Only Circles in the Sea

by Carlie St. George and Clare McCanna

Content note: this story refers to the death of a parent and death by drowning.

There are these straight lines you draw between human and mermaid, earth magic and ocean magic, blue mer and pink. An obsession with taxonomy, but also with linear comprehension, always these hard divisions between past, present, and future. Such human presumptions. What are straight lines in the sea?

You call my kind the Cassandra-mer. You’re here to collect, to categorize prophecy. Tell me the future, you say, so I speak of your mother. She loved you and you loved her—but the sea loved her, too. It called to her, whispering its siren songs, its unfathomable magics. The sea gets what the sea wants—

That’s the past, you interrupt. My mother is dead, and the dead have no future.

Yes, the accident. Your mother could never be her truest self, two feet on land. It makes no sense to you. What’s so alluring about the deep? It’s just a graveyard with more fish. It isn’t family. It isn’t home. 

So, you collect data. You ask which, you ask how, you ask WHY?  

Here’s what I told your mother, years before she died:

Someday, you will drown here. You’ll be alone. Terrified. Cold. It will hurt more than you can imagine, and the sea will keep your bones. This fate cannot be avoided. The sea gets what the sea wants—but oh, little sailor, it never wanted you dead.

Ocean magic is resurrection, transmutation. Spells to become who you’re meant to be. Ocean magic is a melancholy wonder. A goodbye, and a hello.

Your mother is waiting, little taxonomist. Will you come and say hello?


© Copyright Carlie St. George and Clare McCanna

Carlie St. George is a Clarion West graduate with stories in Nightmare, Strange Horizons, The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, and multiple other anthologies and magazines. When not working on fairy tales, meta slashers, or tiny mermaid stories, she writes about movies and television on her blog My Geek Blasphemy.

Clare McCanna is a freelance illustrator living in New England. She spent exactly as much time as was good for her on the waters of the North Atlantic and remains endlessly inspired by the Ocean and their creatures. These days she mostly entertains her cats and paints fantastical stories in oil and watercolour.

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