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Matthew and Susan

By Edwin Tomes

To my mermaid in what oceans or lakes she swim. I hope that one day she comes into my life.

It was a sunny late spring day when Matthew pulled into the state park 150 miles north of Duluth in Minnesota. Matt was 6 foot, with an average build with sandy blond hair. He wasn’t a a bad looking man, but one that might call average looking with very dark blue eyes. A slight wind stir the surface of Lake Superior, making it one of those rare perfect days to be out on the lake. Above the 2001 green Ford Ranger with matching green topper sat his kayak. A Deception, 12 foot orange and red Arcadia kayak.

Today was a special day for Matt, today he turned 30, and instead of celebrating it with his parents and older sister, he wanted to spend it out on the water reflecting on his life so far. He was still single, no one in his life, and he worked at a everyday 9 to 5 job that just made enough to make ends meet. There were no kids, or ex-wives, and his life was a lonely one. Just being out on the water always made him feel better, it didn’t matter if he was fishing, or just spending the day in his kayak when he came back he felt refreshed.

Lake Superior is one of the world’s largest lakes, so it pays to know the weather conditions ahead of time. Matt had checked the weather 2 days ago, and they had predicted that the day of his birthday was going to be one of the nicest late spring days so far with a high of 72°F, calling for the same the next day. He had at the last moment decided to bring along a tent, small sleeping bag, air mattress, and a small cooler to spend the night on one of the small islands along rocky shore. He had no doubt that he would find such a place, even though this was his first time trying this on the huge lake. Before he had always been out for just a day, but this time he just had to spend the night near the water.

He entered the park and found the road down to a beach that was of small rocks rather than sand. There he unloaded his kayak, and packed his camping gear in the open space behind the seat inside the kayak. He drove his pickup back to the parks entrance. There was a medium size building where he filled out the paper work and paid to leave his pickup there for the park rangers to keep a eye on while he was gone. A dark blue full size Ford F150 with a trailer designed to hold 4 kayaks was already there, but no kayaks rested on the arms that held the kayaks when it was loaded.

Someone else was already out on the lake he thought. He didn’t pass any one as he walked back to his kayak. He had left early in the morning, so he could be there a half an hour after sun rise. There was a feeling in the air, a feeling of freedom that made him feel just glad to be alive.

“The sun shining, the deep blue waters of the lake, the light breeze, what more could any man want.” Matt thought as he got into his kayak and pushed off heading to the south.

Meanwhile at the very same time Susan awoke to the pain in her legs.

“Not now!” she moaned, trying to roll over and get some more sleep. Pain arched through her legs again. A storm was coming she knew. It was when they came, and when the full moon came when her legs hurt, and she had to be near the water. Her family owned this cabin about 20 yards from the edge of a rock cliff along the shore of Lake Superior. It had a incredible view of the lake, with wooden steps leading down the 40 foot cliff to a small hidden cove from view, when centuries ago part of the cliff broke off sheltering the beach, making it impossible for anyone traveling on the lake to see the small beach. The hidden beach was one of the reasons why her grandfather bought the cabin for his grandmother so many years ago.

Her grandmother had loved the place, and it was here her mother had brought her when she had first changed into a mermaid during a summer vacation. Her mother couldn’t handle having a daughter for a mermaid, so left her in the care of her grandmother to raise her. When she was in her early teens, her grandmother and she went for a swim and showed a small cave lying a half a mile to the south of the cabin on a small island. She had loved her grandmother, she had shown her some of the wonders of being a mermaid, but it had been to this cave that only she and her grandmother knew of where she would go and cry because of being different from every one else, including her own mother of which she had seen little of growing up.

Her legs were now a steady ache, forcing her to get up and go to the medicine cabinet in the bathroom to get some Anvil. There she looked at herself in the mirror. She was 27 years old, yet still looked like she was 21. She had a figure men drooled over, yet she did not want that kind of attention. Long black silky hair flowed from her shoulders to the waist of her 5’7 frame. Soft brown eyes could steal the hearts of any young or old men, and of some women if she let them, but she could never let anyone get close to her, for fear that they would learn her secret. That was why she lived alone in this cabin. Her greatest fear was for someone other than her family to learn of her gift, her family called it. To her it was the family curse.

Susan wasn’t feeling all that hungry this morning, so after she dressed into a tank top, blue jeans, and sandals she went to the kitchen, picked up a couple of bananas, then to the living room where she lounged on the couch and turned on the 36 inch flat panel Sony TV. She was just in time to catch the early morning news out of Duluth. Her aching legs were right. A unexpected cold front was coming out of the north, creating huge thunderstorms which should hit Duluth tonight with winds up to 60 mph, and waves 5 to 6 feet out on Lake Superior.

“Damn weatherman.” Susan thought. Two days ago they had predicted 5 to 10 mph winds, and a perfect spring day. Now they had changed the weather completely around. The storms will pass by early afternoon, and a weather alert was to be issued to boaters. Susan got up from the couch, and looked out of the huge living room windows to the lake stretching out before her. She hoped that no one would be out there when the storm came, but for her it would make perfect afternoon to go for a swim. No one would be out there, and God help any who were caught out on that lake when the storm hit. Right now the lake looked so calm, so deceiving.

“The calm before the storm.” she thought before she turned away, and turned the channel on the TV.

He was able to eat lunch out on the water in his kayak. Lunch was later than he had planned, because the perfect island for Matt to set up camp, or even to beach on had yet to show up. “Maybe he should have paid closer attention to the maps.” he thought. It was just 2 ham sandwiches, and some water. He had just finished, his kayak had drifted a little sideways, so that his kayak was facing east when out of the corner of his eye something caught his attention to the north. A dark grey seem to fill the horizon, and before it moving like an avalanche the beautiful blue water was turning black.

This could only mean one thing, WIND !!!! And not a soft breeze, but something that meant very bad trouble to him. There was just enough time for him to get his rain jacket on, and the skirt on his kayak to keep water from getting in when the wind began to pick up, and the lake was peaceful no more. He pointed his bow to the south, and began riding the waves. It was sort of fun at first, riding the waves like a surfer, that is if he had ever surf, but it did sort of looked like what he was doing from watching some old surf movie on TV. Then he could feel something approaching, something almost evil sealing his doom.

The light overhead seem to scatter like a flock of sheep before the wolves, the world seeming to have turned grey all about him. The waves grew. What had seemed so fun was turning frighting. It felt more like he was trying to ride some enraged bull from some mad man’s rodeo, only this ride wasn’t going to be over in 8 seconds, and if he fell off of this bull, becoming separated from his kayak, there wouldn’t be no rodeo clown to pull him to safety.

Whenever he rode the crest of a wave, he looked to the west. He was still in sight of the shore, but the wind and waves where carrying him not towards them, nor away from them, just barely out of reach, as if teasing him. All he could see of the shore were sheer cliffs and more sheer cliffs. He battled each wave fighting his way to the top of each, then trying to hold it, till he slid into the trough praying that the wave behind wouldn’t crash down upon him.

He cursed himself for not celebrating his birthday with his family, then he cursed the weatherman for not knowing the weather 2 days in advance. When he was done with this he said prayers to God. When that was done he focused on just making it though the next wave. He became a machine, paddling became all that mattered to him. Moments became hours, hours became days, days turned to years, years became eternity. It seemed that he could not remember not paddling, that it had become his whole existence, but after hours of hard paddling he was starting to tire.

It wouldn’t be long till he didn’t paddle hard or strong enough, and waves would finally have him, tearing him away from his kayak. Then the cold water would be able to get to him, and then he would finally be able to rest. Something seemed to buzz in his ear. It took him a while for it to sink through. A sound, it was a sound of some sort that wasn’t of the wind.

“Could it be?” he thought. It was a woman’s voice that flowed in the wind to him through the heart of the storm.

“The end was near.” he thought, through his tired and weary mind it could only be one thing. An angel was singing, she was there to take him to heaven. The singing stopped. He waited for it to come again, but it didn’t. Still he waited, “Oh please come again.” he whispered. The song didn’t come. The song had been so pure that it could have only come from and angel, now that it had stopped it could only mean one thing. Heaven wasn’t going to be the place he had thought that he would end up. It was at that moment the last of his strength played out, and the waves pounced on him taking his kayak from him. Cold water hit him at once, and he gasped choking on water. It wouldn’t be long now.

The storm was coming, and Susan had to get down to the water’s edge. Her legs were in agony, she had to get down there now! She flew down the wooden stairs to the small wet sandy beach. Sandals went flying before her feet touched the sand. Struggling she got her blue jeans off, then her panties. Oh her legs hurt, and a moan escaped from her lips. The main thing was that she had to have her pants off, or they would have ripped off, and she didn’t want to go some place and replace them, besides they were her favorite jeans.

She held her legs together, she couldn’t have kept them separate if she tried. So tight were they that they seemed to be as one, then slowly they became one, then something much more. They seemed to darken, and very slowly to turn dark green. Small scales appeared, then started growing from what had been her heels to her waist. She didn’t fight the pain any more, it was better to just let it flow. The scales grew till they were the size of her thumb, then stopped growing. Susan looked down her body, the transformation was complete.

“Now it was time to have some fun.” she thought, crawling with her hands, dragging her tail behind her into the water till was finally deep enough for her to swim. By now the sky was grey, and the waves were rolling by the boulder sheltering this tiny beach. She swam below the turmoil of the incoming waves, and down the face of the cliffs running down the front of her cabin. It was so beautiful beneath the surface, and it was all hers. There was such mucgh freedom down here that it made going through the pain worth it.

She spotted a school of smelt, and below them a school of about 10 salmon shadowing the bait fish. There might be a storm above, but below in the deeper water life went on. It was safer to be here out in the open during a storm, because you didn’t have to worry about some fisherman trolling along through that very school after salmon. She wondered what those fishermen thought when their sonar passed over her and picked her up. Most likely they thought she was some monster sturgeon, or some world’s record salmon. She laughed at the idea, until she felt her left side where some scales were smaller than the rest of her scales.

It was a reminder when she had gone out when the weather was nice, and when she wasn’t paying attention a fishing lure had caught her, but it wasn’t deep, and the only harm was losing a few scales. What did that fisherman think about, when he found those scales on his hook as he reeled his lure in. Most likely he got mad about the one that got away, and threw the scales back. Sure enough she later spotted them slowly falling like leaves through the water. No one ever keeps the scales of the one that got away. She let them continue their way to the bottom. It wasn’t as if she would be able to glue them back on.

Susan turned her attention back to the storm raging overhead. It was an amazing sight to see. The dark grey clouds seemed to have fallen from the sky, becoming the waves rolling over the surface. Instead of the normal light blue light of late afternoon, the sky had turned dark grey meshed with black. This didn’t caused her any fear, she loved storms. She swam up through the closest wave till she was at the top of the wave, then rode the wave like a human surfboard using her tail to either steer like a rudder, or to give a few strokes keeping her on the crest.

She reached the point where the bottom of her breast forward were in open air. The churning crest tickled her breast, laughing for the sheer joy of it all. She let the wave tumble her into the trough of the wave falling the 5 feet to the cushion of the water below, only to surface and let the next wave pick her up to do it all over again. No human could have ever done this and feel so relaxed in the water. After a while, and after all the fun she was having, she swam back to the rock sheltering her beach. On the back side of it were deep steps cut into the rock, her grandfather had made for her grandmother so many years ago.

Each step was designed to be a seat if the person chose for it to be such. This way she could go as high as 20 feet above the surface of the lake, and if spotted she could jump off the step and into the lake. She waited for a wave to reach its peak, and then as the wave fell, she let it deposit her on the closest step. Before the next wave could carry her away she put her back to the step, then put her hands on the next one bending her elbows, then straightening them to place her butt on the next higher step. She did this till she was 3 feet above the highest wave.

There was no chance for anyone to be around. The cabin didn’t have any neighbors near it within 5 miles, so there was no chance for anyone to see or hear whatever she felt like doing. With storms, they gave her freedom, to do anything she wanted. She felt happy and began to sing. It was just some little song that at times like this, she would just make up on the spur of the moment, rarely were they ever the same song. Maybe the singing that she and her grandmother did during storms was the reason why her grandfather called her grandmother a Siren of storms.

Whatever the reason, it was during this time she was happiest, so she let her song mingle with the wind and rain carrying it out among the waves. Susan was in the middle of one of her greatest songs, but everyone was her greatest song, so that didn’t mean much. Out in that sea of boiling grey water a speck of color for a moment flashed, then was gone. Had she imagined it? She focused on the spot, and just a little past where she had last seen it flashed again. This time she got a better look.

It was a yellow and orange kayak. What nut would be out on Lake Superior with a storm like this. Other than her small beach, there wasn’t any place for a kayak to beach without smashing on the rocks for 20 miles in either direction. Whoever it was, was as good as dead out there. She took a good look where the kayak was when it crested the next wave, and then dove off the step where she sitting. Once in the water she swam to 12 feet below the surface, and shot to the area where she had last seen the kayak. It wasn’t there!

Turning to swim on her back, she searched overhead for the outline of the kayak. Susan had a good sense of direction, and in this open water there was no fear of banging her head on a rock or something, so with ease she swam on her back at the ever moving surface of the waves. She didn’t find a kayak, she found a body bobbing and rolling in the waves, the guy’s life jacket keeping his head above water. How long had could he survive in this water? Not long she guessed. She didn’t really feel the cold, and for as long as she could remember she had never felt cold until she seen that body. She surfaced next to the guy.

“Are you OK?” Matt heard, then heard again, “Hey, are you OK?”

He turned, and right next to him was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

“Yes!” he yelled over the wind. “Where is your boat?” he asked, for surely way out here she must have came from some boat.

“I don’t have one, I swam out. Now listen I’m going to grab the top of your life jacket and try to bring you in. OK.” she told him. He felt her grab the top of his life jacket just as she said that she would, and began to try to swim towards shore. It was after they tried to swim against the 5th wave, that they both knew that it was hopeless. She stopped swimming and turned him around so they were face to face.

“This isn’t going to work. We can’t swim over the waves, but I have a idea. We are going to swim under the waves. I know this sounds crazy, but I think it will work.” she told him.

“Do we have any other choice?” he asked.

“No, none that I can think of right now.” she answered. “Now listen. I have been umm a diver for years. While we are under try to hold your breath, but when you need to breathe through your mouth. We will keep our mouths together, sort of like a rather long kiss, only this one is going to have to last a heck of a long time. We will surface when we have to and fill our lungs before we dive again. Do you think you can handle it?”

What wasn’t already numb with cold was freezing, yet here was this angel before him telling him that they were going to kiss under water, and before he knew it the comment left his lips, “I got it, but I must warn you I am a great kisser you might find me irresistible after this.” Then he gave her a little smile.

She stared at him for a moment before it sank in, them smiled, brought her lips to his, and then pulled him under the surface.

Matt was startled by the sudden kiss, and sucked in hard when the cold water covered his head. Her lips were soft and yielding. He wrapped his arms about her, and she did the same to him. She had pulled him towards him, so he was above her when they dove, then leveled out just beneath the waves. Right away things seemed a little strange. She was holding him so close, he could feel her legs under him, but she had to be swimming with them together, because they felt as one. He also could feel the water flowing past him at a incredibly fast rate before be felt totally numb.

Their lips touching became his lifeline to the here and now. It was all that mattered, yet very slowly that too slipped away. He felt open air about his face, and he could hear her yelling at him over a distance, then he felt something cover his lips, and he was lost in the darkness. Later he felt his body being jerked once, and then again. There was a pattern to his body being jerked about, as if someone was pulling his body, then pausing, then pulling him along. The surface beneath him was hard instead of soft, this was all that he could feel before the darkness came for him again.

The next time he came to, he felt a warm softness against his cheek and something else covering his face feeling like a feather. He opened his right eye. With her face pressed against his left cheek he could make out the features of a woman, the woman who had swam to him. He could feel her wrapped about him, her long hair over his face and about the both of them. His legs felt funny, slimy in fact. Looking down their intwined bodies, he noticed that just below his hands that were about her hips, she was covered in dark green scales about the size of his thumb nail.

She had wrapped her tail about him, and it did look a little slippery. At the end her tail fanned out, covering his feet. In the pale early light this was all he could make of her, then he noticed some thing near his right hand. A scale that looked like it had come off, and it lay just a couple of inches from his right hand, for whatever reason he felt that it was important for him to have it. Very slowly picked it up with his middle and index finger, then wrapped the scale in his fist, so that he wouldn’t lose it, then faded back off to sleep.

When the guy had commented to Susan about how great a kisser he claimed to be she couldn’t believe he was joking at a time like this. This guy for all he knew could be his last moments, and he could still be funny in his own mind. Well it was not often a guy made a pass at her in a middle of a storm, so she smiled at him, and brought her lips to his.

They didn’t have time to waste with more talking. As soon as they dove, she felt their lips press closer together. “The guy was right, he was a good kisser she thought.” She almost forgot where she was, it had been a long time since she had kissed someone, and never like this, but while that had been a kiss of passion, this was a matter of life or death. Swimming underwater for most of her life she had a good sense of her direction, and began to swim towards her cove, but she knew that was too far away. She had to get this man out of the water as soon as possible.

Along the shore of the great lakes are many islands, one that was close by had a shallow cave about 5 feet all, and 10 feet deep. It would be enough to keep them out of the wind and rain, she swam to it as fast as she could. Susan could feel the man slowly going limp in her embrace. She surfaced and yelled at him if he was OK, but there was no response. The island wasn’t far away, but she feared that it might be too late. Susan locked her lips to his, and dove once more. It was true she could breathe underwater, but she could also keep some air in her lung to keep her buoyant.

It was this air that she been passing from her lips into this man as they swam. The man was accepting very little air now. Strangely the water began to feel different, she could almost feel the bottom coming up to her. This could only mean one thing, they had reached the island. They had been lucky today, the cave was on the other side of the island, so the wind would not be blowing straight into it, but was the man still alive?

It proved to be harder than she thought to get the man into the cave. He wasn’t exactly light, and once the water to the shore of the cave was too shallow to swim or float them, she had to crawl forward, then grab the guy by the shoulders and pull him towards her. Once they were safe in the cave and on dry land, she removed his wet clothes. She had to get him as warm as soon as possible. She couldn’t change to her human form whenever she wanted when the storms where blowing, it would be hours before she could change to have her legs back.

The only thing standing between this man and death was her, and the only way she could keep him warm would be to wrap herself about him. Before she did she finally got a good look at this man. He wasn’t bad looking she supposed, there wasn’t a ring on his finger, but that didn’t mean that he didn’t have anyone, and she could only hope that if he did have a girl or even a guy friend that what she was doing was to save his life. She wrapped her arms about him, and in and unconscious reaction he wrapped his arms around her. They rolled about on the floor of the cavr, so that she could wrap her tail around him as if like a snake till she was able to cover his feet with the flat of her tail.

He felt like ice within her embrace and began to shiver. All she could do was to hold him, and to give her what warmth she could. She didn’t know when, but as she held him her own exhaustion of the ordeal caught up with her, and she drifted off to sleep. One time as she slept she felt him move, then was still. She didn’t notice that while she had done her best to wrap herself about the man, one of her scales had come off, and lay on the ground behind her.

Susan woke the next morning not because of the sun, but the man she had kept warm through the night, was now burning up. He had a fever. She had to get him to her place, but her cove was a mile away from where they were now. Would the man survive the trip? Should she leave him here, and swim back, then wait for her to transform to human form and call for help?

Perhaps the decision might not have been the wisest of ones, but she chose to drag him again into the water, with nothing but his life jacket on, and swim holding him under his arms, trying to keep him as much as possible out of the water, while she herself was completely submerged.

She swam as fast as she could, the man sick with fever never came too, yet for some reason he kept his right hand locked in a fist. They reached the cove, and once there, she dragged him from the water in the same manner as she had at the cave. The storm was gone, and the waves had still been a little choppy on the way over, but they had made it. Now that the storm had passed, she could transform to being human. As she waited for transformation to complete, she rubbed the man’s arms and legs to get the circulation flowing again. He had survived the trip. Her clothes were where she had left them, but they were soaked from the storm. She threw the wet shirt on, she had to have some kind of modesty when she ran up the stairs.

When there wasn’t a storm or a full moon, Susan had learnt to control her transformation, so she didn’t change back to a mermaid when she threw the shirt on. When she reached her cabin she raced inside, found her long flannel robe, switched to a dry shirt and jeans, then ran down the stairs to the man who was still unconscious. Susan got the robe on him, then began to rub his arms and legs again, talking to him trying to get him to respond.

The next step was to get him to wake up enough, to get him up the stairs to her cabin where she could finally give him the care he needed. He did awake, but was in a daze. The way he was he could barely function, but she did get him climbing the stairs in a rather drunken-like state. Finallly after what seemed forever, they reached her cabin and she was able to get him into her bed, where she covered him in blankets. When she got him all settled and knew that he was going to be OK, she went back down to her cove, where she removed her clothes and walked into the water.

She didn’t let the change overcome her till the water reached just below her breast, then she allowed the pain to come. When her legs were once a tail, she swam off to the island to get the man’s clothes, then when he came too, she would find out if he had seen her as a mermaid. If he didn’t, then she could make sure he got the proper help and get him where he belonged. If he did know see her as a mermaid, then to convince him he had imagine it before he left.

Soft and warmth was all Matt was able to feel at first. Then the unfamiliar smell hit him. It called his attention, giving definition to what the warmth was coming from the blankets, and the softness of the bed he was on. What he smelled was the soft hint of perfume, and other cosmetic of the arsenal all women seem to have, compared to the few basic needs and wants of a man.

He opened his eyes, slowly looking around. On the opposite wall hung a family portrait. A middle aged couple with an 18 year old daughter, and a grandmother in it. It came to him that he was in a woman’s bedroom.

“How had he come here?” Then a shiver ran through him. He wasn’t well that much he knew, then began to try to think back over when he could remember. What did come to him was flashes and different images, and feels. Someone had saved him, then held him, and some shouting at him, something about you alright or something, a woman, a fishy tail, a scale? His hand was still in a fist. He had picked up some thing in his dream, what was it. Under the blankets he brought his right hand up, then opened it. On the palm of his hand lay a large green scale about the size of his thumb nail.