'You're going to meet them? Tonight?' Lewis demanded. 'And they don't want me to come with you? I wonder why that is.'
Emma, Rikki, and Cleo were hanging out at the beach. They sat up where the grass stopped, and the sand began. It was a little windy, but the sun was out and it was a hot day so the wind wasn't particularly bothersome.
'I think we should do it,' Cleo said. 'I agree with Emma. Bella really needs us.'
'How do you know it was really Bella?' Rikki asked. 'What if it's another mermaid in disguise? What if one of them has the power to change faces?'
'That's crazy...' Cleo murmured, though there was doubt in her voice. She didn't think she really understood mermaid powers anymore.
'So, Cleo's in. Rikki?'
Rikki thought about it for a moment. From what she heard, these mermaids didn't have the most dangerous powers ever. Come to think of it, with the power to read minds and use light, it was no surprise they swam during the night. It would be too dangerous for them at day, they'd have no way to defend themselves if a shark appeared.
'All right, I'll go.' Rikki said. 'But if I suspect something's up, I'll burn them.'
Lewis forced a laugh. 'Now, I don't think we have to go that far.' He paused. 'But be on your guard. See if you can learn anything more about their powers. What happens to them during the full moon, for instance. Did they ever get their powers amplified like you guys did? They were never in the pool with you when that happened.'
Emma realized something. 'You're right. And when Charlotte was around they didn't show their faces at all, even though she attacked us mainly at night time.'
'I guess Kaihan would be able to sense people, and then avoid them. Maybe their powers aren't amplified after all... We may have an advantage.' Lewis continued Emma's line of thought, putting his hands together. 'See what they want.'
The girls nodded.
'No mind reader is going to stop us!' Cleo said enthusiastically, though her voice wavered. She was nervous about having her mind read too. What if that Kaihan girl heard something embarrassing? Maybe she was used to that kind of thing, though.
The sun was about to set. The girls got to their feet, turning toward Lewis.
'We'll call you if we need you,' Emma said, putting her hand on Lewis's shoulder.
Lewis smiled up at her, looking at Cleo and nodding.
The girls ran into the water and dove, descending into the ocean.
They had been swimming for twenty minutes, exploring areas they had already seen before. They soon found a nice cosy rock to hide under, making sure there weren't any sharks around. The sun was soon below the horizon, and the ocean became very dark. The girls all held hands, hoping they wouldn't lose complete visibility this deep in the water. Unfortunately, that was exactly what happened. All they could see was a faint glimmer of moonlight above their heads.
They'll find us, Cleo told herself. Kaihan and Amari will find us, and guide us back to their place.
Sure enough, after ten more minutes of waiting in the depths of the ocean, a bright red light appeared behind some coral. In a few seconds, the light emerged from the coral and a single mermaid appeared. It was Amari. Lit by red light, she made a 'follow me' motion with her hand. The girls swam after the mermaid as they ascended. Once sixty meters deep, they headed north, and slowly made their descent to a large rock bed after fifteen minutes.
Cleo had swam by this place during the day, but she had never seen any sleeping mermaids. There were none now, either. She didn't understand why Amari was taking them there. Suddenly, though, the red light illuminated the largest rock, and a hole appeared at its bottom. Amari swam in first and made a sharp ascent. Rikki, Emma, and Cleo followed in single file. Cleo knew she didn't need the powers to read minds at that moment, she could see from the look on her friend's faces that they were thinking the same thing as she was. If there was a mermaid that could move rock, would they trap them in it like that Han Solo guy in Star Wars?
The water broke, and the girls pushed themselves up onto a flat dome-shape of rock. The red light disappeared, but a white light was above them below the ceiling, so it didn't matter. Kaihan, Bella, and Chiyo sat, completely dry, on old mattresses. Rikki extended her hand and made a fist. Steam filled the room and she removed the tails on the four girls. Amari looked at Rikki with wide eyes, and Kaihan and Chiyo looked impressed. They obviously had no easy way of getting dry quickly.
'That is so amazing,' Chiyo said suddenly, her voice a little rough from disuse. She cleared her throat loudly, and moved aside to let Rikki and Emma sit next to her. Cleo sat next to Kaihan and Bella. Amari sat on the rock in front of their old belongings. There wasn't much room in there, so they had to make use of the mattresses for space. Besides, the rock would get uncomfortable quickly. There was a tense silence. Cleo couldn't help noticing how unkept the girls looked. There were a few old razors lying around and tweezers, but their hair was quite long with lots of split ends. This train of thought was interrupted by Kaihan.
'I thought it might be a good idea for everybody to introduce themselves...'
'Why?' Rikki demanded. 'You know everything about us already if you've read our minds, why don't you just tell us about yourselves, and what you want from us.'
Cleo expected Kaihan to lash out at Rikki, but she had clearly acquainted herself with that way of thinking already because she smiled broadly, showing off some slightly yellow teeth. How could they live without washing their teeth? Cleo thought. But she was distracted. She had more important things to focus on.
'More importantly,' Emma started, glancing at Rikki who nodded in encouragement. 'We're interested in knowing how the full moon affects you guys, what your powers are, and if you've ever experienced an amplification of powers...'
'Yeah,' Cleo nodded, butting in. 'If you'd like to tell us, we'd be very happy to hear about it.'
Amari and Chiyo nodded, hanging on their every word. Kaihan did not look fazed though. Maybe she already knew they were going to ask these types of questions.
'We will start with our powers,' Kaihan said. 'We discovered them over time after we became mermaids, although mine came very quickly. It was very bothersome at first, because I could not control what would come to me. It gave me very bad headaches, and I couldn't focus on anything for awhile. It was very debilitating. That said... My telepathic powers...' Kaihan thought for a moment. 'Can reach maybe 300 meters. The problem is that the further out it gets, the weaker the information I can get is. I get the clearest reception with people within 50-100 meters. I learned to control my powers though so it is highly selective. I can shut off all noise if I really wanted to.'
Chiyo looked at Kaihan and then quickly at the ground. She spoke, afraid to catch the new mermaids eyes. Bella smiled at Cleo, Emma, and Rikki. The four exchanged glances. But this wasn't the time to play catch-up.
'My power is to move and alter rock,' Chiyo said slowly. 'It doesn't seem to be very specialised to certain kinds of rocks which I find a little strange. I can't move the rocks in the moon pool, though.'
All the girls in the rock nodded. Amari spoke, now.
'I can make lights of any colour I like. Some sea animals are more receptive to some than others, so it can be useful as a hunting tool. Like angler fish.'
Cleo remembered the Angler fish. It had a light that dangled from its head and it would lure small fish to it that way to eat. Cleo imagined Amari with a light dangling from her head.
'That's it?' Rikki asked, evidently surprised. 'Can't you do anything else?'
'Well, we were getting there,' Kaihan said, apologetically. 'We did experience a power amplification once, many years ago... Shortly after we became mermaids, actually. It allowed me to speak to others with my mind, not merely read them, and it also increased the distance at which I could hear. In essence, it offered me more versatility. I can even communicate telepathically with animals and hear their thoughts, but doing so in a way they can understand, and a way I can understand, is beyond me at this point. Sometimes you can see images in their minds like fish or food, but nothing very special.'
'I can make earthquakes,' Chiyo said, softly. And this new fact surprised everyone. 'They can range in severity but it is a very dangerous thing to mess with. That was my amplication. Thankfully I can put the earth back together again, but that also can cause problems.'
Amari spoke now. 'My amplification...' She mumbled to herself for awhile, her black hair falling across her face like she was embarrassed. 'I can see in the dark.'
'Cool! You mean, without the light bulbs?' Rikki asked, suddenly quite interested. Amari nodded. Rikki continued. 'So you use the light to help guide others?'
There was a moment of silence. The girls were absorbing this information.
'What happens to you in the full moon?' Emma asked, suddenly. Bella perked her head up to listen to the answer. The girls hadn't been very open with Bella about the effects of the full moon on them until then. The three asian mermaids looked uncomfortable.
'We don't remember any of the times we've been under the moon's influence. Once one of us was hit, it is so easy to get wet, especially us living like this, so we have never been able to avoid it.' Kaihan said.
'Not even you?' Rikki asked, staring at Chiyo. 'Couldn't you make a hiding place somewhere?'
'I have sometimes,' Chiyo said, 'But I can't observe the others from there, so I have no idea what they do when they're under the moon influence.'
Emma looked really uncomfortable. She couldn't imagine what sorts of crazy things might have happened, but for some reason she thought she might have heard something if what they did was extremely outrageous.
'Kaihan has told you guys about our powers, right?' Cleo asked suddenly. Kaihan nodded.
'So what did you want from us? Why, after all this time? You've never gotten in contact with us.'
'I sensed your powers only once or twice. But we've never gone out at day time. We were frightened that you might hurt us. And... Besides...' Kaihan took a deep breath. 'We didn't think you guys would be able to help us.'
'Oh,' Cleo said, a little disappointed. 'Wait, help you with what?'
'We want to go back on land,' Chiyo said loudly. Her Japanese accent shone through very strongly, then. 'We may be mermaids, but we're also humans, and we miss having ordinary lives. If we went on land though, somebody would recognise us. The teachers we had at school here still live around here, and they probably remember us.'
'They do remember us,' Kaihan said. 'It's too dangerous. We've been living here illegally for the past 8 years. Our visas expired years ago. But... Lewis.'
Cleo remembered... Lewis had the power to erase memories.
'We want Lewis to help us. We want him to come onto land with us, and we want him to erase the memories of everyone who sees us.'
'So you just want to take advantage of his power?' Rikki demanded, her voice rising to full height. Emma grabbed Rikki's arm and looked at her sternly. Rikki calmed down. 'It's just... I can see why you want to but... Don't you think it's weird that there's a merman in the first place?'
'Yes,' the ex-students said in unison.
'But we have no capacity to learn why that happened, like you.' Amari said.
Cleo looked at Bella, who looked forlorn. She clearly felt like these girls deserved to go back on land, or maybe she was worried about home. Maybe the latter.
'How are we going to get Bella back home? She was probably under some weird trance and ate weird fish we've never heard of on the way here.' Emma spoke up, noticing Bella's face. The girls all nodded, but they were lacking ideas.
'Maybe we could find a map and...' Cleo began, but Bella shook her head.
'You might not be able to tell, but I'm dreadful at directions, especially under the water.'
'Maybe if you got hit by the full moon, you'd find your way home?' Cleo said. Bella laughed.
'Yes, and convince a moon struck mermaid to leave Mako and go back to America? That'll work.' Her voice dripped with sarcasm, and Cleo shut up quite quickly. She knew Bella was upset, but she didn't need to be nasty about it. Maybe she didn't like eating fish or something.
'We ought to think on that one a little more.' Rikki said, and she looked around the mermaids, keen on finishing the conversation. 'So...' She addressed the mermaids. 'You guys just want to go to the movies and eat some fries. What then? What will you do after that? Do you have any plans to go back home?'
The asian girls frowned.
'I mean,' Rikki continued. 'You ran away to spend time in Australia, but you don't even get to experience land anymore. What do you want Lewis to do, completely erase any memory traces of you girls in every person in town, so you can live there permanently?'
Asami's eyes were red, as if she were about to cry. She burst out.
'What are we meant to do! We can't go home! We can't do anything. It would be too suspicious that we've lived alone all this time.'
'Why can't you just say that you were living on Mako and then get sent back home? What's wrong with that?'
'We hate it back home,' Chiyo growled, sounding surprisingly vicious. 'It's better to be in the water than be back in Japan.'
'Or Singapore,' Kaihan mumbled.
'Are you sure that's the girls talking, or the mermaids talking?' Rikki continued, getting more and more angry with the girls. 'You ought to think about that.'
There was a terse silence.
'I guess we're done for now,' Emma stated blankly, eyeing Bella. 'We'll find a way to bring you back home, Bella, don't worry. And... We'll run your idea past Lewis.'
Kaihan nodded, but then spoke up, suddenly.
'I thought I might tell you girls something.' She began. 'I sensed it from Lewis. It's the reason we didn't want him to come here today.'
'Yeah?' Rikki asked, quite rudely, ignoring the pinch from Emma. 'What's that?'
Kaihan looked to Chiyo and Asami, and frowned.
'He has the power to control mermaids. He hasn't completely realised it yet, but it will happen. He is a mind-changer... I am a mind-speaker.'
'How do you know?' Emma asked slowly, not quite comprehending what she was hearing. 'How can you know something like that if he doesn't? Doesn't that mean you can tell us why we've all got such different powers?'
Kaihan seemed either unable or unwilling to say at that moment.
Suddenly, she pulled a mattress out of the way and urged all the girls to look at the rock underneath. Scratched into the rock with a sharp piece, was a very accurate drawing of Lewis with the words "mind changer" carved messily underneath. It was eerie. It was extremely well drawn.
'So what does a drawing show us other than she has a talent for artwork?' Rikki said, sounding a little weary. Cleo had a very bad feeling about this. Something felt very wrong.
'I didn't write this,' Kaihan said slowly. 'It was the mermaid me... During the full moon, I made this.'
Cleo realized then that she had lied to her friends. They knew a little about what happened during the full moon. Just not most of it.
'So how do you know he can control mermaids then?' Cleo asked. 'Isn't this is just a picture of Lewis with some random words underneath? It doesn't really say all that much...'
Kaihan pushed the mattress further out of the way... There was a picture of Lewis as a merman, pointing toward something in the water, mermaids following his point with empty eyes. There was something strange about Lewis though... He had much longer hair, and large sharp teeth, and his jaw was extended like some kind of reptile. It was as if he had turned into a monster. It was a very frightening image; not so much in how it was drawn, but what it meant for the girls. Their mermaid instincts were tingling, and it frightened them; they knew there was truth in those carved images.
'Is this some kind of joke?' Cleo asked.
Kaihan shook her head.
Emma's eyes were wide. Rikki had lost her breath. Asami, Chiyo and Bella all showed signs that they had never seen something like this before. She had been hiding it, evidently. Kaihan stared at the image, her eyes glazed over.
'So... you're saying you're some kind of prophet?' Emma asked.
Kaihan nodded slowly.
'I don't entirely understand it myself, but that's what happened.' Kaihan turned to Bella and her friends. 'I'm sorry I didn't say earlier. But... Bella... This might be a way for you to get home.'
Bella stared at Kaihan with disbelief. The light above their heads even flickered, as if the uncertainty in the rock cave was causing Asami's powers to falter. Bella could go home? That is... If they could convince Lewis to do it. But why wouldn't he? He'd be happy to help out an old friend.
The image of Lewis with sharp monstrous teeth and long hair stayed etched into their minds. It was scary. Lewis was such a kind and clever person; how could he become a monster?