There are no real copyrights to infringe on. Hans Christian Anderson included the original version of The Little Mermaid in his book of fairy tales. All characters are my own. That's all the formalities, and I won't be repeating them. One (1) cookie will be provided for each review. Each cookie is a figment of my imagination baked to perfection with melting chocolate chips (other varieties availible, for those with diabetes/allergies/no mouths- hey, it could happen). These cookies cannot get you out of jail free, let you pass go and collect $200, or be used as legal tender to finance your move to Canada. They will, hopefully, be the additional incentive (along with the warm fuzzies of making my day) that inspires reviewing. Thanks for reading.
The ocean's wild beauty was lost on a solitary figure. The waves were perfect, which was all that was really noticed, and the surfer felt like a professional with the easy-riding waves. Between white caps, the water was a crystalline blue-green shade that allowed a curious person to see deep into the water, should he care to look. The sun was beginning to set, trailing streaks of color across the waves. A pod of dolphins raced within an upcoming wave, making even this most disinterested of persons look at the sight. The surfer was careful to not bring a six-foot fiberglass board, created especially to reduce the risk of a shark thinking of seals or sea lions, too close to a swimming dolphin. The material was softer and lighter than most used in boards, to make sure a fallen surfer wasn't concussed by the board. Concussions were not good for solitary riders.
The dolphins chattered in a large vocabulary of squeaks that humans had yet to comprehend. They sounded like wet rubber boots rubbing together, but any who took a good look at a dolphin knew that it was something more. Dolphins were the smartest beings in the sea, and were said to rival or surpass primates for mental capacity. All surfers knew of some story about dolphins, whether they fended off a shark, carried a drowning man to shore, or did some other incredible thing that people were too incredulous of themselves to report to the media for other skeptics to read.
Over the roar and hiss of the waves, he heard another sound. It wasn't the all-in bell of the beach, signaling a sudden change of weather or a shark sighting. It wasn't the squeak of dolphin-chatter. It was someone singing, the most beautiful sound the surfer had ever heard. The surfer paddled towards the source, following the current into a small cove. Curiosity could touch even the most disinterested of people, given the right inspiration.
He was drawing closer to the source of the beautiful music. All attention was absorbed in the song. He saw nothing but a hazy flash of brilliant blue light reflected from the singer, water blocking the song's origin from sight. She was female. That much he could figure out from the tone of the song. He didn't notice that the water had turned dark beneath him until a splash revealed that the droplets had a dark purple color.
Something wrapped around his back, biting into his skin harshly. He cried out, feeling something open sores on his back. Some strong force wrapped around him in tentacles that felt like iron bands, lifting him into the air as easily as a rag doll. Long strands covered in teeth-rounded mouths wrapped around him completely, leaving him unable to kick or struggle. He couldn't see anything but the flashes of light that his eyes created, and it had happened to quickly for him to notice the thinner ends of long tentacles that covered his face. The smallest of gaps allowed him to take shallow breaths, and for the first time in his life, he was hyperventilating. He needed air, and nothing he could do would gain that precious substance he had never before treasured.
He could feel himself being pulled into the water, until all but his neck and above was submerged in the ocean. He heard an angelic voice, beautiful enough to make him want more than anything to see the face that would match it. Was she an angel? She was the singer, she could tell. Close to unconsciousness, he decided she had come to give a final judgment, or bring him a miracle.
The slow progress of sinking into the ocean stopped. A sibilant hiss made some response, a low threatening sound that would make any shiver. He did. The cold voice seemed to belong to the owner of the tentacles. The pause in sinking made life something worth even more. The thing that held onto him would kill him given half a chance, and he was certain of that. He wasn't naïve enough to doubt that.
An argument ensued. The beautiful voice was pleading, and the cold voice was harsh and demanding. He could barely breathe, and had no light to tell if he was blacking out. He had to stay awake. Falling asleep meant he would certainly not wake again. Fighting, he remained conscious, even as he lost feeling to his limbs. Trying to distract himself from the numb of being asleep, he tried to count how many tentacles there were. He guessed two, but wasn't sure. His attacker was an octopus of some sort, but octopi didn't hiss. Did they attack surfers? He had never heard of such a thing. That sounded like a badly written tabloid story for a Tuesday following a dull weekend.
Just as he felt his lungs begin to burn from lack of air, the grip loosened. The grasping appendages relinquished their hold, but the salt water splashed into the wounds placed all over by whatever had gripped him. He yelled out again, unable to stop the reaction. He felt himself floating in the ocean, cuts burning like someone had lit them on fire.
His weakened body barely kept afloat, even with the buoyancy salt water gave. He felt himself stay dangerously low in the water. He still couldn't see, and could not feel his face to attempt opening his eyes. Gulping for air, he found a mouthful of salty water. He coughed and gagged, only getting more salt water into his lungs. He had heard that drowning was the slowest death, but had never tested that fact.
A pair of smooth arms wrapped around him, as one would hold a baby. They slipped under his arms and beneath his knees, cradling him so that his head remained safely above the water. He tried to say something, but his mouth couldn't form a syllable that would make sense, even if he could think of what to say.
Strong arms set him on a surfboard that he recognized as his own. He felt himself being pulled through the water, as quickly as a wave ran for shore. Coughing, he expelled sea water from his lungs. Each wave made him gasp, saltwater unkindly sinking into every cut. The surfboard scraped sand, and he found that breathing was harder than even before.
Lips that tasted of salt covered his, forcing air into his bruised lungs. Feeling a weak heartbeat from two fingers unceremoniously probing his neck, a few rough shoves on his chest were given to aid the heart's weak endeavors. More air was given, forced with strength from whoever was saving his life. The process was repeated until he breathed on his own, after a few muffled exclamations from whoever it was during the process. He kept coming dangerously close to blacking out, but knew that someone was there.
"You'll be fine," she assured him, the same voice that had fought with the giant whatever it had been. "You don't have to worry about that squid ever coming back for you."
He could feel the small waves lapping at his side, burning as painfully as ever. He tried to say something, anything. Who was she, what was her name, and why she had saved him came to mind, but would not come from his tongue.
"Shh," she soothed, putting a finger to his salt-chapped and bleeding lips. "Someone's coming for you now."
"Dogo," he mumbled, hoping she could catch the meaning.
She understood. "I have to. I'm late for something that has to be done. I never did mean to make that promise, but I'll keep it. It was no one's fault, really. Don't listen for me to sing again, Jesse. It's dangerous." There was some meaning to her words, he knew, but she was gone before he could ask a question that would help in puzzling it out.
Hearing his father's latest lover and agent screech his name, he finally relaxed, slipping into the welcome blackness of unconsciousness. He would be fine, now. His remembered that the girl had never given her name, and that he would like to know it. He didn't even have a crystal slipper to base his search on. The thought almost exhausted his mind, but he held on for just one final moment. His last thought before unconsciousness was that he had never told her his name.
An ambulance arrived within two minutes, just as twilight was taking hold of the sky. It was the time just before darkness fully took hold, when shadows were still clear. The hospital was always especially careful with celebrities promptly, as they really could not use such a public bad reputation. Paramedics raced to the beach, seeing a woman crying.
"What seems to be the trouble, ma'am?" one asked, looking around. This hardly looked to be an emergency involving Derek Dalton's only child. The speaking paramedic was a veteran of two wars as a medic, and was always mad to be bothered with trifles. If she had broken a nail, she would be fined. He would make sure of it.
"Him," she said, pointing down to the shore. She wouldn't go any closer. The sight was a bit too much. She never had liked the grisly, the macabre, or the disgusting. She preferred to look at the happier things in life, not harsher reality.
The first to speak when seeing their patient was the leader of the three. He had seen wounds in Vietnam that made anyone have nightmares. He had answered several calls for workplace shootings. But he had never seen anything like this. His only response was a single expletive.
The patient wore a wetsuit. There were several holes in it, revealing gross wounds that looked chewed on, which still were bleeding as he tried to assess injuries. There was no sand in his back on first examination, luckily, but his cuts were filled with salt. The area around his eyes, as well as his entire face, was swollen drastically, and he had another mark of chewing by some unknown attacker just three inches from the eyes.
His two crew members approached, gaping at the sight. At a barked command from the older man, who was still "breaking in" an intern and a first-year resident, they rolled over a gurney, with new wheels that supposedly would glide over sand. Surprisingly, the gurney lived up to its claims, and stopped neatly beside the shore and their patient. The victim was lifted gently, and drops of blood fell to the sand.
"Let's move," the man in charge snapped. The three paramedics, in a blur of efficiency, were gone in minutes, leaving behind a puzzled woman, two sets of tracks across the beach, the bloody imprint of a body, and the sound of an ambulance racing away, siren wailing at full blast. They had a serious case on their hands.
It was the heart monitor that woke him, its steady pattern of beeps disrupting the monotony of unconsciousness. He heard the steady sound of someone typing beside him, humming as she did so.
"Candy?" Jesse Dalton asked. His voice was raw, but at least recognizable. No one else would hum so off-key. She was a decent singer, but only when someone reminded her which key she was supposed to be in.
She instantly turned, startled that he was awake. Candy Dunes was the daughter of Sandy Dunes, California's Favorite News Anchor for six consecutive years, as voted by the Sacramento Daily. "Jesse! It's about time you woke up. You were supposed to come over yesterday evening, but you never showed up. I talked to that bimbo your father brought home, and she looked out the window and saw you and some strange girl lying on the beach. She called me, panicking that she couldn't catch any real details, before running onto the beach screaming her head off. I called paramedics."
Candy sounded angry, but that wasn't unusual. She always was angry about something. Her parents forever criticized her wildly curling red hair that she refused to straighten or dye a more suitable color, and her gray-green eyes were unusual. That, to them, was bad enough, but Candy wanted to be a reporter. She was not interested in television broadcasting, what both of them were involved in. She wanted to be a newspaper journalist, to her mother's profound disappointment. Nikki Dunes was the celebrity expert of Sandy's news broadcast, and she and Sandy were partners in the station.
Candy had been worried. Jesse never had been enthusiastic about helping her develop a new compact breathing apparatus, but did help her more for company than anything else. Her machine converted salt water into usable air while disposing of exhaled gases. Jesse often complained it was boring, but was interested in the business aspects. They weren't the most compatible of friends, but they got along. They had to. Living in the isolated area away from a town, there was no one else to befriend, and both were standoffish from people who were not celebrities. Neither knew how to deal with the normal majority of the populace without being a complete brat, but Candy made an effort.
"I had to get out. Aisling was driving me nuts. Sorry that I lost track of time, but the waves were the best they've been in a long time." He tried opening his eyes, but they still weren't functioning. "I guess the last bit wasn't a hallucination."
Candy snorted. "What bit? The giant cephalopod that scientists have been trying to find for years that doesn't exist, according to the world's most revered marine biologist, or some gorgeous girl in a really funky wetsuit giving you the kiss of life? Aisling said that she had one that left her arms and neck free, a strapless one."
Jesse shrugged. "Both. What was it, exactly?" He was in no mood for scientific jargon, and felt oddly distant from what had happened. "What am I on, anyway?" He couldn't see his IVs, but something was messing with his mind.
"A giant squid attacked you. Saying it was giant would be repetitive, but it was humungous. The biologist is already gone, and guesses from the size of the welts you have all over that it had forty-foot tentacles. The two hand-like things on it grabbed you, so that's where all the holes came from. You're on morphine, if you must know. You had so much salt in you that the doctors took two hours to get it all out, and said that you never would have made it five feet in the ocean unless someone had pulled you, so they believe Aisling's story." Always a reporter, Candy likely knew more than the doctors.
Candy was prepared for this question, after spending fifteen minutes with the expert. "The doctors and the biologist analyzed the circles. The thing grabbed on, picked you up, and held you just out of the water. Then, the mystery leviathan let go, and you ended up, with the help of the unknown woman, just where the waves ended, getting CPR from the rescuer figure."
"That sounds about right," he agreed. "Mystery girl was there when the squid was. I couldn't tell you what she did, but the monster let go. She picked me up and put me on the board. I never did see her."
Candy knew what he was too hesitant to ask. They had been friends even before moving to houses next door to each other, even if there was two hundred yards of space. They both had been pulled from public school after fifth grade, when Jesse had almost been killed by a religious nut who protested his father's last movie. Sandy had agreed that public school might be hazardous, as he had promoted that movie, so the two had been home schooled through interactive distance learning classes.
"Your eyes will be fine. The mouth-bit was a few inches away. You'll be glaring again in a few days." She made the serious topic into a joke, knowing that he would be uncomfortable with such a discussion.
He was relieved, but gave no obvious sign. "So, did you ever figure out the gas release valve?" She had been planning to work on that when she invited him over.
"Nah, I was too busy thinking that you'd be dying on me. I hate funerals, you know," she complained. Only a friend would know that there was concern behind her sarcasm. He knew, and would say the same thing if roles were reversed. "You could try being more considerate. At least let me know ahead of time if you plan on nearly dying."
The doctor walked in, hearing the voice of her patient. She was the most distinguished doctor in the hospital, and was irritated that she always had to leave more serious injuries for some movie star's brat with a greenstick break in an arm. She had yet to review his case, but it always helped that celebrities saw her checking on her kids.
"What seems to be the trouble?" she asked, hiding a yawn expertly. The large amounts of bandages didn't mean a serious case. Nurses were usually unnecessarily exuberant in bandaging famous patients. It was probably some small scrape.
"I'll let Candy take that one. Morphine doesn't give me confidence in my answer." He had already reverted to the distant personality needed whenever someone with contact to the press was needed. If he harbored any such things, he hid any thoughts that a female doctor would be inferior. Candy would kill him for less.
"He had a tangle with a giant cephalopod. Instead of the more usual suction apparati, it had circular rows of teeth. Like a lamprey's, I believe," she said quickly. She had once wanted to be a marine biologist, and had taken everything possible from her short time with a known expert. She had guessed that a lamprey would be similar, from pictures.
The doctor actually smiled. She remembered him now. He had been in daily when Candy Dunes had a tonsillectomy, providing disgusting anecdotes and charming the nurses, all at the age of seven. That had been ten years ago, almost exactly. He had been more careful around doctors, she remembered. She had always heard that he was spoiled, but wondered if he still could be a nice kid. Celebrities' children did lead a tough life, no matter how rich and famous they happened to be.
"So you're the kid with the freaky case. Did you notice any details?"
"The thing got me with just two of the tentacles, long ones with the teeth things at the hand bits. I don't have as many scientific terms, but Candy would know, if you need it translated." He didn't mention the bit about a talking squid. There was no reason to have his head checked. "I wasn't paying too much attention. I was trying to find some girl who was singing. The squid inked the water, and I only saw the tentacles for a second. They were really dark purple, I think."
The doctor kept an entirely straight face while reading another excerpt. Glancing at what she was looking over, Candy didn't bother hiding her grin. Jesse couldn't see her expression, after all. "Ever see this girl?" the doctor asked, ready to make a note.
"No. She was saying something when the monster let go, then she put me on my surfboard and towed me back to shore. I was having a bit of trouble breathing." Even he did blush, in the knowing gaze of his only friend and a doctor that was one of his friend's heroes, no one could have observed it below layers of bandages.
"So, she was the administrator of CPR," the doctor said smoothly, deciding not to give the kid any grief. "Any description on her?"
"I never saw her. I could recognize her voice if I heard it again, though."
Candy decided to add to his description. "It had to have forty-foot tentacles- the squid, at least, according to Dr. Stern." She seemed to say the biologist's name reverently, but quickly moved on. "His father's current girlfriend," she continued carefully, "said that the girl wore a strapless and armless wetsuit, and that her hair was dark. But, as she would have been soaking wet at the time, that's not very helpful."
"Dr. Grey," a new voice said, one used to being noticed. "So glad you could be here. How is my son?" Derek Dalton, known as the Daredevil for his on and off-stage acting, was a formidable figure. He had won two Best Actor Academy Awards, and did not care who knew it. The one thing he didn't sound was nervous.
"He'll be home in a week," the doctor promised. "I'll just leave the two of you for a minute. The bandages over his eyes will be gone by the time he's home." Dr. Grey left the room, managing to not trip. She had forgotten for a second exactly why Jesse Dalton was a celebrity, and she did like Derek Dalton, both as an actor and as one of the largest contributors to the local Salvation Army, of which she was treasurer. For the first time, she thought that working with a celebrity may not be so bad.