Once upon a time there was a beautiful young woman who lived at the top of a very tall high rise apartment that looked out over the sea. Her name was Alysa. She liked to sit out on her balcony and drink in the feel and energy that blew in from across the ocean. She loved the feel of the breeze with its salty, moist flavour against her face and in her hair.
Alysa was very lovely to look at but she was not aware of just how lovely. Her tall, slender body had just enough curves to emphasise her femininity and her olive complexion highlighted the shine in her long blonde hair and the clear, crystal blue of her eyes. She walked with a willowy grace that caught the attention of both male and female alike. Her mind was usually off somewhere else, thinking of faraway places and people, so that she rarely noticed the way people turned their head to follow her as she walked passed. When she did notice she never gave it an awful lot of thought anyway. She would smile vaguely and continue on her way.
She didn't go many places. There was the occasional visit to the shopping centre for her essentials and every so often she would visit and catch up with one of the few very good friends she had. When she did leave her apartment, it was usually to walk along the beach and daydream. She collected the sea shells and ocean polished stones that washed up on the shore. She would build castles in the sand and then sit and watch as the tide came in to fill their moats with water. Sometimes she would sit and watch them become covered entirely by the water and then she would come down again the next day and start again. The ocean would have smoothed over and deposited new sand leaving the site fresh and ready to build on again.
Alysa's life was very much like a fairytale existence. An inheritance left to her from deceased parents negated the necessity for her to work and although she missed them the pain of grief had faded. They had died in a car accident when she was a small child. Her memory of them became limited to the old photographs that she got out occasionally.
It was not exactly that she didn't do anything with her days. She was able to pass the time very easily. She was always reading one book or another. She especially liked reading about other countries, other people and about other lifestyle. It was sad that she had to rely on these as a substitute for the lack of adventure in her own life. She liked to draw and paint and had completed numerous pictures. Most of them were of the view from her balcony. She had painted the ocean in all its guises. She had paintings of it when it was angry, serene, brooding and mostly when it was at its magnanimous and expansive best.
Alysa liked to create and follow flights of her imagination. Fantasies that involved tales of heroism and legend. She would imagine herself being carried off by a knight in shining armour astride the top of a magnificent white charger. She would imagine herself being rescued from some fate more fearful than death. Sometimes she would imagine herself in a scenario where there was an important situation and she was essential in making the difference in the final outcome. She was the heroine that could save the day! She would imagine that someday an adventure would come her way where she could experience a taste of the visions that filled her head.
To walk along the beach was a daily occurrence for Alysa. She did it every evening and often she sat down and watched the water as the light faded and the sunset threw golden reflections across its fluctuating surface. She would watch it avidly as it changed from its day mood of blue-green promise to its night complement. This counterpart was an all-embracing dark blue-grey that held shadows and whispered of obscure mysteries held in its murky depths. She liked to sit on the sand dunes to gain the added benefit of absorbing this entire time straight to the heart. Sitting on her balcony removed her too far from the personal contact she felt with the ebb and flow of the water's restless movement.
It was rare for Alysa to encounter many people on her evening vigil. It was the time of day that people were going inside. Occasionally there was the lonely fisherman enjoying the chance of quietude and the gamble of catching fish. Sometimes a solitary jogger made their way from one end of the beach to the other. She made a point of avoiding them all so she could keep this special time of day to herself.
One particular evening she noticed a new figure moving along the beach. She was familiar with the other people who frequented the beach but this was somebody whom she had not seen here before. There was a vague feeling of recognition but she was positive she'd not seen this man strolling along the beach before. Alysa wondered if she had seen him in town at some time, although she couldn't think where. She sat down in her favourite spot where she could view the twilight without interruption. From here she continued to watch as the man followed the water's edge towards the outcropping of rock that marked the end of the cove. He didn't look anywhere except out to sea. There was a listening quality to his posture as he walked and watched the water. From this distance she could see that his hair was long and tied behind where if fell down his back. His face was unshaven and she was sure that he was fairly young. He moved in a way that was at once both elegant and powerful and the set of his head and shoulders spoke of pride and confidence.
Alysa realised suddenly that her inspection of this character had almost taken her attention away from the dusk gathering dusk. She returned her gaze to the beauty around her and where it stretched out all the way to the horizon. She stayed longer on the beach than normal and it was quite dark when she made her way home. She had lost sight of the male figure that she had been watching. She had become too engrossed in watching the sea and the dark had swallowed up everything in the distance. She wondered if he was going to be a regular to the beach or if he had just been a visitor.
The days passed and Alysa forgot the strange man on the beach. On another evening, idly digging holes in the sand with her bare toes, she saw him again. There was drizzle in the air and the dark came early because of the overcast sky. She had expected to have the beach to herself and felt an element of surprise as she spied a figure walking along the sand. She recognised him straight away. His attitude was the same as before with his face turned out towards the sea. He didn't hide from the rain but held his face up seeming to enjoy the wind blowing the moisture onto it. Alysa sat under her raincoat and hood and watched his progress. This time she watched without taking her eyes from him. There was not much to see in the way of a sunset so she let her gaze follow him as he strode along. She was starting to get curious now and made no move to vacate the beach as he moved closer to where she was sitting. She didn't really expect him to see her anyway. His attention remained focused intently on the ocean. She jumped, startled and a little shocked when he turned and looked straight at her as he drew level to where she was sitting.
She stared unable to do anything but return the intense look directed her way. After a moment he inclined his head toward her and continued on his way. Alysa sat and watched the retreating figure for a while and then stood and made her way back to her apartment in a daze. Her concentration on anything for the rest of the evening was impossible. She performed her normal night routine automatically as she got ready for bed and kept recalling how startling a green his eyes were. This memory surprised her. It had been almost dark when he had looked at her down on the beach. She conjured again the strongly chiselled outline of his face and realised that he must be older than her first impression. There had been lines engraved around his eyes and forehead and silver streaks of grey in his beard. It was hard to put an age to him. His body was as fit and well muscled as a physically healthy, younger man. His clothing had consisted of worn blue jeans and a faded old t-shirt that had outlined the symmetry of those muscles. Alysa continued to think of him until at last she went to bed and eventually slept to the sound of the sea that came through her open window.
During the night the rain eased off and the moon had a chance to break through the cloud. Alysa slept under its glow and tossed and turned in her dreams. She dreamt that she was swimming in the ocean. She dreamt that she could glide effortlessly through the water. She felt no need to come to the surface for air and everywhere she looked the beauty of the underwater world surrounded her. It fascinated her. She felt exhilarated and free. She lost all sense of time, so engrossed was she in this wonder world of blue shadows that she swam through. She forgot where she was and where she had been as she watched the variety of underwater creatures that went passed. She wondered at the ease with which she slid through the water and looked down at her body. She realised she no longer had legs and felt no surprise to see that in their place was a beautiful, silvery fish tail that propelled her along gracefully through the water. She awoke to sunlight streaming in across the room and felt a pang of disappointment at having to leave the dream behind.
Alysa went about her normal daily activities. Thoughts of the previous night's dream continually distracted her. The afternoon wore on and she began to wonder about whether she would see the man from the evening before down at the seashore again. Twilight settled in and saw her down on the beach established in her usual spot. As the dark started to merge with the last of the day she searched with eager excitement for the tall figure that she remembered. She sat there long after the sun had gone. A damp chill had encroached into the air by the time she gave up looking and returned home. The usual comfort she experienced from this time of the day did not go home with her and she missed it as she ate a frugal dinner. Alysa paced around the apartment wondering what she was going to do. Eventually she settled out on the balcony with an old crocheted shawl that she pulled around her shoulders to ward off the cool air. There was no breeze and the ocean responded by keeping its movement down to an even swell. The occasional wave broke against the sand and the sound carried to where she sat. It was a muted crashing in contrast to the stillness of the night. The moon was not quite full but it shone enough light to draw shimmering trails across the water's surface that broke into molten silver as it followed the restless motion of the ocean. She sat staring out across this magical view and her thoughts ran randomly along the different thoughts that came to mind.
She had no idea how long she sat and pondered but after a while she realised that she had been watching movement out in the water without realising it. Alysa dragged herself away from her thoughts and sat forward giving what she had seen more attention. A figure was swimming out amongst the waves. She thought at first that it might be a dolphin but realised after a moment that it was too close to shore for that. Puzzlement gnawed at her and she strained to see what it was but the strength of the moonlight was not enough to illuminate it beyond a vague outline. It seemed to be enjoying itself as it swam beneath the waves and came up the other side to face the next wave. She thought it might have been a person braving the cooler weather. This thought soon changed as the shape eventually disappeared under one of the waves and did not resurface. Bemused by this sight, she finally got up and went inside to retire for the night.
Sleep came easier than she was expecting. There was no surprise when She found herself in a similar dream to the one that she had experienced the night before. Alysa swam through the water once again. Her body had changed again so that she was half fish. This time it was at night. It was difficult to see and she experienced a feeling of foreboding that pressed down on her along with the weight of the darkened water. She looked around searching for some source of light. All that showed was a faint glimmer shining down from above. She could feel a current of coldness coming up from beneath her. A sense of movement came from below. The movement made her think of something large making its way up towards where her body hung suspended in the water. She began to panic and tried to reach the surface but her flailing arms and tail seemed to have no strength. She struggled in slow motion and could make no headway at all. She could see a huge shape, even darker than the night water. It began to gain on her rapidly and she knew that she would not be able to get away. She gave up at last. She realised there was no hope so turned instead to face the menace that was moving in on her. All that she saw before she awoke was a view of cold dead eyes and a great maw full of rows and rows of needle sharp teeth. She sat bolt upright in bed with blankets tangled around her and sweat drenching her body. It took along time for her breathing to return to normal. There was no hope of going back to sleep so she decided to get up and start the day with the sunrise.
For the first time in a long time she didn't make her daily vigil down to the beach. She spent the evening in town where she met up with a friend for dinner and a drink. Alysa felt guilty that her attention wasn't what it could have been but her friend didn't seem to notice. After an enjoyable meal and some good conversation over a bottle of wine she said good night. She started out on the long walk back to her apartment. She became so engrossed in her thoughts that for a long time she didn't notice the sound of the footsteps behind her. She quickened her pace slightly and wished she had listened to her friend and caught a cab. She noticed that as she walked faster the footsteps increased to match her own. After a while she turned quickly to try and catch sight of who might be following her. Her glance presented her with an empty sidewalk. She stopped and looked around at a completely deserted street and began to wonder if she was imagining things. She thought that maybe the dream from the night before must have affected her more than she realised. Shaking her head in frustration she continued on her way. There was no further sound of echoing footsteps and by the time she got home she had managed to relax and tell herself that she had imagined the whole thing.
Alysa let herself into her apartment and wandered around without turning the light on. There was enough light from the moon to be able to see and she soon found herself seated out on the balcony again. She sat enjoying the view and the slight euphoria leftover from her half of the bottle of wine. Her thoughts were wandering when she noticed the same figure from last night out amongst the waves again. She leaned out on the rail hoping to be able to see more than she had the night before. It was still hard to make out what it was but she had a strong sensation of a hand being raised beckoning to her. She felt that whoever was there was asking her to go down and join them. She decided that she was imagining things and when the figure disappeared beneath the waves and didn't show again she went inside to bed.
Alysa tossed and turned again in her sleep. This time she dreamt that she got up out of her bed and went to stand out on the balcony again. She stood looking out at the familiar view. The scene was almost identical to the one she had witnessed before going to bed. This time she could see clearly who was swimming in the water. She didn't feel surprised as she recognised the man she had seen down on the beach the other evening. This time when he raised his arm and waved she hurried down to the beach. She ran across the sand to the water's edge.
She was afraid he might go before she got there. To her delight he still swam out in the waves and gestured again that she join him in the water.
Alysa stripped down to her bare skin and waded out towards him. The water was cool but not enough to bother her and she soon lost touch of the sand beneath her feet. She began to swim out to the man who waited out in the waves. As she swam she realised that once again her lower half had become a finned tail and she rejoiced in the freedom it gave her to move through the water. She finally neared the man and as she got closer she realised that he too had fins and tail that replaced his lower body. Scales glistened as he dived beneath the surface and then swam up to meet her. He reached out his hand and grasped her fingers in a tight, warm clasp and then pulled her beneath the waves with him. At first she panicked and tried to pull away. She had a sensation of foreboding. She knew that if she followed him she would never see her home again. She resisted but she could feel him insistent as he pulled her through the water. The thought of the dark menace that swam in the ocean below her made her afraid. Then realisation came to her that this fear stalked her no matter where she went. The fear subsided as she realised that, with this merman beside her, she could face that fear. Alysa began to think of how she had wanted adventure and excitement. She remembered how she longed for the ability to visit strange shores. They plunged ever deeper beneath the waves and she stopped fighting and gave in to the exhilaration of exploring this new territory.