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1/8

For generations my family guarded our shores from The Sleepless Ones.

I'd never seen one myself but my ancestors had left artifacts full of detailed visual depictions of the beasts.

Human enough from the waist up, but with round lidless eyes, nubs for ears, fish or seal-like lower bodies, and spiked fins all down the back.

"Easy to spot, really," I assured the girl I had found carelessly sunning herself among the rock pools.

2/8

"Hm," she nodded, regarding me with a raised eyebrow.

She was very pretty.
"So don't worry," I continued, "I can protect you if any try to drag you into the ocean."

"How... kind," she said. I sensed she was neither impressed nor concerned by the danger she was potentially in, nor aware how valiant I was being, offering my services to a stranger. Then again, as simple as her garb was, the material shimmered slightly; clearly the daughter of one of the merchants. So doubly worth protecting.

3/8

"Thank you but I can protect myself," she said in the way all bold girls tend to do. She reminded me of myself, though I was easily 5 years older. And she was slender, pale, and clearly weaponless.

"Perhaps, but you don't know the ferocity of the Sleepless Ones, and I've trained all my life to fight them," I explained, flexing my spear arm casually, just to make sure she could see my sizable bicep, for emphasis.

"Why do you call them the Sleepless Ones?" she asked, ignoring my muscles.

4/8

Very well, if she wasn't swayed by my physique then maybe my knowledge & intellect would be more compelling.
"It has been recorded that they never sleep. Like the fish they share the seas with, they lack eyelids. Thus they don't blink either, but The Unblinking Beasts didn't really catch on as a name for them. They can still your heart and steal your soul with their ceaseless gaze."

"Seems excessive, to still a heart AND steal a soul," she quipped.

"Well, that's why they're so dangerous."

5/8

She let out a delicate laugh. I couldn't help smiling, even if she was being very rude.

"Maybe they only appear to not sleep or blink because their eyelids are clear?" she postulated.

"That doesn't really change how dangerous they are," I shrugged.

"Perhaps, but it does put into question some of the validity of those records you mentioned, don't you think?"

I furrowed my brow, "Well, without capturing and examining one, nobody can check that theory, so we have to stand by the records."

6/8

"But that would be pointless information anyway," I continued confidently, "They have never been taken alive, because they're too bestial to negotiate with."

"Has anyone tried," she asked, gazing at me unblinkingly.

I thought hard. My entire education had been mostly memorizing the entries we were given access to.
"Hm, no. There would have been accounts of any attempts - or their failures, anyway," I finally answered.

She hefted her rattan satchel of crabs and stood, staring down at me.

7/8

"My time feels quite wasted," she stated simply, her eyes never leaving me, "Perhaps you should find more entries to read."

"They gave us all the pertinent pages," I scoffed, surprised and a little jealous of her height.

"Did they," she asked, pointing towards the tall walls of my home.

I glanced over, feeling pride and comfort at the sight of the watch towers and flags.

"They did," I confirmed, before courteously suggesting, "How about I escort you away from the shore and its dangers?"

8/8

"Unnecessary," I heard her say.

Then I spun around at the sound of a splash. The girl was gone! I caught a glimpse of her shimmering skirts vanish beneath the waves and I ran to the water, stabbing and cursing.

The Sleepless Ones had claimed another victim!

I tried to inform her family, but I found no one who knew of her.

I mourned the pretty solitary traveler. She'd been rude and careless, but she would be avenged.

And I would never forget her nor her steady unblinking gaze.

...wait.

@Teryl_Pacieco This is quite possibly the best closing sentence to a story I have ever seen.

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