Along the distant shores of a glistening ocean lies a village. In that village, there is a house. It stands atop a grassy mound, closest to where the fishing boats are docked. This run-down building has been empty for years, but it has something special – a magnificent fountain at the front. 

This fountain is made out of smooth marble and flecks of lapis lazuli. Villagers keep it polished and clean, and recognise it as a community monument.  White lotuses grow abundantly in its pond- the flower of the village. In the centre is a statue of a mermaid, decorated with pearls and colourful shells. The creature was carved beautifully, and the villagers believe that she protects their community from harm.

Word spread about this majestic fountain and people from near and far would come visit just to take a glimpse, but no one knows its maker. Such knowledge remains a mystery to most…

Centuries ago, the house used to be the home of a fisherman, one of the best in the land. The man loved his job very much. He was able to do his bit for his beloved village, and in return the villagers were always happy and grateful for his services. But the most important reason why he loved his job was being able to fish at the peak of summer, when exotic marine animals of all shapes and sizes would come alive in the azure waters.

The fisherman was blessed with five children; the first four were boys, and the fifth, a girl. They were all good children, and spent a lot of time helping their father, however the youngest could only do so much. This was because she was born with very weak legs, and had to sit on a wheeled chair for all her life.

Regardless of her limitations, she would always show a high spirit and go about her life while her brothers cared for her. Her brothers truly loved her, but sometimes she felt saddened for having caused her family so much trouble. She longed to be free, to be out of the chair and to walk, run and jump around like her brothers. If only she were granted this miracle, she would exclaim to her friends, then life would be such a joy and she would be able to repay her family. 

The signs of summer were in full bloom, and the fisherman was eager to embark on his journey with his children in search of new kinds of fish. 

It was a perfect day out; the sky was clear and the waters were cool and welcoming. The children spotted many aquatic creatures of strange shapes and patterns. Some were round and had sharp spines, and some were flat with many legs, almost invisible in the ocean with its camouflaged skin. The fisherman beamed, to see his children together cheered up his spirit. 

Suddenly, out of nowhere a thunderbolt crackled, and rain began to pour, turning the blue sky into grey. The rain kept gushing heavier and heavier, causing a giant storm. Waves crashed about as the fisherman tried to steady his vessel. He ordered his sons to protect their sister and control the sails. 

The wind howled furiously as the eldest pushed the wheelchair towards the cabin, but he was no match against the gale, and he watched in alarm as the wheelchair skidded to the edge of the boat, and toppled into the waves, taking his sister with it. The boy ran after her but it was too late.

The fisherman never brought his children on his vessel ever again. 

As the season began to turn, the brothers never got back their old, cheerful selves. They missed their sister.

One night, while his father was asleep, the eldest decided to take his brothers out to sea once more. He wanted to give his sister a proper farewell. They thought of bringing her a gift, but could not find anything suitable. They searched around the village for what seemed like hours until the middle brother sighted some white lotuses growing in a small canal. The water was filthy with algae and rubbish and the flowers looked small and frail. 

The brothers didn’t have anything else, so they plucked them and quickly went to the harbour.

For hours they struggled to get the boat running, and when they reached the spot where the wheelchair was seen last, they placed the flowers on the water’s surface and stood there for a long time, taking in the serene silence. 

The youngest shed a tear, and it fell upon one of the petals.

The brothers were about to leave when the surface began to ripple, slowly at first, then it began to bubble and a shape appeared from under. The shape looked human and, to the brothers’ surprise, so much like their sister. Only, there was something different about her. The boys leaned towards the edge to get a closer look. It had to be their sister!

It was!

“Hello my brothers!” she exclaimed, laughing. She was more beautiful than ever before, her hair shone in the moonlight and her eyes were twinkling.

The brothers greeted in return and shouted for joy, they could not believe she was alive! They began to reach for her.

“Let’s go home! We can’t wait to tell father!” beckoned the youngest brother.

“I can’t,” the sister said.

“Why not?” the brothers questioned with worry.

“Because…” then she leaned back to show a long scaly and glittery tail- a mermaid tail!

Her brothers gasped. How was this possible? The boys’ expressions were a mixture of surprise and confusion, but their sister smiled reassuringly.

“Yes, my dear brothers, I am a mermaid! But please don’t fret and worry about me, know in your hearts that I am joyous here, don’t you see?” and she began to move around the water in circles, “With this wonderful tail, I am free! Free to swim, to jump and splash about as I please! I am no longer tied to a chair. Please, tell father I am safe and well. Come by and visit whenever you like, I promise I’ll always be here to meet you all!”

The boys were scared, yet delighted by the miracle. With a heavy heart they decided it was time for them to go. The four brothers parted with their only sister, and she thanked them for their constant care. They promised to meet again soon.

Dawn arose in the village when they returned home and told their father what happened. The fisherman couldn’t believe his ears and told his sons off for endangering their lives out at night. He dismissed the ridiculous notion and ordered them never to speak about their sister again. She’s gone, and that was that.

As the season evolved the days became shorter and the nights became colder. The fisherman’s dislike for his job deepened day by day, so much that one day he stopped. He didn’t leave his house and spent the days sitting by the window, overlooking the glistening ocean. 

With the sudden shortage of fish, the villagers grew restless. An invisible blanket of unsettlement covered the village. The brothers’ worries grew upon the state of their father.  They couldn’t bear to look at him in such a state. 

The fisherman was getting old and he was not strong enough to bear the weight of loss any longer. Every time he went aboard his ship for the daily catch, the thought of his lost daughter entered his thoughts and stayed there, haunting him and burdening him. He couldn’t take it. He had to stop, yet how else would he make a living? 

He left the house one cloudless evening and strolled along the coastline, struggling to clear his mind. As he reached the far end of the shore his eyes noticed a delicate object floating gently towards the edge. It was startlingly white in the moonlight and as he walked closer, it resembled a large bloom- a lotus. The fisherman was entranced by its pure beauty and delicacy. How could such a fragile flower stay strong against the big tides? He picked up the lotus and almost immediately a rush of warmth entered his body. Then a soft and gentle breeze blew across his ear, a calming whisper. He began to understand. Slowly a smile formed upon his rough face and he turned back home.

As the fisherman trudged up the grassy mound towards his home, he called out to his sons, “A miracle has befallen upon the family!” 

The brothers were in awe at the sudden change of their father, and ran towards him for a warm embrace. The family bond was healed. Merry laughter erupted and tears were shed from each of them. The fisherman finally realised – his little girl was truly happy. As the family walked back home, he made a blessing for his daughter.

The fisherman decided to create a memorial for his daughter. The brothers chose a fountain to symbolize her ever-flowing love for the sea.  They worked day and night on the sculpture and when it was finished, it was a breath-taking sight.

From then on, the fisherman and his sons would set sail frequently to meet his daughter, and then to come home with a net full of fresh fish.

One day they set sailed and never came back, leaving the sounds of merriment and glee echoing and blending with the waves that were home to the many exotic creatures…

Although it has been empty ever since, memories of the fisherman and his children will live forever within the run-down house in that distant village. And even though the people may not know the real story, they still continue to commemorate their mermaid guardian with the white lotuses that now flourish and bloom in every home, at the peak of summer. 

Theadosia Kurniawan