Author’s Note: This story, while still in the realm of “fantasy,” is a bit different than what I usually do, like in the “Junk Collectors,” stories, or otherwise. This story (or rather, short story– which I typically dislike writing, as I have the brain of a novelist and usually can’t just “stop”) is more in the category of “traditional fantasy,” but meets the modern world. I do hope you guys like it. It kind of formulated itself into my brain over the past few days out of sheer boredom, until it was practically begging to be written. So, here we are. Again.
While not related to the “Junk Collector” realm in any way, shape, or form, I did not enjoy writing this any less than my second “baby” (my first trilogy, which is in the works, is my first baby. “Junk Collector,” is second.). It actually has a very, very old daydream idea of mine interwoven into it, as you’ll soon see…But really, I hope you guys enjoy it.
Kierra Callot stared at the edge of her resort house bed, trying to figure out what to do. It had all started a few days ago, shortly after she and her family had gone to the beach for vacay. After all her duties, more than what her parents were even aware of, the vacay had been much needed, and extremely deserved.
She’d been lying under their umbrella, reading in the shade after nearly getting scorched alive trying to tan– it was, after all, the middle of July– she heard a soft, “Hey.” Looking up, peering over her shades, she saw before her probably the hottest surfer dude on the whole beach. His short, strawberry blonde locks were spiked upwards, somehow oddly complementing deep sapphire eyes. He was shirtless, as most men are when swimming, but had the six pack to flaunt, which many men did not. He wore black and white swim trunks, and had some kind of tooth necklace around his throat– she knew it wasn’t a shark tooth, it was longer and the point was not as accented, but…
He’d interrupted her thoughts with a little chuckle. “I know, I know… I’m a fine specimen, aren’t I?” Those sapphire eyes seemed to dance. Her heart almost leapt, before her common sense dragged it back down to planet earth. “How do you even know that was what I was even thinking?”
“You’re ogling.” A sunny little smile lit those eyes up again. “People usually do when they think those thoughts.”
“What? Like you’re some kind of museum artifact, begging to be looked at?” She tried to roll her eyes, and draw her focus downward, back to her book. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have much needed vacation time to catch up o–”
“Even more important,” he said softly, suddenly right behind her, “than taking care of… Area 61 matters?” She’d jumped out of her beach chair in fright and shock– partly due to his unexpected proximity, but also due to his unquestionable knowledge of–
“What did you say?” she stammered, trying to force herself to stay calm, “I don’t know what you’re… what you’re talking about.”
He studied her for a few moments, eyes grazing on her whole being, then halting and hovering at her own. He leaned against their umbrella stand casually, arms folded. “Well, then, I suppose it WOULDN’T interest you in the least that some… rogues… are attempting to portal jump?”
She didn’t have to say anything this time; her eyes widened, and that seemed to be good enough for him. “Tell you what,” he said, voice again like silk, “Why don’t we have ourselves a nice little chat about it over dinner? I can easily provide you with all the details. The Seafood Ship, 113 Main Avenue. My treat. Oh, and they prefer it if you’d wear the nicest clothes you have with you. See you then.” Completely ignoring her sputtering protests, he’d calmly sauntered off, but not without the gazes of at least two dozen giggling or jealous females watching. Kierra had sunk down to her chair again, feeling flustered, confused, suspicious and concerned all at once.
Just as she was feeling now.
She sighed, twirling in her teal ombre sundress, gazing at herself in the mirror. Her family, especially her younger brother, wanted to know why she was getting all dolled up, but she didn’t disclose any of the real details. She didn’t know what had moved her to even THINK about doing this. Maybe it was duty, an actively subconscious response to aid someone during a GENUINE “Area 61” call. But, in this case, she had no clue as to if this call was a genuine one, or a trap. How did he know, anyways?
She would, one way or the other, learn that in a hour’s time.
She set off to the Seafood house with a disconcerted feeling that she would in no way be eating during their conversation.
He’d picked out a booth before meeting her at the door; apparently, this guy was a real regular here. Every other server they passed seemed to greet him with a smile and a nod, or, in male servers’ cases with Kierra, a sly little wink. Kierra felt like she’d swallowed a stone, and that stone had punched a hole through her gut; she wasn’t here to go on a date. She was here for answers.
She decided before they were seated not to order anything, even under pressure, in case anything was spiked. Probably paranoia, but in her profession, it never hurt to be too careful. After they sat, she said, “OK, talk. Who are you, and how do you know about…”
“Area 61?” He leaned back, almost as casual as before, only in nice jeans, a white shirt, black leather jacket. Only the tooth necklace remained the same, out in plain view. “Dear, I’ve known for quite some time that you’re a Portal Hunter. But you’re right,” he added, seeing her jaw drop and eyes narrow at his audacity, “It’s not very fair that I know all of that about you, and you not to know a a whale’s tail swish about me…. Fair game. My name, dearest, is Micah. Micah Greenwater. And I happen to be one of the administrators for MARINO.” He paused to thank the server for his lemon-water, and to take a sip.
“Wait a minute… MARINO…. Why does that sound–”
“Familiar?” he finished, after a long gulp. “Stands for “Merish Aquatic Rescue International Networking Organization”. Surely you’ve heard of us?”
“MERISH?” Her eyebrows had never shot up so fast. “You’re MERISH? On human land? I don’t believe you. You don’t even have a tail, or gills, and there’s a severe penalty for any Mermian to go out wandering on human–”
“I see you’re under the influence of several very prominent misconceptions about my people,” he cut her off again, coolly eyeing her once more. “I suppose you also believe the little myth that we are half human, half fish, do you?”
“Tut, tut… such prejudices…” He downed the last of his water faster than she could bat an eye. “If you were to know our actual past, you would be fully aware that my people were originally Atlanteans, some of whom survived the Great Flood by breeding with the likes of porpoises, whales, manatees, dolphins, and sharks. Do fish, after all, have such beautiful song voices? I think not. And not every Mermian does, either. Usually only about two-thirds of us, actually.”
“What?” She stare at him, trying to digest all this information, thrust at her all at once. “You’re saying… that you’re a product of… Bestiality?” His lobster platter had arrived, and though it had grill marks, it did not look very well done. She was beginning to feel ill. “You’re not going to be ordering anything, dear? What’s the matter? You look a little… green around the gills.” He chuckled quietly at his own joke, sawing into his meat like an ordinary gentleman. “Don’t worry, mine’s lightly grilled. Only lightly. Living in the human world for so long causes you to adapt to some of their ways, after all. Most Mermians would eat theirs completely raw.” He closed his eyes and chewed, savoring the flavor,as a million questions flooded Kierra’s mind. Then at last she blurted,
“You’re… you’re not planning on… on seducing me and taking me into the ocean to drown then eat me, are you?”
His eyes instantly flitted open, and he started coughing. She almost felt worried that he was choking because he was angry and surprised, but suddenly a laugh barked out past his lips. “Seduce you… drown, then eat… good Neptune, what movies have you been watching, dearest?” He wiped his mouth, settling down again. “If you’re referring to our methods of mate selection, mesmerism and conversion, then let me assure you, they’re very different from those… rumors. The stories you’ve been told have been obviously exaggerated. But it’s alright that you asked, because that will bring us to the point of our little meeting, anyway.” He set his utensils down, steepled his fingers together, gazing at her for the longest time over them. Then spoke,
“You see, after my people were officially born into existence, we were quite numerous. For several hundred years, we flourished, built homes underwater, had cities similar to your own– ones with technology and architecture that you wouldn’t believe. Then multiple plagues struck. First the elderly, then the young. Soon, we were perishing in great numbers. It became vital to preserve our numbers, so young mermen and mermaids began a special kind of adaptive training. They could spend days on land, spending time with, and, as you call it, “seducing,” many humans. Usually by means of persuasion and mesmerism. We often have had harems, to help increase our numbers with them. But we could only do so after they themselves had been converted, had become Merish. Which brings me to my main point,” he said quickly, noticing her agitated expression, “Some of those things, I admit, were a little… desperate and barbaric. You must understand, we did what we had to, to save our society and keep it from dying out. It was not exactly… a proud past that we had.” He broke his gaze at her to stare down at his nearly-empty plate. “But times have changed, and we, with them. Conversions must follow specific regulations, such as age limit– no younger than sixteen– and certain, specialized circumstances, such as if the human was in an abusive household, or the like. Very specific situations… And we never, ever condone forced, nonconsensual conversions, least of all child conversions. The unfortunate news is, sometimes these conversions still occur. These… These Merish rogues, as we call them, mostly mermen… They are not like the rest of us. Our understanding is that most of them are half the most predatory aquatic mammals– sharks. Understandable, given their ways.” His tone turned angry, vicious. “They are very old-fashioned, some of them, and believe we ought to return to the old ways, of kidnapping, having harems of pretty young human girls, not caring about age… Others, they are worse. They call themselves, “The Water Wolves,” they’re much like your mafia, only specific in their dealings. You know about human trafficking in your own world, I take it?”
She nodded, speechless.
“Well, they are avid partakers in it. Sometimes, they are so lazy that they let humans do the kidnapping for them, without disclosing that they are Merish, and when they get their victims… Well, I’m sure you can easily fill in the rest.”
“But… That’s awful! Can’t we do anything to stop them?”
“That’s why MARINO was founded, dear. We work side-by-side with multiple anti-trafficking organizations, including that human one that helps to locate and return missing and exploited children. Our job is to rescue as many human children, and yes, even teenagers like yourself, before it is too late. We’ve had enough negative dealings with things like this in the past. That’s why I would like you to help us.”He leaned forward, looking eager.
“What can I do? I’m just a Portal Hunter, like you said. I only monitor the portals open to other worlds, and help shut down illegal portals that others try to open. I’m not law enforcement, by any means.”
“Perhaps, but I know you’re legally REQUIRED to ACT as law enforcement, particularly in Area 61 matters like this, until proper authority arrives, if you see and find something suspicious. You have a right to investigate, arrest, and to protect the innocent.”
“You DO do your research well, don’t you,” murmured Kierra. “All right, then. No promises, but I’ll do what I can to ensure no new portals get activated in specific locations. Just tell me where to keep my eyes peeled. Oh, and two more, unrelated, questions…”
A smile curved those perfect lips. “Yes?”
“You said your people bred with… certain marine animals, right? And you seemed to imply that your people were long lived–”
“Oh, you’re wondering what I’M part of, and how old I am?” Amusement was in his tone. “My great-great grandmother was an Orca whale. I’m actually wearing one of her teeth.” He stroked the tooth affectionately. “That way, I know part of her’s with me, wherever I go. As for how old I am…” He stood to leave, “Well… Let’s just say I look a lot younger than I actually am. A lot, by far.” He took her hand, delicately kissing her fingertips, one by one. “It was wonderful meeting with you today, my dear. Can I expect a follow-up report in, say, the next week or so?”
“I’ll do my best,” said a flustered and crimson faced Kierra.