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Within the depth of the sea near Galicia, there is a mermaid of perpetuity that dwells, amidst the haunting waters that encompass the coastal village of Foz. She is revered by the seamen and fishermen, who immortalise her beauty and are mesmerised by her attractive contours. Beneath the tidal waves you will find her, if you dare to look for her. There is a statue of her that towers over the port of Foz. Legend says that few men, who have seen her and have fallen under her incantation, recover from their obsession for her. They become suddenly mad and driven to the point of no return. It is a blind madness that many have lost their lives and have drown in the sunken sorrows of the sea. I Francisco Damián had almost succumbed to the depths of the grasp of the mighty sea and the mermaid called Serea.

I had arrived at the seaport village of Foz, from the city of Málaga. Foz was located in the northeastern part of Spain in the province of Galicia. It was a solitary place off the coast, but it was a province where countless men of the country had come to start a new life or to leave to the Americas. I was still relatively young in age and was seeking a daring adventure upon the seas. I had a family member, who had been living in the province and had suggested that I moved there. Thus, I did in the spring of 1908. My expectations were high, yet I knew that it would not be facile. There was nothing that would guarantee me great success nor the opportunity to advance my present status. I had faith in my ambitions, but I would never have suspected that fate would bring me to Serea.

Foz was close to the villages of Mondoñedo, Burela and Barreiros, which I was able to pass through and see from the distance. At the time of my arrivance, there was not much to descry of the village. It had been abandoned by the youth and forsaken to the misery of time. It was not uncommon to see people from Spain emigrate to other areas of the continent or the world. My parents were once bold enough to have ventured to the exotic Americas. I had followed in their footsteps as a traveller and had grown up as a small child with the Mediterranean Sea in front of me always, but I could not imagine that the sea that I would cherish tremendously would have a haunting secret and presence lurking, under its immense vastidity.

The northern winds and the ethereal mist from the sea were evidently noticeable. The sky was dull and drear. It gave the general impression that the village was gradually sinking into the sea. There were barely any ships in the port. The ones that were out in the sea had belonged to mostly local fishermen. When I had tried to communicate with the fishermen at the port, they would not utter a single word to me. I was not certain, if it was because I was a complete stranger or an outsider. Although we were countrymen, I was not embraced as one of them, a pure blood Galician. This was not a concern to me, since I had sensed this type of regional pride before in the northern parts of Spain. I did not expect that the fishermen would prefer to ignore me, instead of greeting me with a cordial handshake, at least.

It was until I had reached the centre of the village that I was met by a certain elderly man, who had identified himself as Señor Garduno. I had never met this man, nor did I know who he was. Despite that, he was receptive enough to invite me to his house. There we had spoken at length, about why I had come to Foz and who he was. He had seemed like a normal man, but there was something odd about his appearance. He had dark spectacles that were covering his eyes. When I had asked the reason for the spectacles, he simply told me that his eyes were extremely sensitive to the light. What was even more odd was the fact that there was little sunlight to be seen, through the patchy clouds of the fog. Perhaps, there was some type of light that was emitting from the sun that I was not aware of its rays, or it was merely precautionary in his part. To have them on in the house was a bit strange to me.

I did not want to offend him by my intriguing mind, so I had ceased to question his rationale for the spectacles. From what he had related to me, he too was a fisherman who fished albacore and hake off the coast. When I had asked him, where were the rest of the villagers he looked at me, then smiled before he gave me a token reply. According to him, most of the villagers had left, and those who had remained were mostly middle-aged to elderly people, who were born and raised in Foz. It was disturbing to know that the youth of the village had decided to seek their fortunes elsewhere, but I could not blame them. Spain at the time was not a country to gain much wealth and prosperity, for an ordinary person. Regrettably, the economic woes of the country were seen throughout the provinces.

I had asked him, where I could find the local inn to be able to stay the night. He had suggested one that was not that far from his home. He could take me there, if I had wanted. Naturally, I was thankful and had agreed. I had brought sufficient clothing for the trip and my time there in Foz. He had arranged for me to be able to stay at the local inn called ''A Serea'', which meant the mermaid. I had some knowledge of the Galician language and understood for the most part, the majority of its vernacular speech. It had sounded like a conglomeration of Spanish and Portuguese. The innkeeper was a middle-aged man. He too like the old man had been wearing dark spectacles over his eyes. It was bizarre, but I did not ask him the reason for the spectacles. Along my way to the inn, I did not see any children nor women. Were they too gone from the village or were they inside of their homes?

I did not pry into the matter at that moment in time. I was simply suspicious. The room at the inn was small but comfortable enough for me to stay for a period of time that was necessary. If I was unable to find employment with one of the ships, then I would go to Portugal. From my view, I could partially see the sea, even though it was foggy outside. There was something about the sea there off the Galician coast that was different than the sea I had been accustomed to seeing back in Málaga. I could hear the howling of the wind and the sounds of the gulls first, but I heard then the sound of peculiar whispers. Was I hearing what I had thought were whispers? I had paused to listen more attentively. The whispers had increased for a moment, until they had faded into the stir of the sea.

A raging storm was approaching from the distance. The evening and night were spent in my room abiding my time, while the storm would pass. The lightning would flash, and the sky would roar with thunder. I was forced to close the shutters and lock the window, so that the water would not enter the room. I had asked the innkeeper for a pair of towels, in case I needed them to prevent the entrance of the water, but he was nowhere to be located. I had looked around the area for towels and was able to find a few in the wardrobe. They were sufficient for me to utilise. The storm would last, throughout the early morning hours. I would soon learn that storms were typical in these parts of the country and that it was better for me to acclimatised myself to the odd nature of the weather in Galicia, because it was predictable.

In the following morning, I had awakened to the familiar sounds of the gulls as they were hovering over the sea, and the swashing tides they were brushing the shoreline of the coast. I had opened my window to absorb nature's beauty. It was a breath of fresh air, after the turbulence of the storm. That morning I was visited by the old man. He had invited me to his home for a small breakfast. There I had coffee with croissants. After breakfast, he took me upon his boat out to the spacious sea. There, we would fish. We would spend hours, until we had returned with a great number of fishes. Señor Garduno was a masterful fisherman. It was refreshing to be out there in the sea, despite the episodes of the inclement weather.

It had allowed me as well to become more acquainted with Señor Garduno. I had learnt that he was a mysterious man, who divulged very few secrets about his life and his past. Of his family, I was told only that they were no longer in the village. His wife had passed away years ago, and his two sons had left the village. I had respected his privacy and did not insist on knowing more about his personal life. He did ask me about mine, and I had revealed to him, a short account of my own personal life. I had established to some degree, a rapport with him out in the sea. I suppose the serenity and the surroundings of the sea allows one to be more at ease and comfortable. The sea for me was always, the genuine place of true comfort and tranquillity.

Upon our return to the village, I had asked Señor Garduno about the mystery of the statue of the mermaid that was erected at the entrance of the port. He would apprise me of its history. According to the legend, the statue was built to revere the mermaid called Serea. An anonymous fisherman a century ago, had encountered the mystical mermaid out in the sea nearby the coast. There was a roaring storm that had knocked the fisherman overboard. He would be rescued by the mermaid. In her memory, he would erect the statue. It is said that he went mad. He had becomed obsessed with her, to the point of his death within the sea. Other men had encountered the mermaid and had drown in the depth of the sea as well, with their delirancy.

It was troubling to hear and to know about their horrible consequences. I could not fathom in my mind, how disturbing it was for any man to go insane for a woman who was a mermaid, even to the extreme point of losing their life for her. I had often heard fanciful stories about mermaids out in the sea or ocean, roaming about in search for the wanton admiration of seamen or fishermen. The statue was in itself impressive and descriptive. It was towering in stature and imposition. Her long flowing locks of brown curls had reached her slim waist. Her contours were curvaceous, and her bosom was tempting. It was her eyes in particular that had denoted the peculiar gaze of her haunting spell. Looking into them, were enough to captivate me. I knew then, why she was exalted as a goddess.

That day, I had been offered a temporary employment by Señor Garduno. He needed someone to assist him for a month in fishing shellfish, which he had told me was the main delicacy of the remaining villagers. It was perhaps not the wild adventure that I was seeking, but it was for the time being, enough to earn a living and share a new experience away from Málaga. We had a delicious Galician broth in the afternoon with steamed mussels. At the table, we had discussed the legend of the mermaid. I had introduced the topic, because I was fascinated by the tale that I wanted to know more details that he could elaborate. I had never seen a statue built for a mermaid before, and I thought that was unique.

Señor Garduno had revealed to me that he had seen the mermaid numerous times. When I asked him, how he did not go insane like the rest of the others, he simply responded by telling me that he did not. Perhaps, it was because his will was stronger than the others, or he was more fortunate to have been able to thwart her seductive spell? It was interesting to know that he had not yielded to the mermaid's powerful influence. It was indeed ironic that he achieved what the others had failed to do. I was curious to know what was behind those shadowy spectacles, and I had wanted to see his eyes, at last. He would never remove them in my presence. The weather in Foz was mostly foggy and gloomy. There was little sun that would appear from the distant horizon.

That night, I had pondered in my room, the strange occurrences about Foz, its people, its weather, its circumjacency and above all, the ancient legend of the mermaid Serea. That night also, would be the first time that I would have a memorable encounter with her. Once more from outside of my window, I could hear the roaring tides of the sea as they had awakened then, the haunting echoes of her susurrations in the wind. They were calling out my name. I had felt the lurking presence of someone or something from the sea. Whatever it was, it was approaching the inn and my window gradually. I could sense it was trying to influence me, with an irresistible spell. What I did not know at the time was that it was the siren, who had come to take me to the sea.

There was an intuitive part of me that had wanted to close the window and the other part that was under her persuasive effects. Her whispers became more intense and through the mist of clouds she had appeared before me, with her allurement and pulchritude. I was beginning to be enraptured by her. She was exactly the same as the statue that was built in her memory. I had tried to resist her, but I struggled to regain my composure. I had closed my eyes, thinking it was only a hallucination or an illusion I was experimenting. Was the sea beginning to affect my vision and my mental faculties? She began to scratch on my window, with her long fingernails. I was capable of finally resisting her and had closed the window completely. My heart was pounding, and my palms were sweating.

The whispers of her voice had suddenly dissipated, and she had vanished. I had then realised that I had a harrowing encounter with Serea. It was an eerie experience and one that I had not desired to share anew. I could not believe that I had come face to face, with the indelible image of the tempting mermaid. Was it a horrible dream of mine conjured, by my imagination? It had felt authentic and real. If my mind was beginning to deceive me, then what was waiting for me from that moment on? It was implausible to express in mere words the entire experience, but it would initiate the sequence of events that would follow that would be daunting in nature. It was a restless night I would have to endure unwittingly.

As the morning had arrived, I could not help but ponder the unusual occurrence from the prior night. My immediate thought was to tell Señor Garduno, about my unique experience with the mermaid from the sea. I was not certain, whether or not he would believe me, but something in me instinctively had made me think that he would. When I told him at his home, he was not surprised by my candid admission. He had told me that many men of the village have succumbed to her irrepressible spell and charm. He did warn me to be aware of her presence and to never let my guard down. I knew that he spoke with the truth in his words. What I did not know was, what was his personal story and true connection to the mermaid?

There was this ancestral mythology that was attached to the mermaid. It was deeply enriched in the legends of the villagers I had suspected. My inquisitive mind was urging me to investigate. Once more we left to fish in the depths of the sea. The fishermen gathered at the port did not speak to us, but they did nod their head, as if to express a token acknowledgement of our presence. The mist had persisted, but it did not prevent us from fishing. During our time at sea, I thought about the mermaid. Was she near and observing us? Was she listening to our every action? I was becoming consumed, with the thought of her in my mind that Señor Garduno had recognised my distraction. He knew what I was thinking.

I began to hear her, as I stood there holding on to the nets that we had used to fish. She was calling out my name. The waves were restless, and I was too. I had managed to concentrate for the most part on fishing. When we returned to the port, we had caught enough fishes to eat for a couple of days. We were lucky on that day. I was still haunted by the presence of the mermaid. Señor Garduno had sensed that I was beginning to fall under the heavy influence of the mermaid. He had recommended me that I close the windows at the inn, as he had closed his windows. This was how he would escape the incantation of the mermaid. I heeded his advice, and I would not open the window, despite the humidity.

That afternoon, I had visited the lone church that was in the village. It was old in structure and was wrought, from a dark brown masonry that was vivid in its colour. When I had entered the church, there was no cross nor image of the Christian God, instead there was a strange image of the representation of what had seemed to me to be, the figure of a mermaid. I was perplexed by the image that I did not comprehend the reason for her placement in the church. Was this, not a Catholic church? Were the villagers not Catholic in their faith? As I was walking backwards, a willowy man who I had assumed was the priest of the church had seen me standing before the idol of the mermaid. He had startled me and like Señor Garduno, was wearing dark spectacles.

He had asked me, if I had needed anything. He knew that I was an outsider, but he was not rude nor insolent towards me. Instead, he kindly smiled and had offered his assistance. He had asked me if I was lost. I had told him no, but I had told him that I was new to the village. He then asked me, if I had needed guidance. Once more I had told him no. I did ask him if the church that I had entered was Catholic. He smiled with a sarcastic grin I felt and had replied that the church belonged to anyone that was seeking divine inspiration. I was uncertain of what those words meant. They were more like a spoken riddle. I had supposed that he was referring to the Christian god. If not, then who was he alluding to?

I had left the priest and church to head into the centre of town. I wanted to see the rest of the areas of the village that I had not seen before. The houses of the villagers were extremely hoary and built on the surface of hardened stones. I was told that the recent history of the village was over five hundred years old. I could tell this was the case, as I had walked over the cobblestone pavements of the streets of Foz. There was not much of the village to be discovered. It was not that vast nor huge in size. The access roads to and from the village were few and practically inaccessible. As I was walking, I could not help but gravitate to the statue, near the port and to the sea itself. Again, the influence of Serea had begun to grasp me into her puissant hold.

Some obsessive force was behind this, but I did not know how to describe it in the simplicity of words. It was beginning to be overbearing and predictable. Her constant murmurs and her angelic voice were tempting me to go into the depth of the sea and into her immense clutch of death. It was at that exact moment, when Señor Garduno had grabbed my shoulder from behind. He had saved me from the clutch of Serea. He took me back to the inn and told me to stay inside and not roam the village on my own. He did not offer any reasonable explanation, but I had known that it was probably, due to the irresistible influence of Serea. What else could it be? A sense of uneasiness had entered in my mind, causing my sudden anxiety to be triggered.

At the inn, I had attempted to rest, but I could not. The thought about Serea was beginning to obsess my mind and affect my behaviour also. How could I escape her inevitable spell? Would I meet the same fate as the others and drown, in the endless souls trapped in the cemetery of the sea forever? It was a terrible thing to have to accept or even contemplate. Señor Garduno had mentioned to me that few men have ever escaped her possession and lived to tell their story. Perhaps, it was wiser that I left the village and never return. Would she then cease to haunt me, or would she follow me wherever I went? While I had remained in the village, she would haunt me, with an incessant passion that I would never truly defeat.

As the night approached, I had prepared myself for her dreadful return. I had closed my shutters and locked the window. This did not mean that she would not come for me. When it was close to midnight, she would appear scratching at my window. I could hear the loud screeching of her fingernails, as they had pressed tautly against the glass. It was utter horror that I had to endure that night. She had made several attempts to enter the room and to influence me, but she had failed at every attempt. For that night, I was saved. I had heeded the cautious words of Señor Garduno. There was no doubt in my mind that I could not stay much longer in the village. My options were not that advantageous, and my will was being dominated at the same time.

In the morning I had determined that I would leave, but not before, I would inform Señor Garduno of my decision. It was not easy to make that calculated decision. I had owed the old man, at least, an explanation and a proper farewell. I had looked for him at his house, yet he was not there. I had searched around, hoping to locate him. I went to the centre, the church. I even went back to the inn which I was staying and could not find him. I had then checked the port and there he was lying dead in his boat that was fastened. I was stunned to make that horrible discovery. It was difficult to know what has caused his death. There were no visible marks on his body that could give me a viable clue nor trace. It did not seem to me that he was murdered. Was it possible that he died of natural causes, due to his advancing age?

I had touched him, and he had no immediate pulse. He was stiff and cold like a hardened corpse. His dark spectacles were covering his eyes still, as he laid dead on his back. Was it my morbid curiosity? I do not know what had compelled me to remove his spectacles. When I did, I would be shocked to see what my eyes had witnessed in person. Señor Garduno's eyes were completely alabaster. They were devoid of the natural colour of their pupils. The thin layer of film that had reflected was nothing more than a damnable blindness that he was condemned to. What I did not know all this time was that he was blind. It was an omission to the truth that I was not aware of its existence. He as with the other villagers had managed to function blind and with limited vision. He had told me before that he had survived the encounters with Serea, the mermaid from the sea.

If the others were also wearing spectres to cover up their blindness, then it would mean that they too had encountered the horrid thing that was Serea. This would mean that they did not drown in the sea like the others before them. It meant that there was hope for me, but at the same time, I did not want to go blind. There were no other fishermen present in the port nor in the sea. The raging storm had arrived again from the horizon. This time, it would bring from the depth of the sea, the riveting terror of Serea. I was left on my own to figure out where to go next and what to do. I did not want to leave the old man's body out in the boat, but I needed to bury him in a cemetery. The only place that came to mind was the lone church in the village. Although I did not know the denomination of the church, I had figured that the priest there would find a proper place for his interment.

I had to return to the inn to retrieve my personal belongings. The innkeeper was not present, but I was able to enter the room and get my things without any difficulty. Afterwards, I went to the church that stood erect pass the centre. As I was walking, I had begun to hear the dreaded murmurs of Serea once more. She was enticing me with her femininity. I had to stop for a brief moment to allow my thoughts to resist her unrelenting grasp on me. I began to stumble and was starting to lose my mind and my vision. Within a few minutes, I was able to continue to walk towards the church. I was extremely nervous, and trepidation had entered my body, but I had persisted with all my might.

Once at the church, I could hear a strange noise that had sounded like chants that were being voiced by people. The front door was opened. When I had entered the church, I would see the villagers standing before the statue of Serea. The people were not wearing their spectacles and their eyes like Señor Garduno were alabaster and missing their original colour. It had seemed to me that they were worshiping the statue, as if she was a living goddess. What would be more disturbing was the fact that upon an altar was the deceased body of Señor Garduno. I was aghast by the image that I was left motionless. The priest had seen me and had told me to join their secret cult. He would say that Señor Garduno was an offering to Serea and that his body would be given to her, as his ultimate sacrifice.

According to the priest, their salvation from her wrath was to worship her and offer her sacrifices. It was pure madness that was happening before my eyes. I could not believe that everyone including the priest were all under the influence of Serea. I ran outside of the church aimlessly. I did not know where to go. I had left the villagers behind. I wanted to go anywhere that would lead me away from the village, but her control had wielded dominion over me, and I was forced under her spell to run to the port and the sea. It was an impending doom that was awaiting me. I was helpless to prevent my death and the capture of my soul. The winds had blown with a full force, and the tides had risen into a hastened fury. The storm had roared and awakened with the darkled mist of clouds.

Amidst the thester shade came the dauntless Serea, as she called out my name, with her haunting murmurs that had billowed within the high tides. I fought and fought her, until I had reached the edge of the shore. She rose from the water throw the mass of the fog, with her familiar appearance. Her flowing locks of brunneous hair, her endowed shaped curves, her crimson lips and her ebony eyes had tempted me suddenly. She came out of the water with the veil of seaweed, and her tail had transformed into legs. She slowly walked towards me with a sinister look in her gaze. She had come to take me with her. I could not look deeply into her penetrating eyes, for it would condemn me to the fatal consequence of my demise and no return.

My eyes were becoming blurry again, and I had feared that I was losing my vision. It was the precursor to my unabatable horror. I had managed to resist her by closing my eyes and walking backwards, away from the sea and shore. It had seemed the more that I was further, the more that I had managed to release myself from her clenching grip. The rain began to pour down on me from above the hoary clouds. I was drenched from top to bottom, but it did not dissuade me from resisting. I could hear her tell me to not resist her will, but my mine was stronger. Her words were more emphatic than before. A huge tidal wave had grabbed me and taken me into the viscidity of water, almost drowning me. I had struggled to free myself.

I fought to stay afloat and was able to swim back to the shoreline. I ran as fast as I could, running away from the sea of death. It was then that I could see her once beautiful visage turn into a decrepit old woman. Her skin was pale and wrinkled. Her hair was ashen-gray, and her eyes were pure white. Her spell was broken, at last. She had returned to her descent at the bottom of the sea. The villagers that were at the church had reached the port and the shore where I was standing at. They began to scream and weep uncontrollably, begging fervently, for the goddess to return. They all then walked into the water and ultimately drown afterwards. I could not prevent their deaths, but I was able to prevent mine.

On that same day, I left the village on a fisherman's boat that had taken me to Portugal, where I was eventually discovered, floating off the coast alive. When I was approached by a local Portuguese fisherman, he had found me lying on the ground with my eyes completely closed. I was breathing normally and physically I was intact. When I had opened my eyes, I would discover that I was blind. My brown eyes had turned into a cold alabaster colour. I could not see anything at all. I had touched his face, as he spoke to me in Portuguese. I was in absolute shock and unable to utter a single word, at first. It was then after I had realised that I was blind and had been saved that I screamed out loud, the name of Serea.

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17 May, 2023
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