Rising toward the water’s surface was the body of a woman. Her long dark hair flowed about her shoulders.
Viktor ran to Erik’s side and bent over the back of the boat to see what he was staring at. “Whoa!” Viktor exclaimed, reaching down for the woman while Erik pulled back on the pole. Rather than taking Viktor’s hand, the woman clearly resisted his initiatives. It was all he could do to keep hold of her arm as his face was slapped hard by her tailfin.
“A mermaid!” observed Erik excitedly.
“Do I cut the string?” asked the dazed Viktor.
“And flush away our future? Pull her in!” Erik tried to hold the pole with one hand and Viktor’s belt with the other as the mermaid attempted to drag Viktor into her own element. Her cheek bled profusely from the protruding fish-hook.
“Drop the pole and take one of her arms!” insisted Viktor. While the woman’s upper-body strength wasn’t a match for theirs, she was able to generate enough force in the water with her tail to pull them both from the boat. Erik released his grip almost immediately but Viktor continued to hold her fast as she swam for the ocean floor.
Climbing back into the boat, Erik heard the line escaping from the reel on the pole which had lodged in the space between the boat’s side and the chair. He strapped himself into the chair and, after much exertion, was able to reel the mermaid back to the surface. Viktor, though still attached, appeared lifeless and was unresponsive to Erik’s shouting.
Erik waited until he sensed a lull in the fight on his line before releasing the chair’s straps. Maintaining a firm grip on the pole, he eased himself to the edge and looked over. The mermaid faced away from the boat, using her tail to swim in place while busily attempting to dislodge the hook with her hands. Though Viktor still clung to her back, Erik could see from the way his eyes bulged he had barely survived the water’s pressure at the depths to which she’d plummeted him.
Erik fastened the pole in its holder then took advantage of the mermaid’s preoccupation to quickly grab beneath her arms and, with his legs pressed against the boat’s side, yank both her and Viktor into the boat. After Erik cut the string, the woman flopped about the boat’s deck until Viktor was finally extricated from her back.
Without the string’s tension, the mermaid was easily able to remove the hook. Torn between tending to his rigid friend and preventing the mermaid’s escape, Erik opted for the latter. Without legs, it was not difficult to get to the woman as she writhed to the boat’s side and reached for the railing. Erik pulled her over to the chair and strapped her in before winding several yards of fishing-line around her arms.
Though still clearly in shock, Viktor began to regain mobility in his limbs and his eyes receded more properly into their sockets.
Erik watched as tears mingled with the blood on the mermaid’s cheek, he then removed his coat in a sympathetic gesture and placed it over her heaving chest. “Do you speak Finnish?” he asked. Though her eyes narrowed in disdain, this was insufficient evidence he had been understood. Laughter could be heard from up-deck, as Viktor’s shock began mutating into a mild hysteria.
Although Erik had been a Cultural Studies major with a concentration in Scandinavian Trailer Trash, his program did require some research with viking dialects. After unsuccessful efforts with a few Old Norse derivations, Erik hit upon a nearly defunct form of Estonian that elicited from her eyes a flash of recognition.
“What is your name?” Erik asked.
“I am Woman.”
“Well, that should be easy to remember.” Erik rummaged through a tackle box for some lighter test-line then straightened a hook into a needle. As he used these to suture the gash in her cheek, a bemused yet somewhat apprehensive Viktor approached and began braiding her disheveled hair. Erik then did some light touch-ups with a scale-remover as Viktor held up a compact mirror for her.
Viktor unbuckled the mermaid from the chair and Erik cut the line that bound her hands. Knowing she was unable to stand on her own one fin, together they helped her to the railing. Before hauling herself over the side into the water, Woman looked back, uncertain as to quite how to thank them.
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