The other day someone asked if she could read one of my stories. So, rather than emailing her, I figured I’d put it on here. This one has been previously published and I’ve written about it before. But, rather than you having to pay for it- just have a read. (Of course, also buy the book it’s in- it’s actually for a really good cause! Honest. I won’t get a penny for it.) And, if you can, also read the original Little Mermaid tale (you can read it for free on the web). It’s so sinister! This is my retelling.
I hope you like it. Dane xx
Treading on Needles by Dane Divine
The witch tried to warn me.
‘If you walk in his world, each step will hurt you like treading on needles and you’ll lose your tongue.’
‘But I love him,’ I replied.
‘He’s so different, princess. If he marries another, you’ll be just foam on the water.’
‘He told me, he loves me.’
She sighed so deeply, it sounded as if her heart had crumpled deep in her chest. Still she handed me the potion. Inside a bottle the colour of octopus ink, it was as thick and red as human blood. It filled my mouth with a salty, coppery tang as I swallowed it down.
‘Thank you,’ I said.
She cried as I left.
I found him on the edge of the worlds, where the sea meets the land.
‘You came.’ He smiled.
‘I love your legs.’ He said as he stroked my skin.
‘They’re all yours,’ I said, gasping as my girlhood seeped away in pain, blood and salt water.
‘Sing to me, like you did from the sea,’ he’d say. And each night, as the orange embers huddled and glowed, I’d sing my prince to sleep and he’d dream of the mermaid in his arms.
Watching him there, as I stroked his hair, dreaming of our loving and our kissing, I thought of how wrong the witch had been.
‘How do you manage that?’ he’d say as I’d bring him back fish from the sea.
‘It’s nothing you can’t learn,’ I’d reply, settling down beside him to gut them.
‘How do you manage that?’ I’d say as he’d rekindle the flames of the fire, which kept us warm at night.
‘It’s nothing you can’t learn.’ He’d laugh, settling down beside me to feel the heat on my skin.
‘I need to go back,’ he said one morning, standing up and moving away.
‘I’ll come with you.’
‘But,’ he started, looking me up and down.
I felt a sharp tingling in my soles.
‘I suppose with some good clothes…’ He kissed me. ‘After all, you are very beautiful.’
His castle was as lovely as my own. They let us through the gates. I was taken away, across the square to be powdered and dressed.
‘But, where’s my prince?’ I asked, rubbing at my sore feet.
‘He’s in court with the queen and the king. He said he will see you as soon as he is allowed.’
I waited all day.
At night he returned.
‘Princess, where are your pretty legs?’ He laughed, seeing me in the gown. He hurried to untie it and found the legs he loved so much.
‘You should be with me always,’ he murmured. ‘Tomorrow I’ll have them find you more suitable clothes and I’ll show you my lands.’
‘I want to see everything.’
‘And so you shall, my little foundling princess.’
‘But you asked me to leave the sea for you. We found each other,’ I replied.
‘Yes, yes, you silly thing, but that is what they are all calling you and I quite like it.’
My feet hurt.
Together we rode on his horse all through his lands, which were as rich and expansive as my own seas.
‘I love to travel with you.’
‘It’s fun, but my parents have arranged a gathering soon. We must prepare you for that. You mustn’t appear too… strange.’
‘But I am a mer-princess. To me, some of your land ways are strange.’
‘Just do it,’ he said, trying to rub the frown from my forehead with his thumb. ‘Try not to be so… you.’
I half remembered something the witch had said, but his kisses pushed it away.
The following week the maids instructed me on how to hold the peculiar eating utensils. They positioned me in the art of sitting and standing, and attempted to teach me to curtsey.
‘But I am a mer-princess. This is how we would do this in my court.’
They merely shook their heads and said, ‘Just try harder.’
‘Where is my prince?’ I demanded after one of them slapped my hands as I’d spilt some soup from my spoon.
‘Probably entertaining the guests.’
‘Are they here already?’
‘Of course,’ they replied, digging the needles in deeper and deeper.
‘Good evening, foundling,’ he said. ‘I have been asked to escort you to the ball.’
I reached to kiss his well-known lips. He turned and let me take his arm.
Each step drew blood.
The hall was filled with humans. As the music played, they moved gracefully, like a colourful shoal.
‘We must dance,’ he said.
As we swayed around the floor, his body once more next to mine, with the sharpness of each step, I began to cry.
‘Stop crying,’ he hissed.
‘I’ve missed you and I miss my sisters.’ I sniffed. ‘They would love this ball. It’s so beautiful.’
‘Well, don’t make a scene. It’s embarrassing.’
‘Mother, father, please meet the foundling,’ he said.
‘She is not one of us.’
‘Mother,’ he retorted, but the acceptance in his tone pushed the needles deep within me.
‘I am a mer-princess,’ I said.
‘Yes, indeed.’ They replied, dismissing me.
They continued, berating their son. ‘Think of your position.’
‘I am a mer-princess,’ I said, asserting my substance. ‘Our marriage would bring a union of land and sea. We have food and treasures to share.’
‘Our neighbour’s daughter is a preferable match.’
My prince merely nodded.
I was reduced to a happy summer on the beach.
I left and walked to the sea. Waves pushed angrily against the harbour walls. I felt their fluid-rage deep within me. I was a mer-princess. I deserved an equal.
The water quickly found my skin. The clothes, suddenly wet and heavy, dragged me down. As I sank, I felt hands untying them, taking them off.
‘You okay, Your Highness?’ asked the witch.
‘I will be,’ I said, opening my gills.
She handed me a potion. I drank it without a thought. And, flicking my tail, we swam home.