The Sea Monster’s Love (455 Words)
The young woman stepped into the surf. As her companion watched, the transformation came over her, shifting her shape to a monstrous serpent’s. Even though he knew her for a friend, the change made the man’s breath seize and his eyes widen. The serpent’s giant head swiveled, coming close to him.
“Do you still want me to show you?” asked Aradri.
With an effort, Dan nodded.
“Yes,” he said.
She lowered her head in the sand. The man climbed onto her sinewy neck, clinging to the smooth, scaled skin.
As she swam, Aradri was aware of him. She could feel his beating heart and warmth. She was never warm, neither in serpent or human shape. To her, Dan seemed at once troublingly fragile and perplexingly brave. As her long body rippled in the deep water, she found herself struggling to understand him.
Where the sea was all around them, she stopped. The circling horizon was orange and purple to the west, a deep and darkening blue to the east. It was a wondrous sight.
Aradri’s massive coils shifted as she encouraged her companion to rest lower on her back.
He was trembling.
“Are you alright?” she asked.
Dan rested his hand on her hard snout. “Show me yourself,” he said. “Please.”
She knew what he was asking. After a moment’s effort, she was a woman again, looking at him with sad green eyes.
“That was me, Dan,” she said. “I am a monster.”
He shook his head. He swam close to her, and she rested her hands on his shoulders.
“You’re not a monster,” he said. “Not even as a snake are you a monster to me.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You do frighten me, a little,” Dan said. “You’re not like anything or anyone I’ve ever seen. But I trust you, Aradri. I love you.”
It was her turn to be startled. When he tried to kiss her, she leaned away from him.
She cursed herself for bringing him here. A part of her had hoped for this without thinking it would really happen. It had been a daydream, thoughtless of any consequence.
“Dan,” she said. “I—I’m sorry—”
The hurt in his eyes had never been part of her imagining. She reached for him. Their mouths met, awkward at first because they were both afraid. It was a sharp irony that a simple, fragile man like him could scare a monster out of her senses. His heart was still beating between them and his lips tasted like salt. His cheek against hers was soft.
The night stars gathered above them. The water was warm, and in Aradri’s coils the man slept, rocked by the motion of the serpent’s body and the sea.