“Let’s get down to it. Do you use dark magic?”
“Well, yes, I do use dark magic…” she shifted in her seat. “Oh, don’t make that face. Dark magic isn’t evil, it isn’t bad. It’s just… it’s just, dark!”
I tapped my pen on my notepad, leaned closer. “What is it, then? There are so many warnings, so much stigma regarding dark magic. Can you explain to me why you think you can use it, where others cannot?”
“What do you think of, when you think of darkness? What comes to mind?” She was smiling now, her teeth looked sharp.
I thought for a moment. “Nighttime. Evil. Creatures of the night, danger…” I trailed off, unsure if I should continue.
She smiled again, this time with a hint of sadness. “There is this idea that things that are dark are bad. The night is dangerous, unpredictable, it hides things. That the light is good, safe, we can see everything. But that isn’t quite true, is it?”
She began to pace around the room, gesturing as she spoke. “The light can blind us just as much as the dark. Think of the good that comes with the absence of light. You can see the stars. The night creatures spend their lives without light; does that make them evil? Dark magic is a velvet cloak that embraces it’s wearer. It is unpredictable by nature, wild, powerful. There is freedom in the darkness. I use it, because it feels natural.”
I rummaged through my notes. “Oh! Oh… I meant… black magic. Do you use black magic?”
“Oh! No, black magic is evil. No one should use black magic, bad stuff.”
The second time I saw the mermaid, she was singing.
Now, when most people think of a singing mermaid, they think of the red-haired songstress with a penchant for hoarding, bewitching siren songs, etc.
This was more like… well, imagine an old cat yowling for dinner. Scratchy, off-key and off-putting.
She was in the water this time, her back to me, and she was splashing while squawking a familiar tune.
“Are… are you singing Crocodile Rock?” I asked from the shore.
She gasped and submerged, then resurfaced about twenty feet away, scowling.
“Are you following me?” she hissed, her sea green eyes seemed to glow from the sun reflecting off of the water.
I pointed down the beach. “I am living in one of the beach houses for the summer, I just walk the beach a lot.”
“Whatever. Get a life.”
She was gone with a flick of her strong tail, leaving a wake of bubbles and Elton John stuck in my head.
The office was silent. Usually filled with the sound of keyboards tapping, mouses clicking and hushed conversations, it was unnaturally quiet. My coworkers all sat still, some with heads tilted, as if listening.
A few moments passed.
“What… what is that?” the intern hissed.
“You hear that too, right?”
“Oh, thank god I am not imagining it.”
“What IS that?”
The chorus of whispered questions died down, as everyone listened again.
“It sounds like it is coming from outside…”
Without speaking, they all stood, and filed out of their cubicles. Other offices were emptying into the hallway, everyone speaking softly. Listening.
“Bells… like, sleigh bells.” One woman gasped.
“No, it is definitely a violin. Beethoven!” Someone else chimed in.
“No one else hears… singing?”
They drifted towards the exit, entranced. I followed them out.
The street was filled with people. Many appeared joyful, as if they were listening to beautiful music. The mass of people was starting to drift down the street, laughing, listening, looking to the sky.
“Where is it coming from?”
“It sound like the angels are laughing!”
The crowd grew and grew. People came out of their houses as we reached the suburbs, joining the exhilarated group.
Soon we were at the city limits, open fields and blue sky for miles.
I noticed a small group had stayed back, and did not join the euphoric crowd, who were now dancing and hugging and gleefully cheering to the sky.
I moved towards them. They looked how I felt; fearful.
As I stepped close, a man in front looked me in the eye.
“You hear it, too? Don’t you?”
There was no music from the sky. No bells, no laughter or gentle singing.
I knew without asking that we all heard the same thing.
Screaming and the crackle of flames.
The first time I saw the mermaid she pretended not to see me.
I inched closer, trying to catch her attention without startling her back into the water. She continued to sunbathe in the golden sand, lightly rocking her fin back and forth as she sorted sea glass.
I cleared my throat.
Her eyes flicked my direction for an instant, then went back to the piles of glass shards. She began to hum softly and flipped her hair.
Taking another step closer, I waved.
Again her eyes darted towards me, and a look of irritation flashed over her lovely face. She shoved her treasures into a woven grass bag, and wriggled into the water with ease.
She surfaced briefly, to look at me over her shoulder, brows low with disdain. Then she was gone.
Ignored then rejected, I stood lonely and alone.
It was like high school all over again.
“You’ll miss me when I am gone.” It wasn’t a question. She knew he would, and that is why she had lingered. “You shouldn’t be alone. You aren’t healthy when you are alone. You need me here!”
She had been pleading with him for days, as he packed up her things. She cried and wailed, following him room to room. He ignored her, until she threw the lamp across the room, shattering it on the wall. He screamed at her to stop, and she slammed the door shut, trapping him in the house.
He howled, “I can’t take it anymore! You have to go! You are not welcome in this house! The person I loved is gone, you are not her! Get out!” He struggled with the doorknob.
“Why are you doing this to me? I thought you loved me! Don’t do this to me, to us!” she sobbed, but she couldn’t resist any longer. The door was open, and he forced her through.
She turned and looked back, hoping for one last glimpse of him, one last chance for him to change his mind.
He stood in the doorway, the light from the house creating a golden halo around him, illuminating the darkness. The bitter smoke of burning sage drifted into the night.
He shut the door, but she could hear him talking to the medium. “Do you think it worked? Is it gone?”
After a few moments the medium said, “It isn’t in the house. Now you can mourn your wife in peace.”
It was an ordinary day. A typical Tuesday morning. I woke to the alarm, showered, dressed. Off to work. I arrived at my desk right on schedule. I hung my hat and coat, and headed to the break room for my coffee.
Generally, I keep to myself at work. I prefer not to draw attention, so I usually hurry down the hall early, before the rush, eyes on my feet to avoid any conversation. The long hallway is always buzzing with activity, but this morning it was surprisingly quiet, which caused me to look up. And I saw the door.
It was at the end of the hall, tall and skinny, painted pale yellow. I had never seen this door before. I was certain that it had not been there yesterday; I have worked in this office for seven years, and I had never seen this door.
I looked around; still no one. I continued down the hallway, staring intently at the door. It was a strange yellow, almost a sickly yellow. Why did the door seem too thin, too tall? Why hadn’t I noticed it before?
I passed the break room. Usually a small crowd gathered by the water cooler or the coffee maker, but I saw no one. It was quiet. Too quiet.
Starting to sweat, I loosened my tie, cleared my throat, never taking my eyes off the door. I was still walking slowly, but steadily towards it. For some reason, it didn’t appear to be getting any closer. The end of the hall was still a ways off. I tried to walk faster, lengthen my stride, but my shuffling feet wouldn’t cooperate.
Maybe this was a bad idea. The door was unnerving, seeming to pulsate and throb with a strange energy. I should turn back.
My reluctant feet kept moving. I tried to turn around, to look away, but it was too late. I was reaching for the knob. It was cold to the touch. I felt dizzy as I turned the handle.
The door swung open on silent hinges.
I saw only darkness.
Heart pounding, I tried to look away, to shut the door, turn around, anything, but I was trapped, gazing helplessly into the void.
I don’t know how long I stood there, resisting the urge to step over the threshold, fighting with every ounce of my being to avoid taking that step. Sweat was trickling down my face, my breath was coming in fast, harsh gasps.
A sudden flash of light blinded me, and I shielded my eyes, unsure of what to expect. As my vision cleared, I saw what lay beyond the door.
A mop. A bucket. A rickety shelf stacked with toilet paper, cleaning supplies.
I had discovered the janitor’s closet.
“Sir? Are you okay?” A man pushing a trashcan on wheels stood a few feet away, hand still on the light switch. “Did you need help finding something?”
I took a shaky breath. “Just a cup of coffee.” I shut the door. The knob seemed to tremble… or was it just my hands shaking?