La Mia Bella Sirenetta
Word Count: 8407
Summary: My Beautiful Little Mermaid. She appeared dead if it weren't for the way her claws had twitched, etching mysterious marks into the glass, her pointed teeth glowing white through the putrid stink of the water. A terrible smile. Like she had a secret.
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight.
WARNING: I labeled this as horror, for disturbing imagery and general squickiness. Read at your own risk!
La Mia Bella Sirenetta
The mermaid lay motionless in the water, a dead weight, the currents whispering through the long strands of her hair like a slow drifting storm on a dark horizon.
Benji stepped closer to the tank. He wanted to tell her that he'd been wrong, so wrong, and cowardly- and that he was trying to make things right for once in his life. But she was so empty. She had the blank, staring eyes of one that sees but does not see, her gaze turned inward to secrets only she could know. The water itself was foul, stagnant. There was a heavy smell of decay in the air. A state-of-the-art purifying pump had been installed after the first few days of her confinement but it had never seemed to work.
Indeed, the strange girl appeared dead for all intents and purposes if it weren't for the way her claws had occasionally twitched, scraping along the walls of the tank, etching mysterious marks into the glass. The grating sound seemed to amuse her somewhat. Only then would her lips part to reveal alarming little pointed teeth, gleaming white through the putrid stink of the water.
A terrible smile.
Like she had a secret.
Benji snapped the catch into place and loaded the tranquilizer gun for the last time.
One week ago…
"Depression, Dr. Jacoe. She looks… hopeless." Benji Chenysh pushed his glasses up, blinking, averting his eyes from the tank. He'd never been a nervous man, but ever since he took this assignment down in the nether regions of the Institute, his blood pressure had sky rocketed. Now his collar perpetually felt tight and his shirts sported nicely matched sweat rings under the arms. He quickly scratched a daily record of her appearance in the little notebook he kept in his front pocket, trying his best to avoid looking at her in the water.
Day 13, 7:47 A.M. Subject is inactive and has not eaten. Tail has deteriorated further with no discernible reason, scales are duller than yesterday but still bright. There's a faint smell of decay in the air.
Even though her scales were peeling away from her tail, some sort of bizarre atrophy they couldn't explain… her skin still had the power to dazzle the eye if it caught the light just so. One careless afternoon Benji had been blinded for almost an hour. "Maybe you should up her dosage," he glanced at Dr. Jacoe. "Her metabolism seems to burn through-"
"Sciocchezza," Dr. Jacoe whispered, his breath ghosting white across the glass. He'd pressed his palms against the structure that held his most prized possession. A real, live mermaid. "It's a trick. The siren will bewitch you, Benjamen. She's using her magical feminine wiles… don't you feel it?" His gaze dropped to the girl's upper body, her thin shapely arms, her young, bare breasts tipped in pink. One of the only parts of her that appeared completely human. "How many sailors has she lured to their untimely deaths?"
The mermaid glided around the tank, arching slightly before glaring at them both and deliberately turning her back. Sweat popped on the doctor's brow, and he shifted, gritting his teeth. A shameful erection had stirred to life in his pants. Such a base reaction was completely reprehensible for a God-fearing family man like Dr. Jacoe. He couldn't manage to get it up for his wife, whom he loved, but one look at this… monster, her secret eyes alert and baleful in her white face, and the lust was literally crawling down his spine, gripping his balls. And God help him, the urge to bend her double and slam into any hole she presented was so strong it was almost crippling. Yes, the girl was vile and prideful; despicable in the way she flaunted her nakedness. "Don't you see how she's taunting us?" he asked in a rising voice, glaring into the tank. His lip curled into a sneer. He'd be damned if he let the witch work her magic on him. "Puttana!"
Benji's eyes widened. The basement door to the lab stood half open and he rushed to close it. Their research funding was precarious at best. They were far removed from the rest of the hospital but the last thing Dr. Jacoe needed was to fuel the rumors of his obsession with experiment number one-oh-three. Benji had considered reporting Dr. Jacoe's turbulent behavior, in a discreet manor of course, but decided against it. Their associates agreed that he was a brilliant scientist, if a little volatile. And Benji might lose his job if he went against the grain. His family needed to eat just like any other.
"No, I don't think she's taunting us," Benji said, shrugging nervously. "Again, doctor, I implore you to release her back to her natural environment. We're getting nothing from her like this." The truth was, the mental stability of his boss notwithstanding, holding a creature like this captive was a tragedy of epic proportions. Benji Chenysh was a scientist through and through, but there were some lines you just didn't cross. Not if you wanted to wake up the next morning with a clear conscious, kiss your kids before you shooed them off to the school bus stop. Benji still remembered sitting on his grandmother's lap with sticky chocolate fingers, tracing the numbered tattoo on her weathered arm. He hadn't understood, then, the pain in her eyes. That sometimes there were no words for the insanity that never slept in the dark, cobwebbed corners of memories.
That there were some crimes against God's living creatures no one should ever commit.
"You're a fool, then. Idiota." Dr. Jacoe waved his hand and turned away, managing to sound angry and amused at the same time. "We'll never get another one. I want her sedated and up on the table within the hour. The change from fish-girl to human takes roughly fifteen seconds, twenty in freezing temperatures. Now I want to see how fast she can grow her legs while in pain," he said, clapping his hands together, rubbing them back and forth. He bustled around the room, his greedy eyes never leaving her for long. But wherever he moved, the mermaid was stubborn, and presented him with only her back. Chuckling, he watched her, and prepared the table. "Ahh, la mia bella sirenetta," he singsonged to her. "I will break you, yes. You will see. Presto…presto…"
Later that night Benji had finally allowed himself to be sick, clutching the white porcelain of the toilet in the safety of his own home, away from the knowing stare of Dr. Jacoe. That day hadn't been the first time they'd strapped the girl down against her will. It hadn't been the first day they'd kept a constant saltwater spray on her body until the tranquilizer had worn off enough so she could transform. It wasn't even the first time they'd hurt her in the name of science. But once the discovery had been made that her body could heal itself, there didn't seem to be a limit to what they could do. Ethically, physically or otherwise.
His fingers had squeaked along the bowl, knees aching from the yellow ceramic tile. The shame scalded him from the inside out. He wanted to push rewind... go back in time and have a do-over. He and Angela had laid that tile floor seven summers ago, laughing when he'd mess up on purpose so she'd shoo him away. There was a precious crooked corner where he'd pulled her away to make love before she could line it up with the others.
Now all he wanted to do was bash his head against that same floor and feel the blood run down his face in some kind of a misguided sacrifice. To cleanse himself with pain; to beg for absolution. Not that it would be enough. Oh God, it would never be enough. He gagged, tears and snot choking him. Nothing left but bile now, like acid knives in his throat. He was the worst kind of coward.
"Honey?" His wife tapped on the bathroom door. "Can I get you anything?"
He shook his head against the side of the toilet, unable to speak.
The mermaid girl was magnificent, truly. Bella, bella, as Dr. Jacoe would murmur reverently, his eyes lit with madness. Beautiful. Physically perfect in every way, even if she was as far from a child's fairytale as you could get. Fey and wild, she was more like an enchanting nightmare with sharp teeth and claws. They were certain of her intelligence but she had refused to communicate. Still, her beauty defied description when they dried her off to watch her blue-green shimmery tail waver and split down the middle to form perfect human legs. Her razor sharp claws retracted a bit when she transformed into a human, and the webbing between her fingers completely disappeared. Her entire body was exquisite as was her face with its long eyelashes, full red lips, her blushing cheeks. Her dainty foot just fit the length of his hand. Benji was sure that seeing the mermaid change was the closest that he would ever get to a miracle. And the sheer power that came with controlling such a creature; forcing her transformation whenever they wanted… it was like nothing he'd ever felt.
Such moments were inevitably marred, though. The girl's composure always vanished during those long, hazy seconds between the fog of sedation and complete lucidity. Trembling in panic, she'd bare her teeth at them, snapping and hissing, her body twisting in the restraints. Expressions of hatred would fly across her face, sadness, desperation, dissolving one into another until finally she would fall back, reaching a sort of dead resignation as Dr. Jacoe satisfied his curiosity. She'd turn her head and meet Benji's gaze profoundly with her bottomless ocean eyes, the deep black specks of her pupils like holes into her brain. At these times he'd wished he could see inside her mind. To know if there was anyone, a mate, or a family missing her down in the frigid depths of the sea. Did she have children? He'd wondered if she was immortal, or if one day they would finally kill her with their experiments. Or if such a feral, violent creature even had a soul.
The tapping at the bathroom door was now insistent. Benji spit blood into the toilet and wiped his eyes. He must have bitten his tongue and not realized it.
"Benji? You're worrying me…"
"I'm fine, Ang," he'd barely managed to reply.
But he wasn't fine. Today a scalpel had pierced the soft flesh of the mermaid's belly while she was awake, a vivisection without anesthesia. Her body had lurched with the shock of it.
She'd felt everything.
She had looked to Benji in disbelief, shaking her head, pupils the size of saucers; foreign words pouring from her mouth. It was no language he'd ever heard before, guttural clicks and high warbly squeaks but he knew what she was saying. Interesting how begging and pleading seemed to be universal whether you were a man or a fish. Her desperation roiled in his gut as he forced himself to ignore her, schooling his face into something resembling vague scientific curiosity. Even when she screamed to the ceiling, calling out to someone, something, Benji masked his wonder, half expecting Poseidon himself to appear out of the air and strike them down.
His glasses slid down again so he shoved them back up, hands shaking. The hair at his temples was wet with perspiration, big fat drops of it rolled down his back.
They would certainly deserve to be struck down, for torturing such a beautiful creature.
But no one came to save her. Or to punish them.
Stunned panic leaked from her every pore and the girl was soon insensible. Her shrieks sent small fissures running through the hard concrete of the floor, shattering the thin glass beakers all over the counter. Her wrist jutted at a strange angle from her attempts to escape the restraints.
It was too much, too much. Benji's hands clenched. "Dr. Jacoe," he said weakly. He tried to catch the older doctor's eye. "Dr. Jacoe, I think maybe some morphine-"
"No!" the older doctor barked. "No, she'll waste it, it won't last, she'll burn it off within minutes. Besides, it will distort my results; you know this and yet you continue to beg. Now... turn on the water. I want to see her transform under duress." Dr. Jacoe wiped the red from his gloves and glanced at his watch. "Go."
The drain embedded in the floor gurgled greedily under their feet. The bright red seawater sluiced down in rivulets over her naked hips, her legs and feet, her very human skin.
"She can't do it," Benji breathed after a few minutes, watching her closely. "She can't change. All of her energy must be diverted—her body must assume it's under attack and it's preserving what strength it can. I'd assumed the change was involuntary, a pure biological reflex but this proves that there is some control, even if it's subconscious." He abruptly looked up at her face, her shrill, wavering sobs twisting something inside him. She hadn't stopped crying since they began. "Doctor, please," he shoved his glasses up again. "Let's give the poor girl some relief from this pain. It's inhumane, what we're doing. We have our answers."
But the other doctor was already shaking his head. "We'll be finished soon enough. By the time the morphine spreads through the creature's system it will be gone. You have to harden your heart, Benjamen." Dr. Jacoe narrowed his eyes in contempt. "You're a scientist. Or at least, I thought you were."
But Benji wasn't deterred. "Sir, I wouldn't treat a rat the way we've treated this girl. You've cut her open without any pain remedies; she's going mad, just look at her! If nothing else let me give her gas so she isn't conscious of any of this."
"That's just it, Dr. Chenysh," he snapped. "She isn't a girl. She isn't human. She isn't even of the kingdom Animalia, like your rat. She's a fish, my dear colleague. Would you give pain relief to the catch of the day before you gutted it for dinner?"
"Sir," Benji swallowed, "Dr. Jacoe, with all due respect-"
"It's not as if we will kill her."
"Isn't Angela pregnant again?" Dr. Jacoe smiled benignly. "I've been remiss in giving you my congratulations. My apologies."
"I remember how she had to be hospitalized the last time, right there at the end. I'm quite sure neither she nor the baby would have survived without that hospital intervention. It's a good thing the Institute has such wonderful medical insurance, isn't it." He paused, not really expecting an answer. "We've had enough water."
Benji dropped his eyes to the saltwater control and slowly reached to turn it off.
"Now. See if you can find something to stuff in her mouth Dr. Chenysh," he said, peering at Benji over the round rims of his glasses. Dr. Jacoe's gaze was hard. Don't fuck with me. "It's hard to think in all this noise," he remarked blandly. "It's got us both on edge, I'll admit."
Benji nodded, the bile rising in his throat as Dr. Jacoe rattled around in the drawers, any number of heavy medical instruments passing through his hands. It would be just like him to prolong the mermaid's examination just to prove a point. Finally, his instrument chosen, the man stood before Benji like he was on stage, knowing full well the shocking picture he presented, even reveling in it. The gleaming chest spreader clang clang clanged as he slowly pulled the metallic parts into place.
"Holy fuck," Benji whispered under his breath, turning away from the table. He didn't want to watch, he didn't want to see. Tiny shards of glass nicked his hands, tinkling onto the floor as he grabbed a towel. By the time he'd rolled it up and stepped back to the table the mermaid was well and truly out of her head. Blood covered her neck and chest from where her teeth had torn through her lip. Her eyes bulged, wild and unseeing as Dr. Jacoe invaded her body at his leisure, inspecting her organs, her secrets splayed out for the world to see. His latex gloves squeaked here and there, ruddy wet and shiny. After holding her heart and lungs in his hands, and pushing his fingers through and around her entrails he announced that the creature had ovaries and a uterus, just like a human female. He chortled in glee, looking every inch the insane scientist, a smear of bright red blood across his cheek like war paint.
Benji blanked his mind. His hands worked but he didn't allow himself to think about the wire he used to thread her ribs back together, or the crude metal staples that jerked her body every time he snapped one in place, slowly piecing her into something resembling who she had been before.
He thanked God that she had lost consciousness from the pain.
An eerie premonition crept over him as the metallic click and lock echoed in his ears. It was that monster in the closet when he was five, a shadowed hand on his shoulder tipped with claws; a certainty so vivid that he knew without question…if they didn't kill her first, she would kill them.
But for now, she was broken. Their little dark-eyed maritime doll. Already her body was attempting to restore itself, swelling in angry, seeping welts over the staples in her skin. She was ashen everywhere else; even her hair was dull. Her brilliant sea colors had seeped through the cracks, leaving nothing behind but a lifeless grey.
"Like the dorado," Benji whispered, grabbing the towel again, now that he was finished. He twisted it back and forth in his hands. He wanted to weep for days
"What's that?" Dr. Jacoe looked over the stapling job with a critical eye and patted the mermaid on the shoulder affectionately. As if to say, See? That wasn't so bad, now was it?
The staples closing the Y-incision ran up the front of her, from pelvis to collarbone, a perverted necklace of twinkling silver.
"The dorado is a large fish in the sub-tropics. Dazzling golds… blues. Greens. But when they're caught, brought out of the water…" Benji trailed off.
Benji blinked. "They lose their color. Grey. They slowly turn grey as they die."
"Merda, she's not dead, Dr. Chenysh! You saw it… her heart still beats." He peeled off his gloves and tossed them in the hazardous materials container. "That's the best thing about this creature. She'll mend over the next few days and then we'll have another go. The perfect test subject, eh? Next week should be very interesting."
Dr. Jacoe had whistled as he'd cleaned up, wondering out loud what would happen to her tail if he amputated one of her legs. To himself, he speculated on impregnating her… whether a hybrid fish-human child was possible, or if the mermaid were capable of a human orgasm. His morning erection that had never really waned now found new life as the possibilities of using the mermaid in that way spun out in all directions. All in the name of research, of course.
But Benji had only stared at the girl's hands, long after she'd gone still, watching the blood stained skin of her palms miraculously knit back together. She'd sliced them open with her claws, clenching her fists against the agony.
And he couldn't explain it, but he felt compelled to let her go… almost as if it were from a higher authority, certainly a command outside himself. As he mopped up the blood beneath the surgical table, Benji Chenysh vowed that when she was healed, he'd help her back home. Whatever the cost.
There was a strange boy on the floor directly above the basement laboratory, who now knew that he'd never see the mysterious girl again if he kept taking the medicine they gave him. So he'd stopped taking the pills a week ago. He might have never seen her at all if one of the nurses hadn't neglected to bring his cup full of tiny brown pills one night. But she had forgotten, and the bright flash of the girl's glittering scales through his dreams a few hours later had been enough to jolt him upright in the middle of the bed, gasping. He'd fallen out of his sheets in a blind tumble of limbs and hurt and longing. .
Her shy smile had been a heaven he hadn't known existed, her curves, her vivid colors simply exploded deep in his chest until every inch of his aching body was filled with her light.
The boy thought he might love her.
After that, sleep hadn't come for hours and hours. He'd stared into the dark of his room, cataloging her face in his head, every tiny, beautiful detail.
Something else had happened after he'd stopped taking the pills... there were strange voices in his head. They weren't stray, ghostly voices; they were attached to people. It sounded crazy, but he could hear them thinking… not in so many words, but through their eyes in images, feelings and yearnings, even memories. It was strange and familiar to him both at the same time. Like a curtain had been drawn back to reveal a room he'd always known was there but had simply overlooked for a while.
He'd wondered what else he'd forgotten. Was the beautiful girl in the water someone he failed to remember? He vowed to himself that he'd pay more attention, though that sometimes made his head ache. But all this had happened before they'd strapped him down and put something over his face that made him go to sleep. This was before he woke up in his bed and discovered that his eyes didn't work anymore.
They just… didn't work. No matter how many times he blinked the world stayed dark.
Days ago when he'd still had eyesight he'd stumbled from the bed to look in the mirror. He'd turned his face this way and that, ran his fingers over his smooth jaw, trying to remember who or what he was. Green eyes…
"What is grass, mother? Today she whispered things in my ear, she said my eyes were pretty. Green like grass, like the leaves in springtime. Is that good, mother?" He glanced down, bashful. "I find I want to please her."
"That child is in love with the surface world," his mother said with a knowing look. "I know she's the princess but be careful with her, my son. Guard her from trouble if you can. I think you're the only one she'll hear anyway."
The memories flickered away, sunlight on water, lost, and all that blinked back at him was the same pale, unfamiliar boy that he met now only through the minds of others. A boy with dark, haunted eyes… a ghost with razor teeth. His head was shaved to make all the surgeries easier. One of the nurses had remarked out loud that he looked as if he'd been to war, whatever that meant, with his temple constantly wrapped in a swath of bloodstained gauze. Another passing doctor thought of Frankenstein in his head when he glanced at the boy, a character from his new favorite book. The boy knew books, but he didn't know the thing that flashed through the doctor's mind… a scarred, lumbering monster, angry, bellowing.
The last surgery had left him blind but his eyes themselves didn't hurt at all. He'd pressed on them gently after he'd woken up and then later, rubbed hard. It hadn't mattered. No, the doctors had cut out that part of his head… the part that had made his eyes see. The boy didn't know how. But then there was so much he didn't understand. Dr. Newton kept wondering when he'd be able to see again, and always asked the boy to tell him if he did, the moment he did. He seemed to be waiting, like it was only a matter of time. As if the boy could heal himself.
Sitting on the edge of his bed, the boy touched the fresh bandage and winced; trying to jog his memory beyond the bland, sterile room he was in right now. He couldn't, but he wasn't surprised. He'd had a name at one point but he'd forgotten that as well.
It was possible that the mysterious glittering girl was a figment of his imagination, a side effect from the pills they'd given him before. The doctors had told him that he might have strange dreams. But the boy found he couldn't bear to believe that. He shifted on his feet, wanting to slip out and check the door at the end of the hallway again, but knew it was too soon. The urge to turn the handle and open the door was like a splinter under his skin, itchy, persistent. He always wanted to check the door; he didn't know why. The why didn't seem as important as the get up and just do it, do it, do it, but he wondered. He wondered.
Maybe the girl would be there. Maybe she was waiting for him on the other side. Maybe he was crazy.
Whether he was crazy or not, the girl was his window to another world, and the most important thing in his pathetic, lonely little sightless life.
He decided that he didn't mind being crazy.
The next morning on his early rounds, Dr. Newton noticed that the boy seemed more alert. That he looked stronger, a little bit of color back in his face. With some alarm, he grabbed the boy by the arms and shook him, demanding to know if he was taking his medicine. His thoughts were frantic, wondering if he should add more opiate pills to the boy's daily dosage or if he should begin regular injections. Forcing laudanum down his throat was a possibility as well, but the doctor wasn't ready to resort to that quite yet… the opium interfered with the healing process and he was afraid of overdose. Certainly addiction. But right now it was the only way to control the boy at all.
Out loud, Dr. Newton angrily reminded him that he must take every last one of the pills if he ever wanted to get better. His hands tightened painfully on the boy's arms and he shook him again hard for good measure.
The snarling rage that erupted out of the boy's throat surprised them both. Releasing him immediately, the doctor jumped back, pressing an emergency button on the wall. He made soothing noises while he watched the boy with wide eyes, staying very, very still.
The boy's chest rumbled uncontrollably, and the sour smell of Dr. Newton's fear made the hair stand up on the back of his neck. It made his fingers curl, and his teeth itched to bite and tear, to kill... not for substance, but for protection. A fearful enemy was unpredictable.
But when another man in a white coat burst through the door with a syringe, the boy calmed himself immediately, shrinking back against the bed. No, please, no more medicine. He drew his arms and legs in, and covered his head with his arms. Through the other man's eyes he saw Dr. Newton hold his hand up.
The boy gratefully retreated to the colorful world inside his head. He was still looking for his glitter girl but this time he wasn't worried; this was one of her favorite games. They were older now and their amusements had grown with them. His tail was fast and powerful, and sparked a vivid red and copper when the sun streams lit up the water. His mind was full of the way she stroked him as he searched for her, how it felt when she slid the blunt tip of her claw under the scales at the base of his fin when… there, through the reef, her hazel eyes blinked and he lunged. She squealed in delight and darted away, a promise in her smile as she looked at him over her shoulder. She let him catch her and pull her inside the little cave where no one could see the secret games they played. She purred and pressed up against him when he kissed her mouth, and his fingers caught on the tiny starfish in her hair.
Turn the door handle...
He blinked rapidly, the colors of the water fading.
He wanted desperately to leave this place, to find her. Wherever she was where he wanted to be.
"Edward?" Dr. Newton's voice was loud and angry. He was still holding his hand up to the other man. "Edward, tell me the truth. Are you taking your medicine? I will know if you lie to me."
Edward… was he Edward?
The boy listened to the doctor's mind, and saw that it really didn't matter how he responded; the medications would be adjusted anyway. So he lied and nodded dutifully, telling the doctor exactly what he wanted to hear.
Dr. Newton finally waved at the other doctor to go away. Sinking down on the edge of the bed with a kind of forced cheeriness, he gingerly patted the boy's knee.
"You're not getting any better, Edward," he said, speaking slowly and deliberately, like Edward was unintelligent just because he couldn't make their sounds. A response struggled behind the boy's lips but he didn't dare. The one time he'd tried to speak, all that spilled out was a series of confusing clicks and noises. "You have a debilitating sickness in your head," the doctor continued. "Do you remember that? That's why you've lost your eyesight. You mustn't fight me, do you understand? I'm trying to help you. You'll have to trust that I know what's right."
Edward nodded again, even when he saw from the doctor's thoughts that he was lying. And that they were planning to make him sleep just so they could cut his head open again. They were afraid of him for some reason, afraid of what he could do.
What could he do? He didn't think he knew, as he patted the bandage again. It was dry, no blood this time, but oh, how his head ached inside. He was restless and raw somehow… hollow inside. And his legs were beginning to feel funny. They felt wrong.
"Can you see anything?" Dr. Newton clicked a penlight and flashed it in his eyes. "Anything at all?"
Edward shook his head. And that was the truth.
Good Lord, that young man still looks so handsome, even with all those ugly sutures sticking out of his head. Poor thing, blind and dumb... lying there at death's door. Shame. Wonder if he has any last requests. I sure as hell wouldn't mind seeing what he had under that hospital gown.
Blinking rapidly at that last thought, Edward pushed the disconcerting images away. The thoughts had waddled in the door with his night nurse, Mrs. Stanley. He felt the sexual need welling in her and it unsettled him. And he wasn't even wearing a… what had she thought? A hospital gown? He felt his body... bare chested but on his legs was obviously a pair of pants. Scrub pants, the doctor had called them.
"Still not sleepy, Edward?" Mrs. Stanley quickly took his temperature and clucked her tongue. He knew he wouldn't have one. He didn't think he'd ever had one.
I suppose the almighty doctors will want me to clip his nails again before I go home. I don't mind doing it for Edward although I wish they'd give me a little of whatever he's on… I've never seen fingernails grow so fast. Sharp too. I'll bring a file so I can blunt the edges a little…
Edward cocked his head and felt the ends of his fingers curiously. He'd never noticed his nails before. Strange… now he had the vague feeling that they should be longer… much longer. He flexed his hands tentatively, curled his fingers in. He thought of his girl again. Always, the girl.
Mrs. Stanley was the one who'd given him his name. She'd taken one look at the John Doe on his chart and marked through it with the clicky pen in her pocket. "You look like an Edward to me," she'd said. "Edward Anthony... That's what I would've named a baby boy if the Lord'a seen fit to give me one."
Even without sight he knew she wore a horrid happy grin on her face, a bizarre contrast to the bitter thoughts that whirled in her head. She'd been soft hearted when she was younger, but all that sweetness had been eaten up long ago when her husband left her for not bearing a son. Even after she'd given him seven healthy daughters. "You're cleared to take something for insomnia, you know. All you have to do is ask." She stood silent like a sentry in the doorway, hands on her hips until he shook his head.
Thank you, he wanted to tell her, watching through her eyes, as she wrote things he didn't understand on the clipboard hanging on the end of his bed.
"Well, suit yourself. I'll be back to see about you at three. Just buzz if you need anything." Mrs. Stanley nodded and gently closed the door, leaving the room in darkness.
Edward lay back in an attempt to get comfortable but it was difficult to relax. The fire in his head never went away. It churned his stomach and left a funny taste in the back of his throat. He thought about feeling his way to the bathroom.
But the urge to get up and check the door at the end of the hallway was stronger.
There were long and elaborate dreams that came every night now. They'd started a few days ago… weeks ago? There was no way to be sure. It was hard to remember time when everything was always the same. The dreams though... they were wild, rich and colorful, full of flash and light, depth and feeling. So real… a life under the water. A life where he was content, secure. Loved. There was beauty there, in every corner. And then there was the mysterious girl with the long dark hair and laughing eyes; she belonged to him, he knew it. Beautiful, how she'd glittered blue and silver when the sunlight shafted through the water where they lived; where they played and loved. The decadent way she'd smiled and spread her legs just for him when he'd surprised her, sunning on her favorite rock. In his strange dreams he could have legs too, just like her; he could feel the moss beneath his knees as he moved inside her body. Her gasps of pleasure made him burn in ways he hadn't known he'd forgotten.
The girl was important to him in every way... she'd been his joy, his heart. His life.
The dreams were so wonderful that that he hadn't wanted to wake up. But he did. He always did.
The hallway was empty and he stumbled barefoot over the cold, slick floor, his hand running along the wall for balance. The acrid chemical cleaners from the night workers burned his nose. Almost there... he'd counted the steps before. The heavy door at the end was always locked but maybe, just maybe the handle would turn this time. Maybe...
A trembling loathing swelled inside him; he felt worthless in every conceivable way. Sinking down to the floor at the end of the hallway, he pressed his cheek to the tile and lay there until Mrs. Stanley found him. Tired, he was so tired and the stabbing pain in his head had made him sick. She cleaned him up, muttering, and walked him back to the white, changeless room where there was no past and no future.
That night his dream was different, if it was a dream at all. There were no doors in this hallway, no locks to rattle and turn, but the need to find the girl was stronger than ever. It whirled, a fever in his head, it ate at his gut. It was a physical torment that made him feel as if his chest were cracked open wide with the wanting.
Come... she called to the boy, her relief at finding him only serving to make him more frantic. At last, I feel you there. Come to me...
Where? He cried into the shadows. So close. Every inch of his body ached for hers. His claws scraped along the walls but there was nothing to hold on to.
I need you... take me home to my father.
Where? Please, I don't know... I don't understand... How? Who are you? The agony from their separation was doubled, it was debilitating, it came from her and him combined.
You know me. I am a part of you as you are of me. Forever, until the stars fall into the sea, remember? Come to me, come swiftly. You know me... please, my love, surely you know me. You've always known me.
Images from her blasted into his head, flashing so fast he could hardly see them all, could barely sense the scope of the long life they'd lived already.
They were children together, centuries ago, giggling, hiding from their mothers, playing chase under a red sinking sun…
He gasped and felt his palms hit the floor as he fell.
The momentous first time she crossed over from child to woman, the delights they found in her new body, and in his. Their wedding in the moonlight, and her father the king gave his blessing.
Edward cried out, an inarticulate sound of pleasure and pain. How could he have forgotten? Tears slipped down his face, and the tiny saltwater drops that fell on his hands made his fingertips tingle. The nails that Mrs. Stanley failed to trim began to scrape shallow trenches into the hard stone floor. He willed them to grow as something forgotten unfurled within his chest.
Their beautiful life together, too many years to count…
The door to his room rattled and banged.
"Edward?" Mrs. Stanley yelled through the door. "You all right, honey? Your door's locked…"
A silly game of hers, he'd warned her she was too close to the surface... a ship, their harpoons and nets, the humans who stole her away right before his eyes… He'd been angry, so angry at her carelessness, how she would never believe that anything bad could happen. But the absolute terror of losing her eclipsed everything else. If it were possible, he'd have given his life to save her any pain at all.
"Don't worry Edward, I know you're in there." Mrs. Stanley rattled the door in punctuation one more time. "I'll get the master key. Don't you move."
No time to raise an alarm. He swam tirelessly and followed the ship for days, frantic when her mind was silent within the bowels of the great, hulking thing. And finally, when the ship pulled into port, he watched as the men in white coats walked on board to take what wasn't theirs to have. He thought his heart would stop as they carried her, all rolled up in blankets like a shameful secret. Did she live? He couldn't concentrate enough to interpret the strange human mind quickly enough… If she were no more then he would die too. There was no life for him without her.
He hadn't understood then the depth of human wickedness. He'd followed and walked right into the building where they'd taken her, only to be taken himself.
What had they done to him? A single claw slid underneath the gauze wrapping, slicing it away from his head. He recognized the burning behind his eyes for what it was. He was healing. But there was so much he didn't remember, and he wasn't sure if healing could recreate his memories if they'd been so cruelly cut from his mind. He knew his mate's body, every inch, but he could not recall her name… There were no words in any language that could fully describe the savagery of humankind.
He blindly turned his head, hearing scratching, a whisper in the walls that never ended. He'd never killed anything needlessly but he would kill today. His claws were for made for building, creating homes and cities out of the rock of the earth, there on the ocean floor. What the humans called the merfolk were mostly gatherers, plant eaters; they lived in harmony with the other inhabitants of the sea.
Yes, he would kill today.
Rage and frustration consumed him completely but underneath all of that was her need, her love, her desperation for him.
Yes... I know you. I would know you blind, my heart. I'm in the dark and I can't see how to find you. How? There are no doors here, no windows...
She spun her comfort out to him. Wake, my own, I need you... I'm here; I'm here.
Who has harmed you? It tears at me; I can feel the shadow in my mind. I will destroy them all. He sharpened his claws, digging deeper in the tile.
No… wake, and find me. Wake now.
Edward woke hissing and scrabbling at his floor. He was not in the bed, but huddled in a corner of his room. Desperate, with a knowing touch of hopelessness, he knew that somehow she was here, below... close yet he could not find her. She was hurt... without him she was dying and their kind did not fade.
find her find her find her... his claws, his teeth were sharp for her. He would fight, kill those that hurt her, destroy those that dared to keep him from the one that belonged to him.
Edward cocked his head when the doorknob jiggled and opened, his lips pulling back from his teeth in an unconsciously feral smile.
The keys clattered together as Benji searched for the one to open the great double doors of the hospital. It was early for him, damned early. The crickets still chattered in the grass. Finally, he found the key and opened the door, slipping quietly inside the building. He wasn't sure why he felt the need for such stealth but he found himself slinking in the shadows anyway.
"Dr. Chenysh?" The night shift guard grinned when Benji jumped, showing gums and a few lonely yellow teeth. "Thought that was you comin' in early."
Benji pushed his glasses up. "Morning, Joey. Too early if you ask me."
"I hear ya, I hear ya."
"Listen..." Benji scrubbed his chin. "I've got a few pieces of equipment I'll be moving around today… ah, some of it outside so I'll need the doors unlocked for an hour or so."
"You seen the whitecaps out on the ocean this morning? They're talking hurricane, y'know. I hope you're battening down the hatches. Somebody out there's angry, I tell you what."
"Well, whoever's stirrin' up all that trouble way out in the water. Whoever makes the storms and th' tidal waves and th' hurricanes. They got it in for us today, that's for sure."
"Right. Well, we're several miles from the shore. I wouldn't worry too much." Benji checked his watch. "So, the doors?"
"Sure, doc, I'll leave 'em unlocked. Which ones again?"
"Just my floor, Joey. In the next few minutes or so."
But five minutes later, Joey had already forgotten which doors he was supposed to leave unlocked for an hour. And he didn't feel like walking all over creation to find Dr. Chenysh so he could ask him again. The storm outside was weighing on his mind and besides, it was almost quittin' time. So as he walked his final rounds he unlocked them all. When the staff came in they'd lock them all back anyway. It was so early, and it was just an hour. What could it hurt?
Dr. Chenysh watched the mermaid for the last time and sighed, a great sense of hopelessness washing over him. He wondered if he could still go through with his plan. He wondered why he was pretending he still had a choice in the matter. God, he hated this lab; he'd always hated it. Dark and dank and depressing. It was early morning but the night seemed to go on and on. There was a tiny window at the top of one of the cinderblock walls, too small to serve any sort of purpose except to make you wish for a bigger window.
"Just one last time," he murmured to the girl in the tank. "I'll sedate you one last time just so I can get you out, all right? And then I'll carry you down to the water myself. You'll be able to swim away and forget all about this place. I wish I could do that."
He wished the mermaid could understand.
Even though it was still dark outside, time was moving forward and Dr. Jacoe would be here soon. If all went according to plan, the lab would be empty by the time he walked in the door.
Somehow Edward knew that this time the door would be unlocked. The blood that he'd left pooling in his room followed him in tiny drops down the hall, and lingered on the edge of the door as he made his way down the stairs. Mrs. Stanley would live, but it wouldn't be a pleasant recovery. She'd been annoying but kind and he'd had no true wish to kill her. She'd just been in the way.
Down, down, the water called to him with every step. Cool, wet, deep… He could smell it now, the briny salt of it. He could imagine the chill slide of it over his skin. Home. The feelings started as a light caress, a tickle in his stomach that grew quickly, hunger, need, desire. Every breath he took felt forced, his legs heavy and awkward. Soon though, soon they would be free.
Edward entered a new room and sniffed; the air was noxious, heavy with sea salt and blood. His head buzzed and he searched for someone's eyes to look through. There, a dying man, gutted, his limbs skewed, his body bleeding out all over the hard stone floor. Breath hitched in his lungs, a death rattle, and his hand was searching for glasses that were all the way across the room. Benji… Edward picked the name out of the man's head.
"What have they done to you?"
His head snapped to the side when he heard her soft clicking call. The sounds came to his ears but her words had echoed inside his mind. She was there right in front of him, his beautiful one, her blue green tail slapping wetly against the floor.
"Are you unharmed? What…" He paused in his thought, suddenly unable to process the tank with its fetid water, the gleaming knives and other sharp things hanging on the walls. Terror was everywhere in the room. This was where she'd been? He wanted to die, thinking of what she'd endured.
"What have they done to you!" She cried pitifully and he could feel her gaze sweep over the gruesome black sutures in his head. He made his way slowly to her side and lay down beside her, drawing his hand up the slickness of her tail. Breathed into her mouth until he could feel her heart calm.
"It doesn't matter. You know this. The hurts will fade with time."
"Your eyes… You don't see me, why don't you see me?" Her hands ran over his face, frantic, thumbs tracing delicately over his closed eyelids. He felt her mind anxiously reach out, coil around his as if she were hanging on for support. "I was right to kill this man." Her thoughts went to the man called Benji. "He was taking me from the water so he could put me back on the table once more. I want to kill them all."
"No, I want you safe. I'll carry you to the water if I have to." His hands smoothed over her scales, willing her to change. "Can you walk?" He wanted to assure himself that she was whole in every way but the depravity of the room stole his breath. He wanted outside.
"This is my fault, my fault, I'm so sorry… tell me what they did."
"I will tell you as much as I can remember once we're safe, my love," he begged. "Please, let us leave this place."
"They hurt you, as they hurt me. My father will destroy this city." She arched, sighing, as she changed in his arms. Her legs rubbed together and he helped her to stand. "He is here already."
"Yes. I can feel him. It's time for us to go." The rain lashed at the window, the wind howled. "Will you be my eyes? He asked shyly, hesitantly. He handed her a lab coat to cover her nakedness.
"Always." Her heart broke. "You will heal… but let me take care of you."
"And I, you." He thought at her gently, kissing her as they walked out into the storm.
Ahh, la mia bella sirenetta… Ah, my beautiful little mermaid
This story is obviously not in present time, but I left it fairly vague as to what time it actually was on purpose.
Frankenstein was written by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley in June 1816.
Thanks for hanging in there until the end!