Welcome to my dystopian mermaid romance story, a.k.a. Scorched Scales. I love writing stories and have so many ideas for them in my head, I often wonder how I will ever get them all down!
Scorched Scales is a serialized dystopian mermaid romance available on Kindle Vella, which I'll talk more about later.
For now, enjoy the first episode of this intriguing serial!
Great Meteor Seamount, North Atlantic Ocean, August 14th, 2138
The sea was lessening for as long as Braith could remember. Lately, the saltwater of the North Atlantic Ocean seemed to evaporate by the hour, sometimes by the minute. The merfolk community was in a panic as they struggled to survive in a trough of the Great Meteor Seamount, one of the few places where water would still pool.
Many had perished due to lack of oxygen, dehydration, and starvation caused by subsisting on sun-scorched, dead seaweed. Although copious amounts existed on the arid seabed, nutrition was minimal.
The stench of death was everywhere. Carcasses of mermaids, mermen, whales, fish, and crustaceans were strewn across the ridges and valleys, laden with maggots and disease. Moaning and wailing echoed in the canyons, carried by hot, dusty winds. The remaining community tried to ration sea water and marine plants, but most merfolk were too overcome with hunger to take notice.
Braith’s tail was itching so badly, the only salve mud and slime, most of which became useless as it baked under a scorching sun. Except for passing cloud banks, shade was nonexistent. The seamount was a desert, one not dared trekked by merfolk without water. As Braith rubbed her torturous itch, pieces of dried, bloody scale stuck to her webbed hands.
The end of their world was near. Thoughts of imminent death permeated their existence. It was Braith’s turn for rations as she crawled among caked, dead flora, her mouth a beacon for the sea. With little strength left in her arms, she pulled herself into the water, covering her body in brine. With sheer relief, she breathed in a lungful of saltwater and plankton.
Gasping, coughing, feeling like she was choking, Hunter woke up with a start. She couldn’t get enough air and realized her heart was racing and her head was pounding. Where the fuck did that dream come from? Dream, hell, that was a nightmare. “You okay?” Isaac grumbled. “Go back to sleep.” With that, he rolled over, pulling the covers along with him. Typical Isaac, Hunter thought. No, she was not okay. That dream felt so real. Realizing sleep would elude her, she grabbed her robe and went downstairs to the kitchen.
Her hands trembled slightly as she filled a glass with water and drank it as if her life depended on it. “I must have had too much salt or something,” Hunter mumbled to herself. Thinking of the Mandarin takeout Isaac picked up after work, she realized it could have been an overload of MSG. She swiped her phone and googled “bad dreams from Chinese food,” and found that too much spice can cause nightmares. Okay, Hunter thought, no more Chinese for me. With that, she shut off the light and made her way upstairs.
* * *
It was a cool spring morning in Portland, Maine. Hunter found a parking space on bustling Commercial Street, two blocks from Deland-Coates Financial Services where she worked in the accounting department. Seagulls soared above, their raucous cawing distracting her from thoughts of the dream. As she made her way along the historic district, the timeless beauty of Portland’s brick architecture resonated with her. It was as if each building whispered stories of the people who once lived and worked within their walls.
The tranquility of her morning stroll was short-lived. Sitting at her windowless cubicle in the office, Hunter was having trouble concentrating on the spreadsheets in front of her. She couldn’t get beyond the dream.
“Penny for your thoughts.” Startled out of her daze, Hunter looked up into the smiling face of Shelley, her long arms folded over the cubicle wall.
“Inflation, my friend. A penny will no longer do, especially here in the accounting department.”
“Oh, now you’re a smart-ass, huh?” Shelley was a tall, exotic-looking woman in her mid-30s, with flawless bronze skin and shimmering tawny hair. Men lusted after her, and women envied her. She had a habit of being extremely blunt. “Looks like I caught you in the middle of the perfect fantasy. Who was he?”
“I only wish it were that. I had the strangest dream last night and I can’t seem to shake it. Do you ever have really weird dreams, I mean the kind that seem so real but don’t make sense?”
“Yeah, every day I wake up to the nightmare of coming into the office.”
“Seriously, Shel, do you?”
“You mean prophetic-type dreams, like something’s about to happen?”
“Sort of, or maybe already did?”
They heard footsteps and scurrying as a deep voice bellowed, “Good morning, team!”
“Oh crap, boss alert. Listen, we haven’t had a drink together in a while. How about meeting at Tumblers after work? You can tell me all about it.”
* * *
As Shelley and Hunter sipped their drinks, the ambience of Tumblers enveloped them in a warm and inviting atmosphere. Soft, dimmed lighting cast a gentle glow, creating an intimate setting where conversations flowed freely. They shared a laugh as they discussed the quirky and interesting people they worked with, joking about how they would do things differently if they were in charge.
When talk of water-cooler gossip and office politics dwindled, Hunter realized she needed to talk about the dream. “Shel, I had the strangest dream last night.”
“Yeah, you mentioned it earlier. What happened?”
“I know it sounds weird, but I saw mermaids living in a place with no water. They were starving and dying. There were dead whales and fish. There was one mermaid in particular that crawled to a shallow pool of water and immersed herself and drank. And then I woke up coughing and feeling like I was choking.”
“Holy shit! You sure you didn’t have one too many of those?” pointing to Hunter’s margarita.
“No, no, nothing like that. Too much Chinese food, maybe. I read that a lot of spices can bring on nightmares.”
“Maybe. Were you watching any weird shit on television last night?” Hunter shook her head as they both sipped on their drinks. “Wait a minute, I know!” Shelley had a sly smile on her lips. “Mermaids have long, thick, undulating tails. What does that sound like to you? Either you’re getting too much, or you’re not getting enough. What’s happening with you and Isaac in the sack?”
“Oh Christ, Shel, it definitely wasn’t an erotic dream. It scared the crap out of me.”
“According to Freud, phallic symbols appear in many forms.”
“Get over it, Shel, this is not about fucking. And Isaac and I are just fine, thank you very much.”
“Or maybe it was a prophetic dream. You should have a tarot reading and find out.”
“A tarot reading? I don’t know. That’s really not my thing.”
“But you’re troubled about it, aren’t you? You mentioned it at work this morning. It’s after five and you’re still thinking about a dream you had last night. Most dreams don’t stay with you throughout the day. Hell, half the time you don’t remember them at all, and here you are still talking about it. Yes, a tarot reading is in order and I know someone who’s experienced at it. I’ll text her to see if she can fit you in.” Before Hunter could refuse, Shelley was already texting into her phone. Too late, Hunter thought as she reluctantly agreed.
As they were leaving Tumblers and walking to their cars, Shelley’s phone pinged. “Good news! Desiree can fit you in on Saturday afternoon at 2:00 pm.”
Desiree. Oh, great. She could picture her in cheap jewels with a veil draped over her head, waving her hands around a crystal ball. Just what I need, thought Hunter.
*(excerpt from "Scorched Scales," a copyrighted dystopian mermaid romance by Aerwyna)
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