art by Jonathan Westbrook
by Ellen Denham
***Editor's Note: An adult story with mature, adult themes***
When I see you for the first time, a shark-sized shadow slinking around the mad-hued corals below, I gasp through my snorkel. But curiosity gets the better of me, and I linger, floating above. Your arm emerges first. A man swimming so deep without a tank? The instinct of rescue thrusts me into a dive. Then I see your segmented tail, mottled gray. And only then, your beautiful face, upturned, startled--almost human except for the flexible antennae extending from your jaw. I push back to the surface, a creature of land and air--unlike you--needing a breath to make sense of what you are. You rotate to face me, your torso well-muscled and pale as marble, like a Greek statue. Watching me, you coil and uncoil the jointed carapace that forms your body from the waist down, allowing me glimpses of the tender flesh beneath. A gesture of trust, or of submission? Your gaze is calm, eyes wide with wonder as mine must be beneath my mask.
To show I mean no harm, I raise the hem of my rashguard top, revealing a belly not as firm as it once was, nearly as pale as your translucent skin. A smile softens your face as you float surfaceward. With a graceful arc of an arm like a dancer's, you motion for me to follow before swimming away, toward a cay on the horizon.
How can I not follow? Even as different as we two are, I can tell you are flirting. I long to catch you in my arms, cover your pale skin with kisses. But I am not as strong in the water. I finally catch up to you, reclining upon a sandbar, your dappled crustacean's tail draped beside you. Your eyes laugh though no sound escapes your parted lips.
I take your hand, my breathing shallow, my body aching to explore you in all of your uniqueness. You kiss me with fish-cold lips, undress and caress me with your hands until I am overtaken with a longing you cannot fulfill. You try, but our bodies are not made for each other.
Your hand slashes like a knife across your midsection, as if you wish the tail cut from you.