The Legend of the Saldanha Bay Mermaid
Once there was a boy named Joel who lived in a seaside town with his parents, Jerome and Vanessa and his older sister, Leah. It was an early summer morning, still dark outside. A little lamp stood on the kitchen table. It lit their small kitchen as Joel made his way inside. His mother was hard at work, kneading a large piece of dough, which she would later place in a pan and bake in the oven.
It was school break but just because it was school break
His sister had made them breakfast. It was her task. And they all sat around the table while the bread baked in the oven. They ate a tasty breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausages, sliced tomatoes and toast. Then finished their meal off with a cup of tea each.
When the bread was done, Vanessa sliced the bread, spread a lovely home made butter on, and packed it into their bags for lunch. She also slipped in a flask of their favourite tea, rooibos, which they could enjoy their bread with.
Soon Joel and his father were off to sea. Jerome worked on a very big boat, one where large amounts of various types of fish were caught.
It was Joel’s job to help pack the fish away, where it was someone else’s job to take the packed fish into a storage fridge on the boat.
It was a beautiful morning although the sun wasn’t up yet. Joel enjoyed breathing in the fresh morning air while they set out to sea.
There were birds in the sky and he watched as they flew across the periwinkle sky, the big bright moon casting a glow on them as they flapped their wings gently. They flew away into the darkest part of the sky where he couldn’t see them anymore. The calm flow of the water made him feel at peace as he stared beyond the inky waters surrounding them.
The fishermen cast their nets out and now they had to wait. Meanwhile, Joel was hungry and took a little snack – biscuits his mother had made the previous day and had packed into his bag for him to munch on. They were still fresh because his mother had put the biscuits into a tin.
It soon became light. The sun made its presence known right at the edge of the horizon as it peeked its head out. Soon it had fully risen and Joel enjoyed the warm rays on his skin.
It was time now for the fishermen to lift the nets out, but a machine did most of the work, a machine they operated with a control. Joel watched the rope that was attached to the net spin quickly around and around. At last the net came up and Joel moved closer to take a look. It was full of fish, but something else, too.
What could it be?
“What’s that?” one of the fishermen said.
Joel was just as curious to find out.
His father ordered them to get the net onto the boat and the fishermen did as they were told because he was supervisor over them all. Joel moved back as the net was pulled onto the boat and set down on the deck. When they opened the net, everyone on the boat gasped in horror.
It was a mermaid. It seemed to be either asleep or dead. Jerome went closer to inspect their catch. It was an ugly creature indeed. The skin of the mermaid had a greenish tint, the face normal like that of a human but the facial features weren’t human at all.
The mermaid had large bulging eyes that stood out even though they were closed shut. And there was nothing where the nose should’ve been. It had a wide mouth with purple coloured lips, the mouth stretching from ear to ear, making the mermaid look like it was grinning. The mermaid also had long dark blue hair that came to where its webbed feet ended, and it didn’t have a tale but two normal human legs full of shimmering scales.
Joel’s father reached down to touch the mermaid but then its eyes shot open. In an instant, the mermaid got to its feet and unexpectedly bit into Jerome’s arm with many razor sharp teeth like that of a shark. He screamed out in pain and tried to pull his arm away but it was no use. It had a tight grip with its many teeth and didn’t want to let go. Everyone around him was far too stunned to react.
With Jerome’s free hand, he pulled his pocketknife from his jumpsuit’s pocket, the one he would use to peel his apples with and stabbed at the mermaid once so it would release his arm. He had accidentally stabbed the mermaid right in the chest. At that point, it finally let go of him and clutched onto the wound in its chest.
Before the mermaid fell to her death, it said its first and final words in a strange language they couldn’t understand.
Joel watched all of this from where he stood, five meters away from his father, speechless from the shock of seeing his father attacked by a mermaid and seeing crimson liquid seep from the slit in its chest.
The sky turned grey as thick clouds rolled in and covered the whole sky as far as they could see, and the sea became rough and stormy in a matter of seconds.
All the fishermen and crew scattered about in a frantic manner. But all of a sudden they all stopped and gazed in awe at something Joel had yet to see. When he turned around, he saw a big wave heading their way. It would hit them at any moment. His father quickly moved towards him and grabbed onto his hand, and said a silent prayer for everyone onboard the boat.
The wave hit the boat and sent everyone overboard and into different directions. Joel could swim but he had never swum in the ocean before. He was taken under by the force of the gigantic wave but luckily he’d held his breath the way his father had taught him. The longest he could hold his breath was six whole minutes.
Where was his father though, he thought. He wasn’t holding onto his hand anymore. The realisation alarmed him.
He tried to look for his father underwater but the water was too murky to see a thing so he swam up to the top because he thought that perhaps his father had swum to the surface. When he reached the top, he coughed from having held his breath too long. When the cough subsided, he looked left and right, backwards and frontwards again. Not only was the boat gone but everyone else, too.
The waters seemed to have calmed and the clouds were busy clearing but only a little. It left the sky looking eerily grey and overcast, which didn’t do much to lift Joel’s downcast spirits.
Joel was alone in the middle of the massive ocean. He was scared and didn’t know what to do. He kicked his legs underwater to stay afloat but after a while he became tired. He decided to lie back and float on his back. He started crying because he felt sad and alone. He knew his father and the rest of the fishermen and crew had died, and he thought he would die also. He cried so much that he exhausted himself to a point where his eyes became heavy with sleep and he drifted off to sleep while floating on his back.
It was early evening when a couple was taking a stroll on the beach. They saw a figure lying at the waters’s edge and walked closer to see what it was. When they reached the place, they were surprised to find a boy lying there, waves washing over his tiny body. It was Joel and the man pulled him out to dry land.
He made sure that Joel was alive by checking his wrist for a pulse, and placed his index finger above his mouth to see if he was breathing so that he could perform CPR if needed.
When the man was certain that he was all right, he shook him awake, to which Joel’s eyes slowly opened. At first, he thought he was in heaven when he saw the man looking down at him.
“Are you an angel?” he said.
The man chuckled and said, “No, I’m just an ordinary man.”
The couple took the boy to the nearest hospital, where his mother and sister later came to see him. He told his mother what had happened and she said, “Don’t ever tell anyone what you told me tonight. I’m afraid no one will believe you and they might take you away from me.”
Joel understood. It was a far fetched story and everyone might think he was crazy. He decided to keep the events a secret.
After a few days, he was released from hospital and went home. The weather had changed greatly and the sea remained stormy. No one could go out to sea and this went on for a couple of days.
Joel watched from their kitchen window as the rain poured down. He longed to see his father as he looked out onto the raging sea that could destroy anything in its path.
One morning when Joel woke up, he felt strange. Something wasn’t right. When he took a bath that’s when he realised what was wrong. He found a scale on his arm. He tried to scratch it off but it was no use. After a while it came off but when it did, a small open cut was left behind. It stung a little but it wasn’t that sore. It bothered him a lot throughout the day though and he wondered what the meaning of it was?
More of these scales started growing on his arms and his legs as well. He wore long sleeved shirts and long pants so his mother wouldn’t see the scales and become worried. He was careful not to let his sister see them either, because he knew she would tell their mother. His mother already had enough to cope with and he didn’t want to add to her problems.
The people from the town started complaining because they didn’t have any food. They lived from the sea and now they had nothing to eat. What they would catch from the sea, they would sell to provide for their families. Things were tough for everyone, including Joel’s family.
He wondered if the strange events that were happening had anything to do with that faithful day. If the mermaid had perhaps put a curse over their small town! It had to be, Joel decided. Why else would the weather and sea have changed such a great deal, especially after that day?
It was too much of a coincidence.
And also the strange symptoms! A green tint had started to appear on his legs just like the mermaid’s skin. He wished he could go back to his normal self and could also have his father back.
Why had it all happened to him? He was a good boy. He was obedient towards his parents and always tried to do the right thing.
Why was he being punished?
Soon Joel couldn’t hide the changes that were happening to him. He had no other choice but to show his mother.
“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” his mother said.
“I was scared.”
“Oh, Joel… I’ll have to take you to the doctor immediately!”
His mother took him to the nearest doctor but the doctor had no explanation for his symptoms. He sent them away with antibiotics. That was all.
But the antibiotics didn’t work and Joel got even worse. More and more he started looking like the mermaid he had seen on the boat. By this time, his mother hid him away in their house and Joel couldn’t go outside. It made him feel down as he yearned to feel the cool breeze of the wind through his hair, the rain as it would drizzle down on his hands when he’d hold them out, and the warmth of the sun as it would dance on his face.
One day Joel looked out the window even though his mother had warned him not to. He wanted to glimpse the outside world but then a passerby saw him. The passerby then told everyone in the town what he had seen, so later that same day, some of residents of the town came to their house, demanding to see what Joel had changed into, but his mother wouldn’t have any of it.
Soon the whole town gathered in front of Joel’s home and shouted for him to come outside.
There were many elders in Saldanha Bay, but one particular elder who was the wisest had said, “He is the reason we are without food. He has been cursed. One of our own people has seen him. They’ve seen with their own eyes how he has transformed into a foreign looking creature. The sea has cursed him, which means his father must’ve killed a mermaid. There’s no other explanation. The sea wants him as the legend says!”
Joel’s mother didn’t like what the townspeople were saying. She had heard about the legend of the Saldanha Bay mermaids but never believed them to be true. But when her son told her that night at the hospital what had happened, she feared the legend was true after all.
Vanessa knew if they didn’t sacrifice her son, they would all suffer for a very long time. They’d have to move in the end. She would rather move than to have her son offered to the sea.
But Joel had a different idea in mind. He would rather sacrifice himself than to allow his neighbours to suffer any longer because of him.
“I have to go,” Joel said to his mother. “It’s for all of you that I have to leave.”
“But I can’t let you do that,” his mother said. “You’re my only son and I need you.”
“I need you too mother but if I stay, what will happen to this town? It will no longer exist. Everyone will have to leave.”
“Please don’t leave me!” his mother begged.
“I’ll be here forever,” he said. “When you look at the sea, think of me, my beautiful mother, because I’ll always be thinking of you and Leah.”
Joel’s mother had to accept her son’s decision and she told Leah what needed to be done. When the mob of townspeople became tired of protesting in front of their house, they left. That gave Joel, his mother and sister time to sneak out through their back door, which led down to the beach.
The three of them walked to the beach together. It wasn’t a long walk and when they reached the beach, Joel turned to his mother and sister.
“Don’t be sad,” he said. “You can always come and visit me.”
Joel wasn’t as afraid as he should’ve been. Deep inside he knew this day would come. He should’ve been scared but a calm feeling had come over him, a calmness that assured him everything would be all right.
He neared the shoreline where the waves ended. As he moved closer, the small waves washed over his webbed feet. He turned to smile at his mother and sister one last time. His mother and sister had tears in their eyes. They didn’t want him to leave them but they knew he had to.
It was clear to Joel his family would miss him terribly and he would miss them just as much, if not more. But still, he turned towards the sea and entered the water. The sea welcomed him with open arms and soon he disappeared into his new home.
All the clouds disappeared then, allowing the sun to shine, and the sea to still and become peaceful once more.
Both, Vanessa and Leah knew at that moment all would be well again.
Joel’s mother and sister never saw him again in physical form but they remembered his sacrifice for the rest of their lives.
Vanessa, although heartbroken, was very proud of her son. She made it her mission to let the residents of Saldanha Bay know of his bravery.
The townspeople decided every year that they’d come to the very spot where Joel had sacrificed himself, to thank him for what he had done for them all and their small town.
And that’s the legend of the Saldanha Bay mermaid!
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Copyright © Janice Magerman 2018
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be produced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of the publisher.
All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Good theme, motivating for children
Catchy and enjoyable
The story is well organized. There is a lesson and it is catchy and enjoyable.
Unexpected and Enjoyable
A well-paced short story that offers several twists. I would happily read a few more like it. This author is on her way.
Amazing story cant wate to read more.
I liked it. Its short, but has some depth. Every good story has some depth and this one does. I enjoyed it immensely.
I enjoyed reading this story about a boy and mermaids. The character is well developed and the plot flows smoothly. This story is suitable for children, teens, and young adults. I recommend it.
It was worth reading.