Lucia (xashxnightx) wrote in coalbiters,

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Dreams of Atlantis

So, I'm a little undecided. I got inspired by a song (one of the same name, by a group called Siren's Song), and wrote a short story. Only, I reached an end-point on the first page. It left some of the song unsaid, but it seemed like an appropriate ending, almost, for the tone of the story. I decided to try finishing it anyway, just to see if I liked it better, and I don't know if I do. The juxtaposition of magic and mundane intrigues me, and I like the new ending, too. So, opinions, oh esteemed writers of coalbiters?

Father, dear father, can you please explain
About these thoughts I’m having
And the dreams that stay the same
Night after night, I feel summoned to the deep
The things that I remember, call me from my sleep

For I have had dreams, dreams of Atlantis
The city that once sank into the salty sea
And in these dreams, these dreams of Atlantis
I swim and I live and I move so free

There are towers made of coral and pearls within the caves
The call of the siren’s song sounds within the waves
Grottos of blue and ocean depths of green
Strange sites that I am sure I have been to and I’ve seen

For I have had dreams, dreams of Atlantis
The city that once sank into the salty sea
And in these dreams, these dreams of Atlantis
I swim and I live and I move so free

These are not dreams but memories you’ve known
You were given to me to raise until you’d grown
Your mother is a selchie, who dwells within the sea
If you touch the water, a mermaid then you’ll be

I went out to the waves that night and stepped upon the sand
Blew a kiss to my father, then stretched out my hands
I dove into the waves and heard the ocean roar
For now I was a seamaid and would be evermore

For I have had dreams, dreams of Atlantis
The city that once sank into the salty sea
And in these dreams, these dreams of Atlantis
I swim and I live and I move so free

For I have had dreams, dreams of Atlantis
The city that once sank into the salty sea
And in these dreams, these dreams of Atlantis
I swim and I live and I move so free

The rippling waves glittered in the sunlight from far below, undulating over the vast surface. No land in sight in any direction, but I wasn’t interested in land. Just the sea, moving steadily closer as I floated down toward it, bodiless, weightless as if already in water.

The waves crested up to meet me, welcoming me like the open arms of a mother, and I welcomed them as well, my long-lost home. I noticed no temperature of the water because it was perfect, exactly the temperature of my body, though I still wasn’t sure I had one. Now a part of the water, the blue engulfed me and drew me ever deeper. The light faded above me, but I felt only a rising excitement as the speed picked up, the current sweeping me up in its rush to see everything, touch everything, be everything.

I felt so at home in this familiar expanse of blue as colorful fish swirled about me in schools, their scales flashing in the rays of light that stubbornly pierced down through the water. They glittered like jewels of the sea, living and liquid, as ever-changing as their home.

When I looked back, following the movement of one fish that strikingly resembled a rainbow in the flesh, I noticed a much closer flicker and saw my own scales for the first time. Deep green, the color of kelp, the fins translucent like lace. Ecstasy bubbled through me, and I looped through the waves with the rest of the fish, feeling the water slide through my hair like wind used to, reminding me of my dreams of flight from so long ago, when as a child I would climb trees during high wind to feel it toss and turn, pushing me through the air high above the ground.

But the current pulled me relentlessly onward, ever down toward the black depths that whispered invitingly of mystery and magic. Space, endless space, extended around me, but I could feel an end ahead of me. These were not the deepest parts of the ocean, I knew. The light would still follow me all the way to the bottom, but the faint murkiness of the water hid my destination from me, kept me pushing forward, faster than the current could take me, eager to see what the ocean hid from me.

Faint shapes formed in the deep blue, tall and slender. Nostalgia hit me unexpectedly, and I pushed forward as hard as I could, feeling no fatigue for all my racing through the water. Only excitement. Sadness. Eagerness to retrieve something I had lost.

Towers, they were, great towers taller than churches, built of spiraling, climbing coral. They weren’t solid, though—tunnels ran through the towers, but I could see nothing inside them, even fish. I moved among them, slipping easily around them as if I had navigated this maze all my life. The towers were all different sizes, all different colors.

But as fascinating and hauntingly beautiful as they were, something still pulled me onward, weaving through them as they thickened, urgency pushing me ever onward, ever faster, ever more desperately.

At last, I broke free of the empty towers, and I stopped instinctively, knowing I had at last reached what I was seeking. The green stretches before me darkened in a huge shape, black and daunting but comforting somehow. Slowly, I swam forward again, but my body moved more sluggishly, as if my scales were rusty, my gossamer fins worn down. The shape grew no nearer, though the hope welled in my chest large enough to choke off my breath, slow my fins more. No one was nearby to help me, to pull me toward the end of my journey, to show me what I had been seeking in these dreams for years but had never attained. I was so close.... But darkness enfolded me.

I refused to open my eyes, though I could feel the bed beneath me, the tangled blankets wrapped about my legs. If only I could remain in those dreams, search the ocean for this mysterious place far below the waves that called to me relentlessly. But the harsh beeping of my alarm clock reminded me of other obligations, even other desires, and I reluctantly rose, gazing wistfully at my pillow, as if it alone connected me to that desperate joy I knew only in those dreams.

That was where I first felt an ending.

Nothing of my life was so vivid as those dreams. I might’ve been more alive while I slept than when I woke, drudging through the routine of daily life. Odd, how those dreams always happened the same, always led me to the same place only to snatch the wonder away at the crucial moment. They were more routine than much of my life, dependable, and yet never boring. No two days were the same, but they all stretched into a blur, one melting into the other, until the weeks flew by and milestones passed in flashes, barely in focus enough to notice.

Today, it lingered, the sad, hopeful feeling lodged in my chest at the end of the dream. The image of those empty coral towers, so familiar and haunting, so tragic in their barrenness. Why did they seem more real than the bowl of cereal in front of me? Dad was always gone to work by the time I got up in the morning, so the house was as empty as the towers in my dream had been, the silence sounding too loud to my ears.

I loved my dreams but not lingering on them after I woke. I hurried through breakfast, brushed my hair, and rushed out the door, seeking the solace of noise to drive away the emptiness.

In my hurry, I arrived early for the bus, but I didn’t care now. Cars rumbled by on the road, birds chirped and leaves rustled, little kids chattered as they walked by on their way to elementary school. I took a deep breath, close enough to the beach to smell the sting of salt on the breeze, and smiled. Out here, among the noise of so much life, it was easier to focus on the beauty of my dream, the beginning with the bright waves and undulating schools of fish.

I didn’t want to go to school today. I wanted to go to the beach.

But to school I went, curiously distracted. I had this dream every night. They began years ago, just swimming in the ocean with such vivid clarity that waking up disoriented me—I hadn’t thought dreams could be that real. As time passed, they only became more intriguing, taking on a life of their own until I lived every moment of the day, both waking and sleeping. Why, today, did they refuse to leave my thoughts?

“You coming, honey?”

I looked up, startled, to see the kind, if impatient, face of the bus driver, waiting with the doors open for me to get on. Sheepishly, I stepped through the doors and up to her level. “Sorry.” She just shook her head, smiling ruefully, and shut the door as I took the empty seat behind her and stared out the window. None of my other friends took the bus; their parents drove them to school. Well, their mothers.

I never knew my mother. As far as I knew, she had given birth to me and left. Dad never talked much about her. He looked pained when she was mentioned, so I just stopped asking. I only really knew two things about her: her name was Maria, and I had inherited her blue eyes. But when I asked where she was, I only ever got one answer: she’s gone. She’s gone. But you have her blue eyes, Nina, her beautiful, sea blue eyes.

He insisted she loved me, but then why was she gone? It seemed a lie, a pretty little white lie, to try and comfort a little girl without a mother. Of course she loved you, why would you think different? How could anyone not love you, pretty little thing that you are? Dear child. My dear little girl. Of course she loved you.

My dreams were more real than that woman.

I walked through the hallways at school on autopilot, stopping at my locker only to realize after I opened it that I already had everything for my first class.

Just as I shut it, arms circled my torso and crushed the wind out of my lungs, twin bands of deceptively thin steel. “Good morning!” piped a cheery voice right in my ear, high and thin but exuberant.

“Mel,” I gasped. “Mel! Air!”

Melody just giggled, squeezing again until I wheezed before letting go. “What’s the matter with you this morning, hm? I’ve seen tree stumps harder to sneak up on than you today!”

I shrugged, stepping into the hallway to get to class. Melody fell into step with me. “Had a weird dream last night. Can’t stop thinking about it, that’s all.”

“A nightmare?”

“Not really. It wasn’t scary, just ... strange. Very vivid.”

“What was it about?” she pressed.

I felt oddly irritated with her for asking. I’d never shared these dreams with anyone, not even my father, and it didn’t feel right sharing them now. Grudgingly, I said, “Being a mermaid, swimming in the ocean.”

“That doesn’t sound so strange. Just yesterday, I had a dream with this gigantic parfait. Seriously! It talked, too, and had this really deep voice, like you’d think a dragon would have....” She continued chattering on about her dreams, and I let her voice wash over me. Melody wasn’t my best friend, by a long shot. Her mouth ran too much for her to notice a whole lot, but her heart was in the right place. And anyway, she wouldn’t really go away. I smiled ruefully. Melody was a bit like a stray cat. Feed the thing, and it’ll just keep coming back for more, and you don’t have the heart to drive it away.

Class wasn’t interesting enough to capture my attention, so I spent much of the day doodling on my spiral notebooks, drawing colorful fish and climbing strands of kelp. I’d never had a mirror in my dream, either, so I tried to draw myself as a mermaid, with that dark green tail merging seamlessly with my stomach, sparkling in the sparse light. This picture frustrated me. I could never get it right; it never seemed to be as magical, as real as my dreams.

Neither could I concentrate on my homework when I got home. I tried watching TV to distract myself, but I kept realizing I was listening harder to the sounds of passing cars than I was to the show. Frowning, I looked at the screen, wondering what was even on. House. I hadn’t noticed. I just switched the TV off, not even caring enough to try and tell if it was a rerun or new. Instead, I paced in the living room then up in my room, waiting for Dad.

Hours passed before he came home, tired as always but with the mysterious energy that ever surrounded him. I chalked it up to charisma—after all, he was a politician. Just something about him called your attention and kept it, no matter what he was doing, and when he spoke, people listened. I didn’t really think it could be the way he looked. Dad wasn’t a small man, by any means, but it was his width that was imposing, not his height. His neatly trimmed beard was shot through with gray, and a patch on the back of his head had thinned enough to see skin through the fading brown. His suits were always neat and professional, though, and his manner was as brisk as it had ever been, never mind his age.

I practically catapulted down the stairs, finding a bounty of energy that had eluded me all day. “Hey, Daddy!” I chimed, swinging into the living room. “Have a good day at work?”

He looked up, surprised by my sudden and cheerful appearance. “Same old, same old. What’s gotten into you today?”

“I don’t know,” I answered truthfully, moving around to sit with him on the couch. “Today’s been kinda odd, actually.”

“What’s up?” he asked, picking up the remote to turn the television on, but I took it from him before he could.

“I wanted to tell you something. It’s kinda started bothering me lately.” I gained his full attention, probably partly because I’d taken the remote from him, and slowly explained my dreams to him. The vivid clarity, as real as life, and the desperate urging to see this shadow at the end of the dream. It hadn’t always been there. Not at first. It began only with the water, the fish, the overwhelming sense of freedom. As months had passed with the dream as my companion, I gradually swam deeper, pulled by mysterious forces toward the towers of coral and at last beyond. I knew that great shadow was the end of the journey my dreams had been taking me, but I didn’t know how long it would take to reach it. The dream had remained the same for over a year, now.

“The strangest part,” I concluded, not once having looked at my dad throughout the tale, “is that it all seems so familiar. Even when they first started. Like I was remembering something, rather than dreaming it. It’s like ... if I reach that place at the end of my dream, all the answers to life are waiting for me.” I blushed, the words sounding too fantastic when voiced aloud. Reluctantly, I finished the thought, since it was already out there. “But I already know what I’m going to see, I’ve just forgotten....”

Dad surprised me by sighing heavily, and I looked at him for the first time. He gazed off out the window, looking at least twenty years older than he had when I first came down. “I had hoped this wouldn’t come up for some time yet.” He met my eyes, smiling sadly, and my confusion started erring toward alarm. “I didn’t want to lose you.”

“...Dad...? What’re you....”

“They’re not just dreams, not really,” he continued over me. “You could almost call them memories, I suppose, or messages. The sea is calling to you, Nina. Calling one of its own.” I was too stunned to speak. “Maria, your mother, was a maiden of the sea, a selkie. You never knew her because she couldn’t stay away from the water for very long. She let me raise you,” he smiled ruefully, “gave me some time with you, but the sea is where you belong. Those dreams are the proof. If you go to the ocean, it will call you back.”

“My mom ... is a mermaid?” Dad said nothing, but I wasn’t looking for an answer. He’d already answered it. “But ... mermaids aren’t real.” It sounded more like a plea than a statement. “Right? They’re fairy tales.”

“Fairy tales have to come from somewhere.”

I gained momentum, too stunned to accept anything he’d said. “Mermaids are old sailor’s tales, they’ve proven it! Sailors mad from being at sea for months on end, see manatees, and think they’re beautiful women who are half fish! That’s where the fairy tale came from.”

“That’s just a theory, Nina,” he said gently. “They think that’s where the story came from because it’s the only logical story they can come up with other than ‘fairy tales are real,’ since the scientific community doesn’t believe in magic, as a rule.”

“You know how much I’ve wanted to believe, but Dad—”

He cut me off again. “Don’t take my word for it, then, if you need proof. Go to the sea. You’ll know.”

The whole idea was ridiculous. Absurd. They were just dreams. Strange things happened in dreams. So what if it was the same thing every night, down to the last detail? That had to be just another psychological thing, something else to do with dreams. I was sorry I’d asked.

Then, why did I find myself even now walking across the sand toward the gentle waves, leaving my shoes and socks in my wake? The sand shifting beneath my feet felt very comforting, very familiar after the strange conversation with my dad. The surface was as calm today as it always was in my dreams, soft waves lapping the shore. Beckoning? No, now my imagination was running away with me. I shouldn’t have come.

But now I couldn’t look away. It was like the sight of the ocean had grabbed me and now pulled me onward. I could see nothing but the stretch of water in front of me, not the beach or even the sky. The warm wet water breaking over my toes pulled me momentarily to my senses, though, and I stopped, standing in the surf, my feet slowly sinking into the wet sand, almost like the beach was absorbing me. I watched as my feet were slowly buried, water swirling around my ankles, and, impossibly, I believed.

The yearning, never before present during my waking hours, now pulsed in sync with my heart, with the never-ceasing waves that even now tried to pull me in, embraced me and beckoned me, longing. I echoed that longing, wished like never before to swim as one with the currents. Those dreams showed me very little of the wonders of the ocean, just enough to entice me to see more. If Dad was right, if I did belong in the sea....

I took another step, but something made me look back. Dad stood on the edge of the beach, on the grass where the sand began, watching. He waved when I looked back, but the pull of the sea was too strong. Smiling sadly, I blew him a kiss across the sand and turned back to the water, dashing headlong before I dived into the oncoming waves.

Thoughts? Is it better as a shorter story, or does the rest of it actually add something that was absent in the beginning? Is it worth keeping the rest? Comments on anything else are also welcomed.
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I know, but I'm partly adhering to the song here. It says that her father said "your mother was a selkie," but then "if you touch the water, a mermaid then you'll be." So, I'm not sure what to make of that, really.... If you stay with the normal myths, it isn't really possible for her mother to be a mermaid, but then why did he say she'd turn into a mermaid?

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I did base it off the song, though, so I'm reluctant to deviate more than I already have. *laughs* It's actually set more in Renaissance times than modern, but the alarm clock just sort of appeared....

I wanted it to just be a short story, but I might correct the mistake if I make it longer. Then, I'd have a chance to explore how her mother got legs, and why it was only for a short time, why she returned to the sea. Of course, I'd have to figure all that out first. *laughs*

Maybe stick some other mythology in there, like a god of the sea, Poseidon or someone. Maria fell in love with a human man and pleaded with Poseidon, who granted her a certain amount of time as a human.... It's an intriguing idea to explore.