Flash Fiction: Rusalka

She is beautiful – all dangerous things are. But she doesn’t mean to be – beautiful, or dangerous. She doesn’t mean to lurk below the surface of a turbulent sea, waiting for men to appear in their ships, or out on the pier at a deadly hour. She doesn’t mean to kill them, to watch their brains bleed out their ears, to watch them gasping for air where none can be found, deep in the dark, in the salty, angry water. She’s looking for someone, has been for centuries. She never finds him. All she ever does, can ever do, is send men to soft, sand bed graves down, down, down, where the fish pick and pry at their bloated skin until there is nothing left but bones. She doesn’t mean to kill them, she tells herself. She’s only looking for someone.

arthurrackhamHe is long dead, but she’ll never know that. Time passes differently for her, though that hasn’t stopped her from going insane. Confined to the water, confined to the darkness, she cannot search the land and seek him out, pull him from his bed and rip his throat with the razor sharp points of her nails. It’s all she longs to do – the longing vibrates in her marrow, makes her heartsick, makes her forget and remember everything in a jumble. Sometimes she remembers who she was, and sometimes she doesn’t even realize that she was a person. That she was a girl in a dress with long, gleaming hair. That he was a man with calloused hands and terrible breath and fury in the cracks of his bloodshot eyes. That he let her body drift away, drift and drift and drift until her body sank, down, down, down, where the fish picked and pried at her bloated skin until there was nothing left but bones.

She doesn’t remember that from her bones she was born again, born in a horrible, agonizing remaking of wounded flesh and scales and unimaginable beauty that could cut down to bone. She doesn’t remember being one thing, and becoming something else. Becoming who she is now. What she is now.

She looks for him, only sometimes remembering why. She barely remembers the men who come to her in between, who notice her from the shore or the ship or the pier, who ask her what she’s doing out here all alone. For a moment, they look just like him, bloodshot eyes and rough, splintered hands, and she’ll remember her purpose and she always laughs because finally, finally she has found him, after all of this searching, all of this time. Always, he claps his hands to his ears at the sound, where the blood begins trickling in a thin stream, ruining his hearing, destroying his perception, his brains liquefying in his head as she shrieks with happiness. And it’s only as he’s dying, as he breathes his life out in one final gasp, that she’ll realize who she is looking at, and it won’t be him, it’s never him. It can never be him.

Their bodies are heavy and sometimes they are too far up shore for her to retrieve them. Sometimes they are already in the water, drowning. When she can, she pulls them out into the waves, far away from the prying eyes of land. She watches them sink, down, down, down, and she wishes them farewell, and tells them she’s sorry, and she continues her search, forgetting once again that she has ever killed a man, that he is sinking, sinking as she swims away, to join the sea.

4 Responses to “Flash Fiction: Rusalka”
  1. Beautiful and haunting. I love it.

  2. Dave says:

    Lovely story, Hannah. I enjoyed it very much. The tortured soul of a mermaid as she longs to find the memory of a man from her past. Great description of all she goes through, and the various men.

    Wonderful, as always 🙂

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