My name is Adam Wright, Seaman 1st Class on the merchant ship Hamilton from the small port town of Costa da Caparica, Portugal. My story may sound like the imaginations of a man who has spent much to much time at sea, but I swear to the heavens above it is absolutely true.
It was June of 1668 and we were on what was supposed to be a four month trip to get spices and exotic fruits from what we now called Brazil. The weather was beautiful the day we set sail, and everyone was in high spirits. We had laid in plenty of supplies to make the round trip and were all prepared to set sail.
I had a girl, Elizabeth, who had come to see me off at the dock. I always hated these moments - I hated to say goodbye and I especially hated knowing that this may be the last time I ever saw her lovely face again. Sailing on the high seas was always fraught with danger and many a man has gone to a watery grave before making it home again.
I was in my Elizabeth's arms when the ship's bell rang, telling us to board so we could shove off. After giving my love one last kiss, I turned and walked up the gangplank to take my position aboard the ship. I would be one of the deckhands and my position on the rail next to the fore mast meant I was one of the riggers who would have to climb up the shrouds to furl and unfurl the sails as the deck boss directed.
We all had said our goodbyes and boarded the ship. We backed slowly out of the dock and we were away. As the people on the docks waved we slowly left them in the distance. Soon they had all but disappeared and before us lay the vast expanses of the Atlantic Ocean.
We quickly settled into a routine. This wasn't our first voyage; many of us had been to sea many times before. I, myself, had been to sea twice before for different lengths of time. So we were a seasoned crew with only a couple cabin boys who were new. Our captain was a good man - fair but stern. He had a mind to what he wanted and so long as you did what you were told things were good. However, if you slacked off or, God forbid, failed in your work, well he had recourse there as well!
The first leg of our journey took us to a small group of islands called the Azores, about 760 nautical miles from our home port. There we were to take on some fresh supplies and prepare ourselves for the longest and most dangerous part of the trip. We made it to the Azores and to a small port of Ponta Delgada. It took us five days sailing to reach Ponta Delgada, but we had good winds and smooth seas.
It was a nice little place, mostly a fishing village, but it could handle the larger ships as well due to the deep water surrounding it. We anchored a short ways offshore so we wouldn't interrupt their fishing and used the ship's dinghy to restock the ship. After a couple days to resupply and rest, we got prepared for the next leg of our voyage.
The second and much longer leg of our journey was to take us from the Azores to Sao Luis, Brazil, some 2,600 nautical miles away. This part of the trip should have taken us about 18 days sailing time. However, five and a half days out of Ponta Delgada we came into a terrible storm. The seas began to get choppy early in the day and the winds began picking up, setting to us from the starboard. As the day progressed, the weather got worse and by mid-day we were looking at 20 foot seas and the ship was rolling about. As the storm got more intense the seas piled up and by late that afternoon we were facing an all out storm with winds around 40 knots and 30 foot seas.
To protect the ship, the deck boss ordered the sails furled, that is rolled up and tied, so that they wouldn't be ripped to shreds by the high winds. So several of us scampered up the shrouds to furl the sails. My particular job was on the main topgallant, that is to say, the second sail from the top on the center mast of a three-masted ship. I climbed up the shroud, the net-looking rope ladders on the sides of masts, to my position and climbed out on the arm to get the sail tied up.
The ship was bucking and rolling in the high seas and the wind was fierce, I couldn't believe the captain had waited so long to call for the sails to be furled. But he was the captain and it didn't pay for a common deckhand to question his judgement. I had just tied one of the gaskets (the ropes used to secure a furled sail) and was working on another when it happened.
I had reached over the top of the topgallant arm when the ship was struck on the starboard by a exceptionally large wave making the whole ship lurch to the port side. I didn't have a good enough grip on the arm I guess and when the ship bucked I was thrown off the arm and into the boiling sea. I guess I can consider myself lucky I didn't land on the ship itself, the fall would have surely killed me outright! But instead I was plunged into a watery world completely without warning.
I knew the instant I hit the water that there would be no way anyone could rescue me - you just don't turn a big sailing ship around on a dime, much less in a storm like this! So falling into an angry sea is pretty much a death sentence and the only thing you can do is to tread water until you get too tired and slip under the water to drown or a shark gets you and ends things quicker. But no matter the way it ends, your life expectancy isn't very good.
I did the best I could to stay afloat hoping against hope that something would be washed off the ship that I could cling to. But it the pitching and rolling seas, finding salvation is more than anyone can really hope for. As good a swimmer as I was, I was no competition for the mountainous waves that seemed to come on relentlessly. Eventually I, too, slipped under the surface and closed my eyes, I thought forever.
This is where my story gets strange.
I woke up not looking at the Pearly Gates or even at the inky darkness of the ocean depths. Instead I found myself on a sandy beach on a lovely looking tropical island. And I was not at the waters edge as if I washed ashore. Rather I was well back from the water's edge, as if someone or something dragged me away from the water. I rose, astounded that I had survived. The seas were calm once more and the storm had passed. How long had I been laying on the beach? How did I get here? Who was my rescuer? I was awash in questions and no answers to be found.
Even more perplexing was a tray made from woven palm fronds onto which my benefactor had placed a nice assortment of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish. This I found off to my right and only a few feet away. I was indeed hungry, in fact I was ravenous and I ate the food with relish. After I ate, I fell asleep exhausted from my ordeal and warmed by the sun and a full belly.
I woke several hours later to another surprising sight. In the sand, a line had been drawn and a fruit placed ever few feet as if trying to get me to follow it. Curious, but also wary, I did follow the line and it led quite happily to a small cave which my guardian had lined with grasses covered with palm leaves and in the cave that same palm frond tray was there once again filled with foodstuffs. It was quite a nice shelter considering what there was around to work with. Again I accepted my hidden protectors hospitality and moved into the shelter.
This hidden support went on for several days, some sort of gift or aid being left each time I slept. I began to look for what new comfort had been left. Never was there a track or clue to who was aiding me though. I had gained enough strength through this secret patron to be able to explore my island home. Not that there was a lot to explore - it was a very small island only about 12 miles north to south and 15 miles east to west as best I could figure. I never saw any sign of wild animals, at least nothing I needed to worry about, which was very good.
One day I purposed to learn the identity of my hidden benefactor. I laid down in my cave bed at my usual time and feigned sleep. It took awhile, but eventually I heard the soft padding of footsteps on the ground outside my cave home. I laid perfectly still and cracked one eye open just a slit - enough to see movement. I snapped awake and sat up, catching my protagonist completely off guard!
But I was caught equally unprepared, for my champion was a woman!
She was about 5' 6" tall with long brown hair and brown eyes. She was a lovely creature with long legs, slim hips, and full breasts. She had the face of an angel, and I felt my heart skip a beat when I first gazed upon her.
"H-hello?" I said, just as shocked to see her as she was to be caught by me.
"Hello...Adam," she said.
"You know my name? How?" I asked incredulously.
"I know all about you, Adam. Why do you think I have helped you?"
"But how? Who are you? What is all this?" I said, a barrage of questions flying from my mouth at her.
"Sit down Adam and I will try to explain," she said calmly. I'm glad one of us was calm, because I certainly was not!
"My name is Cassandra. I have known you since your very first fishing trips back in Portugal. I have followed you every time you ventured into the sea."
"I, I don't..." I said dumbfounded.
"I know it is a lot to understand for right now. But I will explain things as time goes by."
"What do you mean you have followed me? How?" I asked.
"Adam, I am...a mermaid. I live in the sea. I was sent to you by Poseidon when you first began taking an interest in ships to watch over you. Because of the honorable way you fished and respected his domain, Poseidon wanted me to watch over you. As I traveled with you I learned about you and the more I learned the closer I felt to you," she said.
I listened to her bewildered as she told me her story.
"I began to have...feelings for you, Adam. I found you a kind, warm, sensitive man and I wanted more and more to meet you. So awhile back, before this journey, I asked Poseidon if he would make it possible for me to meet you. When I learned that you would be putting to sea I asked him again. Poseidon called up the storm the other day that caused you to fall into the sea. I caught you when you entered the water and brought you here. I have been supplying your needs ever since. I just wanted..." she trailed off.
I sat there listening to her talk with my mouth agape. This was the stuff of sailor's legend and tall tales, yet it was actually happening to me. But strangely enough, I believed what she said. I had no better explanation on how I survived a fall that would have killed any other man, survived being lost in a stormy sea, or explained how I managed to wash up on a island shore when I knew that where I fell overboard, there wasn't an island within a thousand miles of our location.
I looked at the girl. She was quite attractive and I felt a stirring in my heart for her as well. It was as if I knew her somehow, yet I knew that simply couldn't be. She was soft of spirit and movement, I felt no fear or dread being with her. She had kept me safe thus far and I had no reason to think she wouldn't continue to do so.
"But Cassandra, if you are a mermaid..." I started.
"I know where is my tail. We get that question a lot from our humans. We are mermaids when in the water, but we can also walk on land as you do. That way we can save you like I did. If we could not transform, I would not have been able to bring you ashore," she explained.
"So where am I?" I asked.
"You are on a small uncharted island that only we mermaids know of. We have stopped you humans from finding it because it is our refuge," she said.
"I see. Well it is a very nice island and I greatly appreciate your rescuing me. I will forever be in your debt. But I would like to get back to Portugal and home." I said.
"I am afraid you cannot," she said looking down.
"But I have to! I have to let everyone know I am alive. I have a girl back home who will be beside herself with grief!" I said.
"I know. I have heard you speak of Elizabeth. But it is not possible for you to go home. You see, no human knows of this island and I cannot take you to where humans are because we can't be found out. For you, we are myths and legends and we have to keep it that way. It was only after you fell overboard and were lost to the sea that I could show myself to you. All your shipmates and people back home must think you dead. Unfortunately that means your Elizabeth as well. I am sorry but that is the way it has to be."
"So I am to remain here on this island for the rest of my days? Is that my fate? It would have been kinder to let me drown!" I said.
"Please don't talk that way, Adam. I am here with you. I have and will continue to care for you just like I have for as long as you live. That is my place and you are my responsibility. Poseidon gave you to me to watch over and I intend to do just that." she said.
Besides...now that I have met you...I feel very attracted to you."
"What do you mean attracted to me?"
"Well each of us is given a person whom we are matched to. Someone with whom we are a perfect fit. And you...you are my perfect fit," she said. Cassandra looked into my eyes deeply as she spoke. I could see in her face that she meant what she said. And strangely enough I understood just what she was talking about. Because I felt it too. I was attracted to this mermaid as well!
"But Cassandra, spending the rest of my life on this island...I don't know if I can do that. I mean I appreciate your brining me here but this is a very small island - even with your company I will go stark raving mad here eventually!" I told her.
"Well there is one other option. It hasn't been done often but I have heard of it before," she said.
"Anything, I'll do anything Cassandra. I just can't spend the rest of whatever here on this tiny island."
"Well, you could...become a merman," she said.
"Yes. If you and I mated in the water, then you would become a merman and we could be together forever. But we wouldn't be confined to this island, we would be free to roam the seas and I could even show you Atlantis, my home."
"Atlantis? You mean it's real?"
"Of course. But you can only get to it if you are a mermaid or merman."
This was a giant leap. To become a merman meant I would have to give up everything I had ever known and loved. To give up even being a human. I had to think on this one. I left Cassandra in the cave and went for a walk along the beach. I walked for several miles along the shore, as I thought about what had happened and what my future now held for me. Either way it looked like I would never see my home or my Elizabeth again. I could try to build a raft and escape, but from what Cassandra had said about protecting this island and the mermaids from being discovered, I figured that Poseidon would call up a storm again and I would be lost at sea again - this time permanently!
I walked a little over halfway around the island and was sitting on a small rock outcropping when I saw Cassandra swimming up to me. She looked beautiful in the water as the sunlight made it sparkle as if she was surrounded by a million diamonds. She swam up to me and waited in a shallow pool as I climbed down the rocks to the water's edge to meet her. I waded out into the water until I was chest deep in it. Cassandra swam up to me and I tool her in my arms.
I looked at her lovely face and into her soft brown eyes. All thoughts of my life back in Portugal faded away at that moment. It was as if I belonged there with her. As if everything in my life had led up to this point. I leaned forward and kissed her. The instant our lips met things fell into place perfectly. I had been led here; my life culminated in the touch of our lips and I knew then what had to be done. I was meant to be hers and she mine.
Cassandra took my hand and led me out to deeper waters. I was safe, I knew that so I let her take me out until we both were swimming in water well over our heads. We went out to the breakers, where the waves crashed and turned to foam. I took her into my arms again and we made love in the surf. It was the most intimate, most beautiful thing I could have imagined We twisted and writhed as our passions rose and our need for each other grew beyond us.
I didn't seem to even notice that we were underwater as we made love, I found it strange that I had no trouble breathing or swimming. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world. That is until we had finished and I looked down at where my feet should have been. They weren't there, replaced instead with a horizontal tail. I was a merman!
I looked over at my lovely Cassandra. She was smiling broadly and took my hand once more, pulling me to her for another kiss. Then we began to swim, hand in hand, away from the island and into the depths of the sea. She was to be my guide in her watery world showing me sights that as a sailor I could never have imagined. I learned from her that merpeople never die; that my Cassandra was actually several hundreds of years old, yet she looked as young and fresh as an 18 year old woman.
So hand in hand we swam, Cassandra and I had become lovers and we went to Atlantis so I could meet Poseidon himself and he could declare us officially a couple - what the surface dwelling humans would consider married.
So said the note that I found in the bottle that day I walked along that Florida beach. I read the story that that sailor wrote all those many years ago and pondered to myself how it must have felt to live that experience. I wondered how he felt now about becoming a merman - was he still happy? Did he ever go miss his former life? I wondered about Elizabeth - did she ever find another beau?
After I read the story I thought about what I should do with the letter. I could turn it over to the local museum - they would love to have such a piece in their maritime collection. But this letter wasn't meant to be put on display in some museum. This was an account of a man's personal life and his search and discovery of true happiness.
So I carefully placed the letter back into the bottle, corked it once again and tossed it back into the sea from which it had come. Good luck, Adam and Cassandra, may your happiness last as long as you live. Forever.
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with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.
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