TATE Caddel had lost everything. He had lost all of his dopamine, all his serotonin and what he believed as most of his life. At age twenty-five he lost his job as a vehicle salesman and with it, they took his company car. As the months progressed, he too lost his home that he rented, a sky-rise studio flat in central London, that was far more expensive than necessary. The cost of living had been rising and so had Tate's dejection. He moved back home to his mother’s house in the suburban South of the city. Further adding to his distress, his old bedroom was exactly how he had left it. Sports memorabilia cluttered the walls, his old desk where he had spent hours over his coursework still sat against one side of the room and his creaky old bed fitted by the window.
It was further into the summer months and the heat had become a sandstorm. He had to turn down a lads holiday with his friends due to a lack of funding and his mother’s consistent fussing was driving him looney. She was far happier to have him home than he expected.
It was a Wednesday morning, and his mother was singing a tune when he entered the kitchen of the family home. It was in the basement and looked like the set of a seventies film. Coloured in effervescent lime greens and unpleasant lemon yellows, the sight made him feel sickly. His mother stood by the sink, cleaning the pans she had just used. Breakfast was waiting on the table, eggs cooked sunny side up with overdone, dark brown sausages and crisp rashers of bacon.
"You're finally up," his mother welcomed, "I was worried I might have to go upstairs to call you down here," she said. She left a tender laugh at the end.
Tate scratched his head and sat down at the table where he usually sat. His mothers plate waited straight ahead of his, he looked at the seat at the head of the table, as usual the space was completely empty.
Tate picked up his fork and knife and muttered no words. He was hardly in the mood for eating, though he couldn't let his mother’s efforts go to waste.
"You're quiet again today, Tate," she observed as she turned from the sink to look at him, "and just where are your manners? You've started without me! Don't tell me you're still worried about losing that job!" His mother bombarded him. She had finished her cleaning and had begun moving to her seat.
Tate felt himself growing tense, there was something uncomfortable about becoming existent. "It wasn't just a job mum," he replied, as she sat down in her seat. She let out a huff of air and began shaking her head with worry.
"Oh Tate, you can find another job easily." She answered in an encouraging tone. Tate let his cutlery fall onto the plate with a loud clang to accompany. He looked as sour as the walls around him.
"Then why has it taken me months mum? I've lost my home, I have no car, I feel like such a failure." Tate uttered, the rising disappointment becoming evident in his tone.
"I feel like you're being too hard on yourself, Tate." His mother replied, she kept her loving smile, completely unphased by his exasperated outburst.
"I feel like you don't understand me at all." Tate declared and he raised quickly from his seat and mounted to his bedroom.
He laid on his bed and began sobbing as he tried to maintain the silence. There were photo frames clearly in his view on the bedside cabinet to his left and the one that he focused on was a family photo containing his father. He couldn't stand to look at it but it was all that he had of him. A hero, they all called his father. He could understand why but some days he thought his father as villainous. Tate had spent so many years in depression and the answer to why his father would never return home was hardly an explanatory peace offering.
A masked burglar had held a young woman by knife point. She had given him her bag but she refused to give him her engagement ring. Tate's father had been walking home late that night, after his shift at a factory warehouse. He was tired but the scene before him had ignited a rush of adrenaline. Without thinking twice, Tate's father had sprung into action and so had the robber. The knife had hit Tate's father in the femoral artery located in his thigh. After the burglar fled, the woman called the ambulance from a payphone, but Tate's father had passed shortly after he entered the ambulance van. His cause of death was hypovolemic shock from blood loss. The police were never able to find the man who murdered Tate's father.
Tate had spent many long dragging years in a relentless cycle, sure his father had performed a valiant deed but there was treachery in leaving a young child in a haunted home and there was abuse for leaving a wife where she could never be held. Tate unlearnt how to sleep, the nights only knew that the man who caused it had never been brought to justice. Tate had finally had enough.
He rose from his bed and turned on the computer on his desk. He searched for affordable places, where he could finally lay his worries to rest. His search found him Dover, a seaside town where the tall white cliffs were the box office gold.
He bought his ticket to leave that same day. It was only twelve in the afternoon when he made his way to the train station. His mother had locked herself away in her bedroom and they made no exchange, she was none the wiser that he had gone for the day.
The train journey was peaceful with hardly any passengers. Tate watched through the window, as the trees and the fields passed in the distance of the train tracks. In those moments he was nothing, he didn't feel the need to be anything. When the train stood at its final destination, Tate finally understood the freedom that came without panic to dwell on. He walked from the station, towards the white cliffs and he approached the pebble beach where there was only a dog walker and a family of three. There was a certain heartbreak within happiness as he walked to the sky-blue sea.
He had thought to climb the cliffs, but he settled on a portion of fish and chips from a nearby stall advertising cockles and whelks on a chalkboard. It was enough adventure for one day already- or so he thought.
When he returned to sit at the beach, he was the only soul there besides the ravenous seagulls who approached him for a bite to eat. As he finished his meal the sun began to gravitate towards the water and abruptly, he heard an enchantingly sweet tune permeating the coast. He turned to look around him but there was no one in sight. The serenade grew louder and it allured Tate to his feet. He examined closer by the cliffs until he stumbled upon a cove where the sound was undoubtedly coming from.
When he entered the cave, the act was waiting there.
Like royal jewels, she sat in a champagne clam, the epitome of beauty. Her skin was like duck feathers and her hair was glistening ruby red. As Tate gradually approached her, he noticed her legs, or lack of them. She had a scaly, glimmering tail, that shone like opals, and she wore an amethyst bra to cover her chest. Her fins made Tate grow apprehensive and he felt to turn around, back to where he came from, but the strange mermaid's smile had caught onto him like fishing rods.
"Please don't go," she said, "I have become so lonely." She continued in a feminine voice that stuck like caramel sweets. Tate inched closer, in his mind he wanted to hear her singing one last time.
"My name is Vanille; I've swam too far from my home under the waters, and I can't find my family." She told him. Tate looked her up and down warily. In all her innocence, she seemed worthy of trust and her story made him feel pitiful.
"I'm sorry Vanille, I'm not sure I can help you. I don't know how to swim and even if I did, I doubt I could go that far," he apprised.
"I didn't think you could, you have feet!" She enthused, while showing off her shimmering fluke. "I've lost hope in finding my mother and father and all of my dear sisters. I have swum through great lengths and still they are hard to detect. Would you just sit with me for a moment? I promise it will make me feel better." She pleaded in a delicate tone. Her words engulfed Tate, she had set flames on him and burned him with desire.
"Would you sing me a song?" He shyly requested. "I've never heard anything quite as captivating," he admitted.
Vanille nodded her head bashfully and ran her fingers through the lengths of her hair. Her eyes were a magnificent mauve, and her lips a flirty, and enthralling fuchsia. Her cheekbones sat high and chiselled and her nose looked a cute button.
"I grieve for my love because I'm stuck here above.
I mourn from my heart, and it's all torn apart.
I am stuck on this land where I can't understand.
Until I find my family, I will be stuck forever in this calamity," she sung.
Tate found no hardship in understanding the misery of her song. He surely understood her tragedy and he felt guilt for not being able to help her. Vanille looked at him and batted her eyelids.
"I suppose you'll be leaving now," she said, she stroked her arm and looked down at the ground.
Tate shrugged his shoulders, he didn't really want to leave her, but his train back home was scheduled to leave in half an hour.
"I'm really sorry I couldn't help you, Vanille. I do have to go." He told her.
Vanille laughed hysterically; tears clouded her eyes leaving Tate in a state of shock.
"Do you really have to?" She questioned. "I'd do anything to have you stay here with me forever," she said in a vixen like tone. Tate gulped and his palms grew sweaty. She was certainly the most beautiful shell he could find on the beach.
"I'm sorry, Vanille. I must go home to my mother," he declined once again. Vanille looked away from him and rested her hands on top of her tail. Tate had begun walking away from her until a familiar voice stopped him dead in his tracks.
"My son, how can you leave a damsel behind in distress? What have I taught you?" He heard his father’s voice. "If you stay here with Vanille, I can stay here forever with you too."
The blood drained from Tate's face and he had become a tree stuck in its roots; he turned around in his place. Vanille was still sitting in the clam, as poised and as still as a statue. His father was nowhere in sight.
"Was that you?" He questioned her with indictment. Vanille shook her head charmingly and giggled.
"Was what me?" She asked innocently. Her voice reverberated through Tate's ears and the shrillness of it scratched at them like needles.
"I'm going home." Tate said, shaking his head from the betrayal.
As he reached the exit of the cove, he felt something sharp digging into his shoulders. It felt like the claws of a bird and it was pulling him backwards. He tried to run but whatever it was clung onto him. He peeked at his shoulder to see what was holding him, in his vision he saw black feathers as dark as onyx stones. He pulled out of its grip and turned around to get a better look. It was Vanille, she was flying with wings and her fins were like razors.
Tate let out a loud scream, he tried to run once more but something had cemented his feet to the ground. The stones of the beach were growing up his legs.
"I can't let you leave, I must take your feet," Vanille sung out in panic, her eyes were deranged, and her feathers were beginning to find their way through cracks in her cheeks. The stones had twisted their way around Tate's knees and they continued to ride up his thighs.
"You will be my friend; I do not wish this to end." She continued her tune in frenzy. As Tate transformed, the pebbles began falling to the ground and with them he fell hard onto his back. He felt different, as though he were partially paralysed from the hips downwards. It was hard to move and there was an agonising sharp shooting from his back. He yelled out in pain and tried to sit up to look at his legs.
He no longer had the bottom half of his limbs. In their place was a squamous gold and taupe mermaids tail. Vanille came closer to him and kissed him with her bright fuchsia lips. As her lips parted from his, he no longer felt the aching from his back.
"Now you're exactly just like me!" Vanille chuckled. "Isn't it great?" She had raved. She sprang to the waters and her head went straight under.
Tate tried to get onto his feet, or what had become his tail, but he couldn't. It was the wings on his back that finally brought him to his height. Flying for the first time was like learning how to walk again, he was nothing as graceful as Vanille. When he turned to exit the cove, he found no opening. He was trapped in the cave, with no way out.
Tate had begun sobbing where the entrance once was. He had no concerns about keeping the mute silence any longer.
The cove had filled with a new clamorous song. It was his mother’s singing from that morning, although, she was not with him to sing it.
It was all he would hear for the rest of his immortal life.