A Merfolk Guide To The Surface

It’s a special time in your young Merfolk life, you’ve come of age, a time of great change when you’ll find out what kind of person you’ll be. Humans undergo the same sort of changes both mentally and physically and we know it can be a difficult time. Though, it would be an oversight not to acknowledge what we go through is not quite to the same degree of what you have to worry about. It’s now time for you to do as others of your kind have done for generations. Your amphibious nature and ancient ties to humanity mean you have a very important choice to make soon – do you rejoin the human race on the surface, or remain with the rest of your kind under the sea?

As such, as a representative of humanity, I’m here to help you along and show you a few things you’re going to need to know when you come here to the surface. Luckily, you already seem to be off to a good start, as you’re reading this article on what I imagine to be a waterproof phone you’ve been keeping in a cave or a laptop that managed to not be destroyed when a yacht went down. Either way, you’ve somehow managed an internet connection and that shows a degree of savvy that will get you far up here. But one of the great problems ahead of you is the fact that some of the information you’ve likely been given is…inaccurate, at best. For instance, this:

Is not a “dinglehopper”…

Fish Out of Water

The annual migration of teenage Merfolk to the surface is both a time of wonder and a time of dangers. You’ve spent your entire life sheltered away from the strange ways of we on the surface, and it’s likely you’ve only ever encountered us during shipwrecks, fishing expeditions, or Carnival Cruise disasters. So a few things worth noting right off the top is that we’re really not quite as bad as we seem from the distance. Though it is true that we tend to fish a bit too heavily and we’re not exactly the most careful about what we catch, the fact is we’re not trying to threaten you and that’s mostly due to the fact there are just so many of us and seafood – as you well know – can be quite delicious. As for the others, it’s hard for us to be pleasant when you no longer have access to working facilities and your ship looks like this.

So try not to fear us too much, we’re much friendlier under most circumstances and you’re likely not to be up here long enough to see us on other sorts of bad days. It’s true, during the time of your parents and grandparents, the surface was having a bit of a rise in violent crime. However, I am pleased to say that we’ve had a steady decline of violence over the last few decades and, outside of a few patches of the planet, the statistics show we currently live in the most peaceful time in human history… for now.

So, try not to be too afraid of us, we’re going to be just fine. However, if you’re going to want to get us to help you or trade with you, it’s a good time to tell you about something we call…


The first thing you’re going to need to know is something your parents have understood for a while but likely haven’t addressed with you yet. While your people have long lived off the waters and tend to share resources and work for the greater good, the surface is a little different. It’s true, we also tend to fish and we do happen to share what we catch with the rest of the people. However, as a means of avoiding the barter system, we long ago instituted something that humans have known as “money”.

Now this actually isn’t too much of a problem because your family has been gathering materials from the bottom of the ocean for some time. Pearls are actually quite valuable as shiny objects we tend to put on strings and can be sold to certain individuals quite easily. However, trying to sell these happens to require some work as you need to gather a significant number of pearls and locate someone who’s willing to take them off your hands. This isn’t a terrible burden in most cases, but we know that your time on the surface is limited and the less time dealing with hassles, the better. So let’s talk about something else you’ve likely seen along the bottom of the ocean floor, the shiny sand.

Now, this may come as a shock to you, but the shiny sand is actually quite valuable to us. Though your people have had no use for it in your lives, the shiny sand happens to be something we know of as “gold”. You may have seen people trying to gather it, diving to the bottom of the ocean in their funny suits with a giant tube that makes a roaring noise and sucks dirt like a hungry eel. You may have been confused, at the time, as to why someone who can’t breathe water would try to walk along the ocean floor like that, but I assure you they did it for greed – one of the greatest motivators in our world. Should you get enough yellow bits from the shiny sand, say a handful, you should be able to live comfortably on the surface for at least a few weeks to a month. In a pinch, you can even “borrow” some from the funny people with the tube.

Politely, please

However, when you first arrive and cash in the shiny dirt, you’re going to want to make one specific purchase as soon as possible…


Having lived in the water most of your life, you’ve been insulated and comfortable so long as you were swimming in the right seas at the right time of year. So it’s no surprise that Merfolk never really picked up the trend of clothing themselves the way humans on the surface have. Though we too now have fairly comfortable environments with the advent of heaters, air conditioning, and other technologies, millennia of lacking these tools have made us somewhat modest – even prudish. This may be hard for you to understand, but to put it simply: if you do not put on clothes, someone will arrest you.

An accessory you’ll want to avoid

The good news is that your parents are prepared for this and they should equip you with the required covering before you hit the beach. However, the bad news is that they likely have clothes that are a bit… out of date. Your parents would have been among those who chose to return to the sea instead of staying on land and that means that their wardrobe, if you’re lucky, is probably at least one full generation out of date. This may sometimes be helpful, as retro clothing is sometimes known to come back into fashion, but at other times it is not. And, if you’re not lucky, it’s possible that the clothes you’re handed will have been passed down from…. the old collection.

Either way, updating your wardrobe is likely the first step you’ll want to take. One way you’ll want to judge what to wear is to see what other people are wearing at the time. Though fashion is a fickle creature, the important part is mostly comfort and ensuring you avoid the shiny bracelets, so a rough estimate based on your surroundings will usually do just fine. Generally, the weather determines a lot of what people wear, so long as those people are sane. Cooler outfits will dominate the summer months, warmer outfits will be common in the winter, and stupid outfits will be found wherever people have too much time, money, or both!

Shoes will be particularly important for you, as your sensitive skin and lack of exposure to the surface will make walking across most surfaces painful at the very least. Footwear has many varieties and you’ll find many of them are even tailored to specific terrain. it doesn’t particularly matter if you do get the “correct” shoes, given the short time you’ll be staying at first, but try to avoid certain fashions that will only harm you in the end. Heels are best avoided for those new to the surface, as even those with experience find them terrible, and anything made with plastic tends to be frowned on – though that never stops people from buying them.

Once you’ve traded in your shiny objects for money and completed these purchases, you’ll have likely spent most of your first day wandering the surface. You’re probably hungry, and eating on the surface is a starkly differently thing…

Dining Ettiquette

Restaurants may at once be the easiest thing to master and the greatest gap between our people. While clothes may be something of a hurdle for those of you who would live under the waves, the truly hard thing for we on the surface to gather would be just how much fire has impacted our cuisine. This will be your first time eating cooked foods, which most things will be unless you are willing to shell out an impressive amount of your newly acquired money.

trust me, its fish

Fortunately, finding foods that remind you of home will be quite simple – seafood is, as you know, quite popular with us on the surface. It may strike some odd that Merfolk would eat such things, given your relationship to the sea, but those people aren’t considering that if you didn’t eat fish – what would you eat? However, once you have received the food you will need to begin learning how to actually use the small weapons that have been handed to you. It is time for you to familiarize yourself with… the fork.

These tiny weapons, though not what you were told they were, are actually quite useful. Eating in the fashion your people have been accustomed to is generally considered “bad manners” on the surface as we long ago decided that complicating things was generally cleaner. The tools handed to you, while pointy, are not meant for self-defense and should not be used to stab, poke, or grab anything or anyone that is not food. Instead, the fork and the knife are used to pre-cut bites of food and then transport them to your mouth in what would be considered an overly delicate fashion in a world where sharks set the standard.

With practice, you should be able to socialize with the humans in no time and find that we’re not nearly as bad as you once thought we were. However, there is one last warning about eating with us once you start to blend in: you must not drink from the bottle marked with the friendly looking sea captain.

Though reminding you of home, if one of your human friends were to offer you this you must be terribly cautious. The liquids inside, bitter but somehow pleasant, will slowly make blending in harder as you find yourself quickly overtaken by a strange force. Your body, dependent on remaining well hydrated, reacts negatively to the substances within and soon you will find yourself turning a vast array of colors you have never seen before. Though humans also tend to turn at least a slight shade of green, it will be noticeable when you start to demonstrate spots. And, furthermore, even if you manage to control this and keep your disguise in check, the humans may wish to sing. This may actually be the most dangerous time during your trip to the surface, as your limited inhibitions and limited master of surface tongues will make it only a matter of time…

Before your new friends think something may be amiss.

(I write novels, dabble in screenplays, like long walks on the beach and being a dork on twitter.)

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