Fantasticoe -- 2013
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Past the Maroon Rock

            Kim Hannon

           

           

            To reach for the stars, one must persevere, even when times seem hard.”

           

            She walked slowly, and unsteadily to the bank of the ocean, her forearm crutches kept her body upright.

            She looked into the water, and saw her reflection. It was that of a young, fragile, little girl of about age twelve. She touched her pale skin, and ran her fingers through her long, red curls.

            The little girl looked out to the water and said, “It’s a good day for swimming.”

            The girl removed her clothing down to her undergarments, she threw her life jacket to the side of the beach and she then, removed her forearm crutches one- by- one.

            The girl slowly sat down into the water and swam hesitantly away from shore.

            She looked around and took in her surroundings, so she would not get lost swimming.

            She slowly came closer to a maroon colored rock in the clear green water.

            The breeze was soft, and the sun beat down on her, as she swam over an orange coral reef.

            The reef added an abstract beauty to the magnificence of the ocean water.

            Daddy is going to be mad at me if I go out any further. But, I really want to swim.

            But I really want to see how far I can swim without my legs hurting. She thought to herself,

            as she passed the maroon rock, her father always told her not to swim past.

            Her legs began to throb and hurt, as she swam into the deeper water.

            She ignored the discomfort in her legs.

            She performed front stroke, since it was the easiest with her condition.

            She kicked her feeble, underdeveloped legs until the pain was unbearable.

            Suddenly, her legs stopped working.

            “What is going on?”

            She tried to move her legs, but for some reason, they would not work.

            She looked down and her legs began to swell to a light purple color.

            She waved her arms, and flopped around, in the water, like a fish on the shore, until finally she began to sink.

            Is this the end? She thought.

            Her throat tightened from the lack of air. She sunk around ten feet, when a soft, cold hand touched her side.

            The little girl’s eyes closed, but for some reason she was being pushed up, rather than sinking to the bottom.

            When she reached the surface, the little girl gasped for air and realized she was in the arms of someone…

            But who?

            She looked at her rescuer and seen that her savior was a woman!

            “Are you okay?” The lady asked her.

            “I feel a bit woozy. Thank you for saving me.”

            “What is your name, little angel?” The woman said, still holding onto the little girl effortlessly.

            “Aurora. My legs won’t move. I can’t swim anymore.”

            “It’s okay. You don’t need to.” The woman said, quietly.

            She then showed that she was no ordinary woman, but she had a tail, and fins.

            The woman flipped her tail up out of the water.

            The little girl looked at the tail, not really realizing what it was at first, but then, Aurora understood.

            Aurora gasped then fainted.

            Immediately with Aurora’s safety in mind, the mermaid began to swim for shore.

            Once they reached shore, the mermaid pushed Aurora’s body up onto land.

            The mermaid then pulled herself onto the shore, suddenly, the mermaid’s tail began to melt away.

            The pain shot through her body, as her tail begun to split in two.

            The mermaid’s scales started to melt off her lower body and her fins disintegrated.

            She rubbed handfuls of sand on her lower body to help ease the pain.

            The cold temperature of the sand helped with the burning sensation in her tail.

            The mermaid bit her lip in agony so she would not scream.

            She balled her hands into fists and tightened them to help, mentally with the process.

            Finally, an extremely severe pain shot up her body, and then, her tail was gone.

            What remained were two human legs.

            Seaweed fell from her legs as she made an attempt to move them.

            The mermaid slowly gained mobility in her legs as the stinging completely ceased.

            She crawled over to Aurora’s side, once she recovered from the excruciating experience.

            The mermaid looked for any visible injuries on the little girl.

            She looked to her left and seen two tarps and covered her own naked body and the body of Aurora, with the intent of keeping her warm.

            She looked at Aurora’s face, with worried eyes and put her ear to the chest cavity of Aurora.

            Thank goodness you’re breathing. I hope someone comes here soon!

            Then, out in the distance, two men headed towards her on the beach.

            The mermaid ran into the water and disappeared amongst the waves.

            The two men saw the little girl and were shocked.

            “That is ol’ man Joseph’s little girl. Call an ambulance!” one of the fishermen said to the other.

            The paramedics were called and they took her to the hospital just across town; her father was notified.

            *********

            He immediately headed to the hospital and made his way to Aurora’s room.

            “Is she going to be okay?” Joseph asked of the nurse, who was at Aurora’s bedside.

            “She should be. It will be alright. Just stay here with her.”

            Joseph took the unconscious Aurora’s hand in his, and waited at her bedside.

            Hours passed, and Aurora did not wake up.

            The medical team and her father began to worry, because all of her vitals were normal, but the swelling in her legs did not dissipate.

            Then, she began to stir.

            “Where am I?” She wondered

            “Honey, are you alright?” Joseph asked, as he held her hand to his left cheek, relieved.

            “I feel a bit dizzy, is all.” She replied.

            The nurse walked in carrying a clipboard. She overheard the conversation and saw that Aurora was awake.

            “Aurora, you are in the hospital. You were in an accident. Your illness caused your legs to lock up when you were swimming in the ocean. Since your legs are only partially paralyzed, you still have movement in them, but try to take it easy from now, on. Okay?” The nurse said.

            “I understand.Will I still be able to swim? Has it gotten any worse?” Aurora asked.

            “We’re not one-hundred percent sure of what the outcome is going to be. Your illness is a mysterious one, and we cannot characterize it as of yet. For now, just take this one day at a time, as we work to figure out what exactly you suffer from. For now, I would recommend ” The nurse replied.

            “When will we know what her illness is?” Joseph asked.

            “The doctors are deciding on some treatment and therapy based off of her symptoms. We have never seen a case like hers. Your wife also had this disease too, right?” the nurse asked

            “Yes. She died in childbirth. Her heart gave out.”

            “We promise to do the best we can to help Aurora. It will take some time though. This is an odd case and these things take time.”

            Joseph looked at Aurora with his dark brown, worried eyes.

            “Thank you.” He replied to the nurse.

            “Where…is the mermaid?” Aurora asked.

            “What mermaid? Maybe I should turn down your medication.” The nurse said a bit worried.

            “I know there’s a mermaid! I saw her! She rescued me. Please, you’ve got to believe me.” Aurora insisted.

            “Aurora, there are no such things as mermaids.” Joseph said, as he gave her a confused look.

            “Get some rest dear,” the nurse said.

            “But, I know she exists!” Aurora stated, as she shook her arms in the air.

            “Aurora, get some sleep, honey,” Joseph said, as he rubbed her head.

            Aurora stopped and closed her eyes.

            Why can’t they just believe me?

            Hours went by and Aurora was left wondering about what happened to the mermaid.

            I know she is real. I just know it. Why else would I have ended up here, when my legs gave out?

            ******

            The hospital ended up releasing Aurora, when the swelling finally dissipated. While Aurora was at school, Joseph walked along the beach and gazed at the ocean.

            How can something so beautiful, be so harmful?

            He made his way over to the dock and looked at the orange coral reef, which glistened underneath the waves. His eyes met with a turtle’s eyes and a sad smile overcame him.

            I just want her to be safe.

            Joseph closed his eyes as he felt the warm sun on his skin and the soft breeze which blew through his tussled, brown hair.

            Joseph opened his eyes and looked down.

            This can’t be happening.

            His gaze met with that of the mermaids. She looked at him, in an inquisitive way.

            “You’re Aurora’s father?”

            “Yes.”

            “Is she alright?”

            “Yes she is fine. I must be dreaming,” He stated, as he looked away from her.

            “You’re not. I saved her. I can protect her, you know. She loves to swim, she just isn’t strong enough to manage alone. I can swim with her, to make sure she is safe.”

            “You would do that?”

            “Yes. She is very unique. I want to help her.”

            “If she has someone to swim with her, I suppose I wouldn’t have a problem with her swimming.”

            “Good. It’s settled then. I will help Aurora swim.”

            “As long as she is safe, I don’t mind”

            “She will be.”

            With that, the mermaid swam off, and Joseph was left in awe about the event in which just transpired.

            ******

            Aurora looked out her window and gazed at the sea. She envisioned the mermaid’s soft voice, and caring eyes.

            I have got to know!

            Aurora made her way into the kitchen, where her dad sat at the table, sipping on coffee and reading the paper.

            “Daddy, can I go swimming? Please? I promise I won’t go out as far as I did last time,” Aurora asked of her father.

            “Let me see your legs.” Joseph asked.

            Aurora bent over slowly and lifted up her pants legs to show him her small, feeble legs.

            “See, Daddy. They’re not swollen today.” Aurora said quite hopeful.

            “You know I love you, Aurora. I don’t want anything to happen to you. Please, don’t swim without your life jacket. It is the only thing protecting you. Before I let you go swim, I want to tell you the story about your mother. I know I haven’t really spoken about her, but I just want you to know, you are never alone.”

            “I know, Daddy.”

            “Your mother died when she had you. This disease weakened her body to the point where she got very sick before she gave birth. She did not have enough strength to endure the pain and the trama of having a baby. That put her body through hell. She died shortly after you were born. Before she died, she wanted you to believe that you are beautiful inside and out, and to never give up on your dreams. Her dream was to have you. She was willing to sacrifice everything to bring you into this world. Please, know you are never alone through this. I don’t want to lose you, Aurora. You scared me. Please, don’t ever do that again. You’re all I have.”

            A tear rolled down her father’s face and he hugged Aurora, tightly.

            “Thank you, Daddy. I promise, I will obey your rules. I love you.”

            “You were right about her.” Joseph stated.

            “Who was I right about, Daddy?”

            “The mermaid.”

            “You saw her?”

            “Yes. Be careful. Go have fun.”

            Aurora nodded and pulled her pant leg down.

            ******

            Aurora made her way for the shore; she used her forearm crutches to help sturdy herself. The bulky life jacket, which wrapped around her body, annoyed her. She knew her father would be displeased if she removed it, so she ignored it. She looked out at the water and was left speechless.

            I hope I can see her again. I think I will go sit on the dock. At least then I can feel the breeze on my feet.

            Aurora made her way for the dock and she slowly inched her body down into a sitting position. She slid her feet over the side of the dock and let them hang. She set her forearm crutches next to her, and she closed her eyes while the breeze cooled her legs. The dock was warm and the sun shined down on her face.

            “Hello, little angel,” A voice said.

            Aurora opened her dark eyes and looked down to see the mermaid who looked back at her with ocean blue eyes.

            “Did you save me?” Aurora asked.

            “Yes. How are your legs?” She asked as she looked at Aurora’s semi-swollen legs.

            “They’re fine.” She said, as she pulled them away from the mermaid’s sight and looked down in embarrassment.

            “You don’t have to be embarrassed; you are beautiful inside and out, Aurora.”

            “How do you know? You’re a fish!” Aurora insisted.

            “Because I too have a…limitation. I turn into a human when I am on land, and I turn into a fish when I am in water. I can never live a normal life in the sea or on land. We both have limitations, but it is who we are inside that makes us beautiful,” The mermaid said as she flipped her fin.

            “You’re so grown up and beautiful with your long blonde hair and bright blue eyes. I am ugly. I

            will never be able to accomplish anything with this broken body!”

            “Aurora, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. If you want to swim, you will improve. Your beauty is in your perseverance. You can only reach for the stars if you try.”

            “I can’t even walk. How can I expect to do anything if I can’t walk?”

            “Just keep swimming. Your legs will become stronger, and you will too.”

            “Alright…teach me how to swim…without drowning.”

            “My pleasure,” the mermaid stated, as she pulled Aurora into the water slowly.


            “Perseverance creates a new kind of beauty.”