Tuesday, June 30, 2020


Never a man to share the spotlight, Horst backed a tanker truck to a remote tributary of the Rhine. He feared neither his quarry nor the need to hunt at night. His reputation as a myth buster swelled his confidence to the level of bravado. He'd lost count of how many mythical creatures and local legends turned out to be freaks of nature or hoaxes.

Horst used a red light, since red didn't carry far in the dark. He waded through rushes, the sloshing covered by razoring bugs and croaking frogs. With the trap set, he quickly covered the water truck with foliage, ready to receive its denizen of the deep. He scanned the waters with night-vision binoculars.

Mixed opinions assailed him as he breathed the night air. The mermaid lore of this backwater village based itself on something. No manatees could survive here, leading him to suspect a hoax. Tonight, some woman in a mermaid suit was due a reckoning.

Horst gave the child mannikin another tug. He counted on the quarry's maternal instincts when it came to children lost in the dark. The ploy bore fruit faster than he'd hoped; a head broke the surface, leaving a smooth wake as it approached. Whoever it was didn't use arm strokes, but rather flippers or some kind of suit.

Now it rose to waist height, an astonishing semblance of the real thing. Was it possible? Greenish scales gradually faded to pale flesh at the sternum. Dark hair sported garlands of aquatic growth. By the time the net enveloped her, Horst knew he'd made the catch of the ages. He dragged the struggling bundle close to the bank.

A hand shot out to grip his throat. A force compelled him to cut her loose. The fangs and burning eyes seemed out of place.

"No," Horst gurgled. "You can't mix archetypes like this. It isn't fair!"

"Neither is it fair," said the merpire, "what was done to me centuries ago."

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