I stared up at the bright Moon, wondering what it must be like to be so far away from the cold, clutching embrace of the water. Up there in the vast empty sky, she must be so free, unlike me, confined to this tank. I’ve been trapped here against my will for about 40 years now. I watched the human who trapped me grow old and weary. His once handsome face was now scarred deeply with the telltale signs of ageing. He was going to die, I could see the dark tendrils of Death wrap around his body. But they were invisible to the eyes of mortals. I took some solace in this knowledge, that any day now he would drop dead and succumb to the fate that awaited all mortals. Maybe then I’ll be able to return to my sisters.
The man coaxed me out of my home years ago with his sweet, empty words. How naive I was to believe him, to think that he truly loved me the way I had once loved him. When we returned to his home, I thought that we would start our new life as husband and wife. We shared a simple meal in his home and that night I gave myself to him. We were connected body and soul. I should have known better. I should have listened to the words of my mother: that mortals were cruel, selfish beings that had no love for nature and her beauties. The next morning I awoke to find myself encased in a prison made of glass. It was filled with fresh water from the pond. Standing in front of me was my lover, a cold, cruel look in his eye. He sneered and said to me that I was going to be a betrothal gift to the princess of this land. He was going to use me to buy her hand in marriage. My heart, which was once full of love, shattered into a million tiny pieces.
The man brought me to his new bride. She stared at me in amusement, like I was a strange beast brought to entertain her. She was pretty, in the way mortals were. Pretty but plain, her beauty could not compare to that bestowed by nature to her creatures, and if she were a nymph she would have been ridiculed for being so boring. But the stars must have blessed her for she was born a mortal, and by their standards, she was indeed a beautiful maiden. Her father, the king, approved of me as a gift and agreed to marry the princess to my lover. He then instructed I be moved to the garden. I was to be the main display for any royals who visited. I was to become a symbol of the love shared between the princess and her new husband. And that is where I stood for the last 40 years. Watching the love grow between princess and prince. Seeing the products of their love run around the garden tapping against my glass prison. All I could do was stand and watch them.
Every night I threw myself against the glass, trying to break free from my prison but it was of no use. The glass was enchanted by a witch long before my imprisonment and I did not have the strength to break the spell. And so I began to weep, every day for the last 40 years. At first, the tears were for my broken heart and lost love, but then the tears I shed were for my sisters and the home I lost. And every night, I stared up at the Moon, wishing to be free from my prison. In some weird way, the Moon in all her radiance had become my friend. I whispered to her the thoughts that occupied my mind and even though she said nothing back to me, I believed that she was listening to me.
And then the day finally came. He finally died. From what I could discern from the other mortals he had dropped dead in the middle of breakfast. I imagined his head slamming down into the food in front of him and giggled slightly. For the first time since I was brought to this place, I felt a small spark of happiness. Maybe now they’ll release me and I’ll be able to return to my home. It’s been so long since I could swim in a big open lake. I doubt I’ll be able to keep up with my sisters anymore, my limbs have been trapped in this small space for so long they’ve become so weak. I know my time in captivity has changed me too, my skin once a bright, vibrant blue was now a sickly green colour. That didn’t concern me though, I was going to be free soon, I just knew it. What reason would the mortals have for keeping me?
I was wrong. The selfishness of mortals knows no bounds. A day after my joyous morning the princess stood before my cage. She too has felt the lingering effects of time and the dull, black clothes she wore did nothing to enhance the little beauty she had. The princess had clearly been crying, her eyes were red and puffy. She stared at me and the words that escaped her lips hit crushed the last remnants of my heart into a fine powder. She ordered the guards to move me from where I stood in the garden, the princess did not need a reminder of her lost love. I screamed and cried and threw myself against the glass begging the princess to let me be free. She just turned her back to me and walked away, her shoulders shaking with fresh sobs.
I don’t know where they moved me. Now darkness surrounds me, from the damp smell I knew that I had been placed underground somewhere. So deep beneath the earth that the Moon, my only companion, was nowhere to be seen. I still spoke to her, even though I could not see her. I told her how scared I was, how much I wanted to be free, and how much I missed her.
Hours passed, then days, then weeks, maybe even months. I lost track of time after the 3rd week of living in total darkness. The water in my tank tasted faintly of iron. If I could see I would guess that the once clear water was now a murky black, the colour of my blood. On the fifth night of living here, I tried to claw through the glass. I scratched and I scratched until my fingers started to bleed and my nails fell off. I kept clawing at the glass until the pain grew unbearable and I allowed myself to sink to the bottom of the tank. At that moment I just knew that I was never leaving this place, and my tank would eventually become my tomb.
As more time passed the humans stopped coming to feed me or replenish the water in the tank. My despair only grew as I watched the water level drop a little more each day. How much time did I have left? I had no idea. You see the thing about nymphs that make us so magical is this if we are in the water we are practically immortal. Without water though our skin will start to dry and our blood and bones will turn to dust. It was a terrible fate that no creature deserved to endure but I knew that the mortals would not care. I stopped attacking the glass, trying to find a little comfort in my position.
The darkness and silence became comforting over time, I still wished I could see the Moon but I still spoke to her. Telling her how I had come to terms with my fate and that all I wanted was to see her once last time before I crumbled away. I’m growing weaker, the water only comes up to my ankles now. My lips are dry and cracked, my skin has started to flake away in large patches. Even my muscles have to ache, they feel unnaturally stiff as though they are made out of stone. I just lay at the bottom of the tank, telling the Moon tales of my childhood, how my sisters and I would chase each other around the lake much to the amusement of the older nymphs.
I am so tired. My bones feel so brittle and the ringing in my head grows louder and louder. The water is all gone now. It’s all dried up and soon I will follow suit. I know it’s happening. My hair has fallen out in clumps, I can hardly move my legs anymore and when I do try to move them, it sends shooting pain up my brittle bones. I can’t even cry out anymore, it takes too much effort. I am just so tired, I can barely keep my eyes open anymore. Sighing, I just shut my eyes and welcome the darkness like an old friend.
The darkness was disrupted suddenly by a bright light. The light was so bright that it pierced my eyelids and forced me to open my eyes. It hurt, my eyes had grown so used to the darkness that the light hurt me. After they got used to the light that now filled the room I was trapped in, I saw who was standing in front of my tank. A woman, so ethereal she was radiating light. She was so beautiful, her hair was silver and nearly grazed the stone floor, her eyes were all light, I couldn’t make out her irises, and her features were so perfect she must have been carved out of marble. She wore pale blue robes, which contrasted her deep, ebony skin. Atop her head, was a circlet of stars. The woman stared at me, a smile playing on her lips. When our eyes met I knew who she was, she was the Moon, she had come to see me. My sole companion since my captivity started. I felt fresh tears spring to my eyes, and a renewed strength flowed through my bones. Shakily I stood to face her, I reached out to touch the glass only to find nothing there. The glass had disappeared, I was so confused. For decades the glass had trapped me and now it was just gone, the Moon just smiled at me and held out a hand. Without any hesitation, I reached out and grabbed her hand, holding it like a lifeline. She pulled me into an embrace and as she held me in her arms, I felt the effects of my capture wash away. The exhaustion that filled my body disappeared and I felt a new strength in me. I felt healthy and for the first time since I had been tricked and trapped here, I felt happy.
The Moon said nothing, she didn’t need to speak. I knew why she was here, she was going to take me away from this place and give me the freedom I had asked for. So when she pulled away from our tight embrace and raised an eyebrow quizzically at me, I nodded. I told her I trusted her and wanted to be as far away from this place as possible. Beaming at me, she took me into her arms and the light she emitted grew brighter and brighter. I shut my eyes from the blinding light and felt a strange feeling of weightlessness. When I opened my eyes again I gasped, I was so far away from the ground. The Moon was still holding me, but I knew when she let go I would be ok. She had brought me to her home, among the stars. I let out a cry of happiness and knew I was finally free. Spreading my arms I found that I was able to float and laughed joyfully. My one companion was now my saviour and I was ready to spend the eternity with her high up away from the ground. Away from the cold, suffocating hold of my tank, I was finally free.
Hello readers, thank you for taking the time to read this short story. I stumbled upon a writing prompt about writing a story based on a water-based mythological creature and found myself inspired to write this. It’s actually the first work of fiction I’m sharing here so I hope you enjoyed reading it, though I would love to hear your feedback if you have any!