I originally posted the following on Google+ in 2016. Since G+ is due to be retired in the near future I’ve been making case-by-case decisions about what to do with my posts. Some are ephemeral and I’m content to let them go entirely. Others I’ve summarised on social media as I only wish to preserve their core. In this case, I’ve decided to reproduce it here.
This is a warning about mermaids. Stay away from mermaids; those things are dangerous.
OK, for those of you who want to know more, here are the details.
One thing a lot of people get wrong about mermaids is that they tend to think of them as half human and half fish. In fact, no part of a mermaid is human and no part of a mermaid is fish, in the same way that no part of a stick insect is stick. Evolutionarily speaking, mermaids are closer to sea slugs than to any kind of vertebrate. You can think of them as a highly differentiated form of sea slug with a unique camouflage.
Another thing to know about mermaids is that they’re like bees and ants in that they have different body forms for different social roles. The ones you hear about, the ones that look like a woman with a fish’s tail, let’s call them the foragers. They gather food and bring it back to the nest. Now, they have a kind of magic whereby anyone who is touching the mermaid can survive underwater. You don’t need to breathe, you won’t be harmed by the pressure, etc. Which is how they catch their food. First they’ll lure you close, and then as soon as you have a firm grip on the mermaid, the mermaid will plunge. And then you’re trapped. If you let go, you drown. If you don’t let go, you live a little longer, but your fate won’t please you.
What happens next is that the mermaid hands you over to the queen. Now, the queen mermaid does not look like a woman with a fish’s tail. More like a huge squishy slimy blob with tentacles that sits on the ocean floor and does nothing much except lay eggs. And you’re going to be attached to one of those tentacles. It begins with your genitals being physically fused to her body, somewhere not already occupied by the remains of a previous meal. Eventually your whole body will be melted into her as well, but it takes a while so you’ll have time to be aware of the process. And in your final moments, immobile and covered in putrid, sticky slime, you might reflect on the fact that after she’s absorbed all the nutrients your flesh contains, she will turn them into eggs and make more mermaids to lure more unwary victims to the same fate.
As I was saying: stay away from mermaids; those things are dangerous.