Not every mermaid dreams of the world above. A re-telling of Ariel’s coming of age…
This is The Little Mermaid as I imagine it to be.
To read Part 1, click here.
This place smells funny…
Ariel thought to herself as she tried to navigate the tunnel that led to the Sea-Witch’s lair. A faint purple glow cast creepy shadows on the stone walls. She wished one of her sisters had accompanied her. But a rendezvous with the Sea-Witch was an important rite of passage amongst them, one that had to be undertaken alone. Besides, she had a plan to carry out that would be impossible with an audience…
The tunnel came to an abrupt end. In the clearing before her was the source of all the purple haze: A giant cauldron, brimming with boiling liquid and emitting purple sparks. But that’s not what held Ariel’s attention.
Towering over the cauldron, her skin a shade darker than the purple fumes and her midnight black tentacles flailing all around, was Ursula…
Ariel couldn’t take her eyes off of Ursula’s blood red lips, as the Sea-Witch muttered incantations. Summoning every ounce of strength she had, Ariel took a step forward.
“Umm… Ursula? Hi, it’s Ariel.”
The Sea-Witch drifted away from the cauldron, not taking her eyes off the timid little mermaid who dared to disturb her spell. Ariel squirmed under her gaze, seconds away from abandoning her quest and rushing out of the cave. Ursula finally spoke.
“You don’t look fifteen to me, Red. Are you here to waste my time? Do you want me to turn you into a sponge?”
Terror spasmed across Ariel’s body as she recoiled from Ursula’s accusation.
“What? No! I’m fifteen! My sisters wouldn’t let me come here if I weren’t! You know them, see? Amara, Elsa — ”
Ursula shrugged and started gliding towards a stone table with a crystal ball. “Uh, I get it. Whatever. Do you have it?”
Ariel carefully extracted five gold coins her sisters had given her from her purse and showed them to Ursula.
“Very well then, Red. What do you want to know? And make it quick. I have a spell to finish.”
It was now or never, Ariel thought.
“Er…I was wondering if instead of my fortune, you could help me with… umm… something else?”
The request was unexpected. Ursula was fascinated with this redhead. Clearly, she was different from her sisters. She was something else….
“And what will that be, Red?” Ursula asked, watching her closely.
Ariel struggled with how to correctly phrase what she wanted.
“Umm… this is weird… but see… I need my father to agree to something I want… and umm… I was wondering if you could… you know… help with that somehow?”
The Sea-Witch’s cackling laughter bounced off the walls of the cave, magnified tenfold.
“Well well! Aren’t you a rebel? I like you, Red. So maybe, I’ll help. But it’s going to cost you more than five gold coins.”
If Ariel felt a sense of foreboding, she didn’t let it show. Xandria was all that mattered.
Ursula floated away to a shelf behind the cauldron and returned with a vial of shiny pink liquid. She shook it in Ariel’s face.
“This is the essence of the Obeirus flower. Spray it on a person when they are sleeping and whisper your desire in their ear. When they wake up, they will do exactly that.”
Wow, okay! This was simple enough. Didn’t even seem much like magic. No one would ever know and she would be well on her way to Xandria by the end of the week!
Ariel tried to contain the excitement in her voice. “I’ll take it. I don’t have more coins now but I can come back tomorrow, if that’s okay?”
The Sea-Witch had the most malicious laugh Ariel had ever heard and she wondered what had merited another one of those.
“Gah! Gold coins are so mainstream, don’t you think, Red? This is a rare potion I have here and the payment for it ought to be something special! And I have just the perfect one for you…”
That night, Ariel couldn’t sleep. She shuddered thinking about what Ursula had asked of her in exchange for the potion. But a tiny voice in her head seemed to think it was no big deal. Xandria was worth it. Once she decided that this was the only truth that mattered, sleep came readily.
Ariel spent all of next day playing with her sisters, avoiding Father, and trying to keep any misgivings about what she was going to do tonight at bay. When her sisters asked her about her fortune, she made something up. She had heard her sisters talk about theirs plenty of times, so it was easy enough to do a satisfactory job of it. They seemed happy that Ariel was her usual self now and plied her with the dos and don’ts of the trip to The Upper World.
At nightfall, Ariel found herself in Ursula’s terrifying company again.
“I thought I’d scared you away! You’re a tough shell to crack, aren’t you?”
Ariel smiled weakly. She wanted to get it over with.
“Okay, so let me get this straight. You want me to go to the surface at midnight, get on the royal ship and steal a blue stone from the Prince, is that right?”
Ursula nodded. “Simple enough, Red. The Prince slayed a sea beast and obtained a blue stone that was embedded on the the beast’s head. It has magical properties. Of course, he doesn’t know that. It’s just a trophy for him…”
“Why can’t you get it yourself, if you don’t mind me asking? You’re a witch aren’t you?”
Ursula sighed. She had hoped the redhead was gullible enough to not ask more questions.
“Well, if you must know, I am under a curse that prevents me from leaving my cave. That stone might just help me break said curse. Satisfied? And besides, don’t you worry about getting on that ship. Here, take this.”
One of Ursula’s sqishy tentacles handed Ariel a gold cuff, not much unlike the one Tris wore.
“With my magic, I can transport you to the ship. Once you’re there, put the cuff on and your tail will change into legs. Then, it’s all you. Walking will be painful but that just means you’ll have to be quick. With the first rays of the sun, the cuff’s magic will return you here. Understood?”
Ariel nervously touched the flower in her hair, hoping she could channel some of her mother’s famous feist. Legs? Ship? Prince? Was she really going to do this?
Ursula watched the little mermaid closely, looking for signs of fear or hesitation. The redhead looked nervous, sure, but something had already made her decision for her. She wondered what it was that she wanted so badly for her Father to agree to.
“Alright. I am ready,” Ariel said as she took a deep breath. “Do your magic.”
Somewhere, a clock struck twelve.
The first gulp of air is always the most difficult.
Ariel held on to her memory of Tris talking about her first trip upside as she adjusted to the new world. There were so many different sensations she was feeling, so many wonders she should have been experiencing for the first time. But Ariel was on a mission with no time to waste. She was here, as Ursula had promised, in a remote corner of the ship’s deck, hidden behind a large wine barrel.
From her hiding place, she could see the party that was making such a raucous noise. The ship’s deck was festooned with colourful lights. There was music and food and wine. A crowd danced fervently, while the night sky was brought alive by fireworks. Ariel drank in every tiny detail of the spectacle, which was way beyond what any of her sisters would ever experience.
Her trance was broken when the crowd erupted in a loud cheer. People were parting, making way for something. Or someone.
Dressed in blinding white and gold, a young man walked amidst the crowd and began shaking hands with everyone. His swagger was unmistakably royal, something Ariel was only too familiar with, being a princess and all. His handsome visage knocked the air right out of her chest, making her doubt if the white flower in her hair was working properly. She longed to touch the blush on his cheek, to make sure he was real and not just a dream…
Ariel wanted a closer look. She was about to slip the gold cuff on her wrist when suddenly, a ghastly wind bellowed. The fireworks stopped, giving way to lightening and thunder. Rains lashed mercilessly. The waves underneath the ship grew tumultuous, forcing enormous splashes of water onto the deck. Storm was coming!
A bolt of lightening struck the ship’s mast and a horrific crack sounded. Pandemonium reigned as the ship’s fate was sealed. In the scampering crowd, Ariel’s eyes sought the Prince. He was in the middle of it all, shouting orders, trying to get everyone aboard the few lifeboats that had not yet been destroyed by the storm’s fury. His guards tried to convince him to get into one himself, but he valiantly refused. Not till everyone else was safe.
Ariel watched the boats being rowed towards the shore. The Prince had still not abandoned ship. Another bolt of lightening struck the starboard side, a few inches away from where he stood, and the sudden jolt threw him offboard.
The Prince had crossed over to Ariel’s world, just as she had crossed over to his. Only, his trip was going to cost him his life.
To be continued…
Originally published in The Grimm Reaper | Medium