At first, I thought I must hallucinating. Hours I'd clung to my life buoy, watching the sky go from pitch black to gray, watching every other passenger succumb to exhaustion and slip beneath the waves. Now, with my teeth chattering and my limbs numb, a girl's face appeared, fresh-faced and curious. Her hair was slicked back and her lips were red and she reminded me of a supermodel. For a moment, I thought I'd drifted into a photo shoot.
Then she dived into the water, and I saw the flick of a fish's tail.
I wanted to laugh. When I was a girl, I used to be obsessed with mermaids. It was one of my many magical phases, along with fairies and unicorns. Now I'd seen one, and I was dying.
I could no longer feel my fingers but they must have given way. My head sank under the ocean. I tried to kick. I failed. Above me, squiggles of yellow dawn broke the surface of the waves, beautiful enough to make my heart squeeze. This is the last thing I'll ever see. I sobbed and salt water rushed into my mouth.
I woke up.
My head rested on sand, a strand of floating hair tickled my cheek. As my eyelashes fluttered against the light, I opened my mouth to take a breath. I tasted salt. That's when I realized I was still submerged. I pushed up with my hands and my head broke the surface of the water.
I was alive, stranded on an island with white sand beaches and gentle waves that pushed foam upon the shore. The burning in my lungs had receded. I felt strong again, strong and alive, and I wanted to laugh and cry and thank God all at once. But when I opened my mouth, all that came out was a single bell-clear note, like the vocal stylings of a pop diva's solo.
Then I noticed the tail.
A girl in the water nearby clung to a boulder, slowly hoisting herself up, like a foal on slippery new legs. My legs. I recognized the scar on one, where I fell on a piece of broken bottle. What's happening? I wanted to scream. Only music came out, sweeter than any sound a human could make, and it filled my soul with horror.
The girl looked at me. Her eyes were blue.
* * *
Author's Note: This was originally a 10-minute prompt from my writer's club, using different colors to tell a story. I cleaned it up and expanded it for this blog. Couldn't think of a good title, though.