Once upon a time, long before people came to these islands, but after the Gods had found them and set up their summer homes here, there lived a goat. He was the only goat on the island and he was very, very lonely. Don’t ask how he got here, it’s a long story about intra-deity spite and revenge that he got caught up in by accident, but suffice it to say that he sure didn’t ask for it or deserve it, but you know, with the gods, that’s how it goes sometimes.
It wasn’t a bad life, as you know. It’s gorgeous here, and there was plenty to eat, and lots of hills for him to scramble up and down. But when he would say “ba-a-a-a,” there was nobody to “ba-a-a-a” back. Or even any pigs, or chickens, or swans, or anything else that could talk back. Yes, the gods are pretty fucking cruel, no doubt.
So he got depressed. Very depressed. He asked the gods for mercy, but they either didn’t hear him or didn’t care. Asking them for things was like…do you have anything like a DMV in Greece? Yeah, so it’s like that. You might as well talk to a wall.
So one day the goat woke up and had an idea. The kind of idea you only have when you’re really depressed. He decided that he would go down to the seashore and start swimming. Either he would find another island, preferably with other goats, or he’d drown. Both possible outcomes filled him with this serene satisfaction, because either way his suffering would end.
Can goats swim? Well, sort of. But once he got a ways out from shore, he realized that this had been a really dumb move. That there was no chance of getting to any other island, since, duh, he couldn’t even see another one from the very tippy top of the highest mountain on the island. That was when he started to panic. It doesn’t matter how depressed you are, when your biology kicks in and starts screaming I WANT TO LIVE, there’s no arguing with it.
But panic is really a poor evolutionary feature, because it generally means you do something stupid just when you need to be smart. The goat tried to turn around and head back for shore, but he found himself flailing helplessly in the water.
“Help!” he cried. “Help!” There wasn’t anyone around to hear it, but again, evolution says scream, so he screamed.
Once upon a time, there was a mermaid who lived just off the shore of this island. She’d chosen the island because she knew that it was a place the gods had reserved for themselves, a sort of weekend retreat, that Man hadn’t got his grubby little paws on yet. And, because of the occasional lurking Olympians, the other mermaids, the superstitious fools, were afraid of it. Which suited her fine, because they were shallow and vacant and spent all their time combing their hair and looking at their own fractured reflections in the scales of their tails and talking about whatever hot sailors they’d lured to their doom that day.
One day, she heard a cry for help, and her mermaid instinct was to rush to the scene and make everything worse for whoever was in peril. But because she was no ordinary mermaid, she repressed it with a sigh. Let the fool have his chance to live, she thought, not out of kindness, because humans were to her kind as ants were to us, but because she was busy with an interesting new pet, a giant oyster she was poking with the tip of her tail.
The cry got more frantic, and she realized it wasn’t a human cry, which made the situation more interesting that it would have been. She swam like a rocket to the sound, and had to rub her eyes to make sure she didn’t have kelp in them or something, because it was coming from a goat. There was no boat for it to have fallen off of, so its current location was a mystery.
She swam around and around it. “Help me, please!” the goat spluttered.
“What are you doing out here?”
“Help me get to shore, please!” The goat could not believe this stupid mermaid was going to ask dumb questions while he drowned, but he also knew that you could not, ever, be rude to one or they’d take you right down to the bottom out of spite.
“Answer the question.”
“I was lonely. I’m the only goat on the island. I had to…rblblblblb!”
The mermaid, wanting to hear more of this story, decided to rescue him at this, the last moment before he drowned. She slipped under him and raced to the shore, faster than a dolphin.
She sat on a rock and thoughtfully groomed her hair with her fingers as he choked and gasped on the beach, deliriously, insanely glad to be alive for the first time in years.
“So let me get this straight. You wanted to die because you were lonely?” This was unfathomable to the mermaid, who could barely tolerate the whisper of the sea some days.
“Yes. No. I wanted to…finding another island was my only hope, though.”
The mermaid pondered on this. The thing about mermaids is, they’re all cruel bitches, but, they do respect the sense of daring and adventure that leads men to risk death and doom. As far as she could remember, which was a long way back, she’d never known any animal other than Man who would take a risk like that. It was pretty ballsy, for a land mammal who couldn’t really truly swim.
Then it occurred to the goat. “But…I guess I’m not alone around here, am I?”
“What do you mean?” she said suspiciously.
“Well…you’re here,” he said shyly.
She was silent. It wouldn’t be so bad, she thought, to have someone to talk to now and then. Especially if he brought her things she liked, things she’d gotten a taste for from the cargos of wrecked ships.
“Do you know how to gather olives?”
“Do I!” the goat enthused. “I could bring you some. They, um, might be a little slobbery, though.”
“Well,” she said, lowering her voice to a whisper so as not to be heard. “That’s okay. You just found out how bad the sea tastes sometimes.”
He laughed and, to her surprise, she laughed with him. And so a friendship was born. No more, but no less. No god came along and turned them both in to people, or both into goats, or anything else for that matter. But he brought her olives, and she brought him fish, usually once a week, and really, it was enough.
Of course she outlived him, but the goat lived to a ripe old age, and when he died, he made sure he was at the seashore, so that the mermaid could carry him into the sea, with a gentleness that was so shocking that even the gods, finally, noticed it, and wiped a tear before going back to throwing shit at each other once more.