Alba and the Faun
Alba rose to the surface of a calm sapphire sea on occasions to spy beyond her ocean world, careful to shield her pale skin from too much sun behind the shadow of rocks. There she was, splashing infinite strings of translucent pearls with her hands and laughing, the waves like gentle sponges rolling on her star white breasts, when all in a sudden, she felt a creepy sensation behind her. Swirling her torso, she bared all to the prying eyes of a hairy, horned, goat-toed faun, just like in the stories she'd been told. Alba was not afraid, having been warned of awful creatures in the earthly realms who wanted to gawk at maidens, sometimes wanting more than just a peeking session.
"The hell do you think you're doing, Faun?" Alba said, shaking a few strands of her wet golden hair aside, "didn't your Mama tell you it's rude to stare?"
Alba had learned words from the world of humans on her occasional snooping outings. Words of humans were magic: they could hurt, burn, tell falsehoods, but they could also protect, defend, fight off rude creatures like this faun.
Faun frowned and replied: "Oh dear, was I? I'm— sorry!"
Alba ripped a piece of rock, held it in her palm and said: "Go on now, or I'll throw this rock and break your horn, how would you like to be a one-horned faun?"
Faun cast his eyes downward. "Please, don’t, I—but where should I look? I was lonely, heard water sloshing and splattering, saw you—"
"I didn't know what to say, so I just—stared, I didn't mean any harm."
"Really? So, you're saying you didn't want to attack me?"
"Attack you?" Faun was genuinely shocked. His brow unwrinkled to make room for shocked eyes. Then he started sobbing.
Alba thought she'd met either a crazy faun or this was all a ruse. Blink. And she could disappear in the depth of the sea.
Her curiosity won over her suspicions, so she waited patiently until Faun's sobs quivered down, and he said, in-between sniffles, "Why would I attack you? I'm the one who was attacked by men, so few of us left now."
"I thought—because I'm a mermaid, and fauns are known to attack and violate maids."
"What?! No! We, fauns are peaceful, we never attack, only when we're cornered. Humans have no regards for us, creatures of the lands, they think because we’re ugly, we should disappear from their sight. They hunt us for our horns for their fake medicine, our skin to warm their bodies, our heads to decorate their walls. All the terrible things you’ve heard are lies of men."
Alba felt sorry she had fallen prey to humans’ spreading false stories about fauns and likely, other creatures. She too, had been prejudiced against Faun because of his hairy, horned and goat-toed appearance.
“I promise, Faun, I’ll be more cautious in my beliefs, I’ll search for truth before blind faith,” she said, casting her eyes downward.
And there began a friendship between a mermaid and a faun. Though outnumbered by humans, Alba and Faun swore to work together to survive and who knew, maybe even thrive someday.
Christine H. Chen
Christine H. Chen was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Madagascar before settling in Boston where she worked as a research chemist. Her fiction work has been published in SmokeLong Quarterly, Pidgeonholes, trampset, and other journals. She is a grateful recipient of the 2022 Mass Cultural Council Artist Fellowship and the co-translator from French of My Lemon Tree forthcoming in 2023 by Spuyten Duyvil. Her publications can be found atwww.christinehchen.com
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