Calista put her feet up on the table before her and gazed out to the northeast, across the lagoon and the ocean beyond. The sky was dark with almost no hint of light pollution, as the facility when completely dark at 22:00 and the only light was that provided by the residents of the bungalow on–as she discovered at dinner–Ariel Lane. At the moment Izzy and she were the only bungalow residents. The scientists and company personnel kept houses at the opposite end of the island and the only other inhabitants of Johnson Atoll didn’t live above sea level…
Izzy returned with two bottles and handed one to her friend. “Here’s your second–and last–hard cider of the night.” She sat to the right of Calista as they both opened their bottles simultaneously. “Beautiful night.”
“I know.” Calista tossed the twist-off cap into the trash and took a sip. “I don’t recognize any of the constellations, though.”
Izzy pointed to a dot low on the north horizon. “That’s Polaris, I’m sure of it. There’s the Little Dipper–” She traced the outline, which seemed strange due to their closeness to the equator. “I also believe–” she pointed straight overhead. “–that’s Leo.”
Calista sighed. “You gotta love a place with total darkness, no clouds, lot’s of sun, and temps that stay in the upper 80’s to the low 70’s. What’s more could one want?”
“Maybe something stronger than cider to drink.” Izzy smirked.
“Yeah, well…” Calista clinked their bottles before savoring another small sip. During dinner she was informed that her alcohol intake was limited to nothing more potent than hard cider and that she couldn’t enjoy more than two a day. “What can I expect considering they began altering my DNA before I arrived?”
“In all fairness you did sign the release saving they could begin altering your DNA.” Izzy glanced over at her friend. “Just because you thought they’d wait until we reached the facility is no reason to be grumpy.”
“Yeah, you’re right.” Calista tilted her head slightly to the right. “Anyway, I’m not going to be able to enjoy a lot of adult beverages in a few months, so why not enjoy the small pleasures?”
Izzy clinked bottles once more. “There you are, sister. Enjoy the Landy Life while you can.” She pointed towards the center of the lagoon, where a greenish patch of water seemed to glow. “In a few months you’re gonna get a bungalow out there in Down Below Town.”
Calista regarded the patch of water three and a half miles from their location. Down Below Town was the name given the enclave where twenty-three mermaids currently resided. Huali told Calista during dinner while the youngest mermaid finished her transition five months ago, none of the mermaids were more than three years old, making them some of the newest members of the Special Assets Division–
The youngest wouldn’t remain so for long, however.
“It all starts tomorrow.” Calista set her drink next to her feet on the table. “I meet my merinstructor.”
Izzy gave a slight nod. “Nervous?”
“A little. I mean, that’s proof this is all going forward. And that–” Calista’s words caught in her throat.
Izzy finished the sentence. “That you’re going to be one of them?”
“Isn’t that what you wanted?”
Calista’s voice was nearly inaudible against the waves. “Yeah.”
Izzy knew her friend well enough to know when she had something on her mind. “Having second thoughts?”
“Not really. Except–” She turned and looked into Izzy’s eyes. “I’m gonna miss you.”
“Hah.” She drank half her cider in one gulp. “You’re not getting rid of me that easy. I’m gonna request a transfer to SAD so I can see you from time-to-time.”
This news brought a smile to Calista’s face. “Besides, I’m not moving right away.”
“No, you’ll be in the same house with me for a while, sleeping in the twin bed next to mine.” Izzy pointed a finger at her friend. “Just remember: I’ll be your friend as long as you’re alive.”
Which the thought of having a BFF kept the smile on her face, Calista couldn’t help but wonder if Izzy’s last statement came with the caveat, As a human…