“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…”

While Telling the Truth…

So much going on today.  For one, it’s the start of a three-day weekend here in the US, so expect lots of drinking and fireworks.  I have thing I need to do, and I’ll likely spend most of Saturday getting those things done.  I promise I’ll stay away from the booze–at least for the most part.

I’ve been busy with writing, but almost none of it with the novel.  Last night was TV recap night and I spent about three hours getting out the work.  Yes, I know, I should work on the novel.  But I didn’t.  Tonight I need to start catching up on my mermaid story–which I am close to ending–and then I’ll get into the novel.

The biggest thing I worked on last night…  as you know, I am half of the writing team of The Snarking Dead, where my friend Rachel and I do our recapping thing.  Yesterday we crossed the 100,000 views line, which is a good accomplishment after having the site up for only fifteen months.  As such, we decided to pull the trigger and kinda go pro, going to a straight up .com tag so we can began modifying the site as we like and, most importantly, begin setting up ads to bring in some cash.  We should also be able to change our metatags to get a better presence on Google, which could get us more hits.

Going pro, I am.  Kinda.  We’ll see how it works out and check out how our next year goes.  Maybe whatever exposure we’ve gotten in the last fifteen months will lead to something more…

Now, on to the story.

Kerry’s being questions by someone who is not one of his friends and things could get interesting fast:

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

She leaned in toward him and spoke in a husky whisper. “Be careful.”

There was a loud snort from Gavino, who lightly elbowed Fidele. “Yeah, dude. Be careful or your girlfriend will get mad.”

“Shut up, Gavino.” Kerry jabbed a finger in his direction. “This has nothing to do with you.” He turned back to Franky. “And this has nothing to do with you, either. You trying to make a big deal out of something that happened a half a week ago. It’s over, it’s done. And I had nothing to do with what happened to Lisa. So just let it go.” He began to turn away, as did Annie. “I gotta get the class.”

Franky wasn’t about to let it go, however. “If you had nothing to do with it, then why did she crash?”

 

Kerry’s right at the end of his last nerve and Franky won’t let him go:  he’s just gotta keep pressing those buttons.  We know how Kerry is when he’s normally getting his buttons pushed, but this time he’s having this strange internal battle inside his body and the filters he usually keeps up are a little loose.  And that’s never a good thing.

Franky wants an answer.  Okay, then:  you’re going to get one–and it’s one that’s coming on blast…

 

Because your girlfriend is a shitty racer.” Kerry spun around and confronted Franky before Annie could say anything to dissuade him. “She races the same damn way every time: she likes to hang back on people until you start going into a corner that is tricky or dangerous, and then she dives in trying to take advantage and kill your momentum, because she figures the other racer would rather lose a few seconds on the course than crash because of her.

“And that’s exactly what she did to me last Saturday. She got behind me after damn near crashing a few other people on the Blue Line and started bird dogging my six. And I knew she was back there and I knew it was her, because this is what she does every damn race.

“Only this time I wasn’t going let her do that. That’s why every time she started setting up to dive in I threw a block at her. She tried doing at a Pentagon Pass, she kept trying to do that in Helter Skelter, and she tried doing every time thought South Side Slide and The Sweep.”

He took a step closer to Franky and jabbed a finger at him. “I didn’t care if everyone knew I was doing it, and I didn’t care if Race Control knew I was doing it, because I am sick of her shit out there when we race. I’m sick of her trying to wreck other people doing that, and I’m sick of her trying to wreck me doing it. So I made certain she wasn’t going to do it to me.

“And if you want to know why she crashed, I’ll tell you: because she’s not only a shitty racer, she’s also a shitty flier. When she pulled that last move on me in South Side Slide and I threw a block she decided she was going to keep coming—and when she saw I wasn’t going to give her any room to move up next to the safety enchantments, she tried to jerk her broom around to pass me on the left and lost control.” Kerry threw his hands up in the air to mimic an explosion. “Boom. And to use an expression that she dropped on me a year and a half ago, if she were a better flier she wouldn’t have crashed, but she isn’t: she sucks. End of story.”

 

Annie called it earlier:  normally Kerry walks away from something like this because he just doesn’t have the time for this BS.  But today–no.  He’s not walking away.  He’s getting right up in Franky’s face and telling him his girlfriend sucks and she’s a shitty racer and flier, so if anyone crashed Lisa, it was her.

And the fact that Kerry’s almost screaming this out in one of the most public areas of the school with a large part of the student body nearby gives you an idea of just how much he’s not in control of himself.  This is why you should listen to your soul mate, kid, and not make deals with her.

Where does this lead?  Well–

It can only lead to one place…

While Making a Deal…

Little fanfare today as I’m sort of running behind.  So, have at it, kids!

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

Kerry looked down as he scratch the side of his forehead for a few seconds, then spent a few seconds more looking about the room before turning back to Annie. “How about I make a deal with you?”

Annie took this to mean it was going to see Coraline right away. Still, she wanted to hear what he had to say. “I’m listening.”

“Let’s go to Sorcery and if I’m still acting the same way a few hours from now, then I’ll go to the hospital when we come back for lunch.” He gazed into her eyes as he smiled. “Is that okay?”

“Only if you accept the stipulation that if I think you’re growing increasingly unable to control your mood, I tell Helena I’m taking you to the hospital and we go.” The smile she returned was warm but serious. “Otherwise, I’m just going to keep after you until we see Coraline before leaving for the Witch House.”

Knowing this was an argument he wouldn’t win, he capitulated with the curt nod. “I accept.” Without say anything else he dove back into breakfast while, at the same time, he tried not to appear as if he felt like he was about to explode.

As soon as they were finished with breakfast they grabbed their book bag and backpack and headed out of the Dining Hall. As usual, they used one of the west doorways before heading across the Rotunda towards the North Passage leading to Åsgårdsreia Tower. In the past they would continue through the tower and beyond The Pentagon so they could take the path to the Witch House, but these days, when weather was good, they flew: Kerry on his broom and Annie on her own. And with the weather today being good, they both look forward to a short, pleasant flight to their class.

They were about five meters pass the staircase leading up to the hospital when the morning pleasantness ended with a shout. “Malibey.”

Annie turned as did Kerry and saw Franky Smith, Fidele Diaz, and Gavino D’Addario enter the Rotunda from the same hall they had exited moments before. The trio of boys stopped about three meters from them and stood staring for several seconds.

With nothing said after five seconds Kerry took it upon himself to be the first to speak. “You guys want something?”

Franky finally found his voice. “I want to know why you crashed Lisa last weekend.”

 

Just when you think Kerry may get through the day without being bothered on the way to class, here comes trouble.  And it’s really not a good time for him, right?  Plus, what’s this “You wrecked Lisa” business?  Which even has Kerry puzzled–

 

It was Kerry’s turn to wait several seconds before replying. “I crashed her?”

“Yes.” Franky nodded. “You did.”

Kerry wasn’t in the mood for arguing. “I didn’t. End of story.”

Fidele pointed in Kerry’s direction. “I don’t think that’s true, Malibey, ‘cause everyone saw it happen.”

“Including Race Control?” Kerry shook his head as he sighed. “Who obviously didn’t see anything, because I never got called in for a discussion about wrecking her—” He turned back toward Franky. “Which I didn’t do.”

Annie felt as if there was something else going on at the moment. It wasn’t so much that Franky wanted to pick a fight about something that happened on the race course over the last weekend, as it seemed like the boys were confronting them in an effort to rattle Kerry. And she didn’t care for any of their reasons behind that premise. Normally Kerry wouldn’t rattle, but given what is going through this morning he just might.

 

Now, one might say someone’s pushing Kerry’s buttons, and we have some idea of what happens when that happens.  But he’s never had his buttons pushed when he’s in this kind of mood, which could end up being… bad.

I guess we’ll see what happens tomorrow.

And I should have more to say as well.

Should.

Getting Through the Day…

After all the fun that was my big post yesterday–and the two post I also did to catch up on my mermaid story–I neglected to point out that I’ve gotten through the first scene of Chapter 13 and I’m into the next–

Because of course I am.

After this it’s Samhain and meetings with parents and dancing and all that fun stuff.  But before we get there we have some other biz to follow up–and it involves Kerry.  Actually, it involves Kerry having a hard time coping during Wednesday breakfast.  Good thing he has a patient wife…

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

It was the Wednesday before the Samhain Races and Dance, and Annie was worried about Kerry. Not worried in the sense that she thought he wouldn’t be able to make the races on a he be unable to attend the dance, but worried in the sense that he wasn’t quite himself this morning.

Ever since greeting him as he left his room this morning, she found it impossible not to notice that he was moody, with his range of emotions seeming to hover somewhere between sullen and disgruntled. Except for those moments, however, when he not only seem to be back to his old self, in appeared to be somewhat over-exuberant. And just as soon as he would act that way, he returned to Sullen Kerry and stayed that way from the coven tower to the Dining Hall.

Though she hadn’t said anything at the time, Annie had noticed him starting to act this way while they were having breakfast last Saturday. She expected that some of his behavior was due to it being the second Saturday of the new race season and their coven would compete against Åsgårdsreia for the first time, but as the morning progressed Annie felt there was something else affecting his mood—something that had nothing to do with racing.

Seeing him the same way this morning, and knowing they weren’t facing anything out of the ordinary for the entire day, only one thing could account for his current mood—

She wiped her mouth after swallowing a spoonful of berries and yoghurt, then use the napkin to cover her mouth as she leaned slightly toward Kerry. “I think you need to see Coraline.”

His head whipped around quickly before he could take a bite of the corned beef hash he was quickly consuming. “WHY?” Once he realized he’d nearly shouted out the question, he set down his fork and spent a moment composing himself, so that when he spoke the next time his tone was calm and much softer. “Why?”

“I think your initial reaction should sufficiently answer that question.” She placed her right hand atop his. “My love, you’re not yourself. You been overly emotional since we left coven—” Annie leaned in close. “We both know why.”

 

Oh, boy, do we know why!  I like to joke that I enjoyed puberty so much I went through it twice–and if you think about it, once you start on a hormonal regiment for transitioning, that’s exactly what happens–so I know a little of what Kerry’s going through.  I had days where I would grow so angry I was ready to punch holes in walls and then run off to cry for a while because I felt I was totally worthless–and that all happened within the span of five minutes.

So Kerry is getting hit with the double puberty whammy here and he’s not dealing with it well.  And he’s well aware of what’s happening once it’s pointed out…

 

Kerry drew in a breath as he rolled his eyes. “I wish to hell this would just end.” He gave Annie’s hand a squeeze as he took a sip of his juice. “I know that’s what’s causing me to act this way, but I’ve got a learn to deal with this. I mean, could be stuck like this for another three, four months, right?” He gave his head a quick shake. “I can’t go running the Coraline every time I start feeling moody.” He patted Annie’s hand. “I mean, you learned how to handle this on your own.”

Annie snorted. “Not always on by own. When I entered puberty Mama came to me more than a few times with something to help with the mood swings and the—” She glanced down toward her stomach. “Cramping.

“Which means I didn’t learn how to adjust to these things on my own: I had help from my mother. And since your own mother isn’t here—not that I think she would help you if she were—there are others here to take her place. And Coraline is one of those people.” Annie looked into Kerry’s eyes with a playful yet stern look. “Which is why I think you should go see her.”

 

Could you imagine if this were happening at Casa Malibey over Yule, when Louise and Kerry are at home alone?

(Louise)  “Kerry?  Kerry?”
(Kerry?)  “WHAT?  What, MOM?”
(Louse)  “There’s no need for you act that way, young man!”
(Kerry)  *Begins crying*  “I’m sorry!  I didn’t mean it!  Why are you yelling at me!?”

 

So much fun.  And it’s not like Kerry could say, “Mom, I have girl hormones driving me crazy!” because Louise would probably think this was the result of some witch bullshit on the part of her son and withdraw even more.  Poor kid just can’t win.

After having it pointed out that Kerry’s on the verge of losing it, this means he’s gonna go see Coraline–right?  Right?

Right?

“The Calling” Scene 23: “The Friend”

It was around Christmas time and Penny was feeling slightly depressed. Aware that it was her decision to come to the pod and live with her mother’s people, it didn’t lessen the slight pain she felt knowing this would be the first Christmas she spent away from her mother, and her mother away from her. It wasn’t as if they did much for Christmas, but they always seem to find time to dress in their warmest pajamas and get under a fleece comforter and drink hot chocolate while watching a movie together—

Whereas today, she did more of the same thing she’d now been doing for six months.

There was time after school before she had to go to the communal area and eat second meal, so she swam off a few hundred feet so that she could be with her thoughts for a while, by now Singing Nymph was getting used to her being able to make her way around the pod dwellings without supervision, so there was no possibility that Saying Nymph would come looking for her in the next few minutes.

Penny found a nice secluded place to rest. She floated down on to the rock and curled her tail around her, adopting what she called the Ariel Pose. Although she couldn’t recall if Ariel had ever sat like this; it wasn’t hard to remember, however, that she had a green tail, red hair, and a clam shell bra…

Penny wasn’t seated for more than two minutes when her mermaid senses told her that someone was approaching, she’d gotten quite adapt to being able to pick up on the small magnetic field that each mermaid generated, but that allowed a patrolling mermaid to detect another one at distances up to five hundred feet. She knew some of the mermaids had to realize that she was here, and as had been drilled into her from day one, mermaids were rarely alone—

The mermaid glided into view from her left and Penny instantly recognized her as one of the girls from school, and the Crimson tail with the regular dots a bright orange further identified her as Curious Squid of the Magical Cove, who was almost exactly a year younger than Penny she sat quietly and waited for Curious Squid to approach her, because she knew it would be bad form to get up and swim off now.

The young mermaid with bright aqua hair and hazel eyes floated to a stop about six feet in front of Penny. “Are you okay?”

Penny nodded. “I’m okay. Just a little down.”

“Down?”

“A bit depressed.” Even after six months Penny often forgot that mermaids were slow to pick up on idiom.

Curious Squid nodded then looked at the wide rock upon which Penny was sitting. “May I join you?”

Penny tapped the space to her left. “Sure.”

The two mermaid sat in silence for nearly three minutes as Penny waited to see if her new companion was going to start the conversation. When it seemed almost as if Curious Squid was waiting for Penny to say something, the mermaid spoke. “Are you missing your binding mother?”

“Yeah.” Penny stared off into the luminescent depths. “Today should be December 23; tomorrow will be Christmas Eve.”

Curious Squid glanced over at her classmate. “I take it that’s a day of celebration.”

“It is. Mama and I would exchange presence at night after dinner.” She chuckled. “She always gave me enough of and allowance that I had money at the end of the year to buy her present. Since we didn’t have any other family, we were the family.”

“Sounds interesting. Wasn’t there any one else in your celebrations? Ever?”

A wistful look came over Penny’s face. “Last year Kemena came over at night on Christmas Eve. Set around in our pajamas and watched Ghostbusters.”

“What’s Ghostbusters?” Curious Squid’s brow wrinkled. “I’ve never heard of that.”

“It’s an old movie my Mama likes. It’s kinda funny.”

“I see. And who is Kemena?”

Penny immediately imagine Kemena’s face, digging it out of her memory. “She’s my friend back in Albuquerque. If I had to, I’d say she’s my best friend.”

Curious Squid leaned forward so she could see Penny’s face. “You miss her as much as you do your binding mother, don’t you?”

Penny slowly rubbed her hands together. “I guess I do. She knows what I am: she is the only other person knows him down here.” Penny glanced down her tail fin, watching as it curled and unfurled. “I hope she’s missing me, too.”

“I’m sure she is.” Curious Squid reached over and took Penny’s hand, much to the surprise of the young mermaid. “Can I tell you something?”

“Sure.” Even after six months Penny still found the touchy-feeley attitude of many the mermaids to be a little disconcerting. She was pleased, however, that she hadn’t jerked her hand away immediately.

“While you’ve become sociable since arriving, you don’t have any friends other than your cousin. And a mermaid without friends will die young from an empty heart.” Curious Squid shifted around and gave Penny’s hand a squeeze. “I would like to be your friend. I love listening to your stories of when you lived on land, but I also think you’re an interesting person. I’d like to get to know you better.”

Penny didn’t think any of what Curious Squid said was unusual–if anything, there was a great deal of truth in her words. Because since arriving, while she did feel as if she was now an accepted member of the pod, she felt that there was very little of a connection between her and the majority of the other mermaids with whom she came in contact every day. It was true that she was close to Singing Nymph, and considered her a friend, but she was also family.

It came to Penny that if she’d had a friend in the days leading up to this moment, it would’ve made hurt of missing Christmas Eve and Christmas a bit more dull.  She needed to be more than another communal member: she needed to be open.

She needed to show her heart.

Penny returned the hand squeeze as she flashed a grin in Curious Squide’s direction. “You know, making a new friend is a great Christmas present.” Her grin turned into a full smile. “Thank you for doing this.”

Curious Squid blushed. “It’s not a problem. After all, what are friends for?”

“The Calling” Scene 22: “The Routine”

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.