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there's a new goddess on the block

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You break the surface of the water, sending ripples toward the stony beach as you check the area. As usual, it’s vacant of people, only a few birds searching for scraps. This part of the beach that stretches up the coast was almost hidden from everyone, only locals knowing about it. The cliff jutted out here so this part was only accessible when the tide receded. Even then, no one bothered coming over here. The usual sand was replaced with pebbles and the cliff face that looked over it was old and crumbly, the Jurassic rock becoming more unstable with each year and storm. It wasn’t abnormal to see chunks of the cliff come flying down, splintering as it hits the rocks, and sending debris into the sea. There was actually a sign that prohibited anyone from spending the day there, but still some locals dared to venture over, normally to fish. It made for the perfect beach all to yourself.

A few rockpools were scattered around closer to the shoreline, filled with limpets and crabs, and a couple of massive boulders that have probably seen many a year considering the absolute size of them. Your favourite one, was just past the rock pools - it was the flattest of them all, and dark, almost black in colour. It was probably as comfortable as you could get for a rock, so it was your sunning rock. It’s dark colour meant that by the time the sun was directly above, it was warm. You frequented it when the cool depths of the oceans became monotonous and you just craved the sun on your skin - of course, only in moderation. Too much and you’d shrivel up. 

 

 

Today is one of those days, the constant water has become suffocating, and your siblings have become a touch irritating, so when you woke up, you knew you wanted to spend the day sunbathing and doing absolutely nothing. 

 

 

The tide is a bit further out than you’d like, so pulling yourself up the beach takes some amount of arm strength to reach your sunning rock. When it’s further in, but not enough to cover it, you can just roll onto it. A brief thought to come back another day flashes across your mind, but eh~ you can handle a couple extra metres. You flop onto your rock, giving yourself a moment or two to recover before you sit up more, squeezing the dripping seawater out of your hair and beginning to pick sediment that had got stuck under your scales from dragging yourself up here. According to your mother, the tide was supposed to come in today, so hopefully getting back would be way easier.

You sink backwards, letting out a sigh in satisfaction as your back meets it’s warmth, muscles instantly relaxing. Gods, you could fall asleep right here - the sun gently kissing your skin, waves crashing against the cliff further up, gulls screeching far above. You feel very fortunate to have discovered this place a few months back as it’s such a perfect escape from under the sea. You feel grateful you live near a smaller town, meaning the beaches weren’t too busy and it was easier to avoid people. The village was only a small one, but in the summer the pier would be swarming with tourists and the beaches struggling to accommodate so many people. Even if you weren’t aware of the seasons changing, you’d know it was summer by the pure amount of trash on the beach once the sun had gone down.

 

Letting out a blissful sigh, you let your eyes slip closed, basking. A little nap wouldn’t hurt… As long as you didn’t fall asleep for hours  upon hours, you’d surely be fine. You’ll wake in time...



 

Before you can even open your eyes, you’re uncomfortably aware of the raging headache you have. It’s the pulsing kind that starts at the temples and sinks deep into the very bone making it almost impossible to think. Your eyelids feel like there's little weights attached to your eyelashes, less in the ‘I’m so sleepy’ and more in the ‘I feel so ill I don’t even know if I’m alive anymore’ way. Chest heavy, you attempt to sit up, but let out a hiss as it feels like your skin is peeling away as you try to move and stop instantly. Just doing that has left you almost winded as you wheeze out a shaky breath. The previous warm breeze feels more like inhaling sand filled with sea glass. With a great amount of effort, you turn your head to check how far the tide has come in. but it remains pretty much where it was, almost mocking you as it laps at the pebbles. When you scowl, you can feel how tight your skin is on your forehead.  Smacking your fractured lips, you try to swallow, but your throat is swollen and scratchy, making it impossible. You're severely dehydrated, and if you don’t get in some water soon, you would most certainly die. You truly are a fish out of water.

 

Who knew that today of all days would be your last? Well, least it’s on your favourite rock, you think. What is meant to be a short, clipped laugh comes out as hacking coughs, your lungs filled with needles. You used to say that you were going to slosh the bucket because of global warming, or perhaps like, an altercation with a jellyfish, not because of an impulse decision to sunbathe. The scar of a jellyfish sting on your wrist dully aches for the first time in a while.

 

You can’t be sure how long you’ve been lying here, contemplating life, somewhat regretfully thinking about that time you trapped your cousin in a room with a pufferfish. God, if you’re listening, send me a sign so I know I’m in good hands, you think.

 

 

You don’t really notice your eyes have closed again until you have to crack them open once you hear approaching footsteps crunching on the cobbles. God? You haven’t got the energy to move to see who or what it is, so you miserably gaze at the sky, which is now bleeding into pinks and oranges. The heat still feels persistent despite the setting sun. Poseidon, was the sun always this intense?



“Hello?” A voice calls, and you let out a wheeze, trying to form words. A short-haired blonde comes into your eye line, body blocking out the sun. Oh, was this the Lord coming to stop your suffering? The sweet Goddess of the Sea was feeling particularly kind! Your vision is hazy, but you can make out the concern on the Goddesses face, eyebrows knitted together. Wow, is there someone new to the pantheon? Someone was going to have to update the prayer book.



“Help me- please,” you choke out pathetically.

 

“Ah! You’re still alive! Koinu, stay!” you hear her say firmly to what must be her familiar, “Do I put you back in the water?” You nod feebly and try to reach out to her but she pushes your hand away, and instead bends, gently curling an arm around your shoulders, and other slipping under the bend in your tail. You try not to make a noise as her arms knock a dried scale or two off. She lifts you with ease, and if you weren’t so delirious you’d probably make a crude remark about it. 

 

She wades a little out to sea, until the water is lapping around her mid-thigh and you can feel the water against your fin. She lowers you down, and you could almost cry at the sensation of being submerged back into the water as it dances over your body, rejuvenating your skin. You sink to the bottom of the seabed, and bask in the familiar sensation of water racing through your gills again. You feel like a brand new fish, like you could simply fight a jellyfish and just Not get stung. A few bubbles escape your lips as you sigh. Haha! Nice try gods, but send a stronger contender next time! You gently rub where a scale popped off - it’ll grow back in due time. You blink, realising that your eyelids feel 10x times lighter, and note that the dryness of your throat has vanished.

 

The goddess is still standing in the water - you can see her legs, so before you can go find something to beat the shit out of, you definitely need to say your graces and thank her.

 

You sit up, the water hitting just below your shoulders, and push your wet hair away from your face.

 

“What goddess do I need to thank?” you ask earnestly. You take your first good proper look at your saviour. She’s wearing a simple black one piece, as well as a black see through mesh over the top, stopping at just the top of her thigh and upper arm. The pink sunglasses have been pushed up and are now nestled in her messy blonde hair. Her revealed eyes confirm to you that she must be some sort of water deity - no one has that blue of eyes and isn’t part water nymph or something along those lines. She’s quite well built, all strong shoulders and arms, but you didn’t need to see them to know that considering how easily she had picked you up earlier. Maybe a swimmer, or a surfer? You wouldn’t deny it even if you wanted to, she is pretty. No, gorgeous. A god might smite you again if you simply call another god just pretty . Breathtaking, magnificent, easy on the eyes, beau-

 

“Are you okay now?” she asks, looking down at you. Her mouth is neutral but you can spy the playfulness in her eyes. A prankster water goddess… 

 

“I humble beseech you, oh fair maiden, that you find it in your heart to forgive such a careless creature such as myself. To make such a fool of myself in front of a new Goddess, no less! I have no gifts to bear, but please wait for me, I will return with bountiful treasures from the most dangerous of depths if that is what you wish for.” You hang your head slightly, a quiet ask for your punishment to be kind. You expect to hear some sort of stern word, or perhaps reluctant forgiveness, or even demands for shells filled with gold and pearl! The last thing you expect to hear is laughter

 

 

You look back up to find her giggling, unrestrained yet no hint of disdain or anger. Her hand is over her mouth as if she is trying to contain them (who would want to contain such a beautiful noise!1!! your brain says and you batter the thought away) but you can see her smile through her fingers. It is impossible to look away from such a sound. (perhaps she's a SIREN???) The setting sun illuminates her figure, a warm light falling over her skin and accenting tufts of hair with gold.

 

“Me? A goddess? That is a new one!” her laughter begins to die down, but the joyful smile on her lips remains. Wow, her teeth are so straight and white. You unconsciously jab a pointed nail against your razor like teeth, somewhat jealous. “I’m not a goddess of any sort!”

 

“You- You’re not?!” you ask, genuinely surprised. 

 

“Nor a fair maiden. Though that is quite a fun nickname.” You look her up and down again, and she raises a perfect eyebrow, almost entertained by you. “My name’s Arashi Narukami. And yours?”

 

“(Y/N).”

 

“No last name?”

 

Huh? Does she mean like, a previous name you’ve had? You’ve always been (Y/N)... Well there was that one time when your sibling wouldn’t stop calling yo- You stop the train of thought before it can arrive at the station, unwillingly to relive that embarrassing three months right now.

 

“Um- I’ve always been called (Y/N)?” You scratch your head in confusion. So humans like to- rename themselves? That’s quite fun. You hadn’t interacted with too many humans, a few here and there. It’s bound to happen and between the two species considering that you live so close. There's no major bad blood, per say, more just passive-aggressiveness. Mermaids tend to avoid crowded human areas due to gawking and their tendency to dump their shit in the ocean like it’s their own personal bin. You were kinda sick of getting an arm stuck in a rouge plastic bag. You hadn’t spoken to a human enough to know their name, or anything like that. Being taught about them in school is quite frankly, enough.

 

Her lips curl up adorably at the edges, clearly suppressing more laughter. She manages to hold it in though, to your disappointment. You’d like to hear it again.

 

“Nono- so my last name is Narukami. My given name is Arashi,” she explains. The previous teasing lilt has disappeared and been replaced by a non-judgmental one. She seems eager to teach, and you’re eager to learn. Humans are so funny. “So Narukami is like- my family name? My brother and my parents’ last name is also Narukami.”

 

“Ohhh-,” you say as it clicks in your brain. Speaking the human language was pretty easy, and you were pretty chuffed over having that under your belt (under your scales?? mermaids don’t wear belts). It was the reading, writing, and understanding their little customs that could get confusing. You knew a few random written words from trash that had floated near where you lived but that was it really. The traditions you had learnt were from school and observation. For example, sometimes they like to light a bunch of wood arranged into a point on fire and then sit around it (surely that would dry you out?). “I don’t have one yet. You get one of those when you turn 21.”

 

“That’s interesting,” and it sounds genuine. The woman shivers, the waves slowly inching higher on her leg, threatening to soak her jumpsuit. The tide is starting to pull in as the sun sinks behind some building, waves getting choppier. You sniff the air and it tells you there's probably a storm some miles off. It’ll hit in the next few days.

 

 

“It’s getting cold, and you’re not wearing much,” you say as she rubs the goose bumps appearing on her arms. She gives a short, sweet laugh.

 

“Neither are you.” You look down at your chest. Yeah…

 

“This is my domain. Go back to land, Earth-walker,” you say dramatically, as if you're some menacing water entity, hoping to elicit another laugh from her. You succeed as another giggle slips from between her lips. Score! And the crowd goes WILD!!! She slowly makes her way back to shore, and greets her familiar who was waiting patiently on the beach. You follow her slightly, stopping before where the sand bank starts to drop away. 

 

“Thank you. You saved my life.” Maybe not a full-time Goddess but perhaps a part-time angel. She certainly looks the part, “I’m forever in your debt, Arashi.” 

 

“Don’t be silly. I couldn’t just leave you to suffer.” She bids you goodbye, and you give a small wave of a clawed hand.

 

 

You watch from below the water, only eyes above to surface, until she disappears into the town. You sink completely under, and let out a low whistle, which comes out as bubbles, popping as they hit the surface. Humans are quite endearing, you think.

On the swim home, you roll the foreign name around in your mouth, saying it out loud a few times. Arashi. You decide you like it. 

 

--

 

The next time you see Arashi is about a week later, a couple days after the storm had hit the small seaside town. Nothing major happened on the Mainland that you noticed, only really noting that a tree had fallen right by the edge of the town. You also found a few more pieces of rubbish than usual, maybe blown out by the wind. When you visited the area where your sunning rock was, you noticed that part of the cliff face had slipped, leaving a pile of crumbled red sandstone mixed with mud slumped against the cliff. It really disturbed the landscape, and the beautiful rock strata had been disrupted. As well as that, some construction had begun on the seafront, so you decided to avoid being too close to the beach, especially during the day. It was loud and it smelt foul - the smell the same as the slick, black sludge that decimated some corals a few 100km from your home. Your family used to frequent them quite a lot for a treat once in a while. You hadn’t seen corals, well alive corals, since then, the next reef being way too far out for any sort of trip. Previous reefs filled with mellow pinks and deep blues had been replaced by a sickly yellow or white; nothing worth looking at.

 

 

The sun has recently set, but the moon is yet to join the stars in the sky, and you take this liminal moment to come closer to the shore. You stay hidden under the pier anyway. From where you are, you can spot a few stragglers on the beach, but other than that, it’s quite peaceful, especially with the construction stopping for the night. Summer is nearing it's end, but the temperature is still warm. Under the pier, the water has cooled substantially - if you stayed still for long enough you’d definitely start shivering.

 

Wet sand slowly slopes up until it hits the pier itself, and you begin scooping clumps of it, lobbing it behind you. You’re looking for some new razor clams shells, as your sibling broke a few in a fit of rage when you beat them at Shell Shock Warfare, a table top game that prioritises strategy rather than blind movement of pieces. You had gleefully taunted them but then they started to cry, and told mum a twisted lie about how you had hit them so now you were the one looking for pieces. When mum had left the room, your sibling blew a bubble at you and you wanted to throttle them. 

 

 

Keratin hits what you think is hard calcite and you quickly uncover it. Alas, it is just a cap to a drinks bottle. How’d it even get here? You can literally see a trash can from here under the pier. Slightly aggravated, you toss it behind you and begin digging again. Your ear twitches at some sort of commotion down the beach but you don’t look, too fixated on finding new game pieces. It’s probably just some kids chucking pebbles.

 

Your digging becomes slightly more frantic as you seem to pull out everything but what you need. Scallop shell, mussel shell, piece of driftwood, a cowrie, and a sock get thrown back behind you, but no razor fish! Maybe you would have to venture onto the beach… You splutter a bit as turbulent sediment from your digging enters your mouth, and you breach the surface, sticking your tongue out. Deciding to wait for it to settle back down before continuing, you hear a cry. This time you look over.

 

Not too far down from where you are, just by a small outcrop of boulders is a blonde. Her jeans are rolled messily up to her mid shin, and she’s feeling around in the shallow water. The woman looks panicked and flustered as she churns up the sand, clearly looking for something.

 

 

“Arashi?” You call, swimming towards her. She looks up at your voice, and her expression shifts to something less tense, her mouth still twisted into a frown. Arashi stands back up properly, hands limp by her chest as water drops off of them.

 

“(Y/N), hello!” she says cheerfully, despite her expression being quite the opposite. She looks like she’s on the verge of hysterics. 

 

“What are you looking for?”

 

“My bracelet. I was skimming stones and it mu-must have just slipped off my wrist. I can’t find it anywhere!” She goes to tangle her hands in her hair in frustration but stops short, remembering the water, and drops them back at her side. Discontentment doesn’t fit Arashi, you think.


“I’ll help you find it. What does it look like?”

 

“Shells. Small shells, uh- alternating white and brown speckled.” With a nod, you slide under the water, and begin searching slightly further out. You scan the area, hoping it catches your eye, but nothing does. You do, however, spot a single shoe lodged under a rock. How does one lose just a single shoe? 

 

 

You push sand around with your fin, hoping it might have got buried but you find nothing, only really annoying some burrowing crabs who you apologise to as they scurry off. A quick trip to the surface shows that Arashi hasn’t found it either. You begin to check by some boulders, when you spot what you came for - razor shells! You blow some bubbles out in excitement. You pick it up, hoping it hasn't been fractured by the waves yet, and then you notice it. A small, dainty bracelet, caught on the edge of some seaweed. 

It’s young cowries, speckled with brown dots, placed alternating between small white conches, you note, familiar with different types of shells. The fastening is one that you tie yourself, which makes sense how it must have slipped off. The razor shells can wait, and you quickly resurface to show Arashi.

 

 

“Is- this your card?” you say dramatically, holding it out. Arashi lets out a squeal of joy, and comes splashing towards you, not bothered by the saltwater darkening the cuffs of her jeans. 

 

“I thought I’d lost it for good. Thank you so much. Gah!” she claps her hands together, eyes twinkling.

 

“Do you want me to tie it for you?” She nods, holding out her left arm. You ignore the small shiver Arashi makes as you gently wrap it around her wrist, mostly for your own sanity. You can visibly see the hairs on her arms stand up as she twisted her wrist so you can tie the knot on the inside. The skin of her inner wrist is soft, and you hold back a wheeze as you fiddle with the knot. It’s a little difficult to do with your nails, especially as you’re being super careful not to nick her, but you successfully tie it without doing so, patting her wrist once you’re done. Her smile is awfully contagious as she admires it, and you can’t help but let out a small chuckle at her child-like joy. When she hears you, her smile grows, and now you want to slink back under the water in case your cheeks are flushed. 



 

“It seems very important to you,” you say mildly, inviting her to talk. You’ve now both moved over to the boulders, Arashi sat with her toes in the shallow water above you as you rest your arms on a lower rock, letting your tail float out behind you.

 

“My grandpappy bought it back from Peru a few years ago. It was his last gift to me,” her smile is small, nostalgic even, “If I lost it, I’m not sure what I would have done with myself.” The laugh that follows is void of actual humour, and it trails into a sad sigh. Never had someone else’s sadness, especially a human’s, made you so torn up inside. You felt like you’d just been through what she had. Unsure on how to comfort her, you wrap a hand around her ankle, letting your thumb begin rubbing circles into the unblemished skin, hoping that it would be comforting. When she makes eye contact again, you almost have to look away. Gods, this woman is fascinating in all the best ways, and you desperately want to know more about her, if she’d tell you. You rack your brain for something funny to say, perhaps a small antidote of life under the sea to cheer her up.

 

“Y’know, my grandmother is 3 times gold medallist in swimming. She’s competed in every Olympics so far.” It’s a lie, a big lie. And it’s not even funny, at that. You also realise that you mispronounced the Olympics, saying it more like ‘Oh-mim-pics’. You don’t know how to say it properly so that’s close enough. Arashi doesn’t correct you.

 

“Yeah?” she grins down at you and you nod intelligently. 

 

“In fact, she-” You carry on your dumb spiel, making up stuff, a few true facts weaved in their, but all that matters right now is that she’s smiling again, letting out small giggles if it’s particularly ridiculous. You feel like a god might strike you down if you said it out loud, but she was far prettier than any deity, even when she looked despondent. Her easy tousled hair, short around her ears to show off her piercings, the way her eyes crinkled when she laughed, a loose hand coming up to cover her mouth, her nails uniform and colourful (today they're orange and red). The silver band on her pointer finger glints in the diminishing light of the day as she gestures alongside her stories, as if she’s telling two stories at once. Her voice is somewhat low, but the sing-songy tone pushes through as she emphasises different parts of her speech, rising and falling like the tide around her, and an almost permanent lilt of mischievousness hides in the back of it. It is, simply, addictive, and you keep asking question after question, just to hear the way different words form and fall from her pink lips. You’re so focused on committing every detail to memory that you almost don’t notice a hand land on your cheek, but you almost instantly sink into it. There's some calluses on her upper palm, but you don’t mind the roughness as they catch slightly on your cheek. You really try to ignore the way your heart starts to beat slightly faster in your chest as you swallow dryly. She’s warm- impossibly warm. Are all humans this temperature? Or are mermaids just cold?



“You feel- different- then I thought you would,” Arashi says simply. You don’t allow the thought in the back of your head somewhere along the lines of ‘that means she’s been thinking about you’ to form properly, and focus on Arashi and her almost tender touch. Your heart is so far up your throat you briefly imagine it just falling out from between your teeth. You swallow before answering, somewhat breathlessly.



“What did you think I would feel like?”

 

“I’m not sure. Maybe more slimy.” You let out a short laugh.

 

“I’m still part human, y’know?”

 

“I know.” 

 

 

The silence that follows is, on one hand, both calming and comfortable, Arashi’s thumb tracing the skin under your eye with a thumb, a small smile on her face as she seems entranced by your appearance, but on the other- ‘Holy Fucking Mackerel. What is happening? What am I DOING?!’ You know your mouth is slightly agape, in awe of her.



 

“Can I ask what this mark means?” You know instantly what she’s talking about as she gently applies a small amount of pressure to the small symbol under your eye, but your hand seems to have a mind of its own as it shoots up to gently cup hers. You suppress a full body shiver as she traces the mark.

 

“It’s ah-” your thoughts are all jumbled in your head as you search for the answer. You know it, of course, but it’s so hard to think when this woman seems to turn you into mush by just placing a hand on your face. “Each family has their own unique one.”

 

“Pretty,” she murmurs, and if you weren’t so content being held by her you might have just crawled under the sand, and curled up to die at the comment.




“You’re pretty,” you blurt, mouth moving before your brain can catch up, and hold back a sigh in disappointment at yourself. You could go on and on about how Arashi is a gorgeous water nymph straight from the heavens, with gold threads twisted into her hair and the entirety of the sea locked behind her iris’ - that you would search the entire ocean floor to find something to make her smile, but yeah, we’ll settle with pretty.  

 

“You’re too kind,” she whispers, as if she doesn’t want to disturb the darkness of the night that had creeped in, both of you too wrapped up in the moment to really notice.

 

You’re not sure how long you spend just- staring , completely enraptured by some person, a human , no less, but you don’t mind. When she pulls away, you almost try to chase after her warmth. It’s very different from anything else you’ve felt, more like being wrapped in a cosy blanket rather than the often harsh bite of the sun.



“Will you be back?” you can’t help but ask. The desperation on your face must be obvious, as she nods, a small smile on her lips. 

 

“Of course.”

 

 

And with that, she bids you a goodnight, and carefully climbs down the rocks, avoiding the slippery algae that clings to them. You watch her retreating figure until even you can’t make her out in the darkness, before sinking back underwater, and swimming back home, razor shells forgotten.