In every Sea Nymph’s life, there will come a time when he must surface and find his life mate. There can only be one and he must take her with him to the sea. The time of the Search is only one full month every century. If he fails to find a life mate, he must choose whether to go back to the ocean mate-less or stay forever on the dry land for there were no female nymphs. All mates were humans. These females were a special kind of humans. Only they could hear the call of the sea.
For Dylan, he was determined to find the woman of his dreams. He will not leave the ocean for good but he will not come back empty handed. That was what he vowed the day he climbed up on the rocky ledge of the desolate bay.
The stench was horrendous. Even upon entering the bay waters, there was a sticky and stinky gunk that surrounded him. He knew the talks the others told him of the surface-dwellers. The pollution the surface-dwellers excreted in the air and the sea was horrendous. How can they bear this? he thought. The oil was sticking to his slimy skin. His eyes and his lungs burned. How would he survive his month? He felt like he was drowning.
Gentle hands pulled him completely out of the rocky shelves and into a warm cloth. “We have you, brother,” a voice told him. He hardly struggled for he knew the voice. It belonged to a fellow Sea Nymph named Mario. Dylan knew Mario went ahead of him a week before. “Drink this and come with us.” He was given fresh water to wash his throat. Dylan can’t help but pour some water to his face and eyes. They were stinging so badly. Carefully, they dragged him with speed to a dwelling.
Dylan had prepared himself thoroughly for this month-long sojourn. He learned all about the surface dwellers from others who have been to the surface. The nymphs before him told him of man-made stone structures in strait lines that went up all the way to the skies. They also warned him that humans’ heart are hard and very different from a Sea Nymph’s. They told him how to act and how to blend in. He had an idea of what to expect and how to intermingle with the “Humans” but he knew he had to be on guard. Humans didn’t understand them and those who had bad intent tended to destroy everything.
Mario brought him to a unit in a structure across the street they called building. There were rows of them uniformly facing the sea. “I thought you’d never get here. I was waiting every night since I went up. Come, Nong Tashio is waiting for us,” Mario said.
Dylan was brought to a safe house for Sea Nymphs. An old Sea Nymph they called Nong Tashio lived and operated there. He helps young Sea Nymphs survive their month and helped them find their mates. Nong Tashio made sure these young Sea Nymphs were safe and blended well with the general human population. Dugongs and other marine mammals were endangered already. If they were discovered, they would be next on the endangered species list.
Nong Tashio’s place was large enough to house a lot of them, for there were a lot of them this time. Dylan counted six of them. Half of them, he knew. Mario was his best friend and there was Dario, Mario’s brother. There was also Pier, his neighbor. Pier and Mario came together last week. Later, he was acquainted with the rest of them. The other three came from the distant north three days ago, by means of a land boat called bus. The Capital was a more sensible place to find their mates for most of the population was concentrated here. Nong Tashio said the humans call it Manila. Some from the province were lucky to find their mates waiting by the shores but for the unlucky ones, they traveled to Manila for a better chance. Nong Tashio was happy to take them in. He had been doing so for a long time since his mate passed. He decided to dry up and stay on land.
Manila was the capital city. Dylan didn’t know what that meant. Mario and the other explained that it meant there were more people here than the sea sides other place. It also meant it was busy.
“Listen, young Dylan, we have to be inconspicuous les’ we scare them surface-dwellers. They easily scare, you see,” Nong Tashio explained. “You must ‘proach and befriend them with caution. They easily scare and they do not believe in Sea Nymphs.” The old man briefed him about how to act, what humans did and how they interacted every day. Dylan was then fed and given proper clothes then sent to bed after.
Dylan had a hard time wearing clothes. He usually wore woven sea vines to cover his manhood and that was it. Swimming in the ocean required freedom of movement. He couldn’t understand the amount of garment these surface dwellers needed. “You’ll get used to it,” Dario, the younger of the brothers said. Dylan had to put the shirt back in front on before he managed to put it on the right way. Mario taught him how to buckle a belt and lace his shoes. These humans were so complicated!
“Don’t worry, Bro. We’ll be here a bit more to help you get around. You’d be surprised to find this place interesting. But it’s not a place to live in, though. It’s a good tale to tell your sons,” Mario commented.
Dylan shrugged. “I can’t remember father telling me anything like this. He warned me of the dirt and thieves but I didn’t expect the overwhelming filth. No wonder he dared not come back to the surface again. Mother doesn’t want to come back either.”
In the morning, Dylan was to start blending into the populace and search for his mate. Mario handed him an apron and patted him on the back. “First thing’s first. We must teach you to blend lattes. Nong Tashio required us to serve downstairs at his café. It is a place where humans come to eat when don’t want to hunt their own food,” his friend explained. “It is three hours before we open and you must be taught all the terms.” So, Mario and Dario pushed him to the downstairs kitchen to start his training.
Dylan frowned. Humans didn’t always hunt their food? Mario explained that they would work or barter for some goods with a thing called money. The money can be bartered with other things like food, clothes, transportation. The small downstairs space was where the humans can get food.
Nong Tashio acquainted him with what the human world was like and what a café was. Mario and Dario filled him with details they learned while the few weeks ahead they were here before him. All Sea Nymphs had a skill to learn anything fast. Dylan definitely absorbed fast enough to be an apprentice baker and barista. He knew how the cake was made, how tarts were frosted and how to make mocha lattes all in three hours. By the time they opened, he was confident he could blend well.
Nong Tashio’s café, Flounder’s, opened promptly at seven in the morning. When the usual customers came in, Nong Tashio had another “nephew” from the province working part-time. This new “nephew” however was a real eye candy. He had a unique dark skin that was evenly toned. His pearly white teeth sparkled like stars in the night, and his eyes, they were sea green. Behind him, long jet-black hair flowed like silk threads.
Best of all, he made a mean double chocolate macchiato with whip cream and a side of strawberry tarts.
But Dylan and the rest of Nong Tashio’s nephews were an odd lot. Their features were quite unique. They weren’t oriental but their eyes were slightly upturned and almond. The eye color was either deep blue or light sea green, very unique to the boys. Their jaws were curved and strong. It was their build that was also odd. An anatomy student once pointed out that the boys had a torso to leg ratio that was even, quite unusual for any race. The boys were very friendly but rarely spoke words. A smile greeted each customer as they entered the door.
Another odd thing with Nong Tashio is that he never seems to have any nieces. His nephews from the province came and went but no girls ever stayed with him.