August 16, 2016 by Lyn
This story takes place in the future.
- Kailani woke late, the sunshine streaming in the windows and warming her face. She stretched, feeling warm and refreshed, as if after a perfect night of sleep. Everything was right, everything was going well, and she had a big day ahead of her.
- Ready to greet the day, she sat up, or tried to, but the blankets were constricting around her, holding her close, cocooning around her so that she couldn’t move anything below her shoulders. She wiggled, a little annoyed, thinking that she’d just gotten tangled, but the blankets only wrapped tighter around her, pulling her arms close to her sides. Panicking, she struggled harder, shoving and pulling and eventually tearing at the blankets until, finally, they let her go, or rather, fell away from her, hanging in tatters from her hips.
- She shoved the remains of her quilt away from herself and stood, hurrying to get away from there. But there were still scraps of blanket on her back, tickling and poking at her. Irritated, she reached behind herself to pull them off.
- It felt like holding long, flat, wet feathers. It felt like pulling off bits of herself. Concerned, she walked to the mirror to see what she’d gotten entangled in.
- The tall, ornate mirror on its carved Victorian stand was not the mirror she recalled from her bedroom, but rather her grandmother’s mirror, that had always remained covered with dusty old sheets, their flowers long since faced to grey and musty pink. Now the sheets, fresh and clean and bright, were on her bed, and the mirror shone brightly in the sunlight. And Kailani… she too had had a fresh coat of polish and some scrubbing, it seemed. Her eyes were brighter, her skin smooth and clear without more than a token dusting of freckles, her body sleeker. And, shedding the last bits of their protective coating, sunshine-yellow butterfly wings unfolded slowly from her back, the tails of the hindwings brushing against the backs of her knees. She was reborn. Beautiful.
Wait, that’s not right.
- “Wait, no” Kai shook herself awake to a room lit with the dim blue glow of her night light. No sun shone down here, in the dark bowels of Addergoole. Nothing natural lived down here. And she was no butterfly.
- “Not like that,” she sighed, pulling herself out from under her own sheets. Not some pretty little flower of a girl to be hovered over and admired. Not some flighty little thing, going from flower to flower. No, if she ever transformed – and, with her luck, she never would – it would be to something else, something liquid and stormy.
- She swung her legs out of bed, but they felt wrong, as if her feet had gone numb, and pins and needles were crawling up her legs. She shoved the skirt of her nightgown up, the white linen scraping against her legs. If felt like she was running sandpaper over asphalt. If felt as if she was peeling off her skin.
- She looked down at her legs, at – “Ow!” – the wide, sapphire scale she was holding in her hand and the place on her leg where one scale was missing from the pattern sliding down her legs, rendering one row of swirling blue-green at a time, leaving scales and a tail where she had had smooth, pale, athletic legs.
- “Oh, Lord in heaven” The words themselves seemed to tighten her chest, and she found her breath coming faster and faster, but it didn’t seem to help. She didn’t seem able to get any air in. And her neck itched something horrible, hurt, like after a long swim.
- Realization struck her, finally, and with that, motion, but it was already too late. She dove for the door, hobbling on legs that were fusing together tighter and tighter with every passing second, grabbing for the door with hands that seemed clumsy and misproprotioned, gasping for breath, for air that wouldn’t come. If she could only get to the pool, she might have a chance.
- She fell, nothing left to run on, her legs stretching out, pain screaming through her feet as they elongated into a wide flipper. The air was foul and didn’t sustain her, and she was suffocating. Drowning.
- The tips of two delicate, pointed-toed black shoes came into her view, and she forced herself to look up, feeling just the tiniest thrill of hope. But the expression on Dr. Regine’s face – the lack of any expression – stripped away any thought of rescue.
- “It’s a pity, of course,” the woman said, her voice bland and bored. “But when you mix the races, sometimes this is what you get – unsuitable crossbreeds. I’d had high hopes for you, too” She sounded, now, as if she were personally disappointed in Kailani. “Ah, well”
- It became too hard to hold open her eyes, as she twitched and shook against the unforgiving carpet, still trying to pull air into lungs that wanted the oxygen in water now, but the last thing she heard was Regine’s crisp voice: “Get someone in here to clean this up, before someone sees it.”
- Shahin shuddered, her own lungs burning, and slowly tried to stand, getting her feet under her, careful of the ankle that had twisted, landing her on the floor. The image of the mermaid flopping on the floor like some beautiful dying fish still replayed in her mind, and she wondered if the carpet really was darker here, or if was a trick of the light and her overactive imagination.
- There were people all around, so she made her stand as graceful as she could, noting that none of the so-very-pretty perfect-little freaks stopped to help her up. Just let her fall, she supposed, like Dr. Regine had let that girl die.
Don’t let it be a real vision.
- Don’t let it be someone’s death she was foretelling. And if it was… no. If it was, it wasn’t avoidable, or if so, she didn’t know how. Just let no-one know she’d seen it coming. No uncomfortable questions.
- Under their delicately lacy coverings, her wrists began to itch. Still thinking of the way the girl’s legs had turned to scales, to a tail, she crossed her arms, surreptitiously sliding her hands under the lace to scratch. Even when warm and sweaty, even after gym, her wrists didn’t normally itch this much. Not since…
- Her hands found sticky wetness, and when she withdrew her fingers to look at them, they were wet with blood, dark, blackish-red clotted blood. Near her, one or two people turned to look at her, staring and whispering at the mess on her fingers.
- It was dripping down out of the wrappings now, a substance so thick and messy it could hardly be called blood, except for the smell; the smell was right. More people had stopped to look, so she did her best with the scene she was given, holding her wrists up to let the stuff drip down artfully.
- It seemed to be of a mind with her, because it was falling from her wrists into some sort of lace pattern, almost like openwork fins, like half-open Spanish fans, hardening in place as it dripped, stretching down and away from her arms. But around her, the muttering and whispering had finally gotten louder. Finally, someone shouted “Freak!”
- She looked up, both angry and startled. “You have got to be kidding me. A room full of mutants and monsters, and
- the freak?” It was said on impulse, blurted out in a way that she thought she had gained control of, and it was, while heartfelt, entirely the wrong thing to say. Heartfelt things, she’d discovered, were almost always the wrong thing to say. The crowd got angrier, and louder, and someone threw a stick at her, and then a book.
- “Weirdo!” shouted a boy with octopus-suckers on his hands and arms, and a polo shirt, his jeans just the fashionable amount of baggy.
- “Freak!” repeated a boy with green hair cut in the currently popular haircut, and it was too much for her.
- “Who cares about you!” she shouted, the blood on her wrists having solidified into a pair of razor-sharp-looking fins. “You’re nothing but a bunch of cardboard cutouts!”
- At this, the whole pack of them rushed towards her; she gave a little screams, half of fright and half of anger, and tried to fend them off…
- She awoke lying under a tree by the bank of a small stream, the wind slapping a low-lying branch into her face and against her bare arms. The sun was low in the sky; she should be getting back home soon, before her mom began to worry. Worry more, she supposed – her mom worried as a matter of course.
- She looked around to find Emrys; he was standing up to his ankles in the creek, his jeans rolled up to his knees. “Oh, you’re up,” he said, smiling warmly at her. “Good. I was afraid you were going to sleep till dawn, and your mother would have to kill me”
- “She wouldn’t kill you… much,” she teased, lifting her skirts in both hands to walk down to the creek. “You know, honey, I just had the strangest dream…” She looked up into his blue eyes, no longer troubled. And she told her lover, as well as she could remember, all about the strange creatures in her dream, and the vision she’d had within the dream, of the sad dying mermaid who’d dreamt of being a butterfly. When she had finished, he kissed her, and said,
- “You’re right, Sheen, that counts as strange, but we need to get back home. It’s getting late.” And, hand and hand, they headed off down the creek into the setting sun.
Shira Peletier woke from her dream shaking her head, trying to clear make sense of the strange whirl of images in her mind. The clock on her nightstand blinked 4:01 a.m., and she laughed at herself.
There were reasons, many long-forgotten, why this was the day once called All Fool’s Day, and she was herself a fool to sleep alone, to sleep at all, with the dawn of April 1 so very close. Mermaids indeed!
She stepped into the shower, trying to ignore the soft little whisper in the back of her head that sounded so much like Shahin’s voice in her dream… or in her dream of Shahin’s dream. Don’t let it be a real vision. Don’t let it be someone’s death she had foretold.
“Don’t be a fool, Shira”
With apologies to C.S. Lewis