Hi everyone! I know you’re probably looking for another funny story. I’ll return to the funny stories after this one. Stay tuned. I’ve got a whole bunch of them. It’s hard to believe that so much stuff happened to me.
Recently, I entered a writing contest for flash fiction. I had never written a flash fiction piece. When I started writing in 2013, fiction is what I started with. So I do have experience with writing fiction, just not a small piece. My usual piece of fiction is in the 25,000 to 50,000 words. Fiction is what led me to write in the first place. Then my creative non-fiction took off and my fiction work became neglected. In fact, I haven’t touched my fiction work except for this piece.
If you need a refresher or you are new to my newsletter, you can view my very first post of “How I Got Started In Writing”. But wait until you’ve read this story first.
The requirements for the contest were to write about the subject matter of mermaids, selkies, and other water dwellers. You were required to keep the length to 1,000 words or less. If you’ve been reading my newsletter for long, you know that I write a lot. Once I start, I can’t seem to stop. My first draft for this piece was 1,400 words. Several edits later, I got it down to 994 words. It was hard. I felt like I was leaving out key components. I submitted the piece and waited. The winners were announced this week and I didn’t win.
I have been chomping at the bit for this contest to come to an end. I told myself if I didn’t win that I would post it to my Substack, so I could receive some feedback. After you read this, I’ll have some questions for you at the end.
Title: Underwater Mystery
Author: Matthew Murray aka Matt (that’s me)
Date: August 2022
The day finally came when I had my scuba diving test. I had been counting down the days for this. You see, it had been my dream to get my scuba diving license since I was a kid. Other obligations kept getting in the way. Now here I was forty years old and I had finally taken the lessons so I could see the wonderful underwater sea. I had seen a documentary that got me interested in the hobby. Swimming with the fish and all of the creatures in the depths below tickled my fancy. Sure, there were other fish that scared the crap out of me. I mean who wants to swim with sharks and barracuda?
Tina, my wife, drove me to the scuba dive shop. We were supposed to arrive one hour early. All of the students had to get their gear together before we left on the boat to get us to the test location. The test was actually in the ocean. Tina left me and wished me luck. She would pick me up later.
There were eight students in our class. Most were a lot younger than me. As I entered the room to get my gear, I saw one of the other students.
“Hey Justin,” I said.
“Hi Mark,” he said.
“You ready to do this?”
“Yeah, I’m excited. You?”
“A few jitters,” I said.
“I guess I have some too,” he said.
Justin was twenty years old and in college. He had told me he wanted to scuba dive since he was seven. His mother had enjoyed scuba diving when she was alive.
Justin and I had forged a friendship through this whole ordeal. We were both excited for each other. We had a made a pact that when we got through this we would see about going out together for a dive.
All of the students got into the boat and we were off on our adventure. In a few short minutes, we would all qualify for our scuba licenses. At least that’s what we hoped for. As the boat bobbed in the waves, my stomach started to churn. We all had dreams. Would we all qualify?
We arrived at the dive location, far out in the ocean with no land in sight. The instructor went down with each student. I was the last one to go down. I was nervous but I knew I had this. Once we got back in the boat, he told us we had passed.
Tina picked me up and she could see the big grin on my face.
“You and Justin have a date picked out for your first dive?” she asked me with an excited look on her face.
“Of course,” I said.
The day came that Justin and I decided to dive. He drove the boat to the location. We anchored and put out the flags to notify people we were diving.
“This is a special place for me,” Justin said.
“Was this one of your Mother’s dive spots?”
“She liked to come here all the time.”
After donning our respirators and tanks, we jumped into the ocean and descended. Fish of different size, shapes, and colors were everywhere. There was a coral reef near the boat and we ventured over there to take a look. It was beautiful. He motioned with his hand that he was going to go near this other area. He pointed me to another area. I saw there was some unique colored fish in that area. I swam over there and they were congregating in a large swath.
I made my way around this large built up rocky concoction. There was some kind of hole inside the rock. It looked to be a tunnel. I ventured inside to explore it. Suddenly, I saw movement. It was a woman. She had black hair and she had some kind of weird flipper where her legs should have been. I had just seen a mermaid. But I thought that was folk lore. I wondered how she could be down here.
Then I noticed she didn’t have a tank or respirator on. She approached me. I was aghast. I didn’t know what to think. What should I do? She reached out for me. She said, “Tell Justin I’m okay.” I was totally freaking out. I started to push on my flippers to get out of there. As I pushed away, I could still see her. Then I looked back and she was gone. I went back down to the tunnel and looked. There was no one. Did I really see what I saw? And how could I tell Justin? Would he believe me? I didn’t even know if I believed what I saw. What was I going to do?
I swam back to find Justin. I wanted to show him the tunnel. Maybe the mermaid would appear again when she saw Justin. He had swam back to where we started. I motioned for him to follow me. When we got to the tunnel, I pointed in. As I swam back in, he grabbed my fins. I looked back at him. He had a strange look on his face. Why was he holding me back? I pointed my finger into the tunnel. He shook his head back and forth as if saying no. He pointed toward the surface. It was time for us to ascend.
As we reached the surface, I pulled off my mask.
“What was all that about?” I yelled at him.
“Settle down Mark. I’ll tell you once we get in the boat.”
“Why were you pulling on my fins?” I asked him.
“You were heading into a tunnel. You don’t know what is in there.”
“I had already explored in there.”
“Don’t do that again!”
“My mother was killed going into one of those and she never came back to us,” he said with anger.
“They never found her body.”
What do you think? Did it keep you guessing? Do you like the ending? I’m looking for any and all feedback. If you know someone who writes fiction, feel free to share this with them.
Until next time, happy reading. I promise I’ll return to funny stories after this one. :)
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Whoah, Matt - you GOT me with that ending! Great story which then turned really chilling (but still great) at the end there! :D
I enjoyed the story and wouldn't have guessed about a mermaid, except that the picture hinted we might see one at some point. I figured Justin's mom would play a part, but you kept me guessing until the reveal!