Catch of the Day by Jess Doyle
She squirmed, a hopeless tangle of netting, scales and coarse, dark hair. Her mighty tail gleamed jasper and jade, fused with serpentine skin. She hissed and glared at them with onyx eyes, clawing at the net with fingers like talons.
The fishermen laughed. ‘No Disney princess, is she?’ they joked, imagining glossy hair and pert breasts. One of them kicked at her and she bared sharp, serrated teeth.
‘Don’t matter,’ said the captain. ‘Nothing like that been caught before, she’s going to be worth a fair bit.’ He grinned at her.
They’d all been on deck when she’d first surfaced. They’d been about to call it a day with their measly catch of mackerel when a more tempting catch splashed to the surface not far from the boat. It had been a long chase after that. She’d led them far out to sea. By the time they’d worn her down, the sun was a mere sliver on the horizon, turning the sky blush and coral with clouds the colour of old bruises. They cast their nets and dragged her, thrashing and hissing, on board.
Their eyes gleamed greedily as they advanced on her. So captivated by their catch, they didn’t notice the dozens of onyx eyes watching the boat from just below the surface or the talon-like fingers reaching for them.
She grinned at the circle of fishermen, her work as bait done for another day.
Judges’ comments on runner-up story
I love a good twist, where the predator becomes the prey. There is a great balance between the mermaid description followed by the spin on the circumstances.
I feel mermaids are underused in horror fiction and this was a great little piece of flash fiction, using them at what they are best at. Capturing sailors. Nicely written and packs a punch.