“What are you?” Mochi asked, staring at the creature he’d found.
He liked walking along the beach. It tended to clear his mind from thoughts of papers due, dumb professors, and dumber friends. But this was an unexpected distraction - a man with teal hair and a teal tail in place of legs, sunning himself on a rock.
“What does it look like I am?” the man answered snappishly. His tail flicked in the water, tossing droplets into the air to spatter across his (very nice, Mochi noticed distractedly) body. “A b’tulat ha’yam. Do you not know one of us when you see one?”
“A- I can’t pronounce that.” Mochi shook his head. “Uh, we call you mermen. Assuming you are a mermaid.”
“You just called me two different things,” the merman pointed out. “Which is it? Merman, or mermaid?”
Mochi shook his head to try and clear it. The merman was still there “Merman for guys, mermaid for girls and the entire species?” This felt surreal. “Wait, wait. Aren’t you supposed to be singing to me or something? Trying to lure me in and eat me?”
“I am full,” the merman said with such blitheness that Mochi stumbled back in shock. Then the merman laughed. “No. We do not eat humans. You have odd myths about us, no? Singing is a good way to communicate underwater. Tunes carry better than words.”
“I… Okay.” This still felt like a dream. Mochi pinched himself. It hurt. The merman tilted his head.
“What are you doing?”
“Are you real?” Mochi asked. The merman flicked his tail once more, sending another glittering shower of water over himself.
“I tire of your inane questions, anoshi. Yes. I am real. Why are you still bothering me?”
“Just curious.” Mochi stared for a moment more, taking in the way his hair and tail matched in shimmering blue, his pale skin and well-defined muscles. “Um. So… I’m Ain, but my friends call me Mochi. What’s your name?”
“My name is not important to the likes of you. But my title among my people is Armae Tzaumautorgie.”
Shit. Mochi knew he was going to butcher that name. “Arme… Thaumaturgy?”
“Close enough.” The mermaid smiled, revealing sharp teeth. “You are a curious creature, if slightly banal. I shall see you again tomorrow at this time.”
And before Mochi could protest, the merman was gone, sliding back into the sea. Only a disappearing ripple in the wave-broken water showed he was there at all.
Mochi sighed and rubbed the back of his neck, already wondering if he’d imagined the entire encounter.
“Arme Thaumaturgy,” he repeated. “Arme. Guess I should come back tomorrow and check if this was all real.”
Take a moment and think about mermaids. Think about mermaid who live in the waters of Hawaii, with eyelashes made of sea-foam and tails the color of the sun. Think about mermaids sitting on the bottom of the ocean, watching the surfers above them in fascination and pointing out the patterns and designs on the bottom of their boards like children pointing out stars.
Think about mermaids in the Mediterranean being able to ‘speak human’ but they can only speak the dead languages. Think about Mediterranean mermaids still following old trade routes that ships from thousands of years followed to get from one place to the next.
Think about mermaids from the deep sea, odd colors illuminating off of their skin and tails. Think about them with skin nearly transparent and eerie smiles of teeth like needles and claws. Think about deep sea mermaids with bioluminescent tails three times the length of man.
Think about mermaids the size of whales, their upper body seeming like that of giant. Think about these mermaids swimming in large pods and helping out the smaller mermaids, fascinated by their loose, feathery tails in contrast to their relatively short stiff ones. Think about these mermaids trying to copy the smaller mermaid’s swimming patterns with quick flicks of their tails and instead sending a large splash at a nearby boat.
Think about mermaids in the tropics, with fancy fins that seem to ripple and blow in the current, creating illusions of movement to people above. Think about mermaids with fins that look like feathers who like to jump out of the water as if they’re flying before diving back into the sea in giggles. Think about topical mermaids with tails that reflect the colors of the sky and color the ocean with colors that people never thought the ocean could turn.
Think about mermaids in rivers who slither across the floor of the water like snakes and pinch at peoples toes like crayfish. Think about these mermaids living by huge waterfalls, the ones with dams built over them having long since been abandoned in favor for some other point of the river, even if it isn’t a traditional waterfall home. Think about river mermaids meeting with river spirits and nymphs and discussing daily events while listening to motorboats jet past above them.
Think about mermaids who live in creeks made from inland glacial melt in places like Glacier. Think about them sitting contentedly under a long thin waterfall, watching as cars march across the windy road far far above. Think about them writing messages on the cliff walls with the rocks from the bottom of their creeks. Think about them with short but pliable tails that they use to flit over rapids and jump playfully over bridges surpassing their domain.
Think about mermaids who live in streams of glacial melt in places like Greenland. Think about them being able to watch the stars above them in fascination through the clear blue water. Think about them dodging through the inside of large icy glaciers, sleeping on thick sheets of ice that seem to just barely be holding onto the glacier but which their family has slept on for years. Think about them with tails so blue that they seem to glow even when they’re twenty feet underwater, a melody of pastels.
Think about mermaids in the far north, with eyelashes frosted over and lips as blue as the water around them. Think about mermaids in the far north with tails of dark blues, purples and silvers. Imagine them breaking through the ice whenever their waters freeze over and rolling around the top of it in jest, laughing as they skid and slide across the ice. Think about mermaids in the far north who speak in tongues to trolls who live in caves in cliff-faces.
Think about mermaids in the north so old they remember vikings and teach the young Old Norse, believing it to still be the language of the people in the region. Think of mermaids in the Mediterranean that remember the epics that they heard rhapsodes sing of back in the fifth century.
Think about jellyfish mermaids with trailing tentacles instead of tails. Think about them with large umbrella-shaped bells wrapped around their waists like skirts. Think about these mermaids using their tentacles to jokingly sting each other, but never going towards a fish-mermaid in fear of stinging them. Think about jellyfish mermaids with bioluminescent bells and skin with patterns and designs unique to each one of them.
Think about mermaids who live in lava. Because, you know, why not? Think about them with tails of liquid precious metals. Mermaids with tails of liquid gold, nickel, diamonds, and obsidian; their tails not having a definite form and bits and pieces of them flying out into the lava. Think about their tails solidifying as soon as they make contact with water, pulling them down to the bottom of the ocean where they’re forced to live until they die. Think about them daring each other to flip their tails out into the air, seeing who can stay out of the lava the longest and not have their tails solidify.
Think about space mermaids. Think about mermaids who live in the seas of Titan, living in a sea of methane and ethane while watching the thick orange clouds circle above their heads. Think about mermaids on Enceladus, living deep in the interior next to the warm water. Think about adventurous mermaids swimming up into the cooler waters to try to see the ice fountains on the planet’s icy surface, most of them being sucked out and launched into space.
Think about mermaids on Europa. Think about them living in the ocean between the icy surface and the rocky interior. Think about the mermaids grabbing rocks from the interior and scratching long lines across the surface so as to play games and replicate the linear fractures on the surface. Think about these mermaids who live in the deep black darkness of the ocean, but swim up to the thinner parts of the ice sheet of the planet to watch the stars and galaxies light up around them when they aren’t facing Jupiter. Think about these mermaids having different constellations that they point out to others, different myths based off of them and how they arrived in the sky.
Merpeople are beautiful, of course, but not by conventional human standards, and they are varied by their habitats! Those that live on the reefs are small and brightly colored, like the fish that live there. The merfolk that live in the vast deep abyss of the oceans are long, slender eldritch horrors with bioluminescent markings to stupify their prey… all the more easy to snatch them up in their long claws and needle like teeth. Those that live in the freezing seas are chubby with blubber, and are as pale as the snowy glaciers and icebergs around them. All these creatures are as lovely, terrible, and otherworldly as the oceans they inhabit. None to be underestimated.