Mermaid’s Tears

Wistfulness. That’s what the others say when I peer through the glass at the outside world. 

Curiosity. That’s the truth of the matter. 

Who is she? Where does she come from? Does she enjoy tottering around on those spindly legs? That’s what they call them, or so I’ve heard from those who take care of the escapees, our beautiful paradise now so littered with bad things we can no longer swim safely, our towering castles buried in murk and odd carnage, fouled with detritus dropped from ships or washed in by the tides.

Gone are the days when I learned these tidbits easily, probing the thoughts of these humans. Not now, as my power diminishes with each day separated from the glorious seas. The freedom to travel far and long without obstacles lost. Now with few sad flips of my tail, I encounter another of these strange circular ports, met with the view of strange, flat surfaces.

I search, hoping to catch a glimpse of the mysterious figure so much like me, yet so different. This is the time she usually arrives, the light dimming and the sun sinking from the sky. That’s what the angle of the shadows tells me, even though I never see the sky. Not anymore.

There. I press to the glass, flattening my palms against the glass, waiting. 

She approaches, draping a limb over the edge of her perch, one hand rising, delicate and pale. Her lips turn up, eyes widening. 

Curious they are, those deep brown orbs. Nothing like ours, which change, as deep and vibrant as the expanse above when we surface, glowing silvery in the depths. Or they used to before. Most of our eyes have settled into a dull flatness, somewhat like the boring, colourless, tasteless fish we survived on when our favourites disappeared. 

Her gaze passes, settling on something behind me. Ahhh. Always there, preening his still vibrant tail, proud to be one of the last. 

He chooses the best and brightest morsels for himself. One day the shimmer will fade and flicker out, leaving him no better off than the rest, powers dimming, disappearing in this endured confinement.

I expect to wither and wane in captivity, along with the rest of my kind. It’s only a matter of time. 

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**Image used with permission of the artist. Copyright Lauren Smith 2019