Floating through the night air, like a phantom borne aloft on an ethereal gust of wind, the song seemed at once to be both as far away as the furthest horizon and at the same time no more than an inch from the ear of whomever happened to hear it. And to hear the song was to fall under its spell, no matter that the words were meaningless and its origin unknown; there was no choice but to listen and to try in desperation to reach its source.
Only two kinds of person could have even hoped to resist; the most base of cowards, or a women.
The small band of individuals that picked there way through the woods were luck in as much as only one of their number fell outside of those categories, and after all, they were using that poor fool to lead them to the source of the song anyway.
Fred Jones stumbled through the undergrowth with a look on his face that would have been more at home on that of a Hippy on the third day of Woodstock. A flashlight dangled forgotten on a cord around his wrist and his hair and clothes were covered in twigs and leaves accumulated as he ploughed onwards regardless of his surroundings.
The song had him in its grip and he was powerless to resist.
Following in the wake of trampled vegetation that Fred left behind, Velma Dinkley scanned the woods as closely as he thick glasses would allow and displayed a determination that was equal parts librarian and bloodhound in character.
Daphne Blake came no more than a few steps behind, ducking and stifling a yelp of frustration whenever a stray branch snagged her hair or tousled her clothes out of place. There was no sign that she was concerned with anything more than preserving her appearance and she made no effort to pay attention to the ethereal song what so ever.
The women accounted for; the rest of the party fell into the category of cowards.
Norville "Shaggy" Rogers somehow managed to make achingly slow progress forwards, despite the fact that he was trying to cower behind a massive dog that seemed intent on achieving the same goal. Both were literally shaking with fear, their heads darting around at the slightest sound that could not have come from their companions.
For Shaggy and Scooby Doo, the song was no alluring call of beauty, it was instead a dirge of pure terror that gripped them to the core of their yellow bellies and made them want to flee without pause or hide in some ill-advised spot in the hope that the danger would pass them by.
"Like," Shaggy tried to talk while swallowing his own tongue, "I think we ought to head back to the road." He flinched slightly as the annoyed faces of his female companions looked back at him and the cowering dog. "I'm sure I left the radio, lights and wipers on;could run the battery flat?"
"Shaggy," Velma's tone was one of exasperated frustration, "I saw you take the keys out myself, so keep the noise down and keep up with Fred!"
"You guys," Daphne shouted in alarm, "Fred's about to walk off a cliff!"
As one they dashed to grab onto Fred as he put one foot out into thin air where the trees ended abruptly and a cliff fell away into the sea below. The five of them landed in a pile and the shock of the fall seemed to bring Fred back into the real world as he pointed down towards a rocky outcrop that extended into the sea perhaps fifty feet from where they had come to a halt.
"Is that what I think it is?" Fred's voice was still a little far away, but it gained strength as the others followed his line of sight.
On the very tip of the outcropping, silhouetted in the feeble moonlight was a shape, barely discernable as human. The head of the figure was raised to the sky and something that eluded definition made the observer certain it had stopped singing mere moments before.
Fred stared, Daphne preened, Shaggy and Scooby quivered and Velma snapped photos with a digital camera she had been carrying slung around her neck.
Suddenly the silence was shattered by a single gunshot.
All of the companions froze in place, but out on the water they saw the shape on the outcrop flinch from the sound and dive into the water, disappearing from sight in a splash of distant water.
"Hands in the air," barked an authoritative voice.
Every one of them complied, even the dog.
The owner of the voice and the gun emerged from where he had been concealed behind a thick trunk and made no effort to hide the fact that he was sizing them up one by one. He was dressed in the uniform of a sheriff and well into his middle years, though he still looked to be in fine shape for a man of his age. His craggy features seemed to betray the fact that he was far from impressed with what he saw as he studied them.
"What seems to be the problem, Officer?" Fred spoke with his usual mixture of upbeat friendliness and bland lack of intelligence.
"I think my friend means to ask how we can help you, Sheriff," Velma jumped in before Fred could say more, hoping that he would realise not all of them were idiots incapable of using his correct title.
"You can help me by explaining what in the hell you're doing wandering around these woods in the middle of the night for one thing!"
"Hmm," Velma noted than his gun had returned to its holster, "maybe we could both answer that question?"
"Care to repeat that?"
"I was simply thinking that you might let us know what brings you to be out here as well as us, Sheriff?" Velma was on a roll now. "Seeing as how this is public land and there's no law against us being here, I presume that you are simply showing concern for our persons because you know of something out here that could pose a danger to us
otherwise it looks like you're just waving a gun at us for no reason, which I assume you're not?"
"Ok," the Sheriff put his hand up in a gesture of surrender, "hands down, you win."
"We're just here to look into the disappearances," Daphne tried to play the peacemaker, "we're freelance investigators from
"I know who you are," he cut her off, "Serenade Point is a small town, news travels fast."
"You'd be Sheriff R Herring?" Velma asked.
"In that case we'd like to pick your brain for clues, maybe look over the files you have on the girls who went missing?"
"Over my dead body!" Herring's tone became hostile once more. "This is nothing that my people can't handle on our own and on top of it the last thing we need is some malicious prankster playing on an old hokey legend and you city types sticking your noses where they're not wanted!"
Before any of them could speak he had turned his back on them and stomped off into the woods.
"Friendly place, huh?"
No one bothered to add anything to Shaggy's comment as they made their way back to the road, but inside her ginger-bobbed head, Velma's mind was whirring away as usual.
The door to the bathroom opened and Daphne emerged from a cloud of steam into the motel room that she and Velma were sharing. She shrugged off her bathrobe and dressed herself without a care for being seen by her roommate who was sitting cross-legged on one of the beds, engrossed in her laptop. She knew Velma well enough to be sure that nothing short of an earthquake or women's tennis popping up on the TV would cause her to look up and pay attention and so she was perfectly safe in a state of temporary undress.
They had only been in the small coastal town of Serenade Point for a few days and already Daphne wished they could be anywhere else in the world. Drawn by the lure of an unsolved series of disappearances involving young women in the area of the surprisingly picturesque beaches around the remote Oregon locale, they had been trawling through the local archives and asking around for leads. Nothing seemed to link the women apart from the fact that all had been involved in activities that put them close to the sea: lifeguards, keen swimmers or divers, even joggers who frequented the beaches.
They seemed to have asked everyone everything.
And in her opinion they were getting nowhere.
The local legend of a water spirit of some kind that used the rocky coastline to sing to passing ships and lure them to their doom on the shore had seemed to lend an air of glamour to the whole thing, but last nights delve into the woods had resulted in nothing more than a near fatal walk along the cliffs and a run in with a less than helpful local lawman.
"I wonder if he's right," Daphne pondered.
"Who?" asked Velma, looking up from her laptop for the first time since Daphne entered the room.
"That Sheriff," she started to blow-dry her hair, "when he said that there's a hoaxer involved."
"I wouldn't trust everything Sheriff Herring said," Velma turned her gaze back down to the laptop, "I think he's closer to this case than he'd like us to know."
"Really," Velma shook her head, "I mean even his name is kind of weird, 'Sheriff Redford Herring'!" She laughed almost to herself. "'Red Herring', you really couldn't make this stuff up!"
"So he has an unfortunate name," Daphne pulled her trademark pink tights on and shrugged into her dress, "so what?"
"It's not that," Velma tapped away furiously, "it's something that I found in the archives of the local paper that jumped out at me when I looked back at those pictures I managed to snap off last night."
Daphne peered over her shoulder.
"This is a picture taken a year or so back at a local swimming gala," a black and white image of smiling young girls wearing medals appeared on the screen. "The one in the middle is Abigail Herring, daughter of the local lawman we happened across last night." The girl was pale and pretty despite the inheritance in her features that reminded Daphne of the disagreeable Sheriff. "Quite the prospect to represent the state at one time, until she was reported missing a few weeks ago that is."
"So you think that Herring is trying to keep us out of the picture to cover up the fact he can't find his own daughter?"
"Could be," Velma did not sound sincere, "but look at this."
A series of images from the memory card of a digital camera began to scroll across the screen and Daphne recognised them as grainy shots of the outcrop they had seen the previous night.
"You managed to snap anything last night?"
"Not much," Velma admitted, "but I did get a glimpse of whoever was on that rock before they dived into the water." She zoomed in on one image where the profile of a woman's face was visible, seemingly she wore a bikini of some kind and looked to be shocked by what could only be the noise their run in with the Sheriff had created on the cliffs above.
"I may be no expert," Daphne stated the obvious, "but that looks more than a little like Abigail Herring to me."
"So either her father knows something he's not telling everyone else, or his daughter has some reason to fake her own disappearance and then show up wailing on a rock at night while her old man tries to find her," she let out a flustered gasp. "Seems pretty weird to me."
"You're not kidding."
"Are you going out?"
"Just going to the market down the street to get some bottled water," Daphne was halfway out of the door, "you need anything?"
"No," Velma thought for a second and then shouted after her, "Unless they have a copy of Female Tennis Illustrated!"
Daphne walked out of the motel parking lot and in the opposite direction to the market down the street. She was tired of sitting around and watching nothing happen. Velma was happy with her laptop, Fred had covered the walls of his and Shaggy's motel room with a complicated but totally useless web of photos, newspaper cuttings and scribbled notes and his roommate seemed to do nothing more than eat endless amounts of snacks with the dog.
None of them were prepared to take direct action, but none of them were Daphne Blake.
She was prepared to make something happen.
To that end she had donned a stylish bikini that was right on trend under her clothes and was going to hit the local beaches and really look for clues. There was no reason that she could not do some serious detective work and look good at the same time.
It was at times like this when Daphne was forced to admit that she felt quite sorry for the others and their limited grasp of how the world really worked. She supposed that they were clever enough in their own way, but none of them really understood much beyond their own silly obsessions. Fred was fixated on becoming some kind of detective despite the fact he did not have the brains to pull it off. Velma was determined to force the mysteries of the world to give themselves up with science and logic, but she was so intent that she missed the beauty of life and the joys of cutting edge fashion as a result. And as for Shaggy and his dog, they were harmless, but they got in the way and left a mess.
This was a prime example of a time when she seemed to be the only member of the team capable of seeing what needed to be done. They were investigating disappearing girls on a stretch of beach, but none of them had thought to lure whoever was responsible out of hiding by using a girl as bait. It was so obvious that it made her want to scream. Of course none of the guys could play that role and Velma
well, Daphne wanted to be kind, but there was no way she could imagine someone wanting to carry her friend off and not bring her back pretty quickly with an apology for the mistake.
No, this was something that she had to do on her own, if only to show the others how to get things done.
Daphne would her way to the beech down a deserted track that led away from the small collection of buildings that made up the vast majority of Serenade Point. The evening air was warm enough to make the stony beach a pleasant place to be and there was no mystery as to why so many people had made use of the place in the past.
But now the locals had decided that the beach was off limits and Daphne found herself walking alone.
She took advantage of her isolation and stripped her outer clothes off as soon as she was on the beach proper, stashing them neatly behind a rock. She checked her reflection in a compact mirror before making her way down towards the water, becoming ever more enchanted by the picturesque nature of the setting.
If she was honest, Daphne was not really sure what she was supposed to be looking for or what she would do when she saw it. But she had once heard someone say: "fortune favours the bold". She could not remember who had said it, probably a coach from some major league football team, but she was determined to prove that person right.
As usual, the act of thinking about a particular subject for more than a few minutes caused Daphne's mind to wander off and float to more interesting vistas of contemplation. Soon the need to keep her eyes and ears open for clues was forgotten in favour of musing over the fabric of her bikini, contrasting the merits of one brand of nail polish against another and wondering for what felt like the millionth time whether she would look better as a blonde.
A sudden feeling of pain around her ankle made her stop dead in her tracks and let out a sharp cry of alarm.
Daphne glanced down to see a thick, almost black knot of seaweed wrapped around her left ankle. The seaweed extended from a long strand that emerged from the sea no more than a few metres from where she now stood, and as she watched more strands emerged alongside it. They slithered across the rocky sand, snakelike and seemingly possessed of a singular purpose as they came ever closer to her.
Within seconds her right ankle was entwined and that was followed quickly by both her wrists. A final strand jumped upwards to wrap around her head and gag her mouth, as if whatever animated the strands was somehow offended by the high-pitched screams that Daphne had been letting out from the moment the strange experience began.
Slowly and with inexorable strength, the strands pulled her towards the water from which they had emerged. She tried to fight their motion, but was easily yanked from her feet and onto the sand from where her body was dragged, struggling and twisting beneath the waves.
It was a small mercy for Daphne that she passed out moments before the water finally covered her head.
no, too close to home for him to handle what with this one being a redhead," Daphne could only hear the voice at first, an aristocratic and oddly degenerate accent combined with a tone of vague harassment and slight boredom. "Blue
again in the case of the latter, no
might clash with the hair."
Daphne's vision began to clear and she began to see the blurred shape of the face to which the voice belonged as it looked down at her from above. All that she could make out at first was the impression of features on a white visage, the lips moving as the person spoke; not to her, but about her as if she were not present at all.
"Purple, now there's one that you don't see every day
but what shade?" there was a sigh of frustration and the face turned away for a moment. "I mean it's not as if I have a book of samples for reference
oh, I need a drink."
By the time the face had turned back towards her, Daphne's vision had cleared enough to perceive the actual details of the speaker's features. The face was strange, beautiful in many ways, but at the same time rendered unnatural by the almost pure white colour of the skin and the large, dark eyes that dominated it. The face wore make up that further accentuated its odd attractiveness and that in combination with the curled silver hair put Daphne in mind of Marilyn Monroe playing the role of a gothic princess. The impression was added to by the fact that the owner of the face seemed to be wearing an exceptionally tight, black dress that plunged at the breast and exposed an impressive cleavage the exact same colour as the face. From where she was beneath the gaze of the strange woman, Daphne could not help but feel somewhat intimidated by the mighty chest above her.
"Oh," the black-painted lips formed into a half smile, "you're finally awake."
"Where am I?" Daphne was confused on every level that she was aware of by the woman leaning over her.
"In my lair," the woman replied, as if it were the most common thing in the world.
"I suppose that's what you'd call it where I come from," she became thoughtful for a moment. "I have to admit that I don't know the current lingo as it's so hard to get news from the surface these days."
She stood up, removing the cleavage from Daphne's face, but allowing her a view of the rest of her figure that would have made most women green with envy and most men get down on their knees in rapt worship.
"It's nothing compared to home, but you know how it is; you go where the work takes you."
Daphne managed to glance around the room and realised that they were in some kind of room, the walls and ceiling made of aged planking and the floor covered by a myriad of rugs stained by the passage of time. The only source of light came from a globe of glass suspended from the beams above their heads, but it seemed sufficient to illuminate the entirety of the small space.
The woman in the black dress turned her back and moved across the room. Daphne could not say she walked, because that would not have been an accurate description of the motions that were involved. She seemed more to flow from one point to another, gliding across the floor with her body swaying in a manner that even Daphne would have characterised as seductive. The dress, Daphne noted, was floor-length and spread out from her heels, covering her feet in an imitation of Morticia Addams.
"Don't bother to get up," the woman turned to face Daphne once more as she pulled on a cord that descended from the ceiling by the one door visible in the room. "The help will be here for you in a moment and
well, you're not really in a position to anyway."
Daphne realised as the woman drew attention to her, that she had been so distracted she had not taken stock of her own situation. She glanced down and saw that she was laid upon a chaise long as worried and worn as the rest of her surroundings. There seemed to be noting amiss about her person, she was still wearing her bikini and in one piece, but then she felt the weight of something around her neck and heard the sound of a gentle clink of metal when she moved.
Her hands shot to where the weight was located and she felt the cold surface of some kind of collar that encircled her neck. While she could not see the thing itself, she spotted a chain that dangled from it and led away to a sturdy looking ring on the wall behind her.
"Don't take it personally," the woman showed no sign of either sympathy or amusement as she watched Daphne discover her captive state, "you never really know how they're going to react you see, and I've been around long enough to learn to be very careful with surface dwellers in general."
Before Daphne could react to her words, the door was abruptly shoved open and a creature that literally made her flesh crawl on sight came shuffling into the room. There was no way she could estimate its height as it hunched over, its head stretched out in front with a pair of pale but luminous eyes that scanned the space before it. The thing might have been reptilian or aquatic in nature, but the colour of its hide and repellent visage meant that closer examination was beyond the capabilities of most observers. Loathsome spittle dripped from irregular needles of teeth in the creature's mouth and short, brutal claws extended from warped and twisted semi-hands held out before it.
"Take her to the chamber, Walt," the woman gestured at Daphne, "and prepare her for me."
The thing crossed the room with its uneven steps and Daphne was spared a small degree of her fear and revulsion when it grasped the end of the chain and removed it from the ring with a tug of such strength that the entire thing was simply torn free along with a chunk of rotten wood. With the chain gripped firmly in one hand, the creature turned and retraced its steps back to the door. It made no attempt to get Daphne to her feet, but she was under no illusion that she would simply be dragged behind the thing. She quickly stood and gingerly followed in a state of fear and trepidation.
If she was sure of one thing, it was the fact that there was no eccentric local character waiting under the skin of this monster to make a surly comment about being thwarted by interfering youngsters.
No costume was that good and she knew she was in serious trouble.
Daphne followed as the revolting creature led her down a cramped corridor and down a narrow flight of stairs into a room that dwarfed the spaces that she already seen. The curved walls that ran the length of the new chamber made her realise all of a sudden that she must have been inside the bowels of some old fashioned wooden sailing ship. But she had been aboard more than a few ships in her time and there was none of pitch and sway that resulted from being afloat in evidence here, unless the ship was not afloat at all.
Of course the when that was married with the fact that the last thing she recalled before waking here being dragged under the sea, the worrying conclusion was that she and the ship were somehow stuck on the seabed.
Daphne felt more and more like Alice descending into the rabbit hole all the time.
The room, which she reasoned must once have been the hold of the ship, was filled with a jumbled riot of items that she Daphne had no hope of identifying. Shelves and benches held weirdly shaped apparatus that reminded her of the set from some mad scientist's laboratory in an old horror movie as they bubbled with vividly coloured liquids. Jars filled with specimens and powders jostled for space alongside books and scrolls that seemed on the verge of falling apart. All in all the space looked like the domain of someone part Dr Frankenstein and part Wicked Witch of the West.
Beyond the mass of arcane clutter, the far end of the room was dominated by a device constructed of metal and glass, which more than anything else in the chamber defied explanation. The main portion of the thing consisted of a great ring of tarnished metal, bronze in colour but possibly not in substance, that stood perhaps just over six feet in height. Cuffs that stood at the positions of ten and two, looking at the circle as if it were the face of a clock, were visible and a strange frame like the bottom half of a casket stood open at the bottom. The entire thing stood within an immense sphere of glass, hinged to open into two separate halves with the front half swung open allowing access to the frame.
Daphne had seen enough classics of the silver screen to know where she was headed even before the creature dragged her towards the strange device. She allowed herself to be led up the two or three steps and shoved unceremoniously into position, aware that there was no point trying to escape when no opportunity presented itself. She was bright enough to figure that she was supposed to stand with her lower body in the half of the casket and turned to face the door they had entered by.
She sighed and raised her hands in resignation and the creature proceeded to shackle her wrists to the frame. It made no effort to deviate from its appointed task and Daphne simply assumed it would proceed, mindlessly unless she resisted in some way. The metal of the cuffs was padded on the inside and as they were locked in place she noted with a distinct edge of sarcasm to her thoughts that at least her captors had thought of her comfort.
Now that she was standing with her backside in the casket, Daphne realised that it was padded as well and fitted to the shape of her legs very snugly. She had also failed to notice before that there was a pair of metal rods which emerged from either side of the top of the thing and reached up to the level of her breasts. Between them they held another device that ran around her back and had a lid just like that of the casket. When it was closed, Daphne realised the first device would cover her from her waist to the ground and the second encircle her torso in the region of her breasts. But what they were for she had no idea at all.
The loathsome thing swung the front of the frame closed and the two halves of the caskets closed on Daphne's body. She gasped as she felt pressure building beneath them as though the air was being pumped out by some unseen means until she was unable to move her legs in any way. The sensation, while not at all painful, was disturbing in the extreme.
"Sitting comfortably?" Daphne glanced up and saw that the woman in the black dress had entered the room while she was distracted. She smiled in an odd way that seemed to be more expressive of resigned weariness than diabolical delight and advanced towards the device while gently swilling a vivid purple liquid that she held in a glass vessel.
"Walt," she made no effort to even look at the creature, "get out and don't bother me until I call for you again."
The thing skulked away into the shadows without a second of hesitation.
"What is this thing?" Daphne felt emboldened by the departure of the creature. "What have you done with all those girls, you fiend?"
"In the case of the latter," the woman busied herself pouring the purple liquid into a complex series of tubes and valves on the base of the device to which Daphne was strapped, "they're all around here somewhere and in the case of the former that thing is about to do to you exactly what it did to them."
Completing her task, she turned to Daphne and shook her head.
"You're some kind of snooping detective, aren't you?"
"Sort of," Daphne was concerned by the strange noises starting to emerge from the device now that it had been fed the purple liquid.
"Not anymore," she chuckled a little, "unless you can dust for fingerprints underwater."
"What the heck does that mean?"
"Well," she paused, "where are my manners, I'm the sea witch
but you can call me Ursula."
"Are you crazy?" Daphne looked the woman up and down as she said the words and for the first time saw that the dress was far too tight to be a dress and what she had taken to be the spreading ends of the garment writhe and move like tentacles. "But, I've seen the movie
you're not real, and you were immense!"
"Ever seen something that came out of Hollywood that made a supposed villain look good?"
"Of course not," Ursula shook her head, "the irony of the whole thing is that they always get the story turned on its head up there on the surface. I mean the very idea of Triton actually letting one of his own kin go off and escape his dominion and on top of that the idea of one of his people becoming human!"
"That's not possible?" Daphne was well through the looking glass by now.
"Of course it's possible," Ursula chuckled again, "not that Triton would ever allow it. No, he likes it when things flow in the opposite direction. Hence him having me come all the way out here and get my hands dirty on his behalf."
"You work for King Triton?" Daphne realised that she was talking to a fictional character about another fictional character, but insanity was piling on top of insanity and she could do nothing but swim with the current.
"Everyone beneath the waves works for him, they have no choice. His word is the law and his virility knows no bounds
or at least it used to!" Ursula became conspiratorial in tone. "You see the King likes to practice the right of the monarch to bed the wives of his subjects and bless them," she raised her eyes at the turn of phrase, "with the potency of his royal person. Only in recent years, let's just say that his trident isn't standing to attention as much as it used to and he's getting desperate for new blood in his kingdom."
"How does that affect me?"
"Well," Ursula gestured to the device Daphne was strapped to, "if he can't make new subjects in the traditional way he'll take any method he can to increase his population."
"What?" Daphne was more confused than usual, "this king wants to have a baby with me?"
"No, no," she shook her head, "he wants you to become one of his subjects."
"But his subjects are mermaids!"
"But I'm human!"
"Not for much longer."
Daphne felt a heat building around her breast and legs, making her pulse race and her whole body tingle. Every second that passed she was less and less aware of the sensations of her legs and more and more aware of a bizarre feeling of fluidity and movement below her waist. She looked down in surprise at the casket that covered her legs and saw the front of the thing for the first time. Though it followed the vague outline of her legs, the detail of the metal that extended from her waist downwards was worked in the shape of a single, scaled limb that ended in a wide fin at the bottom. It was only after she had seen this that she noticed the covering over her breasts was dominated by a pair of seashells that were worked in the same metal and covered her dignity as well as any bikini top.
"Calm down," Ursula sounded patient, "and yes, I'm well along with the process of turning you into a mermaid. Just relax and things will go far more smoothly for you."
"But, wait," Daphne pleaded as Ursula slid the two halves of the glass sphere together, trapping her inside. "I don't know if I want to be a mermaid
I mean, none of my shoes will fit!"
If the sea witch heard her, she made no effort to respond as the sealed sphere slowly filled with water and Daphne sank into a sleep filled with half formed dreams and the sensation of her own body melting, running together and forming into something new as she slept.
When she awoke, Daphne had the strangest feeling that her arms were somehow weightless and floating at her sides. She took a deep breath and felt the warmth of the water as it surged into her lungs and back out of her cleverly concealed gills.
Daphne tried to scream and was rewarded with a flood of bubbles escaping her mouth and only the slightest hint of a sound. She thrashed around, desperate and convinced that she only had seconds to live before the oxygen in her lungs was depleted and she drowned.
But those seconds stretched into what must have been minutes and she was puzzled to find that she was somehow still very much alive.
She sank down in the water that surrounded her until her backside made contact with what she assumed was the bottom of whatever she was being held in and tried to order her thoughts to make sense of what was happening.
Then she remembered the sensation of expelling water from her body with a set of gills and it all came flooding back to her.
Daphne realised that she was sitting on the bottom of the large glass sphere she had been trapped inside by the strange creature that called herself Ursula. She recalled the fantastic things she had been told and the impossible claims about what was to happen to her.
Hardly daring to look, Daphne opened her eyes and glanced down at her body.
What she saw was simply not possible, but there it was all the same. Below the waist her legs were simply no longer there, they had been replaced by what could only be described as a tail. It followed the basic shape of the body she remembered, but this single limb was covered in iridescent scale of purple edged with violet. Where she had once had dainty feet, Daphne now had a spreading tail fin of a similar violet to the edging of the scales some three feet in length and width that flapped and curled as she unconsciously moved it as she had once moved her toes. Her hands went to her breasts and she found them covered by a pair of shells that seemed attached to the skin. They were a pale cream in colour and shaded with the same violet as her scales and fins.
So Ursula had been telling the truth, despite how crazy it sounded.
Daphne tried to deal with the fact that she had started the day as a perfectly normal human being and ended it as a mermaid trapped in a glass sphere.
At least she could console herself with the fact that the colours of her tail were quite stylish and complemented her hair. It would have been unendurable to be forced to live as a mermaid that had anything but perfect colouring and coordination.
Daphne was roused from her contemplation of her new body by the realisation that the level of water in the sphere was falling rapidly. Soon it had fallen below the level of her head and she found that despite all the changes, she was still perfectly able to breathe out of the water as well as under it.
Satisfied that she was in no immediate danger, Daphne saw that there was nothing else to do put play the part she had been given. If she was honest she had always had a deep down affection for the idea of mermaids, as many women did. They were pretty and exotic and in her mind they spent a sensible amount of time making sure that they looked the part, what with all the sitting around on rocks and combing their hair. A part of her was secretly relieved that if she had to be turned into anything from a fairy tale that a mermaid had been the choice. After all, who else was as turned on to the issues of style and fashion as she was? She was practically over-qualified for the job of being a mermaid and she was now in a position to show just what a girl with a tail could do.
Daphne had no way of realising the subtle and slow way that her thoughts were changing by the moment. Before the transformation she might have been able to fight back and cling on to the desire to remain human. But with her body changed and her mind enchanted by the beauty of her mermaid form, there was no way for her to resist the changes that crept into her mind. Even before the water had drained from the sphere she was engrossed in arranging her tail and flicking her hair for the maximum impact.
She was rapidly becoming a mermaid in mind as well as body.
As soon as the water had drained completely and the front half of the sphere swung open, Daphne was greeted by the sight of Ursula looking her up and down like a fishmonger scrutinizing a consignment of haddock.
"Purple," she nodded, "I was right again."
"Erm," Daphne curled a lock of hair around a finger, "what happens to me now?"
Her head was filled with the tale Ursula had spun of Triton and his rather self-indulgent ways when it came to his female subjects. She was half prepared to be dragged off to some kind of underwater harem and dreading the consequences.
"You're free to go."
Of all the things that she had been expecting Ursula to say, that was the last.
"Totally," she smiled, "Triton's paying me to make mermaids for him, not to deliver them bound and tied to the foot of his throne."
"But that means I can swim right back to the shore and tell the world about all this!"
"Oh please," Ursula laughed, "I'm not stupid you know. The tail and the gills aren't all you get; the package comes with a little surprise that grows right inside your pretty little head. You might have realised that you're not at all worried about being turned into a mermaid in any real way. Yes it's odd and strange, but you're not screaming and begging for your legs back. That's a little something that will grow as time goes by, grow to make you more and more comfortable with the tail. Pretty soon you won't want to go back at all, believe me."
Daphne had to admit that she had a point, she looked down at her tail and realised that she would be very sorry to lose it now that she had it.
"And what if you do tell the surface dwellers about all this?" Ursula shook her head. "At the best they'd catch you and keep you in some kind of zoo; at worst they'd chop you up to see how everything worked."
Daphne gasped and drew her tail up under herself defensively.
"So the choice is yours," she made a gesture that indicated Daphne was free to leave of her own accord.
Fred shone his torch under the rock he had just lifted and shook his head in tired frustration as he discovered that Daphne was not hiding under this one either. She had not been hiding under any of the other dozens of rock he had lifted either and he was starting to think that she had simply vanished into thin air.
"Fred," Velma was trying very hard not to scream, "if I were anyone else in the world, I'd have to ask you how you think a hundred and five pound woman can be hiding under a ten pound rock
but as I know you better than to want to hear the answer I'll just ask you to stop before I have to brain you with something heavy."
"We can't stop searching," Fred was now scrutinizing rock pools no more than ten inches in depth as though they were the next most likely place to search for their missing friend.
wow," they both looked down the beach to where Shaggy and Scooby had wandered off moments earlier, "you guys have to see this!"
They rounded the corner of the beach to see Shaggy standing beneath a rocky outcropping, similar to the one they had seen the mysterious figure dive from a few days earlier. But this time the figure sitting above them was familiar
or at least half of her was.
"Hey guys," Daphne smiled, "you'll never believe what happened to me!"
Daphne had pondered what approach to take with them as she had made her way through the coastal waters towards the shore. She had never been good at this kind of thing and had come to the conclusion that the best course of action would simply be to show them up front and without holding anything back. After all they were her friends and she had something truly amazing and wonderful to show them.
"Wow," Fred's eyes seemed to be straining to pop out of his head, "neat costume!"
"No costumes here!" she grinned and flipped her tail happily.
"Don't be silly," Velma wrinkled her nose, "there's no such thing as mermaids."
"Then what am I?"
"Delusional!" Velma gripped the end of Daphne's tail and gave a sharp tug, intending to yank what she thought was a costume off of her friend's legs.
Daphne cried out in alarm and pain and Velma ended up on her backside, shaking her head at the realisation that she had just put her hands on something that was definitely not synthetic and very much a living part of her friend's body.
"It's real," Velma's head swam and her voice was filled with surprise, "how is that possible?!?"
"Don't worry, Daphne," Fred was trying to play the caring role, "we'll find out who did this and make them turn you back, I promise."
Daphne could feel the disbelief boiling over within herself and turning into petulant anger. Why were they all talking as though something awful had happened to her? Why could they not see that she was beautiful and unique? She spent so long making an effort to look good and show them the importance of style and fashion and they were never grateful. Now she had been turned into a creature that was the personification of beauty and grace, a creature capable of luring men to their deaths for a mere glance at her visage and still they were clueless.
"Go boil your big dumb head!" Daphne exploded in rage and swept her tail up, connecting with Fred's chin and laying him out cold with the effectiveness of any uppercut.
"None of you jerks appreciates me," she shuffled down the rocks and towards the sea. "Those guys down there," she pointed angrily at the waves, "they kidnapped me, made me go near icky monsters and turned me into a fish; but at least they appreciate me for my finer qualities."
Daphne dived into the water before anyone could reach her.
Her head popped up from the waves one last time.
"I'm going where people will appreciate a woman who knows how to accessorise!"
And with that she disappeared from sight in a splash of salt water and purple scales.
Daphne felt her mood lighten as soon as she was beneath the waves. She had never been a strong swimmer, but the feel of her tail as she surged through the water felt like nothing she had ever experienced before.
Who cared if they did not appreciate her, those surface dwellers who she was finding it ever harder to recall the names of the further she swam into the depths. They had never appreciated her when she was Daphne, her surname escaped her grasp as well, the human and they were nothing to her as a mermaid.
She cast them off as more and more memories of the woman she had been peeled away from her mind to be replaced by thoughts of the sea.
By the time she reached the borders of Triton's realm, guided by instinct, there was truly nothing left of Daphne Blake the human being.
There was simply Daphne, the mermaid with cascading red hair and a stunning tail of radiant purple.
Everything else was lost, washed away by the ever moving tides.