Once upon a time, there was a sailor who decided not to sail with the various established fleets on the high seas; rather, he chose to explore uncharted seas alone and in solitude.
As time went on, the adventures of this particular sailor passed from port to port, ship to ship, crew to crew, mate to mate, until much to the sailor's surprise, he amassed a small crew and even doubly surprising still, his small boat no longer set sail alone, no, now his days and nights were accompanied by a small flotilla, not as strong and impressive as those other fleets covering the surface of the sea, but somehow, someway, his small boat — now a ship — and it's faithful crew, were salty enough to gain attention — only, not so much from above the waves, as below...
As the days and nights passed quietly or by storm, as ports were docked and became more and more familiar, as the crew took up much of the work the sailor, now a Captain, used to do himself, he now had time and energy for his mind to wander.
He recalled the days of long past when it was only he and his small boat. Now he was a Captain, and had visited many a port, weathered many a storm. He wondered silently to himself about his journey: Was his life now nothing but a voyage from port to port, sometimes in fair weather and at other times, not? Learning to be more efficient at what was essentially the same thing? Are there no more mysteries to explore? Unanswered questions piled on, one by one, rolling in like the fog, yes, but where was the lighthouse?
His eyes too, wandered, wandered from the open sky, the stars, the charts, and the horizon, to the waves crashing against his bow. And there — ! — terror struck his heart as if Zeus himself had hurled a bolt of lightening his way: a woman was bobbing between the waves! And she was in greater danger than simply the sea itself: some unimaginable fish-monster, the likes of such he had never seen before nor imagined was swimming after her! But, as that frightful first moment passed, he could see clearly now: she wasn't in danger — she was a mermaid!
Perplexed and curious, he could not put down his spyglass, for in all his adventures, in all his explorations, and discoveries, never did he see such a beautiful and magical being, a woman — or at the very least, a female. Against his sense of personal caution and safety, against the pleading wishes of the crew, the Captain stripped down to his skins. The crew went mad with concern, demanding the Captain remain onboard — mermaids lured sailors to there death with their siren song! The Captain nodded, then dived head-first into the sea.
Fearing their Captain lost, the crew bolted to the side of the ship, their eyes peeled to the waves. The moments passed frightfully as the crew waited, some giving up all hope. There! Waving his arms, the Captain was alive! He too now bobbed amidst the waves. The first mate quickly hurled a life preserver over the side to the Captain, who quickly swam to it, and he was lifted safely back onboard.
The Captain told of a miraculous being he had swam with, more beautiful than any he'd met in all his travels. Her skin was radiant, her lips succulent and tempting. But her eyes: her eyes were pools within pools, an infinite well of love.
He couldn't explain it, but swimming with her grace, under the surface of the sea, was the deepest sensation of love he'd ever felt... It was a feeling he heretofore believed could never be his, but with her, his entire body was submerged in it. Love surrounded him: he could feel it's pressure over every inch of his body, every crevice. It pushed him, pulled him to and fro, and yet he could move within it, crudely yes, next to her grace, but love had never been like this before: swimming under the waves.
She motioned to him, wanting to take him somewhere deep and even more mysterious, but the Captain pointed to himself and the surface, tying to communicate his need to return, and while she was saddened by this, she seemed to understand his need and smiled as he quickly swam to the surface gulping air and tasting the sea.
The crew, stunned by this wild tale, insisted that mermaids were deadly: their song lead sailors to their death — why would this mermaid be any different? The Captain too, couldn't explain exactly why she didn't pull him down, as clearly, she had the means, but apparently, she found him just as curious as he found her.
He had to return.
He wanted to feel her love again. It was the greatest sensation he'd experienced, he could not refuse — it would be foolish to deny the love he felt.
He wanted more.
The very next day, against the crew's wishes, the Captain watched the seas for the mermaid's return. And yes, she did return that very day, only with a broader smile and ever deepening eyes. The Captain smiled too, as he stripped bare, then plunged deep into the ocean to meet his new friend. Again the crew watched the sea in desperate fear for their Captain's life. Trepidation mounted as the Captain went unseen — even longer than before — and just as all hope was lost — there — !
He was alive!
And so, day after day, the Captain visited his undersea friend, each day remaining longer under the sea, as he learned to hold his breath longer and longer. After many weeks of this, the fateful day finally came: the ship's port of call was in sight.
Once again, the mermaid the Captain had now grown to love, appeared. But, today, sadness deepened in his heart as he knew the day had come that he must say goodbye, forever.
He assured his crew, he promised them he would return, for he wasn't a fool, he was a man. He knew his life lay above the waves with his fellow men, his friends and comrades, and that regardless of his soul's desire, he could merely visit below the waves, never live there.
He stripped down to his skins, smiled to the first mate and the crew, then dived, head-first into the sea.
After mooring the ship to the dock, the crew took shore-leave at their favorite tavern. The topic quickly turning to the Captain and the Mermaid.
The Captain had never returned from his last, final visit with the mermaid. And just as they approached port, she was spied bobbing above the waves, silently watching the boat. At first, the crew guessed: she must somehow think he's onboard, but then, suddenly, another mermaid appeared. And then another. And another. Quickly, the sea was swimming with dozens and dozens of radiantly beautiful mermaids gracefully and joyfully swimming amongst themselves.
The men held their head down in sorrow at the loss of their beloved Captain, when the first mate broke the silence: first, with the raising of his stein of mead, and then, a solemn toast — not to their Captain, but to the truth:
Only mermaids know what happens beneath the waves.