A song of the sea
by Bogdan Groza
I have always found that truths have a strange way of being twisted and distorted by time. Stories are changed by the people who tell them, adding details or withholding nuances. My story and that of my sisters however has only been ever written here, within a book that has been passed down along the centuries; it is with a certain sense of pride that I add yet another chapter to a story that I know will not be read by many.
We have been depicted in many corners of the world, probably because we have drifted for so long. Myths have portrayed us extensively, although the imagery was never quite the same; some times we had scales and even a fishlike tail and in other representations we had feathers or wings. I think it was only towards the Middle Ages that someone finally decided to differentiate between two different species.
We were never monsters however, we were just scared. Frightened by a world that did not want to understand us.
Most versions of our myth at least have one thing in common: the element of a hypnotic song, a spellbinding quality of a voice that would forever ensnare those who hear it. I find it to be an interesting spin, but still ultimately erroneous; especially considering that me and most of us are born mute. Probably that is why we always liked so much to listen. Not being able to speak meant wanting to listen carefully to every uttered sound. I would not know how to explain it, but the people that we met, both before we started migrating as well as during our voyages, always wanted to share their tales. Maybe that is our only magical quality, to spontaneously allure others and make them want to share their stories. We soon discovered however that people did not like what they did not understand and so, when others would lose countless days narrating their lives, we would be the ones that were blamed. Demonized because of our ability to listen. Eventually we had to leave, always on the move, never wanting to risk our wellbeing or that of those surrounding us.
At the time, the best place to find solace and possibly, even refuge, was the sea. We felt compelled, we felt a calling, we felt the need to be where few could find us as well as where we would be able to roam freely. Our fascination for the stories of others, the unknown truths that humanity had, was only rivalled by our sense of awe for the limitless freedom and mysteries of the sea. Eventually we found an architect and master craftsman who alongside his son helped us build the best ship that men had ever seen. It was coated with a special type of bees-wax and it could almost cut the waves as it sailed. In time, we had to make modifications, eventually build a newer model, but we still kept the original name. Today our ship is called the Nautilus Mark IV, a name that still brings a smile to my face.
It has been many years since my ancestors have first departed, but to this day, we still spend our time sailing from one place to the next, transported by the gentle currents of the oceans of the world. We visit islands and ports, listen to the stories of those who desperately want to share them and then depart once more. It is only on the boundless waters however that we feel that we belong. More so than the mesmerizing song that we were accused of possessing, there is one melody that is far more captivating. The vibrations that the waves create against the hull, the distant splashes of fish that briefly surface, the gentle breeze of the wind against the sails, there are so many sounds that harmoniously resonate and create the song of the ocean. That is the music that has cradled us since the moment we were born and it is the same that will accompany us in our last moments.
Although we have been demonized for so long, in more recent years we have discovered that there has been a shift in how we are represented. I would dare say that now we are even beloved characters. I think that one of my sisters is to blame for this given her weak point for writing letters. I should still have somewhere around here the correspondence between her and a certain Andersen who I believed might have written a sweeter version of us. Regardless of how the world sees us, we will probably continue navigating aimlessly, reading the stories that we have gathered along these centuries and listening to the song of the sea. It is what we know. It is what we cherish.
I think I can sleep easy, transported by the ocean currents and towards unknown destinations, knowing that these paragraphs will forever represent our truth, the one that has never been told to the world, but the one that will always be there for us.
Bogdan Groza, born in Romania and living in Italy, is doing a PhD in Philology and literary criticism at the faculty of Siena on science fiction literature. He has published short stories and poems in minor Italian anthologies and English literary magazines. He published his first book, Athena, in 2021 with Montag Edizioni, followed by its sequel in 2023.
You can read his thoughts on the world (and mostly on movies and animation) here: https://quirkyhorizons.com/
You can find other things he’s working on his author’s page: