Home » Creativity » “The Calling” Scene 24: “The Troubles”

“The Calling” Scene 24: “The Troubles”

“I’m glad you made a friend.” Kemena leaned over and gave Penny a big hug. “I was so worried you were in get down there and be lonely all the time.”

“Thanks.” Penny found her friends hug to be extremely comforting. Even though there was a great deal of touching, hugging, and an occasional hammock cuddle with other mermaids, Kemena’s embrace brought back all the memories she had of her friend before she went off to live in the pod. “I didn’t think I was going to be lonely, but it was nice to have people I could turn to and just hang with and chat.”

“Did you have any other friends beside Singing Nymph and Curious Squid?”

Penny nodded. “There were a few, but those two were the closest.”

Kemena began eyeing the bracelet on Penny’s left wrist. “And what’s this? Another adornment?”

“No, not this.” Penny held up her wrist to allow Kemena a better look. “This is the bracelet you receive when you reach the Age of Attainment. All of us have these, even my mom, though she doesn’t wear hers. This is to signify that you know enough about life inside and outside the pod that you’re  allowed to do normal, everyday activities without having to be supervised by someone. Since I arrived in the pod late, I didn’t get mine until I was fourteen.” She twisted her wrist around. “Those are emeralds and amethyst, woven together with squid skin.”

“Squid skin?” Kemena tried not to look as if she were queasy. “I thought that you something like seaweed?”

“Naw. Squid skins tougher and will stretch.”

“Okay. But, where did he get all the jewels?”

Penny chuckled. “They’re all over the place: you just have to know where to look.” She winked. “And I know a few places to look.”

Kemena nodded slowly. “That comes in handy. So, once you are able to go out and do things for the pod, what did you do?”

“Oh, the usual.” Her face took on the appearance of wistful thought. “Hunting, herding and catching fish, cleaning up around the pod and surrounding area, going out on patrol, even helping out at the school.” A smile slowly spread across her face. “The little mermaids loved to hear about what it was like in Albuquerque. None of the had ever met anyone who was born on land.”

“I’ll bet.” Kemena could almost imagine Penny sitting in a class full of young mermaids explaining bicycles, fast food stores, swimsuits, and swimming pools. “What did you have to clean up?”

“There was always stuff floating down from the surface. We’d swim out for miles in every direction and clean up trash, and if we found anything interesting we brought it back for salvaging.” Penny shook her head. “You find a lot of junk out there these days, but every once in a while a pod will stumble across cargo that fell off a container ship: then it’s party time.”

Penny could imagine all the different mermaids cleaning up refuge from a container that fell off the ship—though she wondered what they might do with, say, a thousand coffee machines. “You said you went hunting. What did you hunt?”

“A few things, like larger fish, but the two that we often went out in parties to get were orca and giant squids. We didn’t have to hunt orca often—”

Kemena’s voice gave away her concern. “You guys went after killer whales?”

Penny shrugged. “Usually they came after us. About the only time we actually hunted an orca is if there was a pot of them close by and they were starting to bother us: then we’d get proactive about them. They were kind of tough to take down, but if you worked in a group of about a dozen or so, you could do it.

“Giant squid, though?” She stared off into a corner of the motel room as she shook her head. “About three times a year we go off to hunt giant squid, because there’s a lot we can do with them. The only problem with those are that they’re in deep water and are vicious like few things are vicious, so will we go hunting a squid is usually like a dozen and a half mermaids are gone from the pod for a couple weeks tracking one down and bring it home.”

Penny had a look on her face like she didn’t want to tell the next part, but at the same time she did. “I went out on two hunts. There’s not as much bioluminescence were giant squid live, so it’s sort of like wandering around in twilight all the time. These things are fast and they have no problem trying to kill you. The first one I helped hunt we took down pretty fast, but the second one—” She shook her head. “One of our group was actually killed; got grabbed by a tentacle and bitten in half.”

Kemena nodded toward Penny shoulder. “Is that how you got that scar?”

Penny actually blushed. “You saw that, huh?”

“When you were putting on your cami.” Kemena gazed downward for a moment as she shrugged. “Kinda hard not to see it.”

“I guess I’m kind of used to showing it off now.” Penny rolled her shoulder as if to acknowledge the scar being there. “I got this in a battle.”

“You were in a battle?” Kemena sat upright quickly. “Really?”

Penny nodded. “Yeah, two years ago. We got into a hassle with a pod about a hundred miles from us. They said we were roaming into some fishing territory of theirs and we said we worked. Things started to get a little heated and so the pod leaders on both sides decided to send some people out to kinda try and talk things down.”

“How many did you send out?”

“About sixteen on each side.” Penny folded her hands in her lap and stared at a spot on the wall just to the right of Kemena’s head. “We thought we were going to resolve everything, but then things started to get a little heated and words were said, and then things got more heated, and—” She shrugged as she turned back to Kemena. “That’s when the swords and spears and bows came out and the water started filling with blood.

“A mermaid battle is strange because you’re fighting in three dimensions. Mermaids are swimming everywhere: trying to get around you; trying to get over you; sometimes trying to go under you. It didn’t last long, maybe five minutes, but when it was all over there were a couple of dead and six or seven wounded on each side.

“I was part of a group of three; one of the others was Curious Squid. The battle was just about over, or so we thought, when this mermaid from the other side came screaming straight down on top of me. Curious Squid yelled for me to get out of the way just in time, but the girl still raked my back pretty bad: the scar you see is only about a third as long as it actually was.”

Concern still remained on Kemena’s face. “Were you hurt bad?”

“Bad enough I needed help swimming back to the pod.”

“And what happened to the mermaid that attacked you?”

Penny drew in a slow breath through her nose, knowing she was going to tell Kemena the truth. “Curious Squid killed her. The mermaid was making a turned to get out of the area and Curious Squid just happened to be there.” She closed her eyes for a moment as a sad look passed over her face. “Just drove her spirit through her chest: no hesitation at all.”

Aware that her friend probably didn’t want to hear anymore of the battle, Penny moved on to the aftermath and her own injury. “Needless to say, with dead and wounded on both sides, the pods back down quickly. They got me into what passes as an infirmary—it’s actually more of healing area than anything else—and they stitched up the wound, wrapped kelp around me, and then packed something like mud around it to sort of plaster it in place.

“While there wasn’t any question that I was going to recover, I had to stay there for like two weeks—and I mean, no moving at all. People brought me food and when I had to go to the bathroom they lifted up the hammock I was in and took me out to the current. They gave me this mixture that’s made out of blowfish tocsin to sort call me down and keep me spacey, but still: you get bored sitting around for two weeks with nothing to do.”

Kemena had once been in the hospital for three days because of her appendix: she couldn’t imagine not being able to do anything but lay around for two weeks straight. “I hope you had visitors.”

Once again Penny glanced downward for a moment as a slight grin came to her face. “Oh, yeah. I had visitors…”

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