Psychopomp Magazine Summer 2015 - Page 19

Your sisters remember it much more clearly than you do: the day the harpoon pierced your mother’s taut belly and turned the blue water red. When they tell the story, they swoon. Their eyes roll back in their heads and their mouths drape open in mournful awe. The girls trace their collarbones with an exaggerated X and collectively moan, the day Mommy became sea foam.

Like many expired mermaids, your mother has become the very foam you so revile—regurgitating the pronged trash of the sea. She is nothing more than waterlogged excrement, depositing itself onto the sand. She coughs up fish guts, sheets of plastic circles, and jagged bits of coral. Are you to share her fate? By your fifteenth year, the question dominates your waking hours.

It is no secret among merpeople that Seawitches know everything. They are the storytellers of the deep; ruined women, with rich folds of satin fat and heaving bosoms. When they tread the waters near the marketplace to hawk their wares, black slime puffs from their backsides. It settles on the ocean floor and seals it with an ugly kiss. They stick to the edges of the market, leering at each other with glowing, malevolent eyes. Each will insist that the last has lied to you, before she offers to sell you something bigger, better, more valuable. Each sells something different: one, a glimpse inside a crystal ball, milky as a giant fish egg. Another holds up ancient cards with ragged edges, printed with pictures of bi-pedal people; come closer, she urges, she wants to tell you what the image means. Still another dangles vials of congealed liquid before you and asks if you’re certain he loves you, wouldn’t you like to know for sure?

The last and largest of the witches, however, is silent. Her enormous shadow quivers against a wall of coral. A luminescent shock of hair dances along the lines of her face. Although she does not regard you, the two fanged faces at her sides do, and with much curiosity. The moray eels rotate around her shoulders, like a writhing mink. They arch upward to her ears, speaking in garbled tones. Eventually she offers you a mirthless smile, her mouth shiny and puckered with orange gore.

Lisa Nohner | 19