Story by Sarah Garcia

The woman formerly known as the little mermaid looked back on the kingdom she had once longed for. She had gotten all she had ever wanted – convinced her prince she was his savior, got him to love her, and married him aboard a ship, the sun setting as they shared their first kiss. Now that sunset seemed less like a romantic vision but instead an omen, where her fantasies and grand love had died away.

Her realization arrived slowly, built up year by year and with each and every step she took upon her new home called land. She held no voice to speak to her prince but danced whenever asked, her pain and bleeding feet as proof of her love. She hoped her suffering would lessen with time, but it never stopped hurting, never ceased in slicing and dragging her blood across the floor in an unrelenting stain. And in return, her prince asked only for more and never gave fully in kind, never considered her agony and scarred feet.

Too many years of this brought her to the realization that her prince had never seen her as anything more than a child, a plaything, an ideal to be loved. He had never loved her but instead her dancing, her utter adoration, her mystical beauty. Even if she could speak, he wouldn’t have listened. Not if what she said didn’t fit into his narrative. After so much of her spilt blood, she had moved past her teenage notions of true love and come to see that she was not his spouse but his possession, something he loved but was not in love with.

She could no longer exist with her pain simply for his pleasure. But she also could not return to her kingdom in the sea, for she now had two legs and an immortal soul. She was unwelcome in both worlds. So she had decided her only escape was to combine the two. Years into her dead romance, she gathered her courage and slipped away into the night, leaving her marriage bed for the last time. She journeyed to the docks and left a trail in her wake, the moonlight shining on her blood like a morbid dream. And now she stood on a stolen ship, taking in the sight of her second abandoned home before sailing away.

She had no plan for what lay next. She belonged nowhere on land or sea, adrift between two worlds. She thought of her grandmother’s old tales of the sirens – those winged creatures enchanting and singing sailors to their deaths as they crashed upon the rocks. The woman formerly known as the little mermaid thought of these legends and smiled, hoping they would seduce her into a watery grave, becoming one with the sea again, or pity her as they saw her broken but living body on the rocks and raise her to their ranks among the heavens above, where her feet would never touch the earth and suffer again.