Between the Devil and the Deep
(Photo (c) kiaarax
The axe fell and Jake was extremely fortunate though suffering a good deal of survivor’s guilt. He saw three good friends let go along with many less tenured personnel at Carson & Rand, but he had been promoted to fill a new slot at the company.
It was no secret that two positions, now vacated, were conglomerated into one and retitled. One man to do two jobs would ease the burden on the company and would certainly make or break the man appointed to do it.
Carson knew Jake was the man for the job. Jake can do this with his eyes closed. He’s been covering for those slackers all year, he thought, recalling that he had hand-picked him from throngs of applicants two years ago.
In him, Carson saw a ‘mover and a shaker’, a younger replica of himself. Yes sir, he congratulated himself, Jake will fill the void at a lesser salary and it will still be a hefty raise to him.
Jake swallowed hard watching his friends empty their desks and clear out office spaces that he would soon occupy. They said civil goodbyes as he looked slightly past them unable to meet their eyes. He knew it could just as easily be him vacating the premises and he could barely breathe as they filed past him to the door. It was promotion served with a roundhouse punch, upward mobility delivered with complimentary uppercut.
Emotionally and mentally Jake was beaten black and blue. Though relieved he had been spared, he was crestfallen knowing his promotion came at the expense of coworkers whom he liked and respected. My life is a roller-coaster from hell, he thought, scowling out the window.
Following grueling weeks of adjustment and weeks of long hours, Jake assuaged his guilt with the purchase of a shiny, new cabin cruiser which he named The Siren. When the load at work finally lightened he took three weeks of leave.
Every evening he sailed the sea headed for the same place; the place where she had appeared and everything had changed. He dropped anchor close enough to see the beach where he had met Sirena, or had a momentary breakdown, he reminded himself.
This time Jake stayed out all weekend telling himself he had earned a break after the office cutbacks and accompanying anxieties. But while at sea his eyes were constantly scanning, always searching for red hair sparking in the sunlight or anything resembling the mermaid he recalled. Sirena still filled his thoughts and he couldn’t let her go. He still felt unsettled in a way that would give him no peace.
Maybe I just need confirmation that she wasn’t real. Maybe that’s closure, he thought, but then tacked on, and maybe I’m fishing for the one that got away. He scratched his chin in consternation, continuing, either way I’ll have a tall fish-tale bigger than the rest, and scowled into the horizon knowing how unlikely it was that he would ever breathe a word of it.
Jake cruised several miles out into deeper water, noted dark clouds building in the evening sky, and took it as a personal challenge. He checked the portal weather station and turned the transistor radio on to hear reports of thunderheads and storms throughout the coming night. “Good,” he mumbled, “It suits my foul mood just fine.”
Sirena clung to large rocks which balanced precariously atop a sandbar. She could do nothing but hang on for her life and wait, while the driving rain pummeled and stung her flesh. Deafening thunder punctuated by blue-white lightning bolts split the ink-black sky around her. She had never seen her home from this perspective before. She’d never felt threatened by her own world until now.
She renewed her tentative grip on slippery rocks and vented her anger trying to best the thunder, she screamed, “I get it! You’re messing with me. Right?” Forgetting herself, she flung her fist into the air and went under again. Scrambling to surface, Sirena realized she could barely swim without her fishtail.
She fought to gain ground, pulling her shoulders and torso onto the rocks, angling for a safer position and yelling spitefully, “You’re punishing me for changing the natural order! Right? I thought we had a deal, Poseidon!” Another bolt plunged into murky depths as if in answer, while she watched another enormous wave building.
“Rhea should have kicked your ass to kingdom come the first time you ever threw a fit!” Sirena screamed her rage and terror into the driving wind and rain that battered her aching, exhausted body. With too little fight left she tightened her fists and filled her lungs for the next wave.
More torrents beat her down threatening to drown, but she wasn’t going to die without driving her point home. With a burst of energy born of anguished rage, she unleashed personal umbrage that matched her fiery hair illuminated in staccato, electric-blue flashes, “You traitor,” she wailed, unleashing hell’s fury, “I said I wanted to try being human! You call this a try? You’re a welcher and a traitor, Poseidon!”
Sirena hurled the insult into the torrential night with her voice breaking as rage gave way to throes of impotent sobs, “You make me human and drop me into certain death? That’s it? No warning? Why are you doing this to me,” she demanded, sputtering, coughing up seawater, and facing imminent death, yet raising her fist defiantly.
Again, the merciless night saw her hysteria, shrieking and weeping soul-wrenching tears, yet offered no reprieve. Now lost in the virulence of utter madness, Sirena didn’t see the last wave that tore her from the rocks, slammed her back into them and knocked her unconscious. She slipped below the surface, a tiny speck in the vast, violent ocean, knowing that she would die completely unnoticed; utterly alone.
Jake heard distinct cries of distress and knew her in an instant. He grabbed the torch in time to see her red hair flashing in white-hot, jagged electric, and shaking her tiny fist in determined resignation even as she went under, time and again. He ran to starboard and leapt astern, with his mind racing, I knew you were real! I knew it! Jake dropped the torch and dove overboard, yelling, “Hang on, Sirena! I’m coming!”