This is an excerpt from my 2020 Nanowrimo merpeople story, not to be confused with its prequel, Mermaid Tears, which I have posted an excerpt from before. It’s a dark fantasy romance (shocking, I know). For context, the merman POV character just saved his love interest from drowning Little-Mermaid-but-not-really style. The human woman character is an amputee, hence a reference to her single leg.
An especially large wave tumbles them the remainder of the way to the shore. Breyer feels the human’s hand slip off of him. He reaches out for her blindly right before he hits his head on the sand hard enough to see a burst of stars in front of his eyes.
He winds up splayed on his front on the beach, gasping. His gills sting like open wounds. Everything hurts, scraped or aching or both. His swims through the cove were almost always done in calmer waters and of course sans a passenger. He rolls over onto his back, allowing his belly and chest to expand to their fullest potential as he gulps in air. The rain continues to buffet his face, oblivious to their victory.
The human had been on her back to begin with. She rolls over and crawls to him.
“Come on,” she says, hand hovering over his arm as she wears an expression that says she doesn’t know what to do with it, “let’s keep going.”
“Just—just go inside,” he wheezes, “don’t worry about me.”
“I’m not worried,” she scoffs.
She smells worried. Even with the rain and salty sea competing, he can detect her anxiety.
“Still,” she continues, “what kind of person would I be if I left you out here to get zapped after you just saved me?”
She touches his arm. Breyer might have flinched at the unexpected contact if he wasn’t so tired. Instead he lays limp and meditates on her touch despite the torrential downpour.
Human hands are strange. More prehensile than a mer’s but incapable of tearing anything substantial with their nubby not-claws. An affectionate pat from one of his parents or sisters, or, far more rarely, Raguel, had to be done with the back of the hand so as to not risk snagging the skin with their claws. There’s no danger of that with the human. There’s only her rough little palm and the pads of her fingers pressed to his soft bicep.
Breyer looks to her face and is amused to see that she looks surprised to see her hand placed there.
She shakes her head, then says, “Listen, mer—”
“My name is Breyer. Not mer.”
“Listen, Breyer. You just got us here in record time thanks to these guns.” She pats his bicep. “You’re strong, big guy. You can make it the rest of this tiny distance.”
She makes a valiant effort to lift him up enough to drag him alongside her. She manages a few inches before he plops back down. Breyer’s tail curls with embarrassment. Raguel would laugh herself hoarse if she could see this.
She shakes her head, then asks, “Well?”
He hesitates, then another crack of lightning and the intensity of her stare makes his mind up for him. Together, they pull themselves out of the last gleaming foam of the surf.
The sand is slick and mucky thanks to the rain. In no time at all both of them are covered in it, then the rain washes it away, then they’re dirty again.
Breyer never thinks of himself as graceful, but swimming allows him more freedom and movement. Here, on land, he’s forced to use his upper arms alone to move forward, dragging the rest of him, heavy middle and all, through the sand. The fatty, muscular tail that aided him in the water now feels like an oversized shell he has to drag along. There’s no use in trying to even move it in the sand. He’ll only waste his energy.
He glances at her. Humans don’t tend to crawl as a primary mode of transportation, at least not the fully-grown ones. She looks unused to the movement, like she doesn’t know how far forward to put her arms before moving her leg.