illustrated by susieoh
I woke up with a mouth full of sand.
The plane. Something had happened….
I sat up, spitting sand out as I went, and my head told me just what a shitty idea that had been. The plane had crashed. Shit. I went on a flight to Tahiti and ended up in fucking Lost. I hadn’t even made it to Tahiti.
I’d washed up on a deserted beach. That just figured. My hair was thick with sand and…oh, look, seaweed. Great. Fucking great. Okay. I had my bag. What was in my bag? No water, thank you fucking terrorists. My cellphone, fat lot of good it’d do me here, a wallet with a couple bucks and my credit card, a granola bar, and some chewing gum. And my bronzer, which had delightfully spilled all over everything else. “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” I grumbled at the universe, which didn’t seem to care.
I flipped open my cellphone just in case. Three bars. I squealed with delight, and pressed the preset for Leslie.
I wasn’t sure how much battery time I’d have, so I rehearsed in my head while the phone rang: Hey, Les, it’s me. My plane went down but I’m okay. They need to find me; maybe they can trace the call….
“No,” Les said, and it sounded like her voice was a long way away. “No, don’t pick it up. ‘S probably just Lina telling me she got off the plane. I’m not dealing with her now.”
“Mmmkay,” someone else said. A woman; I knew that voice. “C’mere.”
And then there were more sounds. Soft, squishy sounds. Sex sounds.
I’d almost died and my girlfriend was off having sex! With–
The voice. I did know that voice. Megan McWhore.
My girlfriend was having sex with Megan McWhore!
My headache completely dissolved in the wave of anger. I got up, snapping my phone shut, and made a list in my mind:
First, find civilization, or barring that, some kind of food and shelter.
Second, never use FlyByNite Airlines again, no matter how cheap their rates were.
Third, Once back in Boston, punch Megan McGeorge in the face.
Fourth, Move out. And demand palimony. That bitch.
The best thing to do, I decided, was to walk along the coastline. If there was civilization, they’d at least have an outpost there. Of course, the heel had broken on one of my shoes. Shit. I should’ve worn the sneakers and not packed them in my carryon.
I wondered where my carryon was. My sneakers were probably fish food now. I’d figured I’d never make it to the hotel gym, but I hadn’t realized a plane crash would be the reason.
I caught something out of the corner of my eye; a flash of color. I spun around, but it was gone before I could get my eye on it. Probably a bird or something.
Well, looking at the wildlife wasn’t going to get me off the beach any faster. Not that it wasn’t a nice beach, but I would have rather been in Tahiti, even in a boring conference room talking about corporate responsibility. It didn’t look like there would be much shelter if it rained, either. I took my shoes off and started walking.
Two hours later, I had made a full circuit. It was an island– a fucking island! No sign of people, no boats, no nothing. Not even another bedraggled survivor. At least I didn’t see any bodies, either. And there was a river, so I’d have some fresh water. I decided to follow it into the island next. At least it would give me something to do.
About twenty feet in, I found something that looked a little like a path. A trail, maybe, that animals took? What kind of animals would be on a tiny island?
Would they be hungry?
I followed the trail anyway– it wasn’t like I had anything better to do. I checked my phone, but it looked like the only place I could get bars was on the beach. I could start a signal fire there, I guessed, but I was no Girl Scout, and I wasn’t even sure where to start. The beach could wait a little longer.
The trail broke up in a few places, but it was generally clear, a line of dirt and sand extending farther and farther into the trees. Once the sand cleared I was fully into a rainforest, thick and vibrantly green, and no doubt full of poisonous snakes, spiders, and ants.
Les would feel bad when I’d been killed by a poisonous snake.
If they ever found my body.
I shook the morbid thoughts off and kept moving. There were definitely animals of some sort on the island– I caught a flash or two of brilliant plumage, and a few low, energetic rustlings near the ground– but my trip was luckily snake-free. I really didn’t like snakes. Les liked snakes, but fuck her.
I’d been walking for maybe twenty minutes when the forest cleared out and the temple appeared.
Well, I called it a temple, anyway. Who knows what it was? It was a high-pillared, carved stone building, right in the middle of the jungle, with the river routing right through the middle. It looked old, older than the Mayan ruins I’d seen in Mexico, older than the Egyptian pyramids I’d been dragged to on vacation when I was a kid. I was no archaeologist, though, and I couldn’t figure out who might have built it, or why. The floor was shaped like an octagon, and on each corner there were decorative fish– they looked a little like mermaids, with long hair, almost-human faces, and sharp, vicious teeth.
Someone had visited the island, anyway. Too bad they hadn’t left a decent boat.
Still, it had a few overhangs that would at least keep the rain off. I moved closer. The stone had once been white, but was covered with moss; blue-green nearest the water, but a vivid green as you went further up. The structure was astonishingly beautiful; simple, somewhat primitive, but not childish or poorly built. Who had built it, and why?
I had to get back to the beach. Maybe some more stuff would have washed up, and I wanted to get those bars back on my phone. I had to share this; had to tell someone about it.
I limped back to the beach– stupid shoes– and called my boss.
“Lina!” she said. “Where are you? Are you okay?”
“Yeah, but I don’t know where I am. It’s some kind of island. And there’s this building, it’s gorgeous–”
“Hang on, I’m going to find someone. We’ll track your signal. Hang on!”
“Okay, but I’m not sure how long the battery’s going to last.”
I could hear the sounds of a crowd. “What about where you are? Are there any landmarks?”
“I guessed that from ‘island,'” she said wryly. “Anything else? What about the sun? Where’s the sun at? That might help.”
I looked up. “…in the sky?”
“At what angle?”
I had flunked every math class I’d ever taken. “Um,” I said. And I saw a flash, again, out of the corner of my eye. “Hold on, I just saw something.”
“Are you okay? Are you being attacked?”
“I don’t think so,” I said, resisting the urge to ask What would you do if I were? and walking toward…whatever it was I’d just seen. Stupid, I knew, but it was really starting to bother me.
“Look, I’m at the security booth now. They’ll call the police, and we’ll get everything taken care of. Just stay on the line as long as you can, okay? I bet they can GPS your cell phone signal.”
“Okay,” I said. Karin always did like to talk. Sometimes when we went to lunch to discuss a project, we’d be there for two hours and not talk about the project at all, just our lives and the gossip around the office. But I could hear her getting the attention of someone at the security booth, and the words ‘plane crash’ and ‘survivor.’
And then I saw what I’d been glancing out of the corner of my eye.
I dropped the phone.
It was a mermaid. A freaking mermaid.
I vaguely heard, behind me, a tinny voice saying, “what kind of idiot uses FlyByNite Airlines, anyway?”
I didn’t care. FlyByNite Airlines suddenly seemed like the greatest idea I’d ever had.
She– she was a she, clearly– was gorgeous. Her skin was a bluish-black, more of a fish shade than a human one, but she had a beautiful, almost Asian face, with deep, dark eyes and long, silky-looking white hair.
She was smiling at me. Okay, her teeth were a little…shark-like, but still. She was hot. And she was a mermaid.
“Um,” I said. “Hi.”
She blinked at me. Was that supposed to be communication? I had no idea. I dropped down to my knees to get a better look at her.
She was half-in, half-out of the stream, her long, dark, blue-black tail disappearing into the water. There was an iridescence to her skin and scales; the scales started about waist-down, just like the cliches, and were a little more green than the rest of her skin.
She tipped her head to the side. It was cute.
It’s love, I thought.
Then my stomach rumbled.
She giggled. Oh, God, she was cute. She pushed her white hair back from her face and reached out, just brushing my stomach. “Um,” I said. “I didn’t pack a lunch. I have an energy bar–”
She was gone in a flash of fins. “Wait!” I said. “I won’t eat you, I promise!”
But that was it. She was fast.
…my phone. Were they still on the line? Did they hear any of that?
“Lina? Lina? I’m back, are you there?”
“Yes, yes, sorry, I dropped the phone.” It was true, anyway. “Did you hear me?”
“No. Just stay on the line, okay? We’ll get you help.”
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll have to go inland later, and there’s no reception there. I can only get signal on the beach. What about the crash? Did anyone else–?”
“They’re finding people in the ocean; they’re not sure how many. How much longer do you think your battery will last?”
“Um,” I said. “Where do you check that?”
“Lina,” Karin said, in a half-affectionate, half-annoyed tone I’d heard a hundred times before. “You–”
And then, in another shimmer of water and loveliness, the mermaid was back.
“Hey,” I said.
“Hold on,” I said. “There’s…something here I need to check out.”
“Don’t get eaten,” she squeaked, but I ignored her. Getting eaten was sounding kind of appealing.
“I’m gonna get some food too,” I added, “so I might be gone a while.” I put the phone down as carefully as I could, and walked back to the river where the mermaid was.
She had come back with a shell; a wide, thick shell full of food. “Oh.” I walked back to the river and kneeled down by her. “Thank you,” I said quietly, figuring the phone wouldn’t pick my voice up.
It was mostly raw fish. But hell, I’d had raw fish before. I could have been eating raw fish if I was in Tahiti where I was supposed to be. Okay, not with the heads, but it was the thought that counted, and she’d taken the scales off, so that counted for something, right?
I took a bite. It wasn’t bad. There was some fruit, too, and that was really good. “You’re very sweet,” I said, hoping that she’d take it as a compliment.
I went to take another piece of fish, and she stole it off my plate and giggled again. Damn, she was adorable. She had long, thin fingers, with short nails. They were beautiful, just like the rest of her. She popped the fish into her mouth, and then licked her fingers off, for good measure.
“So,” I said, trying not to stare too openly at her breasts, which were also pretty damn fine. “Um. Come here often?”
She said something. At least, I think she said something. It was a little like a sea lion trying to sing calypso.
“I see,” I said.
We kept talking. She sea-lioned at me, and I monkeyed back, and I think she told me she was at the island for some special reason, and I think I got through that my plane fell out of the sky, and we definitely got some flirting and giggling through.
She had the best giggle. That sounded human, even if nothing else out of her mouth did.
The sun was getting low in the sky by the time we finished eating– probably because we were too busy flirting to eat much– and she pointed away. “You’re going away when it’s dark?”
She flittered her fingers out toward the ocean. “Okay,” I said. “Will you come back?” I reached out and grasped her fingers and pulled them back. Her skin was cool, and smooth, no big surprise. The surprise was how happy she seemed to be touched. She nodded, and mimed the sun coming back up.
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”
She nodded, and then reached out to touch my blouse, taking the fabric gently between her fingers. “Um, yeah,” I said, “humans wear clothes. It’s a–”
And then her hand brushed out to touch my nipple. Oh. “I.” I said. “Um…”
She giggled again, and her fingers slowly reached to squeeze my breast. Was that…deliberate? I mean, I knew it was deliberate, but….
And then she leaned down to lick my shirt, and damn I’d had a long day and damn it felt good. “Um,” I said, because she had beautiful breasts, but aside from that she was fish parts, and I wasn’t sure what to do with those.
She reached over and pressed my hands down, and said something that might have been sea lion for “wait.” And then she pushed me down against the sand, pulled my zipper down– how the hell did she know how to do that?— and kissed my stomach.
Damn, I’d known she was hot, but her mouth was soft as a whisper. I reached over and touched her hair, which was rough and cool, nothing like it looked. More like seaweed, I thought for a second, and then I got distracted by her tongue, which was warm– warm in contrast to the rest of her, at least– and tracing a line from my navel down…
I pushed my shorts and underwear off and settled them further up the beach so they’d stay dry. The rest of me was plenty wet already. She bent her head farther down and licked at the hair for a moment, then frowned.
“Um, there’s…more there,” I said. “Than hair. Um.” I opened my legs slowly, letting my feet dip into the water. I took one of her slim hands and guided it between my legs, to the heat of my vulva, and in…I shuddered as she leaned down and tasted me. God. I wished I’d been somewhere with a shower before she–
And then I couldn’t think of anything but her thin, sure fingers, her long, talented tongue. She reached inside and licked me, dipping in and out, making me hum with desire, with need, with pleasure. I could feel my fingernails digging into the wet sand; that manicure cost a fortune, but fuck it. Damn.
I was shaking, aching with desire, with want. Her fingers brushed my skin, the thin line just before my ass, and then she slid a cool finger there, too. She had two fingers in me by the time I came in her mouth, begging, wishing I had a name to call out.
“Thank you,” I said, when I’d caught my breath. “You–”
But she was already gone.
It was getting dark, and cooler. I pulled my shorts and underwear– damn I was a wet mess– back on and walked back to my cell.
“Lina,” a man’s voice said. He had a thick, musical accent; oh, Tahiti, how could I be so close and yet so far? “I’m John Mangredo, from the Coast Guard. Are you still all right? Do you have fresh water?”
“Yeah. I’m fine. There’s water and fruit, too.” And other tasty treats I wasn’t about to mention. “But I’m going to have to go inland soon, there’s more shelter there, and my cell doesn’t work.”
“Does your phone have a camera?”
“If you send us pictures of the stars you can see, it’ll help us calculate your position. How much battery do you have left?”
“I’m not sure. I can take a picture or two, I think.”
“As many as you can, please.”
“Okay,” I said. “Tell Karin I’m still okay?”
I stayed out taking pictures of the stars until the battery died. I put the phone in my purse, just in case, and walked into the temple.
You’d think it would be uncomfortable as hell to sleep in a stone temple probably built by mermaids, and you’d be right, but I was so exhausted I slept anyway.
The next morning I woke up to the mermaid’s smiling, lovely face.
My head hurt like a motherfucker from the rocks– I’d tried sleeping on my bag, but that just made things poke into my face– but hell, it didn’t matter. I had a hot mermaid wishing me good morning. That made things pretty tolerable. She had another shell of food, too, which was even better. I noticed she’d gone heavy on the fruit. The girl was a dream.
And then I noticed her legs.
“Holy shit!” I said. She started laughing. She seemed to find my shock uproariously funny. I pointed at them. “Why. Why do you have legs? I mean, I’m not complaining, but why do you have legs?”
She explained. There were lots of hand gestures and references to the temple.
“Okay,” I said. “You know what? I don’t even care. I’m just going to enjoy this.” Her legs were thin and tapered like a tail, but there were small feet, with tiny, delicate toenails. She was just full of surprises, my mermaid.
I ended up eating a lot of the sushi off her stomach.
…and other places.
The next morning, I woke up next to her, cold as fuck, but satisfied. She was still sleeping, and still had legs. No armpit hair and no bush, which was weird, but not that weird. I decided to pick her some fruit for breakfast. It was the least I could do, really.
When I came back, she looked unhappy. She made plane gestures with her fingers. “I don’t know,” I said. “I have to go away at some point, but I’m not sure when.” A long-term relationship with a mermaid had never seemed in the cards. She was beautiful, but she was a fish and I was a monkey, in the end.
She clearly hadn’t been thinking long-term either. There were more gestures. More mermaids were coming. Lots more mermaids. Her concerned face indicated that they might not like a girl-loving human on her island.
And of course, there were the teeth.
“Oh,” I said. “I don’t know. They’re supposed to be coming to get me–” I gestured a boat– “But I don’t know when. When are your people coming?”
She shook her head; the question hadn’t gotten through. I tried miming sunrises and sunsets. That she got. And then she gestured back, her fingers flying, something I could only translate as “soon.”
“I don’t know when–”
And then, to my total relief and immense disappointment, I heard a man’s voice. “Lina! Lina, are you here?”
“I have to go,” I said. If someone found the temple, much less the mermaids–
She nodded. Bless her heart, she looked happy for me. Probably relieved I wouldn’t get eaten, but still. I kissed her goodbye and then ran back out to the beach, where John Mangredo was waiting for me.
I watched for her as the boat took me away. I didn’t expect to see her, but I still felt bad when I didn’t.
“Be safe,” I said, as the island disappeared over the horizon.
Three months later~
“That island you were found on,” Karin said, her fingers tapping on the keyboard as she scanned her email. “It disappeared.”
“Huh,” I said. I couldn’t say I was surprised, after all.
Karin shot me a skeptical look. “You don’t sound particularly shocked.”
“They told me it hadn’t been on the map,” I said, which was perfectly true.
“There’s something else you’re not telling me.”
I shrugged my shoulders. “Maybe,” I said. “Anything else exciting?”
She shook her head. “I think we can sleep in this morning.”
“Oh,” I said, raising my eyebrows. “I’ll need permission from my supervisor.”
“Granted,” she said, shutting the laptop down as I walked over to straddle her lap. Sleeping with the boss did have its advantages. And all that talking wasn’t really so bad after all. Especially in bed.
I kissed Karin’s neck and hoped things had worked as well for my mermaid as they had for me.