about a reverse little mermaid, in which the prince’s sister has always dreamed of life under the sea, and then they are in a shipwreck, and as she hangs onto a piece of driftwood, she sees her brother rescued from drowning by a mermaid. Everybody thinks she’s mad, later, after she’s been rescued. But her brother did turn up alive and unharmed on the beach, and she knows what she saw: a girl, beautiful as the dawn, with a fish’s tail, keeping her brother safe above the waves. She grows sick with longing.
So the princess goes to visit the witch who lives in the woods, and she tells her that she can give her a mermaid’s tail and a mermaid’s breath—but she will always be human in her heart and in her soul, unless she can convince one of the merfolk to fall in love with her. For humans live short lives, and their immortal souls vanish to distant realms after death, while the merfolk live for hundreds of years, and when they die they remain in the sea that is their home.
The princess agrees, and the witch tells her she will make a potion that she must swallow when she wants to transform. But then she reminds her that she must be paid—and laughs at her when she offers gold. She tells her that she will have her voice, and slowly the princess agrees, so she cuts off her tongue and throws it into a boiling pot, adds a knot of snakes and a drop of her own black blood, and gives her the resulting potion to drink.
At midnight, she takes the potion out to the jetty, and as soon as it passes her lips, her legs are bound together, becoming a merman’s tail. She falls—kinda ungracefully—into the ocean, and it feels unbelievably natural to dive down, and she’s shocked by how well she can see, even in the deep water, even at midnight. And then she just sort of carelessly, cluelessly swims on, and she almost gets eaten by a shark, and then she’s trailing blood in the water so she almost gets eaten by another shark, and another, and she can’t find the merfolk city she’s always been taught was under the water, and it’s late and she’s exhausted and is running from all sorts of terrifying creatures who she’d never really thought about existing before, and she only escapes the sharks by dodging past a whirlpool, and then another whirlpool, close to the ocean bottom. She passes through a series of foaming whirlpools like a labyrinth, and then she sees a white house on the ocean bottom, in the middle of a strange forest of polypi. The polypi are half animal, half plant, reaching out and grasping at anything they can touch. The princess swims carefully through it, and she sees that there are things caught in the polypi’s arms: anchors, planks, wooden chests, the white skeletons of drowned men. A little mermaid. She makes it to the house, and recoils when she realizes that it’s also made of bleached human bones.