“The ones who live at the bottom of the ocean come to the surface.”
AUTHOR ONE: SCENE ONE
It’s approaching midnight here at Chania’s Port, Greece. I’m not usually one to stay up late on a school night, but I just moved to the area. Learning a new language has really been kicking my ass. I’ve been studying the Greek language for months. I thought I was doing great, until we actually made the move. The people talk so fast here, their words spew together in thick choppy waves. I’m completely lost. That’s not to mention the embarrassment of having a translator follow me around like an eager puppy. He’s trying to please my father no doubt, hoping for a bonus.
I need sleep, I don’t function well without it. Not like other sixteen year old girls do, anyway. My friends used to tease me about it all the time, calling me names like Zombie Zoe every time we snuck out at night. God, I miss my old friends. I’d never actually tell them, or my family for that matter, but I blame my dreams for the weird necessity I have of sleep. They consume me, rejuvenate me, and without sleeping deep and long enough to have them, my body wakes up lacking. My friends are really the only thing I miss about Canada. Well, them and the dry air. It’s only been a week since we settled in, and this damn humidity has already enlarged my pores and permanently shortened my hair with unmanageably tight frizzy curls.
My father is a businessman, he was born and raised in New York, and my mother is the daughter of a very prominent Import and Export leader of China. They met in secret during a business merger, and of course I was born just over nine months later. It goes without saying, I’ve never met any of my mother’s family. She was disowned after the news of her pregnancy by an American stranger. His African American ancestry made no difference. The affair all was a disgrace. She was sent away with the first plane ticket available, never to be seen or spoken of again. In my opinion we’re all better off, especially my mom, it sounds like my grandma was a real dick.
I power down the Greek tutorial that’s blasting into my head from a You-Tube lesson on my iPhone, and pull out my earbuds. If I put off bedtime any longer then I won’t have enough time. I need my fix, to see my little monster babies in my sleep, or else I’ll be completely useless tomorrow. I open my window to let the sound of the ocean waves chopping against the shore make their way into my room. I love that my father chose a Venetian Island to expand his business for the next several years. The water here matches the color of my eyes perfectly. I feel more at home in the darkness of night than I have my entire life. The sounds of my ocean whisper to me from outside of my window, cradling me, like a familiar lullaby. It’s pure, and I feel it deep inside my bones. The way the moon lights up the sand on my beach, and the way the night breeze here in Greece blows a calming song into my lungs. It tells me that I’m finally where I’m meant to be. My mom claims that I have an ‘old soul’ whatever that’s supposed to mean, but for some reason I’ve felt the truth of her statement on the beaches here in Greece.
I lean slightly out of the window and pull in a long draw of the thick salty air, and listen. The voice from my dreams always sings in the most delicate tone, it’s smooth and flawless. Since our move I’ve heard it whisper that name while I’m awake too. Every night before I doze off she speaks to me, calling me the name given by my dreamed sea beasts.
“Ceeeettttttooo”, her voice is beautiful. It’s high in pitch and as soft as the breeze, as if sung by a Goddess flowing around me from every angle. Automatically, my mind wanders to the thought of a Dietie whispering the name underwater. The sound matches that of my dreams, and of the voice calling to me from the night air swirling atop the water, it’s perfectly distorted.
I smile a little with contentment. It’s exhilarating to hear that intoxicating sound outside of my ulterior consciousness. I crave it like a drug, it fills my veins and leaves me to linger in a joyous question, and a sleepy pull to the monsters calling me from sleep. I love them, they’re mine. At night when I place down my head, I come alive in a distinct way. The way I care for the bottom dwelling sea beasts in my sleep is intimate in a maternal way. Every night I feed them, I sing to them, I even rub the fins on their toes and fingers the way a mother would tickle the back of her toddler’s neck to relax them. Finally, I open my eyes and reach for a hair-tie before taking a seat in front of my make-up station.
I take a long look at the reflection staring back at me from the large mirror, with a Victorian antique finished edging, that’s mounted to the wall of my new room. I have a lot of my mother’s small dainty facial features, with high cheekbones and a distinctly square jaw line. My skin is very lightly kissed with a smooth darkened tone, compliments of my handsome dad. My distinct look isn’t as exotic here as it was in Canada. In fact, if it weren’t for the language barrier I’d blend right in.
My looks make absolute sense given the polar opposites that my parents are to one another. I’m a perfect blend of the two, as is my little brother. The only part of me that doesn’t quite fit are my eyes. They’re almost fully round and blessed with extremely long, thick lashes. They radiate a deep sapphire and are outlined with a bright lime green border. Even I can get lost in them if I stare for too long. Sometimes, the color in my eyes seem to move like waves on the water. I can’t be sure, and maybe it’s only me who sees it, but I swear there’s even been a few times that I’ve noticed a half white circle appear in them. It moves around the color, like the kind of wave a surfer would spend his whole life waiting for an opportunity to ride. As I run my long skinny fingers through the mess of hair on my head, there’s a light knock at the door. It’s followed by a tiny sound that’s hardly audible.
My little brother’s timid voice can barely be heard through the thick cedar of my door.
“Are you awake?” He whines.
I smirk in adoration, I just love the little guy.
“Yeah, it’s okay Drake, come in.” I tell him.
There’s a twelve-year gap between my brother and I. He was a ‘woops’, as my father calls it. With the amount of traveling he and my mom do, I’ve picked up the role of Drake’s primary go-to. I’m the one he seeks out when there’s a scary thunderstorm, and it’s always been my lap he climbs onto when he wants a story or a snuggle. I don’t mind. He makes me feel needed. Much like the sea beasts that I care for in my sleep. They love me, they’re mine, much like Drake.
He pushes the door open slowly and stumbles in, half asleep. Drake is small for his age, he’s most likely inherited our mother’s size too, just like me. His skin is a shade darker than our dad’s, and his lips are identically as full and luscious. I welcome him onto my lap and wrap his light silk lined blankie around his shoulders, to shelter them from the breeze blowing in from my window.
“Sing me song?” He asks, batting his eyes sleepily.
“I’d love to.”
A tight ringlet on the back of Drake’s scalp practically calls to me. My hand complies by twisting and circling each finger through his hair. He snuggles in close, and then rests his head sweetly in the comforting dip, between my neck and shoulder. The same secretive song that I sing to my beasts flows out of my mouth, matching the tone of the voice from the wind. The Deitie’s tune from underwater is mimicked and it doesn’t take long for Drake to doze off in my arms.
“Hush my Scylla, son so handsome. Rest your rage and sleep.
Quiet Sirin, daughter so. Soon revenge is yours to reap.
And to you my favorite Triton, locks and binds will fall.
Kraken keep you anger still, for when I wake it’s you I’ll call.”
I look down at Drake’s peaceful little face. There’s so much innocence and love. I hug him tightly to my body and carry him to bed before slipping on some loose cotton shorts, and resuming my place at the window. Hopefully I can hear her voice again, one last wakeful time before I retire and let it consume my sleep.
My window faces the most beautiful light house. A rock wall snakes through the waves, leading up to its tall white rock facing. Tonight’s full moon kisses everything it touches and forces the lighthouse to leave a shadow reaching all the way to the beach. The view is stunning. Again, I close my eyes and let the feeling of home resonate deep inside while I listen. The voice blows in, but with more than the name Ceto I’ve grown so comfortable with. The words are shocking and the sound of them send a lasting jolt of painful energy through my veins.
“It’ssss tiiiiiime Ceto, to waaaaaake them.”
My eyes snap open and an ice- cold chill runs slowly through every part of me. It feels like I’m being frozen from the inside out. Pain courses in my fingers and toes, I look at my hands to see the joints popping in and out in a pulsating pattern. The burning ice in my bones rushes outward and escapes from my skin. I try to scream out in pain, but only silence escapes me. After only a few short moments of the pulsating cold liquid ache in my body I crash to the floor.
I pant for air and peel myself from the plush carpet that cradled my fall. I feel different. Like myself only stronger. I’m not afraid, it seems right, like I’m exactly where I need to be and my water home is calling me. Colors are more prominent, and I can feel the humidity in the air absorb into my rapidly drying skin. I look down to see that my legs no longer hold the healthy mocha glow that they had this morning. There is a shimmery film covering my skin, no thicker than paper, and it’s slightly tinted with a turquoise shine. I feel strong, but my lungs are pulling breath at an alarming rate. I’m thirsty, I need salt.
I glance into the mirror, I drink in the beauty of a Goddess. She looks just like me, only older, and is surrounded by an iridescent light. The waves in her big round eyes dance violently. She speaks to me in that voice, the voice of the wind, of the ocean, of the dreams, my voice.
“It’s time Ceto. Let’s go and wake our babies.”
I nod at her with an involuntary compliance. I’ve been waiting all my life for this comforting moment.
“It’s time for the ones who live at the bottom of the ocean to surface”.
AUTHOR TWO: SCENE TWO
The voice rings back at me. Is it in my head, or is it me talking? I can’t make out what’s real or not. Looking in the mirror I still can’t believe this is me. I study myself some more. My short frizzy hair has relaxed itself into perfect dark ringlets, around my shoulders. My turquoise skin has small raised bumps, my eyes are alive with their natural green color intensified.
“Ceto… let’s go.”
I look around my room, Drake is still fast asleep on my bed. Before I even know what I’m doing my feet take on a mind of their own. They walk me over to the open window. I look out at the deep navy-blue sky, scattered with stars. The ocean’s waves calmly roll back and forth over the shore. Ordinarily, I’d never feel brave enough to leave the house on my own, especially not this late at night. And as for jumping from a second-floor window, never in my wildest dreams would I do that. Tonight, I feel like if I jump I’ll land and be perfectly safe. My body feels different in a good way. I take the risk and I leap out. On the ground, I land on all fours. Our house is set back a short distance from the beach. Strangely, I don’t automatically
go to stand up and walk toward the shore. My first instinct is to walk along as I am on all fours, so I do, toward to ocean that’s calling me.
From the dark attic with just a candle for light, I watch my daughter’s slow and steady pace across the sand toward the beach. I knew this day would come, the day I’d be forced to explain to my only daughter exactly what she is. It irritates me that the day has come so soon, only by chance as Dane decided to relocate to Greece for business. The day he announced proudly the whole family is set for an adventure in Europe, I held my breath and hoped for anywhere but Greece. Mine and Zoe’s true home, if you believe in Greek mythology. Snatching up the phone, with a sigh I dial China’s international dial code.
“Mother, it’s me.”
An uncomfortable silence passes between my mother and I over the phone line. In the background, I hear familiar sounds. It’s the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong’s market waking up. It brings back childhood memories.
“May- Li nǐ wàngle shuō zhōngwénle ma?”
“No mother I have not forgotten how to say hi, or speak Chinese.”
I try my hardest to suppress my annoyance at mother’s question. She raises her voice to me again. Her broken English meets my ear in a rage. I pull the phone away.
“Then where manners and respect child? Why you call this early in morning? I left strict instruction no contact… until time come.”
“May- Li, there better be good reason for call.”
“It’s time Mother.”
I listen to my mother mutter and curse in rapid Chinese. Once she comes to her senses she addresses me in English.
“Hmm, okay, tell truth to child. She be okay and stay far from water.”
“But Mother, I-”
She places the phone down before I can finish, the line is dead.
I curse her out, in Chinese. Yes, mother dear, I still remember my mother tongue. What an ass hole. My mind drifts back to my first ever calling. I was at my aunt’s house in one of rural China’s farming towns, I was just twelve years old. A few years younger than Zoe or Liu -San I like to call her by her Chinese name. I remember I was playing by a stream and running in and out of the long grass, as my aunt watched from a distance while she inspected the crops. I remember her standing there in her large straw sun hat and kimono. It was one of China’s usual hot humid days. At times it was so hot, women would use umbrellas to shield themselves from the strong midday sun. The water spoke to me in a way that it had never before. It almost felt like it sang to me, enticing me to come closer. When I edged closer to the stream and gazed down, all I saw were fish, rockery and then a set of eyes staring out at me. Bright green eyes, that did not belong to any human. That night as I tried to sleep my aunt came into my room. She started telling me stories about the sea and what’s beneath it. I remember she spoke to me about myths, folklore and legends that have been around for thousands of years. She schooled me on each one, and how the manhunt for the truth lives on. She was preparing me for what was ahead. She was right to, a few nights later I looked in the mirror and never recognised myself. My poor baby probably experienced the same thing tonight.
It was Mother’s decision to send me way from Hong Kong, once I fell pregnant with Zoe. It was more out of anger and punishment, for diluting what little was left of our heritage as sea monsters. She planned for me to marry “one of our own kind” to keep our bloodline strong. I upset her and that was unforgivable. As the wife of one China’s leading men, she always got what she wanted. Sue-Li was never crossed by anyone in all of Hong Kong. According to her I was damaged goods, no respectable Chinese man of our bloodline would look at me now that I had a child. She paid me off with a million Yen and I was disowned. I decided I didn’t have much choice but to head to New York with Dane. Life has been good, we made a home in Quebec, Canada once Zoe turned one. I went back to school did a master’s degree in Linguistics and became fluent in French, Russian, Spanish and Italian. I started working as an interpreter, even though Dane’s business thrived I never needed work. Once Zoe started day care, I had an urge to exercise my brain and feel useful.
Dane has no idea about mine and Zoe’s heritage. I’ve managed to keep it away from him. I’ve learned to control myself around lakes and rivers. Something Zoe will need to learn too. I look out the window across the beach, I search the ocean for a sign my baby is okay.
All around me I see darkness, the deeper I swim under the sea the darker it becomes. I’m shocked at how strong a swimmer I am, and how far ahead of me I can see, it’s almost pitch black. My body quickly takes on a new form. My legs disappear completely and morphs into a beautiful fin. It whips behind me as I swim deeper toward the sea bed. I move quickly through the water. I have no idea where I’m going, but I’m pulled to the sea bed for some reason. I’m comfortable, it feels right, as if I’m driving a familiar road home. I reach the bottom, it’s pitch black, but I can see clearly through the darkness. The little sea creatures rushing toward me all speak in a strange high- pitched scream. The language feels familiar like I’ve heard it before, but where? My gosh, it’s Greek, these small tiny creatures call to me.
“Welcome home, you’re home.”
I understand it, for the first time Greek feels like a comfortable language for me. I hear myself respond to the small creatures in fluent Greek.
“What am I doing here? And why do I dream about you each night?”
“You mean you don’t recognise us?”
“Recognise you? I don’t even recognise myself, where am I and how come I can speak Greek so well?”
“You’re home … Mama. But we were calling Ceto, we thought you’d bring her too.”
“Yes, Mama. You don’t remember us? It’s good to see you but you better get back and ask Ceto’s daughter to explain.”
I watch the tiny turquoise creatures swim off into the distance. I try to follow them but I lose them. I slowly make my way back up to the surface, I pass sharks, fishes and mysterious looking creatures lurking at the bottom of the sea bed. They don’t bat an eyelid at me as I move quickly through the water. I better speed up, Mom may notice I’m gone.
I open the attic window and breathe in the salt air, she’s okay I can sense it, but she’s confused. I keep watch for her petite figure making her way up from the sand. My enhanced vision will seek her out regardless of the dark navy sky. Two minutes later I see her. I close the window, open the large chest of draws in the corner, and then dig out my precious but tattered book on myths and legends. The same book aunt Jia- Sun showed me when I was twelve, back on the farm in rural China. Holding the book close to my chest I then make my way to Zoe’s bedroom, and wait.
“Mom, what are you doing here? Please don’t be mad I sneaked out, I…”
I cut her off and address her in Chinese, using my “mom voice.” You know the one all moms reserve to calm children down, or lay down the law. I only speak to her in Chinese when there’s no time to play. Having spent all her life in Quebec, Canada, on an everyday basis we speak French mainly at home. In firm Chinese, I tell her to sit down I must share something.
“Zuò xià wǒ yǒu dōngxī kěyǐ gàosù nǐ.”
“Mom, what’s wrong?”
“Liu – San, sit now! I won’t tell you again!”
I sigh as I make use of her Chinese name too. Back in Canada she started to call herself Zoe to fit in. With her exotic looks and green eyes. It’s not often you see a child of mixed heritage with a Chinese name. Dane and I agreed for her to have an English name too. I open the large tattered book and place it between us on both of our laps. I revert to Chinese as I question her, this is serious business.
“Do you know who this is?”
I ask pointing at a picture of a woman under water with turquoise skin, four arms, a fin for her legs and black Medusa type hair whipping around her. Liu- San responds respectfully, with a small nod of her head in perfect Chinese. One thing Chinese culture boasts is a natural respect for elders. My heart swells I feel proud of her and her ability to pick up Chinese and address me properly when she hardly speaks it. She’s been practicing somehow.
“Yes mother. This is Ceto the Greek Goddess of the sea.”
“Good. What else do you know?”
“Well she’s a myth apparently, we learned about her at school. Just some old folk tale.”
I fix my dear naive daughter with a stern stare. The Chinese language spills out of me with a loud shrill, high pitch voice. I sound just like my own mother… Ceto herself.
“No Liu -San. Ceto is not a myth, this is your Grandmother. You’ve never met her. She’s alive and well in Hong Kong.”
She lets out nervous laugh. Out of respect Liu- San tries to respond in Chinese. This time it’s not perfect but I understand.
“Mom, stop kidding around.”
“Liu- San, I know where you have been and I know what happened to you tonight. Your body changed it happened to me too when I was a few years younger than you.”
She looks into my eyes and I can see the tears threaten to spill over. I place an arm around her and point back at the picture of my mother, Ceto.
“Your descent is more than you think Liu- San, your biology also makes you part sea monster. Those tiny creatures you saw tonight are your children. My Grandchildren and Ceto’s great Grandchildren.”
“What? Mom I’m sixteen how can you say that?”
“It’s true. For thousands of years many have thought Ceto is a myth something to be dismissed. She’s a powerful woman. Both in her sea form and human form. She rules the land underwater and Hong Kong for that matter. Your father knows nothing of this, and it’s to stay that way. It’s been too many years.”
Liu- San looks down at her lap. In a muffled voice that threatens to break with tears, she tries again in Chinese. I can just about make out what she’s saying. Now I see she can understand the language better than she can speak it. This must change.
“Mom, I’m really scared.”
I hug my baby tight.
“I know, I was the same. Tomorrow night you’re taking the evening off from your studies. I will call the nanny over. Once Drake is in bed and your father’s at work,we’re heading to the beach. I’ll explain more and I will take you to Hong Kong’s sea underworld.”
“Mom, we’re going to Hong Kong?! How? we need a plane.”
“Hmm. Yes we’re going. And no, we will get there faster than any plane. You’ll see tomorrow.”
“Mom, why did you keep this from me?”
“Because I was not sure if your time would come, your father is full human. I never knew if my genes were strong enough for tonight to happen. I had to wait it out and be sure.” “Get some sleep I know you’re tired, tomorrow all will be clearer.”
Liu-San gets to her feet and bows neatly toward me, before she hops into bed.
“But Mom, what that just happened to me?”
I stand up, smooth over my red and gold kimono, before I adjust the chopsticks in my hair in the mirror. I walk toward the bedroom door and turn slowly to Liu- San on the bed. In basic simple Chinese, so she can understand fully, I explain to my first born…
“Life sweetheart, that was life. You must learn to live a double life. When the urge calls you to the sea you can go, but you must never get caught. You’ll end up in some researcher’s laboratory, for years. Those who believe in Ceto’s myth have been searching for evidence, and you’re it. We are the ones who live at the bottom of the ocean and come to the surface, now you know who you are.”
Thank you for voting and thank you for reading our first attempt at writing the fantasy genre. We hope we’ve somewhat done all our author/writer friends of this wonderful genre proud! Didi and I both love to read this genre.
Who wants part #2 of this story?…. Didi and I are kinda feelin’ this story :). We enjoyed writing our scenes. I think we can whip up a few more scenes in Hong Kong.
Don’t forget... this is the last story for Kim and Didi’s Suspenseful Collection… for two weeks! We have a new twist, all will be revealed when we return with week #7’s writing prompt voting poll. If there are any stories you’d like to read part #2 of , please leave us a comment. We know Lisa Vanacilli has a lot of votes for part #2 for the story “It was the first time I killed a man.” Thank you!
This interactive writing challenge is simple and insanely creative. It’s a group effort and we are so glad to have you join in the writing fun!! I hope you’re ready to challenge Didi and I by choosing which prompts we can transform into stellar suspense! Give us your best shot! You vote on our weekly prompt, and we provide the entertainment. It’s that simple! The super easy steps are as follows:
STEP ONE: Every Wednesday we’ll post a voting poll with a few prompts to choose from.
STEP TWO: With the click of a button, you cast your vote on a prompt. (voting will stay open for three days.) Once the winning prompt is announced you can join us and write a story too. Use #kdsuspense to link in.
STEP THREE: READ AND ENJOY! Every week on the following Tuesday we will post the short story that transformed from the very winning prompt.
All comments on the story posts will be open. We love feedback, and I’m willing to bet you will never guess who wrote what!! Therein a challenge of your own! (Yes, one of us writes with British English spelling, and one of us in American English spelling. We are well aware, and ready for some trickery. Trust me, we are brilliant at adapting styles.)