A 12-year old girl in the water with octopus tentacles and the shadow of a little fish across her face.
Salt Water by J Yang

Aaaaaahhhhhh! My first ever story with Tordotcom is out! Is this real life? “Salt Water” with this gorgeous art that you see everywhere on this post! It was made just for “Salt Water” by the amazing J Yang! Many many thanks to Jonathan Strahan who acquired and edited this little mermaid story.

The description on the website goes like this: While all her friends’ fish are changing into mermaids, is 12-year-old Anissa’s fish becoming something else?

But because body horror is my bread and butter, my description would be: Fish live inside children’s bodies and they change into mermaids once the children hit puberty. But many times they don’t…

The story is one of the weirdest and most tender stories I have written. I decided to write something with mermaids and, yes, the Little Mermaid kept popping into my head. I wanted to probe and pull at some of the threads of that original story, some of the themes and motifs. For example Little Mermaid trying to find the meaning of life in her own ways. Her body changing as she grows into a woman and then changing again when she gets her feet and loses her voice and gets terrible pains when she walks and then again when she turns into foam. Then the society of the mermaids and how it would really work. And then of course the dreaded Sea Witch, lonely and mysterious…but maybe for a reason? What if the Sea Witch could give the girl a voice instead of taking it?

As body horror felt unavoidable when it came to The Little Mermaid, my idea fluctuated between making the mermaids gigantic or really tiny. Another thing I wanted to do was to make this a modern-day world, one where people go around having our own problems and become trapped in the same social hierarchies and conformities we are trapped in….except they also carry mermaids inside of them. And maybe that influences the way the society works as well.

An octopus is a thing made for the darkness of the ocean, Anissa’s mother says. It lives in the deepest deeps of the sea, hidden. Waiting to devour anything that enters its territory. Whoever has an octopus is selfish and antisocial. One of her mother’s childhood friends was an octopus. Her name is Ekaterina, and rumors say she has done much worse than be antisocial. Her mom purses her mouth shut as if she is offended by the mere memory of her unfriendliness.

What this ended up being was a story about the terror of adolescence: becoming different and wanting to stay the same, the anxiety of the parents and their own trauma that they can pass on, and societal expectations that keep all of us captives one way or another. The judgement. It all sounds stressful and terrible doesn’t it? But Anissa does find her way through this, albeit slowly, she has people who stand by her side too. And one of them is Ekaterina, the dreaded Sea Witch.

How this happens you’ll have to see for yourselves! I hope you’ll have fun reading this story and maybe see something of your pre-teen self in it. And if you do you can drop a review or just a rating at the Goodreads page that’s made for it.