The Mermaid’s Treasure

By on Sep 12, 2011 in Fiction

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Mermaid's Treasure graphic

I wasn’t sure if the thunder woke me up or if it was the sound of the thrown pine cone hitting the window pane. I’d waited up for hours, but the ship hadn’t come, and the sky had cleared up enough to reveal the yellow moon. The clock had been wrong, and I was crushed. Another cone bonged off the glass, then another. I swung my legs over the side of the bed and went to the window. Guy stood in the rain, looking up at me. He pointed to the beach, excitedly, and as the thunder rumbled closer, I saw what he saw: flashes out on the water. My mouth fell open. I motioned for him to wait. Then I pulled on the dress and tiptoed out of my room. He’d stayed up to watch for the ship? For me?

“Don’t get hit by lightening,” Vera mumbled from her room across the hall. I gave up all pretense of sneaking out and thundered down the old stairs as the clock bonged and the hands fell for the second time that night.

Guy was waiting for me on the porch, but I barely looked at him. I only had eyes for the storming, gray sea and those flashing lights. We ran down the road, ignoring the muddy puddles that splashed over our sneakers. The lights disappeared behind the dunes, and we veered off the road, chasing them. Guy was strong from working so hard on Donald’s farm. His legs pumped, and he pushed himself up the sliding sand in his stiff, wet jeans, while I fell behind. I looked down at the mounds of sand that filled my shoes. Then a strong hand closed around my arm, and Guy pulled me up as he climbed the dune a second time.

The wind howled freakishly around us, and the rain crashed down from the black void of sky above. The beaten spruce trees along the shore creaked in agony, and then the loudest boom of thunder I ever heard made me crouch down in fear. Guy was not afraid, and he held my hand as I stood with my hair and dress plastered to my body.

There was something on the water. Something big. I squinted through the rain at the three vertical lines and the dark mass underneath. The thunder detonated, and as the lightening lit up the sky, I saw it. A great ship in distress, fighting the storm that was tearing the timbers apart. The wind ripped the sails and brandished them violently around, and the lanterns on the deck swung as the hull pitched up and down in the foaming, white waves. Someone seemed to be steering the vessel away from the shore, but I couldn’t see any crew.

The ship was moving faster now, and Guy and I raced along the tops of the dunes, trying to keep up with it as it approached the reef. Could I hear splintering wood, or was it only thunder that tore up the air around us? The ship moved faster than we could, and it disappeared around the edge of the coast. Guy pulled me along as we chased after it, but when we rounded the corner, it was gone.

“Did you see him?” Vera asked in response to the squeaking floorboard outside her room.

“Who?” I asked. “Guy?”

“No, the sailor. Did you see him fall overboard?”

I frowned. “No… just the ship.”

“Hm,” Vera chuckled. “Maybe you will next time.” I waited for a moment, but when she didn’t say anything else, I started for my room. “I used to look for him,” Vera said, suddenly. “Everything would wash up on shore when a ship sank… even the sailors. The old people buried them in the dunes. I used to wonder if his crew wasn’t looking for him, too.”

The next morning, Guy was waiting for me on the porch. His boots were dirty from working in the barn, and he was tired. He took my hand, and we walked down to the shore to look around. The beach was littered with driftwood, black ropes of seaweed, and shells. Guy squatted over an old piece of splintered wood with a big spike in it.

“Vera told me there was a wharf here once,” I said.

“Yeah, it must be from the wharf.” He sounded skeptical.

Black things crunched under our shoes as we walked, and Guy let go of my hand to pick one up.

“It’s a mermaid’s purse,” I explained. “Well, it’s really a ray egg, but Vera always calls it a mermaid’s purse. They’re supposed to lead you to treasure.” Guy didn’t answer, and when I followed his gaze, I could see why. The edge of a dune had been eaten away by the storm, and the exposed treasure glistened in the sun. We knelt down next to it, in awe of the riches. There were diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds, all caught up in an ivory cage. I’d never seen anything so beautiful.

Guy frowned and touched the smooth, white ivory with his rough, cracked fingers. He looked at his hand for a moment, then slowly touched the side of his own chest. “Tabernache,” he whispered. He reached out and dusted at a mound of sand next to the treasure until two hollow eyes appeared, then teeth. I gasped, and he crossed himself.

The wind picked up as we stared in wonder at the sea glass that had been caught up by the sailor’s ribcage in the storm. The sand blew into our eyes and dusted over the treasure, slowly beginning to cover it back up.

“We’d better go and tell Donald,” I said.

Guy looked at the mermaid’s purses that lay all around us, and nodded.

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Mary J. Webster is a Canadian writer with an English degree on her wall and a trucking license in her wallet. She enjoys SCUBA diving, metal detecting, tea, and upcycling things she finds at the dump. You can find out more about her at