Short Story: Searching

Three younglings had gone missing. At any normal time, finding them wouldn’t be my responsibility. Unfortunately, the foolish children in question were my nephews, and my sister was too gravid to hunt down the misbehaving spawn herself.

They weren’t helpless, but they hadn’t yet reached an age or size where they could safely hunt on their own. If they swam too far, they could easily become trapped in a current, or fall prey to predators.

My first impulse was to follow the magnetic fields north, where their instincts would tell them to find food, but there would be too many members of the school already there. Three uncouth younglings gadding about would have been caught by now. Which left only the most dangerous option—the shore.

As long as sereia had lived in this part of the Atlantic, there had been trade with humans, but my people remained suspicious. Only the largest and fiercest females were picked as traders, and I’d never been counted among them. But all sereia had seen the flowery ornaments; gleaming tools; and strange foods that we traded for fish, pearls and bioluminescent objects.

The contrast of our world with that above was a lure that drew many a sereia to their doom, and the years of fire and sword were not far enough in our past for any youngling to be safe around humans. I found a callstone dangerously near the shallows and beat out a quick summons with my tail. Searching. Respond.

I was about to leave the pillar when the faintest sound reached me. Need help. Trapped. Humans.

I felt myself flush red with alarm as I slipped through the water towards the call, soon feeling the vibration that heralded boats. Trade agreements forbade the humans from fishing, but their boats still fouled the waves if they thought themselves unobserved. Their catches had, at times, included sereia too young to escape a net.

Soon, two of my nephews collided with me in a rush of terrified relief. They had managed to escape capture, but their brother could not avoid the boat’s net—especially with the damage the sharp fibres had already dealt his fins. He’d managed to get untangled, but remained trapped.

Drawing my blade, I slashed furiously at the net. I missed the two thicker ropes connecting the net to the boat, until I nearly swam into one. Sharpening my eyes, I puzzled out the method by which it was attached, and after signalling my nephew to be ready, detached the rope, causing the boat above us to shudder as the net fell sharply down.

Following my instructions, my nephews had already fled, marlin-fast, for the safety of our school. I should have gone with them, but the rage that had risen within me warmed more than my eyes and hands. Waiting for any intelligent creatures to leave the net, I carefully swam inside and reconnected the second rope. When the scavengers above pulled their catch gasping to the decks, I’d remind them why their kind still feared the sea.

I have just decided to post flash fiction from a competition instead of having to post something this week, but I like this story, so hopefully no-one minds. I usually finish with commentary on what I would change, but I think given the length consraints I had to work with, that this story turned out well. I also deliberately kept the narrator gender-neutral, which I was happy with.

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