Her father’s warnings changed as she grew older. Her hips had begun to flare out from her waist like the curve of a bell. Her face had shaped itself: grown cheekbones sharp as flint; eyes heavy-lashed. Her breasts had swelled, her nipples pointed pearls.
She felt eyes follow her each time she walked into town weighed down with baskets of silver gleaming fish, rainbow scales flashing with sunlight.
Beware of the young men, with their bear eyes and their canine smiles, as they gather in the town streets, learn their trades, or ride in from far away on sweat lathered ponies with rolling eyes and panting tongues.
Her father needn’t have worried; these young, staring men held no interest for her.
Her brothers, however, received very different warnings.
Beware the ocean-creatures; beware the merrow, with their witch-green hair, their ocean-dyed skin, webbed fingers, and fish-scaled tails. Beware the merrow, with their green-slicked beauty, sharp-toothed smiles, and soft nakedness. Beware the merrow, who hunt human men and sing: sing like sorrow and honey; sing like sugared figs and salt; sing like the ocean is dying and the stars are melting, golden and unctuous, down the sky.
And the men who hear this song go willingly under the waves, where the merrow love them and send them mad with dreams.
He would tell her brothers this, sincere and soft, as the wind whipped through his salt-encrusted hair.
Her mother would laugh, dry and quiet, crinkling her seal-grey eyes; for what would he know of the creatures of the sea?
Hester J. Rook is an itinerant Australian with an unhealthy obsession with myth, dead languages, and the circus. She spends her time writing poetry and upside down on a trapeze (not usually at the same time). She has a number of poetry and short story publications.