Never in her life had Calista imagined it possible that her jaw would drop open from due to a sudden shock. She didn’t register that there was a first time for everything as she fought to formulate a response. “You’re considering me for the Special Assets Division?” She finally shock off the shock. “Why?”
“Why not?” Ms. Gillford’s smile was gone, replaced by an amused grin. “From what Izzy tells us you’re a natural.”
“I…” Calista had no idea what she should say. I came in her to land a position in Logistics and now I’m told the company wants me for one of the best positions possible. “I’m really at a loss for words. Nor can I imagine why Izzy thinks I’m a candidate to be a, um…”
After a few seconds Ms. Gillford offered a suggestion. “‘Mermaid’ is the word you’re looking for.” She shrugged. “Use it freely. I’m not going to say you can’t.”
Calista swallowed. “Okay: mermaid. You want me to be one of your mermaids.”
“That’s the idea.”
“From what Izzy says you’ve always had a bit of a fascination with mermaids. You had them in your life as a child with posters and dolls. You told her when you were ten you used to pretend you were a mermaid by swimming underwater as much as possible and you learned to hold your breath for long periods of time. According to her–” Ms. Gillford consulted her laptop. “–you once held your breath for four minutes, twenty-six seconds, and that holding your breath for four minutes isn’t an issue for you.” She glanced across her desk. “Am I correct?”
Calista nodded. She’d never hidden her fascination of mermaids from her friend and Izzy was the one who timed her during the moment mentioned by Ms. Gullford. “That’s all true, yes.”
“You also have a tail–is that correct?”
“Um–” Calista felt her cheeks grow warm. “I’ve only used it a few times.”
“But you’ve swam in it with Isabelle watching, have you not?”
Calista nodded slowly. “Yes. At the Winston Family YWCA pool one night.” She looked down as she made her confession. “We know someone who works there who let us in late one night.”
“That’s what Izzy said.” Ms. Gullford tapped the laptop lightly with the fingers of her right hand. “She showed me some of the video she shot with her GoPro. You looked right at home doing laps underwater. How much did you spend on your tail?”
“It was eighteen hundred dollars.” Calista remembered how excited she’d been when she’d gone through the whole process of getting measured and then, over time, seeing her tail being constructed. Her swim in the YWCA pool was her first opportunity to use it four months after it was delivered. The thrill she felt going into the pool at midnight, sliding it on and going in, making her first tentative tail flaps as she swam towards the deepest end of the pool–
She’d told Izzy it had been one of the most exciting moments of her life.
Now, the excitement was building once again.
Since she knew Ms. Gillford didn’t want to hear about her tail and how much she had fantasized about how being a real mermaid would feel, she moved on to the real reason she was being interviewed. “So, you believe I could be Homo Aquatica–”
“I don’t see why not. As indicated, you have the sort of background for one who would find being a mermaid enjoyable. However–” Ms. Gullford raised her right index finger. “You do realize it’s a one-way trip? Once we begin the process we can’t reverse the process.”
Calista knew just about everything there was to know about Aquatic Future’s Mermaid Program and she was aware that once someone became Homo Aquatica it was impossible to turn them back into a real human. “I know. I understand completely. What is it you need of me?”
“Before we can do anything we’ll need to conduct a psych examination–though given what Izzy has said, I don’t see why you wouldn’t pass.” She pushed a paper across the desk. “This is a consent form allowing one of our staff psychiatrist to perform an evaluation. After that hurdle is cleared, we can begin…” Ms. Gillford smiled as she spoke the phrase. “Making You Mer.”
Calista needed only a moment to consider her future.
She nearly snapped the pen while signing the form.