I know, it’s crazy right? The first time I heard that every man in my family drowns on his 33rd birthday, I was 5 years old and my grandmother was trying to scare me back to bed. She said the mermaid’s would come for me early if I didn’t do as I was told. Complete nonsense. At least, I thought it was. My dad was in the Navy, and drowned during a military training exercise that went tragically wrong, I never even knew him, my mum was was 6 months pregnant at the time. It’s not easy raising a kid alone, I’m sure. But my grandmother and aunt Jane, both on my father’s side, were always there to help us. I never really knew anyone else on my father’s side of the family, grandad had died long before I was born and Jane never married or had kids.
After the first time Gran told me about the mermaids she’d use the trick for years to keep me in line. Telling me about their slimy tails, fangs and talon fingers. How my ancestor long ago had killed one of their kind only for a blood curse to be placed upon the men of each generation. The sins of the father and all that crap. I still can’t believe I’m writing this, that any of this is happening. I hadn’t thought about mermaids or the curse in decades. When I was nine mum caught Gran telling me about how I was going to die and forbade her from ever talking about that nonsense again. I remember that night perfectly, they’d screamed at each other by the end of it all. Gran insisted the curse was real and that it had taken her father-in-law, her husband and her son. That’s when mum broke down into tears and Gran finally relented, she never spoke of it again, but I always felt like I could see it in her eyes, a grim certainty and sympathy of sorts.
Gran died in a car-crash a few years later and naturally I barely ever thought about her strange stories again. Except on every birthday. I try not to but damn it, when your own grandmother keeps insisting you’re going to die on your 33rd birthday I dare you to not try thinking about it as the years tick closer. I mean I always brushed the thoughts off or I did until last year. My 32nd birthday, I couldn’t help myself. I did one of those genealogy surveys and started digging into my family on dad’s side. That’s when shit got scary.
My dad’s death checked out as expected, dying on his 33rd birthday. Then I looked at my grandfather’s date of death. December 2nd, 1954, cause of death – drowning. I remember breathing in sharply at the cause of death. I shook it off and checked the date of birth: December 2nd, 1921; thirty-three years. That’s when I jumped out of my chair in a panic. It’s also about the last thing I remember from my 32nd birthday. I hit the liquor pretty hard after that. About a week later I hired a professional genealogist to dig through the family history. He came back to me a week later, incredulous. Every single paternal son in my family had died on their 33rd birthday, every single death he could account for was listed as drowning. He’d even traced the start of the phenomena back to a navy frigate that sank somewhere off the northern coast of Spain during the Napolenonic Wars in 1812, a ship called ‘The Charon’.
I gotta be honest with you, my life’s gone done the shitcan since I found all this crazy shit out. I’ve been drinking A LOT. Hell I got fired from my job after things went too far, that barely slowed me down. I mean I’ve never even been in the fucking sea, the idea always freaked me out given the way my dad died. I’ve been thinking about him a lot this past year. Did he know about all this too? How did he handle it? I hate the answers my mind gives back. Maybe I’m just weak. He carried on doing what he loved, right till the last moment. Me I’ve spent the ‘supposed’ final year of my life sinking into financial and emotional ruin.
I’d avoided telling Mum about any of this for the past year, in fact I hadn’t seen her in nine months when I finally showed up on her front door drunk as a skunk, one night. She took me in, cleaned me up and listened to all of my craziness. At the end of it all she told me it was in my head. How could it possibly be true? Maybe we need to go see the doctors, there must be something wrong with me. We argued just like she and Gran had, then I left, angry. I never even said goodbye.
Three days ago I started having the same dream over and over again. Strobes of light as this oily mass of wet flesh and bone crawls towards me, climbing over my legs, my body lying there paralyzed immersed in dark, fetid waters. I can hear myself screaming in the dream, trying to make my arms fight it off but nothing happens. I can feel it’s sharp fingers, talons even, ripping my skin as it grips harder and harder, crushing the bones buried beneath. Then it’s above me and all I can see is a black void of horror staring back. I can’t stop screaming.
That’s how I wake up, pissing myself screaming. I just stripped my bed again and started writing this. I’m looking at the clock now. It’s eleven forty-two. I turn thirty-three in eighteen minutes.
I don’t want to die…