By A. A. Balaskovits

Why should you want to escape us, your sisters who love you more than you know? Why should you want to twist your torso and your long, shimmering scales and dash away, making ripples in your wake? Away. Away. You want to be on their land. You want to breathe their harsh air, hear the screech of their voices, like electric eels in your ear. It burns, sister. How does it not burn you as well?

We have felt your beloved dry sand against our fins, inside the curves of our long fingers. Do you know how it rips our delicate bodies, softened by a lifetime saturated in water and salt? You will rip apart like anemone in the storm.  We will find your new body, transformed from the quick, slick fish scales into the ugly feet of a man, lying on that rough sand, the water grazing your still knees. We will not be able to pull you back to us.

Recall when we were young, just after our eyes opened, and we went to the surface and saw the thick, heavy, blue body of the mother whale on their beach? Do you remember her tail making its feeble rise—so different from the powerful strokes its muscle could thunder—before it fell into our water and splashed our eyes? We thought it was the sea, but you were making your own salt. You made salt for so long after that day, and we could not comfort you. This is what you want, sister, this air that makes our kind weak?

All this suffering for a man you barely know.

It is for you that we pull him under. You look so much like us, he does not know it is not your dark hair floating on the surface like a corpse, does not know it is not your lips reaching toward his, not your hands digging into his shoulders. We are made of the same stuff, sister. Your passion was born at the moment of our wretched spawning, and we carry, each of us, a little bit of it inside.

He sighs and parts his arid lips and sinks below our water. We wrap ourselves around him and make a home of our bodies. We are not unkind. You may visit his bones, preserved forever between us, drifting in our waves, a little forgotten thing in our kingdom below the sea.

A. A. Balaskovits is a current PhD candidate at the University of Missouri and a graduate of the Bowling Green State MFA program. Her work can be found or is upcoming in Gargoyle, Monkeybicycle, Shimmer, kill author, A cappella Zoo and others. She is currently finishing a collection of fairy tales and working on a novel.