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The Seastars Shine ~ (Mermaid Transformation Story)
The sea, as anyone will tell you, is a place of mystery. Of change, charm, and challenges. Change: the magnificent way in which the water’s workings astound us. Charm: the way the creatures of the deep can make us smile, then lurch back in terror. And Challenge: the difficulty in exploring it all, or even attempting to. To the people of the Candlelit Coast, the seastars were all three. Like a veil of glitter across the ocean water, the seastars were countless lights, shimmering upon the surface, bright enough to rival the stars of the sky. A yearly phenomenon, and to understand it was a Challenge, certainly, and its Charm went without saying.
But, malleable as the ocean is, even its most trusted constants can Change ... And for that, today, the seastars would make all the Change in the world.
The sun’s light gleamed against the cove’s walls and cliffs. The little nook among the stone was like a private pool to anyone who knew about it, and to anyone who wanted peace from the crowds at the beach. Now was the time of year when the coast was packed to bursting with the crowds that turned out for the seastars festival. The seastars always attracted visitors, often more than Candlelit Coast’s little lodges could accommodate. It was bound to happen, of course; once a year, the seastars made the ocean sparkle like a quilt of diamonds, and the world wanted to see for themselves. Hence the masses. Hence the festival. Hence the noise, the bustle, the litter, and the profit taking.
One year, those crowds are going to shake the town right off the cliff and into the ocean, thought Megan, as she stepped smoothly into the cove’s water. So secretive beneath the cliff, the stony walls did a good job of hushing the beach’s bustle. Megan’s purple bathing suit contrasted nicely beside the turquoise-tinted water, as refreshing as it was cool. As soon as she swam to the hidden pool’s centre, she ducked beneath the water, and gave a twirl. An audience of bubbles coursed around her. It was always a dream of mine to perform, she reminded herself. But for how much they charge, how little they pay, and how long they expect me to keep it up ... Each of the festival’s dances lasted longer than she’d ever trained for. Those managing the festival’s events liked to put on a show to remember, oh yes, and they didn’t mind charging tourists a small fortune to see it. Too bad the dancers barely received a glint of that money for themselves. Just do it for the fun, Megan ... For the fun. It was something she needed to remind herself, since other contracts paid better. Performing in the festival’s shows was a thrill, if a little exhausting. It was hard to dance underwater for so long, but the management and organisers seemed to have a hard time believing that. All the more reason to train, then, she thought, twisting and twirling seamlessly beneath the surface. It was a thought that convinced her to keep it up, rather than head to the ice-cream place by the beach.
Beneath the water, speckled shells and rainbow fronds decorated the rocks like jewellery. A challenge she had set herself was to perform as finely and fluently as could be, without any of those fronds brushing by her, or shells poking her. The challenge was tough, but it spurred her onward; the seastars made it difficult to practice too shortly before the festival itself, so she had little time. They tended to shine like a blizzard of glitter. Much too distracting.
But, seastars or none, there was something in the water that grabbed her attention. The water had been clear just a moment ago, but now it seemed blurred by something. Something thick. Breaching the water, Megan saw the frothy foam that had swept its way into the cove from the sea. Foam as playful and feather-light as bubble-bath. A very particular type of sea-foam ...
Already? thought Megan. She looked out beyond the cove’s confining walls, and saw the sweeping, pillowing, pluming sea-foam drift its way toward the shore. The precursor to the seastars themselves; a subtler, calmer phenomenon that came before the greater one. Megan didn’t know why the seastars were signalled by the coming of froth and foam, only that it meant the seastars were on their way. There was even less time to practice than she thought!
Kicking her legs, she could feel something congeal around them ... The foam seemed to be melting into the water itself, turning it thicker than it should be. Like suds. It felt ... unusual. She had swam in the foamy water before, and it had never felt like this. It grouped and swept across her legs, as if latching to whatever mass it could. It felt cool, ticklish, and clean, and yet ... slimy, greasy, and slick. It simply never felt this way before.
The water had grown murky, and a deep teal sheen disguised everything beneath the surface. The sight made her feel uneasy, as the thickness about her legs seemed to weigh down on her, heavier and heavier, like some demon of the deep had found her, and was keen to drag her under.
Murkier and murkier. Thicker and thicker. How had the foam come in so quick? How did it change the water so fast? Astonished, and on the brink of fright, Megan gave a splash as she heard something chime, over upon the rocks.
Just my phone, she thought with relief, on recognising that chime. Just a message. There’s no demons reaching for you yet. With a chuckle – a slightly nervous one – she made for the cove’s shore, and it was as she pulled herself up from the water that she realised just how harshly the foam had affected it. The slick sea-foam slipped hesitantly from her legs, rather than simply falling away. It cupped around her still, like it were seizing her. Squirming free felt no different than wriggling from a sleeping bag.
As the last of slick and slimy foam fell from her, she studied the pool with wary eyes ... There was nothing to be seen in the water now but the foam atop the surface, swirling and frothing like cream atop a frappe. The seashells and plant-life were smothered beneath the cloudy, teal goop, and Megan, studying it curiously, could still feel the ticklishness against her legs ... The foam was gone, but the sensation stayed. There isn’t anything wrong with that stuff, is there? she wondered. It’s never come to shore so thickly before, or so quick. It didn’t seem like the cove would be a fitting place to swim for a while. How would she practice?
Megan picked up her phone, and read the text message ...
She sighed. A last-minute rehearsal had been called. She didn’t know why she felt surprised. The organisers liked to make a habit of this, and didn’t seem to care whether the performers were inconvenienced. They didn’t seem keen to learn what a schedule was, and Megan didn’t like that. I get better practice out here, swimming in private, than I do around those blowhards. Ordering us about like trained dolphins, when we know the routine better than they do. They’ll ask us to leap through hoops next! But as she reached for her towel, and attempted to stand, the ticklishness against her legs grew greater ... It turned sharper, almost prickly. Like a row of pine needles were brushing against her skin, feeling and flowing across her like a comb. Ticklish, sharp, and stinging, all at once. It could be the foam, she pondered. Taking her towel to her legs, she rubbed them feverishly. She hoped she didn’t have some sort of allergy.
But then, the tickling grew fiercer. The sensation of simple needles grew as cold and sharp as knives, and for a moment, Megan yelped. The hurting subsided, but as it did, her legs began to pull closer ... The skin between them grew hot, and began to blend together, fastening her legs and proceeding downward, like her skin had become as fluid as wet paint! She watched through eyes wide with shock, and her breath and heartbeat grew rough and ragged as she saw it happen ... as she observed. Beneath the heat and ticklishness, she could just barely feel her legs’ skin knit tight, locking them together as one. She could just barely feel the muscle inside, blending and coupling seamlessly, as the bones whittled down to nothing – T-They feel like they’re m-melting! – only to restructure into an extension of her spine, now flexible and free. The foam was gone from her skin, but she still felt it. Still felt the gooey, slimy, slippery sensations. She peered down at her “legs”, and began to see ...
‘A sparkle?’ she exclaimed, breathlessly. Something twinkled upon her leg, like a speck of glitter. And then another speck, and another, and another! The glinting flecks grew numerous and many, appearing up and down her bound legs, like ... like scales! Megan simply lay upon the rocks, hand held to her mouth. What was this? What was going on? Attempting to lift herself, she simply slipped and twitched, like a fish out of water. Her body was soaked in something. Something thick, wet, and ... slimy? Slimy like the foam had been. But there wasn’t any foam to be seen, other than in the cove’s water. Turning to look, Megan found that something else had appeared on her lower-body beside the scales: a thin, gleaming coat of ... slime!
She touched the glinting film warily, and it felt like ... like soap. Like oily soap, dripping thinly. The way the light hit her “legs” now, her skin shone bright. And it all grew thicker, too – pouring from her pores, beginning to drip gratuitous and gooey!
Megan would have screamed ... She would have called for help, and struggled all the more desperately to get up, but ... But the slime did not feel unpleasant. It felt so cool and clean, and embraced her melded legs almost passionately. It relaxed her ... Relaxed her in ways that should not have been possible – not with what was happening! What’s happening to me? she wondered, feeling light-headed and listless. I should be panicking ... Terrified! There has to be something else going on – something inside the slime, maybe! Or maybe in that foam! Whatever it was, it was beginning to overcome her senses ... The thick, massing slime wove its way all across her legs, with more and more scales growing and gleaming beneath it. The slime swept across her body, and as it did, the cloudiness in Megan’s mind grew heavier. The substance swept in twisting, tender motions, and Megan could just distantly feel the reformation of her feet ... As if something stretched and pulled at them softly, but intently, and while they stretched, the muscles and bones within them grew thinner, and fan-like. The points of her toes – now hardly toes at all – sharpened into marvellous points, while what remained of her heels blended into one, just as her legs did. The resulting fin twitched against the ground, slapping against the smooth, cool stone almost playfully. Scales crept across it just as smoothly and sparkly as they had across her lower-limb!
In the cove’s sparse light, her scales shone a brilliant purple, reflecting traces of blue and red as she twitched and turned. Her mind was awash with weariness and confusion, as though the slimy sensations were lulling her to sleep. She was only distantly aware that she was changing ... transforming ... evolving. Only distantly, and yet she felt the changes mould her body, like sweeping waves smoothing stone.
A soft, sultry moan escaped her as her legs blended completely, becoming nothing less than a broad, sweeping fish-tail, coated plentifully in the prettiest scales. The slime that dripped across them helped them shine, and with another heated moan, she felt her newfound tail lift and curl, fanning gorgeous fins. The transformation was complete ... the cloudiness in her mind departed ... Megan blinked, and came to the realisation that she had changed. S-Something isn’t right ... she thought. She could feel something strange, where her legs once were. Something fluent and flexible. She almost couldn’t bare to look down, for fear of what she’d see. But you must, she told herself. Whatever is down there ... Whatever happened, it’s still stopping you from standing up ... Come on, Meg, you have to ... to ...
And then she saw it. Her tail. Her tail, covered in a starlight show of scales, glistening brighter than even the surface of the sea. Like a blanket of amethysts, her scales sparkled beautifully, and the wet sheen of the slime made them seem even brighter.
‘This can’t be ...’ she gasped. She reached a hand to touch her tail, and shivered sharply as her skin met her scales. Her scales! ‘This is impossible! I-I can’t really be a ...!’
A mermaid. She was a mermaid! The tail she saw was the perfect proof, and her swimsuit lay in tatters upon the cove’s rock. She touched those scraps of fabric as curiously as she touched her tail ... Both were unmistakable proof of what had happened. But why did it happen? she wondered. How could it happen?! What did this to me? What –
And then she hit a theory. The sea-foam. The prelude to the seastars, that had come to shore so thickly and hurriedly this year. It was only after she climbed out that this had happened. And it did feel so very strange while she was in the water ...
For a few worried minutes, Megan simply lay and explored her tail. The cove was, after all, a secluded little spot; there wasn’t much chance of her being found. She aimlessly flicked her fins, and watched as gleaming drops of slime dripped and dribbled from their ends, falling to the stone beneath with a thick, gooey splat! The slime was so thick and heavy, and she was sure it was to help her tail keep moist. But how could anything change her so radically like this? Not only change her body, but change the way it worked! No one had ever fully explained the seastars phenomenon before ... Maybe this was just another inexplicable part of it. Sometimes, perhaps, the foam brought more than just the seastars.
Lifting and twitching her tail, she slowly learnt to control it. It bent, flexed, and swished at her command, so graceful and flawless. Fear and shock trembled in Megan’s mind, but she could not ignore how beautifully her scales shimmered as her tail swished and swept. It bent in ways a human’s legs could never replicate – swept in arcs and motions as hypnotic as they were smooth.
But it was heavy. Terribly so. She could keep it raised for only a few seconds before the great weight forced it down again, drawing a tired gasp from her. And every time that happened ... well, it just reminded her how much trouble she could be in. The slime kept her tail from drying out, so there was no way to tell whether dryness would change her back, like movies tended to imply.
She was about to reach for her towel, and sweep the slime away by force, when another bleeping from her cell-phone made her yelp!
“Taking your time, Meg?” it read. “Word from the beach is that the foam’s come in. The seastars could show up this very evening, and you should know how quick everyone will be to set up the amusements tonight, if need be! If you miss this last practice, don’t expect to be welcome in the audience, never mind the production!”
And for a moment, Megan forgot about her changes. She simply gave that phone a pestered scowl, her memories of the festival’s rotten tenders reeling through her mind. As if in reply to the annoyance she felt, her tailfin flicked, and slapped against the rock.
And she blinked. She turned to look again at her tail.
Then back to her phone.
Her tailfin curled again, fishy scales and skin rubbing softly against the rock.
She gave a subtle smile.
With a few gentle wriggles of her hips, she watched her fishtail gleam and glisten.
Placing her phone and towel aside, she rolled onto her belly, and dragged herself closer to the edge of the cove’s pool. The foam-filled water beckoned her. With an excited breath, a flex of her tail, and one heavy push, she dove back into the water with a loud splash! The thickness of the foam was blinding, to begin with, but once she swam beneath it, the watery world of the ocean came bright and clear to her. A break in the cove’s wall led to the ocean waters themselves, and so Megan swam right on through it.
She ran a hand through her long, blackish-brown hair. The underwater world was ... so clear. Clearer than before. The sea-foam smothered the surface, but down here, somehow, it all seemed clean as crystal! Another part of my change? she wondered. I can see clearer? I – I can breathe, after all. And she noticed that she could. And the water feels softer against me than before. She looked down, and studied the way the water’s gleam reflected against her scales. Shining shades of purple, blended with hints of blue and red. So bright, vivid, and beautiful ... grander than any ocean jewel, fish, or flower she could think of. Another audience of bubbles surrounded her as she swept her tail, but so much more than her legs had conjured. In her tail, she felt power, strength, and flexibility. And, looking out at the ocean before her, she felt ... freedom. Playfulness. Adventure. It was all hers! She couldn’t help but giggle as her eyes took in the vast water world around her. Where to first? she wondered excitedly. The sunken wreck by the west of Candlelit Coast’s outcrop, said to be filled with curses and ghosts and treasures aplenty? Or maybe the Sea-Scar Trench to the south, said to be so deep no one had ever explored its true and utter depths before. Or how about the abandoned refinery, even further south than that? she pondered. Listing the possibilities like a child lists Christmas wishes, she started to swim. Her tail swept and swished in smooth, wonderful motions, each feeling so fluent and alive. Her tail was the ultimate jewellery, by the way it shone and sparkled. And as the water swept and caressed by her lithe, liberated body, Megan could do nothing other than smile ...
She was a dancer. And now she could dance through every day, with the ocean for her stage.
‘What’s that?’ called a boy from the pier. An audience had gathered to see the seastars’ annual appearance, and thankfully, everyone had managed to flee the beach before the foam came in too strong. That had caught everyone by surprise, at first. Now, the seastars shimmered upon the water beneath a full moon, like an expanse of fireflies were dancing upon the surface. Simple little lights, in their magnificent thousands. It certainly made up for the dancers’ performance, which some had considered rather clumsy (rumours said one dancer hadn’t turned up on time). But the seastars were not what the boy pointed to ... The audience was abuzz with gasps and mutterings as they looked out into the water, and saw a woman breach the surface, leaping in a clean, flawless arc. In the triumphant moment she had risen, she dove back down into the water once again.
Was that a tail that followed her into the starry blue?