The Long and Short of Speculative Poetry
edited by Samantha Henderson & Deborah P Kolodji
The Mermaidens of Ceres
Excerpt from the Ganymede Ring Cycle, from Book One of four Books. The Rings of Ganymede (or the Ganymede Ring Cycle) is a complex tapestry of numerous interwoven stories and many characters. The scenes which follow, however, focus on the story of the human Garymon and the mermaiden Aurieanna.
The following Cast of Characters will acquaint you with the story’s background.
GARYMON: The mortal assigned by Rotan to forge the Ring of Power. He gave the first-forged ring to Aurienna the mermaiden, as a pledge of love; Rotan received a copy but soon realized that Garymon had deceived him. Now Rotan has sent Garymon on a mission to Ceres, to retrieve the true Ring of Power. But Garymon is not himself; his memories, thoughts, and actions are controlled; he is no more than Garymon’s pawn.
ROTAN: Owner and President of Rotan Aeronautica, a privatized aeronautics and space exploration corporation that is the most profitable organization in the known universe. If he can acquire the ring that Aurieanna wears, he will become the most powerful man in the solar system, ruler of a new pantheon of technologically created “Gods.” Though Rotan does not appear in the following scenes, he is responsible for the events portrayed.
THE MERMEN/MERMAIDENS OF CERES
KYREEM AZARIM: Brother of Kyreem Abbatur.
SHYVULK THE MERMAN: A Merman of high status, similar to a medicine man or priest, and advisor to the Prince.
PRINCE TYRNON: Ruler of the Mermen. There is no King, since the honorific is assigned to the mythical Neptune, so Prince Tyrnon is the equivalent of a king.
KYREEM ABBATUR: Brother of Kyreem Azarim.
AURIEANNA: Also known as AURIEANNE. Thinks of herself as being betrothed to Garymon. She wears the much-sought-after Ring of Power, a gift from Garymon.
ACT I, SCENE ONE:
[Dim discharge of lightning, thunder’s rumble
In the blue-green asteroid’s shallow atmosphere;
Gauzy mist of rain; rainfall like beaded curtains.
The gentle storm abates, Mermen appear
Pointing skyward: a shuttle-style ship overhead
Slowly orbiting the tiny ocean world.
A starlit silhouette becomes a silver gleam.]
[A human figure separates from the ship.
Dull glimmer of a plummeting space-suited form,
Suit thrusters firing to slow descent—
It plunges into the asteroid’s encompassing sea.
A flotation device buoys it surface-ward
A man climbs free of the spacesuit and swims
Toward sharp rocks and fierce-armored mermen.]
GARYMON: [To himself]
A strange and wondrous world this is.
Once a barren, sterile asteroid,
An insulated singularity providing
Not but half our Earth’s normal gravity;
A mini-world radically terraformed
Into a beauteous blue-sea paradise,
Human makers manipulating DNA,
Creating a race of Mermen and Mermaids—
Descended of woman, descended of man—
To inhabit Ceres’ all-surrounding sea.
[breaking off his reverie, he calls to the Mermen]
‘Hoy! I was but admiring your watery world!
We like our world well enough, it suits us
So well we might have evolved here on Ceres.
A peaceful place without human invasion;
Why have you come to us again, and uninvited?
I bring the most exotic gifts to you—
Novelties from your cradle world, Old Earth,
Much memoried, though a prick in your night sky.
I bring you beautiful beads and baubles;
These eggs will hatch into fast-breeding fish
Improving your present food resources,
Replenishing the catch of your seas more quickly
Than the saline waters can be depleted;
An invaluable resource.
And you might persuade us to accept such a gift—
Though truthfully we resent human intrusions,
Which time and again bode so ill for us.
Again, Garymon, why have you come again?
Again? Why this strange “again” that you speak to me?
How do you know my name? My visage? My history?
What advance intelligence
Came your way?
My purposeful question dangles unanswered;
Again, Garymon, why have you returned?
Returned? Why, I have never ventured before
Upon the face of the waters of Ceres;
Your words are worthless
KYREEM ABBATUR: [Aside
to Prince Tyrnon]
The man from Urth
He knows us not He’s lost his mind
It’s not his mind he’s lost, but memories of us.
[Aside to himself]
Perhaps they confuse me with blundering Edmonton
Who came here prior to me, inciting their ire;
Perhaps all humans look too alike in their eyes.
SHYVULK THE MERMAN:
Shall we play Garymon’s game of forgetfulness?
I would he truly were no more than stranger to us.
Garymon! Answer his majesty’s question—
Are not a Prince’s inquiries also commands?
My urgent questions go unanswered too!
How come you to know the name Garymon?
It seems impossible; makes me feel so paranoid;
Are there voids within me
Like empty stellar spaces I have traveled thru?
Quite possibly it’s true,
Your gifts masquerade your motives
And we know all too well selfish human motifs—
Your Ceres intrusion is not a welcome event.
There is something much more you want of us;
Something unnamed, unspoken … yet costly.
Gifts given dishonestly are noisome things
Often involving unwonted sacrifice.
State your case with honest male brevity:
Why have you come? What do you wish
To take from us? How appease our anger?
We have little save our useful tridents,
And strong desire to demonstrate their use.
My request is single-fold: a simple golden ring.
You are a ghost of yourself, Garymon!
A man who has lost his personal past.
Did you forfeit, too, your most mortal soul?
Listen to me! Though they are not yet deities,
These new lords-to-be lord it over me;
They desire the ring and shall have it.
Bold Rotan is both anxious and dangerous.
His displeasure dictates my presence here.
I do his will, and mine is in abeyance—
As may be, evidently, my memories.
In exchange for that single ring of gold
You shall have an hundred diamond rings;
An eternity of silver fishes flashing.
Rings are not to a merman’s taste;
Such things are a mermaiden’s affectation—
Though mostly they boast rings of coral.
It’s true enough, I seek a ring worn by a mermaid.
SHYVULK THE MERMAN:
You’ve put ashore upon the wrong rock island;
The mermaidens keep their separate place
Of towers and caves; a situation we prefer.
We like our solitude, our separateness;
For do not mermaidens bloody the waters
With their lunar cycles?
—Which much displeases us.
I say that it disgusts us; let me speak plain,
As pleases me.
They have an island of their own?
SHYVULK THE MERMAN:
Swim East by Nor’ east, t’ward the sun’s dim rising eye
And you will find their coral isles of orange
Eight leagues distant, in bluest waters deep
Then I must swim a marathon.
What of the roe you promised us, Garymon?
The hearty new breed of fish for our seas?
GARYMON: [In his wetsuit, Garymon sets off swimming to the east,
and calls back over his shoulder]
Once I have the ring it will be yours to keep;
Your seas will be full of the silverlings.
KAREEM AZARIM: [Aside to the other mermen]
Neptune-cursed trade-offs —Let’s take our bounty by force!
SHYVULK THE MERMAN:
Kill him or not? [Brandishing his trident]
I like the thought of his demise—
[Trident likewise upheld above the sea]
Hold! How strange he seeks the very ring proffered her,
Yet owns no memory of giving it to Aurieanne.
SHYVULK THE MERMAN:
I like these circumstances less and less
Azarim! Abatur! What if your Kyreem sisters
Find him handsome too? He thieves our maidens away
He stole Aurieanne’s heart from us,
She will hold no merman, now, in loving arms;
Nor allow fertile eggs. Her heart has grown hard—
Our tridents might resolve the immediacy,
Yet I’m in doubt in terms of final fates—
Interplay of these events is too complex;
Is Rotan as powerful as Garymon boasts?
I’m curious; are new Gods truly imminent?
Philosophizing thus results in indecision . . .
And sometimes saves the lives of innocents!
Let us at least follow after the man from Urth
And discover what his meddling births.
[The four mermen dive beneath the ocean-world’s surface.
Our scene follows them beneath the water;
fades into blue as we observe their swimming forms;
fades into darkness.]
ACT III, SCENE ONE:
[Garymon, emerging from the surf,
climbs onto the isle of the mermaidens.
He sees Aurieanna in the distance and approaches her.
She seems to recognize him, and smiles, also approaching.]
[Muttering to himself, Garymon seems nervously erratic,
like a deprived addict, making fast-odd gestures as he speaks.]
Just the sight of her ignites a firestorm in my brain;
Mismatched memories dance like dream fragments.
Did Rotan thieve these memories from me?
My love for her could not be from some former life
If reincarnation is a myth, as I believe.
My Garymon … I’ve waited for you for so long….
What do you know of the ring that you bear? [Taking her hand]
I know you gave it as a token of your love—
I feel our love affirmed, knowing you have returned.
I could not bear it while you were away;
Ill with my yearning, and always feeling unfulfilled.
The Sea of Ceres lost all beauty in my eyes—
Seemed so desolate; so pointless and empty.
[As Garymon and Aurieanna join in conversation,
Aurieanna holds to Garymon like a lover, seated beside him on the coral,
one hand upon each of his shoulders, shaped tenderly to his flesh.]
I gave you no ring, Edmonton’s the guilty one.
A grievous error; you must return the ring to me!
The man had no right at all, it was not his to give—
I know of no Edmonton, no one by that name.
GARYMON: [Aside, though in her arms:]
I think this Edmonton must be a myth that Rotan made.
Or else must have intensely resembled me—
But why did he use my name, like some dark twin
Preceding me, both marring and marrying my reputation?
[To Aurieanna:] So strange, too, that his presence here on
Ceres Meant so much to you, so little to Edmonton.
For him such a bland time, poorly remembered.
Misremembered! That’s not the way it was at all!
How could you possibly forget our love?
How neglect such deeply fond memories?
How might recollections be so easily misplaced?
Has amnesia deranged you? Strange madness!
Two years ago my youth, much in ascendance,
Ripened me for a merman’s natural love;
But came along the human Garymon,
Who gave me a golden ring of betrothal.
Now you ask it back again, such treachery!
Love’s token circles ‘round toward betrayal.
Faintly radioactive, superconductive—
It is wrought and forged of special gold
From the rocky core of your watery Ceres;
Gold placed before the gritty dust of all of us
Reorganized to flesh by absent Gods!
Your love so passionate, yet no mem’ry of it!
We talk at cross purposes — you must be deluded—
You refuse to admit it, yet you’re the one who wooed me;
Have you listened to a single word I’m saying?
I’ll tell you again, I know of no-one Edmonton.
Yes, I admit, there is pervasive déjà vu—
Deep down I know your loving words seemingly speak true.
Nevertheless, I must have the golden ring.
For the sake of all, it must be given;
You know not of the looming consequences—
Dreadful disharmonies of our fates in balance—
A dissonance that is not to be by mortals borne….
[During this conversation Garymon has has become
increasingly distraught. Now he breaks off speaking
and pounds his head both sides with fisted hands;
looks upward and makes a mouth-wide howling sound.]
I’m at war with shadowy ghosts in chip-machines
Surgically inserted in my cerebellum—
I know these memories are false, Aurieanna—
I cannot fight them, my mind’s a craven muddle
Filled with broken images that won’t connect—
You seem so bitter-cold, my Garymon;
You’ve not embraced me once since your return.
Make love to me; perhaps I will allow
My treasured ring to be your borrowed boon.
[Garymon removes a small water-proof packet
from the swimsuit he wears. He removes a device
and reaches behind his back. His motions
become similar to those of a person donning a necklace
and fastening its clasp, as his fingers find the connector
at the base of his skull and jack the artifact home.]
A digital medication for me.
What is this electronic medicine? Are you ill?
It merely restores the brain-severed serpent
Who has been sleeping like the dead ‘til now—
[Rising, he takes her hand]
Let us repair to your dark cave, Aurieanne, &
Drink black wine within your secret den.
[The two exit into the darkness of the cave,
which conceals their immodest behavior.
The scene slowly fades.]
ACT III, SCENE TWO:
[Outside a coral cave, into which Garymon
and Aurieanne have repaired for their amorous adventure.
Aurieanne’s passion is unbridled. We see nothing,
but hear her final sighs.]
[Aurienna sleeps, not merely replete
and wearied by love-making, but heavily drugged
by Garymon and now nearly comatose.]
Though Rotan’s device allowed me to perform,
His cerebral implants blocked all my emotions.
How strange to make love and yet feel nothing at all.
[Garymon’s first words have emerged
from the darkness of the cave. Now he steps out
into the dim daylight of Ceres.]
In passion’s extremis, Aurieanna confessed
Her willingness to return the Ring of Power.
Reality proved not so easily realized.
Even drugged unconscious, she could not yield it.
Somehow the ring had grown into her tender flesh,
The metal band a part of her — meshing, connected—
I’ve tried the lubricants our lust provided,
Attempted force — nothing I’ve tried suffices!
As if it’s done deliberately, to thwart me….
But this knife will free the ring, as Rotan suggested.
I’ll sever her finger and be done with the deed.
[Garymon returns to the cave, vanishing into darkness.
Long moments pass, we see a merman bob
above the surface and disappear again.
Finally Garymon re-emerges from the cave,
carrying a severed finger which wags and flexes
as if alive, and a bloody ring.
He casts the wiggling finger into Ceres’
ocean waters and holds the ring up to the sky]
Once Rotan is handed his cursed Ring of Pow’r
He will return my feelings and free will to me.
[He moves to the coral shoreline where his floatation device
is moored, his spacesuit supported upon it. He climbs
into his spacesuit, secures the helmet, tests the seals.
Behind him we see one of the mermen enter the cave
and come running back out again. The merman blows
an alarum upon a conch-like shell. Garymon
has already folded and stowed his floatation device.
His suit-rockets fire and he ascends. Several Merman
bob up from the water to launch spears
in Garymon’s direction while Kareem Azarim,
who has just emerged from the cave, throws his triton
from the island. One of the spear-like tritons
impales Garymon, lodging deep in his side.
He clutches at it, struggles, and then goes limp,
while his suit continues to carry him toward the shuttle
Queenpin. The scene fades and ends as if the darkness
of Ceres’ night is swiftly closing in—or is this merely
the darkness of Garymon’s loss of consciousness?]