I drew these animals hanging out in outer space, and for $5, I could draw your pet having a space adventure, too! :)
“It’s this way, officer,” the old man said, slamming the door of the pickup truck behind him.
We went down to the water without exchanging another word, and we walked along the shore for what seemed like forever. I would have talked, but the old man seemed focused, and anything I could have said would only have been a distraction. It was a solemn moment, something sacred, mourning or celebration or both. So I didn’t say a word, not one. And yet, somehow, this anticipation was the most excitement I’d had on the job in years.
At the end of the stretch was a group of big rocks left behind from some prehistoric age; maybe before the wind and the sea wore them down they’d been cliffs, monuments of stone. Now they were just enough to hide a little inlet nestled between them. A big seagull was perched on a minor member at the edge of the motionless assembly, and as we approached it didn’t fly away, just sat there and stared, unblinking.
"You been feeding the gulls?" I asked.
"God no," he grunted. "Can’t stand the damn things."
"Well," I said, "someone has. Big and fat and not scared of people. See that? I bet I could touch ‘im and he wouldn’t even flinch." I almost did, but the monster of a bird opened his beak like he would bite, so I withdrew my hand.
"Stop messing with the bird and go around the rocks," he barked, gruffly, as if disciplining a child, so I complied. "Go see what you came to see."
Squaring my jaw and hitching my belt, I marched to the edge of the hemisphere of rocks—and pulled back in revulsion. There was a dip in the sand, a depression where the ground gave way to unmoving water, sheltered from the stirring of the waves, and because of that, I hadn’t at first seen her.
She was golden. Her skin was the color of daffodils and sunrise, and she blended in so perfectly with the rest of the beach that at first it was hard to distinguish the shape of the human form from the surrounding landscape. Her eyes were open, unblinking and golden too, a color that didn’t seem false or unnatural within the supernatural shadow of her lashes, but not any shade of iris I’d ever seen in a person before. Long silver hair flowed over her long neck and bare breasts, and when I say silver I don’t mean blonde or gray, I mean it caught the light of the August sun and it shimmered with a subtle rainbow as the breeze caught up the delicate strands and moved them like the reflection of the water on the rocks.
She was gorgeous, made like a model, and she was motionless.
"Fuck, Malcolm," I said, unable to think of anything to say but the obvious, because the obvious was bad enough without conjecture on top of it, "fuckin’—you’ve got a dead girl on your beach."
"Yes, yes," he grumbled impatiently and angrily. "But that’s not what I brought you to see. You didn’t even look at the rest of her."
Cautiously, I stepped into the circle, trying to avoid upsetting the scene, disturbing the evidence, and stumbled into the blood-soaked sand anyway. Suddenly a few footprints in a murder scene seemed like the least of my concerns.
"She’s…a fish?" I asked, dumbfounded. Murder I’d seen. Too much, to the point where human cruelty had ceased to amaze me, where the sight of a whole body’s worth of blood no longer made me shudder. But this…this was just getting damn weird.
Her slender body, coiled beneath her, shifted from golden flesh to viridian scales. Two delicate fins lay, spread like fans, beneath her, whorls of color and shape and light patterning each fragile arch. Even in death she was arrestingly beautiful. That seemed to make the injustice of it all even greater.
"I think the word you’re looking for," Malcolm corrected, "is ‘mermaid’."
"A mermaid," I repeated, quietly, not out of shock or horror but just because my voice wouldn’t work any louder. "You’ve found a dead mermaid." I shook my head to try to clear it, settling down on my haunches, crouching beside her, brushing some stray locks of hair from her face so I could see her better, revealing a row of thin, tight slits up and down both sides of her neck. "Look," I noted, with sad amusement, "gills."
The old man nodded. “Found her like this about forty minutes ago. Went straight to you. Suppose I didn’t know what else to do, you know? I mean, it’s what I would do if I found anyone else like this.” Man was actually starting to tear up a little. Truth be told, his eyes were already a little red behind his bifocals, so he must have broke down when he first saw her, but Malcolm had never been the kind of guy who’d be willing to crack before an audience.
"Yeah," I said. "I don’t blame you. You did the right thing, I think. Damn." I stood and glanced sideways, directly at him. "I don’t think there’s any protocol for dealin’ with this. I just don’t know what to do."
What the hell was I supposed to do? Just because I was a cop didn’t mean I had the answer. Without protocol to rely on I was more lost than Malcolm was, because at least he seemed sure this wasn’t a nightmare or delusion.
"The poor thing," he whispered, an uncharacteristic vulnerability and tenderness in his hardened voice which now wavered. "Just look, will you? Look at whatever son of a bitch killed her did to her!"
As I’d seen, the sand was soaked in still-sticky blood, and the water surrounding her lower half had become stained a permanent shade of rose, so I assumed there was a wound somewhere, but now I examined the body more closely. The initial shock had been too much for the nature of the murder—and that’s what it surely was, murder—to register. It was a clean cut, too, unobtrusive, along her bottom half (which must have been why I didn’t see it immediately)—she was slit clean in half from what would be the groin if she had legs, all down to the tip of her tail, an even and symmetrical cross-section that ended between her fins.
"Ripped her straight open," I shuddered. "Gutted her like a fish and then put her back together."
"I figure," Malcolm explained, much more calmly than I could have managed given the circumstances—all of them, murder and mermaid both, "I figure she’s got gills, so maybe she can’t breathe well out of water and that made it easier. Or maybe the bastard just drug her up on shore a little way and she couldn’t escape. Maybe knocked her out or drugged her or restrained her somehow so that he could get that clean a cut."
"Maybe," I said. "But doesn’t look to be much sign of struggle. No bruises I can see, and the only place the sand is all kicked up is where I’ve been walking so I don’t think she was thrashing around like a fish out of water. Maybe she died and then got cut open. Maybe she didn’t bleed to death. Hell, this isn’t my work, I can’t hardly tell. I just clean the mess up, don’t do the investigative work." That was me: always cleaning up the mess after the fact. I wiped my face on my sleeve—the sun was starting to really beat down, now—and I sat down on a rock with my feet in the sand.
"Don’t see how it would be possible to do that to her," he continued, only half-listening to me. "To be that perfect and clean if she was fighting back or trying to escape. Think we might turn her over and see if she’d been stabbed or something first?"
"I guess." We both took her by the shoulders and lifted her up. She was surprisingly heavy and stiff and it took both of us to do it. Her back was as clean and smooth as her chest, not a mark anywhere, so we laid her back down as we’d found her. Respect for the dead and all that.
"I don’t know what to do about this, Malcolm," I repeated. "I just…even if we find whoever did this, what do we do? Throw him in jail for killin’ something that, far as the law or most of humanity is concerned, doesn’t exist?"
"I know," the old man sighed, broken, beat down, hunching over in defeat. "I know. I just…damn world has no justice in it. The poor girl." He turned away and mopped at his face with one big rough hand and I knew a few of those tears teetering at the edge of his eyes had been jarred loose at long last. I’d never seen him quite like this.
I thought for a moment, because I didn’t want to do nothing, and finally I suggested, “Look, there’s not much legally I can do here, but…we could bury her.”
The load on his shoulders seemed to lighten and he stood a bit straighter. “I’d like that, Jim,” he said.
Were the world large enough large enough to span
the distance twixt your flesh, my waiting hands,
and were that earth to carry my devotion,
a frenzied and a dangerous emotion,
along its faults and deep into its core,
from now until we fall into that sleep
so powerful, so endless, and so deep,
that we will never meet and sigh again
in symphony, a concert of our breath,
could time expand before us so that we
might love each other just one instant more?
Do you know how aspens grow?—
they start out from a single seed,
a small and concentrated center,
branches radiating outward,
winding roots becoming saplings,
no trunk a separate tree.
Do you know how aspens live?—
like legends rising from the flame,
no single injury or action
an authentic execution,
the power of ten thousand years
enduring underground, unseen.
lying spread beneath the sky,
the tempest raged and roiled,
kissing Earth as hot as flame
in the boiling atmosphere.
when the Earth began to cool,
the surface turning solid
and the storm becoming sea,
the first creation formed
in a spark
a coiling strand of matter fused
into a simple being.
When Lilith left the garden
like a blazing, shooting star—
her path an arc of devastation,
cinders, soot, and conflagration,
circling the world wide and far,
laying chaos in her wake,
disrupting wind and water as she flew—
Eve lay still and silent as the grave,
until the desperation in her grew;
titanic in proportion, breath uneasy
the waves within her shaking her as if she
contained a world racked with seismic shifts,
upending cultures, rending open rifts,
tears watering the garden she had laid;
entreating reverent pardon, Eve’s plaintive cries
reached up to brush the heavens and the sky:
"God, name this hunger gnawing at my spine;
what agony is this?, the aching chasm
dividing human heart from human mind,
this longing deep inside me, this condition—
what right had she? who gave her the permission
to spread her roots below, into my heart,
her creeping limbs constricting, tight, my mind?
"How can the distance between beings grow
so deep it cannot feasibly be conquered,
not forged, not bridged, not marched, and not ascended,
the sole, sharp point of contact and connection
a yearning buried heavy in the soul
beneath the mortal viscera and sinew,
a flutter in the belly, in the breast,
a stir along the spine stealthy and cold,
a pain released with every shallow breath,
a fear of breeching boundaries and a need to —
the sight of her, soft skin, dark lips and eyes,
demanding veneration, void of purchase?
"Each gesture light and lovely,
every movement of her hands
an act of blasphemy and virtue
bestowing truths and spreading lies —
oh, God, my hesitating fingers
know not how to reach to hold her,
if a brush upon her shoulder
or a kiss upon her brow
would result in her approval
or in scorn, in strife, in shame!
"I love her, God,
and oh, how much I need her—
why would she leave me lonely
and subject me to this anguish?
How can I continue living,
Earth unfaltering but lifeless
as the sun continues rising
with no world to shine upon?
How can my heart continue beating,
and my lungs, yet, still, respire?
What cruel creation have you rendered
and, oh, God, exactly why?”
No answer known, no gentle words to soothe her,
God contemplated Eve, Her stars aquiver,
each sun within Her sky shaking with sorrow,
so all that God could do for Eve was cry;
the clouds drew up to block the moon from sight
as woman languished through the stormy night.
Just a reminder! For $5, I will draw you, a friend, or a family member hanging out in outer space. :)
He gave me
words for my mouth
a script subject to
a chaotic composition
a dramatic recitation
of Shakespearean prestige
He told me
what to do and
not to say
how to speak and
how to beg
how to sin and
how to pray
and that it didn’t matter anyway
He gave me
every time the signals crossed
and every time the impulse swayed
and when the static cracked and popped
the blow was harder than His hand
but since He taught me how to stand
with actors’ expert poise and woman’s grace
since marks were never left in any place
that human eyes could see:
We knew that meant it wasn’t true
and that the words i said were lies
that this was love and not abuse
that words were poison, that my voice
was nothing less than conscious choice
to inflict pain, to hurt, to maim
and no one else would love me like He did.