The old woman slid down from the crates. She spread her legs wide against the sway of the ship and the pain in her whole body. It was the only way she could stay upright. “You will suffer,” she said, but while she spoke Althea thought she needed a makeover. “You have no idea who my benefactor is.” The woman’s tight hair bun came undone, her hair frizzed out and she lost all coloring so the gray was everywhere. “He will not be pleased.” The woman’s fine and rich maroon velvet dress became plain black cotton. “You will be tormented for a thousand years.” Althea considered the teeth, but in the end she opted for one hairy wart on the woman’s nose. “Poseidon!” the woman bellowed. “Neptune!”
Althea felt the pressure inside and she did not resist. “I’ve had my fun.” She felt the woman’s appearance now matched the witch that she was, and with that she went away and let the Lady of the Sea return who said something no one heard above the woman’s bellows. “My husband?” She clapped her hands together and looked altogether like an excited young girl.
“Poseidon!” One more bellow, and he came, but he was not alone. The one with the crown and plain skirt and trident was in a crumpled ball on the ground. The one standing over him was too frightening to look at. He was tall and lean with gray-green skin that was covered only by seaweed. His eyes were the color of cold iron and his face wore a frown of stone. He ignored the crumpled man at his feet and walked straight toward the Lady, and without effort despite the terrible swaying of the ship.
The old woman gasped in horror at the sight of her benefactor, broken and not daring to lift his head. Simpson stopped bleeding long enough to hope this demon of a man would whip the sea Lady and drive her to the ground. Abu became afraid for his Lady of the Sea and would have run to help her but he was paralyzed by his fear. Madison covered his eyes.
Everyone was surprised when this man-demon who towered over the little woman came right up to her and fell to one knee. “Majesty.” The man lowered his eyes. Then he said something truly remarkable. “Mother.”
“Don’t you mother me!” The Lady’s words were sharp and she threw her hands to her hips for emphasis. “If Danna was here she would spank you, you bad boy. You should have gone over to the other side a long time ago.”
“Soon.” The man said one word in his defense
“Soon? What is it with boys! Soon. I am sick of soon.” They were interrupted by a tremendous BANG on the outer hull, and the Lady’s response was to bend down and kiss the demon man right on the top of his head. “Fortunately for you, today is your lucky day. Keep Mama Serpent busy and away from the ship until I can resolve things here.”
The man stood up, tall and lean and still as frightening to look at as ever, but now there was something soft in those steel eyes. “Majesty.” The man bowed and disappeared while the lady turned her attention to the man on the floor. He had gotten to his belly to plead.
“Up.” The lady commanded, and the man on the floor slowly rose to his feet. He had a long neck and gills. He had eyes that were too big and all black like they were nothing but pupil, an image that was reinforced by the man when he blinked and shaded his eyes even from the dim light in the hold. He left the trident where it lay, but that did not matter. While the others were taken back by the man’s alien look, the Lady of the Sea began to laugh. She turned to Madam Goldman. “You thought Lord Revelian was Poseidon?” With that said she laughed nice and loud, and it was contagious so soon everyone was laughing, even Lord Revelian.
“Humans are so easy.” Lord Revelian used the old expression and pointed at Madam Goldman through his guffaws. That made the Lady of the Sea stop laughing, suddenly and completely, and everyone stopped with her, no wiping the eyes, no catching the breath. The room just became utterly quiet.
Lord Revelian once again fell to his face to plead. “Great and gracious majesty, I beg your mercy. It was all just me. My family is innocent. Please—“
The Lady interrupted. “Your family has been trying to seed Earth’s oceans with every great and glorious monster of old for two thousand years with the hope that you can return and the Mere People can once again rule the Seven Seas. It is not going to happen. So what is it, some genetic problem?” Lord Revelian looked up. He did not understand what she was suggesting, but then neither did anyone else. “You know the penalty for breaking the law.” Lord Revelian lowered his head. “So be it.” The Lady waved her hand and Lord Revelian vanished. No one dared ask where he went.
“Now, as for the rest of you.” She snapped her finger and They all appeared on the Foredeck near the railing at the very front of the ship. Madam Goldman needed a moment to catch her breath. “Home.” The Lady snapped at the knife in Simpson’s shoulder and it vanished. She said, “heal,” and the shoulder healed itself instantly. Simpson was still weak from loss of blood, but he would not die from the wound.
“But.” Abu nudged Madison and pointed. The worm was with them, curled up on the deck like a sailor’s rope or maybe the biggest rattlesnake, ever.
The Lady looked at them and both had to look away from her glorious face. “You two will get the credit, and Abu, you will get a raise so you can bring your wife and children from Syria to America.” The Lady turned to Madam Goldman and her accomplice. “You two will be charged with throwing people overboard in order to rob them of their valuables, including the poor child that saw you in the act.” The Lady clicked her tongue. “Madison, you will find those valuables in their rooms. It should be enough to incriminate. But don’t worry. You won’t get the death penalty. But you, Madam Goldman, you will be penniless the rest of your days, and powerless. Your magic is taken from you.” The Lady smiled and turned to the sea. “Mama!”
A serpent head the size of a house rose out of the sea and stopped inches from the railing. The tall and lean demon man was riding just behind the ears and he looked perfectly at home in that place. The worm on the deck began to squeal — sounds that caused Mama serpent to bob her head up and down.
“Go on, baby,” the Lady said. “You are too young to be away from your Mama.” With that permission, the worm uncurled and stretched out toward that tremendous jaw while the serpent mouth opened wider and wider to receive the baby. When the worm squirted into that mouth to be lost in the dark cavern, Madam Goldman screamed. She leapt after the worm even as that giant mouth closed and ripped off a chunk of deck, slicing easily through wood and metal alike.
“Home!” The man on the serpent’s back shouted and waved, and as the serpent turned away from the ship it faded. Even as the rising sun broke above the horizon, the serpent and its passengers vanished from the world altogether.
“There.” The Lady turned from the sea and with a simple wave of her hand the ship, deck and all was made whole and perfect once again. She knew the Captain would come out of his fog and behave normally, now that Madam Goldman’s spell was broken. Madison would rationalize it all away in time and come to believe his own rationalization. Abu would remember, but he could never tell anyone. Simpson was already considering suicide. With Madam Goldman and Professor Romer gone, Simpson felt it was unfair he take the whole rap for throwing those people overboard, which is what he thought he had done. Sadly, the lady knew the man would have to make his own decision.
Then there was the hurricane coming up rapidly from the south on a collision course with the ship. She turned it toward Africa instead. Angola was very dry. “Sorry.” She said out loud to no one in particular, She was sorry she let her anger at this whole situation become manifest. “One century I will learn to control my anger. Soon,” she thought. That word made her smile.
She rose up into the air, and as she did, her legs vanished to be replaced by a true mermaid’s tail. This was not human legs in a mermaid suit. It was the real deal as she showed by making the tip of her tail slowly curl and uncurl. She smiled for the others before she dove backwards off the deck and into the ocean where she could revel, at least for a short time, in the glorious waters of the Atlantic.
Poor Glen had to make up a story about Abu being lost and Officer Madison not showing up—or he missed them. He sulked right through dinner to make it a good show. There he heard the Chief Steward make an announcement.
“Ladies and gentlemen. We apologize for the rough water this morning. There is a hurricane brewing in the South Atlantic but it has turned toward the African coast so we should be perfectly safe. Meanwhile, if any of you were up this morning, you may have seen something off the starboard side of the ship. It may have looked like a very long line of something following us. Actually, one of the crew let the garbage out from the front gate prematurely. I’m afraid what you saw was only a stream of garbage. No Sea Serpent, sorry.” He laughed, so everyone laughed because there were no such things as sea serpents. Not really.
“Darn.” Glen was disappointed, because by then he had forgotten everything that had happened and he thought it would have been neat to see a real, live sea serpent.