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Human Women

by Elizabeth Anne Schwartz


Content warning: Physical/sexual violence


Sometimes we hunt in groups: gnaw holes in the bellies of ships or guide them into rocky terrain. We bide our time, watching the sailors writhe in the currents. Then, as water weighs down their boots and their heads slip under, lungs on fire, we drag them to shore. They wake on their backs in the wet sand, greeted by bare breasts and eyes like black pearls, fish tails pressed against their thighs. The sailors know they are prey, they are frightened—but they never deny us our pleasure.


Sometimes we hunt alone, swimming in shallow waters, luring the lonely out to sea. My most precious catch was the solitary kind, a figure in a cove, crouched in the sand just out of reach of the waves. Head bowed above the spine of a book, cracked wide. I glided through the water, angling for a closer look.


It was a woman in a gray skirt and white blouse with rolled sleeves, chestnut hair loose around her face, cheeks red with sun. I almost ended my pursuit then and there. Men could be enticed, but human women weren’t so easily charmed—they saw through us, looked at us with horror.


Still, something in me whispered, swim closer, and I conceded. I swam until I could touch the ocean floor, tail fin stirring up sand, and still raise my head and shoulders to the sky. I saw her clearly, even the veins in her wrists. And the whites of her eyes when she lifted her head.


Her face contorted, certainly. But her lips also parted, eyes widened with a fascination I knew well. She pressed the book to her chest like a shield and stood, body angled away. Head turned toward me still, as if my hand were cupped under her chin, guiding her gaze.


I waited, almost motionless, tail flicking below the water, hair bobbing in the swell like wet seaweed. She raised a hand to her cheek as she studied my gills, pale red slits across my cheekbones.


I could hear her heart pulsing between trembling lungs, as fervently as any man’s—and I smiled, careful not to show my teeth.


Maybe that small movement shook her from her daze. She stumbled backward on weak legs, then took off running toward the dunes and the town beyond. Her skirt billowed, hair tangled in the ocean breeze.


It pained me to watch her go. But I remembered the look on her face—jaw slack, eyes enamored—and felt a heat inside, sharp and sweet as it expanded. I tipped my head back, sinking into the icy water, mouth closed, gills sifting through foam and sea salt.


What was I, if not a patient creature?


She returned two days later, as I knew she would, slinking into the cove in the red light of dawn. She had dark hollows under her eyes, like she hadn’t properly closed them since seeing my face.


I hung back, clinging to a rock and hiding in its shadow, and watched her search for me: first from a distance, arms crossed and chin lowered. Then kneeling at the water’s edge, scanning waves while the tide soaked the hem of her skirt.


I made her wait. And wait, and wait—crying softly, fingers curled like claws in the wet sand.


Once she was desperate, I slipped below the water and propelled myself toward her, moving soundlessly. I waited for a large wave to crest, then rode it to shore, abdomen skidding across the sand.


The woman gasped at my sudden arrival, a swallowed scream, scrambling like a crab to put space between us. Though her gaze—wide, awestruck eyes—never wavered. I lifted my torso, proud head and shoulders above a ribcage lined with gills. Tender openings; raw, pink flesh so easily marred by those of sound mind.


I approached her slowly: hand over hand, dragging my tail, red sunlight mirrored in my scales. Her lower lip trembled, but she made no sound. Even as I inched closer, so that we sat parallel, faces close, my tail curled around her like a crescent moon.


I brushed a strand of hair from the sun-kissed skin above her collarbone, widening the valley in her blouse. As I angled my head, cold lips meeting her neck, she let out a cry: a small, strangled noise between pleasure and pain.


With shaking fingers, she undid one button, then the next, revealing pale shoulders. My lips slid down, teeth grazing skin, as her blouse fell to her waist. Lower still, I turned my head, feeling the fullness and warmth of her breast against my mouth.


I opened wider, biting down. Sharp teeth tearing into veins and flesh. The woman screamed, a shriek as wild and bright as the blood seeping down my chin. Her taste filled my mouth, iron that sang against my tongue and woke the nerves in my spine.


Luscious, rich. Sweeter than any sailor.

 

Human Woman features in Erato's Issue III: Hunger - available in print and online.

 

About the Author:

Elizabeth Anne Schwartz, born on Friday the 13th, writes sapphic stories and dark, enchanting tales. She earned her BA in Creative Writing at Purchase College.


Twitter: @elizanneschwa

Instagram: @pug.eared.books


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