It was sunset. The sky was a wonderful purple, fading cross the sky into a deep and starry black. The sun disappeared slowly beneath the horizon, reflecting off in graceful waves over the water.

Her eyes were fixed into space, her mind anything but empty, full of thoughts. She was oblivious to everything around her.

Absentmindedly she pushed some lilac hair out of her eye that had been blown across her face by the gentle breeze. The senses on her arms tingled as grass tickled them lightly, while her tail swished here and there over the water. There was a salty, ocean atmosphere hanging in the air. Drops splashed up onto her as the water lapped the rocks.

"Y-you're the mermaid, aren't you?" asked somebody behind her. She didn't answer. She hadn't heard him.

"… right?"

She turned to stare at a young boy, only about nine. Even though she didn't understand him, she nodded, and turned her gaze back up to the stars.

"What are you doing here?" he asked.

Turning to look at him again properly, he stumbled back a little. Had her bright eyes scared him? Perhaps. Her eyes scared most people. They were a colour that didn't even have a name, and was not supposed to even exist.

"Go home," she said in her own language, "Before it gets dark."

The complicated tongue in which she spoke gave the boy such a fright that he jumped, and lost his footing. His foot slipped off the rock, and he fell off into the water.

She sat upright, watching the water intently, wondering when he would come up. He didn't.

She bit her lip. Should she rescue him? It could mean that she would be punished as before.

Without a further thought, she dove off the rock and plunged into the cold, dark depths. He was further down than she had thought, unnaturally pale and sickeningly still, sinking ever further.

She thrust herself down to him with her tail, and wrapped her arms around his small, thin body. She held him close, and flipped her tail. In seconds she reached the surface and pushed him onto safe ground. She pulled herself up and sat down beside him.

She had taken him out of the water. He should already be breathing, right?

But his chest remained flat and motionless. His skin turned paler.

She began to panic. What if somebody came and found her now, with him? She would be captured. Surely she had to do something, but what?

She did what she had seen so many times before. Taking his head in her hands, she prised open his mouth and exhaled a few of her own breaths of air in. She let go and pushed down on his chest. Water spilled from his mouth, but he did not move.

She tried again, this time with more air, and pushed down on his chest a few times. More water spurted out, and yet he did not move.

"Come on," she cried helplessly, trying her best to give him as much air as possible. She let him go and pushed down again. He woke up, coughing and spluttering all over. She sighed with relief.

Then he looked at her. His eyes widened with fear suddenly, and he rapidly moved away from her. He turned around quickly and deposited what looked like a whole days meal, then ran off as fast as his small legs could carry him.

She sighed. So this was what happened when she saved someone's life? Great. Just great. Taking one last look at him running and stumbling along the path to the village, she slipped off the rock back into the water.