I tried for a long time but now I am back in the water. My tail is back. I am so happy with it that for 20 minutes I just swim and dive and play with my own tail, chasing it. I am ready, strong again. I call my people and the waves.
I tried awfully hard on land. I hid the knife that my sisters bought. He married the other one and kept me in the little building in the garden. Everyone knew including her, it was normal for them. She didn’t enjoy his tidal pull, his pounding, the waves. It gave me so much joy. I sang without my tongue. My tongue was not cut out, that is a myth, one of those stories. It’s just that that is how they like the women: voiceless. Silent. Obedient. Admiring. Wounded: oh, he would kiss the poor feet, mangled jangled feet that I am forced to wear on land.
All for love. But: she had children. Three. And I watched as he treated the males as princes and ignored the girl. Mere princess, valueless, to be trained for a strategic wedding. Added value for the land, a pawn in training. She found me. And I pitied her and raised her and told her tales of my home, where people are people, not a gender. Not raised as a separate species.
She disobeyed and her father had her beaten, only where it would not show, and locked up. Bread and water. Cold and cruelty. And suddenly my love was slain. It was as if I was awakened and looked about and saw his cruelty to women and to his wife and his daughter and to me. I was a toy, an amusement, loved only if I kept silent and was crippled by my feet.
I rose and called the waves. The land flooded and the castle was broken and I reached the little princess in time to change her, to give her a tail too.
She is so surprised: in the water. She keeps trying to go up and breathe air and it chokes her. She swims in wild panicky circles, choking on the air, as I drag her out from the castle.
Now we are in the sea and the waters recede, full of broken bodies. Male bodies. I changed every woman I could find and the children if they were young enough and the girls. I called my family, my people. They came and each grabbed one, to drag towards the sea. The ex-humans fight and cough and wail and cry, but we drag them.
And now we sink, each holding one. We sink into the depths. They hold their breath, fighting, but we are so used to our tails and are stronger. And one by one they let the air go and breathe: and breathe the ocean. Breathe. We are entering the dark and the phosphorescent fishes come to see.
Soon we will be home. Just a little further into the ink black: sink.
I took the photograph in 2012 at the Pacific Northwest Synchronized Swimming Regionals. This is a young team routine with eight swimmers. These two are each lifted by three teammates, using only swimming, never touching bottom……