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Tangled tides the sea mo.., p.26
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       Tangled Tides (The Sea Monster Memoirs), p.26

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 
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  "Treygan," I whispered. He was pulling and rearing against Nixie, trying to get to me.

  Uncle Lloyd looked over his shoulder. "Let him go."

  In a flash, Treygan threw Uncle Lloyd across the room, letting out the angriest roar I had ever heard. Uncle Lloyd landed on a floor vase, shattering it before rolling across the tile and finally stopping against a wall. The sirens screeched and wings flapped all around me.

  Treygan was above me, his fingers lacing with mine.

  "No," he begged. "For the love of Poseidon, no, no, no." He cradled my head while his eyes swept over me. "How could you do this to her?" he yelled. "That was blue gorgon blood. Evil blood. It will kill her!"

  The pain grew sharper, but so did my vision. Everything looked clear and crisp. Red blood dripped from Uncle Lloyd's fingers and forehead as Rownan helped him to his feet.

  I found Treygan's cobalt eyes again. My voice came out strangled. "This was my decision. Everyone has always made decisions for me. This time I got to decide."

  "No," he pleaded.

  "She's part siren, selkie, and mer," Uncle Lloyd panted. "Turning her to stone will take much longer than anyone else. You have time to get her to the gate before it happens."

  A white heron flew into the room, landing near me on the floor. I stared at it, realizing it was the same bird I had seen many times since being turned.

  The eyes didn't look like a normal heron's. They were sad, familiar and haunting. They were the eyes of my mother.

  Treygan glared at our father. "How could you do this?" He glowered at me, his jaw muscles flexing. "I will never forgive either of you for this. Never."

  Lloyd spoke to the sirens as if nothing had happened. "Get them to the gate before the sun sets."

  Before I knew it, Mariza had her arms around me. Otabia had Treygan, and Nixie flew off the back deck in front of us, carrying Yara into the sky.

  The sisters flew in a wide triangle. Nixie took the lead position. Otabia glided through the sky to the far right of me and Mariza. Treygan occasionally kicked and squirmed and shouted at her, but I couldn't make out what he said. He was too far away and the rushing wind drowned out his words.

  "Mmm, do you smell it?" Mariza sniffed the air. "Despair, anger, fear, time ticking away. It's so tantalizing."

  The old man's plan had to work. If it didn't, the selkies would shun me, or kill me—if Treygan didn't kill me first. What if the sirens didn't take us to the gate? How could Lloyd trust them?

  "Why did you agree to this?" I asked Mariza. "You and your sisters don't want the gate opened."

  Her cinnamon eyes glinted and she flicked her head. "We are obligated."

  "Obligated? To whom?"

  She nodded at the white heron flying beside Nixie. "Cleo, the meddling twat. She couldn't die and leave us in peace. Had to hang about and order us around."

  I stared at the heron flying ahead of us. "Holy shit."

  The spirit of Yara's mother was communicating through a bird? What the hell was this world coming to? How many people—or ghosts—did Lloyd have working on this plan?

  Nixie stopped. Her wings flapped as she hovered above a dark circle of water. The gateway was below us.

  "Which one of you boys wants her?" Nixie asked. Yara hung limp in Nixie's arms.

  Treygan practically growled. "Nixie, if you give her to Rownan, so help me gods, I will make your existence hell."

  "Ooh." Nixie licked her lips. "We've progressed to threats, have we?" She looked at each of us and scrunched her shoulders to her ears. "Oops," she sang, lifting her empty arms above her head. "I dropped her."

  Yara splashed into the water. Otabia released Treygan and he dove in after her. Nixie, Otabia, and the creepy heron I was still trying to believe was Cleo all stared at me, wide-eyed.

  "Listen to Yara," Nixie commanded me in a harsh voice. "Whatever she asks, you do it."

  Before I could say a word I fell through the air, plunging feet first into the water. My coat instantly changed into my seal skin.

  I wasn't sure how many selkies Jack had taken with him to the house, but at least fifteen were gathered at the entrance to the Catacombs, along with thirty or so merfolk. Selks and mer, separated like two gangs ready to attack at the first signal.

  I swam past the crowd, not making eye contact with anyone. Treygan had Yara cradled in his arms. He and the Violets were deep in conversation. Yara barely turned her head, but her face twisted with pain. Her eyes stopped searching when she saw me.

  Do it, she thought to me.

  Do what?

  Drain me of my blood over the tombs.

  What the hell? Lloyd didn't tell me that part of the plan. I told him I didn't want to hurt her. Nixie said I had to do what Yara asked, but that couldn't be what she meant.

  Rownan! Yara mentally shouted. You have to, before it's too late.

  I turned around, scanning the crowd of selkies. Dina and Eve hovered near the front, watching me intently like everyone else. I extended my sight so everyone could hear me. Thankfully, they couldn't hear my heart pounding.

  Someone has to distract the Violets and Treygan while I take Yara away from him. I only need a couple seconds. Enough time to get her into the Catacombs.

  No one but me, Treygan, and Yara could safely swim into the Catacombs. They all knew that. No merfolk would attempt to follow me. Do whatever it takes to keep Treygan away from me.

  Eve turned to Dina and a few others. After a minute they all nodded, and Eve looked at me again. You better be right behind us. They'll know we're up to something.

  Eve, Dina and four other selkies swam toward Treygan and the Violets. Indrea turned first, her body tensing like she expected a fight. Eve took off her wristband, holding it out in front of her. I had no idea what she said, but Indrea's suspicious glare softened.

  I circled high, acting like I was swimming past everyone into the Catacombs, then u-turned and swam full speed at Treygan's back.

  Merfolk screamed and poured forward, but I was too far ahead of them. I rammed Treygan with one powerful blow. Eve and the others had each grabbed a Violet. In Treygan's moment of distraction, Dina pried Yara from Treygan's arms. I snatched Yara from her, swimming as hard as I could into the Catacombs while Dina and another group of selkies tried to restrain Treygan.

  Yara dug her fingers into my chest. Do it, she urged. While they can still see. Cut me.

  I didn't want to, but in the craziness of my adrenaline pumping and with the chaos behind us I didn't hesitate. I sliced open her arm from shoulder to wrist. Blood flowed into the water around us.

  Thank you, she thought.

  A red and dark blue cloud trailed from her limp arm. The evil gorgon blood was already so much a part of her that she was bleeding both colors. Lloyd was right. It hadn't killed her, but what if the blood loss did? I weaved through tombs, passing blurred stone faces.

  The gate was just ahead, but the sun had almost set. No gorgons were there, no light shined through. It wasn't opening.

  Yara touched my chin. She felt like a block of ice in my arms. See, you can tell them you tried. My blood didn't bring the lost souls back to life. You were loyal to your kind. Her eyes rolled backward and her lids fluttered closed.

  Even underwater my eyes burned. After all I had done, all I had put her through, she still cared about me. Lloyd said she would be in more pain than any of us could imagine, yet she pushed through the pain to help me appear loyal to a group of monsters who wanted to kill her.

  I'm sorry, I said to her. I'm so sorry.

  But what good were my words if she couldn't hear them?

  Treygan crashed into my back like a wrecking ball.

  Yara flew out of my arms and I smashed face-first into a stone statue. Pain exploded through my skull. For a second I thought I was blind. A few blurry blinks later I saw pieces of shattered tomb sinking to the ocean floor. I sank too, rattled and numb from the hit.

  Treygan grabbed me by the hair, yanking me upward. I locked one hand aro
und his throat, squeezing as hard as I could. His veins bulged, but he didn't flinch. I extended the claws of my other hand and slashed open the skin on his chest. His fingers closed over my wrists. I'm going to break every bone in your spineless body.

  I managed to wiggle my right arm out of his grasp, but he snapped my left wrist like it was a piece of coral.

  I howled in agony and tried to swim away, but he yanked me back.

  You heartless bastard, he said. I'll see you in hell.

  One of his hands clenched my jaw, the other wrapped around the top of my head. He would break my neck and it would all be over. He had more than enough strength to do it, and I deserved it. The gate wasn't opening. I would never see Vienna again. My brother hated me. My father was ashamed of me. I had nothing to live for.

  This is my hell. Go ahead, I urged.

  A soft, deep moan resonated through the water. The fury disappeared from Treygan's eyes. He loosened his grip and turned away from me, looking at Yara. She hung onto the arm of a stone merman. She was so pale she almost looked like one of the tombs, but with yellow hair. Treygan released me and swam to her.

  My sight had returned, but my head throbbed. Was I imagining a snake slithering over Yara's shoulder? I swam over to apologize, and to make sure I imagined the snake.

  But the snake in her hair was real. Worse than that, Yara's fins had turned to stone. Treygan's worst fears were coming true. I didn't want to see it go down like this.

  Treygan's tail changed into legs. Every one of his hallmarks swirled. His skin pulsed between dark blue and gray. He sat on the ocean floor with Yara in his lap, pushing the snake and her floating hair from her face over and over again.

  I sank down on the other side of her.

  The crackling was the worst sound I had ever heard. Stone formed inch by inch, moving up her tail, leaving nothing but rock where life used to be.

  Yara's eyes were open. She and Treygan stared at each other, but I didn't try listening to what they were saying. Treygan shook his head. Yara reached up and touched his cheek.

  When he leaned down to kiss her I looked away. My brother kissed his soul mate a first and final goodbye. Life had never been fair to him.

  Yara's other arm floated upward, brushing against my stomach, but she didn't look at me. She was still gazing at Treygan. The stone had only spread to her stomach, but her lips were hard rock.

  She pressed two fingers over her chest then placed them against her eyes. She reached for Treygan as her shoulders and arms crackled, hardening into stone. By the time her fingers touched his face they were gray rock.

  I didn't need to hear Yara to know her last words to him. Her heart, her soul, she shares with him. He taught me that pledge when we were kids.

  Treygan let out a deep bellow that shook the water around us.

  I had never seen my brother cry. His tears turned to stone as they poured out of him. He held the statue of Yara in his arms, rocking back and forth, his forehead pressed against lifeless rock.

  I looked around at all the tombs, some reaching upward, some wide-eyed, one half-shattered. What had we done? This wasn't how it was supposed to end.

  Treygan looked up, glaring at me. You and Lloyd did this to her.

  I had no idea. He said she asked to be transformed into a gorgon. I didn't know it would kill her.

  And what good did it do? The sun has set. The gate didn't open!

  I glanced at the dark, sealed gate, knowing Vienna was somewhere on the other side. Every breath was a struggle. Every time I blinked I saw Vienna's face—a face I would never touch or kiss again. I'm sorry, Treygan. Now you know what it's like to be in love. If it was Yara on the other side of that gate, and you had one shot to return to her, wouldn't you try anything to make it open?

  He didn't reply. He just hung his head, clinging to Yara's tomb, unable to let go of the inevitable. All of us had blown it. We would never return home.

  I'm not sure how long I stared at the waterfall. The colors were mesmerizing, but a boom of thunder shook me from my daze and I turned to see a luminous woman with flowers for hair standing beside me.

  "Hello," she said.

  "Hi."

  Another clap of thunder rattled through me and I looked to my left, watching an angry storm rip and tear its way through the dark space beside us.

  "I love storms," I confessed. Something moved in the waterfall, diverting my attention. "But the light and all those colors are so beautiful."

  A slimy Koi fish the color of vomit flopped out of the stormy surf and landed at my feet. Its eyes bugged, a hook hung from its bloody mouth and its scales were peeling.

  "Can we save it?" I asked.

  The woman nodded to the waterfall. I picked up the fish and lifted it toward the ever-changing wall of color. A hole opened and the fish swam through. The hook vanished, the Koi's eyes returned to normal, its scales changed to a healthy, golden glow.

  "Just like that," I said.

  "So simple," she agreed. "You may also go."

  Why would I need to climb through the waterfall? I looked down at my body. My legs were stone, crumbling steadily into pieces. I stared at the waterfall again and the outline of a tail appeared in the ridges of the water. Something tugged at my memory.

  "Through there," she held back part of the waterfall like a curtain. "You'll be free from pain."

  I peeked inside as a heron flew past me, landing on the branch of a pink tree. The bird morphed into a woman. My mother. Giant, white wings spread out behind her, the curve of each feather gleaming with hints of pink and gold. She was smiling. I had forgotten how pretty she looked when she smiled. Her eyes motioned at something behind me.

  I turned around and watched the storm. "What if I don't go through the waterfall?"

  "You would rather weather the storm?" the beautiful woman asked.

  "I like storms. Someone told me that after the clouds clear, the sky is a blank page waiting to be filled with sunbeam songs, moonlit poetry, and stories written in the stars." Who taught me that? An old man's face flashed in front of me, but quickly faded to a blur of yellow.

  "Sometimes beauty is hidden under a veil of tragedy," the glowing woman said.

  A poem. Medusa. A tiny thread brushed against my mind and I grabbed onto it. The fabric of my life raveled back together. Faint memories weaved their way back to me.

  The lightning and thunder stopped. Blue and silver clouds disintegrated, leaving a constellation of teal stars twinkling in the sky. Two blue moons shone above them. Something seemed familiar about them. I could almost see a wide nose forming beside the group of stars that made up the Canis Major constellation. The faint outline of a body appeared below a ghostly face. A blue tail formed in the sky. Its iridescent scales shimmered with possibilities of my future.

  "Treygan," I whispered.

  I looked back and forth between the two of them: my mother, the siren, a breathtaking angel; and Treygan, the merman, my true love.

  Medusa stepped closer to me. "You must choose."

  "I choose to be a mermaid."

  Her laughter shook the waterfall and starry sky until everything blurred around us.

  "I meant choose between being an angel or retiring in peace. You do not get to return to life. You died."

  "So?"

  "So?" She smiled.

  "I know who you are. You created a new world with three new species of creatures."

  "More than three," she corrected. "You have not seen the other realms."

  "See, you did all of that, but you're telling me you can't send me back?"

  "That is not how the rules work."

  "Then make new rules, Medusa."

  She glanced at the waterfall like she might be considering it. I kept pleading my case while I had the chance.

  "You wanted me as your replacement. Well, here I am. You need me. Your sisters need me. I'm the only human-monster mix that's female. I'll do it. Send me back."

  She laughed again. "You are a unique conglomera
te containing too many types of blood. Your instincts would be in constant battle with each other: warm, cold, light, dark."

  "They would balance each other out," I argued, remembering Uncle Lloyd's theory. "I'm perfect for the job. Once a human, now a gorgon, just like you. You created the sirens, selkies, and merfolk. I'm a mixture of all of them. I have a vested interest in all sides."

  She glowed brighter—if that was possible. "You are giving up the chance to enter paradise, only to return to a life of darkness as a gorgon?"

  I felt powerful and wise. More so than I had ever felt while I was alive. "I'm still part mermaid, I would need the sun." She flinched and I held up my hands. "The only gorgons sentenced to the grotto were you and your sisters. You and Poseidon have children who can roam the land and waters in the other realm, correct?"

  She nodded.

  "So the curse wouldn't apply to me. I wouldn't need to live in the grotto, but I would agree to visit as much as Stheno and Euryale needed me to. Power would be restored to the trinity in exchange for life restored to me. It's a heck of a deal."

  She grinned again. The woman smiled or laughed at everything. "You are only doing this for love."

  I smiled too. "Isn't that how all of this started? You and Poseidon broke and bent rules and created new ones, all because of love."

  The flowering vines in her hair slithered around her head and some of the petals closed or fluttered to her feet. "You should know I had nothing to do with the curse. Seeing my children suffering, trapped outside of their home, it bemoans my soul. My sisters have grown angry and vengeful over the centuries. I cannot control their actions."

  "Then send me back. If they get their third they'll be happy and open the gateway. Everyone wins."

  "You make it sound so simple."

  "Come on, Medusa. Sending me into an eternal waterfall of peace and healing is simple, but figuring out how to put my soul back in my body is impossible? I doubt it."

  Her pearly eyebrows lifted. "You remind me of myself when I was young. Stubborn, fiery, would do anything for love. It was love that helped me achieve greatness. My sisters, Poseidon, my children, they gave my existence meaning."

 
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