Thursday, March 11, 2010

Chapter Eighty

“You’re a mermaid!” says Pinocchio. He points unnecessarily at her tail.

“Of course!” she laughs.

“You’re… Maybe you can help me!”

“By finding your friends?” The Mermaid swims back from her alcove of treasures. “Is this one of them?" She holds a copper kettle. Perhaps this is his clock or the - what's that word again? - candle's stick.

“No, no, no,” says Pinocchio absently, and he takes her hands. “You see, I’m really looking for my father. I mean, we all are. My friends and I. And all we know is that he’s near where the mermaids are, so maybe you... What’s wrong?”

The girl gently pulls away. Her wide, clear eyes cloud over. “This is where the mermaids are, now. And I’m sorry, but I haven’t seen your father. Or any surface-dwellers, for that matter.”

Nonplussed, Pinocchio shakes his head and reaches into his shirt for the Enchanted Mirror. “No, look.” He squints his eyes shut for a moment and thinks of how much he wants to be with his father again.

Light dazzles from the Mirror, illuminating the alcove, and the Mermaid peers at the image.

An old man kneels. He holds a candle. A stout cudgel rests against his knees. And he scratches and scrapes at the lichen on a dark, ribbed wall. When he has enough dark-green shavings in his hand, he brings them to his mouth. The Mirror goes dark.

“That’s him! That’s my father! And I’ve seen him fighting off dead mer-people, so you must know where he is, right?”

Her eyes grow cloudier, and she stares without seeing into the vacant Mirror. When she responds, her voice has lost some of its melody.

“I think I do,” says the Mermaid, and Pinocchio leans forward, smiling.

“I came from there, you could say,” she continues, mostly to herself. “I wanted to stay, but I was sent away by my father. And I got lost.” She remembers the rushing waters, the screams of battle, the tide pushing her away.

“And when you’re lost, this is where you end up... in Neverland.” The Mermaid picks up a fork and idly runs it through her ethereal hair. “Which isn’t so bad, I suppose. It’s mostly safe here. And at least I’m not alone. But the other mermaids aren’t like me, so I keep to myself nowadays.”

All this goes unheard by Pinocchio. “So, where’s my father?” he asks, a little too loudly.

“I’m sorry,” she says again, and gently lays the fork back amidst her meager treasures. “But your father is inside Monstro.”