David Sutherland was by no means an impulsive man. He had his ten-year plan all worked out: accept the best of the four jobs he had been offered, work hard and save enough so that in five years he could start his own sporting goods store. Once that was stable, he would fall in love, marry, and have a child or two.
Scuba diving was only a hobby. He loved the triumph of it. No man could hold his breath long enough to skim the ocean floor like he did in his dry suit. It was the ingenuity of man solving the shortcomings nature had thrust upon him that allowed David to touch ancient corals, swim with brilliant multicolored fish and approach the sharks that everybody else fears.
He had heard of Kootenay Lake in passing, but it never caught his interest until one day when his girlfriend showed him the newspaper.
“Some people in Nelson claim they saw a mermaid in Kootenay Lake three weeks ago,” Lucy said. “There’s been over a hundred sightings since.”
“They’re all hippies on crack.”
“She’s been blamed for twelve deaths.”
“Don’t they know mermaids live in the ocean?”
Lucy rolled up the newspaper and swatted his arm. “Don’t you have any imagination?”
David laughed and kissed her. “You’re the artist, I’m the rational one.”
But the idea of a mermaid in a lake was alluring. David found himself researching Kootenay Lake at the oddest times; during breakfast; right after his shower; in the middle of the night.
David had never dived in a lake before.
“And you say I’m crazy,” Lucy said when she saw his travel brochures and packed suitcase. “Who’s your diving buddy?”
“Jack’s meeting me there.”
A lie. Never dive alone. It was like he could hear his diving instructor in his head. Maybe he’d find somebody to dive with once he got to Nelson.
He didn’t believe in the mermaid, and soon found that lake diving was mundane compared to the tropical oceans he was used to. After checking his depth and oxygen levels, he let his mind wander. He watched bubbles float up towards the surface of the lake, listening to the sound of his breath.
Lucy was a great girl. She was nice, funny, smart. His parents liked her. Every time he left the house she would kiss him. When he got home, he would break up with her. She deserved a man who didn’t lie when he said “I love you.”
A flash of light caught his eye. Like sunlight on gold. David angled his body towards it, peering through the darkness. Was it a camera?
There! It came again, closer. Something was coming towards him. Too big for a fish. Too fast for another diver. The figure swam in a wide circle around him, and as it passed over his head he saw two arms stretched wide, a distinct womanly figure outlined by the sun, and a glistening fish-like tail.
The mermaid came close enough for David to see her eyes. His heart swelled with the feelings he never had with Lucy. She dove. David followed. His heart pounded and he swam as hard as he could. He saw sunlight flash on her scales. He had to go deeper, get closer. All other thoughts vanished. The water overhead swallowed the sun. With a shaking hand, David turned on his underwater lights.
There! He caught a glimpse of her before she was gone again. He had to keep going. His ears popped but he hardly noticed.