In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt 180 Degrees:
Tell us about a time you did a 180 — changed your views on something, reversed a decision, or acted in a way you ordinarily don’t.
He was focusing on his next hunt. That was what he did. His assistants knew to leave him be. He knew what people thought of him. They admired his fame, loved it, loved him. But at the same time they loathed him. They thought him cruel and mean. Yet, without the likes of him, no one would be safe. Not in the world as they knew it. His was a needed breed. Hunters.
They knew his name; he was the best. He’d ridded the world of the last dark creatures that kept people indoors days at a time for fear of being eaten. They came to him when not only children or old people died. They came when the strongest of men or women came up dead for no reason. He hunted the chimeras of the world. Those monsters people imagine as fairy tales to ensure kids knew to be good. Except that they existed. And they needed destroying. People loved him for that.
But he also captured creatures that needed protection. People would argue that bringing them into government-controlled spaces was imprisoning them. Shouldn’t these creatures be allowed to live in their natural habitat? What people didn’t seem to understand was that left to their own devices, these creatures would become the monsters of tomorrow.
He stopped trying to explain a long time ago. He wasn’t likely to forget how his wife died. Because she didn’t think such a gorgeous thing as a giant butterfly could hurt her. But solar radiations and 100 years of being left to their own devices had turned harmless butterflies into something more. Some species developed poisonous wings to survive in an environment that was harsher. Other mutated into something resembling wasps but much more dangerous. And they developed a hive mentality. Two dozens of them were enough to leave his wife look as if she’d been stung a hundred times. He could barely recognize her. Since then, he hunted. Some thought he was looking for death among the monsters. He may have been looking for an answer.
But today he’d come here because two ships had been wrecked in waters that were shallow enough not to cause such havoc. He’d been called because three men had drowned to their death in the little coastal town. Waters had become even more dangerous after the solar explosion, some creatures from the deep waters feeling confident enough to get to the surface. He would have no idea what this could be if one of the sailors hadn’t survived to talk of enthralling sounds that called them to dive, of beautiful lights hypnotizing them to go down.
Graham never thought he’d ever hear about sirens. They were creatures of legend. In fairness, a lot like some of the monsters he’d hunted. But these were once real animals that had mutated into something resembling the beasts of fairytales. Butterflies so big they might have been fairies, eagles mutating into something that might have looked like a hippogriff. But women with fish tails. That was something different. Nothing could have forewarned mankind that such a mutation was possible. After all the amount of water had decreased, although at first it went higher than even the worst scientific predictions had expected. Some areas had been destroyed by tsunamis and earthquake. Elsewhere like in the West, the waves were so gigantic that they created inland bodies of water: Missouri and two other former States were now an inland sea. Yes, salted water was everywhere, but enough that human had turned into sea creatures? Impossible. Although people might argue that he too was an impossible evolution… Yet he was a hunter.
So when the village elder came to the hut they offered him or rather the one they confined him in during the full moon – people were superstitious, he couldn’t blame them – he was ready. His harpoon was ready, his bow too… He’d kill the creature responsible for these deaths, as he’d done with countless others before. Or if it were to be constrained, he’d bring it back to the aquarium in the European Capital City of Vienna. They paid more to have the most rare species. European had rich tastes throughout history so far as he knew.
And though Copenhagen had disappeared into the seas, the story of the mermaid was one known to them. Maybe the author hadn’t imagined it after all. In silence, he rode with the hunters of the village. They spoke, as they stepped onto the boats but even then, he barely answered. They weren’t talking to him but rather creating a sense of confidence because they feared him. He might as well kill them today; hunters could go berserk. Or at least some did. He never had. But he knew some of his peers were monitored. He hadn’t been since puberty.
At some point, he silenced them with a hand and ordered them to put some plugs into their ears. He smelled something. And then he heard the sound, coming from deep into the sea. The men wouldn’t hear even without the plugs at that moment, but he could. Heightened senses. Bred for that. The sounds were indeed beautiful but he couldn’t quite figure out what they meant. And he knew what had happened. The creature – singular or plural – had sung the men to their deaths. He wouldn’t be so controlled.
He peered trying to see what was happening. That’s when he saw the light, similar to the fish living in the darkness of the deep ocean. Could one of them be here? Truly? Were they tools the creature used? He placed a mask on his face and hooking his harpoon and other weapons on his back – he left the bow in the boat – he plunged into the waters. They were colder than he expected; though he shouldn’t be surprised. That was why the creature of the deep had come to the shallow places of the world. Still it wasn’t as shallow as he’d imagined. And he had to swim some distance before he saw her. Definitely a she, though he couldn’t imagine that she was alone.
She looked longingly to the surface although she never would belong. She had a fishtail for sure and she looked nothing like the mermaid of the story. This one could never pretend to be human. She had webbed hand and she did have one of these lights on her brow that one found in these weird fish from the abyss. She was a beautiful creature in her own way. And she sang; or maybe she wailed he couldn’t tell for the sadness in her eyes. He knew he should capture her; her voice would tease more men to their death… He couldn’t change his mind about this. He knew what death such beauty could hold. His wife had paid the highest price. He missed her…
As if she felt his sudden pang of sorrow, she turned. And the light holding onto her forehead caught his gaze full face. He had to touch it. He wanted to feel its warmth, so tempting in the chill atmosphere surrounding him. She reached for him, her webbed hand inviting him to come to her. He never saw the spike in her tail. But he knew as she whispered that she only caught those who longed for rest.