Mermaids

Katy was sleeping better. The dark patches beneath her eyes were disappearing. She even smiled now, occasionally. “I don’t mind the bad dreams about mermaids anymore,” she said.
“That’s good, why?”
“Daddy told me nightmares were the world’s only real treasure.”
“He said that?”
“Lots of times,” Katy said.
“He shouldn’t have. Those thoughts are unhealthy. They’re why he has had to spend so much time in hospital.”

Claudia cast narrowed eyes around her daughter’s room. Though not especially untidy, the space was cluttered to a fantastic degree. It had the vivid quality of scarcely-inhibited psychological projection. Mermaids were an insistent theme. Two large mermaid posters dominated the largest wall. Even without any true insight into her daughter’s phobia, she still shuddered slightly. Their horror was directly proportional to the cognitive attention they drew. Thinking about them was bad. They were creatures of malevolent seduction. Sirens were mermaids.
“Why do you torture yourself like this?” Claudia had once asked her daughter, in frustration.
“I’d rather see them, than have them hide,” was the reply.
It made enough twisted sense to be unanswerable.
Katy had always been wise beyond her years. Her remarks were peculiarly considered. It made her seem sad.
Claudia wondered now whether there was something she should have said. Had there been an opening she’d missed?
There had never been a sign of Katy being disproportionately anxious about anything else. As a baby she’d been unusually solemn, but no less exceptionally calm. The Little Buddha, Derek had called her. She would very rarely cry. Nothing had seemed to profoundly upset her before this.
Why were mermaids so horrible? She felt the answer through powerful but indistinct intuition. Fluid boundaries were essential to it. A rocky sea-shore at twilight was darkly suggestive enough. It whispered of mermaids without needing to show them. Ambiguous transformations thrashed the coast of sleep.
“Do mermaids scare you, too, mommy?”
She’d wanted to say ‘no’ of course, but the word caught in her throat. She’d actually coughed – almost choked. “I don’t think about them much,” she’d managed, eventually. “They are kind of creepy, I guess.”
“Super-creepy,” Katy said.
“Why is that, do you think?” It was, perhaps, an incautious question, but Claudia couldn’t help herself.
“The join is the scariest part.”
“Where fish begins?”
“Or girl,” Katy said.
“Imagine being able to swim so well, though,” Claudia suggested, with unconvincing cheerfulness.
“That makes it worse, because you might want it.”

November 13, 2019admin 3 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Fiction

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