After a couple of days Penny had fallen in to the same routine that a lot of mermaids in her position were following—or, as she liked to joke, she had gotten into the swim of things.
The first day in the pod was spent being shown around and introduced the people. With only about a hundred mermaids in the pod, she managed to meet everyone by the second meal. She loved hearing everyone’s extensive names and was told by Singing Nymph that each name had to do with circumstances relating to the mermaid’s conception. In the case of her own name, Singing Nymph said her binding mother’s had gone on to land to retrieve things needed by the pod—something that mermaids did every so often. On the way back to the ocean they were accosted by two men. One of Singing Nymph’s binding mother’s was knocked out, so the other used a particular ability known as Siren’s Song to force the two men to follow her out into the ocean. Once they were in water over their heads, Singing Nymph’s other binding mother drowned both men and retrieved her partner.
Not long after that she was quickened and at birth was given the name Singing Nymph the Bringer of Death. She said that it made her feel proud that, in a way, one of her mother’s was willing to kill so that she could be born. There were few mermaids who could claim the same.
The days seem to become the same. Penny would wake up at a particular time, usually the same time as her cousin. There wasn’t any actual meal like breakfast: instead, mermaids eight during a time that would normally be considered brunch for humans. The second meal always came late in the afternoon, but would still be considered early for humans.
All meals consisted of variations of the same thing: fish, shellfish, and vegetation like seaweed. It was all consumed raw, as there was no way to cook here five hundred feet below the surface of the ocean.
The first time Penny was given a raw fish to eat, she thought she was never going to get it down, but she found the first bite delectable and had no problem stripping her fish clean in no time. The only thing she could figure out was that by now being a full mermaid, her taste buds had adjusted to enjoy the normal diet.
The pod maintained fishery areas nearby, where schools of fish fed off the nutrients that filtered down from the surface. Sometimes groups of mermaids would go out on fishing expeditions and not return for more than a week. These groups would often come back with larger types of fish found in the deeper parts of the ocean, but every so often they’d return with a giant squid. Squid hunting parties were easy to figure out as about a dozen mermaids would go out; at least that many were needed to combat the creature and drag its carcass back to the pod.
Life in the pod was nothing like that found in a Disney movie. Mermaids tended to groom one another cleaning their bodies with mud and washing clean and one of the many undersea currents nearby. Scavenging and cleanup parties would spend a few hours every day cleaning up trash that floated down from the surface and would keep those items that would serve the most used to the pod.
Mermaids spent hours working with the fisheries, while others would go out on short patrols around the pod location. Penny asked why these were necessary and Singing Nymph told her that while there weren’t any pods nearby, they needed to be on the lookout for various sea creatures that could do them harm. But, she added, they were also ready to greet any new mermaids who happen to come their way, and Singing Nymph said that in time Penny would learn how to detect a mermaid coming in from a distance—the same way she detected Penny approaching the pod when she first arrived.
Three days pass before Penny discovered the one thing that Kemena had wanted to know the most: how mermaids went to the bathroom. Singing Them showed her location of a current about five hundred feet from the southwest corner of the pod as singing them said, make sure you’re a little upstream from the pod, relax, and let nature do its work. Penny did as told and found the experience rather relaxing. She asked how often it was necessary to use this current and Singing Nymph said their diet, being high in protein and fats, kept them from producing much waste, so a mermaid normally needed to relieve herself once every three or four days. Penny was also told that any waste liquids would go out at the same time, though there were few. Penny figured that out already: their bodies were under constant hydration and since coming to the pod she had get to feel thirsty.
The last thing she discovered was school. All young mermaids attended school until what was known as the Age of Attainment, which usually occurred around the time of a mermaid’s twelfth or thirteenth birthday. As Penny was already eleven she was told it might be a couple of years before she could reach the same level of experience, which meant she went to school with mermaids younger than her.
It was unlike school that she had known in Albuquerque. Everything was told verbally and they were expected to remember. Surprisingly, Penny remembered most of what she was told and she remembered her mother telling her that mermaids have remarkable memories. She was also surprised to hear teachings given on mast and even some science that had been picked up from those who would spend time on land. As her weeks in school continued, her instructor would often ask questions of her about what it was like living in Albuquerque, and what she knew of certain things that happened with humans.
There was always a relaxation time in the evening after the second meal. Though there were no clocks, Penny figured that relaxation time went from 5 PM to almost 10 PM, with most mermaids turning in sometime between nine and ten. She would often sit with Singing Nymph and some of her friends while some of the students would join them. It was very rare that Penny was allowed out of Singing Nymph’s eyesight, but on a few occasions she was allowed to go to their dwelling with some of the mermaids from school, and he would sit in there and talk until it was time for bed.
As Singing Nymph had told her, Penny quickly grew use to sleeping with another person. It was always the same: they would remove their jewelry, then Singing Nymph would ease herself into their sleeping hammock and Penny would follow. Sometimes they would talk for a bit before drifting off to sleep, but often they would immediately begin relaxing with Singing Nymph draping an arm over Penny as if to comfort and protect her.
Though Penny took the pod life immediately, she wondered how long would be before she began to miss her home in Albuquerque—
As she discovered, it took about six months.