The Grieving Mermaid

a short story after the fairy tale

by Kate C. Pemberton

copyright 2011 Kate C. Pemberton

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Prince Alaric awoke to dimness and rippling lights and confusion, sprawled supine upon a great, damp boulder, the ache in his shoulders and elbows meant the joints had been overextended while he’d been unconscious. Unconscious . . . ‘twas then he remembered the storm, the sound of the ship breaking, his wife –

He made to get up, to see if she’d made it, but found he could not move. It was not the weight of his limbs in sleep that caused the deep ache within his shoulders and elbows; it was the rough rope that restrained him, laid him vulnerable across this bed of stone. He discovered his feet were also restrained, but in a different manner, submerged beneath the water he could now hear all about him. His legs had some play, but he could not lift them, as if they’d been tied to some great weight below the water’s surface. He made only a cursory test of his bonds before glancing about the murk, trying to suss out his location, and perhaps the reason for his bondage. It seemed to be a cave: he could see light dancing faintly above him in time to the slapping of the currents on rock. He strained his head and neck forward, and could make out a faint spill of light filtering through the water he half lay in. So that way lies freedom, he thought to himself, but an abstract freedom, for I know not how far I am from shore, nor do I know how I shall liberate myself from these bonds.

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