While in my twenties, I experienced a brief period of humiliation and scorn from the asshats of my hometown. There was the name-calling, daily telephone death threats, and countless scandalous rumors which all stemmed from one summer night back in 1994. What happened was appalling, especially in a small “God’s Country’ town like Chatham View.
Eventually, I would be pushed out of my hometown and move on to Banner Creek. Here nobody knew my fucking story, the one that ruined my life. Once I arrived, I decided to never speak of it, that is until now. And why in Hell am I exhuming this long-forgotten corpse?
I haven’t figured out why. I mean for fuck’s sake, I have a solid life, and what I’m about to tell you can fuck it all up. I have a wife, three grown children, and a solid reputation around town, so why unravel a good thing?
I guess there comes a time in everyone’s life when the years of pressure build inside, and like a tumor, you are forced to remove it, or it will kill you. So that’s where I’m at. What happened way back then cast a black cloud over me for too long now and I guess that I don’t want to die before clearing the air.
I’m certain that the people of Chatham View continue their tales about the loon who killed a couple of people and walked free. Lies about me being some lunatic who spun a ridiculous, unbelievable lie and lived in solitude for a year. Sure, I’m miles away from them now but the thing is that I never killed anyone, and that “absurd story” happens to be true. I can’t stand the fact that people, after all these years, still accuse me of a crime I didn’t commit.
The whole thing happened in late July. It had been a bastard of a sticky summer night when I found myself stumbling around and shit-faced at the Shawney Tavern. This shit hole was an old dive which sat just on the outskirts of town.
The hours leading up to that night had been uneventful. Not long after Rebecca denied my advances, shattering my ego, I mumbled to Chad, the bartender, that I was heading home.
Back then I was a drunk and as far as I know, that ain’t no crime. It was common for me to shit my pants and pass out on someone’s lawn only to be discovered the next morning still unconscious and covered in palmetto bugs and leeches. I was pathetic but I swear on a stack of bibles that I haven’t taken so much as a sip of whiskey since
My apartment was in town and the road was such a detour that I decided to cut a path through Settler’s Pond. I stumbled along the wooden path, barely able to keep a straight line when I heard it. There, among the night crickets and long croaks of fat toads, I heard something that didn’t belong to the Alabama wilderness; it was the enchanting vocalization of a woman’s voice.
The melody was low, soft, and alluring. I zeroed in on the song and allowed it to drag me into its orbit. To say I had lost total control may be misleading, however I’m fairly certain there was no room for objection, so I carried on through the brush toward the pond where I found her.
I stopped suddenly, nearly losing my balance and falling head over heels into the mud. At first, I had a hard time making the shape out, be it the low light ambiance or the whiskey, but eventually, to my surprise, I could see the faint outline of a nude woman.
She was alone, sitting on a rock on a small island in the center of Settler’s Pond. I remember her eyes; they were solid green with a bright glow that seemed to be calling me closer. I had to know if this was a drunken hallucination or if this was real, and if real why the fuck would a naked woman be out here in the middle of the night singing. Before I could even comprehend what I was doing I found myself submerged in the pond’s warm water and making my way toward the island.
It disturbs me now that I’m aware of just how much control she was able to hold over me. My fight or flight instinct had been turned off and I continued to accept everything without question, no matter how out of place or odd it became. That melody caused me to make sense of the senseless, and so I continued to approach her.
There was nothing that I wanted more than to stand in the shadow of this woman and ask her why she was singing that song to me. These weren’t just sounds being belched out between gulps of the gut burner, every note had been carefully selected and written for me.
“Your voice, it’s so beautiful.”
The moonlight intensified. There she was. Her skin was unlike anything I had ever seen, a bluish-green tint and just below her naval the skin turned into the scales of a fish, continuing to form a finned tail. This was a fucking mermaid sitting on a slab of land in the middle of a still water pond, in fucking Alabama!
How in the ever-loving Christ did I not freak out at the time? Had this spell broken my brain? Surely anyone else would’ve taken off, screaming into the night yet I was steadfast and once onshore, I continued forward, determined to meet this mermaid.
“Come closer settler.”
Her voice seemed disembodied and watery like it was being filtered through the murky pond. The closer I got the more of her features I could make out. She had a large mouth, much larger than a human and it was full of shark-like teeth. Her skin had faint blue stripes and her fingers were long and webbed. Despite how frightening she was I didn’t feel fear at the time. The only emotion was one of warmth and love.
With her webbed hand, she reached out and grabbed me by the collar of my shirt, pulling me in close until I fell into her lap. I hadn’t noticed just how tall she was, overall, I would guess seven feet. Her mouth was wide enough to wrap around my head with minimal effort. Beyond those deep blue lips were endless rows of sharp teeth.
None of this scared me. I lay there, nestled between her soft breasts, barely noticing the two dead bodies lying in the mud nearby.
I recognized one of them immediately, her name was Jubilee Thomas, a woman who had vanished four nights earlier. The male body must’ve been her boyfriend, Buff Sinclair, who she was last seen walking with, also a missing person.
Their dead bodies were covered in bite marks, and large chunks were missing, chewed off the bodies. The siren’s song molded my brain to accept this scene without fear and only after had I considered just how close I had come to becoming a snack. She continued her song but this time she added words. I can still hear every syllable.
“Beautiful traveler with fair skin I know that this land is cruel, hear my song and visit me and we can live in tranquility forever.”
Lovingly I stared up at the predator as she opened her mouth, positioning above my head and waiting to snap down. With how wide her mouth got it would not surprise me that she could’ve decapitated me in a single bite. In those tense moments, I was hopelessly hers and I thought nothing would break the sorcery.
“Chatham View Police! Show me your hands!”
Sheriff Woody Spencer’s voice snapped me out of it. All I felt was a sobering terror, I was scared shitless, and the siren could see this in my abrupt change of facial expressions. She closed her mouth and her green eyes glowed red as she pushed me aside and let out a banshee shriek. It was my fear which disgusted the mermaid. Why she stopped is a mystery. Before the sheriff could shine his flashlight, she had leaped into the pond, disappearing in the tranquil green waters.
The officers had been led by a team of cadaver dogs and when they found me, I was on the ground in a state of catatonia right beside the mutilated carcasses of the two young folks they were searching for.
Later I’d ramble like a madman as I told my bizarre tale however the department couldn’t find a lick of evidence to support my claim that there was a fucking mermaid. No, these men were never subjected to her song and because of this, they lived in the world of logic and reasoning and quickly concluded that I was not only intoxicated out of my skull but the one responsible for the murders of Jubilee and Buff.
I spent a week in a psych ward where I stuck by my claims of being attacked by a mermaid. Nobody believed me and had it not been for the forensic team’s lack of DNA evidence I would have found myself on death row. Nonetheless, despite my innocence, I was found unfit to return to society and it quickly dawned on me that the state had no intentions of letting me go until I changed my story. So, I did.
I told the doctors that after a long night of drinking I accidentally stumbled upon the two bodies and that there never was a mermaid. This creature, I explained, was made up by a drunk mind. I lied to the staff, and they did just as I expected, they let me go. Outside the hospital, waiting for me, were the townsfolk of Chatham View who all saw me as the lunatic and a killer who got away with murder. Even Sheriff Spencer condemned me and told me that it was a matter of time before the truth would come out.
“The gas chamber is waiting for you boy, and I will be there to push the button when the time is right.”
For months I was the target of pointing fingers and gossip. Everyone had turned on me, even my best friend, Calvin, had given up on me. He looked at me one day with no emotion and said, “Listen, pal, I know you ain’t done that to them two but the whole town thinks you did, and I got to live here.”
Finally, a little over a year after the incident I had decided to start a new life outside of Alabama and made my way to Banner Creek.
At first, it was hard, I was suspicious of everyone, I thought that they knew my past and were talking about me but eventually, I realized that this had all been in my head. The crime never made national headlines, it was a blip on the radar and there was no way anyone in this small North Carolina mountain community would ever learn about what happened back in Alabama.
I moved on, the best that a man could after something so disturbing, and although I raised a beautiful family and made lots of friends around town I still suffered from the nightmares.
Settler’s Pond has been burnt into my DNA, it still haunts me, and the trauma causes me distress which I’m forced to hide. Even now, many miles away from the still waters of that pond I can hear the mermaid’s gorgeous melody calling me back so she can finish her meal.