"I still don't think we can trust her." Rikki insisted, slapping the water with her tail. "What if this is like Charlotte all over again?"
"I think she's nice." Bella said.
"Yeah, and remember when Bella first came to town?" Cleo reminded Rikki. "You didn't trust her at first, and now look at us."
"I don't know...there's just something off about her." Rikki said.
"She invited me for a swim later, so I'll try to find out more about her. I'll prove she's trustworthy." Cleo said.
Rikki sighed and submerged, swimming through the underwater Moon Pool tunnel to go work a shift at the cafe.
"I've got to go, too. I wish I could swim with you guys." Bella said. "You two should come to Rikki's later on, I'll be singing!"
"Okay, I will." Cleo said. "See you." Bella swam off, too.
The girls had been having yet another intense discussion about the newest mermaid on the Gold Coast, Ursula. Rikki had met her first when they swam into each other by the reef. Cleo and Bella met her later on land. Ursula was a bit weird and sort of shy, but she was nice enough. Rikki didn't trust her, though.
Cleo didn't know much about Ursula, so she was hoping that the new girl would open up more after their swim today. She didn't even know where Ursula came from! Maybe she transformed in a Moon Pool other than the Ireland one and the Mako one. There were probably Moon Pools all over the world, and dozens of more mermaids to meet. The idea that she wasn't alone was very comforting to Cleo.
She hummed by herself for a few minutes before Ursula swam into the pool. Her dark brown hair looked inky black because of the water. She had very pale skin and dark brown eyes. Her tail was orange, just like Cleo and her friends', and she also had a necklace that she wore everyday. It was a small shell with intricate designs on it.
"Hello." she smiled at Cleo. "Ready to go?"
"Yep!" Cleo exclaimed excitedly. "Have you seen the reefs yet? They're beautiful this time of year."
"Actually, I was hoping to go to the other side of the island." Ursula replied. "If you don't mind."
"We can go there, but it can be dangerous. It's a shark breeding ground. We should be safe if there's two of us..." Cleo frowned, remembering the time she went to the shark-infested waters. "We can always use our powers on sharks if they bother us."
"Powers?" Ursula perked up. "You have powers?"
"Yes...don't you?" Cleo frowned. Every mermaid she'd met had some sort of power over water. She'd just assumed that Ursula did, too.
"No. What sort of powers? You mean like swimming really fast?" the other mermaid asked.
"No, not exactly. Bella, Rikki, and I each have a different power over water. Bella can turn it into a jelly-like substance. Rikki can boil water, and I can make it into shapes and stuff. Another mermaid who transformed with Rikki and I, named Emma, could freeze water." Cleo explained. She raised her hand and directed it at a patch of water in the Moon Pool, using her power to raise the water into a perfect sphere.
"Woah." Ursula said, intrigued. She raised her hand and imitated the hand motion that Cleo had used. "Do you think I can do that?"
"Maybe. You might have a power and you just never found out about it. Each power needs a different hand motion to activate it. Maybe later the other girls can show you their powers and we'll try to find out if you have one." Cleo said. She didn't want to patronize the new girl and make her feel bad, so she tried to get away from the topic of powers after that.
The two girls talked a little bit more before swimming out of the pool. Cleo learned that Ursula had grown up in Hawaii, and found a Moon Pool very similar to the one on Mako Island. It was also inside of a dormant volcano. But there was no land entrance and the only way to get inside was through the long underwater passageway, which she had found while scuba diving one night.
Ursula and Cleo swam at a fast, steady pace to the other side of the island. As they went on, they saw fewer and fewer fish and more and more sharks. They swam around and looked at them for a while before surfacing to talk some more.
Ursula pushed her dark hair out of her eyes and had a sad look on her face. "Cleo, thanks for being so nice to me. It hasn't always been this way whenever I've met other groups of mermaids in the past."
Cleo smiled gently. "No problem! I think we're all going to be good friends."
She smiled back. "I'm not so sure about that. You see, I'm leaving town in a few days. And I kind of lied to you about one thing."
"Oh?" Cleo asked.
"I do have a power. Only, it wasn't given to me when I transformed. I acquired mine on my own. You see, I'm not just a mermaid. I didn't find that Moon Pool on accident. I'm also a witch." Ursula began.
Cleo didn't know what to say. "A good witch or a bad witch?" she joked.
"That depends on your perspective. Anyway, I transformed and I didn't receive a power over water like I'd expected. That made me pretty angry. So I created this," she grabbed her shell necklace, "as a way of getting a power."
"I don't understand..." Cleo said. A shark swam past her, brushing the bottom of her tail. She shivered. She wasn't really afraid of sharks, but they still made her nervous.
Ursula rolled her eyes. "I'm a witch. I put a spell on this shell so that it can hold mermaid powers and I can use them if I'm wearing it. I don't have powers, but I can take them from others. See what I'm saying?"
Cleo frowned. She was getting a bad, bad vibe from this. She turned away from the creepy new mermaid and dove beneath the surface. She was just about to begin speed-swimming when she slammed into an invisible wall in the water. Well, it wasn't exactly invisible. It was made out of hardened water.
Cleo surfaced and gasped. She was completely surrounded by a water wall. "You stole Bella's power!" she accused.
"No, I didn't. That one came from a different mermaid in Japan. I have three powers right now. Freezing, heating, and hardening. But I don't have yours..." she smiled. "Yet."
Cleo began shoving her body against the hard walls, but they were too thick to break. She then tried using her power on them, which also didn't work. She was forced to watch helplessly as Ursula held her shell necklace and began to sing in a strange, high-pitched voice. The words weren't English. She wasn't even sure if it was a real language.
Ursula finished singing and Cleo's tail began to disappear. It happened slowly, the scales receding into her skin, the fins separating into legs and toes. Cleo's clothes reappeared and were immediately soaked by the seawater. They were heavy and started to drag her down. Cleo had to move her arms to stay afloat. What used to be a beautiful golden tail was now just her regular legs.
Ursula smiled and made the water walls melt back into the ocean. The waves hit her and Cleo gasped. She couldn't hold her breath the way she used to, either. Her powers had been stolen.
"It was nice to meet you, Cleo." the sea witch smirked at her. "Sorry about this...but it's necessary. Talk to you never."
Cleo wanted to scream, to yell or even to swear at the mermaid who stole her powers. But when she opened her mouth...nothing came out. Cleo clutched her throat. Her voice was gone. Ursula had stolen that, too.
And now Cleo was powerless, treading water hundreds of meters from shore in shark-infested waters.
She wasn't sure how many hours it took, but Cleo finally reached the shore of Mako Island. She kissed the ground and immediately regretted it, but the feeling of sand on her lips was so, so sweet after she'd been choking on salt water all day.
She collapsed on the beach, completely exhausted. Swimming had never made her this tired before. She was certain that she wouldn't have been able to make it to shore if it hadn't been for the adrenaline pumping through her, the terror caused by the fact that at any moment a shark could decide that she looked tastier than a fish.
Eventually Cleo wrenched the water out of her clothes and stood up. Her legs felt like jelly, and her shoulders were sore from paddling. She tried to call for help, but once again, not a sound came out of her mouth.
Cleo was certain that if she climbed the volcano to the land entrance to the Moon Pool and waited, one of her friends would come along eventually to rescue her. But would it be soon enough? Cleo needed to get back to the mainland and warn her friends before Ursula could hurt them, too.
But Ursula had told her that she had already stolen powers from mermaids who had Bella and Rikki's powers. Did that mean that now that she had Cleo's power, she would leave town? If that was the case, Cleo would never get her power back. She would be voiceless and tailless forever.
Cleo pulled her phone out of her drenched pant pocket and attempted to turn it on. The screen stayed black. She groaned and threw it into the sand.
She attempted to walk but nearly fell over from the effort. She was well and truly exhausted. She sat down again to rest and tried to think of a plan.
The first step would be to get away from this side of the island. No one passed by here, not fishermen, not her friends, and not any boats. The thought of walking all the way around Mako wasn't appealing, but neither was the thought of Ursula getting away with what she'd done to Cleo.
Once she started walking, she felt stronger. It was a hot day out and so she often walked with her feet in the water to stay cool. She wished she had some water. Her throat was aching from all the salt water she'd swallowed.
Cleo nearly screamed with joy—not that any sound would have come out—when she rounded a corner and saw a familiar boat being staked to the shore. Lewis!
Cleo started running and waving her arms, wishing for the millionth time that she could speak. She had no idea how she would explain this to Lewis without her voice.
Finally, Lewis noticed her and he climbed out of the boat. "Cleo!" he called. "Where have you been? I thought we were meeting at two."
Cleo ran to him and tried to motion to him that she couldn't speak.
"Oh my God, Cleo, are you choking? Do you need me to do the Heimlich?" Lewis asked with eyes full of panic.
Cleo shook her head and again attempted to tell him she'd lost her voice. It was hard. Lewis had never been good at charades.
With an exasperated sigh, Cleo went to Lewis' boat and found his phone. She typed in his password, which she'd known for months, and went to the notes section. There she typed:
I lost my voice. I think the other girls are in danger. We have to go.
Of course, her hands were shaking and she was typing as quickly as she could so there were probably several typos, but Lewis got the message. They got into his boat and sped off. Lewis gave her a towel to put over herself, which she usually did when she was in a boat to protect herself from the sea spray, but now there was no need. Cleo dipped her hand in the ocean and demonstrated to Lewis that she had lost her tail. Lewis was dumb-struck and full of questions, but of course, Cleo couldn't answer them. She used Lewis' phone to type out an explanation of what had happened. By the end of her story, they had reached shore. She gave the phone to Lewis to read and ran to the cafe, where she figured the other girls would be.
Cleo pushed aside the beaded curtain that hung in the doorway of Rikki and Zane's cafe, which they had reopened about a month earlier, and frantically searched for her friends. They were occupying a circular booth in the corner, and they weren't alone. Ursula was sitting across from them, directly facing Cleo.
She tried to hide before the witch saw her, but it was already too late. Ursula wore an expression of complete surprise. The black-haired girl stood up and rushed over to Cleo. They proceeded to play an almost child-like game of tag, weaving around the tables trying to avoid or catch the other. Cleo tried to reach her friends but every time she came close, Ursula was right there. She had no choice but to get physical.
With all the strength she had left, Cleo shoved the shorter girl into the nearest empty table and ran up to her friends. They clearly had no idea what was happening.
"Cleo!" Bella exclaimed. She stood up and attempted to help Ursula, but Cleo wouldn't let her get near the evil mermaid. She shook her head and used every motion she could think of to get her friends' attention. They barely paid her any attention, instead focusing on Ursula, who was now bleeding from a broken glass she'd fallen on.
Cleo ran to the counter and grabbed a napkin and a pen. She began furiously writing down everything that had happened to her, tearing the thin napkin so many times that it was barely legible. She handed it to a very bewildered Rikki, who started to squint at it.
"Cleo, what is this? Why won't you tell us what's going on?" Rikki asked, throwing the napkin aside when she couldn't read it.
"I know what's wrong with Cleo, I'm sorry I didn't tell you earlier." Ursula said in a disgustingly calm tone. She played the perfect victim role, keeping her eyes downcast and pressing a napkin to her bleeding arm. "We got in a, erm, very heated argument while we were swimming earlier. She lost her voice from yelling at me. I tried to tell her that I had to leave town, but she didn't want me to go." Ursula smiled sheepishly at Cleo. "She felt like I, I don't know, betrayed her or something.
"Aww, Cleo…" Bella said. "If she has to leave, you have to let her go. We'll meet other mermaids someday."
Cleo wanted to cry with frustration. Couldn't they see how furious she was?!
When Rikki and Bella weren't looking, Ursula looked Cleo in the eye and winked at her. "I better go and pack now. It's been great meeting you all. I'll miss you! Hope to see you again someday." She said cheerfully. Her necklace glinted in the sunlight.
It was now or never, Cleo knew. Ursula was already walking away. With a silent grunt of effort, Cleo launched herself at the smaller girl, successfully tackling her to the ground. Many of the customers screamed or ran out of the restaurant, but she didn't care.
"Ah! Cleo, get off of me!" Ursula shrieked. Cleo grabbed her hair and pulled as hard as she could. She obviously wasn't much of a fist-fighter, but hair-pulling was just as effective as giving someone a black eye. "You psycho!"
Rikki tried to grab her arm and stop the fight, but Cleo pulled away from her. She didn't know exactly what she was doing, but her fingers found the chain around Ursula's throat and she pulled until it broke. The shell shattered in her hands and finally, finally, Cleo's voice seemed to work again.
Ursula opened her mouth to scream…but nothing came out. Her hands frantically searched for the necklace that was no longer secured around her throat.
Bella and Rikki—not to mention all of the random strangers in the café—were both very, very confused.
Cleo screamed with happy excitement. "My voice is back!"
Ursula opened her mouth and again, nothing came out. Cleo smiled and took her hands off of the girl.
"What the hell is going on? You're driving all my customers away!" Rikki hissed at her.
She was about to suggest that they all go somewhere private to talk about it when Lewis ran inside, breathless and sweaty.
"Rikki…Cleo…she…Ursula…" he panted, running over to them.
"It's okay Lewis. I can explain now." Cleo told him.
"Your voice…" he said with surprise. "It's back! Man, I need to work out more."
"Can you please explain what just happened here?" Bella asked anxiously.
Cleo pulled them all—including Ursula—into the back room and told them her story. By the end of it, Rikki and Bella had inched away from the no-longer-mermaid and were sending her accusatory glances.
"What should we do with her?" Rikki asked, referring to Ursula.
"She definitely doesn't have any mermaid powers anymore." Cleo said. "But she might still be a witch." She lowered her voice. "What if she finds another mermaid and starts stealing powers again?"
"Without a voice, I don't think she'd be able to say the spell." Bella said logically.
"Let's take her to the Marine Park shark exhibit." Rikki suggested. "During feeding time."
"Rikki!" Bella exclaimed.
"She's virtually harmless now." Lewis said. "Maybe we should just…let her go?"
Cleo shrugged. Ursula had put her in a life-threatening situation, but she didn't have the heart to wish the girl any serious harm. "I guess."
"Oh, fine." Rikki rolled her eyes and stalked over to Ursula. "You heard us. Now scram."
Silently, the witch cast her eyes down and scampered out of the office, hopefully to never be seen again.
From that day on, mermaids from all around the world discovered that their tails, powers, and voices had been returned to them. And they all lived happily ever after.
Cheesy ending, I know, but I couldn't resist! I hope you liked this chapter, it's inspired by The Little Mermaid (mostly by the Disney version). I feel like I haven't posted anything on here in ages so I wanted to upload a little teaser as to what this series will be about! I have a few other chapters written and a lot more planned, so I'll try to upload soon! Let me know what you think of this chapter and what other fairy tales you'd like to see a one-shot of. Thanks for reading x