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ROLLING IN THE DEEP
A Science Fiction & Fantasy Short Read
BY STEPHANIE AYERS
A promise she didn’t make. A war under the sea she didn’t start. Nightmares that torment her sleep.
There’s something rolling in the deep, and she holds the key to stopping it.
It all begins with a dream Celia can’t shake. Running on no sleep and burning out fast, she leaves college and returns to the island her parents call home, hoping to leave the nightmares behind. Instead of finding peace, her whole world comes to a screeching halt as the truth about her heritage comes to light, and she must learn to accept a fate she can’t change.
The control of the sea is in Celia’s hands. Will she do something about it or will she ignore the mermaid’s call?
“Ahoy, Captain. You asked us to tell you if we saw anything. The first star shines bright in the north,” the fishing boat crew’s first mate, John, said.
“Any sign of the Mer?” Alistair Wren, the captain, said, looking up from the map on the desk in front of him.
“Negative, sir. We’ve seen neither fin nor flipper for days,” John answered. If John had not seen a mermaid for himself, he would not believe they existed.
“Right. Do we still have the Conch?” Captain Wren ran his fingers over the map.
“Aye, but we don’t know if it works.” John shrugged. “All we hear is the ocean.”
“As you should. ‘Tis not how it works. We must watch the sea. It knows when.” That time the captain held a dismissive tone in his voice.
John knew better but asked anyway. “And what exactly do we do if we see one? It’s forbidden to cast our nets on their territory.
Captain Wren sighed wearily. He covered half of his face with his hand. His eyes rolled as he stopped what he was doing and looked John in the eye.
“That is when you come and get me, mate. Do not try to engage. Do not cast your net. Do nothing but observe carefully, no matter how difficult that may be. Do you understand?” When John nodded, he continued. “The consequences of ignoring my orders will be heavy. Mark my words.”
“Aye, captain.” John offered a stiff salute and went back onto the deck.
Water sloshed over the sides of the boat as the sea churned. A sudden storm rolled in where fair skies had been before. John heard an uproar coming from the starboard side and rushed to find out what happened. Several of the men stood at the bow, their jaws hanging open, while a couple of others had started lowering the rowboat. John stepped between the watchers. White tipped waves revealed nothing to him at first, and then a slender arm shot out from one. A head bobbed and broke the surface. John gasped.
“Stop!” John ordered. “Peter, get the captain, immediately.”
Peter stood there, staring at the creature in the water in front of him. John placed a big hand on his shoulder, breaking the spell.
“Peter! Get the captain!” John repeated.
It took a moment for comprehension to dawn on Peter’s face, and when it did, he dipped his head once in acknowledgment and disappeared below deck. He reemerged with the captain behind him, carrying a large conch shell in his hands. He made his way gingerly to the side of the boat. Most of the crew moved out of the way, save one.
“Shorely!” John called.
The big, burly man stared at the creature in the water. Its blue arm still waved, and its glistening tail smacked the water as it did somersaults.
“Shorely!” John cried again, this time shoving the man roughly on the shoulder. Shorely blinked and turned around.
“Aye, ‘tis a sight out yonder,” he said.
“‘Tis, indeed,” John answered. “‘Tis one that will send you to a watery grave, my good man. Stay the watch, yet do not look at her. She will be your undoing. You’d not be the first to fall, and I’ve no interest in swimming tonight. Watch the storm instead.” He placed a heavy hand on Shorely’s shoulder and left it there while he searched the crewman’s eyes. “You be okay?”
“Aye. Thank you, sir.” Shorely stepped back and joined the rest of the crew lingering on the deck. All eyes fastened on the captain.
“Come to me, my queen,” the captain called.
The creature splashed in defiance but did not disappear. The captain held the conch out over the edge of the boat and spoke again.
“Come to me, my sea queen!”
Again, the creature splashed, flipping herself out of the water and diving into a wave. The wave carried her closer, but still she did not comply. The captain tossed the conch to the creature, who caught it and disappeared under the waves. Shorely watched it all from a stunned silence. His feet moved him closer to the edge. If John had not grabbed him, he would have walked right off the boat.
“I warned ya, mate. You can’t look at them. Go below deck and stay there!” John commanded. Shorely was his best man, and he did not intend to lose him.
A creative ninja with a dark mind and a quirky nature, Stephanie Ayers writes all the words and spins twisted tales filled with horror, fantasy, suspense, and anything in between. With a trunk full of tricks thanks to a checkered past, she haunts Irish castles and snowy mountaintops in her dreams while living the unicorn life in Ohio disguised as a human. When she isn’t listening to the voices in her head, she spends her days as a mom, Gigi, cat lover, and Netflix binger, while avoiding housework at all costs.
Her debut novella, Til Death Do Us Part, was published in 2013, and her work appears in several anthologies and collections. Along with many solo works, she currently has two serials to her name, the stand-alone horror volumes of The 13 series, and her epic 5 book fantasy series, Destiny Defined.
Her favorite quote is: “The blank page is a canvas on which the writer paints a story.”-Stephanie Ayers
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Thanks, Stephanie, for sharing your story with us!
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