THE MERMAID AND THE MURMUX
In which a Mermaid comes ashore, a Prince becomes an awful boar,
A crone bestows an ancient curse, be grateful that it’s nothing worse.
The boundary between two states of being, and its violation, is the only genuine source of horror. Just as the stench of the sea-shore, never smelt in the midst of the ocean itself, is but the detritus and decay of all the myriad crawling things that time has deposited to dry upon the alien and hostile land.
It was with this image in her mind that Azusula the Lost, allowed herself to be beached on the death-strands. The rituals had been completed below the waves, in the grand caverns and thorough-swimfares of the citadels themselves, she had been the one chosen to carry the attonement for the dry seasons, to make the great change that the scientists-engineers had devised. If she did not die, the hope of her kind would be maintained for another season, even though she herself might never return to them.
The webbing of her hands had begun to shrivel now as the alien heat from the skinned sun, burned down, hotter, more brutal and brighter than it had ever appeared from below the waters. Her tail, her blue and gold and scarlet scaled glory , her pride in mating, her family history in colours, shed scale by scale, leaving a naked fleshy mass that she dare not turn her head to contemplate. Scales, born away by the odious and abrasive sea-wind blew around her in eddies of brightness: crystophayse and tourmaline, ruby and turquose. She could feel her life-blood pooling within her, and knew, without attempting to shift her main bulk, that it would be staining the wet sand beneath her a delicate and oxygen suffused pink.
The bifurcation, when it came, was not - as the stories had prepared her to believe – agony. Agony was a mere word for what, in its happening, proved to be not pain but a whole new sensation. As near to rapture as to torture, it was perhaps a kind of childbirth, a birthing of a new form of herself rather than of a cloud of younglings. The naked mass of her tail, split, divided, the bones inside cleaving and reforming. On the sand she could only gasp, air moving down new passages in her throat, her useless and now sealing gills flecked with sand.
Within the hour Azusula the Mermaid would be no more.
Prince Hartenstein – often called the bold (and to give him his due not only by those over whom he had the High the Middle and the Low Justice) – rode out that day with his pack of nine great hounds, in the forest called Perfection, that had been planted as a game reserve by his great-great-great-grandfather who, sad to say, had been a magician as well as a King. In its borders could be found the strangest and most huntable of all beasts. The Swallow Deer, that flittered among the tree-tops so prettily, the Undebatable Boar, with its grandeous and marvelous tusks, the Pygmy Tyranosaur, in all its easier to contemplate ferocity, and the Murmux. It was that rarest, most subtle and difficult to hunt creature: the Murmux that the Prince was hunting today. The Murmux is never seen, only heard – it resembles in that respect the best and most obedient of proverbial children – and indeed critics of the decanting practice of the Prince’s great-great-great-grandfather hinted that his breeding vats had contained vital fliuds from man, as from the lower breasts. It, as its name suggests, is a murmur, a breath, a thin and uncanny uullullation among the dark and foreboding trees.
Simon BJ [Post for 13th May 2009]