Nicky and I met in middle school, and we immediately knew we would be best friends.
We did everythind together. When my parents suggested putting me in a private highschool, I screamed and cried until the agreed to let me go to the same school as her. When we went to college, we were roommates.
After her first date with Jack, just as we were finishing our degrees, she couldn't stop talking about him. Saying how charming he was, how nice and educate. I met him a little before they started dating, and he really seemed like the perfect guy Nicky couldn't stop talking about. However, I soon noticed there was something weird about him. Maybe it was the way he talked or moved, like he was holding back something.
- You're imagining things. - Said Nicky that night, while we talked in our living room. - Jack's really nice, Kat.
I wasn't sold yet. But Jack made Nicky very happy, so I didn't mind.
For a few months, they were our college's power couple. Nicky didn't go anywhere without him, and eventually she moved out of our dorm to live in his apartment, just a few blocks away from school. He'd give her a ride everyday, and would be there as soon as classes ended to take her home.
- He's perfect. - Said a friend of mine once, while watching Nicky get into Jack's car. - What a gentleman.
- Yeah. A gentleman. - Jack's car rode away, leaving me with a strange knot in my stomach. Something was wrong, and I knew it.
One day, Nicky didn't show up for class. I found Jack in the parking lot and asked him where she was.
- She's sick. - He wasn't acting like his usual self. His voice was rude and direct, like he was trying to get rid of me. - She's home.
He stormed off without a goodbye, and that's when I knew something was wrong. Jack would not leave like that, he who was so polite and kind to everybody. He was obviously lying about Nicky.
I decided to send an e-mail to my professor saying I had felt sick and couldn't attend class. But I didn't go back to my dorm. I went to the house Jack and Nicky shared.
Their building's door was always open, so it was easy to sneak in without anybody noticing. I quickly climbed the steps all the way to the third floor, where they lived. When I knocked on the door, a low, croaky voice answered.
- Please... just go away...
- Nicky? - I asked. - It's me. Open the door, I'm worried about you.
There was a second's hesitation, and then I heard Nicky unlocking and opening the door. She retreated farther into the hall, where the low lights didn't allow me to see her.
I stepped into the house, but her face almost made me retreat back into the hallway.
The skin around her eyes was of a purplish blue. Several red lashes covered her face, with various bruises turning a sickening yellow. Her right side of the face was the one who suffered the most, sporting a big grayish bruise. When I got closer, I noticed a few faded red round marks on her neck that could only be cigarette burns.
- Jesus Christ, what happened to you?
- It was an accident. - Nicky walked away from me, cornering herself into a wall. - I... walked into a door.
- That's funny, because Jack said you were sick! - Slowly, my head starting making sense of the situation. - Did he did this to you? Because if he did, I swear to God I'll cut that little bitch into pieces!
- No, Kat, no... - She was sobbing now, panicking. - It was my fault, I swear! I said some things I shouldn't have said!
- So he beat the crap out of you? - My eyes darted from her head to her toes, counting all the signs of abuse. Now I noticed her knuckles were also bruised, like she had tried to defend herself. From what I could see of her forearms, they were also covered in cuts and wounds. - That's it. You're moving back in with me. Get your stuff.
The whimper she let out almost made me jump. Nicky's whole body was shacking.
- No, no, not that. He said he'll kill me if I leave! - I felt an electric shock flowing through my body.
No one had ever taught me what to do in that situation. So I did the one thing I could: I closed the door and led Nicky into the living room, where she cried away her pain and I hugged her as tightly as I could, scared that I would hurt her. All I could think about was the vibrant, happy girl that had lived with me for years.
That night, as I laid awake in bed, I imagined how I could help her. She was scared to move back in with me, so that was out. I thought about going to the police, but if Nicky didn't admit Jack was abusive, it would lead to nothing. Besides, Jack came from a wealthy family. If it came to court, he would get the best lawyer in the country and walk off.
I was powerless. All I could do was help her in small ways.
After a few days, Nicky came back to school, with tons of makeup on her face. The other girls said she looked like a slut, but I knew the truth. Behind all the foundation and concealer, there were red and blue marks that told a very sad story.
She stopped talking to anybody. Sometimes, she would not even talk to me. If any boy approached her, even if only to ask for a pencil, she would quickly move away and look over her shoulder. I imagined she was checking to see if Jack was there.
When our exams came, she almost flunked out. One or two points less and she would have failed.
That night, we all had dinner together, with a few friends. At the end, Jack announced they would be taking a vacation together by the sea, in his parents' summer house. Everybody roared in contentment for them, but my eyes were on Nicky: her trembling hands, the line of sweat crawling on her forehead, her teeth bitting her lips. But, suddenly, she stood up.
- I'd like to take Kat with me. - She said.
Jack shot her a warning look, so I held her hand and pushed her down.
- That seems very fun. You wouldn't mind, right Jack?
For a few seconds, we looked at each other, seeing who would break down. I was never one for confrontations, but I knew that Nicky could die if she spent so much time alone with Jack.
The look I gave him showed I would not break down.
When we left for Jack's summer house, I had a plan. Never to leave Nicky alone, and convince her to leave him. Now that we were out of college, we could go back to her parents' house, and start planning for the rest of our lives. She wanted to be a veterinarian. I wanted to be an English teacher. We had tried very hard to escape our hometown, but not it seemed like the perfect place.
Jack's house was right by the shore, near a cliff. It had three bedrooms, a comfy lounge and, a few miles away, by the beach, a boat house where they kept a yacht. The whole thing belonged in one of those perfect house catalogs that my mom used to look at with greed, but I wasn't seduced.
The first night, when Jack went to bed, I started looking for any dangers inside. I locked the drawer where they kept the knives, I put all the sharp decorations in high shelves, where they would be harder to reach in the heat of a fight. Nicky, sitting in the lounge, didn't even spare me a look. Her eyes were fixed on the dark sea, illuminated by a silver moon.
- Are you alright? - I asked, once I was finished. It was the best I could do without covering the entire house in sponge and pillows.
- Kat, do you hear anything? - Nicky seemed hipnotized by something far in the distance. I say next to her, but I could only hear the soft sound of waves crashing against the sand and rock. It was calming, but it didn't have that strange mesmerizing effect Nicky was under. - I think.... I think I'm hearing voices.
- Nicky, we're the only people talking in this house. - I gave her a worried look that she ignored.
- Yes, but these voices come from outside. - She was in a fervorous dream of some sort, I was sure. With shaking hands, Nicky opened the window, letting a cold blow of salty air come inside the lounge. For the first time in months, she seemed calm. At peace. - They're singing, Kat. They want me to go there.
- The sea.
Without breaking eye contact, I closed the window and sat her down again.
- Nicky, you have to sleep. - Yet, I couldn't let her go to Jack. - Let's pretend you fell asleep on the couch and I didn't want to wake you up, ok? I'll go get you a blanket.
I left her there, with a blanket and pillow, feeling worried about her, but happy she would spend less time with Jack. At least she was safe.
Yet, the next morning, I found her there, in the same place I had left her. The window was wide open, her eyes were closed, the wind was blowing her head from right to left, left to right. There was a smile on her lips.
- Well, someone woke up early. I didn't even noticed you entering and leaving the room. - Jack stepped into the lounge, with a big yawn. And suddenly, Nicky broke off from her dream-like state. I even felt like the soft wind that had blown just a few seconds earlier was gone. - So, do you two want to go to the beach?
Nicky shook her head before turning to the sea again. Jack seemed angry, so I cut him off before he could talk.
- Great idea! - I gave a big smile. - We'll have breakfast with Nicky and then we'll go!
And so we did. Nicky ate her breakfast fast as lightning, going then to sit again at the couch, with her head resting on her hands. Jack and I changed to swimsuits, grabbed our bags and went down the hill to the secluded beach. We spent half an hour without talking to each other, while I bathed in the sun and he swam around the ocean and climbed rocks. My eyes were fixed on Nicky's open window, in the cliff above us.
- Kat, can I talk to you? - Suddenly, he was standing above me, letting drops of water hit my tights.
- What's up? - I tried to sound calm, natural. Jack kneeled next to his beach bag and pulled out a velvet box. Inside, there was a diamong ring.
- I'm going to ask Nicky to marry me. - He said. - Tonight. I'm going to ask her to come with me for a boat ride and then I'll ask her. What do you think?
My brain spent a few seconds trying to make sense of what was happening. Jack, ring, Nicky, boat. All those objects and people floated around my mind, but I couldn't find a connection.
- Aren't you two moving too quickly? - I asked. - We just finished college. You haven't even met her parents.
- She's the woman of my dreams, Kat. - He purred, voice soft and dream-like. - So, what do you think?
I got up, grabbing my towel and bag.
- I think we should go back. Nicky must be worried.
She wasn't. Nicky was sitting exactly where we left her. While Jack said he had to take care of something at the boat house, I stayed with her. I made lunch and bringed her plate to the lounge, so she could eat while watching the ocean.
- I can hear them. - Her eyes were closed, delighted. - They call for me.
- Nicky, no one's calling you.
- They are my sisters, and they know what I am thinking all the time. - It was obvious she wasn't listening to me. I fell silent. - We will swim away one day, and I'll be foam and water.
When the night came, we took a shower and changed clothes. She insisted I followed her to the yacht, although she didn't know Jack's plans. I couldn't find a way to tell her.
We set sail around dinner time. Jack had lit a dozen candles all around the boat, so we were involved in light that would generally be romantic, but in that case made us look like ghosts sliding down the deck. Nicky was the only one enjoying herself, eyes lost in the reflect of light on water and the swirls of the waves around the ship.
- Dinner's served, ladies. - Called Jack. I leaded her to the cabin, much against her will. On a table there were three plates full of food. Jack, handsome as ever in a tuxedo, was holding two flutes of champagne, mine already in front of my plate.
- How beautiful. - Commented Nicky, still distracted. Jack handed her a flute, and I couldn't help but noticed a small glistening diamond inside. Tense as ever, I grabbed my own flute.
- To the end of our studies, and the start of our lives! - Said Jack, taking a sip of champagne. Nicky and I took our flutes to our lips.
For a few seconds, I wished Jack had mistakenly switched the flutes. Maybe the ring was in his cup. But no. A few seconds later, Nicky let a small golden object fall on her hand.
- What's this? - She asked, turning it around. And then, she went pale.
Next to me, Jack fell over one knee, almost blinding us with a smile.
- Nicky Ramirez, will you make me the happiest man alive and...
The next events followed in a flash. I could barely keep track of them, but here's what I saw and hear.
First, a scream. Then, the crash of crystal against the floor. Then, high heels running on the deck, trying to get away. Jack leaving in a hurry. Jack screaming. Jack grabbing Nicky by her arms, shaking her vigorously. I was approaching them. My legs were shaking. My hands were on Jack's shoulders, trying to pull him away. We were so close to the rail. Jack hit Nicky with the back of his hand, making her fall on the ground. Her head hit the rail. She was crying.
I got between them, I remember. I tried to push Jack away. I may have tried to throw him overboard.
But I didn't need to. Because right behind him, a pale, almost blue arm rose from the waters and grabbed him by his wrist. As I looked over the rail, I saw the ghostly face of a woman, her dark hair so long it was lost in the waves, swirling. Her hand had membranes between each finger. Her teeth were sharp, her chest and neck had long dark red slits: gills. In the dark waters, I saw a tail glistening, green and blue and yellow.
I let myself fall, hitting the deck. Another arm rose, now grabbing Jack by the back of his shirt. He screamed, begged us to help.
I crawled to Nicky, but she was already standing up. Her arms rose above her head, while she laughed. She seemed mad, but sane and lovely at the same time. I had never seen her so happy.
Around us, dozens of women crawled out of the water. Each one of them was different. Some of them had skin as dark as coal, while others looked like icebergs, so pale and cold. A few had shark fins sprouting from their backs, or teeth so big they pressed against their shins. One had claws growing from her hands, in the place most people would have nails. They were terrifying and beautiful.
Nicky looked down on me and smiled.
- I know you can't hear them. But do you see them at least?
The boat started shacking. Jack was still strugling by that point, and by each passing second, a new hand rose to held him down. I tried to make sense of that situation. My legs couldn't move, my mouth couldn't make words.
- Nicky! Kat! - Cried Jack. - Help me! For fuck's sake, Nicky! Help me, you bi...
Jack never got to finish his sentence. I only saw some sort of cab's claw rising from the darkness and piercing him again and again. His mouth fell open, a dark hole. The front of his shirt became soaked with crimson blood.
The hands pulled him overboard right before my eyes.
- Come, Kat. - Nicky helped me get up, a soft look on her face. - We have to go now.
- What's happening? - I asked. The other side of the boat was rising, I could sense it now. With a sickening feel, I understood: they were turning over the yacht. - Nicky, what's going on?
Slowly, like she was performing a ritual, Nicky took out her high heels and climbed onto the rail, letting herself fall forward to the water.
I didn't do the same. When the boat turned, I was thrown over.
For a second, I tried to focus on surviving. I had to get to the surface and swim to the shore, or to a rock.
But when I opened my eyes, all the air in my lungs left.
In front of me was a woman, with skin so blue it looked like the morning sky and eyes dark like pools of ink. But that was only her upper body. When I looked down, I saw the tentacles of an octopus, swirling around me, grabbing me.
Over her shoulder I could see Nicky, her face in pure ecstasy. Other women swam around her, caressing her hair and face. And when I looked down, I saw the worst part: hundreads of those women, a mass of tails, teeth and sharp claws, a vortex of something I didn't know and didn't understand. In the middle of them, Jack's body. They were doing terrible things to him. One of his eyes was gone, so were his arms. There was a girl, not over 16, happily ripping out the hair out of his corpse. She had a serpent like tail curling around her body.
The woman holding me turned around, calling her companions. Nicky swam in my direction, somehow being able to breathe underwater.
She didn't say anything. Or at least nothing I could hear. She just placed a soft kiss on my forehead, one that I could almost not feel, before letting herself be dragged to the deep sea. The octopus woman grabbed me under my arms and pushed me to the surface.
I woke up in a hospital, a few days later. The doctors said I was found on a beach a few miles away from Jack's house. The yacht was found, crushed against the cliff, but there was no sign of either Jack or Nicky.
I was asked many times to describe what had happened. By doctors, police, my parents, Jack's parents, Nicky's parents. I left out the strange women who had killed Jack and saved me. The official story was that after Jack's proposal, we heard a strange noise and saw that the boat had hit a cliff. We jumped out, but Nicky was so panicked she couldn't swim, so Jack tried to save her. A strong current separated us, and I lost track of them.
It was a nice story. A tragic one, where a boy died to save his beloved. The media loved it, but quickly forgot it.
But I didn't.
Because I came back to the shore every year, on the anniversary of that strange night. And every year I stay in a fisherman village just a few miles away from where we stayed on that faithful vacation. Last night, I was at a bar, drinking a beer. I guess I didn't see the hand slipping some sort of liquid or powder into my drink.
This dawn, I woke up with a man next to me. I didn't know him. I didn't remember going anywhere with him.
Once I got up, I noticed I was naked.
I grabbed my clothes and ran away, fleeing to the only place I could think off: the secluded beach where Jack had shown me Nicky's engagement ring.
Half an hour ago, I saw the man climb to a ship with his friends. They were talking, laughing. Were they talking about me? Laughing of the things that pig had done to me? Did they think they could get away with it, treat me like a piece of meat that was only there to be fucked, no matter what I wanted?
They were wrong.
I don't know when I started listening their voices. But they were a melody I had never heard, a sound so calming and reassuring. They sang for me, telling me of a home I never knew I even wanted, a place between the waves where no one would dare to hurt me. They sang of sisterhood and protection. They sang of blood and revenge.
Their kindness is uncommon, but sweeter than anything else. Once they turned the fishermen's boat, they even let me grab that pig of a man and tear him apart. His blood makes little red clouds in the water, his skin breaks easily under by nails. Ironically, my anger's washing away. My friends (no, not my friends, my sisters) cheer me, hug me, tell me of the gills I'll grow and the songs I'll sing. They promise me eternal life as a free spirit.
Now, a new figure rises in front of me. Nicky. She's still new to this, I can see, but she fits in so nicely. When I look at her, I remember who she was before that son of a bitch tried to control her. Her smile could bring heat and happiness to every corner of this world. Her eyes are calm waves and raging storms. Her tail is orange and golden, like the fishes she used to keep as a child.
She helps me tear him apart, and the memory of her lips on my forehead makes me even happier. We are the same now. Once again, I go where she goes.
You may call us monsters. But one day, maybe you'll hear our voices. Maybe we'll sing to you, and you'll join us here, in a kingdom of salt and foam. I know that I have an eternity of songs and games ahead of me. An eternity of justice, of pulling those horrible men under the waves and teach them a lesson. We will travel to every corner of this world, and save as many as we can.
Don't feel scared if you hear us. Feel relieved. It doesn't mean you'll say goodbye to your world.
It just means you are our sister.
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