From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism




Pest Control

There is a mermaid in your fields, fisherman.

I saw the signs when I was coming in; its lower jaw was lying unattached, and I could see the deep groove its upper jaw had left as it dragged it along the dirt, ripping wheat out from the ground, no doubt. Here, I have its jaw for your examination. Look at it well. A fine specimen, is it not?

No, it doesn’t seem to have been around for too long. Otherwise you would have undoubtedly noticed it for yourself, fisherman. How has your fishing been these last few months? They drive away the fish, you see, and rot the crops where they nest.

Yes, it was more than just bad luck these past months, fisherman. Are these not your fields? You don’t seem very concerned.

Your wife’s? I wish her well then.

. . . Ah. My condolences.

I see. Then do you wish that the fields be rid of it, anyhow?

My services are, of course, paid, but it’s a reasonable fee. I will perform the finding, the culling, and the cleaning. All of it is noted in my contract here, if you—yes, of course I kill it. What did you imagine I would do with it?

What would I capture it for? Do you have some sort of fetish for black-haired jawless female demons?

. . . you’re asking me some very strange questions, fisherman. I did not see it, because it slipped into the water as soon as I set foot on the land, but she undoubtedly was a corpse not very long ago. Ask in your village, see if there is any unaccounted-for mother, sister, daughter, wife—

[ . . . ]

My condolences again, fisherman.

I—look. This is not what I do. I’m a monster killer, not a trapper, and what you’re asking me for—

No, but yes. I—I understand but listen—

No, listen. Listen to me, man! She’s not your wife anymore. You understand? Look at this. Look at what I’m holding. This jaw? See how it is longer than it is wide? See those canines? The upper jaw of the mermaid has blunt teeth; they dig into mud, into wood, into stone. They pull out insects and crops and dirt and they eat it. So what, fisherman, are these teeth for?

No, no dogs. She—damn you—it will rip them to shreds. You can be foolhardy if you like, but I draw the line at dogs—no, I don’t care how much she loved them!

I see you’re not going to listen to me. Very well. She’ll come out to feed later in the night again. Go rip your fool head off if you like. I’m not coming with you. Keep your dogs locked up and listen for the sound of digging. I’ll keep her lower jaw with me, though it does little to improve your chances. I hope, for your sake, that your wife was not a strong woman.

. . . Cut wood and ploughed the fields, did she? I wish you, very sincerely, the best of luck, fisherman.

[ . . . ]

[ . . . ]

[ . . . ]

Good morning, landlady. May I ask whose fields those are?

Ah, I congratulate you on a fine field of healthy and well-kept wheat; one that would make any man—or woman!—proud.

Your fool son-in-law keeps them, does he? After the death of your daughter? That is unfortunate. My condolences for your loss.

Ah, you’ve noticed my interest is not completely benign. The thing is, landlady, that there are a mermaid and a merman in your fields. A pair. It would be terrible for your wheat. Would you like to get rid of them?

Saswati Chatterjee

Saswati Chatterjee

Saswati Chatterjee currently resides in New Delhi, India. A lifelong fan of horror, video games, and dragons, she’s also got a bit of a soft corner for the occasional artificial intelligence. She can usually be found at her Twitter, yelling bad opinions about TV shows. Her work has appeared in Flash Fiction Online, Daily Science Fiction, Three-Lobed Burning Eye, and Weird Horror Magazine by Undertow Publications.