Twisted Fairy Tale: Mullets Jump for Joy Because That’s All They Know by Victoria Nations

Welcome to the 8th annual #SpookyShowcase! The Spooky Showcase celebrates the dark minds of creatives around the world through short stories and artistic creations that are dark in nature, macabre, or horror themed.

This year’s theme is Twisted Fairy Tales. Expect twisted legends, creepy creations, and dark fairy tales that will keep you up at night. Visit each day in the month of October for a scare. The master schedule is here.

Mullets Jump for Joy Because That’s All They Know

By Victoria Nations

Once upon a time, a great spring bubbled up and flowed away in a river to the sea. The spring and its river were crystal clear and icy cold, and unlike the murky forest they flowed through, they showed every detail of their underwater world. Long grasses swept back and forth in watery winds, and creatures swam lazily through them as if suspended in the air. Their magic glowed so bright, it glittered off the trees that hung over the water. And mullet fish bounced from the water out of pure joy.

People were drawn to the shining water. It beckoned them to dive deep and get lost there. But they tried to capture its beauty with the highest honor a little Florida town could give. And there Cynthia got her wish.

Cynthia grew up in the swamp. Always smeared, always grimy, she hid from the townies who called her trash and skirted the shacks that dotted the river banks, where her people thought she was uppity for finishing high school. She traced the river to the spring, longing to slip into the clear water where she would be washed clean and borne away from the ugliness.

The theme park was just a tiny one, with squat buildings in white and aquamarine and an underwater theater where visitors could see into the spring mouth. Sweaty people crowded into the dark theater for the air conditioning, ignoring the beauty of the blue green water. Scrubbed up and forced into shoes, Cynthia thought the thick aquarium glass was a poor substitute for walking the river bank, until she saw them.

The mermaids swimming through the spring were the most beautiful creatures she’d ever seen. They flashed in glittering green and blue, coiled hair streaming out behind their pale faces as they twisted through the water. They waved with languid arms and posed on the white rocks jutting from the spring, scaled torsos arched, their powerful tails tucked under them. Sunlight lit every curve of their sleek bodies.

They lay on a floating deck over the spring after the show, and Cynthia knew they were real. Their bodies glistened in the full sun, metallic scales seamless against their nearly translucent skin. The mermaids cupped their hands to splash water on their faces and necks. They dipped their tails in playfully, running their hands over their bright scales so their whole tail gleamed. They basked for the leering tourists, languorous as if they were underwater. Real mermaids.

When Cynthia called out to them, though, they only waved. Cynthia had read the stories, and of course the mermaids had lost their voices. Magic always took something when it changed a person. But it was worth it. Anything would be worth changing and joining their crystalline world.

“I wish I could be a mermaid.” Cynthia whispered across the water, willing it to reach the mermaids’ little shell ears, bidding it to sink into the spring and soak into its rocks. Wishing for transformation.

Wishes across water sink deeper than expected. Some wishes fall like anchors and tether a vessel to the bottom.

More visits only got her more vague waves from the deck.

Cynthia was even more sure now. The tourists catcalled and begged them to expose more skin, but the mermaids just turned their round heads, their eyes round and unblinking like dolls, and regarded her leaning on the handrail. A couple piled their long hair upon their head so it hung off their thick necks, where green spread across their backs and faded into their brighter scales. And even though they were clumsy moving around the deck, bending awkwardly at the waist, their arms with muscled and defined. Cynthia dreamed of being so strong.

Cynthia called again, once the townies had moved on, but the mermaids still didn’t call back.

“I could make you a mermaid,” a voice burbled, making Cynthia jump. An enormous snapping turtle paddled next to her. His mouth hung open, filled with water, his pink tongue flicking as if teasing her with a bait. Huge feet spread and stretched to cup the water, then clawed down to swing his body back and forth.

More magic from the spring. Cynthia knew snappers, and they didn’t just tread water. Of course, they never talked, either.


“Lord Turtle, girl.” The words were garbled, but she heard his curt tone. She answered as he’d demanded.

“Lord Turtle?”


The turtle snapped his jaws shut, squirting water from his beak. The skin along his neck pulled tight as he beat against the water to stay afloat, rocking to and fro. Cynthia followed the algae swaying on his back, then forced herself to look away. It was rude to stare. But his yellow eyes bore into her. A severe smile stretched across his broad face, no doubt the curvature of his beak.

“I’ve been asking the mermaids to join them, but they don’t answer.”

“Those fish? Barely animals, hardly human. Even a girl like you should see that.” Lord Turtle’s laugh was guttural and nasty. Cynthia didn’t like it.

“They’re beautiful. And powerful. I want to be just like them.”

“They’re barely worth the trouble.”

She cast her eyes across to the deck to see if the mermaids noticed Lord Turtle. Their round eyes darted between her and the water, but another snap made them swing their gaze back across the spring.

“You aren’t very nice, Lord Turtle.”

“I offer, I promise. Nothing more.” Lord Turtle snorted water from his nose “I can make you a mermaid. You see what I’ve done for the others.”

“At what cost?”

“You’ll belong to me, just as they do. A small price for freedom.”

A wish upon the water, and now Cynthia was never alone.

Lord Turtle never strayed far from her after they’d talked. His massive head would lift from the submerged grasses near where she stood, his eye fixed on her. He’d yawn and mutter, throaty and so low only she could hear. 

“You’ll sleep on a bed of grasses, girl.”

Even burrowed back down in the flat green blades, his gold eye flashed.

The mermaids knew him. They gestured, splaying wet fingers towards him, imploring. Lord Turtle lifted his head out of the water and opened his mouth whenever they tried to slip off the floating platform. It looked like a threat, his jaws could snap their tails half-off in one bite. But it stopped there. Lord Turtle paddled away, and the mermaids continued lounging, absently pouring water on their necks and cracked lips.

Each day she stood watching them was a day she was still trapped in her town of hucksters and river rats. She couldn’t tell anyone about the mermaids or Lord Turtle, about the magic she was so close to, that she could have if she only gave in. The town was full of belligerent locals and the nomadic mass of visitors who came to gawk. They had no room for fanciful tales. If she ever mentioned it, they would dare each other to trap the turtle for dinner and do worse to the mermaids. They’d finally kill the magical world they’d tried to contain. It would kill her, too.

“I’ll do it.”

Lord Turtle considered her, his yellow eye baleful. He turned and began to sink.

“I’ll do it, Lord Turtle. I’ll do you what you ask if you transform me.”

A clawed foot swung the great snapper around to face her with piercing eyes and a crooked, fixed grin.

Wishes twist. They change and grow. Sometimes wishes transform, coming out just as expected and totally different.

Lord Turtle bade her lie until he was done. Cypress knees dug into her back as she lay on the spring bank. She focused on the moonlight seeping into the spring, so clear even at night. She focused on the wind moving through the trees, and the water moving past her body. Anything to capture the magic she felt pulling her into the depths, anything to to cut herself off from the ugly world around her and the searing pain moving through her as Lord Turtle worked.

Sharp claws scraped against her soft flesh, pressing until they drew blood, then painting streaks across her legs as Lord Turtle drug his heavy body over hers. Cynthia winced. The pain was worth it. It would be over soon and she would be… Cynthia gasped through gritted her teeth as Lord Turtle’s beak nipped flesh from around her feet. Blood welled up like the spring, soaking his wide face as he bit deeper, taking gobbets from the inside of her calves, up  between her blood-slick thighs. She squeezed her eyes shut, bracing for the scream that she’d have to let loose next, that she wouldn’t be able to stop once he tore another bite of meat from her. But there was nothing.

“Push your legs together, girl. I’m done with you.”

Heavy and slimed with blood, she pressed them together, and they fused, an ugly scar stitching them closed. Her feet flattened and glittering scales dotted and then covered her flesh, replacing the pinpricks Lord Turtle had gouged with his claws. She bent forward, trying to watch, but the pain took her, racking her body, blackening her vision. A last gout of blood pooled around her prone form as gills sliced open on her neck.

Let the townies judge her now. They’ll be so dazzled, they won’t recognize her.

Lord Turtle pulled until she slid into the water, sinking and barely conscious. She was dead weight, but finally free of them.

Cynthia found her wish at the bottom of the spring, just as she’d hoped.

Power flooded through her sleek form once she woke, and she tore away from the water’s edge, eager to join the mermaids and her new underwater world. She marveled at each stroke. Her hands were webbed paws, spatulate with bony fingers, each tipped a sharp, curved nail. A long fin keeled her back and undulated as she swam, propelling her even faster. She dove down, deep into the spring, all the way to the aquarium glass, now a mirror against the dark theater.

She’d never been so beautiful. Membranous tendrils coiled around her head, threatening to snarl in the spring boil. Her face was a white smear on the glass, more angular than she remembered, with hardly any nose and enormous eyes. It was as deathly pale as the faces behind her.

Cynthia spun around to look at the mermaids . She waved with her splayed hands and tried to grin with her new rubbery mouth. She managed to gape it open, revealed serrated teeth and a fleshy tongue. The mermaids just goggled at her.

Filmy eyes bulged from their round heads as the mermaids turned to watch Lord Turtle descend. Their little, pursed mouths gulped open and closed, and they waved in feathery motions like the beating of tiny fins. A couple flopped onto the bottom and back up, excitement overtaking them.

They hadn’t lost their voices. They’d never had them in their former lives.

Cynthia searched their faces for recognition, that they saw her as their sister now. But they only had eyes for Lord Turtle. She jumped when the first grabbed for him, her delicate fingers hooked into claws. Their happy gulping changed as the mermaids dropped their heads, fighting to gnaw mouthfuls of algae from his horny shell.

Lord Turtle rolled his yellow eyes at Cynthia, his beak curved up into a sharp smirk, and she knew payment was due. She curled up next to him and drew his warty foot into her mouth, sucking and nibbling like the others.

Cynthia was careful not to nip. Lord Turtle would find out soon enough that she was reborn with a predator’s mouth and proclivities. She would get her wish of freedom.

About the Author

Victoria Nations is a horror writer and biologist, and lover of spooky, spooky stories. She is happiest hiking in swamps and writes about the things that birth in wet places. She emerges from the woods in late summer, damp and covered in burrs, to search out early Halloween decorations.

Victoria lives in Florida with her wife and son, who indulge her love of monsters.

You can connect with Victoria here:

Twitter (by far her favorite): @Leaves_Cobwebs

Facebook: Victoria Nations

Instagram: @Leaves_Cobwebs

And check out The Midnight Society, her other haunt.

  • Mary Rajotte
    October 6, 2020

    I LOVED this creepy story! Such gorgeous language & I loved the chorus running throughout about wishes. Love this section: “Membranous tendrils coiled around her head, threatening to snarl in the spring boil. Her face was a white smear on the glass, more angular than she remembered, with hardly any nose and enormous eyes. It was as deathly pale as the faces behind her.”

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