I swim by the area from time to time and watch Enya, Eric, and Philip on the beach. Philip is a combination of the two of them. He has his father’s dark hair and tanned skin, but he inherited his mother’s playful mannerisms. What a beautiful family they are. I start to feel strange when I can’t take my eyes off them. I cannot be a part of their life. I will only ever be an outsider looking in. She doesn’t need anyone to help her anymore, to watch over her. Her life is perfect.
I venture away again, going north where the waters are icy and cold. The frigid temperatures breathe new life into me. I swim along with narwhals and find new sunken ships to explore. The Northern Lights are stunning. Those purple and green lights sway and dance in the night sky. As a little girl I used to dream of going way up north to see them. Now here I am, a strange old creature of the deep, admiring them with tears in my eyes. Life can be beautiful even for sea hags.
I think of Enya sometimes and wonder how she’s doing. Should I have stayed closer to her? I wonder why I must live so long as a solitary being when humans’ lives must pass so quickly, even when they find love and happiness. I’ve only seen another sea hag once in the last twenty years. She swam right past me. I saw the vacancy in her eyes. I will never go to that special cave again. I don’t want to forget anything. My memories make me human.
The North Atlantic is so calm and beautiful. I enjoy the wild things and how they rule the seas in such harmony with one another. I have seen creatures that no human has ever seen. I have been to depths that even the most adventurous men could never go to.
I feel something one day. That uncanny change in the air which makes my skin pucker with goose flesh. It only happens when I know she needs me. I can’t hear her, of course. I’m much too far away, but I feel her. I swim for the south, barely stopping except to eat or sleep for an hour here or an hour there. I don’t know why, but I feel the strangest sense of urgency. She’s been wanting to see me for a long time. I feel a sudden pang in my stomach for staying away from her for so long. I just thought it was the right thing to do.
I take in a deep breath of the warm, salty breeze as I swim above water for the beach I last saw her on. The sight before my eyes takes me aback. I see her sitting on the rocks. She is wearing a light blue dress. A little rowboat bops up and down close by. It surprises me that she didn’t swim there. She stares ahead with a forlorn expression. She is sad, ill.
I shudder, not expecting to see her in that state.
“Enya!” I cry.
She gasps deeply, turning to face me. There are dark circles beneath her beautiful eyes; her gaze is hollow as she forces a smile.
“Ella,” she breathes. “I hoped you’d come.”
It sounds like it is painful for her to talk. She seems like she is struggling to stay awake.
“Are you all right, child?” I ask.
She inhales deeply then exhales slowly, closing her eyes. I swim closer to her, longing to take her hand.
“I’m dying,” she says.
“I don’t understand. Where are your husband and your son?”
Her eyelids flutter as she gazes up at the sky. “My husband passed a year ago.”
Her exhausted words are like a blade to my heart. “Oh, Enya. I’m so sorry.”
“It was a bad case of pneumonia. Unexpected. We’ve had such a beautiful life together. I couldn’t ask for a better life. I think it’s fitting that I’ve fallen ill so soon after.”
“Are you insane? You need to see a doctor! There is no time to lose, you little witch. You are still young. Not yet fifty years old. You can’t die, Enya.”
She looks deep into my eyes. “Ella, I’ve seen every doctor within one hundred miles of my home. There is nothing they can do. They all believe I was poisoned back at the island before I rowed away. Someone must have put it in my food or water. The dosage was just enough to inflict serious damage on my internal organs, but not so high that it killed me right away. It’s destroyed my liver slowly over time.”
“Those miserable bastards poisoned you,” I say as anger floods through my veins.
I want to kill all of them. Every single one.
“I didn’t really feel it until the last few years. Happiness can cover pain, I guess. I did notice the fatigue slowly creeping in over the years. Now I can’t run or swim. I feel sick every day. It’s starting to hurt a lot.”
“Where is your son? Why isn’t he with you?”
She smiles and for a moment, she looks stronger. “He’s studying at university in the big city. He doesn’t know how ill I am; I don’t want to drag him out of school and away from his friends right now.”
My jaw drops. “Enya! He would want to be here with you! He needs to take care of you.”
She looks away, gritting her teeth. “That’s exactly why I can’t ask him to come here. I want him to remember his mother when she was still youthful and strong. I can’t ask him to sacrifice an important stage of his life to watch me die slowly. I know Phillip. It would kill him to see me go like that.”
Indescribable pain inflicts my insides as I hear her say this. It can’t be. How could her life become so dark after being so beautiful? I don’t understand fate.
She laughs airily then flinches from the pain. I start to weep. I can’t stop myself. Everything was perfect for her last time I saw her. I almost hated her for being so happy and now … now she’s dying. I can’t understand it let alone come to terms with it.
She puts her hand on my shoulder. “It’s all right,” she says softly. “I have you with me now.”
I take her hand in both of mine. “What can I do for you, child?”
“Sing to me.”
Her request hits me like a punch in the face.
“What?” I ask.
“I mean it,” she says, smiling, crying. “Please, Ella. Sing for me.”
I shake my head. “No.”
“No! I can stay with you until your time comes, as long as it takes, but no. I can’t kill you.”
She gazes out at the sunset. Her skin’s glow is gone. I see the depth of pain in her eyes as she suffers from the disease that eats away at her insides.
“I don’t want to suffer anymore,” she says, fighting to breathe. “I want to go now while there’s something of me left. It took everything in me to paddle to the rocks and watch the waves. I’ve reflected on the beautiful life I’ve had with my Eric and Philip. No one will ever be happier than the three of us were.”
I can’t stop crying. She takes my hand and holds it, patiently waiting for me to stop. When I finally do, I can see the hope in her eyes, the longing for a merciful death as she struggles to breathe, wincing in pain as she tries not to cry.
“I understand why you want to go now, but please don’t make me do it. I don’t want to be the one to end your life! Please don’t.”
“You saved my life so many years ago. It’s fitting that you will be the one to take it. Both times you’ll be saving me.”
Her tired eyes look desperate now.
“Please?” she cries.
She just wants to sleep in peace. It seems cruel to leave her this way, yet no words can describe the pain I feel as I look at her, that little witch whom I love as my own child. I see how much she longs rest.
“I’ll sing for you, Enya,” I say.
Her face lights up. For a moment, I recognize the girl she used to be.
“Thank you for helping me find peace,” she says, taking a deep breath. “I will be with my Eric again soon.”
“I will wait with you until you tell me that you’re ready.”
She looks at me for a moment. Seagull cries and the soft sounds of the waves surround us. The beautiful noises of the sea.
“You’ll be so alone, Ella,” she says. “Why must you always be that way?”
“I changed very much when I turned, but you are the one who helped me discover my humanity again. You are the one, Enya. I am so happy that you’ve lived a good life and found love and happiness.”
A solitary tear slips down her pale cheek. “I left an airtight container of my books on the rock for you. Just behind me. When you’re ready to read them.”
I force myself to hold in my tears. I need to be strong for her. “I look forward to reading them immensely.”
“You always loved to sing,” she says. “Now you can use it for something good.”
I have no words. There is nothing good about her dying, but what can I do? I can’t let her suffer. This is what she wants.
Enya looks back at the beach once more and then at the sky, at the waves, at the water birds flying above us, at the wedding ring on her slender finger. Then she looks at me.
“Can you promise me that you will look in on Philip from time to time? He will be home in two months for his break. I told him about you. He knows you saved my life twice. It will bring him comfort to know a friend of mine is watching out for him.”
“Yes,” I say, wiping my eyes. “I will check in on your son. I will help him understand why we needed to do this.”
She sighs in relief. “Thank you, Ella. I am ready now. Please, sing for me.”
“You won’t feel a thing. Just like last time. You will slowly fall asleep.”
“The sun is about to set. What a perfect time to go.”
She leans against the rock and looks beyond me at the horizon, taking in the view of the glowing colours, satisfied with the beauty she’s seen, ready to sleep in peace. My dear young friend.
I sing to her until she falls into a deep sleep. I pull her off the rock and lead her into the dark depths of the sea.
Is this truly the end? Find out tomorrow.
Thank you so much for reading!