But it’s not all that bad–trust me!
The first trip to Down Below Town had Calita’s tummy in knots. She’d known for a couple of days she would not only visit with Harmony, but have lunch in the underwater bungalow she’d soon share with her mentor. But it wasn’t just that; what had her the most excited was seeing all the other people—
Who had once been like her.
At 10:00 she was taken by boat to a point just outside the boundaries of Down Below Town. Boats of all kinds were prohibited from coming within a hundred meters of the mermaid enclave because the merfolk desired quiet water over their haven. Harmony was floating on the surface, waiting for her mentee. Within a minute after the boat arrived Calista was headed below the wave with Harmony at her side.
She was surprised by her reaction upon seeing Down Below Town. Harmony picked up on it quickly. “A little underwhelming, isn’t it?”
“Just… a little.” Calista blushed slightly. “I guess I expected something out of a fairy tale.”
Down Below Town was centered in a dredged section of the lagoon twelve meters deep. There were approximately twenty-five one-level pre-fabricated units with the same footprint as her above-water bungalow, with a few openings—including a door—either open to the outside over covered with what appeared to be a blackout curtain. Towards the far end were two larger buildings, still one level but maybe the size of five of the single units placed side-to-side. Between those two larger buildings was a geodesic dome perhaps ten meters across made of translucent material, making it impossible to see inside.
“Don’t worry—” Harmony chuckled beside her mentee. “Most new mermaids have the same reaction. They expect to find singing fish and dancing crabs and they find—”
“More of what they left behind on land?”
“Something like that. Come on: I’ll show you my place.”
They swam into the colony and Calista was able to see other mermaids either relaxing or working on what looked like equipment for AFI. Since Harmony had mentioned that Down Below Town was a training center for all kinds of AFI activities, several mermaids were here to learn skills that would help them as a member of the Special Assets Division.
Calista followed Harmony over the top of two bungalows before dropping to what she considered “street level”. “My place is right over here.”
“Okay. I—” Harmony stopped and stared at a passing mermaid, who was heading overhead and in the direction the two larger buildings. Calista couldn’t take her eyes—
Harmony was there shaking her arm. “What’s wrong?”
Calista pointed in the direction of the now-distant visitor. “That mermaid.”
“She was…” She swallowed even though she knew it was reflexive and not necessary. “She was pregnant.”
Harmony smiled. “Yeah, we’ve got two preggers staying with us.”
“We can get pregnant?”
“It’s not something you read about in the promotional material, right?
“No.” Calista closed her eyes for a moment. “I never gave it any thought.”
“Well, now you know.” Harmony looked around before continuing. “We retain our reproductive organs so it’s possible to procreate. Not only do we have two pregnant mers, but we have eight children ranging from nine months to seven years of age. And this isn’t the only place for that—”
Calista’s head was swimming. “It isn’t?”
“We have two other breeding colonies: one in the Bahamas off Acklins Island, and another in the Maldives off Kaadedhdhoo. Those have more children—”
“Hold on.” Even though she knew only Harmony could hear her, she spoke quietly. “I haven’t seen any mer… men.”
Harmony nodded. “That’s right—and you won’t. Men don’t take to the transition for some reason.”
“Then if we can get pregnant—”
“How does it happen?”
Harmony laughed as she took her mentee by the hand. “Okay, kid. I guess it’s time to tell you what happens when two mermaids love each other a lot…”
Lunch was over and the time to relax was upon the bungalow on Ariel Drive. Izzy finished putting the dirty dishes in the washer while Calista rolled herself out on to the patio. Izzy didn’t mind not having help in the kitchen: there wasn’t a lot in the way of cleaning and having Calista’s wheelchair there make the space seem smaller than it was.
When Izzy walked out into the patio Calista was under the huge umbrella they’d erected on their first day, brushing out her long, ginger hair. She almost laughed at the sight ‘cause it was such a stereotypical scene: a mermaid sitting out of water brushing her hair. And given how Calista now looked…
It was now two and a half weeks after Calista began sleeping underwater, a little less than a week after Izzy’s chat with Harmony, and the Calista’s legs had competed fusing and now looked more like a traditional mermaid’s tail, complete with a light layering of scales. While the scaling was thickest over her waist, hips, and upper thighs, everything from the just above the knees down possessed emerald-green scales. Everything, that was, except for her feet, which was now a tail nearly three-quarters of a meter across and shaded a translucent jade green.
Calista set down the brush and looked back over her shoulder. “You coming to sit?”
“Yeah.” Izzy walked up next to her. Over the last couple of days she’d noticed that Calista’s hearing seemed far better than it ever had when she was human. Something else improved that mermaids have that we don’t. “Just wanna look out over the lagoon.”
“Sure.” Izzy walked in front of her before taking a seat. “Just another perfect day in paradise.”
“Every day here is perfect. We haven’t had a drop of rain since arriving.”
This time Calista nodded, them set her right elbow on the arm of the wheelchair and rested her head in her hand. “I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of this.”
“Well—” Izzy glanced over at her friend on her left. “You’ll probably see a lot more of this than I ever will. Doesn’t AFI have a lot of operations here in this part of the Pacific?”
“From what Harmony told me, yes.” Calista cleared her throat. “Harmony returned from an operation in Bikini Atoll only a week before we arrived. Something to do with cleaning up underwater pollution from nuclear testing.”
That didn’t sound like a safe operation to Izzy. “Isn’t she worried about radiation?”
“Apparently they wear special suits when they’re in the areas with the worst contamination.” Calista shook her head. “I don’t want to talk about that stuff.” She turned in her chair. “You wanna go do something?”
Izzy scrutinized her friend closely. “Don’t you have stuff to do this afternoon?”
“Nope: it’s a free day for me.” Calista leaned over the wheelchair arm. “Why don’t we go swimming?”
“Swimming?” It seemed a strange thing to do, considering all the time Calista spent in the water. “Don’t you get tired of that?”
“When I’m with Harmony I’m working.” She reached over and touched Izzy’s arm. “I want to go swimming with you. You know, get out and relax.”
Izzy gave the thought only a few seconds of thought. “Sounds like a plan. Where do you want to swim?”
“You can take the Zodiac over to Sand Island and I’ll follow you over. Or…” She chuckled. “If you want, you can give me a lift. We’ll get there faster.”
Izzy almost jumped to her feet. “It should take me about ten minutes to change.”
“Go ahead, I’ll get in the Zodiac.”
As Izzy ran into the bungalow Calista rolled to the edge of the patio and pushed off into the water. She didn’t breathe in as she didn’t want to eject water from her lungs. It didn’t matter: she was up and over the side of the Zodiac less than fifteen seconds after entering the water.
True to her word Izzy was back ten minutes later, wearing a bikini, a long, white cover for her shoulders and back, and a hat with a huge, floppy brim. She eased down into the boat and started the motor. Thirty seconds later they pulled away from the bungalow and jetted across the lagoon, heading towards Sand Island for an afternoon of relaxation—
Note: Time for another history lesson. After WW II, Bikini Atoll, as well as others in the area, were used as test sites for nuclear bomb testing. What Harmony is indicating would be true, as large portions of Bikini were contaminated by numerous detonations above and below water.
The largest U.S. detonation ever, Castle Bravo, was a 15 megaton hydrogen device that vaporized the island where the device—which was the size of a house—was constructed. It was far larger than expected and caused a cloud of fallout larger and more deadly than thought possible. It extended well beyond the “safe zone”, contaminating the Japanese fishing ship Lucky Dragon #5, killing one of the sailors aboard.
The pictures below shows the crater left by Castle Bravo: it’s the one near the center of the photo. The extension to the left was caused by other detonations.
The most famous detonation was Crossroads Baker, the first underwater test. It was a 23 kiloton bomb—a little larger than the two dropped on Japan—set off 90 feet underwater in the middle of WW II ships scheduled for scrapping. The photo below is a close-up of the column of water created seconds after the detonation. The dark spot on the right side of the water column is the battleship Arkansas being lifted straight up out of the water before being slammed upside down into the floor of the lagoon, 180 feet below.
Crossroads Baker was a relatively small bomb, yet it left behind a great deal of contamination, some of which still exists—and is quite likely being cleaned up by mermaids in my story’s world—
It was just after lunch and Izzy had little to do until dinner. Calista and she had enjoyed a lovely lunch, though it was getting harder to move Callie into the wheelchair these days due to her feet—which weren’t so much like feet now as they were a small tail.
A week after her legs began fusing together and her feet flattening and expanding, Calista was starting to look less like a human and more like the creature she was transitioning into. While there was still a visible demarcation between each leg, it was less prominent and would likely vanish in a few more days. Her toes were no longer discernible and her feet had widened to almost a foot and a half across, with the side filaments now extending a good six inches on each side. As with her legs in a few more days her feet would vanish and her tail would develop in earnest.
Calista was also developing scales. At the moment they were forming around her lower waist and her hips and butt, but in a few more days they would start growing over her developing tail. From the way they looked now Izzy anticipated Calista’s scales would eventually become a brilliant emerald green—
Izzy let out a sigh and flopped down on the sofa. The lab people came for Calista just as they finished eating and were going to perform one of the twice-weekly examinations AFI was giving her not that her transition was proceeding to the next stage. That meant there wasn’t much to do for the next couple of hours besides watch a movie—which she wanted to do tonight with Callie—or take a nap. Izzy figured a nap was her best option.
She’d just lay down when she heard a splash. Those were fairly common these days what with Harmony coming and going morning and night, sleeping over with Calista to make certain she was getting adjusted to living under the waves—
Izzy sat up and saw Harmony sitting on the edge of the inner pool facing her. She flipped her tail out of the water and stretched it out upon the waterproof matting. “Hope I didn’t wake you.”
“No, I’d just laid back.” She got up and walked over to the pool. “I didn’t hear you upchucking water.”
“I did it before I jumped the sea wall. I mean, I can also hold my breath under water—” She glanced back over her shoulder. “And it wasn’t like I had far to swim. Why don’t you pull up a chair?”
Izzy pulled a chair over from the dining table and sat about a meter from the end of Harmony’s tail. “So what’s up? I gather this isn’t a social call.”
“No, it isn’t.” Harmony leaned back on her elbows, her naked breasts slightly drooping to each side of her torso. Since she started sleeping with Calista, Harmony spent almost no time now wearing a top when she was around Izzy. “In about two weeks Calista’s gonna move out of the bungalow and into Down Below Town. I’m already making arrangements for her—”
“—To move in with you?” The right corner of Izzy’s mouth edged upwards into a smirk.
Harmony didn’t seem the least bit fazed by the comment. “As a mater of fact, yes. Since I’m her mentor, it makes sense to teach her all there is to know about merlife by having her live with me and learn through experience.”
Izzy shrugged as she crossed her legs. “So why tell me?”
“Because my relationship with Calista is pissing you off.”
“Really.” Izzy made a face as she pondered the statement. “I’m the one who got Calista the position with Special Assets; I’m the one who pushed my bosses to accept her because it was her dream. I came out her to be with her because I figured it would do her good to have a friend there to hold her hand at times—which I have.” She let out a slow breath. “Why do you think your relationship with her is pissing me off?”
Harmony leaned forward, setting her hands on her tail. “Because you love her.”
Izzy stared back at Harmony, saying nothing for nearly thirty seconds. When she did speak again, it was in a low, soft tone. “How did you know?”
“Mermaids become extremely good at reading body language, particularly with humans, because it allows us to know when they’re having issues underwater.” She spun around, moving her tail away from Izzy as she set her elbows on the ground and propped her head in her hands. “The way you sit next to her, the way you stand next to her, it’s all protective and shows a ton of care. When you speak, I hear compassion in your voice and on your face. Calista doesn’t see it—” Harmony smiled. “Not yet.”
“Because she can’t read body language like you.”
“Correct. It’ll take her a while to get as good as me, but in time—” The mermaid tilted her head a little to the right. “She’ll know.”
Izzy covered her mouth and chin with her hand and looked off to her left, pondering Harmony’s words. “You’re not going to say anything to her, are you?”
“Hell, no.” The mermaid nearly spit out the words. “It’s none of my business how you feel about her and I’m not about to get in the middle of what could become a shit-ton of drama if I did say something. Ergo—” She sat up as she once more spun around, dipping her tail in the water of the inner pool. “I’ll not say a word.”
Izzy looked down as she cleared her throat. “Thank you.”
“I will say, however…” Harmony stared down into the pool as she slowly flipped her tail. “You probably don’t want to stay around until the end of her transition and training. If she doesn’t know how you feel about her now, you don’t want her finding out in another couple of months.”
Izzy gave a slight nod. “How long do I have?”
“About another month. I’ll give you a heads-up about a week before I think she’ll find out. When I do, you’ll want to pack up the bungalow and head home.”
Harmony prepared to slide back into the water. She paused for a moment then glanced up at Izzy. “For what it’s worth, when we’re not working, you’re all she ever talks about.” The mermaid slipped into the pool then leapt over the sea wall a few seconds later.
For about a minute Izzy sat in the chair staring into the pool. She finally stood but didn’t move, her eyes still focused on the water’s surface. She finally sniffed back a tear. “For what it’s worth, she’s all I ever think about.”
Izzy was already up for twenty minutes when she heard splashing. She turned just in time to watch Calista expel the water from her lungs and throw back her wet, slightly mated hair. She walked over to the inner pool and handed her friend a mug of coffee. “Morning.”
“Good morning.” Calista took a sip and set the mug aside. “Did you sleep well?”
“I slept well enough.” Izzy gave a quick nod. “How about you?”
“I slept great.” Calista put her arms over her head as she stretched for about five seconds. “I couldn’t have ever imagined sleeping underwater would be so… relaxing.”
Izzy said nothing for a few seconds before giving a slight arching of her eyebrows. “Obviously you can get pretty relaxed sleeping that way in the nude.”
It took Calista a moment to realize that she was naked. “Oh, yeah—” She shrugged and went back to her coffee. “The way Harmony explained thing, being topless isn’t a thing once you’ve got a bungalow in Down Below Town. We’re also not expecting guests, are we?”
Izzy shook her head. “Nope.”
Calista tossed her head from side to side as she smiled at Izzy. “Also, it’s not as if you haven’t seen boobs before.”
“Yeah, but they’re almost always on me.” Izzy pulled up a chair from the dinning table and sat, crossing her legs and getting comfortable. “So how was your first night under the waves?”
“It was nice. There’s just a bit of sound coming from the lagoon—I heard something right before I drifted off that Harmony said was a whale—but everything from above the surface? You don’t hear anything. I mean—” She set her mug down and rubbed her chin with her right hand. “It’s quiet on the island, but last night it was quiet.”
Izzy leaned forward, prepared to hear more. “So Harmony stayed all night?”
“Yeah. She told me you’d gotten instructions to close the sea door so we wouldn’t get bothered.”
“When I picked up the bedding they told me she’d come around and stay with you.” Izzy gazed into the inner pool. “Where is she now?”
“I felt her leave about ten minutes before I came out of the water. I think she leapt over the sea wall.”
“So that was the splash I heard.” Izzy recrossed her legs. “I know this is gonna seem strange—”
Calista had a pretty good idea what her friend was gonna ask. “Go ahead.”
“Did you go to the bathroom?”
“No. I probably will after breakfast, though.” Calista’s face took on a somewhat distressed appearance. “You’ll have to help me out to use the one in the bungalow. It’ll be another couple of weeks before I change enough that I’ll relieve myself the mermaid way.”
Izzy decided she didn’t need to know how one went to the loo “the mermaid way”. “I’ll help you get set up, no worries. Um…”
“What?” It wasn’t difficult for Calista to tell something bothered her friend. “What’s the matter?”
Izzy took a good, long sip of her coffee before she set the mug on the ground. “You said you felt Harmony leave this morning.”
Calista nodded. “She was… sleeping with me.”
“So you felt the bed move?”
“No. I felt her go because—” She thought about how she wanted to explain what happened and decided just to say what happened. “She cuddled with me last night.”
Izzy rested her elbows on her thighs and leaned even further forward. “She did?”
“About twenty minutes before I went to sleep.” Calista signed. “Before that we lay next to each other, but when I rolled on my side and tried getting comfortable, she spooned me and started cuddling.” A tiny smile formed upon Calista’s face. “She said it would help me relax.”
“I’m sure it did.” Izzy scratched at her chin. “How did it feel having a mermaid tail up against you?”
Calista sat quietly for a few seconds. “I didn’t even think about it. I guess that means it felt… normal.”
Izzy nodded a couple of times before standing. “Makes sense. I mean, it won’t be long before you have one of your own, right?”
Calista looked up, nodding slowly. “Right.”
“So—” Izzy squatted down to retrieve her coffee. “What would you like for breakfast?”
“Oh, eggs and bacon would be wonderful.” She reached up. “Help me into my wheelchair?”
Izzy set her coffee down on the table behind her and moved the wheelchair into position before getting her arms around Calista’s shoulders. “Of course. I mean, what wouldn’t I help my best friend?”
“You gonna be okay with this?”
Calista rolled her eyes for a third time tonight. “Izzy, it’s not like I have a choice.” She moved around anxiously in the wheelchair as she gazed at the night sky over the lagoon. “I wish Harmony would get here.”
“It’s only 21:40.” Izzy looked away from her smart watch. “We normally don’t go to bed until close to midnight. I’m sure Harmony knows that, too.”
“I know she does.” Many a night over the last couple of weeks Calista had bade Harmony a good night around 22:30 so she could spend time with Izzy and talk about her day before they headed off to sleep. “It’s just–”
Izzy reached out and took Calista’s hand. “Don’t get yourself all worked up over this. Otherwise you’re not gonna be able to sleep tonight.” She arched an eyebrow as she released her friend’s hand. “Then again, you might have trouble sleeping anyway.”
“That’s possible.” Though Calista had known for a while this part of her training was coming and it would mark the next step in her development, she’d more or less put it out of her mind ever since the run Izzy and she had enjoyed a few days before. And now it looks like we’ll never get a chance at another run…
A mermaid jumped high out of the water about twenty meters from the edge of the patio and both women knew it was Harmony, letting the girls know she was on her way. Twenty seconds later the mermaid boosted herself upon the patio edge and vomited the water from her lungs before twisting around to see the women. “Okay, now.” She waved to Calista. “Why don’t you wheel yourself over here and let me have a look.”
Calista did just that, stopped next to Harmony. Izzy took up position to Calista’s left and Harmony ran a hand over what had become her mentee’s legs. “Yeah, it’s just like the lab told me: they’ve begun binding together.” She looked up at Calista. “It’s actually starting a little earlier than usual.”
“Is that bad?” Suddenly Calista felt something was wrong.
“No, not at all.” Harmony winked. “If anything it means you’re more comparable to the DNA conversion than first thought.
“Oh.” Calista relaxed, breathing out the air she’d been holding. “That not bad.”
“No, it isn’t.” Harmony glanced over to Izzy. “Did you get everything set up?”
Izzy nodded. “I put everything in place as instructed. Though I’m not sure–”
“Don’t worry, Izzy.” Harmony flashed a warm smile. “Is the sea door open?” Izzy nodded. “Okay. Well, wheel Calista over to the inner pool and I’ll meet you there.”
Izzy did as instructed, not saying a word on the way. Harmony was bobbing in the middle of the pool inside the bungalow as they entered the building. She nodded at Calista. “You planing on keeping that on?”
Calista glanced down at her over-sized Little Mermaid tee shirt. “Yep.”
“Well, then–” Harmony swam over to the side of the inner pool. “Lets get you down here.”
Izzy helped Calista out of the chair and down to the edge of the inner pool, where Harmony helped get the women’s legs into the water. Calista was naked from waist down, but her huge tee shirt hid just about everything above her thighs. She took a couple of deep breaths as she looked down into the pool. “I guess there isn’t any point of dragging this out, is there?”
Harmony shrugged. “Not unless you’re not tired.”
“What if she has trouble sleeping?” Izzy was concerned her friend was too keyed up to get to sleep.
“Don’t worry: the lab gave me something that will help her sleep.” Harmony held her arms up and out. “You ready?”
Calista nodded. “Sure.” She slowly pushed off from the edge of the pool and entered the water, helped both by Izzy and Harmony. She turned and looked up at Izzy. “See you in the morning?”
“It’s not like I’m going anywhere, Callie.” She blew her friend a kiss. “Get a good night’s sleep, ‘kay.”
“Will do.” With that Calista went underwater and breathed in water as she sank to four meters to the bottom of the pool.
At the bottom lay the bundle Izzy picked up from the lab earlier in the day and dropped into the water. It considered of a thick foam pad Calista was to use as a bed, as well as a weighted cover and two thick pillows made out of the same material as the sleep pad. Calista began rolling it out as she spoke to her mentor. “You sleep on something like this?”
“Exactly like this.” She pulled the pad, getting it straightened on the bottom. “Though mine is a bright blue. This sea green is the standard stuff the lab churns out. You can ask for your own modifications whenever you feel like it.”
Though she didn’t have on her tail, Calista found herself kicking about underwater as she would when wearing her tail. “How long before my feet become functional flukes?”
“In another week you’ll be able to move around without needing a swim fin. Or a fake tail, for that matter.” Harmony hovered over the new bedding. “You wanna try it out?”
Calista nodded and snuggled under the weighted cover, getting comfortable. “This top is bugging me.”
Harmony chuckled. “You know what to do, then, don’t you?”
With a slight grunt Calista whipped off the top and pushed it aside. “That’ll probably float to the top in time.”
“In time.” Harmony removed her top. “I may as well get comfortable, too. I mean, we’re in for the night, right?”
Right then then meaning behind Harmony’s words hit Calista. “You’re staying here tonight?”
“I’m going to sleep with you for the first week; it’s standard, just in case.” She moved around, checking out the sea bed. “If you hadn’t noticed, that’s pretty much a queen-sized pad. Also, if you were watching, Izzy closed the sea door: she had instructions.”
“Of course.” Calista turned her head to the right. “That would also explain having two pillows.”
Calista lay back, watching the surface of the water dance. “You think I’m gonna need help sleeping tonight?”
“I don’t think so–” Harmony slipped under the covers next to her mentee and got comfortable. “Most new mers wanna talk a little before going to sleep, but in the end they usually doze off after thirty, forty minutes.” She glanced to her left. “That happened with me; I expect it’ll happen with you.”
Harmony was wrong–
Calista talked for an hour before falling deep asleep.
Over the next two weeks Calista spent more time working underwater with Harmony. Her day would start right after breakfast, with her wiggling into her tail and diving into the lagoon, not to return until it was time for lunch. Izzy once ask what she was doing for lunch and Calista told her she was learning to adapt to the same diet all mermaids followed, which was rich in proteins and fats to maintain their metabolism and have energy to work under the sea.
Though Izzy was happy that her friend’s transition was proceeding smoothly, she couldn’t help feel a twinge of sadness feeling that Calista was moving away from her both in their friendship and their commonality as members of Homo Sapiens. And it wouldn’t be long before they wouldn’t have that last in common at all…
The day after Calista discovered her underwater communications system she began complaining of soreness upon waking, particularly in her legs. They both knew the reason for this: her legs were turning into her tail and it wouldn’t be long before she’d find walking impossible. As it was, after a week of waking up with considerable pain in her legs, Calista found it necessary to use a chair lift to move from the loft bedroom to the ground floor, since she found it impossible to climb or descend the stairs.
That moment came quicker than either expected.
Izzy was up first as usual, but when 8:30 rolled around and Calista had yet to waken she grew worried and decided to see what was keeping her friend. She was almost to the stairs when she heard Calista calling for her. “Izzy?”
Something in Calista’s voice caused Izzy to hurry upstairs. “What it is?”
Calista began pulling back her covers as soon as her friend was near. “I think…” She gulped. “I’m gonna need help getting downstairs from now on.” She threw the covers off her legs–
Both legs were pressed tightly together, held in place with what looked like a light, translucent webbing. Calista’s knees appeared to sink into the flesh and felt soft to the touch. The strangest change were to Calista’s feet, which had not only flattered out and appeared to point away from her torso, but the toes had fused into an inseparable mass while developing wispy tendrils of flesh on both sides.
Izzy sighed as Calista forced herself into a seated position in bed. “Looks like your running days are over.”
“As well as my walking ones.” Calista looked at Izzy with something like a half-grin on her face. “The people in the lab said once this started I’d have a full tail in about a week and a half.”
“I remember.” Izzy looked about the bedroom as if searching for something. “The wheelchair they gave us is downstairs–”
“If you can help me to the chair lift–” Calista nodded towards the stairs. “–I’ll head down while you get the wheelchair.”
“That works for the ground floor, but when you want to get into bed–”
Calista looked a bit sad. “We both know where I’ll be sleeping tonight.”
Izzy found it impossible to argue with her friend’s statement–