Thursday, March 25, 2021

The Sea Hag -Chapter 18-



My whole body was on fire. I writhed and groaned on the padded vinyl floor of my cell, drenched in sweat as I shuddered with convulsions.

“S-somethings...wrong,” I said through teeth clenched tight enough to crack, “I-I n-need help,” I begged, but there was no answer. And why should there be? I was merely a test subject, a lab rat. My death would mean nothing more to Kusanagi than some interesting data.

I don’t know how long I lay like that, prostrate and suffering heretofore unimagined pain, before the whooshing sound of my cell door opening brought me crashing back to the present moment. 

“Christ, look at him!” my male guard exclaimed.

“I’d rather not,” the female replied quietly, after a beat.

“Dude looks like fucking Toxic Avenger. You ever see that shit?”

Cool, gentle, hands rolled me over, touching my arms and face. “He’s burning up,” said the woman, her voice now above me. “Doc said to get him in the water. Can you stand?”

“It took me a moment to realize this last question was directed at me. I tried to push myself up but my muscles felt weak and uncoordinated. My fingers felt too long and there was something between them. My whole body felt slightly alien and I was so, so tired. I sagged back down and shook my head, too exhausted from the effort to speak.

The next thing I knew, I was hauled up and strapped to the metal table again, vertically so that I sagged against my bonds, and wheeled out into the cavernous space beyond my cell.

The return of ambient echos soothed something tense deep inside me. I could hear again. Something beyond my own flat cries of agony. Even that much made me want to weep with relief, and then with dismay at how far I had fallen. How long had I been in there?

“H-how l-long--” I began to ask before my body convulsed painfully once again, pulling against the restraints and my question became a long scream.

Moments later, my muscles released and I gasped for air as we began moving upwards on some kind of open elevator. The scent of seawater was strong and I could hear it lapping against something nearby. I heard mechanical whirring and the sound of a lot of water draining very quickly, then I was suddenly and unceremoniously released from my bonds. I fell forward with a cry, flailing. A moment of sheer panic before I hit wet sand with a thud. I cast about with my hands, trying to get my bearings. 

There was a thumping, banging sound coming from ahead of me and I cringed away from it. Shells and living things crawled through the sand beneath me. I crawled backwards until I hit what felt like a glass wall. Seawater began to rush in, quickly filling the space.

My breath came in panicked gasps. I searched wildly for a way out.

“Please, please!” I said. No one answered, but something whirred closed over the top, not quite completely solid. I reached up as the water buoyed me closer and closer to it. The feel of the cool water against my fevered skin was something I would have savored if I had not been afraid that I was about to drown, but it seemed to have the added effect of giving me a newfound energy. Energy I used to hit and kick at the fist-sized holes in the plexiglass barrier. To no avail. The water kept coming. I sucked air through a hole one last time and prepared to find a way out or drown trying.

A series of rapid, sharp clicks came from my right, along with the characteristic squeal of a dolphin. My head whipped around. Why would they want to drown me with a dolphin? I thought, but I wasn’t feeling the usual need for air that I would this long without a breath. I felt like I could stay under like this for a long time. Some of the panic subsided and my thinking began to clear. 

I still couldn't hear anything, and that unnerved me. My tongue-clicking human method of echolocation simply doesn’t work underwater. Whales and dolphins have specialized organs in their skulls that produce and receive the sounds, organs I lacked. Or did I? It seemed that Kusanagi’s experiment was wreaking at least some changes to my physiology.

The dolphin clicked and squealed again, sounding closer this time and somehow soothing. Or was it a dolphin? I reached out, curious, and a long-fingered hand wrapped around mine. Sirena. I pulled her into my arms, running my hands all over her to assure myself that she was actually here, actually her. My face split into a grin and I lost some air as I laughed in joy and relief.  

Her own hands roamed my transforming body more gently and my own followed, inspecting for the first time what had been done to me. Shallow gills had appeared at my ribs and neck. Webs were forming between my elongating fingers, my nails becoming thickened claws. She placed a hand on my foot and I tried not to gasp; my foot was now just two large toes with a wide web of flesh between them.

My hands went to my face; one eye was larger and bulging, one ear had shrunk and flattened against my skull which was now nearly bald except for a few patches. My nose had likewise shrunk and flattened. I covered my deformed face with my hands, shame burning tears in my mismatched eyes. I turned away from her, curling in on myself. She pulled me back and kissed me fiercely, her hands gripping the sides of my head, her lithe body pressed against me. I pulled away from her, shaking my head. How could she stand to look at me? I was hideous, a freak.

Sirena grabbed both of my hands then, placing one on her face and one on my own. Slowly, carefully, she let me feel the similarities; the shape of our noses, our ears, that one large eye. If she was beautiful to me, could I not also be beautiful to her? The way she looked had never bothered me, I had found it fascinating more than anything, but I knew Gabe had had a strong reaction to her appearance. Change is hard. Particularly sudden and traumatic change. No one knew that better than me. I might be losing my humanity, but at least I still had her.

I kissed the palm of her hand, grateful for her reassurance, but far from ok with what was happening to me. There was a more pressing concern, however; I was going to need air, very soon. Unsure of how to let her know this, I pointed upward, then patted my own chest, opening and closing my mouth like I was gasping for air. She placed my hand on the side of her face and nodded, pulling me forward by the wrist.

As she towed me through the water I felt how powerful of a swimmer she was; just a couple of powerful kicks and she was pulling me up and placing my hand on a metal tube from which air bubbled continuously. I realized that I could hear it quite clearly, that the dimensions of the space were starting to reveal themselves through the ambient sounds in a way I had never experienced underwater before.

I wrapped my lips around the tube, sucking in lungfuls of air and expelling it, ridding my system of carbon dioxide and replacing the oxygen. Sirena was rubbing soothing circles on my back while I did so, keeping in constant which I appreciated more than she could know. Being unable to hear has been one of my worst fears since going blind. Lost and alone, unable to communicate; but she was here, and I wasn’t deaf. Not really.

Sirena clicked and trilled again as I raised my head and gave her a thumbs up, sounding happy. I realized that I could hear her clicks bouncing off the walls of our enclosure. Evidently she could echolocate and communicate just like a whale. This meant that she was equipped with the same internal structures as those animals. I needed to ask her a question.

I waved my hand to get her attention and she answered by gripping it in both of hers. I began to gesture. I pointed to her head, made a finger-snapping gesture, then I pointed to my own head and made an exaggerated shrugging motion. How can I do that?

She was still for a moment and I started wracking my brain for another way to ask when she let out a series of slow clicks. I nodded enthusiastically and pointed to my own head again.

Something brushed past my face and I jumped, slamming into a plexiglass wall. I reeled, trying to get my bearings. I couldn’t tell which way was up. I was verging on panic again when her clicks sounded from behind me, high and fast, bouncing off the walls, the sandy bottom, orienting me. I righted myself and swam toward the sound. Her arms greeted me, but I knew she was there long before we touched.

She held my face in her hands and brought our foreheads together. My hands rested on her slender shoulders so I could feel her shake her head slowly and shrug. If we had been on the surface I would have sighed. As it was I let my shoulders droop and shook my head with a small, sad smile. Odds were good that she didn’t even know how she did it, let alone how to teach someone else.

I wrapped my arms around her and we floated together in silence. She was here and that was enough. I wasn’t alone. I was becoming something inhuman and I had never felt so helpless in my life, but my brother was here, somewhere. I wasn’t alone.

Exhaustion claimed me, but I wasn’t alone.

1 comment:

  1. Oh so good. Hope brother ok. This is intriguing and well written.