The Merman
Ron Morelli

Held by a wire, the daylight slipped slowly, slowly away from him.

His gaze could no longer handle the coastline attraction, but his ears held themselves sharp to the sway of the surf against the rocks and sand, and he cursed them all in one word, which set his tongue on fire.

He knew it would be futile to continue the painting. The daylight was leaving him inch-by-inch, swallowed or sucked into the sea; and as the light slipped away, his anger continued to build. How dare these things thwart his attempt to complete the image. His hands were strong, his will stronger . . . but without the light, coupled with his own dying eyesight, he could not finish up the image that had haunted him, which caused him undo restlessness for the past month and a half.

Like an itch, unable to be scratched, he felt the tremors begin to take as finally the sunlight vanished with a wink and a tuck, into the roll of waves. The changing would soon take place, and would take place every night until he finished the painting of the sacrosanct that would end his curse, and allow him the bliss of sleep, and freedom of the dreadful shifting of shape.

He could not hold the tremors anymore, and before he knew it his eyes grew darker and darker still, until he felt his face covered in pitch. Already he felt the water swirl between his legs, or what use to be his legs; flesh turning into scale, hands into a mess of web, spine into dorsal fin, and the salty-brine fill his nostrils and mouth as he plunged into the brim of the water's black belly, not to resurface until the morning light returned, and the painting of the sacrosanct awaited his finishing touches by the shoreline of Bar Harbor.

First published: November 2002