“Stop it.” I reached out, slapped a palm on his chest to push him back. But as soon as I touched him I felt a jolt of electricity race up my arm, and under my horrified stare, Kona stumbled back a good five or six feet.
For a minute I couldn’t register what had happened. I was too busy paying attention to the sizzle of power winding its way through my bloodstream. It was an adrenaline cocktail to my nervous system, a shock of energy straight to my heart and every muscle in my body.
I could feel it inside me, a turmoil of current reshaping who I was into what I would become.
At first I was too astounded to do anything but stare, but eventually one thought registered above all others: Mark had shoved Kona as hard as he could and he hadn’t moved him so much as an inch. All I’d done was touch him and he was halfway across my living room.
“Kona?” I called his name in a trembling whisper that sounded more like a scared little girl’s than a self-assured woman’s, but at the moment it was the best I could do.
“It’s okay, Tempest,” he answered, walking back toward me.
But it wasn’t okay—I could see it in the way Mark was looking at me, as if I had, indeed, just grown that tail I’d been so worried about earlier. And when I followed his horrified gaze, I could see why. This time I was the one who was glowing.
And not just that wimpy, is-he-or-isn’t-he kind of glow Kona had emitted that day at the beach. No, nothing that sedate for me. I was sending out enough wattage to light up a small village—or a nuclear power plant.
As Kona reached for me and Mark stumbled out of range, I did the only thing I could think of doing. I fled.
Hitting the Tip
“The voice of the sea speaks to the soul.”
I ran until my calves ached.
Until my lungs shuddered.
Until my heart felt like it was going to explode.
And then I ran some more, kicking up sand with every footfall as I wound my way down the long stretch of empty beach.
Finally, when my vision had blurred and my pulse was pounding in my head, I collapsed onto the soft, loose sand and tried to get control of my emotions—and my unruly body.
At least I wasn’t glowing anymore. That had to be a plus, right?
Still, I had fled from my own birthday party. Not that I’d had much of a choice—I mean, what was I supposed to say when people noticed my little problem? That I’d fallen into a vat of toxic waste earlier in the day and this was just a fun little side effect? Myth was one thing, but this whole mermaid experience, and me along with it, was beginning to fall into comic-book realm. I didn’t like it. At all.
The wind picked up, whipping around me, playing with my hair and making me shiver. I ignored it, concentrating instead on trying to figure out what to do.
How could you have left me like this, Mom? How could you be somewhere else when I need you so badly?
It was stupid, but I concentrated on the question really hard, hoping against all logic and reason that she would somehow hear it. That she would somehow feel my distress and come home, like she’d promised to do so long ago.
How could you just leave me alone to deal with this? I demanded. It’s not like your letter was a freaking instruction manual.
I need you, Mom. I need you.
I waited, eyes squeezed shut for what seemed like forever. But there was no answer.
When had she ever been there when I needed her? When had she ever thought of anyone but herself? If that’s what being mermaid meant, then I wanted no part of it. They could take all these crazy, messed-up changes back to the deep, where they’d come from.
You don’t really want that. Think of what you can do with all that power.
The voice was crafty, cunning as it slipped inside of me, and quiet—so quiet that I barely noticed it as I pulled my knees into my chest and brooded.
You need to accept the gift, accept yourself. Being mermaid is not a curse but a wonderful, incomparable gift.
Yeah, right. Some gift.
Don’t mock me. The wind slammed into me with much more force than it had before and too late I remembered Kona’s warning. Don’t go down to the beach at night, Tempest.
A sly, sharp laugh sounded in my head and that’s when I finally realized something wasn’t right—just a little too late.
I started to climb to my feet, but the wind slapped against me, hard, until I was flat on my back in the cold, wet sand.
I struggled to sit up, but I couldn’t. Something was holding me down, pressing me deeper into the sand despite the incredible strength I felt coursing through my body. Suddenly the vicious rivalry between Mark and Kona didn’t feel so bad. Even the glowing was okay.
Anything had to be better than this.
The wind kicked up another notch, or twelve. It wound itself around my wrists and ankles, manacling me in place even as I told myself it wasn’t possible. Wind was intangible—it couldn’t touch me, couldn’t hold me down. This had to be some kind of hallucination—maybe someone had spiked the party punch.
I mean, this couldn’t really be happening.
Only it was.
I strained against the invisible bonds, yanked and pulled and cursed as I tried to get free. Nothing worked.
Forcing myself to be calm when everything inside of me wanted to freak out, I attempted to reason with myself. Whatever this was, whoever was doing it, couldn’t keep it up forever. Eventually daylight—and people—would come. While the idea of being trapped on the beach for the rest of the night wasn’t a pleasant one, it wasn’t the first time I’d spent a night next to the water.
Of course, judging from the way things had been going lately, it might very well be my last.
Taking a few deep breaths, I tried to relax. To stop fighting. To just go with the flow. I could do this. I could lie here, for hours if I had to. Eventually I would be free again and when I was … When I was, there would be hell to pay. I would find a way to make sure of it. The thought cheered me up for a second as I imagined my revenge against whatever was doing this to me.
And then I felt the water tickle my toes.
It was such a normal feeling, one I was so intimately acquainted with that it took me a second to realize what was happening. When I did, alarm slammed through me—so intense it made everything I’d felt before seem like a small child’s fit. Instinctively I tried to sit up and once again the invisible restraints kept me in place.
The water was around my ankles now, lapping at me. Toying with me. High tide had been hours ago, so whatever was making the water rise had to be coming from her.
But how far up the beach would it get? How deep would it be?
Craning my head, I narrowed my eyes and strained to see what was going on. To understand what was happening, even though deep inside, I already knew.
That one look confirmed my worst fears and had alarm turning to terror so deep that for a minute I couldn’t think. Couldn’t feel. Couldn’t do anything but ineffectually thrash against my bonds in an animal’s headlong struggle for flight. For the first time I understood why a wolf would chew off its own foot rather than stay captive. If I could have reached mine, I might very well have done the same thing.
The water was rising—quickly—and I was trussed up like Andromeda, waiting for Poseidon’s sea monster to devour me. Only in this case, the ocean itself was my monster.