Sometimes the difference between reality and insanity is only a matter of absurdity.
There is nothing Milo Bishop fears more than the thought that he is going insane.
Having grown up hearing his Uncle Jay’s stories about the strange mermaids Milo never had a reason to believe they were actually true. But when a near-death experience gives Milo a vision of a mermaid calling to him for help, Milo is forced to test his uncle’s claims. And when he winds up in Rasulka, the mermaid community tucked away, deep under the southern California seas, the question of his uncle’s sanity is the least of his concerns.
For in the heart of Rasulka, a growing whirlpool in the ocean-sky and the terrarium’s changing climate — along with a discarded prophecy that says their end will come when humans appear — all suggest that the end is near. Along with his uncle and best friend, Moss, and Eluia, a young mermaid who grew up hearing myths about humans, Milo has only hours to sort through his doubts and insecurities and face down unimaginable terrors if he is going to find his way home — before Rasulka, and everyone in it, is lost forever.
C. S. Johnson is the award-winning, genre-hopping author of several novels, including young adult sci-fi and fantasy adventures such as the Starlight Chronicles, the Once Upon a Princess saga, and the Divine Space Pirates trilogy. With a gift for sarcasm and an apologetic heart, she currently lives in Atlanta with her family.
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“Are you awake?”
Much like the time I’d woken up in the hospital, I was beckoned back to reality by a familiar voice—but instead of my mother, this time it was her voice.
Am I dreaming? Am I dead?
I could hardly believe it. My eyes were covered with sand and dirt, and I squirmed as something nudged my foot, and hard.
“What is it?”
A new voice spoke from the other side of me. This one was a male voice, one that sounded older and much more disgruntled.
“I … can’t say.” She was the one who answered, and I knew from the gentle innocence of her voice, she hadn’t been the one who’d been prodding me.
“Well, is it alive, Eluia?”
Her name was Eluia, and before I could open my eyes to see her, I already knew she was the one I’d seen before. She was the one I’d spoken to while I was saving Moss from the whale.
“Yes, it seems so,” Eluia said. A soft whisper of a touch grazed my forehead. A shiver went through me at its chilling warmth.
“Let me see.”
“Don’t poke it with that stick!”
Right on cue, something stabbed my cheek, right underneath my goggles.
“Ouch,” I grumbled, tasting the salty thickness of air and musk through the mask of my wetsuit. “Watch it.”
“It’s making noises.” Eluia’s voice rang with excitement. “See, it is alive.”
“Hey!” I yelped, as another jolt of pain hit me, as I was prodded in the ribs.
“Ceros!” Eluia’s rebuke came quick. “Stop. You’re hurting it.”
“Just because it’s alive doesn’t mean it has value,” Ceros scoffed.
I didn’t have to see Ceros to know I didn’t think I was going to like him.
He was in one of Uncle Jay’s stories.
That moment was too surreal; I found myself debating with myself, torn between whether or not I was going to open my eyes and find out what destiny had in store for me.
Uncle Jay had told me before that some people don’t want to heal. But as I lay there, with my back to the ground and my limbs all sprawled out in different directions, I realized that it wasn’t just healing that people didn’t want. I didn’t want to be stripped of my ideas about life—and I didn’t want to take a leap of faith into a new world where things could be different or frightening.
“Just because that’s your opinion, doesn’t mean I value it,” Eluia murmured under her breath. From the sound of it, Ceros was already walking away, so I doubted he heard her.
Hearing her voice again—and the spirited defiance behind it—I decided I wanted to know the truth about her, if nothing else.