I can feel the cool water pressing in on me from every direction like a soft caress. For the most part, I usually don’t think about the water, as it is a constant presence under the waves. I looked up briefly and in the distance I can see a pinprick or brightness which is probably the sun hanging somewhere over the ocean’s surface. I sometimes swim closer to the waves above but my eyes hurt from the sun. Most times I go to the surface there is a beautiful moon in the sky. However, my trips to the surface have increased so even the pain from the bright light of day is getting more tolerable.
Today, I just want to swim and not think about the world above the waves. With nary a thought my tail swishes twice to get me into motion and I feel the water sliding past me as I begin to move deeper into the ocean. I feel very free and am reminded of how much I love swimming. With a few more powerful swishes of my tail, I begin to accelerate towards a small school of fish. They dart away in different directions as I pass through the spot they had just occupied. I mostly feed on seaweed and a few exotic kelps as well as the occasional clam. The fish do not know that and I don’t blame them for being skittish of me.
Sometimes at night I swim near the surface and listen to humans as they float on the water in their boats. Sometimes they say mean things about us. It is very offensive to be called a fish, I do not like that one bit but realize the humans don’t even think we exist so how can be blame them for not understanding us. Mermaids are mammals and more importantly we can think and feel just like the humans do. It is never okay to hurt another’s feelings. Under the sea, we try to live in harmony and we come from a tradition of respecting each other. We celebrate our differences, as that is what makes someone else interesting. The more different you are, the more I can learn from you. Unfortunately, this has changed and not for the better.
There was once a mermaid who always wanted to be human as long as she could remember and she wanted to live in their world. This led to the closest we ever come to being like the humans, as many of us could not understand why she would want to do that. It was as different as you could get for one of us and it began to polarize us. Some mermaids thought it was her right to do what she wanted and we should just unconditionally accept that decision and help her find a way to become human. Others thought that maybe she was ill and we should be treating her and not encouraging her behavior, as it was obviously a symptom of that illness.
I thought we should just accept her and allow her to make her own decisions and learn from her as we had always done. I spoke up on her behalf and so did many of my sisters. It was not enough as the voices that claimed she was ill were louder and they included the King. It will be a long journey to return to the society we once had. We have always been accepting and why should this be any different? Of course, we were about to discover that this feeling of wanting to be human was not an isolated event.
It turns out that other mermaids also wanted to become human and came forward inspired by the first. They often claimed that they were humans just born differently. The opposition tried to say that the illness was contagious as there were more who wanted to go topside. They began to shun these mermaids in public spaces and discrimination became very real. Our scientists even proved beyond a shadow of the doubt that these mermaids were born thinking the way they do. The opposition slid these reports under clam shells and trumpeted their agenda loudly to keep public opinion slanted against these poor mermaids.
The first time a mermaid was murdered for being different nearly shattered our society. We had never had crime of any sort and clearly not a murder. The king decided in the wake of the murder to exile anyone who had these feelings for their own protection and for the stability of our society. No one dared to voice these feelings anymore and over time these mermaids became so sad and filled with sorrow that they changed into something else. They lost their tails and learned to hate both worlds. They came to spend their nights on rocks luring humans with their sad songs to their death while shunning mermaids and reminding us that the society of peace that we once enjoyed was just an illusion. Maybe once the king passes the crown on, new leadership will revisit the horror we have created but that could take a long time.
A resistance formed as these mermaids and their allies would not let the king exile another mermaid or foster the change into a Siren. We try to identify these special mermaids before the government does and we have found a way to make them human. Once their humanity is freed, we can guide them to the surface. They can then live on the surface as the people they were born to be. If we get caught, we would all most likely be exiled but it is worth it; it is right. The number of Sirens has been slowly decreasing as we have been successful and the number of happy humans on the surface working to improve the human world is increasing. All in all, it is not a bad thing.