The Donkey and the Mermaid

by Panchita Otaño

Content Note: This story contains a brief description of a merperson being eaten alive.

“You shouldn’t swim through there,” I say, growing tired of having to repeat myself. My tail threads the warm, Caribbean waters as I float above the colorful corals, just before the darkness that is the Borikén trench. I’m beginning to think it is the reef that encourages a false sense of security for what lies ahead. 

Darkness. Death. The monstruo. 

“Who made you the canyon police?” The merman rolls his eyes as he swims around me, heading for the steep-sided valley cut so deep into the seabed, not a single merperson can see its depth. As my Abuelo used to say, “Mija, you don’t want to know what’s down there,” and it’s true. I don’t. But the gringo merman probably thinks he knows better than my mer-tail, even though I’ve lived here all my life.

“It’s your funeral, Northerner,” I shrug. I mean, I did try to warn him — just like I tried to warn the previous seven sánganos. It’s always the same story, too. They ride the currents down to the islands for the spring and then try to use the trench as a shortcut back. 

I wave at the stranger with my fins as a school of tricolor fishes swims around me. The colorful females follow around the larger male, who, as soon as it senses the trench, sharply turns and swims away—the females following behind. I purse my lips as I hear the Northern merman’s inevitable cries. I cringe as the last of it sounds a lot like the snapping of a great white’s teeth through flesh and bones. 

“He didn’t even get past the first ridge,” I lament, then shrug and continue to brush my hair, humming and singing, “El burro sabe más que tú” 

© Copyright Panchita Otaño

Panchita Otaño draws her inspiration from the lush green mountains and crystalline waters of her small, Caribbean island, surrounded by very big water (Puerto Rico). She likes to write fantasy and science fiction stories about strong female characters with a sprinkle (or an entire bag) of magical realism. “The Donkey & the Mermaid” is her first publication. You can find her on Twitter at @PanchitaRoyal.

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