This week's story is based on a tweetale I wrote sometime ago and always wanted to expand. Thanks to 3WW and #fridayflash, I found the inspiration.
Troy watched the seagulls wheel above the ocean, dive for clams, then guard their catches from comrades. With tourist season a memory, the gulls had to work for their meals.
A runt gull burst from the surf with a large shell bulging from its bill. In his peripherals Troy noticed a gray-winged giant intent on the smaller bird's catch. The runt soared above the cottage line, hovered as if measuring the distance. The larger bird took flight. Troy shouted to divert gray-wing's attention, but the bird disregarded him and aimed for the roofline. It swooped in just as the clam crashed on the rooftop and stole the sweet meat. The runt screeched its frustration, but gray-wing ignored the tantrum and flew away. Troy understood gull law; every bird for himself.
Troy dropped his cooler in the sand, set up his beach chair, then placed his easel before the ocean, eager to draw uninterrupted. No sunburned brats asking mister whatchya doin' or couples begging please! a souvenir, we'll pay; Troy could stare at the horizon, replicate the trawler and lazy clouds and create artwork motels paid modestly for. Not quite the life he envisioned when teachers asked what do you want to be when you grow up? but, eh, it paid. Almost enough. As long as his buddy let him crash at the beach house, Troy could afford art supplies and child support. Child support for a daughter his ex rarely let visit. Bastard lawyer. Stole his woman, his daughter and somehow, most of Troy's income.
The trawler winked off the horizon. Troy sketched enough to paint the scene later, away from the breeze and sand. He settled in his beach chair, retrieved a coke and a snack and surveyed the encroaching tide for inspiration.
Sunlight glinted off distant whitecaps, rainbow hues danced above the water. Troy opened a bag of chips. The gulls heard the crinkle. Within moments, a flock descended. Several positioned themselves to dart for fallen chips. Gray-wing flapped and squawked, bullied the competition out of range. Troy broadened his hatred of lawyers to include bullying gulls. He took off a shoe and threw it at gray-wing. The flock dispersed. Troy sketched the stragglers, tried to capture their robot-like pecks as they waded in the rising surf. A huge wave sent the remaining birds airborne.
A child-sized creature with seaweed hair and glass eyes emerged from the receding wave. With nubby appendages, the creature dragged itself beyond the tide line, settled itself onto the sand. Troy flipped a page, sketched as fast as he could.
He filled the page with a blob-like form, no legs, but a growing extension. The nubby appendages ended in two projections, the rudimentary beginnings of a thumb and hand. The neck fused into the body. If it weren't for the face, Troy would have assumed the creature was a deformed seal.
Nothing outward indicated male or female, but Troy thought female. Maybe it was the seaweed tangles, clumped like his daughter's after a day playing. Maybe it was the way the eyes sparkled clear blue, like his daughter's, smiling eyes that made him feel loved. Troy rubbed his face, waited for his vision to clear, wished damn gray-wing hadn't reminded him of bullies.
Troy sketched in details as he watched her gaze settle on him. The creature opened her mouth, closed it, opened it again. Troy ventured a smile. She dragged herself closer to his spot. Troy noticed pink skin peeking underneath flaking scales. Troy drew her aquiline nose, dainty upon her amorphous face. She wrinkled her nose, moved closer and barked.
Troy retrieved the bag of chips. She opened her mouth, kept her gaze on him. "Are you hungry, little one?" She barked again, seemed to nod. Without thinking, Troy threw her a chip. The gulls descended.
"Get away you bastards!" Troy rushed in, kicked at the birds. The creature's bark sounded like a cry—less seal-like, more human. "Leave her alone!" Troy's action dispersed all but gray-wing. The giant bird opened its bill, clamped on an appendage. Before Troy could grab her, the bird flew with the creature in its mouth.
Troy chased gray-wing as the bird struggled to stay aloft. "Greedy bastard! Drop her!" Troy kicked off his remaining shoe, lobbed it at the bird. He missed. Gray-wing rose a few feet. Runt-gull dive bombed at the bigger bird, pecked at the creature dangling in the beak. Gray-wing faltered. The child-creature wailed.
He had to throw something else. Gray-wing refused to let go as the other birds tried to steal the prize. Troy strained to hear child-cries inside the gull screeches, prayed she could survive the abuse. The attacks prevented the giant bird from gaining altitude. Troy ran back to his cooler for the soda cans. Two full ones left; he hoped that was enough.
Troy ran towards the diminishing mob, thankful the child's weight kept the melee low. The fight drifted near the shore rather than the roofline. Troy prayed they'd remain near the water.
He ignored the cramp in his side, closed the distance, and lobbed the first can. Feathers and bird poop and soda fizz rained on his head. Troy wiped his face, focused on gray wing and hurled the second can.
Runt-bird dove at the same moment. The can hit the runt-gull, hurling its body into gray-wing, knocking both birds over the ocean. Three bodies plummeted into the water. Troy raced into the surf before another greedy gull dove for the child-creature.
Sunrays dazzled upon a sleek body as it dove into the water. Troy glimpsed flowing hair, long arms, a naked bosom and a sleek tail. Water exploded as the woman-fish broke the surface, hugging the child-like creature. The creature flapped a nubby appendage at Troy before the pair disappeared into the ocean.
Troy went back to his easel, flipped the page. He drew his daughter with seaweed hair and glass eyes. No one would ever believe he saved a mer-child.
The 3WW words were abused, cramped and hatred. Including those words, I took this story in a different direction from the original nano-fic piece I posted on Twitter on 1/23/10:
The wave receded, revealing a child with seaweed hair and glass eyes. It barked. Scared, I threw it a Frito. Thank god for hungry seagulls.