“Papa, don’t!” My fingers clawed for the crystal pendant, but his arm became the wall that blocked me from reaching it.
He strode forward, closer to the riverside. Whitewater gurgled over rocks as he approached. I froze before reaching the edge of the bank, but my father didn’t stop.
“Please, Papa! Just let me have my necklace! I promise you won’t have to see it.” My hands reached out as I watched him dangle it over the edge of the riverside.
“Say it!” His eyes glowed in the moonlight, flitting back and forth.
My arms retracted and dropped to my sides. “You know I can’t.”
“All you had to do was admit it. Your mother was insane, makin’ you believe in all that shit!”
“No, Papa. She just believed anything was possible.”
He shook his head, and the necklace swayed in his trembling grip. “Oh yeah, sure. First, it was God, then aliens, then magic, and now this?”
My aqua crystal glittered in the silver beams. “You never know what’s out there, Papa. No one knows for sure.”
He jabbed at his chest. “I know! I know it’s all a load of trash. All the sightings and rumors! There ain’t nothin’ in this river ‘cept fish, rocks, and water! You’re as crazy as your mother was if you think otherwise.”
He took a step back and heaved the pendant into the gushing currents. I screamed and bolted forward on unsteady legs. He caught me and tried to drag me away. I cried out when his vice grip twisted my arm back, and I raked his face with my razor-thin nails. He howled and cupped his face as I peered over the edge into the rushing blackness.
“You wanna become insane like your mother? Fine!” He grabbed my shoulders from behind. “Then you can die like her too!”
He shoved me over the edge into the roaring abyss, and my body plunged into the icy waters. The current stole the air from my lungs as I grabbed at nothing, trying to reach the surface. The water twisted, pushed, and forced me to stay underneath. I opened my eyes as my body seared with knife stabs of bitter numbness. The moonbeams illuminated the outlines of my struggling hands as a skeleton view of myself. I gurgled water that reached its way past my lips and my lungs burned in their hunger for air.
Flashes of scales greeted me, and my vision blurred. A strange warmth gripped my hands as my eyelids weighed down and I coughed my last breath. My head hung and the currents softened, drifting into an afterthought. My body lightened and I waited for white light, but nothing greeted me except a silent nothingness. In my chasm of darkness, I willed my voice to speak, but I couldn’t make a sound.
Silence choked me, tortured me, and then I was left with nothing. Just nothing.
I coughed up water and my chest heaved with each foreign breath. I turned over on my side to sputter and force out more. Grittiness filled my hands, and I heard a lone splash. A blinding shine caught my eye in the sunlight as my vision cleared. I grasped it and pulled, coming away with a mess of sand and a dangling pendant. I sat up and wiped it on my soaked clothes, torn up from the river’s thrashing.
I dangled the cleaner necklace in front of my eyes and blinked the final haze from them. I twisted it in my hands, let it rest there, then traced the wire wrapping. I cried as my trembling arms brought it around my neck. I fumbled with the clasp, and a warm pair of hands touched mine, plucking the chain from my grasp. Before I can turn, the pendant dropped above my heart and hung there. I gripped the crystal and brought it to my lips as I turned to the swift flash of scales. I saw the final splash and the message written in the sand on the shoreline.
You are one of us now, Katia. You may come to us when you’re ready.
Before the tide kissed the sand clean, I reached out and touched the tail print, coming away with an aquamarine scale.