The rock that I clung so desperately to had become both my salvation and bane.
Too frightened to leave it and take my chance with the sea, it served as my anchor to life.
Three long days and nights I had grasped to that seaweed encrusted, solitary lump of land.
The remains of my ship and colleagues, so much detritus on the saline surface, served as a constant reminder to my fate.
The intermittent dorsal fins that glided effortlessly from the dark depths did nothing to help ease my turbulent and progressively more morbid thoughts.
It was on the eve of the fourth night, as the sea became more tempestuous, that I suspected I was losing my mind.
The rain fell upon me without warning glazing the surface of the rock with a substitute ice veneer.
There was no moon, no cloud, just darkness.
Until a strange luminance passed close by to me just below the surface of the agitated sea.
I thought myself insane; this simply could not be!
The supposed lunacy only drove me to hold on all the more tightly as I scrambled to keep clear of the water.
But in my desperation, and despite the sounds of the squall, I dislodged a chunk of rock into the depths, and the luminance heard it!
The colouring stopped its forward momentum and paused, then steadily grew closer and evermore brighter to the stormy surface.
Breaching the waves as one, hundreds of the most beautiful female countenances I could ever imagine shone in unison.
Some tilted their heads to regard me from a different angle, others just ducked immediately back below the surface.
One, eyes the colour of coral despite the darkness, drifted towards me.
A cerulean arm, glowing as it had below the water, reached out to me then recoiled as though stung.
The woman-thing blinked, a nictating membrane rather than eyelid, that blanked her shining eyes and brought an added depth to the night.
A moment later they returned and regarded me with confusion.
The beautiful creature reached to her neck with one crablike claw and one human hand.
She unhooked a shell on a piece of old fishing line that hung close to her perfect skin, and passed it to me in the grip of her pincer.
My trembling hand took the gift as seaweed fell across her face.
The woman smiled, rose higher from the water, propelled by some unseen force, and stooped to kiss me.
The sensation was unlike anything I have, or ever would, feel again.
It seemed like my skin had been brushed by sand as her lips touched my forehead and the scent of the ocean overwhelmed me.
I felt a sudden pain, but could not say from where, it was everywhere and nowhere, all at once.
Then, she turned from me and I saw a tail as of a dolphin breach the water and propel her effortlessly to her waiting kin.
The ensemble vanished as one below the turbulent waves and I was left more alone than ever.
I was found by a merchant ship the very next day.
The sailors later said that I clutched the necklace I had been given so tightly that it had severed the little finger of my left hand.
I know differently.
This was the price I had paid for my rescue and for the gift of life.
Somewhere, far, far away in the darkest corner of the ocean a mermaid was explaining to her father how she came to have a second set of fingers.
This was my gift to her in exchange for my salvation.
Whether I would have done so in retrospect was debatable?
For, as I stand here, about to cast myself into turbid seas, it is not my finger I should seek to regain from the mermaid, as I now know her to be, but my heart.
She stole it from me that tempestuous night and I would endeavour to reclaim it.
Here is as good a place as any to start.
After all, how much ocean can there be?
Image courtesy of deviantart.com & Google images