Musicians: Richard Worth and Chris Greive
Writer: Mackenzie Doss Text: Melusine Flash Fiction
My mother imparted Melusine to me as a woman of mythical mermaidian proportion. From my mother’s lips passed countless manifestations of coiling fish tails, luminous scales, and cascading hair. Like some alluring morality tale, my mother shared the story with an almost nervous intensity. Melusine, she said, was everything mysterious in a woman. Danger was the word she never let pass from her lips. Regret pooling behind wet eyes. My mother never enjoyed telling stories. But that’s what mothers do: they tell stories and share tales. They leave us with colorful words that carry young minds through the silence of bedtime when nightlights aren’t enough. Or at least she tried to, my mother.
Why Melusine? Well, why not? She is, after all, the last story I was left with. A farewell. The goodbye note that says ‘I’m running away.’ And since I am here, I’ll tell you. Listen to the trip trapping of syllables across my tongue. It is not bedtime, but still my narrative holds dreamlike incantation to lead you to the same world my mother tried to lead me. Don’t worry; I’m not some piper come to steal children. I only ask for a bit of time, a bit of mind, and just enough fantasy.
Melusine. Me-lu-sine. The angelic bather of the silvery forest brook come upon by a returning knight. He asked for a name, then he asked for her hand. Her beauty was all reason he needed to need her. And two narrative breaths later the story space finds itself decorated with the castle of the knight and his watery won bride, their silent, unnamed children, and a neighboring castle of relevant mystery.
A request. A promise that lingers in the bones and backstage of the story. Knight, Melusine had said on their meeting day, you must swear to build me a castle all my own. Allow me but two days a month to live undisturbed within. The knight hastily, delightedly agreed. Swear, warned Melusine, because false words beget lost loves. I swear, said the knight.
Even now I say his damning response and hear it like clanging irons in my brain. We all know the ending to this story.
Whispers reach the unguarded ears of the knight. He is lord, and yet he does not know everything about his lady. Monster, comes the offstage cry. Sorceress, claim the unseen peasants. I assume you can guess it’s too much for the knight, and so breaks his promise.
I see the scene now as I have always and will continue to see it. The wall of the unbreached castle is suddenly a crumble of stones. A once curious and well-meaning knight is reconfigured as a terrified man whose mouth gapes open and shut like the fish he now perceives half his wife to be. Let me paint across your mind now—her Image. She rests in a brook that divides the interior of the castle, and probably enough the interior of this story. A long, undulating mermaids tail parting the shallow water. Azure scales, like small stones, meeting warm skin. Waves of oil black hair covering bare breasts. And the realization that passes between them that a line has been crossed.
The castle continues to crumble and Melusine passes forever out of my story, while I bury the knight beneath the stones and my remaining words. He saw the fish, but not the lady. And then the lady, but not the fish. The poor soul thought ‘monster’ and then all was undone. My poor mother was never seen again.