free web hosting | free website | Web Hosting | Free Website Submission | shopping cart | php hosting

 

"Rainbow Adventures"

Written by: Astrid Delphine

astrid_delphine@hotmail.com

For Grade 12 Colleges Prep. English. 2005

Originally entitled: "The Adventures of Mindy the Mermaid".

Title & main character's name changed when re-typed, summer of 2007. Further changes made when re-typed in winter of '08-09 & summer of '09.

READERS NOTE: The character "Delphina" was based on the "Rae" character of "Free Willy", 1993. The show tank was also inspired by this movie. If you have not seen this movie yet or recently, I recommend that you do. [Bonus: MJ sings a song!]

  ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Chapter 1: Life in the Atlantic

  "Field trip!" called my teacher from the front of the class. Air bubbles flowed to the ceiling of the classroom and out the tiny cracks that had formed. This may sound weird to you but it makes perfect sense to me because I am a 17-year-old mermaid named Ray-Leah and this is my story.

          I am currently living with my Aunt Sue, my younger brothers Matthew (15) & Mark (13), {and his twin sister} Caroline (13), my younger sisters Jeanie (10) & Claudia (8), my younger brother Seth (6), and my (only) cousin, Elizabeth (11).

          We all live together in my parent's house. Well, its part rock cave that my grandparents dug out while in their youth, part sunken ship that my parents added when Mark & Caroline were born. My grandparents moved to another cave and gave the larger one to my parents as a wedding gift, as tradition states, and are now currently trying to rebuild after the last earthquake.

          My parents were killed by a swarm of sharks while they were out hunting. At the time, Seth was barely 2 years old and hardly remembers them.

 "Come on, Ray-Leah! Try to keep up with the class!" called my teacher from the very front. I hoisted up my hand knitted purse & swam to catch up with her.

          "Why are we going on this field trip?" I asked her.

          "To learn firsthand more about how humans hunt for fish," she replied.

          We then came across a large vessel named USS Skipper, dragging a giant fishing net as it traveled out to sea. As our teacher spoke to the class about how to escape from a fisherman's net, I daydreamed about sunbathing on an island beach somewhere safe, away from the dangers of the humans.

          As the class started back to school, Rachael, a punk girl with a black tail called out to me.

 

          "Hey, Rainbow Retard!" I spun around to face her. [If you haven't already guessed, I am the rarest colour of mermaid: blue at the waist, green at the hips, yellow somewhere near the human's knees, orange near the human's ankles, and red tailfins (also called flukes). I am constantly being teased about this fact and have tried to ignore it but this girl has been bullying me for years]. "I dare you to swim up and knock on the bottom of the vessel." My best friend Judith overheard & hollered at me to come back, but I was already half way to the vessel. When I reached it, I barely knocked once before I got tangled in the fishing net.   

Chapter 2: The Nightmare of Traveling

          The humans that had captured me had not at first realized exactly what I was. I was scared & getting very dry, very quickly. They finally realized that I needed water so they tied ropes around my tail & my hands and they placed me in a small water tank that was on board the vessel. I simply sank to the bottom, huddled in a corner, & clutched my purse.

 

          Both (adult) male humans started talking very loudly & quickly, one of them grabbed a piece of paper off of a corkboard. One of them grabbed a radio mouthpiece and spoke into it rather loudly. "We've caught ourselves a mermaid, y’all!" he said excitedly. "Yeah, a real one . . . about 18 years old . . . rainbow colored tail . . . yeah, that is right . . . I know, really rare," he babbled on and at one point, inquired as to a cash reward. I wished that I could have covered my ears because I did not want to hear about what was about to happen to me.

After a while, I felt the vessel start to vibrate, jerk, turn right around and head back to shore. The closer we got, the more scared I became.

A little human boy of about 7 walked up to the glass of the tank and stared at me. I tried to hide my face in my long auburn colored hair but the little boy's face was smiling and he spoke to me. "Hello. My name is Jacob. Are you ok?" he asked. I just turned my head away from him and cried.

I heard the footsteps of the little boy move away and return with another set. I raised my head slightly. The taller of the two adult males was standing there with a fishing knife, a small tin case and a large canvas sail. I was so frightened that he was going to kill me but all that he did was inject me with something from a needle that came from the tin case, cut the ropes that bound my hands & tail, and used the sail to cover the tank blocking the view. Whatever the injection was, it made me very drowsy and soon, I had fallen asleep.

I woke up much later to find myself in a much larger tank with fake seaweed & kelp of different colours, a glass window on one side, a small amount of tuna floating near the window, my purse lay on the floor near me and a pounding headache roared. I was so hungry that all I could think about was to eat so I swam to the window and ate six pieces of the fish before realizing that there was a huge crowd of humans watching me.

  I could see the adult males & females in the back, simply watching and pointing. The children were nearly nose-to-nose the glass window. The tank that I was in had been parked in a grassy area and had a canvas tent overhead, keeping the water cool from the blazing sunshine outside. I could hear water splashing in the distance, and felt a pang of homesickness.

I tried to swim a lap around the tank but that barely took a minute. I checked my purse to find the contents still all there as I left them. The seaweed felt smooth and very stiff, nothing at all like the ones back home. I suspected that these were what humans call "decorations".

More human children began to arrive, now that word had spread that the mermaid was awake. I became very nervous and felt very crowded. As I started backing up in the tank, the children walked closer to the window. Eventually, my back was flat against the wall but the children continued to crowd the window, even shoving at each other for a nearer spot. I sank to the floor of the tank, to find a blanket of this cloth, dark purple in colour and very soft to the touch. I grabbed it and swam to a back corner, covered myself in the cloth over my head and clapped my hands over my ears in an attempt to block out the noise of the children's hollering.

When they realized what I was doing, a few then a bunch more, began hitting at the window, yelling at me to come back. The more children seeing what was going on, the more they hit the tank. Then it was not just the window they were hitting; a bunch of them started to hit the tank around the back where I was huddled. The noise echoed very loudly and caused my headache to get worse.

I bolted from that corner to the other; as I did, the hitting stopped for only a minute. When the children saw me huddle again, the hitting began again. I cried and I cried.

Then I screeched. My suspicion was that these human children had never heard of anything like it before and were shocked, especially at my new appearance. This is a type of reaction to extreme stress that is common among merfolk. When one becomes stressed to a point, the skin changes to an ugly gray colour, the eyes turn red, claws appear on the fingers, and the vocal cords are stretched to allow for the screech. Usually, this is used when a mermaid feels threatened by another marine animal and this transformation is to scare that threat away. I had only ever used it once as a child, until now.

The children saw me and backed away out of fear. Some of the younger ones cried; others simply stared & covered their ears from the screech.

Just then a short, stumpy, round man came strolling from around the back of the tank. He began shooing the children away.

“Ok folks! That’s all for now! We must not tire our new friend out all in one day. Ya’ll come back tomorrow, ya hear?” he shouted, waving his arms sideways to the crowd, being followed by a small girl child. He did not shove her away, but rather, ignored her all together.

She was very small, wearing a navy blue & white striped dress, and carrying a small hand knitted mermaid doll. I noticed that the doll’s tail was made of a rainbow multicolored yarn and very long dark brown hair. An almost identical copy of me; I was not sure if I was to be offended or honored.

My transformation had reversed itself and she was no longer scared of me. She stood a few tail lengths from the tank and watched as I swam a few laps in relaxation.

The round man joined the little girl after the crowds departed and spoke in my direction, even though he could not see me at certain times. “I am really sorry about that, missy. I should have predicted that this would happen. Now that you’re rested, fed, and calmer, can you tell me about yourself? What is your name? What ocean are you from? Are there others like you? ……… Do you even understand English?”

I thought about teasing him with my merfolk native language but the look on the little girl’s face read, to me, that he has a short temper & does not take well to humor. I sighed, arched my back in a stretch, and lay myself on the floor of the tank.

“I will only answer your questions if you answer mine.”

“That’s fair enough, missy. You go first.” The man took a small wooden stool from around the back of the tank and sat down in front of the window.

“What day is this?” I inquired.

The little girl spoke: “Today is June 30th. That is an odd question. Why do you ask?”

My attention was turned to the girl immediately. Her voice was kind and gentle. I preferred to speak to her rather than the man.

“I ask because I was taken away on June 20th and I wanted to know for how long I have been sleeping and traveling for.”

The little girl looked to the man, and he nodded encouragingly.

“What is your name?” she asked.

“I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours,” I replied softly, gesturing for her to come right up to the glass. With a gentle shove from the man, who I guessed was her father; she stumbled right up to the window.

“My… my name is Carrie. My doll does not have a name yet.” She held up the doll to my eye-level and I could see that the doll even had my purple shirt & my eye colour. That was when I was positive that it was meant as a replica of me.

“My name is Ray-Leah, which is Mermish meaning ‘rainbow underwater’. Your name means ‘song of joy’.”

Carrie’s eyes widened with happiness & excitement. “You go tell him now,” I whispered, shooing her back to the man, who seemed a little irritated and impatient. She scuttled back to the man, and whispered in his ear. His face lit up with anticipation. Carrie sat down on the grass next to him, facing me, her body language completely relaxed. “If I were born a mermaid, what would my name have been?” she asked. Her father appeared shocked at her boldness but the smile on my face seemed to calm his nerves. “My best guess would be Annabelle, Latin for ‘easy to love’.” Carrie looked to her doll, back at me, to her father, and then back to the doll. “Then that is what my doll’s name shall be!” she said as she took the arms of the doll and made the doll dance on her knees.

My attention was turned back to the man. “Seeing as I just answered her question, it’s my turn now. Where are we and what is going to happen to me?”

The man appeared irritated with me. He sighed, stood up, grabbed Carrie by her wrist, and shoved her towards the door of the tent. “You are in a marine tourist attraction park called Mythical Kingdom and you have just become our newest attraction. Once the show tank is repaired & our trainer has had time working with you, you’ll be forced to perform with the dolphins in the daily aquatic shows. I’ll send the trainer to meet you while the scientists are taking a look tomorrow morning. You are now the property of MK and will never see the ocean again.”

Finally, with that, he closed the zipper of the tent and left me to mull over my situation with MK or the lack of one. I cried myself to sleep, still clutching my purse.

Chapter 3: Life in the Zoo

The next morning, I was lifted from the tank trailer into an even bigger tank but it was very shallow & my purse was left on the edge of the pool. I was clearly visible to everyone there. After a while, four humans walked towards the edge of the tank, three adults (two female, one male) were wearing sleek black clothes & snorkeling gear, while the last one (female) was wearing similar sleek clothes, only were a paler purple and wore a silver whistle around her neck on a piece of rainbow coloured cord. The male wearing black carried a white metal box in one hand and a large net in the other.

Before I knew what was happening, I was caught in the net with the humans in black pricking me with needles, removing some of my blood & taking samples of my scales from each color variation then leaving, babbling very excitedly.

  Then the female in purple carried over a silver metal pail and dumped the contents into the water nearest me. The contents consisted of tuna, salmon, trout, shrimp, krill and bass fish, all of which already beheaded, gutted from the neck & cooked.

Instead of leaving me to eat in peace, the female in purple sat down on the edge of the water and attempted to watch me. I took a fish, turned my back to her, ate behind my hair, and threw the spine/fluke bones at her while I made a lap pass around the tank. Oh, she was mortified at first, and then laughed at my boldness.

“My name is Delphina, and I’m your trainer; well, I suppose that it’s more like your jailer but I don’t want you to think that way. I want to make your stay here as enjoyable as possible.” She took my purse in her hands, looked at it, looked at me, and threw it to me. I bolted after it, catching before it reached the bottom and I clutched it tight to my chest.

“Your name is mermish for ‘Dolphin’. It’s actually not a commonly used name,” I replied as-a-matter-fact, as I polished off two more fish and slung the strap of the purse over my head.

“Will I get to see Carrie today?” I asked.

“Why do you inquire about her?” Delphina slipped her feet into my water and I could feel her tension & apprehension.

“I just want to see her, that’s all.” I replied as I floated on my back, staring up at the partly clouded sky.

“Maybe this afternoon; as soon as Brad orders for your transfer to the other tank, you’ll be visible to the guests.” Delphina got up as one of the black-dressed humans returned and spoke with her momentarily. I waited patiently as they talked in hushed tones.

When the other person left, Delphina walked around to the backside of the tank & graciously dove into the shallow tank; I noticed that she had the grace of a mermaid, swimming only with the dolphin kick and I knew from the look in her eyes, although she was human, she wanted to be one of us. With this moment of clarity, I gained more respect for her and learned to trust her.

At last, when she surfaced, I asked her, “Who is Brad? Where is this other tank? And what are you doing?”

“Brad is Carrie’s father. The round, fat man you met yesterday. He is the owner of Mythical Kingdom. I am trying to dislodge this old gate from the darn wall. It leads into the other tank. It’s always given us trouble but Brad has not gotten around to fixing it yet.”

She took a deep breath and dove into the water. I thought that she’d never surface but after about two minutes, she came back up sputtering for air. She took some more deep breaths and tried again. She did this for about four more times before I made my way around to the other side of the gate. After about the tenth time, she came up gasping for air and slumped over on the edge of the pool. She looked at me, hopefully.

I sighed, rolling my eyes, and dove in. I found to be what looked like a large grill in two slides and appeared to work by turning a crank to roll up a length of rope, which lifts the grill up to reveal an open square to the tank adjacent.

Before I knew what was happening, a giant net came up behind me and the grill opened. The net forced me through the square and slammed shut behind me.

I then found myself in a gigantic tank with real aquatic plants, two caves, and a sunken ship. Just then, an alarm buzzer went off from somewhere and two mermaids (one carrying a baby) & one merman swam out of the ship straight at me.

“Oh, hello! I’m Keira and this little boy is my son, David,” said the black skin, red tailed mermaid as she played with the 10 month old baby boy.

“I’m Coralee,” said the blonde haired, light blue tailed mermaid.

“I’m Christopher,” said the dark haired, dark blue tailed merman.

I first noticed that they were excited to see a new mermaid but I think that the color of my tail was a bit of a shock to them. “My name is Ray-Leah, and don’t make fun of it. I’ve heard all of the jokes either it be my name or the color of my tail."

“Bring her here!” bellowed a male voice from one of the caves. “We’re coming Max!” yelled Christopher as Keira took my arm and guided me toward the second cave. This one had white sheets of cloth over the opening with coral growing all around the base and climbing up the sides. Inside of the cave there was a metal table, metal square blocks for chairs and a bed, all made to look like they were all roughly cut of wood, and which were bolted to the floor. There were markings on the wall that seemed to have been there for a while and special crayons littered the floor as well as the spine/fluke bones of many fishes. Lying on the bed was a merman, who was coughing so much that he was coughing up little droplets of blood into a kerchief at one point.

As I swam, the closer that I got, the more nervous I became. Suddenly, he turned over & I cried, “Uncle Max! Is that you?” I asked, in-between sobs. “Ray-Leah, my sweet Ray-Leah!” he cried. He reached out to embrace me and I hugged him. I cried, he cried, and Coralee cried.

I explained to the confused expressions that he is my long lost uncle, Maximus Horatio. “How did you end up here?” I asked him, turning my attention back to him. He told me of getting caught up in a whale hunting trip. The humans were the ones hunting the whales while Max was trying to help the whales. Max had cut the net that had caught one of the baby calves. The calf was freed but it was Max who was hoisted up instead. He had been living in this tank for the last 8 years. Captivity had made him into a grouchy, homesick old merman.

As it turns out, the humans had discovered that Max had a rare blood disorder that was hereditary through the males born of his family, which meant that my cousin, Elizabeth & her mother, were safe and since my mother was his sister, my whole family was safe too.

However, Max was on his deathbed. The humans were not sure when he would die, but I knew that it would not be much longer. It was common knowledge that merfolk could tell when one of their own was nearly at his/her end. The feeling is exceptionally strong if it’s between blood family members.

Days went by and I got used to life in the tank. I tended to Uncle Max every day which meant retrieving fish for him, help him eat, and telling each other stories. I did most of the story telling to Max, about happenings in the last 8 years, from Seth’s birth to my parents’ death. Uncle Max wept for the loss of his only sister and for the heavy burden placed on his wife. I told him of Elizabeth and how she had been told that the humans had killed Max. I told him of how the community rallied together to help us when Max went missing & again when my parents were killed. I took my purse from beside the bed, rummaging around inside looking for something in particular.

I pulled out a book carefully made with thick cloth pages: each front white page (sandwiched around a page of thick sailing canvas) bore an embroidery picture of a person of my family. The list started with my parents on their wedding day; then a bunch of pictures with my parents & the family at each of my sibling’s birth; then one of Aunt Sue, Uncle Max & a four-year-old Elizabeth; then a picture of me with a ten-year-old Elizabeth, and the last one was a folding picture depicting a family portrait of myself & my siblings with Elizabeth & Aunt Sue completed last year just before the earthquake.

Uncle Max recognized this book as the ones that his mother (my grand- mother) had made for each of the children. Mine had been decorated with sky clouds, land rainbow and bore my name in script on the front cover. He wept again when he saw the picture of me & Elizabeth. He gently touched the page and traced his daughter’s face. “She looks like her mother,” he said longingly. He offered to give the book back but I shook my head. “You hold onto it for a while,” I said gently.

He looked at me, and with the sudden air of excitement & strength, he asked Coralee to hand him something from the high shelf. Coralee hands to him a small box carved from wood, that I feel like I should remember it. The carved box was very small, not much bigger than Max’s hand and the lid was carved to look like a mermaid holding a rare water flower.

That was when I remembered this box. Max had been working on this when I was a child. He favored me & Elizabeth for special projects and outings, regardless of the difference in our ages. He had taken us to a shipwreck when Elizabeth was three & we searched it for useful items like canvas sails, wooden furniture, and any other treasures that we may have found. That day, Max had found this little box, unharmed among a damaged dresser. At the time, it did not have the carvings but did contain many gold coins, silver & gold jewelry, and a broken pearl necklace. He told me that just after he found the box, he intentionally broke a few pieces of jewelry. Max told me that the humans, who captured him, stole the box’s contents except for the broken pieces. “Apparently, they could not be bothered to have them fixed,” he said. Over the first year of his captivity, he repaired the broken pieces including the pearl necklace. He picked it out of the box and gently clasped it around my neck. It was so beautiful: a medium length of white pearls with a silver-edged sea shell charm that he traded one of the box’s rings for from a lady guest, a couple months after arriving. I was honored by this gift and swore to him that I would not take it off. Then he said to me, “I have no hope of returning home before I die but I believe that you will. I want you to take this box, protect it with your life. When you return home, give it to your aunt. She’ll know what to do with it.” When he handed that box to me, I practically felt my heart break.

I learned from the other stories that Keira came from the southern coast of Africa & was still pregnant with David at the time. Chris (as he prefers to be called), came from the English Channel and Coralee came from the north Australian coast. Coralee has an amazing singing voice but would only sing for me and Uncle Max.

For the time that Max had left on this Earth, he taught us things that he learned about the park. The owner, Brad, really wanted young merfolk children to attract the younger human guests. He had paid double the price in order to acquire a mermaid the same age as Max but he refused to mate with her. Sadly, the mermaid died a few months later. He suspected poison but nothing could be proved and the park was awarded the life insurance on her. “They are hoping I’ll die sooner, as they will get twice as much for me than they did for her,” said Max, with the air of disgust. “They’ve given up with me. Brad has turned his attention to Coralee & Chris. He’s hoping that they’ll mate and start a large family right away,” Max told me in private one day. I never repeated that conversation to anyone, save Delphina to confirm.

Keira taught us to weave seaweed blankets out of the overgrown plants. They turned out to be quite warm and as colorful as my tail.

Chapter 4: Show Time!

After a while, I grew sick of the daily numbers of humans walking through the tunnels, passing strong glass windows, pressing their noses against the glass and so many camera flashes.

A pattern began forming as well. The tourists preferred to see me, rather than the others. Carrie came by as often as she could but eventually; even she could not make me happy.

Delphina had tried to get me to perform with the dolphins at the tourist show. I did one show & hated it. So did Brad. After the crowds had left, I could overhear him yelling at Delphina for my poor performance. She apologized over and over but Brad was angry. He threatened to fire her if she could not get me to perform to his satisfaction. He left in a fit of rage, slamming a gate behind him and Delphina came out of the back room, crying.

I felt very bad for Delphina but I hated the tourist show. I went to see Uncle Max for advice. Coralee was there, preparing Max’s lunch and as soon as she saw the look on my face, she knew that the show had been a disaster. She invited me to sit at the table and talk about what had happened. I snuck a few slivers of the fish as I told them what I had overheard Brad say.

Coralee was scared & sad. “Delphina has been the only nice one around here. When we needed clothes & cloth, she went out and bought us shirts & sheets out of her own pockets. She has no family that we know of and she’s very lonely.”

“I’ve seen her sitting on the edge of the show tank late into the night some days… just thinking. It’s like she’d rather be here than anywhere else.” I took a few fish and started stripping them from the spine/fluke bones & throwing them bones into a pile on the table.

Uncle Max sighed. “I think that your best bet to keep Delphina is to do as Brad asks. At the next show, you must do as the humans ask and perform at your peak.”

Coralee gave a sympathetic smile. She told us of the time when Brad tried to get her to sign a song but when she faced the audience, she froze up. Chris came in just then, nearly making me jump out of my skin. He could not help overhearing and told us of the time when Brad tried to use him as a motor boat for Delphina to ski behind but Chris did not have the power on his own.

My fear nearly became a reality. In the morning before I was to be switched to the show tank for the afternoon show, I overheard Brad threatening Delphina again. “I warn you, if she does not perform today, she is sent to seclusion and you are fired. This is your last chance, Delphina!” Brad came storming out of the back room, slamming the gate behind him. That was when I got the brilliant idea. As soon as Delphina came out of the room, I called her over and told her my idea. Her face lit up excitedly and hurried away.

~

“Good afternoon, guests of the Magical Kingdom! I welcome you today to our special show!” Delphina’s voice blared over the speaker system. My heart pounded in my chest and my tail quivered in anticipation.

Without any notice, I shot from the deepest corner of the show tank to the surface and made a perfect arch jump. As I landed, I could hear the cheers from the audience.

I then found Chris and gave him a nod. He gave me a wink, was met up with the two dolphins, and with his back to the audience, he made the hoop jump look easy. [He told me later it helped immensely that he did not have to look at the audience or the camera flashes.]

Coralee & I took hold of the dolphin’s dorsal fins and rode them to the surface and waved to the crowds. When we reached a floating rock, and as Coralee took her place, the pool lights dimmed. I made a roundabout and sat on the other side of the rock. Facing each other, I started to hum. While not looking at the audience, Coralee took it from there, singing in her perfect alto with my soprano singing the harmony, a song that Uncle Max helped us to write:

 

I am a child of the sea,

As you can clearly see;

This is all that I will ever be,

I am merely me.

I decree, “Please, set me free to the sea!”

 

I am sad,

I am more than the most recent fad;

I am told,

I was purchased for much of gold.

I decree, “Please, set me free to the sea!”

 

I swim here and I live here,

Yet, I sigh and I cry;

As the young human children go by,

And the adults laugh and lie.

I decree, “Please, set me free to the sea!”

 

They all pay a big fee,

To laugh & glee at me;

Oh! How I wish I could flee,

I decree, “Oh Please! Let me be free to the great wide sea!”

 

The audience wasn’t sure if they should cry or applaud. They settled on a quiet clapping and standing ovation. I could see Brad sitting there in the front row, looking furious, glaring at me with little Carrie next to him, holding her doll & waving at us. I looked right at her, gave a wink & wave before I dove back into the water, followed by Coralee after taking a bow.

I gave Delphina a nod; she threw the harness ropes into the water, took up position on the edge of the pool & had the dolphins do more tricks while she waited for us to surface. [Delphina had given us access to the harnesses ahead of time so to save us trouble during the show. Chris already had his own on when we got there.] When we were ready, we attached the ropes to the handle and tossed it up to Delphina. She gave a sharp blast of her whistle and the three of us pulled her up to speed. The combined strength was enough to keep her up as we swam around the tank in a wide circle as to not let the ropes get tangled. We could hear the crowd cheer as Delphina waved. One more blast from the whistle told us that Delphina let go of the rope. She unlocked the skis & let them sink to the bottom and rode on the dolphin’s dorsal fin around a couple of circles as we were given time to remove the harnesses and prepare for the pose. A last whistle blast brought Delphina to the pool’s low edge, she jumped onto the landing and the three of us in the water hopped onto the edge, in our pose.

The noise was louder than anything I had ever heard in the ocean. The humans were all on their feet, cheering applauding, and many of the children were waving. I could again see little Carrie in the front row, standing on her seat, with her father not even looking at us anymore. His face was beet red and he looked pissed even though we out did ourselves today.

Chapter 5: The Plot Thickens!

Coralee & Chris hurried back to Keira & Uncle Max while I hung behind to overhear Brad again. I did not have to wait too long before he came strutting in. He carried a thick wad of money in his hand and hastily stuffed it into his pocket as he bounded his way into the back room.

Carrie stood back, leaning on the rock wall, absent-mindedly stroking her doll’s hair.

Brad’s booming voice carried all through the narrow halls of the back room and I could hear him as clearly as if he spoke in my ear.

“How dare you, you little snipe! Conspiring with those freaks to make the show perfect when you knew full well that the backers were coming today to see a failure! You were supposed to wait until tomorrow to get it right! They say the show was fine on its own and won’t forward me any more money. I’ll have your job for this, you traitor!” I could hear the bang of a door being slammed, breaking & falling to the floor.

I could also hear Delphina’s sobbing. “I assure you, sir! That was not my intention! I did not know of the backers being here today! Please don’t fire me. This job is all that I have to live for!” Delphina came running out behind him, begging for him to reconsider.

“No! I’ve made my decision! You’re out of here! Take your junk and get out!” Brad bellowed, scaring little Carrie into backing away from him… right into the pool. “CARRIE!” screamed Delphina, pointing.

I was closer to her and reached her first, with Delphina following behind. I took Carrie’s face & breathed into her mouth but not before she freaked out & hit Delphina, knocking her out cold. Once I gave Carrie air, I grabbed her by the waist and kicked my tail as hard as I could to the surface.

I placed the child into the arms of her father and went back in to get Delphina. She was not breathing and was very heavy now that she was back in her street clothes. I tried breathing into her mouth but nothing happened. Delphina had the heart of a mermaid and I knew that if a human was this close to drowning, they could be transformed but only if they had the desire.

From my purse, I took a tiny vial of black liquid and forced it down Delphina’s throat. Then I breathed into her mouth again. Nothing happened at first, and then she coughed & spat. I breathed a sigh of relief as she struggled to reach the surface. I gave her a push and followed behind, to keep her partly in the water as she changed.

She was already partly on the low edge, completely confused and scared as I arrived. “What is happening to me?” she squealed. “You were drowning. I had no other choice and neither did you. This was the only way to save your life.” I hopped onto the pool’s edge on her left side. We could both still see Carrie & Brad from where we were. Carrie appeared weak but ok and Brad was still in shock, still clutching his little girl.

I carefully removed Delphina’s pants, blocking the view from Carrie. As I removed them, Delphina started to change. Her legs began fusing together, forming a dark purple tail. Her chest burned for a moment, changing her lungs to accept the water. She squeezed my hand in a death-grip as the changes over took her. Completely transformed into a mermaid, flukes & all, she fainted and I laid her gently onto the low edge. I grabbed the whistle from her neck and blew hard a few times before a guard came running.

I hollered at him to hold open the grill & Brad weakly nodded as the guard hurried to obey. Coralee & Chris were waiting there for me but came quickly when they saw what happened to Delphina. Thin lines of bubbles were expelled from her lips which meant that she was breathing the water.

I swam to the bottom of the tank to retrieve Carrie’s doll. As I handed it to her, I hear Brad whisper, “Thank you,” and then he quickly took her away.

Uncle Max & Keira were shocked to learn about what had happened but were eager to help in any way. “Grab some blankets and help me make her comfortable. I’ve never had to do this before so I don’t know what to expect other that her shock & dismay when she wakes.” I carefully laid Delphina’s head on the pillow and laid one of the cloth blankets over her form. She continued to breathe water as she slept so we agreed to take turns keeping watch and were to notify me as soon as she woke.

Keira was happy to hear that Carrie was ok, while Max was furious with Brad. “Oh, if I had my strength and could get my hands on him… I’d teach him a lesson or two!” Coralee could not help looking over at Delphina in a worried expression. “What is going to happen to her now?” I looked to Delphina, who was still sleeping off the transformation and sat down at the desk, just thinking. The hours passed by and there was no change in Delphina. I don’t know when, but after awhile I fell asleep.

The next morning, I was preparing breakfast when Delphina awoke with a start, utterly confused. I dropped what I was doing and hurried over to her. I sat on the bed and held her to me, just as I had when Elizabeth woke from a nightmare. She sobbed into my shoulder, mumbling words that I could not make out. Then, just as suddenly as her crying started, it stopped and she looked at me. “What is going to happen now? Brad had his mind set on firing me yesterday. What will he do now that I’m a part of the exhibit?” She burst into fresh tears, sobbing so loudly that she woke Coralee & Chris.

They peaked in to see that all was ok. Delphina continued to cry into my shoulder as Coralee took over preparing breakfast. I spoke gently to Delphina, in-between her sobs. “I’ll help you adjust any way I can think of. That’s a mermaid promise.”

Chapter 6: The Plot Thickens Even More!

It took Delphina a couple of hours to get used to her new form. Although I had seen her so graceful in the water as human, it still took her a while to get the hang of a real tail.

Late one night a few days prior to the accident, after park hours, I caught Delphina in the show tank, in her purple sleek clothes (which I came to learn were a wetsuit), swimming with this extra piece that she attached to both of her feet and matched the purple. It looked just like a dolphin fluke; with it, Delphina could swim just like us. She even looked like us and that was when I knew what was in her heart. As I had secretly watched her, I knew that she had many years of practice and wondered for how long she had known.

She may have been graceful with her fake flukes but with the real tail, at first, she was not so much. Once she got the true hang of things, she was a natural.

Although she appeared completely free & happy, I still had feelings that she slightly resented me for what I did. It was not until a week later that Delphina actually thanked me. “Ever since I was a little girl, all I ever wanted to be was a mermaid. I could never explain it. My parents always thought me odd for drawing scales on my legs with permanent marker at 4 or spend five hours at a time every day in the backyard pool at 8, making my first monofin at 16 [the ‘fake flukes’ I saw that day] or going to college for my masters in marine biology at 18. I landed the job here straight out of college at 22, and it was my second year here when Uncle Max was brought. At times, I envied him and the lady mermaid. The more people they added, the more my desires grew. The birth of Keira’s little boy only strengthened my faith even more. And now you’ve made my dream come true! I can never have the words to thank you for this wonderful gift.” She embraced me for a long while, with truth in her words and pure joy in her heart.

During that time, Delphina told us a lot about the land above. She told us about the rest of the park where the guests could find rare land animals like Bengal tigers, endangered panda bears, and of course, other mystical creatures like unicorns, centaurs, pixies, and a single female dragon named Jenny. “Brad claimed to have won it as an egg in a poker game, but I still think that he bought it ‘off the record’. Like anyone would bet an animal egg in a card game!” Delphina laughed.

This was also when I managed to get Coralee out of her shyness and encouraged her to teach us to do or make something from her home-seas. She decided to teach us to make sea shell tops from those scallop shells that littered the tank floor and long-length strips of fabric, which had once been a cloth blanket (replaced by a seaweed woven one). The knotting of cloth was not hard but the piercing of holes into the shells was! It took us each two full days to whittle the holes for the fabric to go through. “This is why making of new ones are not that often. Mostly, we get by with hand-me-downs; however shells do last longer than full cloth shirts because if the straps become thread-bare, all you need to do is replace them. I’ve seen where the same pair of shells was passed down through six sisters, the straps replaced 18 times but the shells still looked new when they got to me.” Coralee blushed just then, realizing that she revealed more about herself than she anticipated. I merely smiled, and asked her to tell more. By the end of Delphina’s first week with us, Coralee was totally friendly and not shy anymore.

Nevertheless, Brad & Carrie had not been seen at all during this time. Brad had hired a new trainer to feed us & basically keep an eye on us but all tourist shows were put on hold until further notice. Guests still continued to travel the tunnels and I could not help notice the number of males increase as soon as we started wearing our sea shell tops instead of the cloth ones. Delphina told us that this was to be expected. “Teenage boys will take what they can get. Sea shells are sexier than the cloth but if they had their way, they’d want us to be naked.” I felt a little disgusted by this but could not help thinking, “Then it would no longer be appropriate for Carrie to visit.”

Rumors were going around the park’s workers from the security guards to the lonely gardener, who came to water the flower boxes on the back room rock wall. He’d walk the long way around the back of the habitat tank just so that he could tell us the latest word, as the new trainer was no help to us.

He told me of rumors that Brad was going to give up on the whole merfolk area as since mating had not worked, no matter how many he added. “The cleaning lady claimed to have overheard the argument,” Henry confided. “Brad was all up in his dictionary, so much so that I prayed that Carrie was indeed elsewhere because I would never repeat such language as she told me. Apparently, he had put millions of dollars into this area and was barely breaking even. ‘One more, that’s it, if this does not work, I will give it up!’ the lady claimed to have heard Brad yell. Delphina can explain better than I can but I will say that I heard from Brad’s assistant that he was taking Carrie on a road trip somewhere. She did not know where or when they’d be back. Brad did not tell her; only to cancel all of his meetings & appointments for the next two weeks and inform Carrie’s school.” This intrigued me and was very curious.

One week and three days after Carrie & Delphina’s incident, Brad made an appearance for only an hour and spent twenty minutes of his time, speaking with the new trainer. Then he left abruptly, without seeking out Delphina to see if she was ok. I felt insulted on her behalf.

We tried to press the new trainer, Thomas, for information but said nothing as he dumped our dinner consisting of two gigantic-sized swordfish, and like all of the others, they were already beheaded, gutted from the neck & cooked medium rare. Chris took them to the second cave to prepare the plate platter, with Coralee following.

Two days later, the loud noises from motor trucks woke us with a start. Men hollering brought me, Delphina, and Coralee to the surface to see what all of the commotion was about. We kept back, against the wall edge, watching the excitement. From our position, we could see that a crane was set up, in the open space between the audience stands & the group of trees shading the front half of the habitat tank. We could also see that the crane was lifting a large object, up and over the fences that separated the pools from the rest of the park.

 I gasped as I recognized the crane’s cargo immediately as a shipwreck. The name on the ship was still visible: USS Skipper. My blood ran cold at that exact moment as my mind wandered to the little boy. This was also when I realized that they were adding a new ‘house’ to the habitat tank so this could only mean that Brad changed his mind about giving up on us. Two men in gray clothes were holding on to guide-wires as the crane slowly lowered the huge ship into place, the gaping hole in the side facing the caves, the ship resting at a 40-degree angle. Three scuba divers (as Delphina called them) were already in the pool to guide the ship the rest of the way to the sandy floor. They stayed clear of us merfolk in the water and that was greatly appreciated.

I swam furiously over to one of the divers & touched his arm, pointing to the surface. He followed me up & removed his mask when we reached the top. I inquired as to what happened to this ship. The diver did not know but promised to send in someone who did.

Five minutes later, the diver came back with a man dressed in jeans, a shiny orange & yellow vest and a white helmet. Delphina & I swam over to where they stood and leaned onto the edge of the tank as I asked him the same thing. He told us that when the ship returned to the sea after bringing me in, whales, sharks & dolphins took chase until it ran-aground on an underwater volcano, which tore the hole in the hull. The passengers & crew were able to escape the doomed ship on a lifeboat and was blown back to shore, but they did not know that the fishing net had gotten caught on the boat and was being dragged behind. When the lifeboat reached shore, the passengers discovered something trapped in the net. He then pointed to the crane, which was now lifting a small tank covered in a black canvas cloth, nearly identical to the manner in which I was transferred.

My heart began to race as we watched the tank’s progress to the shallow tank. Minutes felt like an eternity; like time stood still. I could hear a squeal of shock, the yell of a young girl’s voice, and then the distinctive splash of an object being deposited into the tank. Delphina & I bolted from our place on the edge and to the grill of the shallow tank.

Three humans converged on the shallow tank, wearing the same snorkeling gear & carrying the same metal box as they had when I first arrived. That meant that a new mermaid was to join our tank, based on the yelling and splashing coming from the other side. “Don’t fight it!” I hollered. The yelling & splashing stopped, only child-like sobs as the humans collected blood & scales from this person.

I tried to see who it was in there but one of the males blocked my view until they were finished. Thomas dumped a pail of fish into the tank and walked away instead of trying to converse with whomever was on the other side of the grill. The person kept themselves hidden from me while they ate & sobbed. I tried to get them to talk but all I got were the same child-like sobs.

Five hours later, one of the humans in black came back to release the grill and hit the buzzer alarm. [The area from where he came, Delphina said that it was the research laboratories.] I kept back from the grill to allow the person to pass right by, right into the arms of Keira, the most motherly person in that pool. The person was a flash of colour as they shot out of the grill. The long hair was my first clue as to our new friend was indeed a girl. She appeared very young and very scared. I had to do a double take to make sure I saw correctly.

The child was my cousin, Elizabeth.

Chapter 7: Strike!

“Elizabeth? Is that really you?!” I asked nervously. The girl looked up through her long brown hair and I knew those hazel eyes.

She immediately let go of Keira, shot for me and did not want to let go. Her child-like sobs filled the pool area, bringing Chris & Coralee to us. I said the word ‘cousin’ in mermish and they knew who she was. In-between her sobs, she told me of what had happened after I went missing: search parties, coastal scouts, journeymen sent to all corners of the world looking for news of my ship. Judith was smart enough to write down the name of the fishing trolley before it disappeared. The costal scouts were to inform the town when the ship was sighted again and they invaded with the help from the marine creatures but the sharks went too far & ran the ship aground.

“Elizabeth, there’s something I have to tell you. The humans did not kill your father. He has been alive all of this time; he’s been here.” I took her hand and guided her down to the cave with the canvas door. I had barely moved the canvas before the young girl bolted from my arms, into those of her father’s. Not anything could pry that poor girl from her father’s embrace, not even when he stopped to cough up blood into a dirty cloth.

For hours, Elizabeth sat with her father, just listening to him telling his stories. I retrieved the wooden box and handed it back to him. He took the gold locket necklace from it and then handed the box back to me.

He turned to Elizabeth and spoke very solemnly, “My sweet little Elizabeth. I am so sorry for all of those lost years and I am sorry that I will not live to see the rest. I am now near death, but I will go with a little peace in my heart. To know that this has reached its final destination brings me great happiness. Promise me that you will find a way to get home, to leave this place and return to the sea. Promise me, Princess.”

Elizabeth looked in his eyes, smiled and nodded. “I promise, Daddy. Ray-Leah and I will get home somehow. I love you so much, and I’ve missed you.” Tears swelled up in her eyes and Max held her close. The look on his face said it all: “We have to think of something.”

Three days later, Delphina had the brilliant idea. “A strike!” she said. None of us knew of what she meant. “When workers for a business are not happy with the working conditions, they quit working until their demands were met. In our case, we would not go for any of the tourist shows and limit our time spent being seen by the guests. We would send two people to collect the food at the meal times and bring them back here, instead of all of us going to feast.”

We all nodded in agreement. Uncle Max pointed out that we had to make sure our demands known but how? We all thought carefully bit it was Elizabeth who came up with the idea. She pointed to the special crayons, still littering the floor of the cave. “We take those crayons and have Delphina write our demands on the visitor’s tunnel window in reverse so that humans on the other side could read it.” We all agreed that this would work.

A few minutes after 8pm that night, Delphina & I sneaked to the visitor’s tunnel and assisted Delphina as she wrote our demands in reverse:

~ Release of Ray-Leah and Elizabeth

~ Bonus extras for tourist show (blankets, clothes, new canvas, etc.)

~ Delphina gets full apology by owner and full rights to stay

~ All recent rumors publicly cleared up

~ Third party lawyer to look into the park’s money dealings

To make a longer story short, Brad was clearly upset by the writing when he discovered it while on a walk through the park with a man in a gray suit. Delphina told us this man was both Brad’s lawyer and one of his top-paying investors. We watched as he used a camera to photograph the writing but Brad was talking on a cordless phone, ranting about something. I suspected that it was the cleaning crew about getting in to clean off the writing before the park was to open. Since it was a Sunday, the park did not open until noon so the windows were spotless by the time the first families came down the tunnels. That day, instead of being seen playing, they saw very little of us and what they did see, were very sad facial expressions.

That night, before the main lights were turned off, we transferred all of the blankets, clothes, and personal items to the house cave. The night guard who normally turns off the lights belayed his duty for an extra fifteen minutes that night, claiming that his knee was giving him trouble, with the smallest wink to Delphina. She told me later that the wink meant that we had the support of her former co-workers.

I decided to keep a journal of the strike, for future use, if need be. My original copy was in Mermish so here is Delphina’s English translation:

Strike Journal

Day 1: Hardly noticed by Brad other than the lack of excitement of the guests leaving the pool area.

Day 2: Brad only a little suspicious when Thomas casually mentioned that the mermaids were only seen at meal times.

Day 3 [Shows back on]: Brad upset when no one showed up to perform in the show. Told Thomas not to feed us at dinner but Brad did not know that Thomas had doubled lunch & had learned how to store it and reheat it for later.

Day 4: Guest attendance dropped dramatically at the mermaid exhibit after the gardener, Henry, started a little rumor (rather loudly so that guest passersby could hear) to the rest of Delphina’s co-workers. The story stated that the mermaids were upset with Brad over his treatment towards Delphina and were only coming out to eat the meals. When Brad heard of this, he ordered Thomas to change the meal times so that we would be seen during visitor hours starting the next day. Thomas reported this to us at dinner that night.

Day 5 [Show Day]: Again, Brad was upset when no one showed up to perform.

Days 6&7: Continued the new plan, speaking to each other only in the Mermish language, teaching Delphina. She learned quickly as we continued to ignore the visitors in the tunnel, eating quickly and returning with the leftovers.

Day 8 [Show day]: Brad upset again, that no one came to perform. This time, he came down to watch us collect the dinner and depart. This day was Delphina & Ray-Leah’s turn. Delphina refused to look at Brad while Ray-Leah stuck her tongue out at him. They gathered the fish and left quickly. Brad did nothing about this.

Day 9: Elizabeth begs for a turn to collect fish and even gets up early to help Ray-Leah with Uncle Max. Before hand, she’s always been told to watch David and has not left the cave since this all started. Ray-Leah finally agreed to take Elizabeth to collect fish. Ray-Leah suspected that it was because Elizabeth wished to see the human children. At collecting time, Ray-Leah let Elizabeth carry the canvas cloth and hold it open as she gathered the fish. Elizabeth was more curious with the human children than with the collecting the fish. Ray-Leah had to remind Elizabeth about the strike. Elizabeth turned away from the human children, only letting them see a sad face before swimming away.

Brad hears of this and brings Carrie to see Elizabeth & Ray- Leah. It was Chris & Coralee’s turn to collect. They returned without collecting and told of what they saw: Carrie holding up the doll that looked like Ray-Leah and pointing to it. Delphina said that this was a personal request and that we should obey in case Brad wished to end this quickly but to be careful. Elizabeth & Ray-Leah return to collect, Elizabeth ecstatic at a second chance to collect in one day and to prove herself to Ray-Leah. A huge group of children were there to watch, and were just like when Ray-Leah was in the trailer tank: they had their noses pressed against the glass, shoving to get a better look. Ray-Leah saw that they all were the same age as Carrie, wearing similar uniforms, and accompanied by two other adults. Ray-Leah said to Elizabeth in Mermish: *School trip,* which meant, “school trip”. *Do we take it slow or quickly?* {“Do we take it slow or quickly?”} Elizabeth asked. *Slow,* {“Slow,”} replied Ray-Leah. Elizabeth nodded & assisted in the gathering, occasionally looking over her shoulder until they were finished. They took fifteen minutes to do a two-minute job.

Day 10 [Show day]: This time, Brad was surprised to see Chris, Coralee, and Elizabeth & Ray-Leah in the show tank, preparing for a show. He is not at all suspicious. When the show starts, Thomas stands back as the older merfolk took the three metal pails from the floor of the tank and starts splashing the audience, including Brad as Elizabeth swims around splashing with her tail. Leaving the pails to sink to the floor, and Ray-Leah grabbing Elizabeth’s hand, they all bolt from the show tank before they are trapped inside.

Day 11: Brad is absolutely pissed off at us. He does not know what to do; ask Thomas for advice. Thomas tells him to call a truce and talk about our demands. Brad rejects Thomas’s idea and storms off without saying anything else.

Day 12 [Show day]: This time, when no one showed up to perform, Brad stormed his way down to the visitor’s tunnel, with Carrie in tow. He started pounding on the window (Delphina calls it Plexiglas; much stronger and safer than real glass) hollering for us to come out. Ray-Leah went to see the commotion. Brad’s yelling was so loud that Ray-Leah could hear it through the window and the water echoed it to the point where even those back at the cave could hear too. Delphina, knowing of Brad’s anger, covered Elizabeth’s ears from hearing his ranting. Brad threatened to not feed us for a week if we did not start showing up to perform or stay at the windows during meal times. Ray-Leah said that would make it worse because then they’d never be seen and then she proceeded to threaten to write again on her side of the windows during the day time: Rude comments during school trips and Mermish profanity during others “with the possibility of the English translations and ALL directed at you, Mr. Bradley-boo!” [Delphina taught us that ‘Bradley-boo’ had once been his mother’s baby name for him, which she had told the story of at last year’s company party, despite Brad’s begging.] Brad cringed at the hearing of the baby name and stormed off with Carrie following behind, not saying a word.

Day 13: Elizabeth & Coralee go to collect breakfast but there is none; only a note written on paper, placed in a plastic bag and weighted down by a fishing lure. They bring it back for Delphina to read out loud:

Brad refuses to let me deliver any of the meals today. Really sorry, I will try to talk him out of it and will deliver yesterday’s leftovers when he leaves for the night. He’s watching to see what you will all do about it. Be careful! -Thomas

Ray-Leah decides to carry out her plan. She orders Elizabeth to leave the room and asks Delphina to tell her some insults to write. Delphina is in the middle of writing when Chris returns from scouting to report that there are three divers in the pool, with a net to capture whoever tries to write. The crayons that we used the first time are gone from the sand where we left them.

Delphina says that the divers are using air tanks. If they sneak up behind and pull a pipe at the same time, all the divers will be forced to surface. Coralee, Chris & Ray-Leah pull the pipes, while Delphina wrote on the window with the few crayons left in the caves. They remember to take the crayons back with them. Goes off like clockwork and none of the divers were harmed.

When they return, they find Uncle Max getting worse. He is weak & can barely sit up unassisted. Ray-Leah worries that his time is near.

Day 14: Brad still refuses to deliver meals, which then keeps us hidden more, never coming out but at the same time, we can’t be storing fish. Thomas sneaks bags of fish before & after park hours and whenever he can, when Brad is not at the park. Thomas tells us that he would have no part in starving us, even if it meant he put his job on the line. He tells us that Brad has stopped trying to have tourist shows but that there is to be a school group tomorrow of humans Ray-Leah’s age. Delphina calls them teenagers; high school students. She says that writing more insults to them will make Brad look bad and we should do it then. Ray-Leah agrees but this time, allows Elizabeth to attend providing that she promises to never repeat any of the insults to anyone, ever. Elizabeth promises, while holding her father’s hand. Chris & Coralee would act as our look-outs, incase Brad planned another trap.

Max grows weaker each day and Ray-Leah worries that he may not live much longer.

Day 15: Brad sent Thomas to feed us at the usual guest-visiting lunchtime. He used Delphina’s silver whistle to give us the queue. Chris & Coralee floated by the Skipper ship. Delphina, Ray-Leah & Elizabeth show up to eat and collect. Elizabeth held the bag open as Ray- Leah filled it and Delphina wrote on the glass as she nibbled on a piece of fish. Brad was watching from the back of the tunnel with the lawyer, writing intently on a pad of paper. Delphina wrote words like: ANIMAL CRULETY and POOR LIVING CONDITIONS and BRAD IS a MORRON. The last phrase she wrote was: BOUYCOT THE AQUATIC SHOWS! THEY ARE FORCED LABOUR AND HUMILIATING!! Elizabeth could not read the words backwards (heck, she could not read English) but Ray-Leah’s reassurance told her that these just might work. Elizabeth watched as the teenagers pointed at the writing, muttering to each other. Some of them took photographs of the Plexiglas and copied down the words. As the group left, one of the females gave a V with her fingers. Delphina said that it was the sign for ‘Peace’ and could also mean ‘way to go’. “So, a good thing?” Ray-Leah asked. Delphina nodded with a big grin.

Day 16: Thomas told us at lunch that there were people on the other side of the aquatic pool’s backdrop walls holding signs. Delphina said that this meant that we got our point across to at least the teenagers yesterday. She called this a picket line; that the humans were showing their support to our cause. Thomas told us that the signs read things like: FREE THE MERMAIDS and CONCRETE IS CRAP and OWNER IS a MORRON and BOUYCOTING AQUATIC VISITING! MERMAIDS ARE PEOPLE TOO!! Delphina reassured us that this is a good thing. Thomas also told us that Brad has allowed regular meals to be brought again and that a bunch of Delphina’s co-workers had joined the picket line, including our friend Henry the gardener.

On Day 17, Brad came down to the tank, accompanied by his lawyer, Carrie, Thomas, Henry the gardener, and a bunch of the protesters from the lines. He cleared his throat and rapped on the Plexiglas. I came out, accompanied by Elizabeth, Delphina, Coralee, and Chris. “We need to talk,” Brad grunted. *No kidding. We are running out of ideas to get our point across.* Chris said, quietly. “Pardon me?” the lawyer asked. I gave Chris a glare and turned back. “What he said was: ‘No kidding. We are running out of ideas to get our point across.’” I looked to the protesters, who were off to the side, still holding their signs.  

Brad cleared his throat again and avoided Delphina’s glaring. He turned back to me. “What will it take to end this?” he asked, as Carrie squeezed his hand.

“We all agree that it is not fair to keep us in captivity against our will. I know that Coralee may not mind being here but we hated the way you treated her after the failed show. I despise the way you’ve been treating Delphina these past few weeks that I’ve seen. I saw you that day of the incident going into the back room with that wad of money; thrilled that you made so much that day but still took it out on Delphina. We have our sources too, and we know for a fact that you did NOT have the park’s backers here that day and you had been looking for an excuse to get rid of Delphina for a while now. Now that she’s one of us, you have no choice but to keep her on. Thomas is doing a wonderful job and asks that he be kept on with the “marine manager” title, instead of “trainer”. It sounds more humane.

All I ask for myself is that I & my cousin be released, and to follow the demands we listed weeks ago.”

The lawyer brought out a large photograph depicting the writing on the windows. He read out loud the list with intermittent cheers from the crowd and I nodded at each request.

Coralee piped up asking if she could send a letter through me to her family. Chris said that he wished to as well and so would Keira, “It would just give them some peace of mind and perhaps, some closure.” Brad thought about it for a moment. “All right, I’ll send you both home & you’ll take the letters with you but you’ll have to wait five days so that we can get traveling arrangements made.” “Ok, we agree,” I told him.

Later that afternoon, while backing the Plexiglas window, Brad held a teleconference, making it publicly known: that two of the mermaids at Magical Kingdom were being released back to the seas, that the park is not now or ever closing down the Marine Mermaid exhibit, the aquatic shows would only be performed on Saturdays, and that a financial audit would be completed on the park. Brad also told to the cameras the true story of how Delphina tried to save his daughter, Carrie, when she fell into the pool. “Carrie was safely returned to me by the rainbow mermaid, Ray-Leah. Unfortunately, Delphina suffered a near drowning and was transformed. I never thanked her for trying to help and offer my sympathies for her situation. Therefore, I hereby grant Delphina full rights to stay here at Magical Kingdom and a one-year vacation in the sea.”

I do believe that Delphina was shocked at this change. In the end, Delphina chose to do her vacation now so that she could travel with me & Elizabeth.

We decided that Brad had done that part of the deal to our satisfactory, gave a knock on the glass and I nodded, smiling.

Chapter 8: A Sad Good-bye and a Surprise

Two days after the strike was called off, Uncle Max said his final good-byes and died shortly after noon-hour. Poor little Elizabeth cried for most of the day as Chris, Coralee & I prepared for the burial. Delphina found Thomas to pass the news on to Brad.

At five o’clock Brad, Carrie, Henry, and Thomas came to the visitor’s tunnel, closing the marine area for the day. [Henry told us that the sign read: Closed due to unfortunate events in the pool.] Carrie wore a fancy black dress; Brad wore a black suit with red tie; Thomas & Henry wore black jeans & black polo shirt. I wore a light blue dress made of an oversized old t-shirt, and Elizabeth (being the only member of Max’s immediate family) wore a dress of a white shirt, while the rest wore black shirts, all as tradition states.

Chris wore a sash made of yellow cloth; acting as the ceremony proclaimer [Delphina said that in religion, this person was the priest or minister]. Delphina had written the English translations onto pieces of paper provided by Thomas for the human’s benefit while Chris spoke in the Mermish, as tradition also states is required.

*Great Spirit of the Oceans, even though we are far from your waters, we ask that you receive this child of the sea into your peace. A long hard life and a sad depart. We ask that there be a quick transition and pray that he is in no more pain. Grant Ray-Leah & Elizabeth a safe journey home and we pray for many blessings upon the rest of their family. Bless Delphina as your newest child and welcome her with open arms. Amen!*

Delphina’s English translation, as printed on the papers:

Great Spirit of the Oceans, even though we are far from your waters, we ask that you receive this child of the sea into your peace. A long hard life and a sad depart. We ask that there be a quick transition and pray that he is in no more pain. Grant Ray-Leah & Elizabeth a safe journey home and we pray for many blessings upon the rest of their family. Bless Delphina as your newest child and welcome her with open arms. Amen!

Chris turned the crank of the straps as they lowered the box into the 12 feet of sand-silt at the base of the tank. The box was lowered to the traditional depth of 4 feet; Elizabeth & I threw in water flowers, the hole filled in and then a square plank of wood placed on top of the mound. The wood plank was carved to depict Max’s name, date of birth, date of death, and a near copy of the mermaid carving on his treasure box.

As soon as the ceremony was over, Chris swam over to Coralee and asked her in Mermish: *Coralee, will you do the honour of becoming my wife?*  Delphina did not know much Mermish, but she understood the most of it as well as the look on Coralee’s face. Coralee could not say anything, other than to nod ‘yes’ as Chris slipped a ring onto her finger. [The ring had been on loan from Elizabeth’s box and to be returned before our leaving.] Those in the tunnels saw the ring going on and understood the question. Carrie was so excited, she was jumping with joy. Thomas & Henry were waving enthusiastically while Brad was in more shock that Coralee!

We decided not to wait too long. Three days after the funeral of Uncle Max, we held the wedding of Chris & Coralee. The entire park was closed for the day; practically all of Delphina’s co-workers were attending in the tunnels. Chairs had been set up, reminding me of the show tank stands.

Coralee wore a near full-length white dress & a loaned tiara from Elizabeth’s box. I wore the same light blue dress, Elizabeth wore pale yellow, Delphina wore a pale pink & Keira wore a black one fashionably done to her own family’s traditions to perform the ceremony. Chris wore a white shirt and was so nervous that he was shaking. Thomas had secured us a pair of silver wedding bands.

The ceremony was beautiful & I saw a lot of the humans actually crying! Delphina told me that it’s normal and were tears of joy, not sorrow. At one point, I poked Delphina and ever so slightly pointed to Brad, who had taken a piece of cloth to wipe away a tear. She covered her mouth to stifle a laugh. We discussed later that Brad had tears of joy because he finally got a pair to mate! I nearly choked on the snacks as I burst out laughing.

Later after I contained myself, I was explaining to Brad & Thomas that as tradition states, the newly married couple were to wear silver bands until their first child is born; then they switches to gold and save the silver until the first born marries. I also explained that when a spouse passed away, the one left behind was to add a black string intertwined in the original wedding band, to show others that they were still committed to a family of children. When the children all move out and have children of their own, then the spouse removes the ring, puts it on a string and wears it as a necklace. This will be the case of Max’s wife, my Aunt Sue, when my littlest brother, Seth, is 19 yrs & old enough to marry. In the case of my parents, they always removed their gold rings before going hunting so my Aunt Sue held onto them for when the first-born child prepares to marry, me in this case.

Brad asked me how many children the average family will have. I told him that it depends on the health of the couple, ages, where they live, and the availability of food and the support of family. I told him that in a good faith, a family could consist of at least five children. “I’ve seen a family where there were fifteen children, all biological of the parents. The mother had a magic mutation that allowed her to have multiple sets of twins and triplets, which is a very rare occasion for any family, let alone just one. My mother got lucky with my fraternal twin siblings, Mark & Caroline. No one knows if they are carriers until a child is born; can come from either parent but more children come if the mother has it over the father. We believe that the latter was the case of my family. Pray for good health, good fortune, and good faith. That will help,” I added. Brad simply nodded, lifting his glass of soda pop before draining the liquid. Delphina told me that he had made a toast, a form of best wishing.

That night, Elizabeth, Delphina & I packed our clothes as we were to leave in the morning for home. We kept only one dress (mine the light blue, Elizabeth chose the yellow, Delphina the pink) and one shirt each, plus the three new pairs of sea shell tops apiece. Elizabeth’s tiara was returned to the box, as it was meant for me & Elizabeth to share when we each took turns getting married, wrapped in a cloth of very soft silk. The borrowed engagement ring was also returned, the box wrapped in one of my shirts, and placed in the new bags made by Keira.

Chapter 9: Set Free!

It is now one week & three days after the wedding of Coralee & Christopher. Elizabeth, Delphina & I are on a similar vessel, named the USS Voyager with the same humans who had captured me many weeks before. The same little boy named Jacob was talking to us and this time, I was talking back. He was wearing a leg brace on his left leg. He told us that he had fallen and broke his leg in three pieces when he landed on the rocks. Elizabeth was very sympathetic towards him and apologized on behalf of the sea creatures that caused the accident. Jacob asked us questions about living underwater & my experience on land. I told him that I was glad to find out what had happened to my Uncle and that I did not like traveling much. Delphina told him the story of how she was transformed and he found that exciting.

After about an hour on the vessel, we came near the spot of the underwater volcano. Delphina was lowered first, then me and then Elizabeth to where our whole family was there to meet us. I hugged everyone and got to Aunt Sue last. She would not let go of Elizabeth as I gave her Max’s wooden box. I told her, “I found Uncle Max and he is now in the hands of the Ocean Spirit. Elizabeth did get to spend time with him, was a big help to me and was well behaved.” Everyone within hearing distance began to cry. “He went peacefully with Elizabeth not leaving his side. His blood disorder will no longer harm the people of the seas.

Delphina, here, was once the park’s marine caregiver but when she nearly drowned, I used the black vial to transform her. She is to be considered a member of the family as she was with Uncle Max during these last 8 years and brought him much comfort. She’ll be returning to the park after one year with us.”

“Thank you, Ray-Leah,” said Aunt Sue, still hugging Elizabeth.

The humans declared the fifty miles around the volcano a natural preserve, which Delphina explained that this would forbid boats from traveling through that boundary. They also placed a floating illuminated buoy with a flag at the top of the volcano to warn ships to avoid running aground. The flag was a large red triangle & Delphina said that it had the words “USS Skipper” printed in black.

Later, Delphina & I found three groups of travelers (migratory), one heading for the English Channel, another heading to African waters, and the third heading to Australian waters via sneaking through the Panama Canal. I sent each of my park friend’s letters with them. They were more than happy with staying at the park with the changes, but were even happier to send letters home. They promised Delphina a place for when she returned, and Brad hinted a major bonus if she returned with a husband!

Two days after our return, we had a small memorial service for Uncle Max. There’s now an empty grave for him and a real tombstone in our family’s cemetery, right near the graves of my parents.

Epolog

One year after our miss-adventure, Delphina returned to Magical Kingdom with a wonderful husband, named Kale and she was two-months pregnant with her first child. I had provided them with the gold rings that they would need as well as letters for the park friends, from their families. Mostly, they said that was great relief to hear that they were alive and doing well. Coralee & Chris’s families gave their blessings for the marriage and offered prayers for good health, good fortune, & good faith.

When the guys came to get Delphina who would show up but Brad & Carrie! She had grown up so much in just one year. She told Elizabeth & I of how the park friends sent their final letters with them and ask that I send them along. “Coralee had her first baby!” Carrie squealed with excitement. “A little girl born the day before we left the park to come for Delphina.” We were so happy to hear and Brad was thrilled to see that Delphina was married and already pregnant. Kale was completely willing to follow his young wife & said his final good-byes to his family.

Meanwhile, just one month prior to the day of Delphina leaving, I had married my school-sweetheart, Adam, using my parent’s silver wedding bands. So much good news, I could not help blurting out, “I just discovered today that I am with child!” Delphina, Elizabeth, Aunt Sue, my siblings & all my friends all started crying with joy and hugging me. I heaved myself onto the edge of the boat to let Carrie give me a big embrace before I slid back in and hugged Adam.

Brad told us that he had arranged for Jacob’s father to collect the mermaid mail at a PO Box in the nearby town and leave it in a mesh bag attached to the volcano’s buoy, but only switch them once per year. This way, we could always stay in touch and as many letters as we wanted

Delphina & Kale said their final sad good-byes and promised to write. Within hours, Delphina & Kale were on their way back to Magical Kingdom with the return letters and I proceeded to send the current ones.

Nine months later, exactly to the day, a little boy was born to me. Adam & I decided to name him Max after my beloved late uncle.

As the years passed by, life became more hectic with each child that was born to me. We continued to hear from Delphina & the others. The “Mail Day” became a day of great celebration for the families. Coralee, Chris, & Keira’s families would travel just so that they could receive the letters themselves and write & leave replies. By the fifth year anniversary of the miss-adventure, we learned that Coralee now had six children, two of which being identical twin boys and Delphina had been blessed with four children, two being identical twin girls the same age as Coralee’s boys! Brad had been beside himself with excitement over these new developments but the park could not keep them all so the shallow tank was being converted so that they could attach it completely to the habitat tank and news came down that Keira & Daniel, now six years old, would be returning to the sea within the next year.

I, myself, had six children, including Max Junior by this time (no twins or triplets). This was about the time that Elizabeth had come of age to marry. She also married her school sweetheart, Jamie, who happened to be the younger brother of my husband! So now, Elizabeth & I were not only cousins, but sister-in-laws too.

Keira & Daniel were returned to us the following year, with a 13-year-old Carrie riding on the ship again, ecstatic to see us.

Y

Elizabeth grew up to have a family of 12 children; two sets of triplets, by the way. I ended with ten children, including Max Junior.

Delphina & Kale stopped having children at six while Coralee & Chris stopped at seven. Brad had completely given up on tourist shows by this time so he now converted the show tank into more habitats, moved the research to a new building and added more tanks onto the original shallow area. According to letters, he had expanded the tunnels to include a very large theatre area and more educational places.

Elizabeth & I continued to at least stay in contact with Carrie, who went to college for a major in marine biology and took over her father’s park when he retired as she turned 24. She married & had four kids of her own; her first born, a girl, was named Ray-Leah.