Aphelion Issue 272, Volume 26
May 2022
 
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Bay Girl

by Ruth Niemiec




I.

 

I was six when my father threw me into the water after telling me to drink the purple juice. The purple juice was in a small glass bottle, with a cork top.

I remember struggling to open it, and I can still picture the cork falling into the water - bobbing along until I couldn’t see it anymore although I had shaded my eyes from the sun coming up on the horizon.

I turned to look at my father who wept.

He kept yelling “WHERE ARE THE FISH?! WHERE ARE THEY ALL?!”

He wiped his tears onto the sleeve of his faded blue t-shirt and told me to “drink up", I didn't hesitate.

 

He stared out over the cold, dark water and told me that I would help “fill the nets of fisherman and bring wealth to families in the village.”

The liquid burnt my tongue, leaving a bitter aftertaste. I reached around for the canteen.

My vision began to change. I couldn't focus. Stars formed amongst fog. Colors became less saturated. Though I was lightheaded, I tried hard to stay upright. I passed the dizzy spell off as motion sickness.

My legs began throbbing, twisting, twitching.

I reached around for the green canteen again, and as I spread my arms out, feeling around myself, father hoisted me up into the air, and with great force threw me into the water.
Then, he switched the motor on - and like the cork - I watched him disappear. Our little boat bobbing away, smaller and smaller.

There I was, alone in the water, just the water, cliffs, and air around me.


II.

My arms were sore from swimming around, trying to find a comfortable place to rest. I pulled myself up onto the shore of Krab Beach Island at night, once the tanned, rich tourists had left.

Plastic bottles and waxed paper ice cream packages lay strewn around me on the sand. I took a few breaths and then the change began.

I screamed in pain. The fusing of my legs was excruciating.

My skin ripped open, and a force that I couldn’t control brought my legs together. I pulled them apart with all my might, but I was defenceless againt the force, the spell, the demon, whatever it was. I had no control. I could do nothing but change.

I watched my flesh section off into strips, which hung in the air momentarily, and then rapidly began weaving together, reminding me of the way my mother plaited my hair.

I lay heaving on sand and screaming in agony as the light in the sky began to fade.

I was thirsty, but hunger evaded me. I flopped my tail around on the sand, trying to work out how to stand. Each time I tried, I fell right back down.

The sky darkened into black night, and I began shivering violently.

I slipped into the deep, dark water, which felt warmer - organic now.

My new fish tail gave me the ability to swim quickly to the bottom of the water. So, I did. Deep. Until I couldn’t see at all. I arrived at the very bottom of the bay and searched for somewhere to sleep.

I found shelter in the base of a limestone cliff. It was here I would breathe, cry and scream,

That’s how I spent many days, many years. More than I could say. I don't know how many. I didn't have calendars, books, people to tell me what date it was. The night came and went, the days stretched on endlessly and I hid. I feared being hunted. I feared being laughed at or pulled up onto a cruise ship and tortured. Just a freak to be messed with.

All I know is that I have watched the cliffs change, and tourists fill the bay. Coming in droves.

I have survived. I live on, and when I see my reflection on the surface of the water, I remain unchanged. I have not aged. A child monster. Half fish, half daughter.

The screams, which form in my belly and with great force move up my body, through my throat and into the world have the power to bring ocean creatures to me. That was my father's gift to himself and the village.

Where my father found the recipe for a potion with such great power, I do not know. Maybe there is a witch in a house above The Bay, possessing ancient knowledge and magic.

My father had sacrificed me. He wanted to catch fish. He came from a family of fisherman, and he knew I was brave hearted – always ready to stay out on the water with him.

My brothers and sisters weren’t like me. I, like my father, was drawn to the water, the deep and knowing this made his decision to sacrifice me simple. There was no choice to be made. I was the pawn. 


III.

As the years passed, I grew tired of my own reflection and the fish as my only company. I hadn’t aged and I was blood thirsty.

I took shark blood and turned it into a meal three times a day, but as the years passed, my appetite increased.


Something in me had morphed, and I craved a certain…other type of blood.

When I thought about it, the inside of belly flipped. I felt excited, giddy. I was ready.

Thick, hot, lava like blood.

I wanted so much to sink my teeth into humans. I wanted to hear their screams. I wanted to feel them struggle beneath me until they were silent.

I started hiding in the vegetation on the cliffsides, close to where the tourist packed cruise ships parked at night.

I watched men and women, ten, maybe twenty years older than me enjoy plates of food I once enjoyed too. The longer I watched them, the longer I wanted to taste their blood. I wondered if I could become them - if I could reverse this spell.

If I took their blood, like I took the blood of fish – I stood a chance. A chance to live again, to age, to grow legs again. To continue my human life, pick up where I left off.

And so, I rose that night, from the black water and I clambered onto a cruise ship floating on the deep bay, in the hot, sticky night.

THE END


2022 Ruth Niemiec

Bio: Ruth Niemiec (www.ruthniemiec.com or IG @ruth_niemiec) is a writer of non-fiction, fiction and poetry in English and Polish. Ruth received her BA with a major in Professional Writing from Victoria University. Her non-fiction has recently appeared on or in Dumbo Feather, ABC Everyday, Mamamia and She Rose Revolution. Her poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Pigeon, fly!, Coffee People, Farside Review, Rhodora, Anti-Heroin Chic, Block Party Magazine, Adelaide Magazine, creatures, in addition to other journals and magazines. Her fiction has been published in Neon, Parliament, Sad Girls and Minnow.

E-mail: Ruth Niemiec

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