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Short Story: Shanty's Song


Shanty's Song


Shanty flicked her yellow tang-colored tail in the icy water, shivering as she swam farther into the crevice of the coral-flecked library. The ancient depository was next to the sea bed that marked the passing of former monarchs for the Pacific Ocean. After the catastrophe between the mermaids and witches near the Baltic Sea over a century ago, each briny kingdom had moved its individual collection of Merynka histories and tales to the darkest depths of its sea bed for safe-keeping.


Undulating and twisting past a jagged outcropping of rock, Shanty hoped her brightly colored tail didn't make her as visible as it normally did. The inky water matched her hair color and was increasingly difficult to see in. There were sea creatures who could eat the Merynka with ease, and some of them were whispered to guard the halls of each Merynka Memoir. Brushing past a bed of grayish kelp that appeared to have died, Shanty forged ahead.


She wanted to find a new collection of Merynka stories but was starting to regret her decision to come alone. Shanty had submitted the required documents on magicked, sun-dried kelp like she was supposed to, but she'd been too impatient to wait for them to be approved. If she had, a small contingent of armed Merynkan men would have swam down here with her, but the warm water from above, where the Pacific Kingdom resided, had disappeared long ago.


Shanty wasn't royalty, but she was close. As the daughter of a Wave Caller, a sect of Syrenkas living in the Pacific Ocean, Shanty wasn't just destined to follow in her mother's wake - she yearned to. Spotting the bio-luminescent bulbs of the fish that lived the in the dips and hollows of the coral in the Merynka Memoir, Shanty swam faster. She didn't want to encounter a frilled shark.


"Almost there," Shanty murmured, reassuring herself.


Streaming past vampire squids, blue chimaeras, and various other creatures that dwelled close to the sediment of the underwater sea cave in the wide crevice, Shanty breathed a sigh of relief. Small bubbles swirled in front of her brown face, slipping past the slitted gills discreetly tucked behind her ears. Shanty rubbed her fingers across the chiseled clam shell markers in each section. There were three major types of humanesque aquatic life in the seven seas and beyond: Mermaids, Syrenkas, and Melusinas. The latter lived exclusively in freshwater, but Mermaids and Syrenkas chose not to bind themselves to one body of water and often resided together in mixed Merynkan kingdoms.


Each aquatic race had their own stories about humans, the creatures that lived on land. Melusinas had the most stories about life in structures humans called cities or towns. Mermaids and Syrenkas were the cultivators of a collection of tales about encounters with humans sailing on the sea's shimmering surface. Whenever each race crossed currents with one another, they exchanged as many stories as possible. There was safety in information, as long as it was accurate.


"The waves won't answer if you aren't telling the truth," Shanty said, mimicking her mother.


Shanty repositioned the pale, seashell circlet on her head and sucked on her full bottom lip. She wasn't sure where the most recent story about the ancient Sea Witch would be filed. The Melusinas would have been witnesses to the events that transpired, but the Mermaids were directly involved. Guessing, Shanty swished over to the clam shell marked for Mermaids.


Grinning, she grabbed the newest addition to the Merynka Memoir. It was easy to distinguish because the new magick on the kelp documents had a distinctive sheen that was absent from older pieces in the library. Unrolling the crisp sheaf, Shanty read the title and grinned, choosing another one. Sea Witch and Sea Witch Rising were cautionary tales about the follies of letting emotion overcome reason - something that wasn't exclusively human even though many tried to pretend it was. Shanty would memorize this latest account, but she wasn't here to retell the tales within the Pacific Kingdom.


She would sing the story to the sea, practicing to be a Wave Caller like her mother, and let it be the judge of the human hearts that sailed its surface and swam its depths. Unpinning the curled shell recorder nestled among the circlet in her hair, Shanty prepared her voice to be captured. She would sing the tales into the device and play them until the memory of each word was as a part of her as the scales on her tail.


Shanty hummed her favorite Wave Caller adage before she began singing, easing her vocals around the words. "Every heart sighs for a truth or a lie, but few can tell the difference."




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Copyright June 2020

No part of this story may be used or copied without the author's express and written permission.


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