I was at war with my rational self, torn between fact and emotion. I knew she couldn’t be real. Buried the previous year, how could she be here, living at the bottom of the ocean? I shone my light towards her, its thin beam caressing her lithe form. Through the murky gloom, the diver’s light reflected off of the emerald scales covering her skin, starting at the top of her waist, curving over the arc of her hips, and ending at the tips of her dolphin-shaped tail. My siren beneath the sea. I pulled her into a tight embrace, the ocean’s water cocooning us in its hold. I have never felt such happiness, drowned not by the deep water, but the return of lost love.
I would’ve been content to remain there forever, but strong hands ripped me from her arms. I reached towards her, but her image receded into the swirling sand as I lost sight of her. My limbs felt like dead weight and my heart tore in two; after her death, it had healed incompletely and now the wound broke along its fault line. My heart’s rapid beat was not the panic of fear but that of desperation as she once again slipped from my grasp.
The ascent was as unclear as the silty waters I rose through. Later, Ryan told me I was unresponsive when he had found me, my hand in a death grip on my diver’s light. Its beam had led him to me as I floundered in the depths, close to death.
“Where is she?” I asked, my first words when I glimpsed Ryan standing at the foot of my hospital bed.
I resisted speaking her name. I knew it would sound like madness. Diver, suffering from nitrogen narcosis, sees dead fiancée who has returned as a mermaid. “Did you see anyone? I mean…I thought someone was with me.”
I shook my head. “No.” He must have seen my downcast eyes because he didn’t press me further.
“You must’ve been hallucinating. When I found you, you were so still I thought you were dead.”
Another few minutes and I would have been.
She’s the reason I’ve stopped diving. Not the fear of death, but the fear of seeing her again. The want of seeing her again. She would be the reason if I dove once more and vanished into the depths of the ocean. I know she was a hallucination, nitrogen bubbles percolating my brain, confusing and blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, abject joy a by-product of chemicals misfiring.