Which Inland Waterways Merfolk Are You?

by by Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas and S.R. Mandel

For an interactive version of this quiz, please visit this link.

Pull up a rock by this stream and listen carefully to our questions. The result may surprise you.

What do you think when you think about water?

  1. Thirst
  2. Family
  3. Freedom

What are those shadows above you?

  1. They’re clouds, duh!
  2. Big fish and boats
  3. Death’s entourage

You open a chest. There are three crystals inside. Which one do you take?

  1. The blue one
  2. The red one
  3. The green one

What is under that rock?

  1. Treasures!
  2. Delicious bugs
  3. Uncle Ramiro

You find a paddle with your name written on it. What do you do?

  1. Take it with me. What a nice surprise!
  2. Ask around and act depending on who it comes from
  3. Burn it

What do you keep in your scrapbook?

  1. Memories, photos, washi tape
  2. Plans, dried algae, squid ink prints
  3. What’s a scrapbook?

It is your turn at karaoke. Which song do you choose?

  1. Something from this year’s greatest hits
  2. Whatever. As long as I’m allowed to sing
  3. I’ll sing my own song no matter the music


If your answers were mostly 1:

You are not a merfolk, you are a human. Learn how to address them by reading this handy press release:

The Seven Seas, year 2021 of the Human Cycle—Mermaids today announced a revised list of collective nouns that should be used from now on when referring to us. These updated, more accurate alternatives were crafted with the seaworthy folk in mind who, we assume, know about caution when dealing with brine.

We advise the discerning seafarer to listen carefully, swim lightly and speak decisively because “Names are like water, they flow and change, they give and take, they ruin and make,” said one of our sisters.

Know that we are

a gossip of mermaids to the uninitiated
a glint of mermaids in the early dawn
a breeze of mermaids if you’re up for tea
a burble of mermaids in the mighty rivers
a gleam of mermaids tending to the coral
a stream of mermaids swimming far and wide
a giggle of mermaids in your glass of water
a glitter of mermaids falling with the rain
an ebb of mermaids at the empty beach
a chuckle of mermaids who called out your name
a glisten of mermaids sculpting the waves
a flood of mermaids always in your dreams
a guffaw of mermaids behind your damned back
a glare of mermaids darkening the waters
a torrent of mermaids pulling down your ship
a chortle of mermaids when the air is scarce
a glow of mermaids with a painful embrace
an abyss of mermaids you cannot escape

If your answers were mostly 2:

You are The Bullhead-Catfish Folk

The Bullhead-Catfish Folk (Ameiurus sapiens) are a bottom-dwelling people, distributed in lakes, ponds, and slow-moving streams throughout the Mississippi Basin and Gulf Slope.

Though saddled with a fearsome reputation, these are in fact a sociable and gregarious folk. They live and travel in multifamily groups, and enjoy gossip and social occasions. While their staple diet consists of leeches and clams—hunted collectively using trident, net, and spear—they also have a taste for insects, and have been known to mount top-hunting expeditions by lake or river edges to secure their favorite prey: the wily grasshopper.

It is a notable oddity, sociologically speaking, how many people in the U.S. say that they fear the Bullhead Folk. To begin with, the name is of course misleading: only the folk’s grown men have bulls’ heads, while women, naturally, possess the large-eyed heads of cows, and the children are no more prepossessing than veal calves.

Second, their reputation for violence is quite undeserved. Despite the rumors, no evidence suggests that they have any taste for human blood.

Third, a bizarre and persistent piece of folk wisdom insists that the Bullhead folk enjoy hunting assaulting, dismembering and eating young human men and women. We invite you to rest assured that this is as untrue as it is unlikely, if only because the Bullhead Folk never grow to be more than 20 inches long.

If your answers were mostly 3:

You are The Charal-Silverside Folk

The Charal-Silverside Folk (Chirostoma sapiens) are endemic of the fresh water tributaries along the Lerma river basin in Mexico, as well as lakes like Chapala and Pátzcuaro.

Researchers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, have found archeological evidence that the Charal-Silverside folk used to be more than friendly to the ancient human habitants of that region since they had trade agreements, cultural exchanges, and even interspecies marriages as depicted on Codex Cavendra. However, this friendliness ended with the great massacre of 1521. Out of the original lineages, only twenty-three families remain.

Although their bodies look like resplendent silver, they are not made out of that precious metal, except for one single scale. It is well known that people who have tried to steal that unique piece of their bodies, have disappeared mysteriously. Folk tales from the colonial period narrate instances in which witnesses heard them chanting on the shores:

If you touch my silver scale,
you will never see tomorrow.
For your heart is up for sale,
may you only taste the sorrow.

The Charal-Silverside folk only started singing when they were taught how to do it since they had no knowledge of music before. Songs were introduced to them in the 1700’s when a displaced mermaid from lake Texcoco showed them how to play a seashell conch. From then on, they have been known for using everything they find as a musical instrument: from pebbles to bones, from rope to teeth, from human hair to plastic bags.

© Copyright Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas and S.R. Mandel

Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas is a Mexican immigrant and a graduate of the Clarion West class of 2019. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Nightmare, the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology She Walks in Shadows, and elsewhere. She can be found online at nellygeraldine.com and on Twitter as @kitsune_ng

S.R. Mandel  is from San Francisco, Boston, and Philadelphia, in that order. She has lived and worked in France, Japan, and the Middle East. Her writing has appeared in Apex, Strange Horizons, The Massachusetts Review, and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, among others. She is very interested in things that manage to be one thing and also another thing at the same time. Find her online at @susannah_speaks or at www.srmandel.com.

Read the Rest of the December Issue

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