Here's the real version:
THE UGLY ONE
by Katherine Tomlinson
Liia was very young when she first realized she was different.
Her mother had suckled her but not nurtured her in any other way and Liia knew that if it had not been for the intervention of her father, she would have been abandoned when her family and the school they swam with moved on to warmer waters.
Liia’s difference was not her fault. Her mother had swum through a current dense with toxic waste and when she gave birth to 23 fry, all of them but Liia were born dead. Liia’s mother tried to eat her dead offspring but their flesh was poisonous to her.
Her mother hated her, but her father had named her "Liia," which means "miracle” and had protected her from predators until she was old enough to fend for herself.
Some months later, her mother birthed another batch of fry and from that came Liia’s seven sisters.
Seven lovely sisters with silver hair like their mother and beautiful, silver-blue tails.
Lia’s hair was moss-green and thin. It had no luster, even in the sun, and her tail was the color of the boats they found on the bottom of the sea before the rust took them, a dull, gun-metal gray. And as if that was not enough, Liia's tail was disfigured by lumpy tumors and a near-constant cast of Ichthyophthirius multifili that caused her scales to slough off in whitish patches.
Despite everything, Liia was a strong swimmer, one of the fastest in the school, and that small accomplishment would have been enough if her mother and sisters hadn't ridiculed her for the clumsiness of her tail-stroke and the ungainly movement of her body as it moved through the water.
Liia knew she wasn't graceful and she knew she wasn't beautiful like her sisters but she didn't understand why they had to remind her of that so often. Then her father died in a battle with the monster dog fish and after that, Liia's mother and sisters meanness toward her knew no bounds.
Liia’s school lived in the abandoned and coral-calcified remains of what had once been a Spanish galleon plying the lucrative route between Spain and the New World, It was filled with looted gold, chains and plates and cups and crosses. As a child, Liia had enjoyed playing with golden fruits that had been plucked from a palace treasure garden and carried away, only to end up planted in the salty earth of the sea bed. She had loved the jewelry too, the necklaces and bracelets and rings with their shiny stones, but her mother had told her she was too ugly to wear such finery and gave the baubles to her sisters, who treated the delicate pieces carelessly and left broken bits of pearl and sapphire and diamond in their wake.
And that was when Liia began to hate.
After her father died, Liia began to scheme. She reached out to the lesser fishes, the ones that her kind dominated and fed on and used as slaves.
She gathered an army of electric eels and poisonous sea-going snakes and lesser sharks and jelly fish. And then she told them her plan and asked them for their help.
Unlike many of her kind, she had taken pains to learn the language of the lowly swimmers and so she could communicate with them and tell them what she wanted and what she would give them.
The sharks were especially keen to join her--they found mermaid flesh a rare delicacy.
Most of Liia's school were pleasure-loving swim-abouts who weren’t really ready to defend themselves against a coordinated attack. And really, Liia didn't expect to meet with much resistance because in the history of the sea there had never been such an attack.
Liia planned her campaign on the treasure ship with military precision. She had the fishes scavenge whalebone and shark cartilage and from tht material she constructed massive cages.
When the time came, she would lead the charge on a massive manta ray, and her tormentors would know terror.
They would be rounded up and caged.
They would watch as Liia draped herself in glitter and sparkle.
And then the executions would begin.
Liia's sisters and mother would be last, and they would be made to watch as the others were devoured by the sharks and the other lesser swimmers.
And soon there would be nothing left of her family but blood in the water.
Liia had no illusions about the loyalty of her allies. They were what they were and at some point they would likely fall upon her.
She would taste bitter she knew.
Bitter and ugly.
But her final thoughts would be of sweet revenge. And that would be enough.
Revenge is a dish best served cold, and it is very cold in the ocean deep. Despair and a nothing-to-lose attitude make for a sad life. But here again brought brilliantly to life, if only for a short time, by our Ms Tomlinson. Well done as always.ReplyDelete
That was clean, concise and good.ReplyDelete