Sea of Lies Part 47 (Finale)
Sarah cringed as she looked out the sliver in the window shutters to see the pouring rain and streaks of lightning outside. Biting her lip, she put her hand on the shutter and pushed it together so it wouldn't swing open like it had moments ago. Turning around, she sighed and leaned against the kitchen counter. She used the term 'kitchen' loosely.
The second Jim left, she had dove into dealing with rebuilding the inn after the fire. It wasn't a hard process and could be done very quickly with the amazing technology they had now, but it cost a lot. What had once been a large inn with a restaurant and everything was now a smaller two-story house with only enough rooms to house about five families with four people or less. It would take forever to make enough money to pay back the loans she had taken for the repairs. And that was if people even bothered to come stay.
The new kitchen was terribly small. All it had was a decent-sized oven, a sink, and an ice box. Over the past few weeks, Sarah had barely been in here because of having to deal with repairs, refunding all the guests who had been injured in the fire, and just missing Jim. When he came home she expected things to get somewhat better, but it only got worse. In the two days they had been back, a black cloud seemed to hover inside and an actual one hovered outside. She wondered if this storm would ever end.
She opened the door and walked out to the living room where Jim, Delbert, Amelia, Silver, and Arrow sat around the small fireplace holding steaming cups of hot chocolate. Jim just sat there, staring at the small flames as they danced around. No one flinched when thunder bashed outside.
He would destroy everything. Jim knew the sea king would never rest until everything was gone. If the building wasn't so new, it would probably already be reduced to rubble. The last time he looked out the window, the unruly waves had crept at least twenty feet closer to where the inn stood. There were uprooted trees sprawled all on the ground and the ship they had come on was being thrown around like a sack of potatoes. It was utter madness. All because of him.
He buried his face in his hands. Nothing could possibly fix anything. His life had been torn apart and was now being tossed around in the waves.
He missed Melody. The pain hadn't receded at all and he still felt the same way he did as he watched the light leave her eyes as she collapsed. It should have been him, not her. No one would have missed him. Except his mother. And maybe Delbert. But Melody had left a whole civilization mourning. He thought about her mother, Ariel. She didn't look much older than Sarah and she had already lost a husband and a daughter. He wished he had some way of talking to her again. He never really got to offer his condolences.
"You did all you could." Came a voice.
Jim looked up. Amelia was looking at him with a look of deep pity. Her pointed, cat-like face was scratched and bruised. She looked strange without the smug grin that always lived on her face. She hadn't said much to him since they had returned. She seemed to be awful comfortable with Delbert, resting her head on his shoulder from time to time.
Jim stood up and walked to the window where as another clapped overhead, sounding like the mournful screams of a mother. He stared out into the sheets upon sheets of rain. He touched the glass on the window. The chaos outside didn't look like it would ever end. Slowly he turned around to face the others.
"There's something I need to do." He breathed.
He strode over to the hook by the door and grabbed a random black trench coat that looked way to big for him, but it wasn't like he would need it for long.
"What are you doing?!" Sarah demanded, grabbing him by the arm. "You'll get killed out there!"
He looked his mother in the eye. He could tell by they way she looked she already knew what he was going to do. "I'm all he wants." He told her, shaking free of her grasp.
"Jim!" She cried, tears swelling in her chocolate-brown eyes. She shook her head slowly. "We can all leave. We can escape this!"
"There's no way that'll happen." Silver suddenly said from his seat in the corner. Jim looked at him.
His mentor's face was grim. His lips were pursed in a tight line and his shoulders were shrugged. "The sea king would never let us leave these shores alive."
Sarah looked from Jim to Silver several times before she opened her mouth to speak. It remained opened for a few seconds, but only a shocked croak came out. Her gaze darted to Delbert. "Tell them there has to be another way!" She shouted, pointing.
Delbert exchanged glances, but both stayed silent. Arrow stood up slowly and thundered over to where Jim was standing. His stony face was stoic as ever. Jim didn't know what he expected him to say, but he definitely didn't expect what he did.
He saluted him.
"You're one of the best sailors I've had the honor of flyin' with, Mr. Hawkins." He said, putting a hand on his shoulder.
Jim was speechless. Arrow always seemed to look down on Jim. At least, that was what Jim thought. Never in a million years would he have guessed that hunk of rock had respect for him. Not knowing what else to do, Jim nodded slowly.
Suddenly, Jim felt something small and soft touch his cheek. He tilted his head to see little Morph, tears running down his face. Smiling, Jim tickled the little pink blob with his index finger. Morph grabbed onto it and morphed into the saluting form of Arrow. Jim chuckled for the fist time in two days.
He looked at Delbert and Amelia who had stood up along with Silver. Pursing his lips into a grim smile, he nodded at them. Amelia gave a crooked smile.
"You would have made a fine captain, Hawkins." She said, her smugness returning.
He turned to face Silver. The old cyborg shook his head. "You saved my life, lad. Even after all I did to ya'." He whispered.
"I knew what was in your heart." Jim answered. "She did, too." He added.
The cyborg's one real eye swelled with tears. He took Jim by the hand. "When you see the girl again, give her an old cyborg's regards, will you?" He asked. Jim smiled, his eyes staring to burn with tears as well.
He slowly turned to face all of them one last time. To face his family one last time. All he could muster was a smile and and bow before he stepped out the door, into the storm.
Melody's eyes yanked open and before she could even form a thought she was gasping for air. She was wrapped head to toe in a white linen cloth and she was completely underwater. She thrashed and kicked like a fish out of water. Before she could marvel at the fact that she had legs to kick with, the thin fabric tore. Her lungs were burning as she wrestled the cloth that mummified her off of her body.
They must have already had her funeral. When a royal mermaid or merman passed away, they were dressed in the finest clothing and wrapped in white, to signify sea foam. Sea foam represented life, they way it formed and faded. And like the sea foam, the body was set adrift to roam the sea for all eternity. It was a beautiful analogy, but Melody wished they hadn't wrapped her so tight!
When she finally escaped the wrap, she opened her eyes and all she could see was the blur of the water and all she could feel was the sting of the salt in her eyes. She picked a random direction and prayed it was to the surface. For what seemed like an eternity, she clawed and clawed at the water, desperate for oxygen. Her lungs felt like they had shriveled up like dried grapes.
Finally she felt open air, and opened her mouth wide to take it all in. Oh, how wonderful it felt to breathe! To feel the oxygen pulsing through her veins again was like feeling the embrace of an old friend. She screamed in joy, even though her throat felt like sandpaper. She didn't care. She was alive!
When she finally came to her senses, she could feel sheets and sheets of rain falling from the sky. She squealed as a bolt of lightning accompanied a smash of thunder just above her head. She was tossed and thrown around by the violent waves. Out of the blur of the water, she could see the faint outline of the shoreline. Taking a deep breath, she dove under and glided under the waves, coming up for air every few seconds.
The current was strong, but she had to keep going. She couldn't let herself get pulled out to sea. She wouldn't let herself die again. She had escaped the fates one and she could sure as heck do it again. With a renewed ferocity, she dove below the waves and battled the currents. Keep going. Don't stop. Don't surrender. She grew up in this ocean. She knew it. She loved it.
Melody felt rocky sediment tear into her knee. Shooting up out of the water, she could see she had made it to the rocks. If she tried to stand, the grey water would have climbed up to her neck, not counting the size of the waves. She kept kicking.
Finally, she felt the softness of sand. She clawed into the ground, as she started to sob with happiness. She dragged herself across the sand until the waves only climbed up to her knees.
She just lied there for a minute, in the sand. She just wanted to breathe. In. Out. In. Out. Slowly, she pulled herself up into the sitting position. She stared down at the tunic she wore.
They had dress her in a shining silver tunic with black pearls sewn into it. It was long and flowing, like a sheet. No wonder it was so easy to swim in. She ran a hand down the soft material. She had never seen something so beautiful. But now it was covered in the yellow-brown sand. She was sure she had felt a clip in her hair when she emerged, but there was nothing on her head but her jet black hair that clung to her body like a cape.
Finally, she looked around. The shore was rocky and the beach was at the base of a huge cliff. Wait... She had been here before. This was Delbert's property! She had come down here when they were staying with him! She stumbled to her feet. She stared down the storm-engulfed beach. All she had to do was run down the shore, and she would reach the inn. She had to get there as soon as she could.
She knew this storm wasn't ordinary. It never stormed like this. Ever. She knew her grandfather had sent it. He sent it just for Jim and the others. If she didn't do something, she knew they would all be killed. The sea king never did anything have-heatedly. He always got revenge. Especially if it involved his family.
Thunder cried. She balled both hands into tight fists. Taking a deep breath, she started walking. Then she let her pace get faster. And faster. And faster. Before she knew it, she was running.
On her own two legs.
The rain felt like tiny spikes as Jim stepped out. The water filled his eyes and blurred his vision. He pulled the hood over his head, but the rain's impact banged like drums in his ears. He rubbed his eyes and took a step forward.
He wanted to look back. He wanted to look back so bad. But he was afraid that seeing the faces of those he loved through the window would only make him go back. But he wasn't a child anymore. This wasn't like those times he had crashed his solar surfer as a boy and could just run inside, into his mother's arms where she would whisper that everything would be okay. It was time to make the ultimate sacrifice to save his family. Although it wasn't how he would have wanted it to end, it would all be worth it if it meant their safety.
Every step he took sank down into the water-saturated earth. The mud made squishing noises under the soles of his boots. That, along with the relentless pouring of the rain, made the walk to the waterline an intense effort.
As he walked, his entire life drifted by him with every move. He saw his eighth birthday, where he had gotten his first solar surfer. He saw the sun rise the morning he woke to to find his mother sobbing and his father gone. He saw himself glaring at the police the first time he had been arrested. How could time have flown by so fast? Everything had changed in what felt like a matter of seconds. It was as if he was shooting forward on a solar surfer with no brakes. All he could do was wait to crash. He trudged down the hill, to where the water had clawed its way up. He had stood here weeks ago when he had first met Melody. He had stood here just before his life changed forever.
The salt water stabbed at his eyes as it came up in huge sprays. He clung the coat to his body, holding on to any warmth he could. His body started to shiver uncontrollably. He was terrified. He didn't know what to do. Did he call out? Did he try to get the attention of the merpeople? Or did he just walk into the ocean and be swallowed by the gray waves?
"Hello?!" he screamed into the churning water.
Thunder roared. Lightning clapped. The water began to swirl into massive whirlpools. The freezing ocean spray felt like needles as it pelted his face and seeping into his coat, seeping in to what felt like the bone. A gust of wind slammed into him and he fell backwards into the sand. Just as he looked up, several heads started to rise from the water.
One by one, they emerged from the gray. Some were male, and some were female. Their ages ranged from the older ones, who still looked elegant with their long white hair, to younger children who cling to their mothers. He could see each of their faces bore expressions from grief to anger to curiosity. He knew they were merpeople. Some had green hair and purplish lips. Some had skin pea-green skin and seaweed woven into their long hair. Some looked like normal humans from the torso up, wearing shells and pearls as jewelry that gleamed in the pale light. But the two that stood out most were the ones that led the whole pack.
Ariel and Triton.
Jim just stared at them, wide-eyed. He wondered if the others were watching through the window of the inn. They were probably just as shocked as he was. Probably more than he was. He swallowed, completely unsure what to say.
Ariel had the same sorrowful frown she wore last time he had seen her. She wore a black tunic that cloaked her body like a long cape made of the night sky itself. Her fiery red hair was adorned with black pearls strung together. Even in mourning, she still looked incredibly gentle and understanding. Jim wished he had been able to know her better.
Triton looked the exact opposite. His eyes were filled with a darkness that made them look more like two gaping holes in his head. His white eyebrows came together into such a harsh glare, Jim wondered if the look alone could kill him. The sea king held his shining trident in his right hand and a clenched fist in his left. Jim swallowed hard, hoping that whatever he had planned for him would be quick.
Suddenly, Triton raised his trident in the air. It started to glow with a faint yellow light. A golden ray of light shot up from the center point like a beacon. The light seemed to stab the swirling clouds above. There was a subtle change in the rain. It slowly became less intense until it finally faded into a slight sprinkle. The sea stared to slow until it, too, had come to a stop. All that remained was the grey sky.
"You dare come here!" Triton shouted, pointing his trident at Jim.
"I'm here to ask you to stop!" He yelled back, scrambling to his feet. Holding the king's gaze, he went on. "I'll do anything you want, just please leave my family alone!"
Triton looked at his for a moment, shocked at his outspokenness. He tightened his grip on his weapon. Ariel grabbed his upper arm.
"Daddy, you can't do this!" She yelled, putting herself between her father and Jim. "Nothing's going to bring her back!" Her voice cracked, as if she was about to start sobbing.
The king shoved his daughter aside and took aim. His eyes burned with pure, unadulterated fury. Before Ariel could do anything, the trident glowed gold. A ball of light started to take shape at the tip, getting bigger and bigger.
Time started to move like molasses. Jim took a deep, deep breath and spread his arms. It would all be be okay. Everyone would be alright. The king would have his revenge and would leave his family alone now. The price would be worth it. It wasn't like he had much of a life without that treasure anyway. He was nothing. Nobody. They would probably miss him, but not for too long. They would all go on with their lives. They would start anew. It would all be alright. It would be alright.
It. Would. Be. Alright.
"Stop!" a voice screamed.
Before Jim could look up or react, something slammed into his body, sending him hurdling into the sand again. He grunted as a sharp pain surged through his tailbone. The golden light flew over his head, dissipating just as quickly as it formed. He let out a breath of relief. He opened his eyes to look at his attacker, but all he saw was black hair in his face.
He couldn't breathe. He couldn't move. All his thoughts became a jumbled mist, swirling around in his head like the uncontrollable maelstroms that had just disappeared from the sea. His bones turned to jelly. He felt like he had been hit with a board rather than tackled onto the soft sand. It couldn't be. It was impossible.
Melody's eyes were full of worry as she looked down at his face. "Are you alright?" She whispered, still on top of him.
He opened his mouth, but only a croak came out. His eyes were as wide as sand dollars. Slowly, he reached up to touch her face. His fingers were ice cold from the unforgiving weather. "You're alive." He breathed, his voice shaking. She smiled. Slowly, being careful of the material in her tunic, she stood up and turned to face her people.
Eyes were wide. Jaws were dropped. There was no sound, so whispers, so movement at all. She looked at her mother. Tears were coming down in steady streams, and here eyes were full of disbelief. Triton dropped his trident, and let it sink into the shallow water. Taking a deep breath, she spoke.
"If any of you thought this was how I would have wanted this handled or if this would change anything, you're all horribly mistaken." She said, speaking out to everyone in attendance. "These people are the reason I stayed alive so long!" She yelled, pointing behind her to Jim and wherever the other members of their party stood. "There was nothing he could have done to stop what happened to me! It was no one's fault!"
She clenched her hands into tight fists. Anger burned in her veins like hot coals. "I left on my own terms! It was stupid, but I don't regret it!" She looked at her mother, who was still silent and she floated in the still water. "I am so sorry." She breathed. "I know I hurt you. I know it." She shook her head and fought tears. "But I had to. There is so much I've learned. So much has changed." She said.
She turned back to face Jim, who was still on his back in the sand. She stepped over to him and gingerly took his arm. He pursed his lips into a tight smile as she helped him up. She looked into his eyes and smiled for a few seconds before he yanked her into a tight embrace. She buried her face in his wet shoulder. She never thought she would be able to do this again. Now that she could, she felt like everything would be alright, no matter the outcome. She pulled away and turned to face her mother, Jim's arm around her shoulder.
"I've become someone new. Someone better." She told her. "I've been given new life, so to speak."
Ariel smiled. Without hesitating, Melody ran forward through the waves and into her mother's arms. She held her tight, tears rolling down both their faces. "My beautiful baby." Ariel whispered into Melody's hair. Melody pulled back and smiled at her mother. "You're so grown up." Ariel added, cupping her face in her hands. Melody laughed.
Slowly, she looked up at her grandfather who still looked stunned. "Grandfather," she said slowly. "I know you don't like humans. And some don't deserved to be liked." She added, shrugging. She took his old hand in hers. "But I am human now. I'm part of their world." She said, looking at Jim, who was smiling bigger than she had ever seen him smile. She looked back at the sea king. "But I will always belong to the sea." She said, running he hand through the calm saltwater.
The king sighed and looked at Jim. "I'm prepared to make you a bargain, boy." He said.
Jim nodded uneasily. Triton took a deep breath. "No harm will come to your home or you family."
Jim's eyes widened. "Th-Thank you, sir." He stuttered. He opened his mouth to speak again, but Triton held up a hand to stop him.
"In exchange," he said, holding up a finger. "You will make sure my granddaughter is taken care of." He finished, putting a hand on Melody's shoulder and smiled.
Melody looked up at him open mouthed. Triton sighed. "It is as you say." He told her, leaning in close. "You are part of that world now."
Without hesitation, Melody threw her arms around his neck. He hugged her tight. When she pulled away, she faced her mother. "Please visit." Ariel told her, smiling. Melody laughed. "I love you, Mom." She told her, wrapping her arms around her mother's neck.
With one final smile, Melody watched as all the merpeople sank into the depths. The grey clouds parted to reveal a brilliant sunset, with reds and oranges and yellows blending together in the sky. The cold wind was replaced by a warm breeze. She took a deep breath as the waves licked at her legs. She felt another fingers brush against her hand.
Jim stood next to her in the water. He had taken off his heavy coat and left it on the shore. He took both her hands in his and smiled at her. "How--?"
She put a finger to his lips before he could finish. "It's a story best saved for another day." She told him, a smug smile on her face.
Shaking his head, he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her.
He had been right. It had all been alright.