So I’m not sure how awake I was when I came up with this last night - it feels like a dream, but I’m pretty sure I was at least semi-awake because I doubt my subconscious could produce something this coherent and complete on its own.
But I dreamed that the crew of a researcher boat somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico FREAKS OUT when clawed, webbed hands claw their way on deck and this merman half-hauls himself onto the boat. He’s clearly a deep-sea creature, all white and half-translucent with splotches of red on the tail. Bug eyes. Long stringy white hair, gills, scars. Vaguely sickly and emaciated. And he starts shouting at the crew in what they eventually realize is Old Norse.
And through the power of social media and dream logic they manage to fly a professor from one of the local colleges out who can speak Old Norse in a matter of hours. Meanwhile the merman is fending off / calming his school of ladies who are making quite literal distressed whale noises (unlike him, the human halves of the mermaids look perfectly human - apart from the webbed clawed hands and the gills and that thing where they can distend their jaws like an eel and HO SHIT THAT’S TOO MANY ROWS OF TEETH WHAT THE FUCK)
“UM” says the professor. “How can you speak? Why Old Norse?”
And the merman very politely says that he used to be a human, duh, he was a viking, what do you think?
“A viking off the coast of Florida?”
“No, that’s my point,” the merman says, “I was based off the New England coast but I had to transplant south because the school here needed a male. Though if you’re surprised, the other merman in the gulf is much younger than me and his human language sounds more…Norman? He says his name is Ponce.”
*distant sound of historians screaming*
“Yes,” says our viking merman, “so here’s the problem - there are no natural male merpeople. They don’t exist. All the fry are female. See, the ladies don’t just drag men down to EAT them. We can live just fine off tuna or giant squid - “ he gestures to giant sucker scars lining his arms ”- but…"
“Every once in a while they’ll catch a man who has a… predisposition” (the merman is like 900 years old and doesn’t know the word ‘gene’) “who is or could be a witch or shaman or seer, like I was, and they, ah, change them.” He gestures at himself.
“We stay in the deep and we breed and we care for the clutch, which is important, because mermaid fry are so fragile, their skin is so thin and sometimes either their lungs or their gills don’t work right, or they can’t deal with the water pressure or regulate their temperature - there are so many deformities that we clutch eggs like octopi and just hope that one survives.”
(And what the merman cannot explain is that these non-valid fry are fusings of fish and human without the required secondary powers. Without the MAGIC. That humans and mermaids share a gene that in humans expresses itself as a sensitivity to magic and ability to be transmuted, and in mermaids this same sensitivity carries with it the ability to survive beyond the egg)
“But the past one or two hundred years have been terrible,“ says the viking merman. "We had a feeding frenzy when you were founding your colonies, but now it’s just… dry. There are so few men left because of your new ships that are so hard to tempt onto shoals, and even when ships do wreck the ladies usually aren’t there, and almost no one gets swept overboard anymore and diving gear is too hard to deal with. We need more men. We’re dying. So I’m politely asking if every now and again you could dump a few prisoners into the ocean for us?
*distant sound of humans everywhere just SCREAMING*
And the natural progression of this is tours in glass-bottom boats, where the tourists are strapped in to prevent them from leaping overboard when the mermaids come up to sing. The crew are all women, most of them deaf, so the singing has no power over them.
(They teach a few of the mermaids sign language, since unlike the originally-human men their mouths can’t form human speech. One of them learns how to use an underwater camera)
And every once in a while, if the tourists are particularly annoying, the crew flips the switch that chucks them overboard. And the merpeople are happy.
And all is right with the world.