sounded false. Damn the man! Why, for once, couldn’t he appreciate the mystery and romance of life?
“Come on, Sam. You didn’t think I would be taken in, did you?”
She supposed not, but there was such a thing as hope. She flung a flipper at him.
“OK, it was Nikos,” she murmured, thinking that he’d be even more unbearable now. “We thought –”
Then she stopped. Something was swimming alongside their boat. That was not in the script.
Sam looked at Andrew. It was fully dark now and she could only make out the eerie white of his face.
“There’s… there’s something in the water,” he murmured anxiously.
He sounded spooked and Sam felt something crawl up her spine. The sea looked black and alien. What if it was a shark? She didn’t really believe in mermaids, but…
“Andrew!” she screamed. “What is it?”
“Sam, something’s taken my oars.”
Sam peered over the side. There was a disturbance in the water but she couldn’t see anything.
“Maybe it’s N-Nikos having a joke,” she ventured shakily.
“Some bleeding joke. If this boat drifts beyond the headland we’ll be in trouble. There’s a nasty current out there, you know.”
“H-have you got your phone on you?” Sam asked.
“No. Haven’t you?”
Of course not; they only had T-shirts over their swim suits. Sam started to shiver.
“Are you cold?” Andrew asked, reaching over to rub her arms.
“No, not really, I’m…”
Sam stopped. She didn’t want to admit that the vastness of the Mediterranean frightened her.
“Well, this is cosy.”
“Cosy? You’re kidding me!” exclaimed Sam, who however did not withdraw her arms.
“No – it’s not often we have time to ourselves, is it? We only seem to meet at airports with other reps, or at our respective buses when Nikos and Demetrius are having a cigarette.”
Sam felt her heart start to flutter
He brought his face to within inches of hers and in spite of her fear, Sam felt her heart start to flutter. She had waited a long time for this and was beginning to give up on the hope of him ever seeing her as more than a friend.
“I-I can think of better ways of being alone, that’s all…”
Sam hadn’t meant to say that. She felt her face heat up so she hurried on.
“I mean, I’m not a very good swimmer and I hate getting out of my depth so –”
“Ssssshhh,” said Andrew, putting a finger on her lips.“Samara Stevens, do you trust me?”
Suddenly the image of Andrew giving a heart attack victim CPR arose before her. She guessed he would be a good person to have around in a crisis.
“I think so… yes.”
“Good,” he said with a smile, and tipped her into the sea.
Sam screamed and then sank down below the waves. Then, suddenly, someone was behind her and lifting her up. It was Andrew.
“Andrew Hunter,” she spluttered furiously, “I will kill you!”
“Relax. I used to be a lifeguard.”
“You idiot, there’s something in the water. It could attack us!”
“I’ll protect you,” he said and his mouth was very close to her cheek.
Then he started to swim and it was so relaxing. Sam gave herself up to the sea and to Andrew’s arms. It was so peaceful.
Then a thought occurred.
“But what about the boat? Won’t it get carried out to sea?”
“That’s OK. Demetrius is swimming out there. He will bring it in.”
She could have hit him then, but didn’t want to drown in the process. Instead she started to call him all the names under the sun. She soon gave up as she was only succeeding in swallowing half the sea.
A haunting ethereal singing came from across the sea
Near the shore Andrew stood up and lifted her into his arms. Sam was completely smitten. Who said that romance was dead?
“I’ll have you know, Samara Stevens, that a mermaid would not tempt me – but I would go overboard for a certain siren.”
Then he kissed her – and he didn’t stop until Nikos and Demetrius came lumbering along the beach.
“It worked, eh?” said Demetrius, giving Andrew a high five while Nikos grinned and patted Sam on the back.
Neither was known for their subtlety, but Sam didn’t care about that. The sensation of Andrew’s arm around her waist was enough.
“I don’t believe in mermaids, but if –”
Andrew stopped dead. A sound caressed them across the night air. It was a haunting, ethereal singing so beautiful that it gave them goose bumps. It was coming from the sea…