The rain has come.

The drops spill onto my face, gently pulling me out of the black slumber. I stretch. The sky is grey. The air is cold. The sea is calling. I pull myself towards it, and feel the restrains of the ropes pulling back. My eyes burn from the sting of the air. The wind is chilling me to the bone.

I wake up a little more. My mind is clearing. The fog is lifting from my soul. I blink, and my vision clears. I am tied, captive, in a small pool just close enough to the shore to keep me alive, but not deep enough to stay that way for long. The water is up to my waist, keeping me in my natural form. My hands are tied at the wrists, chained to a rock four times the size of my body. My tail is tied down as well, chained to the same rock. My heart sinks as I realize there is no way out.

I look to my left. There is no one. Not a soul is watching the way the waves rise and fall, breaking against the white sand. That is both a blessing and a crime. The beauty of the beach just before a storm is incredible. But, it is better the mortals miss that sight than spot me.

The rain soaks my thick red locks, washing me clean. I feel my skin dance as the drops hit me, renewing my dry upper body. Little patches, glowing red, follow the trail of the drops before disappearing. I can feel my scales moving in and out of my skin. Once I am fully submerged, I will be completely back to my whole self. I ache for that moment.

I look to my right. So, someone was keeping watch on me. I smile. I can easily take him. He is sleeping, and thereby makes himself simple bait.

I can still feel the pain from the hook. It pierced my tail, right where my thigh would be if I had had legs at that moment. I should have stayed away from the fishermen. I should have known. I should have listened to the legends. If only I had known better.

The bleeding has stopped, thankfully. They were kind enough to remove the hook and wrap my tail in a white cloth. I remember that now. The blood that stained the fabric is old and brown now, with no fresh red streaks to further discolor it. I am glad, thankful I can heal so quickly.

I study the sleeping sailor once again. Yes, I can get out of this easily. I have to. I have no idea how long it is until the men return. Their words- 'Fortune.' 'Aquarium.' 'Circus.' 'Billionaires.' –scare me. If I wait much longer, they'll bring me farther inland. They'll put me on display. I cannot allow that to happen. If I do, it will kill me. I need the ocean to survive. It is the blood in my veins.

I draw in a breath, inhaling through my nose. My eyes open again, and I start to sing. If I can enchant him, I can get him to untie me. I will be free. But, no sound comes out. I can't open my mouth. I draw a sharp breath of fear. I stick my lips out as far as I can, aiming my eyes so far down that I can feel a dull pain in the back of them. I can feel something on my face, and it frustrates me that I can't reach up to feel what it is or remove it. I see a bit of silver. I finally catch my reflection. A thick, silver strip is over my lips, sticking to my skin and keeping me silence. Anger grows within me. I hiss, but again, the sound is trapped between the silver barrier and my throat.

I push my face against the rock, trying to catch the silver on an edge. My hope is that it will stick to the rock, and let go of me. I thrash, scratching my face on a sharp point. I feel blood trickle down my cheek, but the rain washes it away. The cut heals before it starts to be problematic. I panic, pulling at my bindings and desperate to get either the sticky silver or the ropes off of me. I can do neither.

I hear him laugh. It is an ugly sound, filled with mocking and bitterness. I snap my attention to the old sailor, his terrible grin looming over me as he peers at me from above.

"You're so beautiful." His voice is like sand under scales. Uncomfortable. "You're going to make us rich."

I leap at him, but I do not get more than three inches of height before I am yanked back into the pool with a splash. Death fires from my eyes. If I could torture him with only my eyes, he would be crying for his mother by now.

"No sense in that." He takes a last gulp from his bottle, throwing it into my pool. I can feel the change in the water, the sickly sweet smell of leftover alcohol making my skin crawl. "You can't get out. We taped your mouth shut for a reason, Pretty. Can't have you singing us into a grave."

He looks behind him, motioning toward the trees. "Bill! She's awake."

A man with dark hair and tired eyes appears. He studies me. I lock eyes with him, making my intentions clear with my murderous gaze. To my fury, he laughs as well. "Cute."

I want to drag my claws over his smug face. I try releasing them, but the retractable claws hidden in my fingers do not come. Whatever they used to put me to sleep must still be affecting me. I throw my head back in despair. How much time do I have before they take me away?

The storm grows worse. Thunder begins to roll across the beach. I look up at the sky, hoping, praying, something will break. My mind is still a little cloudy. The poison is still in my system.

I am scared.

I am alone.

I am in danger.

I will not let them win.

Bill begins to speak. "Steve. Get Harley and get the truck running. We need to go, now." The older sailor wobbles behind the trees, out of my sight. Bill leans down to whisper to me. His eyes roam over my body. I know exactly what he is thinking, and I want to tell him he'll get none of that. I keep my mouth shut and play dumb, pretending I can't read his thoughts. It's an advantage I have to protect.

"Who knew?" he says. "We were hunting down sharks, and found you instead. You're a gift, you know that? Sharks only go so far. Mermaids… mermaids can make us millions. Billions, even. No one thinks you exist. I'm going down in history as the man who proved you do." He smiles, and while it is not as ugly of a smile as Steve's, it still sends chills down my spine. I try to make my claws appear again, willing them to awaken so I can slit his throat. I feel a little stir, but my sharp knives stay hidden.

He continues. "You're going to wear what I tell you and walk to the car. Can't have anyone thinking I'm a kidnapper."

I focus on a ripple. His dark chuckle reveals that he does know how ironically accurate his statement is.

He straightens up, rubbing the back of his head. "Ah, I'm too much. Harley!"


"Bring me the coat. We gotta get her out before the wind is too strong."

I dip into his mind. I see him forming a plan to keep me in a small tub in a tiny room. I see him contemplating what I eat, what I need to stay alive. He wonders briefly if I am worth it until piles of money distract him from the worries, and his doubts pass away.

I hate him.

Harley comes, a long green coat in his hand. I'm pulled from the water by rough grasps. I repress the need to cry out as the ropes bite into my skin. I don't have room for things like that, and yet they keep pulling. Finally, they unlock the chains, and I can move without my bones feeling like they are being ripped from my sockets. I am still bound, but any progress is good progress.

The hideous green coat is draped around me. My tail is gone, but the ropes still hang around my waist. The chains are heavy. I have to drag them as I go. I want to fight, but it is taking all of my energy just to stand.

My muscles do not respond to me. I hope I do not fall. The feeling of falling is horrible. The sense of being out of control, followed by that thud of my body on the ground, the kind that rips the air straight from my lungs- it's a sensation I hope to never feel.

Steve grabs one arm, and Bill the other. They haul me towards the truck. I can hear both of their minds whirling in excitement and hopes drowned in money. The effect is dizzying. They toss me into the back seat, shutting the doors tightly. Harley steps into the driver's seat. Billy takes the other front spot. Steve is not with us. I'm glad to see him go.

The seats are soft, but dirty. Brown dust coats the floor. Mud is caked underneath the seats. The air smells of stale food and dead fish. I try not to gag. The scent of long dead sea creatures is nauseating. I close my eyes, imagining I am back in the water.

The sky blackens. The storm is in full force.

The motor kicks in. I feel it hum beneath me. I pull the green coat tighter around me, as best as I can anyway. It's long; almost to my ankles. It covers me. I am grateful. It's not so hideous when it is protective.

The truck hits a bump. I hit my head on the window. I want to rip off the tape, but Bill won't take his eyes from me. If he sees me go for it, there will be trouble. I can read his thoughts- he wants me to push him too far. He wants me to try to escape. The disturbing smirk on his face grows. I stop listening to his mind. I can't bear to hear any more.

We drive for hours. The rain pours down. I am far away from my only hope back to the sea. I wish I had the power to control the weather. If I did, I would be free by now.

I wiggle the ropes a bit more. They're beginning to itch. My wrists are raw. My waist is as well. There's a mark on my thigh from where the arrow hit me. I feel like I have been dragged through wet sand. Every inch of my body feels wrong.

I lean against the window, closing my eyes. I breathe evenly, calmly, making it appear as if I am asleep. The rain comes down steadily, making it hard to stay awake. The thunder is louder than the truck. The booming beauty of its sound ricochets across the night. I enjoy it, pretending I am watching it from under the surface. That's one of my favorite things to do.

When Bill is convinced I have fallen asleep, he turns away. I watch through the narrowest of slits in my eyes, waiting to see if he turns around again, but he doesn't. He is studying a map. I seize my opportunity.

My claws are working again. The poison has run its course. I slice through the ropes on my waist, then the ones on my wrists. They fall silently. I rip the tape off of my lips, opening my mouth just because. Freedom feels amazing.

I tie that green coat on tighter, buttoning it and doing the sash. It reminds me of… oh, what do mortals call it? A hole coat. No. A trench coat. That's right.

Moving very slowly, I wrap a hand around each man's neck. My claws are poised, ready to strike, pressing against their jugular veins. I say, very clearly, very much in their language, "Let. Me. Go."

The truck screams to a stop as I fly forward. I hear Bill exclaim, "What the hell?" Harley has stopped the truck. It lurches forward again as Steve collides with the rear end of the vehicle. I roll back, pressed against the glass window. Somehow I ended up in front of the drivers. Things are fuzzy.

"Why did you do that?" Bill demands, shoving my legs off of his lap.

"She was going to kill us. I hit the brakes. It stunned her." Harley reaches for my hands, fumbling in his pockets. Oddly enough, both men seem all right. They were harnessed into their seats, though. That could explain it. He pulls a roll of silver tape. The sight wakes me up.

I kick Bill, right in the stomach. He doubles over. One slash, and Harley's face isn't what it was moments before. I cut him again as he reaches for me, squirming back into the backseat. I look for a way out, but I can't open the doors. The lever is not working.

I can see through the back window. Steve is climbing out of his car. The rain comes down in sheets. He is on his way. His shirt is red with blood. His car's front end is permanently attached to the back of the truck. They look like one very mangled vehicle.

I can't get the door to open. It has to be locked. Harley and Bill are coming at me, aiming a gun at my face.

"Don't kill her!" Steve shrieks. I can hear his voice, muffled but there.

"She tried to kill me." Bill snarls. He won't back down. I hear the click of the gun being readied.

I know how these machines work. I learned on land. A man, a nice one, taught me how to use on to protect myself.

I smile. That scares him. He thinks I am crazy. He hesitates. I steal the gun, wrenching it from his hands. It fires. It's deafening. It leaves a hole in the roof of the truck. Harley swears, a stream of words so foul and colorful it would make a pirate blush. I hold my own, shoving the gun in their direction. "Goodbye."

A song, a beautiful, enchanting song comes from within me, sending these broken, twisted men into an eternal sleep. They will never wake up, never harm another creature. I could kill them, and probably should, but something holds me back. Pity, I think. These pathetic creatures… who would want to keep something rare and beautiful captive for a few pieces of paper, however many millions they may be? They disgusted me, and somehow, I realized they were too pathetic to kill.

I left my mark on them, though. I sang my name into their blood. Should they ever manage to awaken from my curse, they will be driven insane through my song, day and night, with no relief. It will keep them far from the ocean, far from the rivers. Water will repel them like day repels night, and the moon repels the sun. They will never find joy.

I deem that fitting.

The men stay asleep as I shoot the window, shattering the glass. My feet are bare, and they get cut a bit as I force my way out of the window. I hit the ground, a bit unsteady. I take the gun, just in case.

The wind has picked up. The rain is pushing me. I follow willingly. I can hardly see in the dark until I hit a wall. The wall only reaches to just above my waist. Beneath it, I can smell the sea.

We are on a bridge. The ocean is below. My home calls me.

I shed the coat, leaping over the edge. The water welcomes me. My tail returns, my scales the color of the embers of a flame. My red hair streams behind me in the water as I swim, propelling myself far away from this terrible place.

I am home, and I am free.

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