Mia, the little mermaid sat brooding amongst the corals. This use to be her favorite place. The colorful corals looking like rainbow in the sea provided her great comfort.
Today she was perturbed to see the corals dying. It was one of her favorite place where she liked to play and dance with her friends. The corals added the much needed color to her life in the ocean. She would come here to meet and dance with her friends the jelly fish, the star fish, the sea horse, crabs and others.
Humans had discovered this hidden place and had gradually started haunting it! What was once isolated and lonely, was now trafficked by people daunting strange masks and cylinders. Their approach was marked by noises coming from the surface of the water. They were accompanied by cans, bottles and thrash of several types which soiled the ocean floor. Humans would come down and see the aquatic flora and fauna. Taking pictures, sometimes they captured different lives breeding in the water, but never did they pick up the thrash they dropped on the ocean floor.
Mia had been frequenting this place since she was a little baby. She would always be accompanied by her brother, Simon. Those were the days when they would call it paradise in the ocean. But now it was becoming stinky and dirty. Simon had become very alert and had warned Mia not to go to the reef.
‘Mia, if those humans see us, they will make life hell for us. The corals are the rainforest of the ocean and millions of species breed here. Humans are always on a lookout to find something new. They don’t know about our existence. The day they discover any of us they are going to raid the ocean. For them we exist, but only in fairy tales. They don’t know that we are real. The day they’ll find any of us, our life will be in great danger leading to our extinction.’
‘Extinction! What’s that?’ Mia asked innocently.
‘It means they will come, capture and destroy us. They will say they discovered a new species and will do research. And in that process, they will always keep looking for more of us. They will frequent our waters often and bring down their god damn garbage. They will pollute our waters and slowly they will destroy our abode. We will be homeless soon. And without home we will die. And when all of us die…. We will extinct.’ Simon sighed telling this.
‘Oh… is it…’
‘Promise me now you will not go there.’
‘Sure Simon! I will not go there.’ Mia made a promise to Simon.
‘Cheer up sis… You need to sacrifice this bit for sustenance. Now let’s go and have food,’ Simon said wiggling his tail and dashing towards the algae grooves. Mia followed in lieu.
Simon and Mia lived with their parents in the deep trench where the sunlight also found it difficult to penetrate. It was a small colony of mermaids who had been living there for ages. Fortunately, they had never been disturbed by any humans here so far. But yes, once in a while something or the other would keep falling from the surface of the water from the human world.
When Mia was small she would rush to see things that fell. Sometimes she found those things very attractive, yet at other times she found them ugly, emitting foul smell.
The shock came to her when once something fell from above and as soon as it touched the surface, it exploded. It was a bomb told old Grand Pa Ruddo. He had seen it earlier too when a bomb had fallen on the ocean surface, destroying aquatic life.
Ever since, the aquatics were given a warning signal by the dolphins, who were the watch keepers of the water in the ocean. When they saw things falling towards the surface of the sea they would blow whistle. Its sound travelled to the farthest corner of the ocean making everyone alert. All would rush to find a safe shelter hearing the warning.
As Mia swiftly made her way towards her house, she saw all the shops lined across the trench. She paused for a while before a little antique shop where she always wanted to go but was never allowed.
‘Hushhh Mia …hurry up! Don’t you know the owner of the shop doesn’t like mermaids peeping inside!’ Simon pushed her forward saying this.
There was an eerie thing about this shop. It seemed enchanting in its own way to Mia. The owner, Mr. Octy was absolutely a horrendous octopus. Sitting at one place he would spread his tentacles on all the products of the shop, arranging them. His large googly eyes protruded from the oversized head and the spectacles on them magnified his eyeballs in double the size.
Divulging her thoughts, Mia swished her fins and swam quickly following Simon.
It had been quite some time Mia had not gone to the corals. Spending her days in the cold waters of the trench, and going to the surface of the water only at midnight, her heart urged to go to the reef. The colorful life there always fascinated her. Though she liked going on the ocean surface at midnight, but all she could see there was the sky with billions of stars and that luminous moon, which would keep changing its shape and would disappear once in a while making the nights darker. Mia loved to float on her back and see the clouds playing hide and seek with the stars and moon.
One day Mia thought of sneaking to the reefs without telling Simon. She called her friend Spinny, the dolphin and sat on her back making her way towards the corals.
When she reached the reef, she was shocked. The aqua blue waters looked dark and dull. What must have happened? The visibility had fallen down drastically. Where at one point she could see things for several meters, she was barely able to discern anything even some feet apart. It was difficult to breathe too. The corals! What happened to them? They were bleached! Many fishes and algae were gasping for breath. The water… the water which was so pure and gave the much needed life to the aquatics was slimy and dirty.
What must have happened here? Mia was aghast to see the changes.
The corals need help. Should I tell Simon. She wondered. He might rebuke me for coming here. The waters have become poisonous and if it is not taken care of now it might as well flow down to the trenches.
Gasping for breath, she directed Spinny to make way towards home. Spinny picked up speed taking the fastest current and headed towards the trenches.
Mia thought of going to old Grand Pa Ruddo instead. Yes, he might help her with his experience! His silver beard and wrinkled forehead spoke volumes about his age and wisdom. Ruddo lived on top of the cliff, down the trenches, the area beyond which none were allowed to venture. The purpose of Ruddo having his house there was to serve as a guardian and keep a check on the mermaids, so that none could go beyond that point.
In a quivering voice, Mia told Ruddo about how the water in the reef had become dark and slimy and how the poor creatures there were dying.
‘How can water become slimy? Mia, you are telling tales to this old man who use to tell you tales when you were a baby!’ He chuckled.
‘No Grand Pa! I am not. Just… just touch my hands and see it for yourself. Aren’t they sticky.’ Mia said extending her arms.
‘Hmmm…Oil!’ He said smelling it.
‘Oil! What is that Grand Pa?’
‘It is something which humans use as fuel to run their vehicle. Seems like some ship must have broken down and spilled the oil.’
‘The reefs need help Grand Pa.’ Mia muttered looking concerned.
‘If the oil from the reef flows towards the trenches maybe we will have to move down deeper…’ Ruddo said in a faint voice.
‘Move further down! What are you saying Grand Pa! As though it’s not dark enough here? As though it’s not cold enough here? And what about the pulverising pressure down there? And the scavengers…. Grand Pa have you forgotten about the dreaded scavengers living there?’ Mia blurted out in rage.
‘Let me think, let me think child what can be done. Let me think…’ murmuring Ruddo went to his library.
Mia was swimming at her own pace, lost in her thoughts. The idea of moving deeper down in the trenches made her feel sick. She remembered when grandma would tell her about her childhood days when she resided in the coral reef. But they had to move to the trenches as the reefs were being frequented by humans. How Mia wished those days could come back. If only she could make the humans vanish, all the problems would get solved she thought.
B A N G!!
Mia’s head was throbbing. She touched it lightly. There was a bandage around it. She tried opening her eyes but her vision was blur. She could see something moving around her but was not very sure what it was. It looked like a snake having suction cups glued to it. Mia made an effort to see again but before she could make out anything she fainted.
Breathing softly Mia opened her eyes. Her vision was becoming clear now. The throbbing sensation in her head had also gone.
What place is this? Mia wondered. It looked quite alien to her. It was thronged with exquisite anomalous goodies. She saw a tentacle moving towards her holding a spoon. She jumped! It is not possible! How did I land up here. She sat down horrified.
‘Errrr.. Meesssterr Oc… Oooocty!! Hhh.. How aa…are you?’
‘Shhh… Mia don’t talk. You are hurt.’ Surprisingly Mr. Octy had a very gentle voice.
‘You… you know my na… na… name? How did I reach here?’ Mia trembled.
‘You bumped onto the wall of my shop and fainted. So, I brought you in. Now Mia have this potion and take rest dear.’
Mia was quite taken aback with the gentleness of Mr.Octy. The kind of stories Simon had been telling her about him, she had imagined him to be the most brutal creature in the ocean. But on the contrary, she found Mr.Octy was not only very refined in manners but also had a very gentle soul.
‘Your parents are coming to pick you, till the time you can relax in my shop.’ Saying this Mr.Octy wafted towards his desk.
Mia’s curiosity arose. She was inside the shop she had never been allowed to peep.
‘Mr.Octy! What kind of goods you sell?’ She chirped confidently now.
‘Oh! Nothing that will excite you, my dear! I am more of a keeper of goods which very few ask for. My goods are as old as the ocean. I sell antique.’
‘Antique! That sounds interesting.’ Mia exclaimed. ‘Do you have anything for me?’
‘Sure, I have many things. But I must know what is it that you require, my dear.’
‘Can you show me all. I will like to choose.’
‘Nah, nah! I can’t show you everything! You think about what it is that your heart desires. What is it that you want the most! Maybe if I have something of that sort I will show it to you.’
‘Hmmm… What my heart desires?’ Mia pondered scrutinizing the shelves with quick glance.
‘Yes! I know what it is Mr.Octy! Do you have something that can help me clean the waters in the reef.’
‘Oh, Mia you have very noble thoughts. But tell me! Have the waters in the reef become so dirty. It’s been ages since I have ventured out of the trenches.’
Mia told him about her recent experience there. How the waters in the reef had become polluted and stinky. How the colorful corals were now getting bleached and the beautiful reef was thronged by thrash from the land.
Mr.Octy was quite perturbed to hear this. His expression became wearisome.
He took out a ladder which was folded and kept behind the door. Climbing it, he reached out to a cabinet. Some boxes were kept on top with labelled bottles. They had gathered moss over the period of time. Mr.Octy conscientiously cleaned each and every jar. Reading the labels on the bottles, he meticulously picked one of them.
The jar had thousands of illuminating particles inside. It radiated light! Red, yellow, blue, green, purple and many more. Mia was captivated seeing the beauty of those shiny particles floating inside the jar. She had never seen such a thing before.
‘Ahh! It’s so enchanting.’ She whispered softly looking at it closely. ‘What is this?’
‘It is something you wanted Mia! It has magical qualities. You can do anything with it. It is the most precious thing I have. But I am willing to sell it to you, as I see you have a pure and a noble heart. Your intentions are honorable and exemplary.’
Mia felt a little proud of herself as no one in her life had praised her so much!
‘Thank you so much Mr. Octy. But tell me, how to use these?’ She queried.
‘A mermaid with pure heart will know its use when the time will come!’ Mr. Octy made a statement almost sounding prophetic.
‘Errrr… Sure Mr.Octy. Thankyou!’ Mia smiled looking little confused.
Mia took the jar from Mr.Octy and made her way outside when she saw her parents approaching the shop.
Once home, Mia just couldn’t wait for exploring her jar with glittering lights. She wondered the whole night how it can be used. Mr.Octy was quite confident about her, but she was absolutely clueless. She sat looking at the shining particles the whole night not realizing when she dozed off to sleep.
‘Mia how are you feeling today.’ She got up as her mother touched her forehead.
‘Much better Ma!’
‘Darling, be careful when you swim around. See how you have hurt yourself.’
‘Sure Ma… it was just by mistake.’ Mia hugged her mother and picked up the jar kept on the table.
‘That’s a beautiful jar Mia.’
‘Yeah! Thanks Ma. I got it from Mr.Octy’s shop. He is a very gentle fellow. I wonder why I feared him so much before.’ Saying this Mia waddled her tail towards the main door.
‘Going out to play with Spinny, Ma. Will be back by lunch.’
‘Mia, be careful. Don’t go very far.’
Once again Mia climbed Spinnys back and hushed towards the corals.
As she made her way towards the reef, Simon spotted her.
‘Miaaaaa…’ he screamed on top of his voice. ‘Where are you going? Have you forgotten, you had hurt yourself. And you are riding on Spinny. What if you fall from her back. Come back.’
But Mia was now on a mission!!
How could she turn back? She held the jar tightly with one hand and Spinny’s fin with the other and whispered to her friend to hasten towards the reef.
Spinny was quite sharp and one of the fastest moving dolphin in the ocean. Very smartly she jumped into the fastest current and warning Mia to hold her tight she moved with a supersonic speed.
Mia turned back to see if Simon was following her. But the speed she moved inside the current made Simon vanish from her view within split second. She knew she was being naughty and was breaking rules but she had some things in her mind for the welfare of the ocean and her folks. She mischievously smiled at herself on her audacity.
Spinny slipped out of the fast moving current as they neared the reef. They could make out the vicinity of the reef as the visibility became low. This time the water seemed to have become more dense. It was not only hard to see around, but it was extremely difficult to breathe too.
In that darkness, suddenly the particles in the jar started shining even more brightly. Mia was again mesmerized seeing the beauty of the jar. Thousands and thousands of lights were dancing inside like little fairies.
An old jelly fish swam before her coughing loudly making Mia come out of her reverie.
She looked at the water and the corals. How helpless she felt. She wondered when Grand Pa Ruddo will come up with a solution for this. She again wished she could do something to help the helpless.
And as she wished, the lid of the jar she was holding opened. The tiny lights came out on their own. Dancing in the slimy water, spreading all over. They multiplied as they touched the water and the corals and all the beings there. And as they touched and multiplied they breathed life in whatever was dying. The bleached corals got their colors. The slimy and dark water started looking sparkling and clear and the choking fishes seemed to be enlivened.
Mr.Octy’s words reverberated in Mia’s ear.
‘A mermaid with pure heart will know its use when the time will come!’
Mia looked at the reef unbelievably. The water looked crystal clear and fresh. The corals got their colors. The beauty of the reef was restored. The sparkles seemed to suck in all the pollution.
Mia’s folks will now not require to move deeper into the trench. The reef was rejuvenated and the waters were sparkling! Mia took a sigh of relief and smiled radiantly dancing in the reef…
Connect with Penmancy:
stories have been featured on various platforms as well as she has won 100 words stories
occasionally. She has also authored level 2 books for children on Storyweaver.