All that glitters … is a piece of flash fiction which came out of a writing workshop prompt of ‘and then I woke up here’. The workshop was held in a friend’s beautiful garden. We were a long way from the sea, but perhaps the idea came to me because river nymphs have been on my mind for some time now, featuring as they do in my upcoming release, River Witch (find that here).
Sunshine warmed her from a washed-out, yet definitely blue, sky. Winter was finally retreating, creeping its way southward to fill the antipodeans’ days with chill and wet. Lucky them.
It was a day for a drive to the seaside: pale sands glittering, long waves rolling in, their languorous froth caressing the sand like a lover’s teasing fingers.
She would go alone, take a book, read for however long it took, do as little or as much as she wanted.
Sandwich packed, thermos filled, she let the car amble its way between greening hedgerows to the coast. Not far. There was a small cove which, on a working weekday, was unlikely to have visitors. She parked at the top of the cliff, no other cars, hefted her bag over her shoulder and a rug under one arm and clambered down the narrow, winding path. The smell of salt sea, of scrubby grasses warming in the sun, the shriek of gulls, a dancing breeze tugging at her hair, her skirt. She laughed for the freedom of it.
She made herself a sunny camping spot against the cliff face and wandered down the beach, shoes off, kicking up spray. Ahead, something moved against a rock. Pale, gleaming. Rubbish? She sighed. Even here. But as she approached, she saw the gleaming object was silver, scaled, and it glittered pink and mauve, like sequins on a bridesmaid’s frock.
A fish? Very large. She hurried, curious and concerned. If it was alive, she could perhaps save it, roll it back into the ocean.
When she reached the spot she gasped. This was no fish. Above the shining scales rose a female form, naked except for hanks of hair as thick and long as fishermen’s ropes wrapped about her. The creature lay splayed across the damp sand, entangled in netting which scoured her pink skin, ripped her scales, pinned her luminous arms to her sides. Her lips were white and cracked like sea salt, her wave-green eyes shiny with terror.
‘Mermaid?’ She fell to her knees besides the panting creature, who flinched away as far as the cruel netting allowed.
She held her palms up to show no ill intent. ‘How on earth did you get here?’
The mermaid took a ragged breath. ‘Playing with dolphins.’ Her eyes pooled with tears. ‘Fishing boat, so fast, so very fast … and then, I woke up here.’