Tag Archives: Mermaid

First Lady of the Lake – Part 2

Image supplied by Luigi Diamante

The water in the tank proved to be very hot indeed and soon steam filled the air inside the bathroom, fogging the mirrors on the walls and leaving Megan swathed in a layer of perspiration that made her feel as though she had been sitting inside a sauna. Faced with the reality of not being able to escape the confines in which she had been left and tired in both mind and body of the situation that she had been forced to endure for the past two weeks, she had decided that the only logical thing to do under the circumstances was make use of the facilities for as long as she was able.

She stripped off the sacking that had been her only clothing in the time since she had become a mermaid and arched her back, liking the feeling of the heat as it seeped into her limbs and went some way towards easing the aches that she had become so used to while forced to survive in the wilderness.

While it was true that her new form was far less vulnerable to the cold than she had been as a human being, Megan still felt the chill and she was surprised to find that her body reacted in a very positive manner to the wet heat building in the bathroom. Some of the dirt which had encrusted her skin was even now starting as she perspired and she found that she could not prevent her fin from twitching and curling in an unconscious movement as if her tail were unable to contain the physical release of being bathed in steam.

When the tub was dangerously full, she turned off the taps and slipped head first into the water, her tail following her upper half beneath the surface and sending a cascade crashing onto the floor as she went. If Megan was even aware of the displaced water, she made no effort to poke her head above the water, instead she remained below, allowing the welcome heat of the bath she had drawn to envelop her totally.

The bathtub was larger than she had been expecting, but not large enough to be called excessive in its surroundings and had the look of something that might have once been used as a hot tub in another life. Though it was no more than a couple of feet deep, it was circular and wide enough for her to twist her body and stretch out the kinks that had defied her attentions on the floor beside it. Megan made full use of the space she had at her disposal to curl and uncurl, spinning from her back to her belly and then from her left side to her right as the need to stretch her tortured muscles gave way to the simple pleasure of moving underwater.

This was an entirely new experience from her own point of view, being warm and free to float in the water of the bath with no immediate fear of what would come along or how she would survive from one moment to the next. There was always in the background the reality of the fact that she was a captive, but for the immediate now all she had to do was simply what she was doing right there and then.

She found soap and lathered her torso, wincing as she touched the places where she still bore the grazes and bumps of the past fortnight. But no matter what pains she felt, it was a good feeling to finally be cleaning away the physical reminder of what she had been through to some small degree. Megan thought about continuing on below her waist, but stopped when she saw that the scales of her tail had not collected the dirt in the same way as her skin. Lifting the weight of her tail from the water, it was evident that this part of her body at least had resisted being cut or bruised in any way while she had been suffering by the lake. Balanced against the loss of her legs and the larger loss of her humanity, Megan supposed that she should think of such small mercies as a positive aspect of her new form.

Next she turned her attention to the crazy collection of tangles that had been made of her hair whilst she was roughing it and slowly losing the fight for survival. It had come as no shock to Megan that she had taken no time to even try to keep her hair from getting into such a state and a small part of her was ashamed at the way in which she now seized upon a bottle of shampoo and a comb. It was as though she were somehow committing an act of betrayal by jumping at the chance of washing away all trace of what she had been through, trying to lessen the importance of the cruelties to which she had been subjected.

Those thoughts were not enough to hold her back though, and she was soon lathering her chestnut hair into a soapy mass with both hands. She used the shower attachment to rinse the residue away and then spent a long and rather painful period of time meticulously combing out the knots and tangles. This required her to concentrate, her fingers working deftly to the accompaniment of the occasional cry of pain and the sound of her tailfin beating absently back and forth in the water.

Megan had expected her mind to be racing as she attended to her hair, but instead it drifted from what she was doing and became lost in the quiet solitude of the moment. It was as though now she had been finally taken away from the need to survive in the lake and before that the horror of her abduction; she was finally being given the space in which to rest. What might happen when her captor returned was simply not as important to her as the chance to be alone and untroubled at that particular time.

If she was honest, the period in which she had been stressed and troubled by the events in her life went back much further. Even before she had been kidnapped and undergone the still baffling transformation that had turned her into a mermaid, Megan had been faced with issues and challenges from which she could not escape on a daily basis. Pressures both personal and professional had not been left behind when she herself left office and it had been many years since she had been able to describe her life as even relatively devoid of mental and emotional strain.

For the time being at least, she admitted to herself that a small part of her was glad to be free of those millstones, to not be faced with them before she fell asleep at night and be confronted with them when she woke every morning. She even flirted with the idea of just letting it all go, forgetting the woman she had been and instead embracing the creature that she had been forced to become. If the mermaids in the stories had nothing to bother them beyond combing their hair just as she was doing at that very moment in time, then could she too not simply decide to give up on being an former holder of high office, partner in a failing marriage and fretting mother of three and instead become a mermaid who was happy to be just what she was and nothing more?

But then the facts of her situation came flooding back and she was reminded of the way in which she had been abused, violated and deprived of her rights. Was she really going to give up, stop fighting and surrender all that she had been for an easy way out?

She had never flinched from fighting her corner in the past and no matter that she had been human then and was a mermaid now, she was still Megan Jones and she would still make a good accounting of herself no matter what.

Satisfied that she had made something that was less than gruesome out of herself, Megan slid out of the bath and set about hunting for towels and anything that would be more dignified in terms of clothing than her improvised polythene top. Inside the locker that she had been directed to before being left alone she was rewarded with a pile of towels that smelled freshly laundered and a motley but not mean selection of clothes that might have served for a mermaid in need of covering rather than the means to make a fashion statement. Megan noticed the absence of anything containing legs and was reminded suddenly of the fact that she would be so restricted herself from now on, a reality that made her shake her head at how much the modern woman took the wearing of trousers for granted.

In the end she chose a simple white shirt that was large enough to reach down almost half of the distance to where her knees had once been. It was loose and comfortable enough to disguise the fact that she had not found a bra of any kind amongst the clothes in the locker, but then she was rummaging through what were most likely the castoffs of a man and there was little chance of finding anything intended to support a woman’s breasts in there at all.

As she bound her still damp hair up with what makeshift clips and bands she could find in the bathroom, the thought occurred to Megan that it was unusual for a mermaid to wear any kind of clothes at all. Granted that she was once more relying upon fairy tales and movies for her speculation, but sooner or later she was going to have to deal with the reality of the situation in which she found herself. The kind of clothes that the average woman wore from one day to the next were just not practical for her any longer, she needed to be able to move between water and land in a way that a business suit was just not designed for.

But of course there was the flipside to the argument, the fact that she could not simply stop wearing clothes altogether. Times might have been changing and the world becoming a more liberal place, but no one would take her seriously if all she wore was a pair of shells perched on top of her breasts either.

The sound of a knock at the door brought her back to reality and suddenly made the train of thought she had been on seem ridiculous in the extreme. Here she was worrying about being taken seriously by the people she met in the future when the reality was that she may never be allowed to return to the world she had known again.

She was a captive and worse than that she was a mermaid isolated in the middle of nowhere and at the mercy of those who wanted to punish her for the things she had done in what now seemed like a previous life.

Guy unlocked the door and stepped into the room after a suitably respectful pause, he was as quiet as ever and still keeping his true emotions carefully hidden as his eyes found her where she sat upon the floor. Before he spoke, he stopped and there once again was that moment of hesitation as his mask almost slipped and he was a second away from letting her see what was really going on inside his mind.

“If you’re ready,” he was hidden once more behind his screen of determined emotional silence, “there’s a bed made up for you in the main house. It’s late and I think you need rest more than anything else right now.”

Megan could not argue that point, aware of how leaden her limbs felt now they had been soaked in the bath and allowed to relax.
She nodded without saying a word in response and offered no resistance as he stooped to pick her up from the tiled floor. As they went from the bathroom and into the cabin proper by the back door, she again felt the intensity of the way in which the man was hiding himself from her. Somehow it became more strained with every time he left her and returned, as if his efforts were harder to maintain when they were renewed. Was it guilt, the stress of dealing with whatever he had planned for her? Megan had no way of telling, but she was beginning to think that it might represent her best chance of finding a way in which she could influence the man in a way that would strengthen her position.

The interior of the cabin was almost totally dark, but Megan took in the impression of naked wood and a sparse aesthetic that needed little in the way of furnishings. There was no grand journey to the door of the room that had been set aside for her, hinting that the cabin was modest in size. Once inside she was too tired to make any further observations and simply allowed herself to be placed upon a bed that took her quite by surprise when she felt the comfort of sinking into its covers and pillows.

She hardly heard the sound of a key in the lock, falling into a deep sleep only moments after her head touched the pillow.

Megan awoke with a start, the covers of the bed wrapped around her body in such a way that she was unable to extricate herself from them without some considerable effort. She found that there were serious implications of spending a restless night in a bed intended for a human being when you had a tail instead of legs. As she struggled to free her limbs from the mass of sheets, she was secretly thankful for the reminder of her predicament only moments after she had woken, glad to be spared the experience of sleeping in a bed and for a moment forgetting what had befallen her and then being treated to a harsh reminder.

There was no light coming into the room from the small window to her left and she did not have any way of telling what the time was. All that she could go on was the visible lack of daylight and the state in which she found herself upon waking, the latter being possessed of a thick head and heavy limbs.

Megan guessed that it was still a matter of hours before dawn and that she had not slept long enough to feel truly rested. Perhaps not a surprising thing when she considered the things she had gone through and the position that she still found herself in. She lay back on the bed and groaned, convinced that she would not be able to fall back asleep and dreading the prospect of being left awake and alone with her thoughts until the sun rose once more.

A knock at the door seemed to dispel her fears and instead remind her of the proximity of the man who only the previous day had snared her in a net and carried her here against her will. She might have made an effort to prepare herself, gather her wits somewhat if he had not followed up the knock by unlocking the door and entering the room.

“You’re awake at last,” Guy was silhouetted in the light that streamed in from the rooms beyond the door to the bedroom, “can I ask how you’re feeling?”

Megan was taken aback by the change in Guy’s tone and the way in which his expression held none of the forced determination it had the night before. It was as though a weight of some kind had been lifted from him and she was now seeing more of the real person who had been struggling beneath it.

“I suppose I feel better for having been indoors,” Megan’s instinct was to say nothing, but the chance to actually speak to another person kept her from doing so. “I don’t think I did that well in getting any sleep though.”

“Are you sure?” Guy had come into the room now, flipping on a small lamp that stood on a table by the bed. “It’s evening right now, you slept through the whole of the day without making a sound.”

“I still feel rotten,” Megan shook her head as she kept the conversation going, puzzled as to why she was feeling compelled to make small talk with the man who was in effect holding her captive.

“Might be that it’s the hunger,” Guy pulled up a stool and sat by the edge of her bed, “it looked to me as though you’d been struggling to feed yourself out there.”

Megan nodded and looked away for a moment, sure that the gesture would be taken as a painful memory of what she had been put through. In truth she wanted to turn her gaze from Guy’s face on account of the fact she was now starting to see what he had hidden from her before. There was no hint of malice or cruelty in the man’s face that she could detect, instead he was talking to her now with eyes full of concern and evidence of the trepidation he felt at being close to her visible in the way he could only keep holding her gaze for a few seconds at a time.

He was guilty, genuinely feeling for her and awash with self-loathing for his part in what had been done to her. It was clear to Megan in that moment that he could not have trapped her in the net and brought her here for any reason other than the compulsion he clearly felt to make amends for his actions.

The realisation gave her some relief that she was most likely safe for the moment at least, but it also deprived her of the largest part of the loathing and resentment she had built up for the man at the same time. When she looked back at his face, seeing the way her every move played out in his large and now she realised very sensitive eyes, there was no way she could bring herself to truly hate him. She was alive and healing in some small way because of his efforts and she was thankful for that much at least.

Megan decided that a temporary cease in hostilities was in both of their best interests, thinking that recriminations could follow once she knew more about the elements of the plot which had resulted in her transformation were shared with her. At that time she could better judge what could be done and who should be given the lion’s share of the blame.

Though she tried to ignore it, there was also the niggling feeling that Guy was still holding back some small detail of his emotional state despite the change in his demeanour. He still held off saying what he immediately thought for some reason and she was determined, or more honestly a little intrigued to discover what it might be.

“You’re right,” she nodded. “I could do with a square meal.”

“Okay,” he seemed to brighten at the mention of something he could actually do to make her feel a degree better. “How does smoked fish sound? I know it was baiting the traps, but I can do a lot more with it when I have access to a kitchen and the chance to cook up something to serve on the side as well. I thought that we could eat something at first and then perhaps sit down to talk?” His cheeks flushed with the admission, but he went on regardless. “I think we have a lot to discuss, given the circumstances.”

“You’re not kidding,” Megan found herself unsure as to whether to nod her head or shake it.

Guy proved to be as good as his word, disappearing into the kitchen that stood towards the back of the open-plan interior of the cabin. Megan made herself comfortable amongst the rugs and floor cushions that were spread in front of the large fireplace and divided her time between watching him as he worked and marvelling at the sight of his home now she saw it lit for the first time.

Her suspicions about the balance the place tried to strike between the manmade and the natural had been correct, with wood and other organic materials accounting for most of the structure and having the upper hand where it met with worked metal, glass or the rare synthetic elements of the house. The result was a space that made her feel at ease and able to relax despite herself, filling her senses with the warmth of the fire and the scent of wood smoke as well as the promise of something at long last to fill her stomach being readied not more than a few metres away.

When Guy presented her with a plate of fish and seasonal vegetables in a sauce that she could not identify, but intended to make the most of all the same, Megan wondered if her had made the cabin with the same skill as he had produced the meal in front of her.

Under the circumstances she was sure that the right thing to do would have been to eat sparingly, giving her stomach the chance to prepare itself for the first real food she had eaten in so long. But once she started to eat there was no stopping herself and it was all she could do to maintain some semblance of manners as she moved the fork from the plate to her mouth. On a more civilised level, she was also sure that the food was very good and worth savouring under normal circumstances. A part of her cringed at the thought of what she must look like in his eyes as she shovelled her way through such a pleasant meal like a madwoman.

If he was in any way offended by her manners, Guy did not show it, instead paying attention to his own meal and allowing her to finish her own in peace.

Megan was done before he was even halfway through the contents of his plate, but he put both aside and rose to carry them into the kitchen. When he returned he held a pair of steaming mugs, the scent of which reached her long before he had sat himself back down and offered her one of them.

“Spiced cider,” he said by way of explanation. “It doesn’t exactly go with fish, if you’re a traditionalist. But you look as though you could do with something to warm you up.”

She took an experimental sip and almost immediately coughed in a desperate manner as the fumes coming off the potent drink hit the back of her throat.

“Don’t inhale,” Guy tried not to laugh, “it’s best to swallow it in one go.”

Megan tried to look hostile at his laughter, but there was something in the way that he smiled which defeated the urge in her to do so. She realised that he was not actually laughing at the sight of her in distress, more that he was seeing beyond the simple fact of the matter and drawing pleasure from a subtly different quality he perceived in her actions.

“I’m glad I make you laugh,” her voice was losing its disapproving edge even as she spoke.

“No,” he shook his head, “it’s just that…I’ve never seen that side of…never mind.”

“I think that counts as breaking the ice,” Megan took a sip of her cider in accordance with the advice she had been given after the disaster of the first. “We should talk, seriously for a while.”

Guy nodded and became both grave and more than a little sad, the emotion showing clearly in his eyes now he had dispensed with the need to hide his feelings from her.

“First things first,” Megan began. “Why did you bring me here and who else knows that you did?”

“I should never have let this thing go as far as it did,” Guy looked into the fire as he spoke. “The moment that damn shell opened, I knew we’d done something that was just too much and I knew as well that we couldn’t just take it all back and say sorry. None of the others know where you are and I intend to keep it that way. I don’t care what they think or might do if they knew; I couldn’t bear to think of you out there alone in the state that we left you.”

“But what was that thing, Guy?” Megan pressed him. “What kind of a crazy shell can turn a grown woman into a real life mermaid?”

“I don’t know where it came from,” he shook his head. “Will claimed that he found it on the internet, that he was tipped off by a contact from overseas when he was fishing for a way to make our so-called statement when we abducted you something out of the ordinary.”

“It was certainly that,” Megan’s hand absently stroked the scales of her tail, as if to remind herself of the bizarre truth.

“Neither myself or Ruby really believed that it would do what he’d been told it would. We’d spoken about it behind his back and prepared ourselves for the inevitable threats and blackmail we’d have to pull off when you came out of the thing unchanged. So when it actually worked we were more shocked than anything, we just ended up going along with the plan that Will had proposed in a kind of daze. It was only afterwards that we started to question what we were doing, arguing and threatening over what could happen if it all got out. I haven’t seen either of them since we went our separate ways and part of me would be happy if I never did again.”

“So you decided that as you’d made a mess of playing the eco-warrior, then you’d try to play the knight in shining armour instead?”

Guy looked up with a genuine hurt evident in his eyes, but Megan was not about to back down and let him off the hook so easily. Regardless of the remorse he seemed to have for what he had done, that would not alter the way things were and she needed to see that he was truly suffering for his guilt before she would even contemplate being won over by any urge for sympathy towards him.

“You’re right,” he looked away again. “I wanted to make things right, do something to win back some of the self-respect that I lost. I feel that more than any of the others, this whole thing is my own fault…that I’m to blame.”

“Of course it’s your fault!” Megan snapped and then actually considered his words. “Wait, what do you mean you’re more to blame than the others? I don’t see any of them clamouring to help.”

“It’s not like that,” Guy struggled to explain himself. “It’s ridiculous, but I feel like this goes back for years…like I’ve somehow willed it all to happen, crazy as that sounds.”

“What on earth can you mean?” Megan wanted to hear his answer very much.

“Have you ever felt as though you made things happen without realising it? Like you wanted something and then it just seemed to happen?”

Megan could see that he was struggling with himself; trying to put into words an idea that he was both embarrassed about and convinced would sound insane once it was out in the open. She nodded for the sake of keeping him from stopping or losing the nerve to go on.

“I can still remember the first time that you ran for office,” he shook his head at the memory, seemingly better able to recall the image in his mind than simply explain himself in literal terms. “I was in my freshman year and I can still see all the guys I knew back then talking about the women they saw in films and magazines. All of these models and actresses that they were convinced were so perfect they might as well have been from another planet.”

He paused to take a drink, emboldened by the alcohol and perhaps more than a little under the effect at the same time.

“And there I was,” he laughed fondly, “holding my little torch for a politician who was so way beyond me it was unreal. I told myself that all I wanted was to meet a woman as passionate, intelligent and beautiful as you looked in those interviews back then.”

So there it is, Megan thought, the reason for all the hiding of his emotions, riding to the rescue and even now not being able to bring himself to talk to my face. She had nothing upon which to call for that situation, no plan to fall back on. Perhaps the one thing she had not been prepared to deal with was Guy deciding to take the plunge and confess to her that he had been in love with her for most of his adult life.

“I saw that film with Daryl Hannah when I was pretty young,” Guy seemed to have begun talking about a whole new topic and she had to force herself to concentrate in order to follow the thread of his words. “She gets into the bath and just grows a fishtail right there in front of your eyes. I guess that I always loved the idea of a woman that was so different and yet so stunning, that I grew up seeing mermaids as a symbol of all the mystery and allure of the opposite sex. They still fascinate me to this day and I don’t mind admitting that I sometimes dream about them as well.”

Megan saw the connection between these two seemingly random aspects of his character; it was hard not to when you were that connection yourself.

“Now I feel like I’m somehow getting my wishes granted, but they’re costing you dearly with everyone that comes true.” Now he looked up at her from the fire, and now the haunted look in his eyes managed to defeat the sense of indignation she had held and stir her sympathy. “First I wanted to be with you somehow and I end up being one of the people to kidnap you. And then I had to be in love with the idea of mermaids and I see you turned into one. It might be insane, but I can’t help thinking that this is my fault, don’t you see?”

“We can still make things right,” Megan wanted to tell him he was wrong, but she was not sure how. “We can get hold of that damn shell and make this whole thing go away.”

“No,” Guy shook his head, “we can’t.”

“What do you mean?”

“Will kindly waited until you were inside the thing and we were driving up here to inform us that one of the few things he’d been told was that this is a one way process. The shell won’t turn you back into a human being and based on the fact whoever made it was right when they claimed it worked, I think they’re bound to be right on that point as well.”

Megan felt the bottom fall out of her hopes at his words.
“I can’t go back?”

“No…I’m…I don’t know what to say next.”

There was a silence between them and in it Megan tried to make sense of what she was feeling. The dashing of her chances of becoming human once more was what she had thought would be the most painful at that moment, the realisation that she would not be able to return to her former life. But it was not, instead she found that she was filled with an intense loneliness that she was sure was not newly acquired, only brought to the fore by her changed status. She realised that she was more afraid of being alone than she was of remaining a mermaid; that she was not actually afraid of being a mermaid in the slightest.

When she looked into this man’s eyes she saw there now what she could only describe as a hunger within them, a desire that she assumed was for her alone and which he was convinced would only result in hurt for her. It had been so many years since her own husband had looked at her in that way, since the man she had so passionately loved had been transformed by no fault of his own into a business partner of whom she was simply fond rather than a lover that she desired.

She was at once both terrified and exhilarated, knowing that this man was trying to hide the fact that he wanted her most likely more than anything in the world at that very moment. She had spent so long isolated and alone even before her transformation and endured so much in the weeks afterwards that the contrast was hard to come to terms with. But she knew that she could not go back, that she was not the woman she had been and needed something to keep her alive, to make her willing to live on and she could think of nothing better than being the object of this man’s deep-running passions, the centre of his affections and the recipient of his love.

No matter what Guy may have thought his role had been in her transformation, fate had delivered her into his care. She had been placed in the hands of a man who both respected her intellect and craved her physically and also in the form of a creature that he saw as representation of the most wonderful aspects of the feminine.

Fate can be damned, Megan thought, this is starting to sound like some kind of fairy tale in of itself.

“I feel like the Little Mermaid,” she laughed for the first time herself, “only this time it’s the man who’s been doing all the mooning at the image of the mermaid and she’s been drawn to him.”

She laughed again, the influence of the cider she had been sipping and the genuine fear she felt at the realisation of the emotions that were now present in the room. Megan felt as though she were standing on the edge of a precipice, being compelled to step off into the embrace of gravity.

She was not prepared for the embrace that did seize her a moment later as Guy was the one who took the fatal step. His hands pulled her towards him and he kissed her full on the lips with a passion that left her speechless and swept up in the moment. Megan felt no urge to resist now that he had taken the first step and she returned his show of affection without reserve, curling her body into his own and not allowing the kiss to end until she was flushed and short of breath.

Guy leaned back on the pillows to her side, the look on his face spoke of amazement and that same hunger was still evident. It was clear to her that he was unable to fully believe the situation in which he found himself, half thinking that any moment she would slap his face or reveal that she had been moved to return his advances because of pity. Megan was not about to allow that to happen, not when her blood was up and she wanted to repeat the experience she had just enjoyed so badly.

She had been many things in her life: wife, mother, public servant and now a mermaid. But in all those guises she had never stopped being a sexual being and never stopped wanting to be such. Now she had the chance to be exactly what she wanted in the company of a man who wanted nothing but her for what she was.

Megan unclipped her hair, allowing it to fall to her shoulders at the same time as her free hand unbuttoned her shirt. Guy watched her progress, now fixated on the woman before him and unable to tear his attention from her if he had wanted to. She slipped out of the over-sized garment and eased onto her side so that she was pressed against him, initiating the kiss herself this time. Her lips brushed his lightly at first and then with growing intensity as her body came alive to the sensation of his touch.

She could not recall afterwards if she had stripped him of his clothes or watched as he did so himself, but the thrill she experienced when his skin met her own was incredible, as though the desire he had held for her over so many years was released as a static charge when they met. She felt the touch of his body on her lips, against her nipples, on the skin of her stomach and just as fully through the scales of her tail. There was simply no room for anything else in what he senses could appreciate and neither she nor he needed to be told what the other wished for before it happened.

Megan felt herself turned gently onto her belly and for a moment she was filled with questions as to what could follow now that she was a mermaid. But as she felt his weight press down urgently from above, they were answered in a feeling of intimate and overwhelming pleasure that made her aware of the fact that though she had changed so greatly, some things had remained the same.
Afterwards there was no need for words, no need to question or digest what had happened.

Megan fell asleep for the second time in the cabin, but this time in front of the fire and scarce able to believe how much had changed since the first.

Megan sat across the table from Guy and tried to look dignified as she pushed another forkful of pancake into her mouth. It was all she could do to keep from laughing at the expression on his face that was a mix of mock horror and poorly disguised amazement that he had woken up to find her still real and very much by his side.

She could not remember the last time she had felt this way, filled with nothing but laughter and the wicked awareness of the fact that she was in the presence of a man who saw her every move as a preamble to what they had done last night. Even now she could see the way in which Guy watched her breasts through the shirt she had pulled back on not half an hour ago, thinking of what he wanted to do to her.

But there was more than simple lust and the excitement of their situation, Megan was worldly enough to tell the difference between an infatuation and something deeper. Guy was not in this for a quick thrill and neither was she; they had already begun to discuss the scary question of what would happen next, only stopping to eat breakfast and thus being distracted by the novelty of their relationship.

“We can’t stay here,” he said what she had been thinking. “It’s just not practical for you and I won’t be happy until we’re a long way from the others. Ruby I could talk round, given some time, but Will is a lost cause as far as I’m concerned.”

“The coast then?” Megan pushed her plate aside.

“Or even further,” he suggested.

“An island?”

“Why not the ocean itself?”

“How on earth can we live in the bloody ocean?”

“You could right now,” Guy gestured to her tail, perched on a rung of the stool on which she sat. “So could I, once I take a turn inside the same shell as you.”

“You can’t be serious?” Megan could not believe what she was hearing.

“Why not?”

“I didn’t choose to become a mermaid, what makes me think I’d want you to do the same and become what…a merman?”

“This isn’t about what you want,” Guy stopped her before she could object. “It’s about what’s best for the both of us. You had no choice in the matter, but you’re not alone in this. I want to stay with you no matter what and we can’t be safe where people can get to us or in a place where you can be trapped like you were the other day. None of this matters so long as I’m with you,” he gestured to the cabin walls, “and I don’t see how I can make any more real commitment to you either.”

The earnest tone in which he spoke forced Megan to stop and truly digest his words rather than rejecting his idea out of hand. She was well aware of the danger they would face if the world at large became aware of her existence and the more immediate danger if the unstable character of Will were to loom large. Her instinct was to suggest that she flee and leave him behind for his own sake, but she was moved by his wanting to stay with her no matter what. There was no question in her mind that he would remain by her side as long as he was able, but then again he was offering to make a commitment to her the likes of which most women never experienced. Not only was he pledging to stand by her, he was also determined to change his very species to continue doing so.

“That’s all very well,” she tried to steer the conversation onto more solid ground, “but how are you going to get your hands on the thing in the first place?”

“As far as I know it’s still stashed with Ruby,” he explained. “She has a boat large enough to hide it on and it should still be there.”

“And you think that you can convince her to see things your way?”

“She’s not Will, and that’s our greatest advantage in this.”

“Sounds like a small one to me.”

“What I mean is that she wants to think that you’re being punished for what she sees as your sins against the environment, but unlike some people she’s not the type to want blood at the same time. If we can make it plain to her that you’re not getting out of the situation she put you in, maybe even that you’re embracing it, then I’m sure she’ll see that as a victory of sorts.”

“I hope you’re right about that woman,” Megan took a sip of coffee and looked at him ruefully.

“So do I,” he replied.

Wrapped up in more clothes than she had worn in the time since she had been transformed into a mermaid, Megan draped her arms around Guy’s neck and allowed herself to be carried out of the cabin to the lean-to where he kept his main form of transport when not on the lake. She found the experience far more pleasant now that she was in his arms under better circumstances, enjoying the feeling of being curled up against him and trying to keep her mind focussed on the serious task at hand rather than thinking of what they had done the previous night and the possibility of a repeat performance.

Part of her wondered if this sudden resurgence in her libido was a consequence of her new form, if this was the norm for the kind of creature she had become. But the more sensible side of her mind was sure that it had more to do with the drastic way in which her circumstances had changed, the novelty of finding a new lover and the thrill of his attentions. She supposed that the age difference would result in her being labelled a cougar in the eyes of most, but then what did that matter on top of the fact that she was also a mermaid?

Guy tried to make a fumbling explanation of the practicalities of the location in which he resided and the state of the roads needing more than the average car was capable of providing, but in the end it was clear that he was simply trying to relieve his embarrassment at owning a pick-up Megan shook her head as he lowered her gently into the passenger seat, amused at the way in which he was so desperate to escape the label of a backwoods yokel.

Once she was inside, she pulled a blanket over her tail and made sure that it overlapped with the sweater that covered her torso. Underneath she wore nothing save for the top half of a bikini that was sturdy rather than glamorous and at her own estimation perhaps a size too small. Guy had been cagey about how he came by it, but she was not simple enough to think that she was the only woman to have been a part of his life in the thirty years he had been on the earth and she had quickly waved away his attempts to explain.

He climbed into the driver’s seat and turned the key in the ignition, pulling the pick-up out of the lean-to and onto the dirt track that led to the narrow roads beyond. These criss-crossed in seemingly random patterns the landscape of the forest and it was soon evident that while they might have baffled a stranger, Guy was able to navigate them by memory alone.

“It’s not too late to rethink this,” Megan was still worried that he had set off on their current course of action more fuelled by bravado than common sense. “I mean, you must have something worthwhile tying you to this place?”

“If that’s the case then it’s news to me,” Guy shook his head. “As far as I’m concerned it’s a classic case of the isolated loner when you look at my life. I lost my parents in my twenties, not that I was as close to them as I would have wanted at the time, but their being dead kind of makes that one hard to remedy. It also has a terrible influence on the fact that I was an only child as well, so there are no brothers or sisters to think about either. Sure I made friends when I was younger, but losing the only family I had hit me pretty hard and I lost touch with most of the people that I would have called friends after that. They were all settling down and starting families, not the ideal situation to have a depressive guy struggling to deal with his emotions pop up in the middle of.”

“So how does that person turn into you?” Megan was intrigued to hear the details of his past, eager to know more about the man she was growing rapidly attached to.

“I needed to get away from people in general,” he made a vague gesture with one hand, “I suppose to find myself, or some bullshit like that. My parents had been environmentalists in a small way, and they bought some land up here like a lot of people did just so that the logging companies couldn’t snap it up and ruin it. I sympathised with their ideas, but it wasn’t until I came up here and built the cabin that I really became interested in doing something about it. I met passionate people like Ruby and I suppose to a lesser degree Will, and they kind of infected me with the strength of their beliefs. I was looking for something to fill a hole, even if I didn’t know it and what they were selling seemed as good as anything.”

“You sound far fonder of Ruby than that ranting asshole.” Megan tried to sound casual as she questioned him. “Were you just friends?”

“Me and Ruby?” Guy laughed a little and shook his head. “I’ll confess that when we met I was a bit taken with her. I’d never encountered someone like her and I tend to be attracted to strong women, present company included. She was cute and we got on well, but I soon realised that as much as I liked her, there was nothing there.”

“Oh,” Megan tried not to sound happy at his explanation, “that’s good…I mean, that’s probably for the best.” She was astonished at the surge of jealousy the idea of Guy with another woman had inspired in her and embarrassed that she could be so obvious about the fact.

“Agreed,” he laughed again. “We wouldn’t want you to do anything violent towards the woman that we need to help us out now, would we?”

Megan started at her hands in her lap, not wanting to say more in case she had another slip of the tongue and made herself sound like an envious schoolgirl. What with the irrational jealousy on top of the urge to indulge her libido, she was starting to question again what the real differences were between being a human being and a mermaid.

“Anyway,” Guy tried to change the subject, “there’s the long and short of why I have nothing to keep me here and what inspired me to want to follow you into the shell. If there’s one thing that has a hold on me right now, it’s you and I won’t let anything get in the way of that.”

Despite how much she wanted to take his words at their face value, Megan could not help adding them to the list of things that she was questioning about her nature as a mermaid. She was gripped by the fear that somehow she had affected his mind, wound him around herself until he would have bent to whatever she demanded. It was a probably nothing more than her own paranoia, but she was still unable to fully grasp the fact that he was determined to transform himself forever simply to be by her side without fear of being wrenched away by the constraints of their differing species.

“Too late to back out now,” Guy interrupted her train of thought. “We’re here.”

Megan had to admit that she had not known what to expect when she first laid eyes on the property in which Ruby lived. Her imagination had conjured a vast range of possibilities from a tent make of tarpaulin to a mansion made entirely of recycled tin cans, not in the least on account of the residual jealousy that she felt even at the woman’s platonic relationship with the man she was fast coming to think of as her own.

As a result, she was somewhat taken aback to see the vision of a tall and quite elegant house built in the style of the nineteenth century awaiting them. Sitting on a shallow cliff by the side of the lake, the house spread over three floors and smaller outbuildings were visible upon conveniently flat parts of the land that surrounded it. Though careworn and showing the signs of its advanced age, the house nevertheless retained a sense of the prosperity and welcome that it had been designed to project.

Guy stopped the pick-up a few metres from what looked to be a large garage and stepped out of the door. He motioned for Megan to stay where she was while looking around from one spot to another, evidently trying to locate his friend before she saw him and realised who his passenger was.

“What the hell?” The sound of a familiar voice told them that he had failed in his efforts as the diminutive figure of Ruby seemed to appear out of thin air on Megan’s side of the pick-up. “Please tell me that this is some kind of joke!”

Megan wondered if she could manage to lock the door without the other woman realising. She was already leaning back from the window despite the fact that it was up and there was a panel of metal between them.

“Calm down,” Guy tried to keep his voice calm and yet make himself sound serious at the same time. Megan was relieved to see that he was now on the same side of the pick-up as Ruby and trying to place himself in her path.

“What is that woman doing here, in your truck and wearing those clothes?” Ruby might have been considerably smaller than the man she was confronting, but at that moment in time the difference in stature did not seem to affecting matters in the slightest.

“She’s here because I finally realised that we’re in the wrong on this one,” as he spoke, Ruby turned her attention fully towards him. “We both know that we should have never gone through with it, that we did an unforgivable thing to her no matter what she might have been a part of in the past.” The other woman’s expression softened a little as his words sunk in and Megan could see uncertainty in her eyes for the first time. “And I realised all that because…because I love her.” With that admission a new conviction seemed to enter his voice. “I’m sorry, Ruby…but I love her and I won’t let anyone else hurt her anymore.”

In her silence, as if stunned by Guy’s admission, there was a look on her face that was almost enough to make Megan question the supposed lack of attraction between them, in her case at least. Ruby’s expression was a confused mixture of stifled anger and what she at least took to be degree of hurt betrayal.

“You’d better come inside,” when she finally managed to speak, Ruby sounded quiet and defeated. “I think we have a lot to talk about.”

It had seemed like such a simple plan at the time, with the shell being aboard the boat and the knowledge that Guy possessed of the underwater caves beneath the lake that could provide them with a means of escape into other bodies of water and from there on to the open sea. But once they were out on the waters, the weather had turned against them and they were suddenly involved in a battle against the elements that could capsize the boat and send everything and everyone to the bottom.

Ruby cut a strange figure as she fought to keep the boat from being overwhelmed by the water on account of her diminutive size, but the look of determination in her eyes and the skill with which she steered their progress had been enough to convince Megan that the woman knew what she was doing.

The mermaid clung to one side of the open back of the boat and glanced over to the other where the giant clamshell had been lashed down and now juddered against the deck with every motion of the waves. Her concern was almost solely for Guy, sealed inside the shell and now with hope well on his way to becoming her male counterpart.

Their plans to allow his transformation to take place on land had been thrown into disarray when a chance phone call to Ruby from the one person they had sought to keep in the dark had aroused his suspicions. Will had somehow sensed in her voice that something was wrong and though he hung up the phone accepting her assurances to the contrary, Ruby knew him too well to think that he would do anything but turn up unannounced as soon as he was able. In other circumstances the sight of a short woman and a mermaid struggling to move the clamshell might have been comedic, but they were driven in in their efforts by the thought of being discovered and what the man would be capable of if they were.

If they had thought that the turbulent waters of the lake would be their salvation, they had been proved wrong when Ruby sighted what she was sure could only be a smaller boat that she kept for emergencies, moored at her jetty. Will was following them into the storm and their only hope now was to do what they had set out to do and cheat him of his chance to stop them.

“I’m opening the shell,” Megan had to shout to be heard over the crashing of the water. “It must have been long enough by now.”

“Now’s as good a time as any,” Ruby struggled to answer as the rain lashed her face. “He’ll be on us in a matter of minutes if the storm doesn’t sink one of these boats before that.”

The truth was that neither of them knew how long the shell took to work as only Will had been privy to such information and he was tight-lipped when there was no immediate need to share it. In Megan’s own case there had been a number of hours before she was turned out of the shell as a mermaid, but there would be no such time for Guy. Either it would have worked when the shell opened or not.

Megan could make her way across the deck in no other way than simply allowing the motion of the boat to send her sliding across the planks and towards the far side. Once there she fought with all her might to cling onto the ropes that bound her goal before starting to cut those that held down the lid with a knife from a nearby locker. The need to hold on and at the same time slice through the cords meant that she was far longer in making the cuts than she would otherwise have been, but once she was done, she wasted no time in casting the knife aside and pushing the lid open with baited breath.

What she saw inside the shell did not by any means disappoint her.

Guy was awake in a moment as the first of the water to reach inside the shell shocked him, waking him from whatever strange and unfathomable processes went on inside. He was dazed for a second until he made eye contact with Megan, quickly recalling the reason that he had been cut off from the outside world for so long. Unable to read the expression on her face, he instead followed her gaze downwards to see what was demanding her attention so totally.

The first thing he noticed was that his clothes were gone, vanished as they had when Megan herself had been transformed by the shell and he took that as a good omen. But it was not until his eyes reached his waist that he saw what else the thing had done to him.

Guy had not felt a thing out of the ordinary below his waist when he came round moments before, but now he saw that his legs had been replaced by broad and powerful looking tail that seemed the perfect male counterpart to Megan’s own. Where she was graceful and curved with a feminine beauty, he was athletic and built for crashing through the water to follow in her wake. His scales were silver and blue in reflection of her own, but of a darker hue as if created in such a way to complement his mate. He moved the tail experimentally, feeling the unfamiliar muscles respond and shift its length in a manner that was far more intuitive than he could have hoped.

He found Megan’s eyes and saw that she was still taking in the changes to his body, as if unable to believe what she was seeing.

“Will I do?” He was forced to shout to be heard over the din of the crashing water.

She responded by pulling him close to her and pressing her lips against his own.

“I think we were made for each other,” she was so close that he could not help but hear the breathless reply when the kiss was over.

“What the fuck is this supposed to be?”

Every head on the boat turned at the same time to see the figure of Will, standing braced against the far side of the boat and looking as though he had been drowned and brought back from the brink perhaps half a dozen times. In the confusion of the storm and the rush of emotion that had followed Guy’s emergence from the shell, no one had seen the moment when the second boat had finally caught the first.

“You have to be kidding me,” Will shouted over the elements as he made his way recklessly across the space between himself and those who had been transformed by the shell. “I could have thought up some crazy scenarios, but this is beyond the realms of my imagination.”

Before either of them could make a move and while Ruby tried to leave the wheel and cut him off, Will loomed over them. He made a move to grab at Megan as she pulled away, seeming to ignore Guy in his haste to do so. She cried out and tried to fight back, but he was pumped full of adrenaline and swatted her hands aside as though they were made of smoke.

Guy coiled himself onto his tail like a spring and leapt at the other man, colliding with the full force of his weight and catching him totally off guard. In his hurry to stop whatever was being plotted behind his back, Will had made a fundamental error of judgement as far as the physical potency of a merman was concerned. As ignorant as anyone would have been in those circumstances, his mistake was to assume that out of what was now his native element, Guy would be as helpless as a fish in the bottom of a boat. But while he could have been forgiven for his lack of knowledge, there was one man who knew simply by instinct that any such idea was simply wrong.

The first blow went wide of the mark, grazing the side of Will’s head, but the second found its mark. Guy’s fist connected with the jaw and snapped the other man’s head back with a sickening sound, sending him staggering backwards in shock and confusion.

Not waiting to see how he would fare in a longer contest with a human being, Guy instead put his arms around Megan and began to haul her towards the edge of the boat. She had recovered sufficiently by that time to aid him in his efforts and pull herself in the same direction. Somehow there was no need to speak, both knew that their only hope was to slip into the waters and make their escape into a realm where they held the upper hand.

Will shook his head until he was able to see straight and made to come after them, but he was halted when Ruby tackled him from behind. Taken by surprise for the second time in a matter of mere minutes, he crashed to the deck as her lower centre of gravity made it impossible to recover his balance.

The merfolk were over the edge and into the water seconds later, pausing only long enough to see the look of sad encouragement on the face of the woman who had bought them the time to escape. There was no telling what fate would befall her, left alone on the boat with Will, but they could not afford to turn back now and make a mockery of her efforts on their behalf.

As one they let go of the edge of the boat and dived beneath the surface.

And then they were gone.

Ruby watched as Will rose to his feet for the second time, unable to tell if his swaying was more on account of the motion of the deck on which he stood or the swift blows he had taken one after another. He shook his head, trying to clear the dizziness that must have been filling his senses and did his best to look around in search of the faces that had been so close before he was knocked from his feet.
She made to stand as well, preparing herself for whatever confrontation would follow.

The thought of dumping him over the side had popped into her mind, but she dismissed it as both inhumane and probably tantamount to polluting the waters of the lake.

Ruby opened her mouth to speak and was surprised to find that nothing emerged save for a strangled gasp. At the same time there was a sensation of her throat being squeezed mercilessly and she looked down in horror to see a ribbon lashed around her neck and pulling tighter with every second that passed.

Will watched in morbid fascination as she was pulled across the deck towards the yawning maw of the shell, his gaze darting from her impending fate to the edge of the boat where the merfolk had managed to elude him.

In his mind he knew that he had only moments to decide what he would do.

Will mentally flipped a coin and then moved as fast as he was able towards his goal.

Megan lay back and allowed the motion of the waves to wash over her and then sink away into the coarse sand that made up the beach. It was far from warm and the chill of the water made her aware of the way in which her nipples were erect beneath the clinging fabric of her bikini top. The thing still did not fit her, but she was slowly coming to the conclusion that there were more important matters to concern her and one of them was most certainly not being modest where it was not required anymore.

Beside her there was a movement as she felt Guy press himself against her, turning her onto her side so that he could pull her into the curve of his body.

She made no move to resist him, enjoying the feel of his skin against her own and the sensation of their scales rubbing together in a motion that brought to life memories of why she could not stand to be separated from him for any longer than was strictly necessary these days.

He began to kiss the back of her neck, gently in the way of which she was so fond while his hands slipped around her waist and stroked her belly.

Beginning to rise to his attentions, Megan reached around to her back and deftly untied the straps of her top, allowing her breasts to stand proud as it fell away. His fingers found them soon afterwards and only added to the growing delight that she felt building inside of her.

“We should be gone by now,” she whispered, not trying to stop him. “The tide will be turning and we can’t get marooned on another beach on account of your being over-sexed. That would be a fine reason for someone to happen upon us, wouldn’t it?”

“I don’t see you making for the horizon,” he managed to speak and yet still devote himself to what he had been doing while silent. “And if I remember that night, it was you who was on me like a seal on heat.”

“So that’s how you see me,” Megan almost lost the last part of what she was saying in a yelp of surprise as she realised they were not going anywhere for a while at least, “an old seal who flops about for your pleasure?”

“I never saw a seal that made me feel like you,” now she was beyond speaking and so he continued the conversation alone. “How a sailor could see that and think it was a mermaid when I’ve seen what I see every time I open my eyes…”

Neither of them spoke as the tide went out and the sun went down.

There would be other tides, there were always other tides.

But there would never be another here and now.

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Filed under Short Story, Transformation

First Lady of the Lake – Part 1

Image supplied by Luigi Diamante

On a day as long and taxing as the one she had just made it through, there was one thing that could bring a modicum of relief to Megan Jones when she finally had the chance to stop and take stock in the late hours of the evening. It was not a drink or a crafty cigarette snuck out when she was sure that there was no one looking, indeed she could not readily recall the last time she had been able to enjoy either. Instead it was the simple chance to close the door on the demands of the day and just take off her shoes at long last.

There were unspoken standards expected of a woman in her line of work, and one of them was the requirement to always be seen in shoes that were smart, business-like and never failed to leave her feet feeling as though they had been encased in concrete for hour on end. She would have given a great deal to be able to wear the trainers in which she was more comfortable when pottering about the house or the walking boots that had seen her over so many rocky hillsides during her free time.

But the shoes went along with the business suit and the reserved way in which she wore her hair as a part of the uniform. No matter how far the world had come in accepting the fact that women were perfectly able to be trusted with the same positions of responsibility as their male counterparts, people still expected a certain code of dress from an individual who had once been in a role of significant political power and influence.

Megan at least was more than happy to have left those days of demanding decisions and endless haranguing interviews behind her when she left office. There was a real sense of gratification in the sense that she was making more on the circuit as a public speaker than she ever had in high office as a governor, but the real rewards was the freedom from having to make a call almost every day that was fraught with compromise and would doubtlessly send one end of the media into a frenzy of foaming rage at the supposed corruption and cronyism it represented in their own eyes.

She closed the door of her hotel room and breathed a sigh of relief that she was finally in her own private space, kicking her shoes off as she did so. She walked across the luxurious carpet, feeling the wonderful sensation of the pile against her stocking clad feet as she went. There was a cold drink in the minibar that she could practically hear calling her name and would go very well with a call to room service so that she could at least feed herself before she collapsed into bed. Tomorrow would begin with a long journey to the next city where she was scheduled to speak and there would be no chance of sleeping on the way.

It was only as she crossed the main space of the room in which the ample bed was located that Megan caught a glimpse of something that was simply not right. The sight of an incongruous colour and shape in one of the decorative mirrors mounted on the wall caused her to pause on her route to the small kitchen that occupied one corner. It was only a matter of a second and a stray thought that caused her to stop at all, but as she turned she was presented with a surprise that made her almost jump out of her skin in shock.
As a woman who had occupied a position of power and authority, Megan had always been under far closer scrutiny than her male counterparts. Her every move was poured over and analysed by commentators and comedians alike, keen to make sport out of any misstep that she made and characterise her as a bumbling fool who was hopelessly out of her depth and only in office because of her looks.

The truth was that Megan was possessed of an exceptionally sharp mind, but had become quickly aware of the fact she had overestimated the honesty and trustworthiness of those who surrounded her in political circles. She had done the best she thought she was able and to little avail, finding herself forced to take actions that she would come to regret and siding with figures that repelled her as a matter of necessity. There would be no sympathy or understanding for the actions she had taken and the reasons she justified them to herself and in truth she did not expect there to be. It was in light of that fact that she had withdrawn from politics once her term had been served, well aware of the irreparable damage that had been done to her credibility in the eyes of many people whose opinions counted.

It did not help matters that Megan was also a very beautiful woman by the standards of most who had seen her picture or met her in person. There was nothing of the model about her, but she had retained a simple and enduring air of attraction even now that she was into her fourth decade that showed no signs of fading. Her fair skin and dark brown hair had often caused her to be compared to a pretty soccer mom or the kind of school teacher to whom most boys became lost in a first crush at one time or another before they reached adolescence. The less complementary descriptions of Megan delighted in casting her as an ageing cougar who played on her looks to make capital, but then that was the way with women in politics; the attractive were called stupid and shallow while the plain were labelled as harridans, most often by journalists of their own gender in a mockery of the notion of sisterhood.

But seasoned as she was, there was little that could have prepared Megan for the strange sight of what seemed to be a giant clamshell sitting on the end of the bed.

She had come to a halt at the foot of the bed and was thus staring directly at the thing when she turned, the look on her face a picture of confusion and unease. At the same time her mind was racing as to any possible explanation of what she was seeing or why anyone would think to sneak such a thing into her hotel room while she was going about her day.

As it was her speculation on the matter was abruptly cut short as there was a low creaking from the shell and the lid began to slowly rise. Megan could see no visible mechanism to account for the movement, assuming that it must be internal and so hidden from view. She stood and watched in silence as they lid rose further, convinced that there was little chance of such an elaborate prop being in any way dangerous. Most likely she thought it was a part of some prank or publicity stunt with the worst outcome being a dousing with paint. In any event it was too late to make a run for the door and she was somewhat loathe to be shown lacking when it came to the courage to confront anyone who set out to humiliate her for their own gain.

Megan tensed as the lid of the shell reached the point where someone or something was most likely to come leaping out. But there was no unpleasant surprise waiting for her at that moment and the instead the lid simply continued to rise as she relaxed once more.
When the shell was finally fully open and the lid rested vertically like the back of some elaborate chair, she saw that the interior of the thing had been curiously packed with cushions, pillows and padding that threatened to spill over onto the bed. Judging by the size and shape of the shell, Megan was sure a fully grown woman or a man of slightly below average height could have cured up inside with little trouble.

On the one hand she was relieved to have seen the shell open and not have anything horrific happen to her, but on the other she was still no closer to knowing just what was going on. She glanced away from the shell and towards the telephone standing on the bedside table, wondering who she should call first and what on earth she was going to tell them when she did.

Megan sensed rather than heard something flying towards her as she had her head turned, like the parting of air as an object both thin and fast whipped outwards. Before she could even bring her head back to face the shell, there was a sudden pressure around her neck as it was constricted by an unseen force.

She struggled to pull away, more from base instinct than any conscious attempt to fight back, hands shooting to her throat to claw at whatever had taken hold of her. As she turned towards the shell, Megan saw that a wide ribbon of some silky material extended from somewhere beneath the cushions to disappear from sight in the vicinity of her own neck. Seemingly animated by some means, the ribbon was fast around her throat and showed no signs of loosening its grip as it began to pull her towards the shell inch by inch no matter how hard she tried to resist.

Hands clasped on the ribbon, Megan would have screamed for help, but the constriction of her windpipe had rendered her unable to make a sound as she struggled. Moments later she wanted to curse anew as two more identical ribbons shot out from amongst the cushions and wrapped themselves around her wrists. With the same irresistible strength as the first, they pulled her hands from her neck and then added their own efforts to dragging her closer to the shell.

Megan fought with all the force she could muster, determined for no other reason than the most basic of instincts that she would not be pulled into the shell. She had no idea of what fate lay in wait for her if she lost the struggle, but the fear of being taken like an animal in a trap was enough to keep her from giving in.

The instinct to scream was overtaken by that to simply cry out in frustration as yet another pair of ribbons darted forth and attached themselves to her ankles. Megan had been able to gain some purchase by bracing her legs against the side of the bed, but these new ribbons soon put paid to that advantage, threatening to literally pull her feet out from under her.

Choking from lack of air, bound at the wrists and ankles and exhausted from her efforts to resist, Megan sensed and sudden surge in the force being applied through the ribbons. It was as if the thing was somehow able to gauge her remaining strength and realised it was on the verge of victory. So it was that when the renewed effort to pull her forwards came, she was totally unable to resist and the effect was to yank her from her standing position and directly into the waiting maw of the shell.

Before she could even think of trying to climb out, the lid slammed down with far greater speed than it had opened, trapping her inside and leaving the room in total silence.

Sealed inside the giant clamshell, the only reminder of Megan Jones’s presence that remained in the room were her shoes cast upon the floor without a thought only minutes before.

 

The clamshell had only sat alone in the hotel room for a couple of minutes when there was the sound of the bathroom door opening and a head appeared around the edge. Most of its distinguishing features were hidden beneath a paramilitary balaclava, but the evidence of nervous energy was clearly visible in the pair of worried grey eyes that stared out at the contents of the room.

“It’s clear,” the voice was that of a man when the head finally called back to whoever was behind him. He kept his words brief and quiet, the nervousness he felt at the prospect of entering the room beyond clear as he spoke.

When he emerged into the room he unfolded himself from the hunched position in which he had sneaked a glance into the room, revealing himself to be both tall and relatively well built even beneath the nondescript colours that he wore in an effort to blend into the urban background. He made his way towards the clamshell, stopping short and keeping one eye on the thing as if he did not trust to turn his back in its presence.

He was joined in short order by two more figures dressed in a similar manner and hiding their own faces behind the same kind of balaclava.

The first was a good two heads shorter than her companion who had lead the way and her gender was given away by the outline of her chest. Any attempt to conceal her identity was somewhat spoiled by the fact that she had cut open the top of her own balaclava in order to allow her mass of thick dreadlocks to spill out behind her and the rings that pierced her nose and lower lip.

Although the second man was also shorter than the first, his body language could not have been more different as he virtually strode into the room and surveyed the surroundings. He wasted no time in making his way to where the shell stood and making a close examination of it, as though he was aware of its functioning in a way they were not. His close attention seemed to only make his colleague’s disposition towards the shell even worse.

“We should go,” she looked back over his shoulder nervously.

“Shut up,” the other man’s tone was disinterested and slightly irritable.

“He has a point,” the woman’s voice was fairly even, as if used to playing the reasonable diplomat between the two. “We should get moving as soon as we can.”

“Ruby,” the second man looked up and shook his head in disbelief. “Don’t start to sound like him! We were in the bathroom the whole time, she didn’t call a soul and there wasn’t enough sound even for us to know it had snagged her. We’ve got enough time to check things are working before we leave, trust me.”

Ruby looked back at the first man and shook her head in resignation at the sound nature of his argument before moving closer to look over his shoulder.

“Well, Will,” the first man urged the second. “Is it working or what?”

“As far as I can tell,” Will did not look up. “Don’t worry, Guy…we’ll be gone in good time.”

“What do you mean as far as you can tell?” Guy looked over his shoulder at the door to the corridor. “You mean you can’t be sure?”
“Guy,” Will kept his voice level and calm as he spoke, “you know as well as I do about where this thing came from and the claims that came with it. How in the hell were we ever going to be able to test it out before today? Either it works or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t then we go with plan B, just like we discussed.”

Guy did not like plan B, it involved kidnapping and threats as well as the promise of more infamy than he was comfortable with contemplating. But then he was not a particular fan of plan A by any means and had agreed to go along with it only because it was significantly less risky than the alternative.

“Come on,” Will got to his feet, “grab one end and help me carry this thing to the fire escape if you’re so eager to get out of here, we’ve got a long drive ahead of us before morning.”

Guy needed no further motivation as he hefted his end of the shell off the bed. It was heavier than he had expected and warm to the touch as they manhandled it from one room to the next. He tried to focus his attention on the task at hand and ignore the muffled sounds that were coming from inside as well as the thoughts of what might happen next on account of which plan was put into motion once they opened the shell.

Absorbed in removing their prize from the hotel room, the trio kept their thoughts to themselves and their voices silent until well after they were on their way.

 

Megan came around suddenly, as if awoken from a deep and dreamless sleep with no warning and thrust into the consciousness in a manner that left her dazed and unable to collect her thoughts. The light was almost too much for her eyes after the time she had spent in total darkness, forcing her to squint and turn away from the source that seemed to grow with every moment that passed. She was becoming slowly more aware of her surroundings with every second that passed, but any hope of making sense of where she was or what had happened to her was still a long way off at that exact moment in time.

It seemed as though she was to be denied the time she needed to gather her wits about her as there was a sudden movement beneath her that send Megan sprawling from the soft surface on which she had been laid and pitched her forwards onto a bed of sharp and bruising objects. The force and unexpected shock of her motion caused her to cry out in pain as the air was knocked out of her lungs and she tried to shield herself from the cruelly sharp edges of whatever she had landed on.

The sound of water lapping on a shore gave Megan the clue she needed to conclude that the unforgiving terrain onto which she had been thrown was as shore of some kind if the shifting of the jagged pebbles beneath her cut and bruised hands had not been enough in of itself. No scent of salt reached her nose, but instead she could discern the smell of disturbed earth and what might have been petrol fumes, so from that she could deduce that she was in fact on the shore of one of the larger lakes that lay to the north of the territory the state covered.

As her eyes resolved the scene before her from a hopeless blur into a somewhat more coherent picture, she realised that the sound she had taken for the senseless croaking of some carrion bird was actually another human being trying to make himself understood as he looked down at her from above.

“…a good look around at this natural wonder,” Will was in full stride by the time she was able to even absorb the smallest amount of meaning from his words. “All this could be lost in a few meagre years and then it’s gone forever. Do you have any idea what kind of damage your friends in the logging industry have done to this wilderness? Do you?”

Devoid of his balaclava, Will had a face that might have been handsome were it not for the sneer that seemed to be forever the next expression waiting to take over his face. His blonde hair was cropped into a cut that tried to be nonchalant, but closer examination revealed the time and expense that must have gone into achieving that effect.

“I’m sorry,” Megan put a hand to her head, feeling a strange sensation as she did so. “But would you shut the fuck up for a second while I try to figure out what the hell happened to me last night!”

“You’re sorry,” Will seemed to have taken her attempt to make him be quiet as a form of apology or admission of guilt on her part. “Sorry’s not going to be good enough anymore,” he shook his head. “You needed to learn a lesson, and we’re the ones who’ll make sure that you do!”

Megan’s attention was distracted from the ranting young man as a woman came into view who made a point of ignoring him and fixing her with a serious and yet somehow less intense look. In her experience it often paid to listen to the person in any given situation who seemed the sanest, and so she turned her attention to the woman instead, following her example of ignoring the man.
Ruby had shed her balaclava as well, revealing a round and pretty face that was currently spoiled by her intent on being taken seriously. Her dreadlocks fell around her pale features, putting Megan in mind of a kind of modern fairy or sprite that was fed up of being called cute and wanted to let the world know she meant business.

“You should understand why we’re doing this,” Ruby knelt down so that Megan could look her in the eye. “When you were in office you made a lot of decisions that hurt the environment in this part of the world. The damage that was done on your watch will take decades, maybe even hundreds of years to put right and that’s just if we stop what’s happening now and begin a massive effort to clean up. The truth is that what’s been done will probably never be undone and as the law of the land and the courts don’t seem to think there’s been any wrong done, someone has to set an example and someone has to be made an example of.”

Megan made a point of listening to Ruby’s explanation, gleaning from it all the information she could about her situation. These were environmental activists, that much was clear from their rhetoric. In addition they seemed to associate her, or more likely her administration with damage to the local ecosystem and want to redress what they saw as the balance in some way. It was clear that they had exhausted or ignored the conventional channels and now were resorting to more extreme measures to get their message across. But just what they were planning to do with her she could not tell, and the fear of not knowing was the worst thing of all.
There was clearly no point in reasoning with them that she could see and no merit in explaining the times that she had been forced to make pacts and accept watered down measures in such matters as to them she was the embodiment of the problem. They saw her as a figurehead and thought that by punishing her they would be striking a blow at a person the common man would recognise and perhaps cheer them for bringing down.

“I don’t know you people,” Megan tried to appeal to their better nature, “and I won’t insult you by trying to argue politics. But please, think about what you’re doing here and what others will think when they find out. Killing me is not going to change anything and you’ll never get the stain of blood off your hands.”

Will barked out a laugh and shook his head.

“Kill you?” Ruby looked concerned at the mere mention of the possibility. “The plan was never to kill you…I guess we assumed that this thing would somehow make you aware of what was supposed to be happening while you were inside of it. Don’t you feel as though something is different right now?”

Megan felt a sense of dread gathering weight in the pit of her stomach at the other woman’s words. After the initial shock of being kidnapped in such a bizarre manner, seeming to fall into a state of unconsciousness and then awakening to find herself scrambling around on the shores of a remote lake in the company of what she could only describe as apparent eco-terrorist had blurred some of the finer details of her current circumstances. Only now did she take the time to actually examine the state in which she found herself and as she did so there were some revelations that struck her hard and fast.

The first was that she was naked, which accounted for the way in which the rocky ground had cut and bruised her as she tumbled out of the shell that she now saw was standing on the bank behind her. But in addition to the disturbing lack of clothes, she was somehow not feeling the cold that had inspired her kidnappers to dress for warmth themselves. Suddenly aware of her exposed breasts, Megan crossed her arms over them in an effort to preserve a modicum of dignity.

But there was more, now that she was becoming more aware of the sensations that her body was experiencing, something did feel different after all. When she moved herself on the ground in order to alleviate some of the pain she was feeling, she found that her body did not respond in the way that she was used to. The feeling could only be described as that which she imagined must accompany being tied at the ankles so that movement was restricted. In addition there was the odd sensation that something dragged across the ground at the end of her legs, a weight which had not been there before and for which she could think of no logical explanation.
Megan pulled her legs up and glanced down to see what was stopping her moving her lower half, but when she laid eyes upon herself, she cried out in shock and alarm.

What she was seeing was simply not possible, it could only have existed in the realms of either the most fantastical dream or in her circumstances the worst of nightmares. Her legs were not bound or hobbled or maimed in any way, but neither were they there at all. In their place was a broad, scaled tail that composed the entirety of her body below the waist, curving away for what seemed like an impossible length until it ended in a broad and heavy fin that twitched and flicked as if it possessed a life of its own.

Megan reached out to touch the point where her skin gave way to the scales, which seemed to shift from silver to blue as the light caught that. But she pulled her hand back and instead stared at the thick and almost transparent membrane that extended to the knuckle and linked together her fingers and thumbs. It moved with her individual digits, changing colour in the same manner as did the scales and feeling like a natural part of her hands as it did so.

There was no room for the people who had kidnapped Megan in her mind as she tried to make some kind of sense of what she was seeing. They simply faded into the background as she struggled with the revelation that she was aware of every inch of the tail in the same way that she had been her vanished legs. She could feel the texture of the ground beneath the scales and even more so when it came to the sensations from the fin at the end. This appeared to be made of a similar stuff to the membrane between her fingers, only thicker and ribbed with some kind of cartilage which extended out in thin strips from the base of the tail before fanning out to reach the very tip of the fin.

Megan could feel every inch of the tail that seemed to constitute the lower half of her body, from where sparse scales began at her navel, becoming a complete covering from the waist down and right to the end of the fin. She moved the muscles that lay beneath the scales, finding that the new addition followed her clumsy efforts to explore its limits. With every twitch and movement she was able to make, she became ever more convinced that the thing was indeed a part of her body whether she could deal with the fact or not.

There was no way this could have been done with makeup or prosthetics, she was sure of that based on the way in which the tail moved and the reality that her legs simply could not have been concealed within its shape. She was also sure that nothing had been amputated below her waist, the idea was just too convoluted and sick for the kind of people her kidnappers claimed to be.
Then there was the way in which she could feel the ground beneath the scales as well as with her naked skin, something that would have been impossible had they been made of any rubber thick enough to achieve the level of detail she could clearly see with her own eyes.

It was a futile gesture as far as she was concerned, but Megan pinched at the scales near her waist simply to prove her thoughts correct. When there was nothing to show for her efforts apart from a sharp pain as she pulled at the skin of the tail, which was all the proof she needed.

Somehow, beyond all the realms of what she had thought possible, she had been turned into a mermaid. She was miles from home, kidnapped and naked in the middle of a natural wilderness with no means of escape or rescue. But all of that paled into nothing when weighed against the fact that she was no longer strictly speaking a human being, instead she was a creature that was supposed to exist only in fiction rather than the real world.

Megan found that she could not think straight once the reality had truly set in, let alone manage to string together the simplest words to express her reaction to the altered state in which she lay on the bank of the lake. All she was able to do was cover her face with her hands and though she prided herself on being of strong resolve, begin to cry helpless tears into her palms. There truly was nothing that she could muster and no inner strength with which to deal with the fundamental way in which her existence had been changed.

“You never cried for any of the things that were sent extinct by your asshole policies,” Will surged forwards to stand over Megan as she collapsed in on herself. “So now you’re going to get to see what it feels like to be an endangered species, struggling to survive in this ecosystem. But you’ll also have to deal with the bad luck of being a species of one.”

“Back off,” Guy had kept himself out of Megan’s sight until that moment, but now he chose to step forwards and boldly shove his companion away from the huddled form of the mermaid.

“What the fuck?” Will seemed more shocked at the firm tone in Guy’s voice than the physical manner in which he had made his presence felt. “When did you grow a spine? And when did you start to care about the feelings of a piece of work like her?”

The nervousness that had characterised Joe back in the hotel room was gone as he stood between Will and Megan, replaced with an angry resolve that had already registered in the other man’s body language. Without his own balaclava, his face was a combination of quiet thoughtfulness on account of his deep-set eyes and dependability read from the weathering that was already creasing its lines. Dishevelled brown hair and a goatee completed the picture of a man who was probably more comfortable without the threat of confrontation, but was now determined to see it through rather than back down.

“Since when did we start acting like cruel bastards?” Guy threw the questioning rather than dignify Will’s comments with an answer. “We did what we wanted to do, didn’t we? Kidnapped her, stuffed her in that thing and turned her into a bloody freak, just to make our point. Isn’t it enough? Haven’t you won yet?”

“Time out,” Ruby interjected herself. “I’m not standing around here while you two fight some kind of testosterone duel over shit that doesn’t matter. Will, stop with the insults because we did what we said we would. Guy, no more playing the Samaritan just for the sake of looking like less of a dick than him.” She glanced between the two men, happy to see that her point seemed to have sunk in. “Can we please get this over with and get out of here?”

“Okay,” Will began to walk up the bank, turning to address Joe as he went. “You can do the honours, seeing as how touched you’ve gotten with the plight of our little mermaid there.”

Guy waited until he was alone with the mermaid before he bent down and slipped one arm under her tail and the other around her back. She was heavier than she might have seemed, but offered no resistance as he stood and walked slowly into the lake.

He waded out until the level of the water reached his waist before he stopped, the tips of her fin breaking the surface as he went. The sensation of contact with water stirred Megan from her state of helplessness, somehow alerting her to just how close she had come to a mermaid’s natural element.

She looked up from behind her hands, seeing Guy’s face for the first time.

He happened to look down and notice her attention at that very moment and she sensed something in his eyes that was not the hatred in those of Will or the resigned indifference in the glances she had received from Ruby either. The look in these eyes was hard to define in simple terms, but there was anger, regret and more than a little confliction evident as he held her gaze.

“I’m sorry,” Guy spoke softly, shaking his head.

With that he released his grip on Megan, causing her to tip out of his arms and into the water of the lake with a loud crashing of water.
By the time she had come spluttering back to the surface, she saw that he had reached the bank and hurried away into the trees as if in a hurry to leave her to whatever fate had in store.

 

Trying to keep as still as she was able, Megan gripped the length of wood in her right hand and used the left to support herself as she leant over the edge of the rock on which she lay, gazing into the water. She had no idea how long she was able to hold her breath for, it was one of those pieces of information that had never previously been relevant to her daily life and so she had spared it no real thought. But now it seemed that she was being forced to take a long hard look at her priorities and how long she could go without letting her breath escape her lungs was just one of them.

In the course of the trials she had been forced to endure over the past week, thought had crossed her mind that being a mermaid might have made such things far easier. But when weighed against the number of things she had found it made perilously difficult, being able to squeeze a few more seconds in before she gasped for breath seemed somewhat petty in comparison.

Actually being underwater was had proven to be no challenge thanks to the gills that had opened, seemingly on instinct, when she first found herself submerged. The sensation was bizarre in the extreme after having spent more than forty years breathing by more conventional means, but she had found it became like second nature in no time at all. The only real challenge had come when she almost suffocated after spending too long sitting on the lake bottom contemplating her fate. But then where was the passage in the instruction book that confided the knowledge that mermaids needed to keep moving every once in a while to have their gills keep working?

None of that helped her to hold her breath on land though, and she was fast becoming desperate due to the limitations that she had out of the water. So far Megan had been unable to catch so much as a morsel of food in the lake that she had been unceremoniously dumped into. She was ravenous with hunger and starting to feel the effects of such a prolonged period of starvation.

Now she found herself in the ridiculous situation of needing to keep from making a sound as she tried to make use of the crude spear she had made to catch a fish of some description. If she was honest, the spear was actually little more than a stick that she had been able to hack into a rough point with the rubbish and debris that could be found lining the banks of the lake. It was far from the best way to fish, but then she had no real choice in the matter anymore.

There was a dart of silver in the corner of her eye a moment later and Megan jabbed the spear into the water as her desperation got the better of her patience. Her arm was jolted painfully as the spear connected with something that felt a great deal less yielding than the flesh of a fish. She dropped the entire thing into the water and watched it sink as the muscles of her arm protested.

Megan felt a terrible sense of frustration as she massaged the strains in her arm. While she was perfectly able to lower herself into the water, retrieve the spear and try again, she had begun to wonder if there was any point. No matter how she tried, she never seemed to get any better at the task and perhaps that time would be better spent trying to come up with a new plan.

She glanced over her shoulder at the small clearing that lay upon the shore, no more than a few hundred feet from her rock. It was not the first time she had done so that morning and she could not help but think that if what was sitting in the middle of the rocky ground had not been there, the resolve to keep trying would have been far easier to muster.

The metal tray that she kept stealing a look at had some kind of fish laid out upon it; there was no question of that. Megan’s nose was somehow more sensitive now than it had been when she was human and there was no mistaking the smell of what she was sure were fillets of smoked fish. And this was only one of almost a dozen that she had come across in similar locations from one end of the lake to the other.

It had to be a trap of some kind, of that at least she was certain. No one hunted by leaving such things out in the open around those parts and no matter if the contents of the trays were taken or simply disturbed by an animal in the course of the day, they were renewed by the start of the next.

For Megan the question was not if the fish was the bait for a trap, but rather why someone was trying to lure her onto the shore in the first place. Her kidnappers seemed unlikely candidates as they had brought her here to begin with, so why would they now be trying to capture her for a second time? But with them dismissed from her mind as a possible explanation, Megan was left with the even less appealing prospect of it being an unknown quantity, out there in the forest and watching her for a reason that she could did not even want to speculate upon.

She supposed there were things that a person might want with a mermaid, trying to limit her imagination to the relatively tame fate of ending up as part of a freakshow, a specimen in a museum or the prize spectacle in a waterpark. But at that particular moment in time, even she had to admit that she hardly resembled the more romantic image of a mermaid that most people would have had in mind.
Sleeping rough and spending every daylight hour hunting in vain for sustenance had not been kind to Megan and when she looked at her reflection in the surface of the lake she was reminded of the fact that she was practically filthy in every way possible.

Her skin was scratched in some places and had developed rashes in others, but most of that was concealed beneath a layer of grime and dirt that she was amazed had survived her numerous dives beneath the surface of the water. Her hair was a rat’s nest of tangles, knots and small pieces of detritus that she had picked up and either not noticed or else found too painful and bothersome to remove. And she was still naked save for a ragged polythene sack that she had somehow managed to force into the role of a makeshift top so that at least she was spared the humiliation of living with her breasts on permanent display.

But there were some nuggets of consolation, no matter how small they may have been when measured against the bleak nature of her situation. One was the fact that she no longer seemed to feel the cold as she had before, not flinching from the deceptive chill of the lake water or even sensing the drop in temperature that the night brought with it. Though she was sure the most valuable was also the most subtle, that being the way in which she found herself unable to panic or truly be disturbed any longer by the fact that she had become a mermaid.

While it was not as if she had woken up on one of the mornings since her transformation and started to spontaneously sing for the joy of it all, she was simply not shocked or even disturbed by the sight of her body any longer. The memories of her past and all the things that she was sure she had lost remained like shards of glass sunk into her stomach, but try as she might she could not summon any longing to have back the legs that she had possessed before she was trapped inside the unfathomable clamshell that had turned her into the creature she now was. For better or worse it seemed that she had somehow, on an instinctual level at least learned to deal with the reality of her situation.

In addition she had more pressing concerns, a fact that she was reminded of in a less than subtle manner as her stomach growled and then the muscles in her abdomen contracted painfully as if ins response.

Megan tore her gaze away from the tray of fish and pushed herself off the rock, disappearing beneath the surface of the water in search of her lost excuse for a fishing spear. At least when she was submerged her newly sensitive nose could not betray her in the same way as it did on land.

She found the spear with little trouble, her eyes able to penetrate the gloom of the lake so long as there was a faint light coming down from above. With the poorly made tool in one hand, she propelled herself through the water, determined to persevere with her attempt to land a fish and headed for a part of the lake where she was sure no bait had been laid out for her attention.

 

Every woman had her limit, Megan told herself as she crawled up the bank, even mermaids it seemed. As she tried to avoid the larger stones that jutted from the dirt and ignore those that she could not, it occurred to her that she had held out for almost two whole weeks before the temptation had simply become too much for her to bear. Would most people have been able to make that claim before they finally snapped and threw caution to the wind?

Now that the tray was only a mere few metres away, she reminded herself of the fact that she was not just doing this for the sake of her belly. There was the intense need to satisfy her curiosity as to who was goading her with food when they could plainly see from the state she was in that she had not eaten in days.

Megan was sure that she had put enough thought into what she was about to do, enough at least to be certain that she was not simply walking into the trap that had been set for her. From what she had been able to make out, the most likely form the trap would take was a net beneath the tray, rigged to scoop up whatever tripped it while going for the bait. She planned to approach from the side, keep clear of the tray until she could see the net itself and then try to set the whole thing off from a safe spot. If she could spring that same trap and then watch from a safe distance whoever came to investigate then she would be one step closer to an answer on that point at least.

It was only when she was less than a metre from the tray that Megan became suddenly aware of the fact that she had not only made a mistake, but that she had also underestimated the intelligence of the person who had set the trap in the first place. The ground this close to the tray was covered with the carpet of needles, leaves and bracken that began away from the bank of the lake, but she noticed too late that there was an even shape just visible beneath the patch on which she was currently crawling. Had she been able to stand on two feet it would have been far easier to miss entirely and it was only thanks to her close proximity to the ground that she had any warning of what happened next at all.

A whipping and straining sound filled the air as her vision was lost in a chaotic blur of motion. Megan’s stomach lurched as she was plucked from the ground and she felt the sensation of rough fibres chafe against her skin. It was all she could do to keep from either screaming out in terror or bringing up what little was in her stomach.

When the world had stopped spinning and her dizziness receded into the background, Megan found that she was hopelessly entangled in what looked to be the sturdiest net she had ever seen. As if to add insult to injury she was also stuck upside down, looking out on an inverted view of the lake as the net rotated slowly with the last of the momentum with her make shift top partly yanked off to reveal one exposed breast. But perhaps worse than the nausea and the loss of dignity was the way in which the tray of smoked fist remained sitting tantalisingly close below her, untouched and pristine as though mocking her as she stared out from the net.

Megan cursed herself for not seeing the train of thought her now successful captor must have followed when setting the trap. There was no way she would have fallen for such a simple lure outright, therefore a twist was required to outfox her own thinking. Putting the net under the tray was never going to work, but anticipating the way in which she might have approached the trap was another thing entirely. The owner of the trap would have deduced that she would not approach directly from the bank, making straight for the tray, which was almost as obvious as falling for the net under the tray itself. She could not approach from the right as the tree itself blocked that option, so all that remained was the left or the rear. Now here was a point at which Megan decided the person setting the trap had been forced to make a decision based on their intended prey. Approaching from the rear would have offered the most time in which to study the ground and offer a chance of spotting the net, but on the other hand she was hungry and perhaps the chance of getting to the food that little bit sooner would influence her choice. Thinking that she had already taken enough care, she might make for the left side rather than remain sensibly cautious and thus make a mistake after all.

And that was just what she had done.

Megan had to admit that as scared as she was, whoever set the trap was no fool.

She was forced to accept that she was now at their mercy, possessing no means of either cutting or chewing through the rope of the net. Instead she tried to keep her imagination from running away while she waited for the inevitable moment when her captor came to check the trap.

It had been later in the afternoon when Megan made her attempt at the bait and soon the light began to fade as time crept on. She had become used to guessing at the hour of the day based on the position of the sun and the length of the shadows cast by the trees. But this was the first occasion since her transformation that she found herself able to actually notice the torturous passage of time as she was forced to wait whilst trapped inside the net.

Darkness had fallen and she realised that she must have succumbed to sleep in the hours that she had been hanging there in acute discomfort when the glare of an artificial light suddenly flooded her vision and shook her awake. Megan tried to shield her eyes, but could not make out anything beyond the source of the light, robbed as she was of any hope that her eyes could adjust to the gloom. Moments later the light dimmed as some kind of cover was slid over the beam, seemingly after the person holding it had satisfied themselves with the sight of the squinting mermaid in their net.

Though she could hear the approach of the figure over the short distance between them, Megan was unable to gauge anything about them from the sound. Cushioned as they were by the soft nature of the ground underfoot, what she was able to make out might have been the steps of a child or a giant for all she could tell.

Her first clue came when she was able to just make out the shape of a human being as her eyes recovered a little from the initial shock of the light. She had estimated that she must have been over five feet off the ground inside the net and so the sight of the head and shoulders on a level with her own could only mean her captor was taller than average. Broad shoulders seemed to hint that it was a man rather than a woman and her sensitive nose caught the scent of wood smoke and the lingering hint of fish that would have escaped the notice of most having been strong on him a number of hours ago and fading since.

The man raised what she could now tell was a lantern and opened a hatch on the front to allow a small portion of the light to escape once more.

Megan blinked and finally managed to resolve her vision enough to see the face of the man who had managed to trap her.
She was not sure what her reaction should have been to the fact it was the same man who had dumped her into the lake two weeks earlier.

With his jaw set firmly and an expression that she could only think meant he was trying very hard to keep his true emotions from showing, Guy shone the lantern into the net in silence. He seemed to be intent on checking as much of the mermaid’s body as he could see from her awkward position, avoiding her face as he did so.

A part of Megan was relieved that it had not turned out to be the seemingly somewhat unhinged Will and for a reason she could not fathom she was also glad not to have been captured by the diminutive Ruby either. Of the three people she knew had kidnapped her, the man the others had called Guy was the least openly threatening from what little knowledge and experience she had to go on. But she was also aware of how much room that left for him to surprise her in a bad way. It was perfectly possible that rather than the quiet sensitive member of the group, this man could actually be the quiet psychopath instead.

She watched in shared silence as Guy finished his inspection of both her and the trap and then turned to look her in the face for the first time.

“I’m going to let the net down,” his voice sounded every bit as tightly controlled as his expression. “I won’t loosen the net or turn my back on you while I do it, so it would be best for us both if you kept still and quiet.” It was a statement, not a request and Megan could see no other option but to cooperate for the moment and she nodded once in agreement.

Guy knelt to place the lantern on the ground and produced a knife with which he set about cutting the cords that held the net in place. Megan buried her initial sense of horror at the speed at which the knife appeared in his hand, reminding herself of how far out into the wild they were and the many practical uses of such a tool in their surroundings. She tried to remember the difference that existed between carrying a wicked looking knife in a shopping mall and doing so in the depths of a forest, but still it would have been easier if the owner of the blade in question was not very much in control of the course of her immediate future.

Taking the weight of the net as he held the severed rope, Guy lowered the captive mermaid to the ground with what she supposed amounted to as much delicacy as possible given the circumstances. She kept quiet and still as he had demanded, moving only to adjust her improvised clothing and return her errant breast to its confines. If he took her doing so as a breach of his conditions, Guy made no effort to say so.

He knelt by her side, gathering the rope that remained into a coil around his arm, less threatening now that the knife had returned to wherever its sheath was concealed about his person.

“I have a boat tied up a few hundred yards down the shore,” again he was making a statement and not seeking to begin a debate. “I can carry you there in the net unconscious as easily as conscious.” There really was no need to elaborate on the last point, but for some reason Megan was not wholly convinced of the way in which the man was acting. It was almost as if he was following a script of some kind, trying to create a demeanour that was by no means skin deep.

She was surprised when he knelt and gripped the net so as to carry it upon his back, but even more so when he rose to his feet with a groan of effort and then adjusted his burden with little more than the smallest regard for the weight he was now carrying. But as he began to make his way along the shore in the direction which she presumed his boat lay, she was reminded of what small effort it had been for him to carry her into the lake after she was released from the clamshell for the first time.

The boat turned out to be a small affair little bigger than a rowing boat, with an outboard motor and signs of a long and hard life betrayed in worn paintwork and smoothed wood where the material of its construction was exposed to the elements. Megan found herself placed gently atop a chaotic pile of rope and what she thought were fishing nets that filled the prow of the boat. She watched as Guy made short work of casting off and pulling the started cord so that he could guide them out onto the waters of the lake accompanied by the sputtering protests of the engine.

Their journey was short in terms of length, but made to seem far longer on account of the forced silence that hung over the boat. Whilst he kept his mouth shut and his eyes on the way ahead, Megan was inclined to follow her captor’s example for fear of what consequences might result from speaking when she was not spoken to first. Instead she tried to find a position in which she was at least a little comfortable and able to rub some life back into the parts of her body that had gone numb while she had been hung upside down in the net.

Convinced that his attention was elsewhere and that he own efforts to massage life back into her limbs would serve as sufficient cover, Megan began to steal glances at the man who had gone to some considerable effort to snare her. Now that the initial panic and confusion was past, she could better hope to weigh up the signs and signals that were there to be read even in his silence. With his companions she suspected that the task might have been a great deal simpler thanks to their habit of wearing their emotions so obviously and without the guile to hide their true intentions. Guy on the other hand was proving with every moment she spent in his company to be far harder, the cues she could see in his expression and bearing being at once both very clear and yet somehow leading her to think that they were no deeper than the surface, concealing something that was well hidden beneath.

It was this inability to penetrate the layers that the man presented as well as the fact that she was trapped in a net and at a serious disadvantage on dry land that kept her from making any effort to escape even as the boat seemed to be nearing its destination. She watched as Joe cut the engine and guided them towards a small jetty using momentum alone, evidently a task he had completed many times before. There was a series of bumps and the side of the boat made contact with the planks of the jetty and even before they had come to a complete stop, he was out and onto the planks in order to tie up.

“We’re almost there,” Guy spoke as he lifted Megan, net and all out of the boat and once more slung her over his back. “When we get inside…” he stopped, as if unsure of what to say next and in that moment she saw the mask slip just a little, enough to show that there was an element of fear somewhere in his mind. “We’ll see what happens then,” he quickened his pace as he regained his composure and walked into the trees by the jetty.

Ahead Megan could make out subtle signs of habitation where trees had been felled and the encroaching undergrowth cut back. The ground was not paved, but the earth underfoot had been packed down by repeated passage and formed a defined path from the jetty to what appeared to be a cabin of some kind. Over guy’s shoulder she could see a roof tiled with what appeared to be wooden tiles and beneath walls that were constructed from seasoned timbers. A number of lamps giving off a glow more like that of a luminous insect than a piercing beam from a torch gave away the size of the structure, which was by no means tiny and yet seemed to sit at ease with its natural surroundings.

As they approached the wide porch that fronted the cabin, she saw that far from being the dilapidated dwelling of some backwoods primitive, the building was more akin to the kind of home often touted as an eco-friendly dwelling. While it was by no means new, the cabin had been put together with evident care and skill. Megan’s father had pursued carpentry as a hobby throughout his life and from him she had learnt the signs of skilled work, which was more than evident here. There was even a moment when she found herself thinking that under almost any other circumstances it would have been quite pleasant to contemplate spending time in such a place.
Guy passed the front door and instead made his way around the back of the cabin where he entered what looked like a plain wooden box from the outside. But once they were on the inside, Megan was surprised to see that it was in fact a modestly appointed bathroom attached to the rear of the main structure.

Low energy lighting flickered into life and Joe lowered her to the floor with a care that would have been more appropriate for someone carrying an invalid than a captured mermaid with nothing more than a collection of cuts, bumps and bruises.

“Time to clean yourself up,” Guy knelt down beside her as he again produced his knife and began to cut through the net in which she was tangled. “There’s hot water in the tank and I’d suggest using the tub,” he pointed to the amenities as he cut the last of the cords and allowed the net to slip into a heap on the floor beneath her. “Towels and clothes you can find in the locker over there. I’ll leave and come back in an hour to see how you’re doing. The door will be locked the whole time, but I promise that I’ll knock and wait when I come back,” he paused as he weighed his next words carefully. “That is I’ll go, if you don’t need any help.”

Megan looked him in the eye, puzzled once more by the way in which his words seemed to contradict his actions.

“No,” she shook her head and turned away, “please leave.”

“Okay,” Guy rose to his feet and turned to leave.

“Why…” Megan caused him to stop at the door with her unexpected words. “Why are you trying to play nice with someone you’re holding prisoner?”

“You’re not a prisoner,” Guy refused to return her gaze as he opened the door, “It’s just that I can’t allow you to go anywhere right now and I can’t explain why.”

With an explanation that explained nothing still hanging in the air, he stepped through the door and was gone.

Megan heard the sound of a key turning in the lock and then nothing apart from her own breathing.

She shook her head in acknowledgement of the fact that she was none the wiser as to just what was happening to her and tried to think of what she would do next.

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Filed under Short Story, Transformation

Smooth Plastic

I mage supplied by SOMMAI

The rain had eased off and was steaming from the tarmac by the time Eliza breezed out of the studio building and crossed the car park. A cooling breeze was the only thing that prevented the heat of the early afternoon from becoming unbearable, overhead the sky was a clear blue and the sun blazed mercilessly without a cloud in sight.

Though the journey from the lobby to the car was a matter of only a few seconds, Eliza dreaded this part of her day more than any other and always armed herself with sunglasses, bottled water and an elegant silk fan decorated with twisting and turning Koi carp. The first two items were simply a part of the image she was sure a modern and upwardly mobile celluloid star should portray. But the latter had been a gift from an anonymous admirer; while she had never found who the mysterious source of the fan might have been, it was still the first glimmer of recognition she had ever received from her public.

Eliza had never stopped to ponder the irony of having been sent a fan, by a fan; but then she had seldom been known to read between the lines, or anything at all for that matter.

Despite wearing as little as possible without being in danger of arrest, Eliza found that she was still more than a tad hot and bothered. The scene which she had just finished shooting had not been easy and tempers had frayed before the thing was finally in the can. Her vest top was bothering her; the shorts she had chosen left her legs at the mercy of the sun and boots, which had enchanted her from the window of a shoe shop, were now threatening to rub blisters on her heels.

The last thing she needed to see were the two men in suits loitering in-between herself and her car, but there they were all the same. In concession to the hot weather, both men had removed their jackets and were carrying them over their arms; they wore short sleeved white shirts and black ties, looking very much like the kind of religious nutter that turned up on ones doorstep armed with magazines and warnings of impending damnation. As she got closer, Eliza saw that the two were Japanese, carrying briefcases and apart from being coatless, showed little sign of being bothered by the heat.

All at once one of the men caught sight of Eliza and began pointing in her direction whilst making loud proclamations in his native tongue. The second man, whom Eliza realised was slightly older than his excited colleague, turned on him and issued what she assumed was a reprimand. As soon as the first man had visibly clamed down and was engaged in staring at his feet in a way that put her in mind of a scolded young boy, the second turned her way and offered a polite bow.

Eliza bowed back in what she hoped was the right manner and would have asked what the pair were doing hanging around her car, if the older man had not jumped in on her first.

‘Good afternoon,’ the man’s English was accented, but otherwise perfect. ‘You are Miss Aukerman? Miss Eliza Aukerman, actress and model?’

Eliza nodded; it was a long time since she had been called a straight up actress and the man’s polite manner had caught her a little off guard.

The nod was greeted with a smile and another in return.

‘May I introduce myself,’ the man went on. ‘I am Mr Nakemura, and this,’ he pointed at his younger companion, ‘is Mr Shima, my junior colleague.’ nakemura retrieved a smart black wallet from his jacket pocket and presented it to Eliza with a gesture of pride and reverence.

‘Thanks,’ she said as she accepted the card, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t have one of my own to give you…’

‘No matter,’ Nakemura breezed past the issue, ‘such small matters cannot be allowed to stand in the way of business.’

‘Business?’

‘Yes, business,’ Nakemura smiled again, ‘Mr Shima and I have a proposal which we would like to offer you; it is possibly very lucrative for you, but also a very private matter. Is there a place where we may speak in private?’

 

The waitress deposited three bottles of beer on the table and disappeared, leaving Eliza and her two companions alone in the booth. From the expression on the woman’s face, Eliza had been sure that everyone who saw them was getting the wrong impression. She tucked her long black hair behind her ears and took a sip of her beer, trying to look as aloof and refined as she could manage whilst Nakamura spoke for both himself and Shima once again.

‘You have heard of Oshimasu Incorporated Enterprises?’

‘Who hasn’t,’ Eliza nodded. OIE was a household name the world over, a sprawling Japanese corporation that had massive holdings and influence not only in its home nation but also throughout almost all developed nations on the face of the earth. Like most companies in of its size and scope, it was perhaps an easier task to list things that OIE did not involve itself in rather than attempt to recount the diverse fields in which it manufactured, produced and innovated. When one switched on the TV there was an advert for their products. Hospitals were stocked with their medical apparatus as well as administering their drugs to patients. The company even held large shares in a number of major studios and supported some of its products with films and series that were at worst little more than expensive adverts themselves.

‘Then we are one step on the way already,’ beamed Nakamura. ‘I will assume also, that you are acquainted with the “Dream Princess” range, which has been marketed with great success over the past decade?’

Much like the previous question, Eliza would have had to have lived under a particularly big rock if the answer was no. The Dream Princess range, which Nakamura referred to were possibly the most popular children’s toys in the world and a merchandising phenomenon that seemed to know no bounds. The Princesses in question were a series of fashion dolls, each with a distinctive theme and look; and an extensive range of accessories, each sold separately, of course. Kids and collectors alike snapped these up attracted by the lifelike quality of the dolls and the clever planning that had gone into each one. Rather than creating one doll and selling for it different outfits, an astute soul at Oshimasu had instead decided that every different Dream Princess would be unique in its facial features and skin tones. The surfer Princess was a blonde and tanned California girl, whilst the special edition Juliet Princess created to mark the four-hundredth anniversary of the death of Shakespeare was dark-skinned Mediterranean beauty.

‘Of course.’

‘Then you are also familiar with the Dream Princess doll known as Iyesha?’

At the mention of the name, Shima suddenly seemed to take a more active interest in the conversation and leaned forward as if trying to involve himself further.

‘Yeah,’ Eliza paddled back through her memories, ‘that’s the mermaid?’

‘That is right,’ Nakamura nodded, ‘Dream Princess Iyesha is a mermaid who dwells beneath the ocean waves, swims with the whales and the dolphins and has the voice of an angel with which she sings upon the top of a coral reef.’ Despite being unable to speak English, Shima had evidently recognised the lines Nakamura was quoting and now it was his turn to nod his head in agreement. Though she could not recall the last advert she had seen for the doll that Nakamura was enthusing about, Eliza was pretty sure he had just recited the script verbatim.

‘And…?’ Eliza let the question hang in the air.

Nakamura glanced round from where he had been giving a stern look to Shima, who was once more getting quite excited.

‘Pardon me?’

‘And just what does Dream Princess Iyesha have to do with the business proposition you were talking about?’

‘Ah, yes,’ Nakamura was back on track in an instant. ‘Dream Princess Iyesha has a great deal to do with the proposition, as you put it.’ He produced his briefcase from beneath the table and pulled out a wad of glossy photos, which he spread out on the table like an oversized pack of cards. ‘But before we come to the details of the proposition, there are a few points which I must address with you.’

‘Go on.’

‘Firstly, Mr Shima and I have sought you out in connection with Dream Princess Iyesha for a very important reason. While I myself am a director of the Dream Princess project, Mr Shima is concerned with the intricacies of design and realisation, responsible for the way in which our finished products look and feel. In the course of his work, Mr Shima will be responsible for everything from the colour of a Dream Princess’s eyes to the size of her waist; all these things are part of his work.’ He paused and took a deep breath that was in keeping with the look of resignation that had crossed his face after another glance at Shima. ‘When we are to choose the face and figure of a new Dream Princess, we are committed to giving her the most realistic qualities that are possible with the technology at our disposal. Rather than create what would be an artificial face, we will search for an example of a living and breathing woman who we feel captures the essence of what the Dream Princess should be.’

‘You make the dolls to look like real people?’ Eliza asked.

‘No, please do not think that this is the case. We will settle upon a woman whom we believe is perfect, and then we will make subtle alterations in the characteristics of the new Dream Princess so that she is somewhat like a sister in her appearance to the person upon whom she is based. The resulting Dream Princess is alike to the woman in question, but no case could be made that they are the same; in that respect we are usually very careful.’

‘Usually?’

‘Yes,’ Nakamura looked pained as he made the admission, as though his whole worth were being called into question. ‘But in the case of Dream Princess Iyesha…we were not as careful as we should have been. You must understand that the woman chosen as the essence of a Dream Princess can come from almost any background. Some are women prominent in the media and adored by many; but others can be women whom one might pass on the street, quite ordinary in their lives and characters. Then sometimes it can be that an employee of our company may choose a woman whom they admire greatly and believe deserves to be immortalised as a Dream Princess. And this last is the case with Dream Princess Iyesha.’

‘It’s not?’

‘No,’ Nakamura cast a hostile glare at Shima, who gazed down at the photos on the table and then innocently up at Eliza. ‘In the case of Dream Princess Iyesha, it was Mr Shima who chose the woman upon whom she would be based. You see Mr Shima is much enamoured of the films in which you star, Miss Aukerman, to the extent that he makes the claim he has seen every one of them. In the case of Dream Princess Iyesha, he chose to base her appearance upon your own, and I am regretful to say that he did not take sufficient care to differentiate her facial and…other features from the model which he chose.’

So that was where the fan came from, she thought.

Eliza followed Nakamura’s gaze down to the photo’s spread out on the table. Instantly she realised they were not photos at all, but rather images created by a computer graphics programme. Most showed underwater scenes where all the twee and contrite things that could be imagined to exist under the waves could be seen; barnacle encrusted anchors, shipwrecks, coral reefs and even treasure chests dotted the backgrounds. But at the centre of each image was the same thing, Dream Princess Iyesha, swimming in her native element.

In the aftermath of Nakamura’s confession Eliza was suddenly fascinated. A woman well into her twenties, she had long since decided that dolls were a thing of the past; but this was something different.

Eliza’s eyes traced the lines of the mermaid’s form in wonder. There indeed were the features of her own face, surrounded by the halo of her dark hair as it billowed in the water, there was the line of her neck and the curve of her shoulders. But then for all its familiar little details, the Dream Princess’s body took a radical departure from her own. To the casual eye it might have seemed that Iyesha wore a long dress that clung to her like a second skin, covering her breasts, waist, thighs and beyond in a graceful sweep of aquamarine. A closer look however, would have drawn the eye to the point where the aquamarine clung just as tightly to her claves and continued all the way down to where a pair of silver flukes flared from the end of her tail. Eliza recognised the shape of her own legs in the curve of the tail as Iyesha swam through the water, the heaving of her breasts as the mermaid sat upon a rock and sang, she even saw the lucrative image of her own ass mirrored in the Dream Princess’s rear as she reclined on a beach, back turned to the imaginary camera.

‘Wow,’ Eliza looked up from the images before her, ‘these are so pretty!’

A look of startled relief flushed Nakamura’s face which Eliza took to be pride; it was only much later that she discovered the relief was linked more to the amount which a more litigious individual might have demanded for the use of her image without permission than to Nakamura’s delight at her approval of Dream Princess Iyesha.

‘You will no doubt be pleased to know that Dream Princess Iyesha is the most popular of all the models launched this year, already sales have outstripped all other new dolls in the range.’

‘It’s neat,’ Eliza was the one beaming now, ‘you know I always wondered what it would be like to have a fish’s tail, swim in the sea and all that stuff!’

‘Then maybe my proposition will be to your liking,’ Nakamura ventured.

‘Let me guess,’ Eliza tried to trump him, ‘you want me to dress up as Dream Princess Iyesha for you, right?’ Before Nakamura could answer she steamed on in a state of near delirium at the prospect of a job that involved keeping her clothes on for once. ‘Of course I’ll do it.’

‘Miss Aukerman,’ Nakamura spoke in a level tone, trying to calm Eliza down. ‘You are perhaps thinking of similar possibilities to ourselves on this matter. But we are not simply asking you to dress up as Dream Princess Iyesha. In fact we would like to propose that for the purposes of publicity and promotion, you become Dream Princess Iyesha.’

It had taken a very long while for the full implications of Nakamura’s offer to sink in, but Eliza finally had a good grip of just what he was suggesting. For a long time she had simply sat and pondered the images of Dream Princess Iyesha, shuffling through them like a strange slideshow as the thoughts floated through her mind. The long and short of it all was that the man was offering to take her away from her life as it was, to change the rules completely. If she accepted and Nakamura was telling the truth, she would become a mermaid…become the physical double of Dream Princess Iyesha complete with tail and all.

Though Eliza had never heard of such a thing being done before, she knew full well that there were rumours of just what amazing feats cosmetic surgeons had become capable with the advent of genetic manipulation. Never one to follow the news too closely, Eliza had never the less heard and seen some strange things in during her time in the world of adult films. Body Modification was a growing sub-genre of the industry and the films that had begun to appear which made both the eyes and the mind boggle as they pushed the boundaries.

‘For this service, we will meet all medical and personal expenses,’ Nakamura explained, ‘whilst your personal fee for the services rendered will be, we suggest to open negotiations, ten million dollars American.’

Eliza dropped the images and simply stared at the pair sitting across from her. For all the misgivings that had entered her mind, that was a figure that cast a totally different light on the whole issue. While trading her legs in for a tail would certainly change her life, Eliza reasoned that ten million dollars would have a similar effect as well. A new dimension had suddenly been added to her decision and she realised that above and beyond the sacrifices she would have to make, the money that Nakamura was promising could lift her out of the sleaze of the industry for good.

‘What else do I have to do?’ Eliza asked. ‘I mean apart form growing fins and giving up on designer shoes?’

‘We are proposing that you, as Dream Princess Iyesha, become the living representative of the doll that is based upon you.’ Nakamura replied. ‘Your duties will be to star in television commercials, appear at promotional events and in-between these commitments to live in the style in which Dream Princess Iyesha lives. Also if these things are a success with the consumer, the idea has been raised to commission a television series or even motion picture based around yourself and the other Dream Princesses.’ At this last point Nakamura seemed particularly impressed, as did Shima. ‘Our plans, if you are well received, are to hire actresses to become each of the Dream Princesses.’

‘Let me get this straight,’ Eliza pondered the deal. ‘I let you turn me into a mermaid; and in return you pay me ten million, put me on TV and if people like me I get to star in movies?’

‘Yes.’

‘I think I’d have to be stupid to say no!’

Nakamura reached across the table and shook Eliza’s hand vigorously.

Shima was so overwhelmed with Eliza’s answer that he fell out of his seat and onto the restaurant floor.

 

Eliza travelled more in the space of the next few months than she had all the years of her life before accepting Nakamura’s offer. She was flown across the continental United States from Los Angeles to New York where the contracts were drawn up and witnessed by lawyers representing herself and OIE.

Next came a long haul across the Pacific Ocean to Japan and an overwhelming immersion in the bustling neon metropolis of Tokyo. Here Eliza was introduced to the men and women who worked under Nakamura and Shima, the same people responsible for the doll in whose image she would soon be reborn. Eliza spent her time bowing politely and wrestling with the Japanese language whilst Shima, her constant guide, in turn grappled with English. After a few weeks, they were both able to get through a conversation filled with misplaced words and much gesturing, but always managed to get the point across.

Eliza had been secretly dreading spending time in Shima’s company, afraid that he would turn out to be a drooling pervert just waiting for a chance to feel her ass in a crowded lift. But as she got to know him the character of a genuine and friendly young man had emerged. She might have been aware of the fact that Shima had seen her in a good few compromising positions, but neither of them dwelt upon the fact and Shima himself behaved like a consummate gentleman.

‘Today,’ Shima began one morning, ‘we will be having the first photo shoot.’

‘Today?’ Eliza was puzzled by the announcement. ‘Last time I looked in the mirror I wasn’t a mermaid.’

‘Not yet,’ Shima countered, ‘but today we will shoot you in a costume and use the pictures for publicity. Some will also be sent to the facility that will change you soon, they will also need samples of DNA in order to prepare.’

‘Whatever.’

Eliza soon found herself in a dressing room, being fussed over by half a dozen make-up artists and hairdressers. They painted her face with heavy stage make-up familiar from the more up market films she had done in the past, concealed her own hair beneath a flowing blonde wig and arranged in it a tiara made to resemble white coral interlaced with irregular pearls.

Stripped down to her underwear, the same six Japanese women helped her into the costume. At first the costume resembled nothing more than an oversized aquamarine sock; but as the side was unfastened and her feet were slipped into the bottom, Eliza began to feel the soft fabric close around her legs. Though she had sweated through a few scenes whilst wrapped up in hobble skirts and other bondage paraphernalia, this was a very different experience. The costume had been made of a material that was quite thick, but yielding all the same and hugged her body closely. As it was sealed up the side, Eliza was forced to remove her bra so that the straps would not be visible after the tail ended just above her breasts. Freed from the bra, she found that the thickness of the material had been used to conceal a bodice that now supported her chest very well indeed. Eliza gazed down at the impressive sight of her cleavage, then down at the sweep of the tail and decided that she made a very fine mermaid after all.

As soon as the outfit had been completed with a pair of long and elegant gloves, which matched the tail exactly and ended perfectly level with the line of the bodice, Eliza was carried through to a suitably camp underwater set where cameras awaited.

Eliza had been told in minute detail what would be expected of her by Shima beforehand and she was careful to pose in ways that were in keeping with a Dream Princess rather than with an experienced actress from the adult industry. She posed and was careful not to pout, smiled and tried not to smoulder; but when she caught sight of Shima over the shoulders of the photographers it was clear that there was only so much she could do to dampen her appeal.

Amused and more than a little turned on, Eliza began to realise the potential that her transformation could have. Though she had never had any kind of trouble using her looks to wrap men around her finger, Shima’s reaction to the sight of her flowing form hinted that the mere glimpse of her would be enough to reduce most men to quivering wrecks, have them falling down at her fins.

 

All too soon, it seemed to Eliza, the time came to leave behind Tokyo and embark on the next stage of her journey towards becoming Dream Princess Iyesha. In the short time she had spent there, she had grown very fond of the Japanese and their polite company. Saying goodbye to Shima and boarding a lonely flight to the United Kingdom on a cold and dreary morning was almost more than Eliza could bear. After so long surrounded by friendly faces, she was forced to travel alone to the clinic where the operation would be carried out, the operation that would turn her into a mermaid.

It was at the insistence of the clinic itself that she was forced to travel alone. Known as the Retreat, the exclusive establishment demanded that only the patient make the journey and would accept no arguments on this point.

Just as she had never before seen Japan, this new island was as much a mystery to Eliza and filled her with trepidation as the plane descended through a sky heavy with grey clouds. Her spirits were roused however, when the cloud was left behind, and below was suddenly laid clear a grand vista of pure white. She had arrived in England in the winter and the ground was hidden beneath a deep layer of crisp snow that lent to all that it touched a fairytale quality. Soon Eliza was able to forget a little of the melancholy that had coloured her departure from Tokyo as she allowed herself to be enchanted by the picturesque countryside through which she was driven after the drab and depressing streets of London.

It was well into the night when the driver who had met Eliza at Heathrow finally reached their destination. The clouds that had filled the sky melted away after the sun had set and left behind a boundless black expanse, dotted with stars. Civilisation was only hinted at by the occasional glimpse of cottages clustering together across the snow and framed by the moonlight. Tired from the long hours of travel, Eliza was lulled to sleep by the smooth ride and the pleasant glow of the picturesque winter landscape.

A gentle hand on her wrist caused Eliza to stir and she looked up into the eyes of the driver as he held the door of the car open before her.

‘Here we are,’ he said briefly.

She nodded and began to gather her coat against the chill, which had entered the car as soon as the door was opened. Eliza stepped out onto gravel, cleared of snow and salted against ice. Before her spread the looming facade of a large house built of red brick, its many windows filled with welcoming light and warmth in the winter night. The driver had pulled up by a pair of huge double doors that stood in a commanding position as the only visible entrance to the house. Despite the cold, these stood ajar and spilled light out into the courtyard.

So, Eliza thought, this is it. I walk up the stairs and swim out the back door when they’re done with me.

With her luggage handled by the driver, Eliza made her way up the stairs and through the doors to be greeted by a graceful hallway with sweeping staircases and period furniture. At a desk inside the door, she set eyes upon a woman pondering over a stack of papers. The sound of Eliza’s shoes on the wooden floor caused her to glance up and regard the newcomer with a welcoming smile.

‘Welcome to the Retreat,’ Eliza was unable to place the woman’s accent, ‘My name is Gillian, and you must be Ms Aukerman.’ Gillian shuffled through her papers and quickly scanned the sheet that she finally settled upon. ‘I trust you had a pleasant journey, despite the English winter’s depredations?’

‘Yeah,’ Eliza replied, ‘the snow is lovely, like a Christmas card.’

‘I think that you will enjoy the view from your room. Your benefactors have been most generous in providing for your stay,’ Gillian subtly steered the conversation back to the matter at hand. ‘You will be staying in the grand suite on the top floor of the house, its windows command a sweeping view of the grounds beyond the gardens.’ She handed a key over the desk and nodded to Eliza’s luggage. ‘A porter will attend to that for you shortly. Your room is furnished to allow for all your needs and your meals will be brought to you there. If you need anything else all you have to do is call reception.’

‘Thanks,’ Eliza felt that she liked Gillian right from the start. She was her senior by a good few years, but somehow she sensed the woman was also grounded, rooted and steady in her manner. Eliza could not help but admire the firmness of her skin and the inner peace that Gillian seemed to radiate. The long coat that she wore concealed her body well, but Eliza was sure she had kept herself in good shape and hoped that when she reached the same age she would look half as good as Gillian did.

Gillian motioned to the stairs as the Porter arrived, picking up a steaming mug as she did so. The beverage had escaped Eliza’s attention and she was immediately attracted by the scent of herbs and spices that drifted from it.

‘Could I take a sip?’ she asked, feeling the cold more acutely all of a sudden.

‘No,’ Gillian sounded as if the request had caught her off guard. ‘No. I am sorry, this is a tea, which is not known here in the west…It is very strong and quite bitter; an acquired taste. I only drink it to remind me of home.’

‘Ok…whatever you say,’ Eliza was not about to pry into what was evidently a sensitive issue.

‘I will have a warm drink sent up to you,’ Gillian offered, ‘Coffee, tea or a hot toddy?’

‘Coffee would be nice,’ Eliza smiled as the elder woman made an effort to smooth over her hasty words.

Gillian nodded and smiled in return.

‘You will be under the care of Dr Pickford during your stay with us; he will call on you in the morning at your convenience.’

 

Eliza leaned back upon the chaise long and sipped the last of her coffee whilst the new arrival fussed and fiddled with the odds and ends he had brought with him. Once he seemed satisfied that they were in order, he sat down on the sofa opposite and accepted a cup of coffee Eliza insisted on pouring for him. He drank a little before placing the cup down on the coffee table between them and made an effort to begin.

‘I apologise if I seem a tad awkward,’ Pickford confirmed Eliza’s preconception of the English habit of apologising for nothing and things that were out of a mortal’s control, as if embarrassed that they had not yet quite managed to unravel all the mysteries of the universe. ‘You see normally I’d be doing this in my own office, all casual and chatty, but in your case we were given certain instructions to follow. One was that your visit should be as private as we could manage, which for a clinic such as ourselves is quite secretive, I can tell you. The folks paying for our services on your behalf insisted that you arrive under cover of darkness and leave that way…they also insisted that you have the best accommodation we had to offer, price being no object.’

‘Well, I like this place a lot; it’s very pretty.’

‘Yes,’ Pickford answered, as if the thought had never occurred to him before, ‘I suppose it is.’ He glanced down at the table and then at the bag by his feet before rummaging around inside. Finally he pulled something out and set it on top of the bulging file, which he had already deposited on the table. When he moved his hands away, Eliza saw that it was a doll, namely Dream Princess Iyesha.

Pickford studied her face as she stared at the doll and then at him. While Eliza held his eye, the doll keeled over and fell from its perch atop the file. Pickford looked embarrassed at this, as though he had unwittingly insulted her by way of ill-treating her little plastic doppelganger.

‘The good people at Oshimasu sent this to us,’ he explained, ‘along with a mountain of other materials, in order to help us with our research.’ Pickford’s tone hinted at a mild irritation when recalling being deluged with glossy merchandise and marketing from the sprawling corporation. ‘They felt that this would help us in staying true to the spirit of the whole thing, if you follow.’

‘They’re very dedicated to their vision,’ Eliza ventured.

‘Yes, of course,’ Pickford replied, hinting that there were other terms he could have suggested himself. ‘Anyway, the bottom line is that over the next few days we are going to be engaged in a process that will allow you to represent their product in a very real manner,’ he cast another quick glance over the doll, then over Eliza’s body wrapped in a towling dressing gown and came back to her eyes before he could have been accused of ogling her. ‘What we’ll be doing actually represents the coming together of two separate strands of work which we have been undertaking recently. On the one hand we have been working on other projects for your employer, and on the other I have to confess that you’ll not be the first mermaid for which I have been responsible.’

‘Really?’ Eliza was surprised to find herself a little disappointed by Pickford’s admission; she had been somewhat looking forward to being unique.

‘Yes, I performed rather radical surgery upon another young lady late last year. Things went well and she was most pleased with the results of the operation. Unfortunately I heard that she went missing recently, despite the fact she lived in London. Just how an anatomically correct mermaid sneaks out of a city that size without anyone noticing is beyond me.’

Eliza tried to imagine the mermaid and her strange disappearance, finding that she could not decide between her escaping to the open seas or being kidnapped by a travelling circus. She was reassured by the fact that she herself had the might of a multi-national to protect her from such things.

‘Anyway,’ Pickford changed the subject, ‘as I was saying, this ties in nicely with another line down which we have been proceeding for your employer. They may have hinted to you that you’re to be the first of a whole sorority?’

Eliza looked blank.

‘A sisterhood?’ Pickford ventured, ‘after you there will be many more women coming through those doors whom I’m to make into Dream Princesses.’

This time she nodded in agreement.

‘To that end the process that you will under go has to be a little different to the one I used when making my first mermaid.’

‘How so?’

‘Well the idea is that you’re to be a living representation of a toy doll; the first mermaid that I created was intended for an entirely different purpose. She needed to be convincing as the real thing, needed to have people stare at her and think they were looking at a creature straight out of myth and legend. In your case, they need to look at you and see this Dream Princess Iyesha; the idea is for you to look just like the doll. So no scales and webbed fingers for you, I’m afraid.’

‘Oh.’

‘So you see the two strands that come together here? Firstly I have to make a mermaid out of you, and secondly I have to make sure that mermaid looks like a plastic doll as well. So what I intend to do is take the process in those two stages, plastic doll first and mermaid second. I think it will be easier that way round.’

‘If you say so.’

‘The first stage will take place later today and we’ll see how you get on with that before scheduling the second. How does that sound?’

‘It sounds crazy and a bit scary, but what the hell.’

 

Eliza lay naked on the operating table as the anaesthetic took hold of her and lulled her mind into a state of detached relaxation. She was aware of her surroundings, but could feel neither the cold of the table on her back or the touch of Pickford’s hand as he withdrew the needle and issued instructions to his assistants. Time seemed to loose all meaning as the minutes flowed together and were swept away without Eliza’s noticing.

The first sensation, which broke through, her semi-torpid delirium came when Eliza felt herself being lifted from the table an inch so that a harness of some kind could be slipped under her. Supporting her beneath her knees, arms and the small of her back, the thing was tightened until it raised her from the table completely.

At the same time she was aware of something being placed in her mouth, an object the size of a golf ball and attached to a long tube.

‘Respirator in place,’ a disembodied voice called out.

A moment later Eliza felt two more objects being pushed into her nostrils. Smaller and neatly fitting in place, they stoppered her nose up completely. It was then she realised that the object in her mouth was allowing her to breathe.

Gently cradled in the harness, Eliza found herself being moved slowly across the operating theatre away from the table. Looking around she became aware of a tank on the floor of the room, parallel to the operating table. Perhaps eight feet in length and four wide, the tank stood just taller than the waist of a fully-grown man and was three-quarters full of a clear liquid. Though it resembled water, something told Eliza that it was another thing entirely. Before she could look again, Eliza felt something being pressed over her eyes and blotting out her vision.

‘Gently,’ Eliza heard the same distant voice, ‘lower carefully, on my mark.

In her time, Eliza had always been a sucker for a long hot bath and love nothing more than to soak in a tub for hours on end. The one thing better had been a bath filled with fragrant oils or a prolonged session in a Jacuzzi. But this was a whole new experience. The mystery liquid into which she was lowered inch by inch was deceptively warm and maybe a little more viscous than water. Her hair gathered tightly to her head and every inch of the rest of her body shaved of hair, Eliza shivered as the warmth of the liquid seeped into her limbs and coursed through her very being. For what felt like an age, she floated in the tank, divorced from the outside world and not caring for its concerns in any shape or form.

‘Slowly, lift her out,’ Eliza barely heard the words as she was lifted from the tank. Separated from the soothing liquid, she felt no great disappointment as the warmth, which had suffused her body, still clung to it as the tank was left behind.

With as much care as had been taken to reach the tank, the unseen hands moved Eliza back towards the far side of the room and over the operating table where they paused while another piece of equipment was made ready. The fact that Eliza was unable to see this was probably a good thing, as the new element in the operation resembled a silver case the size of a coffin, mounted on wheeled legs. Pickford’s hands opened the hinged lid to reveal a black interior marked out in the rough impression of a human body so that the contraption’s occupant would be held quite still once the lid was closed again. Into this depression they placed Eliza’s inert form and trailed the tube of her breathing apparatus from a specially made hole in the machine’s side. Once she was laid in the depression to his satisfaction, Pickford closed the lid and sealed Eliza inside.

Eliza found that the sides of the machine pressed against her tightly and allowed no room for her to move. Had she been able to focus her mind, there might have been panic rising within her at the claustrophobic conditions, but the effects of the anaesthetic kept her calm and still as the inside of the machine began to slowly rise in temperature. Soon Eliza was feeling the intense heat and a strange pressure on her body from the effects of the machine in which she lay. From head to foot she felt the sensation of her body being pressed and moulded by the two sides of the machine, from above and below. Much like the feeling of floating in the pool, Eliza felt no pain and afterwards could not have said how long she remained inside.

 

Later that night, Eliza wandered into the bathroom of her suite and allowed the bathrobe to fall from her shoulders as she stepped into the shower. For the past few hours she had been doing as many things as she could that seemed to her normal and mundane, in the vain hope that in them she might find something to stop her head spinning and bring back reality.

The light from the fitting above caught the sheen of Eliza’s skin and betrayed the very first hint of a change in her appearance. Had one passed her fully clothed in the street, it might have escaped your attention that here was a woman who’s skin was perfectly even in tone and texture, a woman who’s skin resembled nothing more than smooth plastic from head to toe. But that was not the only change that had been wrought to her body.

Standing in the shower as the water began to fall on her head, Eliza watched as rivulets ran down her shoulders and into the grooves that encircled the tops of her arms where they met her torso; similar lines lay in-between her thighs and pelvis. At the point where her neck met her head and around her waist, Eliza’s body was also marked in the same way. Although she could still move her limbs as she had done before, the grooves were enough to give the impression that these were the only points of articulation on her body.

Eliza cursed as the soap shot out of her hand and she struggled to retrieve it in the steam and water. She was not normally this clumsy, but then she was not normally grasping for a bar of soap in this particular way. When she finally found the soap, she grabbed it with both hands and stood up to inspect her catch. In reality it was clear that she was staring at the fingers of her hands, rather than the soap clutched in them. The operation had forced the fingers together until her hands served more like mittens than human digits, no finger able to move independently of the fellows it was fused to.

She rubbed the soap into lather and spread it over her body, which was still soft and yielding despite the fact it resembled solid plastic. Eliza’s unified fingers explored a body, which was smooth and hairless as it had never been before. She recalled Pickford’s words as he had explained that the same process would be repeated until there was a living, breathing example of every Dream Princess in Oshimasu’s employ.

In her mind’s eye she pictured dozens of other living plastic dolls as they went about their daily lives, walking dogs in the park, working nine-to-five jobs in the city and presenting daytime chat-shows on TV. In her fantasy, no one seemed to notice the fact that the plastic women’s joints showed when they wore something off the shoulder. When they picked up a spoon and stirred their coffee with a hand devoid of the usual individual fingers, no one batted an eyelid. The images raced through Eliza’s head as she towelled herself dry after the shower.

She tried to dress herself, but found that the loss of her fingers made the task frustrating beyond belief. Little by little she persisted and pulled on each individual garment with painstaking care and attention. Eliza slipped on a pair of silk knickers as a concession to feminine glamour, but for the rest she kept to convenience and comfort. The bra as a dead loss, she thought, another problem I’ll have to handle somewhere down the line. But as she gave up struggling with the hooks and dropped the bra on the bed, Eliza recalled the anatomical details of Dream Princess Iyesha and realised that things were about to change in that respect as well. She pulled a pair of jeans on over her feet, over the toes that had been moulded together in the same way as her fingers and then sat down on the bed.

Eliza felt ridiculous as she sat there, regarding her chest and trying to make the most of it before it disappeared beneath the tail she was to receive the very next day. She had always been turned off by the idea of group therapy sessions where women got to know their bodies, pictured them attended mad old grandmothers, frustrated suburban moms and hippies with unshaven armpits. But now Eliza was determined to break the taboo and spend quality time in the company of her breasts. After all, they had been an integral part of the package that had seen her career flourish, she came to the conclusion that they deserved to be recognised as one of her most valuable assets. So there she sat, for what seemed like hours, just staring at them, admiring the curve and occasionally cupping them in her hands until she was certain that whatever the next day might bring she would be ready for it.

 

‘So this is the last push,’ Pickford said as he directed Eliza’s attention to a long tray that ran the length of the surface next to the operating table upon which she lay. ‘Today we finally define the shape of your body and add the features that will mark you out as the much mentioned Dream Princess.’

Eliza saw that the tray was filled with a clear gel, and atop the gel was a narrow strip of aquamarine that stood out starkly against the sterile white of the operating theatre.

‘Is that?’

‘Oh yes,’ Pickford nodded, ‘that is the tail that we’ll be grafting onto your body. It was made to your specifications exactly, engineered on a genetic level and modelled on the DNA samples that you supplied to us. Once it is attached the tail will feel and act just like your own skin.’ As he spoke, Eliza felt the needle delivering a sedative into her arm. ‘Of course we have to make sure the shape of your body is just right before we can go ahead and bond it to you…’ His voice seemed to trail away as the anaesthetic took hold.

Once more Eliza felt the harness being slipped beneath her body and begin to lift her inert from the operating table. But this time her arms were raised above her head and bound to a previously unseen part of the harness. In this way she was again carried across the theatre and lowered gently into the tank of liquid that had made her body as malleable as clay. The warmth spread through her body, but stopped below her arms as she was allowed to be lowered no deeper. Eliza felt the liquid take effect and seep into the portion of her body submerged, where it lapped over the lower half of her breasts she felt an intense rush of pleasure as they became soft and yielding.

Returned to the operating table, she was shocked by the feeling of something cold being inserted between her legs. But whatever it was remained a mystery as Pickford’s hands began to move over her body.

Eliza was surprised by how quickly the doctor worked at the shape of her lower body. After briefly pressing her breasts together at the bottom in a way that made her sure she would never need another supportive bra in her life, Pickford moved on to her belly button. Without pausing, he smoothed it over and evened the flesh out where it had been leaving no trace. Next he worked down Eliza’s legs, obliterating the gap between them and massaging the flesh together until there was no trace of the former limbs. Upon reaching the end of her legs he did away with heels, feet and toes in the space of minutes. Pickford then had Eliza turned onto her stomach and repeated the process up the backs of her disappearing legs, before removing whatever had been inserted around her intimate parts.

On her back again, Eliza watched as Pickford and his assistants carefully removed the tail from where it lay in the tray. Now that it was stretched out, she could see the way in which it would wrap around her body and form a second skin; she even caught sight of the silver tailfins, which fell away from the very end like the delicate wings of a dragonfly.

As Pickford delicately eased the edge of the tail into place down the side of her body, Eliza was taken back to the experience of being dressed in the costume at the Tokyo photo shoot and in her relaxed state of mind the two mingled into one. Pickford stretched the skin of the tail over her body and pressed it as tightly as he was able, making sure that the line it followed over her breasts and under her arms was perfect. He ordered her turned over again and proceeded to wrap the tail close about her with the same merciless attention to detail, tucking the new skin across her smooth stomach, over her united thighs and finally around the tip of her feet. There he took especial care as he aligned the angle of the fins to ensure that the nerve endings in each would marry up to those in Eliza’s feet.

Eliza watched all this merged with the attention of the Japanese women who had applied her makeup and powdered her face. When Pickford was satisfied and the harness lifted her from the table for the final time, Eliza was certain that she was being carried towards the underwater set where she would pose for the camera. Instead the harness held her in mid-air whilst the lower half of the operating table was collapsed and a machine much the same as the one she had been placed in the on previous day. The difference was that the new machine was perhaps only three quarters of the length, and when the lid was lifted it was plain to see that the impression inside was not that of a human being. Instead the impression was that of the lower three quarters of Dream Princess Iyesha.

Eliza was placed into the device, which left her free maybe an inch above her breasts and left her arms laid upon the operating table. Soon after the lid was sealed closed, she felt the intense heat and pressure as the device performed its function, pressing her body into the mould and completing the last stage of her transformation into the living image of a doll which had been modelled after her in the first place.

It is safe to say that the irony of Eliza’s situation totally escaped her.

 

Eliza waited silently for the cue to be whispered to her through the earpiece and all the time kept her eyes closed as the strange sense of excitement mixed with the tiniest hint of fear coursed through her. Moments later there were the clear and slightly stressed tones of Nakamura’s voice, she took her cue as the light of the world flooded into her cramped confines.

The flash of the cameras was almost blinding as the giant clamshell slowly opened atop the gaudily decorated podium. Crowded ranks of press photographers clamoured and fought for position as Eliza’s eyes adjusted to the sudden galaxy of blinking lights amid the sea of faces.

Nakamura spoke into her ear again and she launched straight into the script that been drilled into her over the space of the past week. In near perfect Japanese, she greeted the assembled press, thanked them for attending and formally introduced herself; not as Eliza Aukerman, but as Dream Princess Iyesha the mermaid who dwelt beneath the ocean waves, swam with the whales and the dolphins and had the voice of an angel with which she sang upon the top of a coral reef. She answered their questions with the replies that Nakamura blurted into the earpiece and charmed the whole crowd into a state of reverent awe before she was done with them.
Once the press conference was over she curled up into a foetal position again as the giant clamshell closed, hiding her from the eager eyes of the media.

 

Alone in her dressing room, surrounded by flowers, small tokens of admiration and discreet invitations to be interviewed on more than a dozen different talk shows, Eliza pulled the fake coral tiara out of her hair and yanked off the blonde wig at the same time. She disposed of the long silk gloves, pulled her tail up onto the couch with a glass of champagne in her hand, and admired the commanding view of her body.

She ran her free hand over the line of her tail. Beginning at her breast, she felt their weight and marvelled still at the fact that they drew the eye and that Pickford had only half covered them, as if his intention had been to give her a dangerous plunging line. Where the aquamarine met her skin the tail was raised slightly to foster the illusion that she might actually be wearing a dress, and what would in that case have been the bodice was lined to give ample support to Eliza’s chest whilst resembling that very same thing.

Her hand slipped further down until it reached her thighs and Eliza curled her tail to stare at the silver tailfin that obeyed her every whim. The operation had deprived her of her legs, but left her muscles very much the same so that her tail functioned very much like a pair of legs bound together, with the exception that her intimate parts were now neatly tucked away around the back behind her buttocks (between which it was hard to slide a piece of paper…most of the time; Eliza found they tended to relax when she was called upon by nature or excited in that certain way).

Reflecting back on what she had gained and lost, Eliza sipped the champagne and smiled at the realisation that she would never have to go back to the industry from whence she had come.

But the nudity issue was the thing that amused Eliza the most. She had spent so long with her flesh on display, feeling like a piece of meat in her previous line of work and been shunned by the moral and upstanding members of society. And now here she was being paid to do the same thing.

Eliza shivered as a breeze blew through the room. Pickford had been right when he said the tail would be a second skin; she felt the same sensations along the length of the tail as she did anywhere else on her body. Though it was designed to resemble a mermaid costume it was tactile and meant that Eliza felt everything that touched her from the couch on which she lay to the breeze that caressed her deceptively naked form.

She was sensitive and sensuous, even though she looked like nothing more than smooth plastic.

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Filed under Body Modification, Rubber, Short Story, The Retreat, Transformation

Costume: Part 2

Image supplied by tokyoboy

As bashful as he may have been in the consulting room, Dr Pickford turned out to be a total professional when it came to the operating room. He had informed Sophie that the process would be divided into three distinct stages, which he termed “preparation,” “augmentation” and finally “consummation” (he blushed again at the last and moved swiftly on). It would have been possible for the whole operation to be carried out in the space of one day, but he explained that he wanted her to have the chance to come to terms with the alterations to her body a little at a time rather than waking up a biped and going to sleep as a mermaid in the same twenty-four hours.

At 9:00am the next morning Sophie was collected from her room by an efficient nurse and pushed in a wheelchair to the farthest wing of the house. The nurse had specific orders from Pickford that his patient was in no way to exert the muscles of her legs before the operation began.

Dressed in a theatre gown that barely covered her most intimate parts, Sophie could not help gazing down at her legs as she was wheeled towards the first stages of an operation that would totally change their shape. She ran her fingers over the skin of her thighs and was caught off guard by the realisation that when she had slipped her underwear off before stepping into the shower, she had had no idea of the odd significance of the act. It would be a long time before she was able to slip them back on again.

Pickford greeted her as she was pushed through the doors of the theatre. His casual clothes had of course been replaced by theatre greens and his face covered by a surgical mask, which he pulled down to reveal a determined expression.

‘We’ll be starting in a few minutes, Sophie,’ he motioned to the operating table and two theatre assistants gently lifted her from the wheelchair and laid her down upon it and raised the top half to an angle where she could see her own legs and the Pickford’s face. ‘First thing is to administer the anaesthetic,’ he produced a syringe filled with a clear liquid, ‘you’ll be conscious, but unable to feel a thing for the duration. He wiped a spot at the top of her arm with cotton wool and injected the contents of the needle. ‘As soon as this take effect we can start.’

The effects of the injection were unlike any anaesthetic Sophie had experienced in the past. Rather than passing out, she felt a sudden wave of relaxation and well being. The only thing she could compare the experience to be being high, unable to move or speak, yet still aware of her surroundings with her vision blurred slightly at the edges. When Pickford removed her gown she was aware of his touch despite his reassurances that she would feel nothing, but she simply floated on the chemical high that the drug had induced. In a corner of her mind Sophie was aware that she did not know what to expect; but again she simply could not find the will to do anything about it.

Sophie felt her legs lifted and something being pulled up over them. She glanced down and saw that what amounted to a long thin bag of heavy plastic had been slipped over her lower half. The bag was transparent and she could make out her legs inside. She also noticed that the bag was gathered just above her waist so that her torso was left clear.

There was a slight churning sound and Sophie heard a male voice from the far corner of the room.

‘Seal intact.’

‘Solution pumping,’ another voice answered.

A pleasant tingling sensation swept over Sophie’s legs as a warm liquid began to fill the bag. Soon it had totally submerged her feet and still it kept rising to cover her knees and then her thighs until the whole bag was filled. Once full, the pumping stopped and Sophie felt her legs floating in the liquid as if she were laid on her back in a swimming pool, floating on the water. But she was sure that this was not simple water. The liquid’s warmth seemed to seep into her legs until they felt warmed to the bone and the sensation relaxed her so much that she felt she might melt from it.

Sophie could never recall just how long her legs had been floating in the liquid, she felt that she had drifted away and slept for hours. The next thing she recalled was the feeling of a touch on her thigh. Her eyes opened to see Pickford pressing a finger into the flesh just above her knee. To her surprise, when he removed his finger it had left a small depression on the flesh such as might have been left behind had he done the same to wet clay.

‘The solution’s taken effect, the flesh is pliable enough,’ he said to his assistants out of Sophie’s sight. ‘I’m about to begin.’

What followed was a bizarre mixture of massage and a strange trip for Sophie. Pickford moved to the end of the table and began to knead her toes, which offered no resistance to his fingers and soon moulded together until the ends of Sophie’s feet were devoid of digits altogether. Next he began to work on her feet themselves, smoothing the insides of both and rounding her heels in the palms of his hands. Sophie watched as her feet gave way and became one, the flesh of each melting into the other whilst Pickford’s hands pointed them downwards and pushed what had been her heels back a little so that the tip of the newly amalgamated extremity was in line with her legs on an almost horizontal plane. Returning to what had been her toes, Pickford flattened the blunt end of the flesh and smoothed the point together until there was no trace of Sophie’s feet whatsoever as he carefully removed her toenails, placed them in a waiting metal pan and quickly eradicated the small indentations they had left.

Sophie looked on as Pickford moved up to her calves and gently pressed them together. Again she felt the very flesh of her limbs yield as they became one and Pickford carefully progressed all the way up to her knees before returning the way he had come to pull them closer together and seal up the fain line that still hinted as to the distinct limbs which they had once been.

Before he moved upwards, Pickford called to his assistants who gingerly lifted Sophie and turned her so that she lay on her belly. Now the doctor was lost from sight, but Sophie was soon aware of just what part of her was working on. She felt gentle hands make contact with her intimate parts and begin to mould them as they had done her feet and calves. What might have been deeply uncomfortable was softened by the effect of the drugs and the warm and yielding quality that the strange liquid had conferred upon her body. The sensation of movement was soon over and she was turned onto her back once more.

Only now did Pickford begin to push together and mould her thighs, first unifying her knees and then sealing the ever shrinking gap between Sophie’s legs until he reached the point where she had been waxed to remove her pubic hair before arriving at the Retreat. Here he spent a great deal of time putting an end to her crotch and levelling her flesh out so that when he was finished Sophie stared down the length of her body and took in the uninterrupted flow of soft pink flesh which started at her waist and ended at what were once her feet.

Her contemplation was cut short as the theatre assistants again lifted her and placed her on her stomach. Pickford worked quickly now, moulding and sealing the back of her legs so that they were uniform with the front until he reached Sophie’s buttocks. There he inserted something cold and hard, which brushed against her intimate parts and stayed there whilst he pressed the cheeks of her backside together and finally concluded smoothing everything together. When the object was removed the assistants turned her over once more and one held her lower half off the table whilst Pickford and the other pulled a long machine plated with polished metal from the corner of the room.

The machine was about five feet in length, three wide, maybe a foot deep and sat atop four legs mounted with castors. While Pickford opened the device like the bottom half of a coffin, the second assistant fiddled with the table until the section under Sophie’s lower limb folded away, all the time his colleague held her still. Pickford and the assistant then manoeuvred the machine beneath Sophie and guided the other man to lower her into it. She saw that the interior of the machine was shaped precisely to fit her new form and as the lid was closed she felt it press tightly around her allowing not an inch of movement.

Soon she began to feel heat building within the machine and suffusing her lower half once again. Reclined on the table she lost any sense of time and drifted into a deep and dreamless sleep.

When she awoke, Sophie found that she was alone in the dark. She groped instinctively for the bedside table and the alarm that she presumed must have woken her. As her arm waved about in the darkness she contemplated the ride to work and wondered if she should stick to the usual routine for her act, or try to throw in something a little more daring. Maybe tonight was the night to try taking the stage in a full-length toga and falling to the floor in pretend shock at the tail suddenly flapping away from between the folds.

It was about then that she realised the table was not there and there was no alarm.

Sophie recalled where she was and found the light switch on the wall by the bed.

Then she remembered what had taken place in the operating theatre.

With more than a little trepidation, Sophie pulled back the sheets to be presented with the sight of a dull grey material peeking out from under a nightshirt, which she had no memory of dressing herself in. She tugged the covers off her fully and stared at the tight stocking that covered her legs. Made of a smooth material almost without a discernable texture, the stocking was quite thick and extended right up to an inch above her waist.

The way in which the stocking held her legs together reminded Sophie of the similar garments she had worn under her costume. Perhaps, she thought, it was all a dream; just the effects of whatever they doped me up with.

At the other end her feet waved back at her as Sophie flexed them experimentally. They were quite mobile, but something did not seem right. It was as if they refused to bend all the ways that they should and Sophie simply could not make them point upwards as if she were trying to stand on the soles. A vague recollection of what she thought she had seen Pickford doing to them nagged at her, but she ignored it; lying down on her back, she began to pull the stocking down.

As soon as the garment had moved more than a few inches, Sophie stopped dead. At first she had simply rolled the hem down without a second thought, but then she realised that she should have passed her waist a good two inches earlier. She gazed at the point where her legs should have begun and saw only pink skin disappearing under the stocking.

She had not been hallucinating.

She did not have legs, as such, anymore.

She was one step on the way to becoming a mermaid.

If this was the reality of her situation, Sophie reflected, then she was going to get to grips with the practicalities of her new form. With this in mind, she stripped the stocking off completely and pulled herself over to the edge of the bed. She swung her unified lower limb over the edge and regarded herself in the full-length mirror upon the wall. The nightshirt followed the stocking and she took in the changes that Pickford had wrought to her body.

‘Mirror, mirror on the wall; who’s the biggest pink worm of them all?’ she whispered to herself as she followed the line of her body unbroken from head to what had been her toes. What Pickford had begun with his hands, the machine into which he had placed her had certainly made a nice finish to. The seamless line of Sophie’s lower body made her certain that the machine had been some kind of press or mould to set her flesh in its new shape. She noted with interest the absence of pubic hair and toenails. She also found herself admiring the graceful line that her lower half followed, from her waist all the way down to where her feet curved under slightly as if in anticipation of what was to come.

Sophie placed a hand on her extended lap and ran her fingers over the spot in which she guessed her intimate parts had been. She was surprised to find that while there was no trace to be found on the outside, something had certainly been left behind beneath the skin.

Intrigued, she rolled onto her stomach and felt for her buttocks only to find that while they were still there, they too had changed somewhat. Rather than the rounded cheeks she was used to, Sophie found that both sides were pulled tightly together as though their muscles had been strengthened. A probing finger found that the line between them extended almost twice as far as it had before.

Determined to find out all that she could, Sophie forced her finger in-between the cheeks and quickly found that her backside was just where she left it and her private parts had become a close neighbour to it.

Before she could explore any further there was a gentle rap on the door.

Sophie was suddenly aware that she had never bothered to check the time when she awoke. A quick glance told her that she had slept right through the night.

For all the apparent strangeness of losing her legs and awaking to find that her intimate parts had gone walkabout, she was about to have to deal with a whole lot more.

Pickford seemed quite delighted when Sophie explained to him that she had fathomed the ins and outs of the changes that he had made to her body the previous day (she later concluded that this was due to the fact that it spared him the embarrassment of explaining how her plumbing now worked himself), and was keen to move on to the second stage of the operation. Within five minutes of entering the theatre, she was back on the table and ready to take the next step away from being human and towards becoming a mermaid.

Before she received another dose of the hypnotic anaesthetic, Pickford drew her attention towards two plastic tanks that sat on a table a few feet from where she lay. The first and smallest contained eight small blue shapes, much like arrowheads, but curved on two sides and faintly transparent in the strong light of the theatre. Sophie looked closer and noted that they were suspended in a gel just like as the scale Pickford had shown her in the consulting room. She glanced down at her hands and spread her fingers wide apart as she recognised the shape of the webbing that had been glued in-between her fingers as a part of her stage costume.

But it was the contents of the second and far larger tank that held her attention rapt while Pickford explained them to her with a certain amount of pride.

In this tank was suspended a magnificent tailfin. Between two and three feet in length, it flared out at the top and twisted away into two flukes that tapered to points like nothing she had seen before. Of a blue that matched and yet far surpassed the webbing intended for her fingers, the tailfin was ribbed with five lines at each side that began at the top and followed the shape of the individual flukes until they met at their tips. Under the theatre lights, the tailfin shimmered like a giant butterfly of unearthly beauty and grace.

For the first time, Sophie found herself caught up in a state of enchantment.

Not only was she to be a mermaid; but also she was to be a stunning vision unlike anything she had dared imagine.

Pickford explained briefly what Sophie had already concluded; that the object of today’s surgery would be to attach the parts that she saw in the tanks. These had all been grown in the same way as the scales and would function as any other part of her body in just the same way. The webbing was self-evident, but he went into more depth in the case of the tailfin. Raising the end of Sophie’s unified lower limb, he explained that the tailfin would be attached to the bottom of her former feet. Now that the shape of her feet was like that of an uneven diamond, with the longer edges being the outer sides and the shorter being the edge where her toes had once been, the tailfin would be attached to the latter edges and make use of the bones and muscles now redundant that had once worked the long gone digits.

Sophie nodded that she understood and soon the anaesthetic was administered.

Again she was cast adrift on a sublime feeling and watched in a detached wonder as Pickford went about his work, before falling into a deep sleep. She watched as each of the triangles of webbing was placed in-between her immobile fingers after a concentrated spray from a small canister, which Pickford held in his off hand, had been applied. From the way the webbing sank into the skin as each piece was pressed home, Sophie guessed that the same strange liquid was being used as had reduced her legs to the consistency of clay. She wondered what other uses the Retreat had put the same substance, or whether it was the sole preserve of Pickford himself.

Though he had been careful with the webbing, Pickford took the greatest pains by far over the tailfin. With this he ushered the assistants out of the theatre and would let no hands but his own touch the contents of the larger tank. Delicately laying the fin out before the end of Sophie’s lower limb, he made precise incisions down both sides where her toes had been with a scalpel. Though she could feel no pain, Sophie was sure she could feel Pickford’s fingers as he sought and found the bones that her toes had left behind. As he worked, slowly at first and then ever more quickly, she became aware of the tailfin as each bone and its nerve endings were married up to a rib running its length. Eventually the same canister reappeared in Pickford’s hand and as he squeezed the trigger, Sophie again felt herself succumbing to sleep.

When the alarm sounded for real this time, Sophie was awake in a second and silenced the clock she had retrieved from her bag before leaving for the operating theatre for the second time. Estimating that she operation could not have taken more than six hours, she had set the alarm to go off at midnight. This she hoped would give her a good few hours to sleep off the after-effects of the anaesthetic and still allow for more time in which to examine the sum of the changes that had been wrought upon her this time round.

The first became apparent when she reached out and flipped the lights on. Her hand felt as if she were wearing a glove of some kind, and a closer inspection revealed that she was right. Both her hands had been covered by fingerless gloves; made of the same material as the stocking she had awoken in the previous morning. Sophie wasted no time in pulling these off to reveal her newly webbed hands.

She blew on her palm and found that they were every bit as sensitive as her fingers and joined the skin as if they had always been a part of her. Each curved between her fingers and met them below the first joint, and whilst she found that she was perfectly able to hold a pen and perform a host of other minor feats of digital dexterity, she was unable to wear a ring upon her fingers any longer or intertwine her hand with that of another.

Another stocking had been pulled over her legs and she treated this in the same way, only pausing for a moment before pulling the whole thing off to reveal the tailfin. Once the stocking was gone, the tailfin unfurled upon the bed in all its glory. It was heavier than Sophie had imagined, weighing the end of her fast developing tail down and forcing her to flex her muscles to move it around. But once she began, it was evident that the tailfin was far from inanimate due to its weight. Sophie found that she was quite able to twist and turn the fin in many different directions as its two halves worked independently of each other and responded perfectly to the demands of the ribs now attached to the nerves and muscles that had once animated her toes.

Sophie lay on her stomach and arched her tail forwards so that the fin flopped down over her head. Leaning on her elbows, she ran her hands over it and explored the thing’s texture and shape, all the time as aware of her hands upon the fin as she was the fin between her fingers. She had expected it to be cold and maybe a little slimy, but she found instead that it was warm and quite dry, even noticing the tiny and delicate veins that ran through it.

Feeling more than a little excited, Sophie eased herself off the bed and crawled over to her bags where they lay in a corner of the room. Most of the clothes she had brought were casual and quite ordinary, but not all of them. Sophie rooted around until she had found the items she wanted and then climbed back onto the bed.

Quickly she stripped her nightshirt off and cupped her breasts in a black strapless bra. The next piece of clothing took a bit more forward thinking as she attacked the toe of a pair of black tights with nail scissors and then balled them up ready to be pulled on. Sophie teased the ends of her tailfin into the leg of the tights that she had cut and then eased them through the holes she had made for them until they emerged from either side. She then pulled the leg of the tights up over her bare tail and to her middle and tucked the empty leg into the waistband. The outfit was finished off with a little black dress that fitted her like a dream. The ended well before her knees (or once had) and had never failed to impress.

Fully dressed, Sophie picked up the phone by the bed and dialled reception.

‘Reception,’ she recognised Gillian’s accented English, ‘how can I help?’

‘This is Ms Higgson in room twenty-seven. I missed the evening meal, please could you send me up something to eat?’

‘Certainly,’ Gillian replied, ‘what would you favour?’

‘Send me some seafood,’ Sophie stifled a laugh, ‘anything will do, as long as its seafood.’

‘Very well, someone will be with you within the next half an hour.’

‘You won’t be bringing it yourself?’

‘No, I’m afraid that would be quite impossible.’

‘Ok,’ Sophie resigned herself to the fact that she was not going to be able to shock Gillian after all.

She spent the next thirty minutes practicing and pouting in the mirror until she heard a knock at the door. One hand resting on her tail and the other cradling her head as she reclined on the bed she decided that she was ready.

‘Come in and put it down by the bed; you’re safe to come right in, I’m dressed.’

The door was opened by a young man not more than twenty and wearing the uniform of a male nurse. At first he seemed taken aback at the sight of Sophie as she moved her hand up to her breast and gave him a seductive smile. Then his eyes trailed down to the sight of her tail, naked of scales, but clearly visible for what it was beneath the black tights. Sophie flapped her tailfin as he stared open-mouthed and pointed at the platter he was carrying.

‘I’d bet you a pound to a penny that whatever you’ve got under there, it isn’t the catch of the day right now, is it?’ It was a line so predictable that it made her cringe, but it had the desired effect.

The nurse’s Adams apple bobbed for a second before he dropped the platter on the floor and fled the room.

Once she was alone, it took Sophie so long to stop laughing that the contents of the platter had gone cold.

The last day in the operating theatre began as the other two had with Sophie being wheeled through the doors and delivered onto the table in the centre of the room where Pickford greeted her. But this was the third day, when the final stage of the process would take place and for all intents and purposes she would say goodbye to the human being known as Sophie and become a creature conjured out of myth and fantasy. The same face would stare back at her from the mirror, but everything else would change from this day onwards.

Pickford would today engage in the delicate task of attaching the individually grown scales to Sophie’s tail, thus rendering the transformation complete and providing the world at large with its first genuine mermaid.

The end of her tail was soon strapped to a complex harness and hoisted off the table until only Sophie’s torso remained upon the table. The doctor explained that for this part of the operation he would be unable to turn her as he worked and instead needed to have the whole of her tail at his disposal.

‘I think that I’ll have outdone Barnum by the time the day is over,’ he joked.

Sophie laughed out of simple politeness, but Pickford’s casual joke sent her mind racing back over the events of the past two days once more. She realised that the intense changes wrought to her body and the speed with which they had taken place had left her somewhat stunned; despite all the care taken to stagger the operation over a number of days she had still been overwhelmed by the massive reality of her new physical appearance.

Only now as the anaesthetic took effect for the final time did she begin to contemplate the vast implications of what she had allowed Pickford to do to her. There was a part of her that still refused to believe his claim that her transformation would not be permanent, that she was being initiated into a strange kind of human zoo where she would have all the rights of an animal. Sophie recalled a time when she had visited an aquatic park on the continent, but now rather than tanks populated with dolphins and other cetaceans, she pictured herself on show and made to perform for the applause of the tourists. She worried that with the changes to her body would follow changes to her mind. Deprived of legs and forced to deal with the reality that a tail had replaced them, would she be able to think like a human being for long? Sophie had been sure changes had begun to creep over Kiera after she had returned from the Retreat, as if her usual playful nature had been absorbed into the provocative nature of the creature she portrayed on the stage, the creature that had replaced her former self.

While she swam in an ocean of her own thoughts, buoyed up by the effects of the drugs in her veins, Pickford had wasted no time in starting on the job at hand. On a shallow tray by the operating table lay row upon row of scales, each nearly identical to the original Sophie had seen in the consulting room. With a fine pair of tweezers in one hand and the spray he had employed the previous day in the other, Pickford moistened a spot on Sophie’s tail and gently attached one scale at a time. He began at the very point where the tailfin met the pink skin and laid the first layer half over the former and half over the latter as to disguise the transition from one to the other. When he had laid a complete band around the base of the tail, he then began another above it taking care to overlap the second layer over the first. In this way he proceeded, each new band growing wider as the width of the tail increased and each overlapping with the last so that no gap at all was visible. Sophie watched his progress as the effects of the anaesthetic clouded her thoughts and silenced the trepidation that had taken hold of her. All the anxiety and fear was reduced to the simple act of watching, and she counted each scale as a step on the road away from her former self.

As the scales reached her knees and then inched up over her thighs and finally reached up to encircle her waist, Sophie felt herself swallowed up by a feeling of deep calm. The completion of the tail seemed somehow to silence her doubts and resign her to the fact that this was now as much a part of her as the colour of her eyes, the curve of her breasts or the sound of her voice. As Pickford dotted the scales up her stomach and over her back to graduate the change from fish to flesh and finally released Sophie’s tail from the harness, she watched the whole thing move like an iridescent shirt of chainmail above the elegant shape of the tailfin. This was no costume that she could pull off at the end of the day; as she had predicted, her costume had become her skin.

It was a good month later when Sophie and Pickford met again. They sat in the same chairs, in the same room and drank coffee from the same cups. Only Sophie, out of all the pieces that made up the picture, had changed.

She sat proudly, with her tail gathered up beneath her so that the flukes of her tailfin fell over the arm of the chair. She wore a loose fitting dress that made no effort to conceal the shape of her tail and fell away to reveal the silver and blue of the scales as they caught the sunlight streaming in through the window. Her hair was gathered beneath a scarf wrapped around her head and also caught the light where Sophie had taken to entwining small beads and charms into the locks as her rehabilitation had progressed.

For his own part, Pickford was visibly impressed. Sophie tried to puzzle out whether his admiration was for his own handiwork or simply for the sight of a flesh and blood mermaid sitting not more than a few feet away. In the end she settled upon a mixture of the two.

Both knew that the past month had been a revelation for the patient. The sudden reality that she was now at the end of the tunnel had washed away all trace of the trepidation that had dogged Sophie through the days of the operation. And Pickford had been right, her previous experience had crystallised in her mind and overcome the shock of her new form. At times Sophie caught herself thinking that she had forgotten to undress at the end of the day, but all that had soon passed as the undulating motions of her tail and its hypnotic scales became far more than could ever be termed second nature. As she learned to move and cope with the freedoms and the limitations that were afforded by the tail, Sophie found a new confidence born out of the very changes that she had once feared.

‘I’m pleased to say that you have a clean bill of health and the physiotherapist reports that you’ve taken to the using of your tail like…well like a fish to water. So I’ll have no problem in seeing you off back to London as soon as all the details are finalised. I hear your employer has made all the necessary arrangements for you in advance?’ he glanced up from her file to ask the question.

Sophie nodded. Doug had been in contact and rattled on over the phone about the apartment he had laid on for her return. The place was apparently tailored to allow her every freedom despite the limitations that faced a mermaid stranded upon dry land. He explained that the backers of the club had been generous in advancing capital to ensure that the new attraction was maintained in the appropriate manner. The money was even enough to secure a small indoor pool as a further sweetener to the deal. She had enjoyed mastering the art of swimming with her tail in the Retreat’s own pool, and Sophie was particularly looking forward to the thought of a private pool of her own.

‘So the car will be here to pick you up some time this afternoon and I’ll be seeing you, hopefully, in five years time…which should give me plenty of time to grow you some new toenails to replace the ones that I did away with!’

Sophie leaned forward and gave him a conspiratorial whisper in the ear.

‘Who says I’ll want those; I may ask you for gills when five years are up…’

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Filed under Body Modification, Short Story, The Retreat, Transformation

Costume: Part 1

Image provided by Tokyoboy

The door to the room swung open and banged against the wall with a dull thud that jarred Sophie’s teeth and reminded her of the headache she had woken up with more than six hours ago.

Silently she thanked empty space for the small mercy that her shift was finally over for the night. It might have been nothing to look at, but at that exact moment in time the six feet by four of the dressing room was the most welcoming thing in the world. It had everything she wanted, a door and four walls between her and the rest of humanity.

From her vantage point, Sophie could make out only the legs of the battered dresser and stool, the oriental screen in the far corner that swallowed up the rest of the room, hiding the tiny shower and toilet, was a blur of faded colour in the corner of her eye. The carpet felt far better on the palms of the hands than the cold tiles of the corridor as she pulled herself into the room towards the stool. When the exposed skin of her stomach rubbed across the carpet it gave her a fresh burst of energy and a second later she cast a hand out and took hold of the nearest leg.

She paused there for a moment to gaze back over her shoulder and regard the progress she had made. Half the battle was over as she had covered half the way into the room and her upper half was fully inside. The fact was that she needed to check her progress before trying to shut the door for fear of misjudging and slamming the damn thing on the length of her tail that still trailed out behind her into the corridor.

Sophie turned over onto her back and drew her tail up as far as possible so that the blue scales rested and inch or two from her chin and the paler flukes which flared out at the end crept into the room. Once they had joined her, she rolled onto her side and swung the door shut with a flip of the end of the tail.

Now she was alone, she paused and rummaged around in a drawer at the bottom of the dresser. Rummaging around among the contents she cursed under her breath as the webs between her fingers got very much in the way. A tone matching her tail-flukes, the webs churned through the junk in the drawer and made her drop the object of her search twice before she tossed a pack of cigarettes onto the top of the dresser.

Pulling her tail round and under her buttocks, Sophie wriggled around until the end and the flukes were right under her rear end. From there she heaved herself up belly-first onto the seat of the stool and spent the next few minutes struggling to work her body around till she was sitting comfortably facing the mirror that dominated the whole of the dresser and looked down upon a multitude of cosmetics arranged before her like votive offerings at a shrine.

Before her hand strayed to the dresser for the cigarettes or the various cosmetics, Sophie stared into the mirror and regarded the reflection as if looking upon a stranger for the first time. She traced the tresses of hair hanging down below her shoulders, a brown so strong and tending towards red it seemed ready to burst into flame. She gazed into the round hazel eyes and lingered for a time on the details of a delicate face. A hand drifted down towards her breasts, naked save for a few scales that dotted them, as blue as those more numerous upon the length of her tail. The hand travelled down and was lost from the view of the mirror as it found her waist. A solitary finger roamed over the scales that began as a lonely few dotted around her belly-button and grew more and more it descended over the tiny curve of her stomach until all trace of skin was lost beneath the fine overlapping scales.

Soon the other hand joined the first as Sophie explored the scales at her waist, feeling as if for something lost which must now be rediscovered with all haste. Finally both hands met below her navel and she slipped her fingers under hidden seam of her tail and lifted the edge of the costume, pushing towards her right side. The tail fitted her so well that the overlapping inches of skin tone after the scales ended was a near perfect match for her own, perfect enough to fool the naked eye and create the desired illusion. Her hands found their way to their goal and released the clip holding the monofibre seam together and the costume slowly yielded as she peeled it from her legs.

Sophie bit her lip as she delicately removed the costume and liberated her thighs at first, and then her knees re-emerged followed soon after by her feet, all still held together by the stiff Lycra stocking that served to restrict her movements and heighten the illusion that what lay beneath it did not exist at all. She gingerly laid the tail over the back of her chair, well aware of the fact that she could not afford to replace it were there to be the slightest damage whilst she was off stage. Next she rolled the stocking down to her feet with little regard for the more robust undergarment. As usual it was wet with perspiration, she tossed it into a corner where similar stockings were piled and rubbed the feeling back into her feet. She wriggled a little on the seat as she quickly pulled of the scales that dotted her skin, then winced as she yanked the larger scales away from her nipples, too tired to use the solvents arrayed among the make-up on the dresser to dissolve the glue that held them in place. At last she pulled off the webbing from her fingers one piece at a time with a curse under her breath for each one.

Once finished, and dressed now only in a thong – the only underwear that the costume permitted her to wear – Sophie padded across the tiny space of the room and disappeared behind the screen where she was able to wash away the sweat and grime as well as do something else that her costume made impossible.

Dressed and mercifully clean, Sophie stood outside the back door of the club and watched as the night sky turned a pale grey before dawn. She took a last drag from her cigarette before dropping the butt on the ground and crushing it under her battered trainer.
‘Penny for your thoughts?’

She glanced over her shoulder and saw that a fellow smoker had joined her in the alleyway.

‘What did I do this time, Doug?’ she said, trying to cut to the point.

Despite the fact that she felt no particular enmity towards her employer, Sophie was almost asleep on her feet and polite conversation was the last thing she wanted.

‘Nothing…nothing,’ he replied, ‘apart from you never leave your stockings out for the laundrette run, you constantly pester me for advances half way through the month and you stuck two fingers up at that yank the other week, nothing at all.’ His tone was light and he grinned as he spoke.

‘You were there, you saw; the bastard tried to cop a feel.’

‘I know, I know…only joking,’ he paused for a second, ‘It’s just that you looked like you had the weight of the world on your shoulders in there tonight, I was worried about you.’

Perhaps the kindest thing that could have been said about Doug was the fact that he had chosen to work in an industry where he at least looked the part. He was balding, a bit overweight, had slightly rounded shoulders and dressed in suits that would not have looked out of place on the set of a cheap gangster movie. Everything about him screamed sleaze; except for the fact that he was afflicted by a conscience and totally unable to stop himself caring for the welfare of his employees. When Sophie had first started to work for him, Doug had given her warm handshakes and friendly grins, which she had been sure, were a preamble to a clumsy effort to grope her when the chance arose. But when the much-feared fondling attempt failed to materialise and Doug talked away her nerves, she had begun to grow fond of his bumbling ways and cheesy sense of humour. Experience had taught her that she could always approach him with a problem, be it big or small.

‘The usual,’ she managed as she lit his cigarette.

‘Trouble in the bedroom?’

‘No, the other usual.’

‘Ah, money.’

‘Bang on,’ she lit another for herself, ‘they cut the electric off yesterday.’

‘Why didn’t you say,’ Doug’s hand went instinctively for his wallet, ‘how much do you need?’

‘What? No I couldn’t…anyway, it’s more than having to put up with candles and cold beans. It’s the same thing every month, after the electric, water, council rates and my mobile I have those old student debts leeching from me as well. I’m stuck in a bloody rut and I something to kick me up the arse and get me out of it before I go mad.’

Doug looked thoughtful for a few moments before he spoke.

‘I’d pay you more if I could, but then I’d have to give the rest a rise as well; can’t afford that right now, no way. So you’ll have to get another job, or else rob a bank.’

‘Have you seen the unemployment figures lately? By the way, do you have a spare balaclava I could borrow?’

Doug was quiet again, as if he were weighing things up in his mind.

‘You could always go full BM; then I could get away with paying you more. What do you think?’

Body Modification, the words were both the ultimate taboo and the ultimate turn-on depending on which side of the equation you were on. In the last days of the twentieth century genetic modification had been nothing more than a term that was bandied around in the media as eco-warriors and the captains of industry argued back and forth about twiddling with the genes of crops and the dangers of “Frankenstein foods” being sold for human consumption. But with the passage of time it had come to mean so much more; it had come to stand for all the clever little tricks that mankind had learned to pull with the genetic makeup of not only the lower orders of flora and fauna, but also inevitably upon his own.

In the sweltering heat of the underground, Sophie’s thoughts raced like the train as it wound its way through the bowels of London. Cramped into her seat, she stared down at the paper open on her lap, her eyes gazing right through the print as if it were not there at all.

There had always been an underground in the industry that catered for the more outlandish and offbeat of preferences; the titillation that would raise a few eyebrows were it mentioned in polite company, but was nevertheless tolerated so long as it never strayed from the unspoken bounds that were set for it. The dominatrix could wield her whip and clamp her punters nipples, the dancer could gyrate in her customer’s lap and even the men who got off on wearing bibs and nappies were pretty safe whilst they indulged themselves behind closed doors.

While these had all been commonplace for as long as the industry had existed, it seemed that the past twenty years since the turn of the century had seen even more colourful ideas emerge from the mass unconscious when it came to getting your thrills. One had been the advent of the “Costume Clubs,” where the emphasis was on the exotic dress of the dancers and punters paid to see in the flesh what they could only see as fantasy elsewhere. The clubs ran the gamut from small places where the girls dressed as Japanese schoolgirls for wild-eyed oriental businessmen to the big time operations, which rented out large premises and had the financial clout to rival the Hollywood studios when it came to the quality of their costumes. Some clubs were a mishmash of concepts and ideas, but others followed a strict theme and employed dancers to play specific parts such as the occupants of a nunnery, a women’s prison or even a school of gladiators, decking out the interior of the club to heighten the effect. The more outrageous the theme, the more outrageous the costumes.

It was into this particular category that Doug’s own club fell, doing a brisk trade catering for its punters with a group of dancers portraying the creatures of ancient mythology. Despite his not being able to raise the wages of his staff, Doug had managed to funnel enough cash into the place to make sure that the parts of the club that the customers saw was something out of the ordinary. “The stage,” as he called it, was a good-sized loft not far from the banks of the Thames. Once inside, the illusion was almost complete and might have fooled the worse for drink into thinking that they were sitting in a Greek forum on a warm summers night. Only a keen eye would have convinced the average customer that Homer himself was not likely to be sitting away in a corner reciting poetry. At the far end of the club was a stage from which an ancient tragedy might have been performed, but from which a far more sensuous art was actually indulged in.

Doug’s girls each had a creature that was their own, and the same money that had gone into the club also went into making sure that they looked the part whilst on stage. Fauns, centaurs, nymphs of all four elements, even snake-tailed nagas crept into the menagerie (though they were an import from the mysterious east and not native to the Mediterranean). And of course there was Sophie herself, the resident mermaid. They turned up, they got dressed, they danced for the customers and then they went home.

And when it was all over, the unpleasantness washed away and the money having changed hands, then everyone went back to their normal lives. If the willing participants, customer and provider of services, were to meet in the street then neither would dare to acknowledge the other in the real world.

But BM changed the rules; with it you could no more simply take off the costume and go home than you could take off your own skin. With BM the costume was your skin.

Doug had not lied when he spoke of the financial rewards, there was much demand for “the real thing” and people were willing to pay to see it. This was supposed to in some way balance the sacrifices that the subject had to make, the fiscal reward repaying the physical price. Sophie was also sure that he would pay her well were she to take that option; Doug had made it clear to his girls that the price of the treatment would go through the clubs accounts and their expenses would all be met.

She recalled as well the fuss and occasion that Doug had made when the first (and so far only) one of his employees had consented to the process. Kiera had returned from a long holiday in Africa and shown her face at the club only once before disappearing again amidst the whispers of the other dancers as to just what would return.

When the time came, Doug made sure that his investment in Kiera was worthwhile. Appearing on stage in a ludicrous toga and sandals, he announced to the eager crowd that he had just taken receipt of a rare specimen from the furthest reaches of the dark continent. At his command a pair of men dressed in similar togas (and feeling like a pair of prats) pulled a large cage covered with a rich red cloth out onto the stage. Without further ado, Doug whipped back the cloth and stepped back to reveal the contents of the cage.

Sophie recalled taking a breath in surprise.

There inside the cage was Kiera; the face was the same and the suggestive smile had not changed, even if so much else had. She wore a bra and loincloth made only of twisted black fabric, which was almost lost against the black and white stripes that crisscrossed her skin. A mane of black and white hair fell from her head and trailed away down her spine, narrowing all the way until it vanished just above the tail at the base of her spine that swayed back and forth. Far longer at the front, the mane fell down on the left side of her head, covering one eye whilst the other regarded the crowd with a mischievous glint. As she stepped out of the cage and made towards the edge of the stage, Sophie had cast an eye on her legs, seen that below the knee they bended back on themselves, and ended in black hooves, which clacked on the boards as she went.

Kiera was the new star attraction, she was worth more in wages than any two of her colleagues put together, she was exotic and alluring in a unnerving and alien way. But she could not go home, could not walk down the street, and could not ride the crowded and stifling underground back to her tiny flat in the soulless boroughs.

And it was that last memory which made up Sophie’s mind.

As the thronging crowds piled out of the train and carried her from the platform, up the stairs and out onto the street she was fumbling for her mobile and dialling Doug’s number.

A loud and persistent knocking at the door finally dragged Sophie out of bed. Though she did not bother to look at the bedside clock, the light lancing in between the slats of the blind betrayed the fact that it was the middle of the day. Silently cursing the nocturnal existence that her job demanded, she hunted around the room until she found a shirt to cover herself. The last remnant of an old relationship, the shirt was large enough to reach halfway down her thighs and would have to do, as her dressing gown was nowhere to be found.

The knocking at the door continued as she picked her way through the messy flat towards the door. Once there she stared through the peephole in the door and caught sight of the distorted image of a man in a courier’s uniform. As strange as the view through the hole made him seem, it was clear that the look on his face was one of impatience as he kept on pounding the door.

Putting on the chain, Sophie opened the door and peered round at the courier whose knuckles had stopped only an inch from the wood.

‘Ms S Higgson?’ he asked in a stressed tone of voice.

‘Yes.’

‘Package for you, luv,’ he proffered his palm-sized inventory, ‘just need you to swipe for it and then I’m gone.’

Sophie retrieved her ID card from the pocket of her coat, which was mercifully still hanging from the peg on the back of the door. She quickly swiped it in the slot of the inventory and was rewarded with a smile from the courier and a small cardboard box as he tapped the screen, recording the delivery.

‘Return’s been paid for, luv,’ he explained before disappearing, ‘call the number on the label when it’s ready to be sent back and they’ll send someone round to pick it up.’

And with that he was gone.

Sophie closed the door and carried the box into the living room where she sat down and cleared a space on the table. The address on the label was of course her own, but the plastic pocket attached to the box was filled with a small sheet of instructions and another label bearing an address in Kent for the return of the package.

Before she read the instructions, Sophie opened the box and pondered over the contents. Nestled inside the packaging, she found what looked like two test tubes with a plastic lids and a small book. She unscrewed the test tubes and noticed that the first had a swap attached to the lid, while the second hid a miniature syringe in the same place. Putting these down, she flipped through the pages of the book and was assaulted by a spectrum of colours. Each page was devoted to a different tone, from an intense colour at the one side and fading to paler tones at the other. All in all it gave the impression of a book of wallpaper samples, except for the fact that each page was perforated where it met the spine do that it could be removed from the book.

More than a little puzzled by these finds, Sophie skimmed through the instructions without bothering to read in any great detail:

…using sample containers provided, please supply a specimen of blood and skin cells for the purpose of genetic profiling (the inside of the cheek is advised as the most readily accessible source for the latter and can be collected using the swab provided)…having taken time to browse the pigment catalogue enclosed, please remove the colour of choice by tearing along the perforated line and placing this back in the box with the specimen containers after discarding of the rest of the catalogue…finally seal up the box, attach the label provided and return to The Retreat. Once we have taken receipt of the returned package we will contact you with further details…Thank you for your patronage…

“The Retreat,” that was the name of the place. Sophie had been wondering what to expect and when she would hear from the people who were to carry out the BM. Doug had been quite vague when pressed for details and simply insisted that they were a private and very exclusive clinic that dealt with each client on a one to one basis and in the manner that they felt best fit the situation.

Kiera had been no more help when Sophie had called in on her unexpectedly to pump her for information on her own experience. In the well-appointed apartment that her BM status afforded her, the zebra-girl simply reclined on a sofa in a silk dressing gown and refused to tell. She was the result of their handiwork, Kiera explained, and even in the twenty-first century the sacred oath of privacy between patient and doctor held weight. They were legally bound to keep her identity confidential and she was in turn bound to keep their unique methods and practices quiet so that they remained that way.

Before Sophie left, Kiera stretched out her legs and waggled her hooves before lying out on her side and warbling out a few lines in imitation of her colleague’s stage act. They were both the worse for more than one bottle of wine and Sophie had not been sure weather to be amused or insulted.

But for all her unanswered questions and misgivings she was committed now and determined no to turn back. The swap went round the inside of both cheeks, the syringe went in her arm with a yelp and she mulled over the book for a while before settling on a page where a deep blue faded into silver. With the page torn form the book and the box sealed up again, she stuck on the label and dialled the number for the courier service.

Within the hour the package was on its way back from whence it came.

From the back of the cab, Sophie caught sight of the imposing gates, as they swung open. The car turned in off the road and wound its way up a broad gravel drive hemmed in on both sides by trees. The cab driver muttered and cursed as his wheels threw up the gravel, which clattered off the bodywork, but Sophie ignored him and instead tried to get a better view of what was hidden around the next bend in the drive.

Train tickets and a letter informing of the appointed day for her to attend the Retreat had turned up out of the blue just as the package, from then on everything had been hurry, hurry. Doug had given her the time off without question and pressed a fifty-pound note into her hand for the taxi from the station. The letter’s directions had the grumbling driver winding his way down narrow country lanes and through tiny hamlets, until they had arrived at those tall, cast iron gates.

There had been no sign by the road declaring that this was in fact the place she was looking for, but as there was nothing else for miles around this had to be the place. The driver had been surprised to find no intercom on the gates, but a whirring camera turning in their direction from atop one of the gateposts was followed by the gates simply opening of their own accord as if they were expected.

As the cab rounded the corner, Sophie was presented with the facade of an elegant Victorian house. Built of red brick, it was perhaps too small to be called a stately home and a little too large to be a manor house. Long low wings of two stories ran off to each side and the entrance was reached by three wide steps before the circle where the drive came to an end. Like the driveway, the house was flanked by trees and afforded an air of privacy that seemed right for a clinic of its kind.

The driver pulled up by the steps and busied himself with Sophie’s luggage – which as it consisted of a holdall and a rucksack – took only a few moments. He accepted the money, grumbled again at changing the fifty-pound note and then disappeared down the drive leaving her alone in the shadow of the house.

Sophie shouldered the rucksack and dragged the holdall after her as she wandered through the open doors and into a hallway lit by an atrium window high above. Twin staircases wound up the sides of the hall leading to the first floor; black and white tiles checked the floor. The walls were hung with landscapes large enough to cover the space and on the borderline between average and bland so as to not attract too much attention, giving the impression of expensive background detail. Beyond the stairs, Sophie saw a lounge laid out with leather couches and a pair of doors leading out into a garden spreading out behind the house.

She was so busy taking in the hallway that she nearly jumped out of her skin when she heard a polite cough. Sophie spun round to see a raven-haired woman sitting behind a neat desk of dark wood. Tucked away to the immediate right of the doors, Sophie had failed to even notice the woman and she was embarrassed to realise the woman had been sitting quietly waiting for her to turn round all the time.

Sophie hauled her luggage over to the desk and pulled the now crumpled letter out of her jacket pocket. The woman smiled as she accepted the letter; a sincere smile it seemed to Sophie. As she quickly read the letter and tapped away at the tiny desktop computer upon the desk, Sophie sized the woman up as best she could. The name badge she wore simply bore the name “Gillian,” with no mention of the Retreat and no mention of her job title either. From where she sat behind the desk, Sophie could make out that Gillian was wearing what appeared to be a black dress cut in an oriental style with a short collar. The dress had long sleeves and hugged close to Gillian’s figure, a little fuller than Sophie’s own and impressive for a woman who seemed well into her forties. The desk was covered by a dark throw that hung down over the front and hid whatever impressive pins Gillian might have been concealing under her snug dress.

‘Ms Higgson?’ Gillian asked, betraying an accent that set Sophie thinking of Eastern Europe.

‘That’s me.’

‘Welcome to the Retreat; my name is Gillian, if you need anything during your stay just pick up the phone in your room and dial one for reception,’ she gestured at the desk before her and the telephone sitting beside the computer. ‘I’ll be sure to send someone up to see to you.’

I’m sure you will, Sophie thought.

‘You are scheduled to meet with Dr Pickford at twelve tomorrow in consulting room two. Your room is number twenty-seven, on the first floor,’ Gillian handed over an old-fashioned key. ‘Shall I call for the Porter?’

‘No need,’ Sophie picked her luggage up once more and started towards the stairs.

‘Meals are delivered to your room; I’m afraid we have no dining room. Just…’

‘Call reception?’

‘Call reception, yes,’ Gillian laughed to herself.

At the top of the stairs Sophie paused and glanced back down at Gillian, sitting at her desk and tapping quietly at the computer again. From where she stood, Sophie was able to see Gillian’s legs before they disappeared under the desk. If the dress she was wearing had seemed a little snug on her chest, it looked positively skin-tight on what could seen of her lower half. Sophie was sure that the woman could not have walked at more than an inch at a time. Shaking her head, she decided to leave alone the mystery of the receptionist in the tight dress and find her room instead.

‘Sleep well?’

Sophie nodded; she had enjoyed the first good night’s sleep in months of working nights at the club and was still finding being up and about in daylight as something of a novelty. Her room had been much like the hallway; well furnished, but nothing over the top. A double bed, sofa, ensuite bathroom and a TV, which she had studiously ignored in favour of sleep.

But in contrast, the consulting room was quite a surprise. She had been expecting a dark room dominated by a huge desk and walls lined with diplomas and certificates; instead she had walked into a room painted a neutral wheat shade and carpeted with a thick brown shag-pile. The only furniture was a pair of comfy armchairs, a set of wooden shelves in the corner and a sideboard holding a coffee machine and crockery.

Even Pickford himself had been somewhat of a surprise, turning round to greet her from where he stood before the shelves and motioning to an empty armchair. Rather than the drab and grey man she had thought would lurk in a dark office and bore her to tears with a maze of medical jargon and babble, here was a bright character in jeans and a black woollen sweater. His dark brown hair was slightly unruly, but there was no sign of grey even at the temples and Sophie figured that he could not have been much more than thirty-five. A pair of spectacles rested upon his head as if they had been left there and forgotten, a suspicion that was confirmed when he retrieved a file from the shelves and then stopped with a look of confusion on his face until he found them and hastily balanced them on his nose. So, Sophie thought, this is what all those crazy professors look like before they go bald and loose their looks.
As soon as she was seated, Pickford had dropped the file on the arm of the empty chair and offered her a cup of coffee. While he made them both a drink, he had enquired as to whether she slept well.

‘Good, very good…kill you quicker than lack of water, you know?’

‘Pardon?’ Sophie looked a little puzzled.

‘Lack of sleep, brain needs to reach REM sleep every night…if it can’t then everything starts to fall apart…’ he paused, as if aware suddenly that he had wandered off the subject at hand. A confused expression crossed his face as he handed Sophie her coffee and sat down in the vacant chair. His own cup nestled between his legs; Pickford glanced at the file and seemed somehow steered back on track by the sight of it on the arm of the chair.

Sophie found herself grinning at Pickford’s friendly and bumbling manner. It was a long time since she had been a student and she had forgotten the eccentric characters that filled the halls of academia. There was no way that he could have survived in the real world; but here surrounded by his modern Swedish furniture, making coffees and polite small talk with his patients he made an endearing character.

‘I hope that Gillian made you feel welcome when you arrived, showed you the amenities and all that?’ Pickford smiled after asking the question and took a sip of his coffee.

Sophie nodded.

‘Good woman, Gillian,’ Pickford went on. ‘Very good with people,’ he considered something for a moment and then added, ‘former patient of mine, still up and alive…reassuring for you, eh?’

A former patient, so that explained the curves that she liked to show off. If he could do that for a woman heading towards fifty, then he might work wonders for a younger model. But then this was far more than a nip and tuck in the right places, and there were no examples of Pickford’s more extreme creations wandering about for her to judge him by.

Pickford made a point of opening the file and leafing through the contents, stopping occasionally to scrutinise a particular point and then moving on until he had made his way through the whole thing. Then he looked up and caught Sophie’s eye, his face a strange mixture of concern and enthusiasm.

‘So I see that you’re the girl that I’m to make a mermaid out of.’

‘I suppose so,’ said Sophie, the words sounded so strange coming from Pickford’s mouth that she could not manage much more.
‘Well,’ he began, ‘I have to say that I don’t think I could have picked a better candidate myself.’

He glanced away and took a quick sip of coffee as Sophie realised that he was blushing. A man more than a decade her senior and a doctor on top of that, had turned red with embarrassment at paying her a compliment. The last thing she had expected was for the man who was going to perform intricate surgery on her to get bashful at the prospect of admitting that he found a woman attractive. After so long performing in front of crowds of leering men, shouting at her whatever filth and depravity they could think of, Pickford’s reaction came almost as a shock. But then she supposed that a man in Pickford’s position had to control himself no matter what he might feel; no woman would put herself in the hands of a doctor whom she could not trust to keep his hands where they were supposed to be. Still, the doctor’s red face seemed an endearing quality and Sophie found herself liking him all the more for his little show of human weakness.

‘Now then,’ Pickford tried to move the conversation on, ‘as all the papers have been signed and the specimens required were taken weeks ago, I think it’s time we got down to some of the practicalities.’

‘So is this the point where you whip out your magic wand and make my shoes redundant in a puff of smoke is it?’ Sophie joked.

‘Unfortunately not,’ Pickford smiled, sharing the joke, ‘if only I could. Actually, Sophie, this is going to take at least three days of intensive surgery and a good few intensive months of recuperative physiotherapy and rehabilitation before you’re back on your…feet. And you understand that this is a contract, which binds you for a full five-year term to remain in the form you will be adopting…a mermaid that is? You’ll be a mermaid for the duration of that time with no get out clause.’

This is it, Sophie thought, now we really are through the looking glass now.

‘I think it might help if you keep in mind the fact that this is just another form of surgery, genetic rather than simply cosmetic, but a straight forward process that has precedents all the same. In the past we have been limited to changing the surface details of our patients; tweaking their faces, removing unsightly blemishes and of course the ubiquitous enhancements in the obvious areas. But now we’re moving into an age where we can go further, actually take action at the root of whatever the patient believes is their particular problem. In time this kind of gene therapy could cure disease and make genetic conditions a thing of the past, but right here and now we’re discussing a use to which it has been put that has lofty – if not so noble aims. I’m not about to subject you to something that could kill you or go awry, I’d like to think that we know what we’re doing here.’

‘I suppose you didn’t kill Kiera,’ Sophie conceded.

‘Kiera? Oh yes, you have the same employer as the young lady who was with us not long ago. A colleague worked with her, but as I remember it involved extensive dermal work as well as alterations to the skeletal system.’

Sophie nodded.

‘Well I can tell you that what I’m proposing in your case is nothing nearly as drastic and invasive as all that.’ He rose from the chair and returned to the shelves, rummaged around for something and then sat back down with a covered Petrie dish in his hands. ‘Take a look at this,’ he said as he removed the lid and handed it to Sophie.

Inside was a tiny object about the size of a penny; slightly oval-shaped, it sat suspended in a layer of clear jelly, but the light still played off the intense colours as it faded from intense blue to pale silver. It was a scale, the exact same colour as the page she had torn from the little book and returned to the Retreat weeks ago.

‘This is…’ Sophie stopped, unable to find the words.

‘That’s a scale,’ Pickford smiled, ‘or to be more exact, it’s one of your scales.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘It’s a scale grown from the cell sample that you sent to us, designed and grown in a culture right here to the pigment specification you chose yourself.’

‘How’s this supposed to help me become a mermaid? People don’t have scales now, do they?’

‘No, but mermaids do; well at least the type that you’re to become do. And if people did have scales, yours would be pretty much the same as this one on a genetic level. This scale has the exact same genetic makeup as your hair, skin, teeth and your whole body; we just tricked it into thinking that you were supposed to have scales as well. You see this way there’s no chance of rejection as the scales are as much a part of your genetic profile in the ways that matter as any other part of your body.’

‘So you’re not going to cut me open and give me gills instead of lungs, or whip out my leg bones and replace them with a dolphins nether regions?’

‘There really is no point,’ Pickford gestured with his hands, ‘if you don’t mind me saying, you’re not likely to have to spend the rest of your life living under the waves now, are you? As far as I understand it you really need to have what amounts to a pair of legs in the shape of a tail, or rather one leg that looks like a tail from the outside. To that end I think that the changes had better be external rather than internal, and seeing as you already have experience in performing as a mermaid the rehabilitation will be at least a little easier for you.’

‘I suppose.’

‘My aim, Sophie, is to make a mermaid who can sit on a rock and charm the stars down from the sky; not to create some kind of zoological curiosity.’ He fixed her with a smile. ‘And of course the procedure done this way will be ultimately reversible.’

‘You’re serious?’

‘Of course.’

‘Okay,’ Sophie took in a deep breath, ‘when do we start?’

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Filed under Body Modification, Short Story, The Retreat, Transformation

Siren in Stockings

Image supplied by Charisma

Agnes had always told herself that nothing would change her, that no matter how high her star rose and what plaudits were heaped upon her she would still be the same girl who had been given her first break on the bill of that off Broadway play all those years ago. There was a part of her that at least wanted that to be the truth, but in her most honest moments, even she could acknowledge the reality that no one could experience a rise to fame like her own and remain the same person they had been when they set out on the path they had chosen to follow in life.

She comforted herself with the thought that things could have been far worse, she had managed to avoid the more common clichés that characterised actresses of her generation were savaged on account of in the media. There were no messy divorces in her past, no history of being caught applying a five-fingered discount in Hollywood boutiques and no habit of jetting off to remote parts of the world in search of a fashionable adopted child either. She had even been able to keep her dalliances with alcohol and illegal substances behind closed doors, a real achievement for someone who was not afraid to admit that she liked to indulge on occasion.

But of course there were some trappings of the trade that Agnes had been unable to avoid, things that became necessary when people started to recognise your face on the street. Perhaps the most obvious was her apartment on one of the highest floors of an exclusive building, which took security only slightly less seriously than Fort Knox. Others she hoped were less obvious to the casual observer and thus supported her belief that she was retaining a subtle quality to her character that connected with the real world on some level.
Whether or not Agnes chose to include the habit she had developed for wandering around the apartment in her underwear in that same category would have been an interesting subject for debate, but it was a habit she indulged on most days.

And today was no exception.

A large part of the habit came from the fact that there was a streak of exhibitionism buried deep inside her personality, tied up with the complicated need to be seen that had spurred her on to become an actress in the first place. This was amplified by the fact that her apartment had become a place where she felt totally at ease; free to express herself, in the décor, the layout and what she did within the space. Agnes was sure that the chances of someone getting a clear glimpse into the interior of her home was almost impossible and if she was honest, the idea that someone might was a little shiver of excitement that she was happy to keep alive.

Agnes also liked to indulge in the private habit because on a basic level she was exceptionally fond of underwear; it was as simple as that.

It had always seemed to her that clothes were designed to be the prelude to the naked human form in the same way that the narrative of a film began with scenes and dialogue that hinted at the story to come. Clothing lay on top of the body and created the illusion of a skin, while in reality it was nothing more than a covering that took its shape and derived its movement from that which lay below.

Some might have seen such a philosophy as deriding the role of clothing, describing it as a language of deception and a barrier between the observer and the truth. But that was far from the way Agnes saw things. To her the way in which clothes ghosted the outline of the human body was a fantastic story that gave veiled hints and fleeting clues to the naked truth below. For her the need to observe the layers that it created and penetrate them one by one only served to make the final revelation of the flesh all the more wonderful.

In the realms of her philosophy, underwear occupied a special position that nothing else could claim. Of all the clothing in existence, none came as close to the actual reality of human skin or followed the lines of the human body in the same way. Both literally and figuratively underwear strove to be a layer of skin that came as close as possible to being part of the person wearing them as possible. There was no chance for concealment with it, save for the ability to pull things tighter to the body, and instead the contours of the stomach, the curve of the buttock and the line of the leg had to be followed and accentuated.

No other type of clothing was made with the same diaphanous and almost weightless material and no other type of clothing was ever as close and intimate, spending more time clinging to a person’s body than the most devoted of lovers. No man or woman had ever cupped her breasts as softly, covered every inch of her legs with sensation or brushed her most intimate parts with such devotion.

Unlike many other things in life, underwear was an indulgence that Agnes allowed herself without a hint of restraint either. While she was never short of outfits required for her professional engagements, her stock of underwear ran far wider and deeper as she felt the need to have access to whatever kind of garment might take her fancy at a particular moment in time.

Agnes hoarded bras, panties, tights and stockings of every description and from every corner of the world she had visited. She owned corsets of all shapes and sizes as well as outmoded and antique pieces of clothing that had no modern equivalent and was quite able to dress herself as a Victorian lady denuded of her outer garments, often doing so for her own amusement. Sometimes she even dispensed with the need for certain elements of underwear, substituting nipple caps for the more common bra just for the thrill of bearing her breasts proudly.

Today she had opted for simplicity over extravagance, a pair of simple panties, strapless bra and hold ups all in black beneath an opaque dressing gown. Agnes did not have a figure that could be described as voluptuous; rather she was slender and possessed of a curving backside and pert breasts. But she was secure in the knowledge that a figure like her own could inspire far greater levels of appeal than a typical hourglass if only one knew how to prepare and position it properly.

In her hands, the shape of a petite body was dynamite.

There was no sense in dressing up more than necessary on this day in particular anyway, not when all she was doing was waiting in for a delivery.

Apart from lingerie, the contents of the delivery represented one of her other major weaknesses in life, another indulgence that she tried to keep in check and more often than not failed.

Agnes was awaiting the arrival of a small piece of antique jewellery.

She was not a woman who had time for piles of expensive and showy jewellery, not interested in the kind of rocks and flashy items that could be seen from orbit. Rather Agnes had a passion for authentic and intriguing pieces that caught the eye rather than poked it out upon first sight. Her collection was dwarfed by her underwear obsession, but the occasional item that she acquired became part of a small and well chosen array of jewellery that complimented her whether she was fully dressed in public or clad scantily in private.

If she was honest, Agnes was particularly excited at the thought of her latest acquisition arriving on her doorstep. It was an unusual piece that looked in the images she had seen and the write up of the item to be a kind of brooch made of a tarnished metal and set with a small black pearl. Had the metal been pristine or the pearl a more common colour, she would have had no interest in the thing at all, but the combination made it stand out and had sealed the purchase.

An added dimension was the fact that the brooch came with nothing in the way of a back story and the sellers had been unable to find any makers mark on the thing no matter how hard they tried. So in addition to being unique in appearance, it was a complete mystery into the bargain and had stirred Agnes’ imagination no end as a result.

As it happened, she was pouring coffee when the intercom sounded and left the cup half filled as she made her way to the door.

Agnes scooped up another dressing gown that was really more of a kimono as she passed through the lounge and into the hallway. She shouldered the thing on and tied the belt around her waist, making sure that she was covered as much as possible by the garment. Wandering around the apartment in lingerie for her own amusement was one thing, but there was no way that a random courier was going to be treated to the sight of a nationally recognised actress in her underwear.

She keyed the intercom and was about to tell the courier to leave the parcel on the matt, when she caught a glimpse of the man’s face on the small screen. The picture was terrible as usual, but she had become something of an expert at the art of filtering out the effects of the grainy image after seeing the mess it made of her friends and relatives in the time she had lived there. Her instincts told her that the face on the screen was a lot more interesting in the flesh than the poor quality of the image she was looking at.

Agnes was a complicated person on most levels, many of her characteristics seeming to be contradictory in nature when taken out of the context of her personality as a whole. It was nonetheless quite true to say that at heart she was something of a flirt, always secretly pleased and a little validated by the recognition that she received of her status. Though she valued her privacy and thought of herself as a woman not easily given to making an exhibition of herself in order to attract attention, there was always a part of her that wanted to know that she could inspire such emotions if the need arose.

She had noted the fact that the courier was male and no more than a year or two her junior. She had also noted that he was one of those men who, if you managed to get hold of them and straighten them out somewhat, could have been called pleasant in the face department. Last and most important of all she had noticed that he had that look on his face that was a pretty poor attempt to disguise the fact he had read the name on the delivery slip and made the leap of logic that put a face to it as well.

Agnes was more then used to the expression, the one that people used when they wanted to seem as though they had not recognised you until you were introduced. After the introduction they acted in the same manner as any of the more honestly star-struck, but the attempt was always amusing.

She weighed the elements in her mind; she was in a good mood on account of her new trinket having arrived, the guy was cute to look at and in awe of her already and she was doing nothing for the rest of the day and would probably be bored at some time in the next twenty four hours.

There was no reason she had to be bored right now.

“Wait there,” she spoke into the intercom, “I’m opening the door.”

Agnes swung the door open and saw that she had been right about the courier.

He was quite tall and attractive in an intelligent rather than burly manner and his only drawback was an untidy brown goatee that bristled from his chin. He wore a uniform of a khaki shirt and black trousers, hair tousled from a cap that was evidently a loathed part of the ensemble and shoved into a pocket at his side in quiet protest. At the sight of her he tried to look professional and unconcerned at the same time, failing to manage either as he proffered a small plastic box for her attention.

“Ms Maidenhead,” it was more of a statement than a question.

“That’s me,” Agnes was aware of the fact that she had allowed a leg to emerge from beneath the folds of the kimono. Though it was black against black, the nylon of the stockings caught the artificial light in the corridor, tracing the length of her leg and having the desired effect of pulling his eyes down from her face for a moment.

“Package,” his head jerked back up as if he had just remembered why he was there at all, “would you please sign?”

“Okay,” she accepted the box and gestured into the hallway behind her, “step inside a moment and have a drink?”

“Oh,” whatever the courier had been expecting it had not been that, “I couldn’t.”

“Why not?”

“Well…I guess I could.”

“Of course you could,” she turned and led him into the apartment.

Agnes prided herself on being a good judge of character and this was a man so scared of her fame that he would have jumped out of the window if she had asked him rather than cause offence. She was just after a little fun, after all, and the security in the building was so keen that they could have been in through the front door and tying his neck into a knot before he knew what was happening if she hit the panic button.

No, all she intended to do was sign for the package, give him his drink and see him on his way.

The fact that she’d be making him squirm with the presence of her body all the time was what made the whole thing worth it.

“Sit down for a minute,” she handed him a glass of mineral water and pointed him to a high stool.

In response he handed the package to her and watched as she signed the slip, making no effort to take a sip of his drink or utter a single word.

“Cat got your tongue?”

“What?” he looked at her as if seeing her for the first time. “No, sorry…just not sure what to say.”

“You could start by telling me your name?”

“Mitchell,” he shook his head, “my name’s Mitchell.”

“Be honest, Mitchell,” Agnes could not help but be amused by his fumbling around her, “I can’t be the first famous person you’ve run into in LA; the place is infested with them.”

“No,” he smiled and she noted it was a pleasant one, “I bumped into a guy who I thought was Alice Cooper last weekend, but my friend swears it was just some crazy drunk. If he’s not right then that makes you the second.”

“You can’t have lived here long,” she started to make her way towards the bathroom.

“Just over a month,” he watched her go as if disappointed at the increase in the distance between them.

“I’ll be back in a second,” Agnes assured him before she disappeared around the door, “just need to powder my nose.”

It was a lame line to use, but she wanted the chance to take a look at her prize. In addition a retreat to the bathroom meant that the kimono could be left behind when she returned and no reference to the fact be made on her part. That way he would have to either draw attention to the fact or simply keep quite while she watched him twitch.

She shrugged the kimono off and sat down on the toilet, the box on her lap.

Eager hands soon removed the plastic to reveal a far older box beneath padded on the exterior with faux leather and worn by the passage of time. She flipped this open and was rewarded with the sight of the brooch sitting in the middle of dark red padding, looking every bit as unique and intriguing as it had in the pictures.

Agnes plucked the thing out of the box and turned it over in her hand.

Up close the combination of the uncommon black pearl and the tarnished metal that might have been any number of things beneath the accumulated wear and residue of years, made the piece even more wondrous to her eye.

She was surprised however, to find that upon turning the supposed brooch over and examining its back there was no sign whatsoever of the pin or even the remnants of one as would have been expected. Indeed there was no trace of anything that might have given a clue to how the piece was supposed to be worn at all.

But as she held the thing in her hand and the metal began to warm, she was struck with the idea that perhaps the purpose of the piece was not to be worn in that manner at all.
Agnes looked down at her stomach, folded into itself as she sat.

For some reason she was becoming ever more convinced that the piece was supposed to be worn there, but from where the conviction came she had no idea.

Almost without a conscious thought, Agnes pressed the black pearl brooch into her navel.
It fitted perfectly, sinking in a few degrees before she removed her hand and looked down at it with a sense of triumph at having found a use for it.

Suddenly there was an intense pain in her stomach, so deep and unexpected that the sensation turned her bowels to water for an instant. In that moment she felt as though searing wires shot out from the brooch and sank themselves into her flesh, burrowing through her insides in a matter of seconds.

She was ready to scream with all that she had in her.

But moments later the pain was simply gone, as if it had never been at all.

Agnes looked down at the brooch, expecting to see a horrific mass of melted metal and burnt skin. But instead she saw that the thing was intact and her skin was as smooth and unblemished as normal. The only difference was that, if anything the pearl was now sitting more snugly in her navel than before the mysterious surge of pain.

She shook her head in disbelief and went to pull the thing out.

A yelp of pain saw her stop almost as soon as she started, pulling the pearl causing her a stab of agonising discomfort. She let go and tried with the other hand only to feel the same pain once more. Puzzled, Agnes poked and prodded at the pearl and soon came to the conclusion that any attempt to remove the thing would be as painful as trying to pull a fingernail from her own hand.

Was that what the terrible pain had been?

Was this some bizarre scheme or an unfathomable prank?

But then who would want to orchestrate a situation in which an actress was sent an item of jewellery that attached itself to her navel and refused to be removed? What could anyone hope to gain from such a ridiculous scenario as that?

Agnes had to admit that she was at a loss to think of an explanation for the whole thing. But on some level she was thankful that nothing more serious had befallen her. After all there was nothing outwardly problematic about having a small pearl brooch stuck in her belly button. It was far from in the way down there and she could not say that she hated the sight of it staring back up at her. For the moment she was perfectly happy to leave the thing where it was and worry about it later rather than try to pry it out and cause herself another jolt of pain.

Suddenly the thought occurred to her, was the architect of the strange scheme sitting in the next room? It seemed unlikely that a man so nervous and unsure of himself could be the brains behind the entire thing, it would have required a consummate actor to hide his true intentions behind a façade the likes of that. She was sure that the possibility was less than zero as far as that actually being the case, she was a good enough judge of her own profession to know that his emotions were real enough. All things considered she was sure that Mitchell was no more than a courier simply doing his job.

But where should she go from here?

She was sitting on the toilet with an item of antique jewellery stuck in her navel and a nervous courier in the next room.

Was the idea of flirting him to death still something that appealed to her?

Agnes glanced at her reflection in the mirror, at her delicate lingerie on top of pale skin, the dark curls that fell to her shoulders and the contrasting shades of her makeup. If anything the addition of the pearl seemed to make her feel subtly more exotic and interesting than ever. It was a small addition to the whole, but somehow she felt it lent her the air of a harem girl or a bejewelled courtesan who was used to being adorned in such a way.

She gave a satisfied smile to her own face and decided that under the circumstances, this was just what she needed.

After all, she thought, I have to live up to my reputation as a siren of the screen.

Before the thought had faded from her mind, Agnes became aware of a sensation of warmth emanating from the pearl and spreading slowly outwards. It seemed to sink into her body, reaching her very bones while touching the outermost surface of her skin and setting both alive with a flush of sudden heat.

The feeling was like nothing she had experienced before in her life. It charged her body with a sense of fluidity that felt as though she were being turned into supple clay while stimulating her to the point of physical excitement at the prospect. Agnes truly believed in that moment that if she had not fought to hold herself together, she might have simply lost her form entirely and melted into a formless liquid of pure and liberated pleasure.

It was the realisation that the intense heat of the experience was building in her lower body that finally made her open her eyes and glance downwards. Agnes stared at her legs in a half dazed state and watched as the living flesh began to shift and change before her eyes. Perhaps an inch below her vagina the skin of her legs pulled together and simply merged into one, creating a single limb.

If watching the transformation was a strange experience for Agnes, feeling it happen to her own body was far more so. As her flesh shifted and reformed, she felt everything without a moment of pain and could do nothing but simply watch in silence as her body changed more and more with each passing second.

When the merging of the limbs reached her stockings, they were not pushed downwards with the motion of the transformation. Instead they seemed to almost imperceptibly ripple for a fraction of a second before they were simply absorbed into the new shape of her legs. The texture and colour of the stockings sank into the surface of her skin and became continuation of the curving shape.

Soon the merging of Agnes’s legs reached her knees and she raised what was left of the two limbs into the air to watch the changes as they happened. But her knees proved to be no more of an obstacle than her hips had and they soon sank into one another as her calves followed moments later. Once the change reached her ankles, Agnes felt her feet being forced into alignment with her legs and she was soon staring at the tips of her toes as they too merged together.

But the change did not stop there; something in her unconscious mind told her that it was not yet over.

Agnes was proved right when she felt an odd sensation of pressure in the sides of what had until recently been the sides of her feet and her toes. She heard a sound something like nylon being pulled over skin and saw a broad growth emerge from either side of her new limb. These quickly grew in a motion that was somewhat akin to a sail opening or a fan being unfurled, spreading out until they extended a good two and a half feet from the point where her feet had been.

She pointed the new growths upwards and realised that they were joined in the centre and moved in a slow, gently swaying motion reminiscent of movement under the water.
It was then that she realised what the growth was.

A tailfin, sprouting from the end of a tail…or to be more precise, her own tail.

Agnes was amazed to realise that the patterns on the tailfin were swirls and knots of lace, almost identical to those that banded the point where the tail began across her thighs. She had seen many images of mermaids in her time and been shown costumes in her line of work, but she had never even contemplated the idea of a tail that seemed to be formed of nylon and decorated with lace.

She was sure that she should have been more worried than she was at that moment, but instead she found that all she could do was look at her strangely altered reflection in the mirror.

She was a mermaid.

There was no way to avoid the fact; she had been turned into a mermaid and her tail seemed to be made of the stocking she had been wearing when the change took her.

Agnes had never really given much thought to mermaids in general; she had seen the films and come across them in the media. Perhaps she had thought they were cute when she was younger, but there was no way that she had ever entertained a wish to be one.

Or was there?

She loved the attention, revelled in the chance to show off her curves on her own terms and was amused by the idea of wrapping others around her fingers with her charms. Was not that what a mermaid was supposed to do in all the legends and fairy tales? Charming sailors from rocks was not high on her list of priorities, but was the idea of a mermaid limited to such narrow confines?

The idea was almost too ridiculous to consider, but could the pearl have been magical?
What’s on the scale of ridiculous, Agnes chided herself, when the scale’s being totted up by a mermaid?

Then she recalled the thought that had been uppermost in her mind just before the transformation had begun. She had thought of herself as a siren, so had the pearl simply tapped into that mental image and transformed her as a result?

Agnes began to run a bath without thinking as her mind raced.

Was this where the whole idea of a mermaid came from? Perhaps this was a power common to all black pearls, to see into the minds of women and transform them as a result of their passions. Had these pearls washed ashore in past ages, or been found by divers and from there into the hands of women who dwelled on the shores of the oceans? If they had seen into the depths of desire in those long dead women, touched their passions and inflamed their bodies, what would they have seen but the images of sleek fish and graceful dolphins as a metaphor of their physical needs.

Had those first mermaids been such women, transformed by the magic of a black pearl into a creature half human and half aquatic?

Did the pearls retain the memory of the women they had been possessed by and changed?
Now that one had fallen into the hands of a modern woman, had it simply responded to her declaration that she was a siren and changed her accordingly?

Agnes realised that in her own mind it would not have found the simple, primal images of ancient times but rather more complex thoughts of lingerie and the fine art of teasing. Where the mermaids of old would have grown scales and lured their prey to the rocks where they sang, this one would seduce with the flash of satin and the hint of impish enticement. Searching her unconscious mind, the pearl had done as best it could to reconcile the two things and in the end reached a compromise.

With the bath full, she slipped off the dressing gown and unhooked her bra before sliding into the water and feeling the sensation as it soaked her tail. Water cascaded over the side of the tub, but Agnes took no notice as the new experience of her changed form took hold. Her hands roamed over the new textures and shapes of her tail and fingers found their way to her exposed vagina as the sensual appetites that seemed to be a natural element of a mermaid’s nature slowly seized her mind.

Suddenly there was a rapping at the door.

Agnes was shaken from her reverie and rudely reminded of the hapless courier, still waiting outside and ignorant of what was going on inside the bathroom.

“Are you okay in there?” Mitchell’s voice sounded worried despite the effects of the door between them. “There’s water seeping under the door.”

“It’s okay,” she shouted, “the sink just ran over.”

“Okay,” there was all of a sudden a strange quality to his voice, as though his words were being read off a script with no real conviction, “the sink just ran over.”

“Mitchell,” Agnes was oddly aware of the responses he was giving before he spoke, “are you alright?”

“I’m alright.”

She screwed her face up in thought for a moment before speaking again.

“Mitchell,” this would answer her question, “you’re a talking, purple elephant.”

“I’m a talking, purple elephant.”

Agnes supposed that some of the legends had to be true, so why not the tale that sirens were able to bend mortal men to their will with the power of their voices?

There was no hiding the fact that this had potential to make her current predicament a little less drastic than she had first thought. If she could command poor old Mitchell out there simply by using the power of her voice then she might be able to just tell him that he had not seen a mermaid in a bathtub and get him to disappear back off on his rounds. Longer term she really had no idea what she was going to do, but in the here and now she had a plan to make things a whole lot easier for herself.

“Come in and give me a hand,” she called.

A moment later the door opened and Mitchell stared down at the sight of a mermaid, reclining in the bath and ashamed in no way, shape or form about the fact that she was naked save for her shining black tail.

Agnes noted that although Mitchell did seem to be under the effects of a spell cast by her voice, his expression was not that of a stunned animal by any means. She could tell by the way he was looking at her that the effects must have been limited to his ability to reason on a higher level as his more base instincts were reacting just as she would have expected them to under the circumstances.

“I’m tired,” she was surprised that she almost pouted the words, “I don’t want to walk to the bedroom…carry me?”

Mitchell said nothing, but made his way across the small room and plunged his arms into the water. He scooped the mermaid up and carried her out into the apartment, heedless of the water that soaked him and rained onto the floor.

Agnes was still shocked from the way in which she had asked to be removed from the tub. She had wanted to be deposited on the leather couches in the sitting room, but the words had refused to come out in any other way. Now that she was being carried in his arms, the same impulse was getting stronger all the time. She found herself wrapping one arm around Mitchell’s neck, while the other stroked his chest, the hand undoing the buttons of his shirt one by one. At the same time she could not help breathing into his ear, so close that her lips brushed against his skin.

Was this the other side of the coin as far as being what was known as a mermaid?

It seemed that she could wrap another person around her little finger with the shape of her body and the power of her voice, but there was no way that she could stop herself now. Deep down, Agnes knew that whatever she had set in motion with the idea of flirting for amusement had been turned into something far more serious by the forces that her new from possessed. She had gone too far and there was no turning back.

Inside the bedroom, he lowered her onto the covers, neither of them concerned for a moment as the mermaid’s still wet body soaked the bedclothes beneath her. By this time she had stripped him of his shirt and he completed the job, not caring where anything landed in his haste to hold her again.

Agnes raised a hand to stop him for a moment and pulled herself backwards up the bed until she was able to reach a drawer and rummage inside. He waited obediently as she retrieved a condom and handed it to him with a nod. The spell did not seem to have affected either of their deep seated common sense and the sheath was soon rolled over his erect penis.

He did not enter at first, but instead simply brushed her vagina with the head. The feeling was light and filled with intent of what might follow this first attention, as though he had managed to turn the instinct to flirt and tease around on her for a moment. Agnes felt the helpless desire she had been building in him as he tormented her and she arched her body towards him, trying to catch his member, but to no avail.

They kissed lightly, lips mirroring the delicate contact between their genitals and the very tips of tongues passing, but never delving. Occasionally he would turn his attention to her delicate breasts, fingers stroking and cupping them as if enchanted by the fact that he could cover them with the breadth of his palms and yet be aroused by their femininity.

Agnes was satisfied for a while to be the object of his attentions, petted and flattered by the manner in which he attended to her body. But soon she felt her appetites rising and knew that she would not be content to take a passive role for much longer.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and gently pushed him sideways with the weight of her body. He complied and allowed himself to be guided onto his back as she turned herself over and crawled across his body, her tail pressing down on him as she did so. Once he was where she wanted him, with his back against the pillows, Agnes began to climb him an inch at a time. What might have been an easy task for a human was a considerable effort for a mermaid who lacked legs to brace herself as she climbed. Agnes was forced to rely on sheer strength and the contours of his body to make her progress, not that the experience of being climbed by her was anything but a pleasure for him.

Finally she placed her hands on his shoulders and arched her body, lowering herself onto his penis almost as slowly as she had climbed his own body. For a time it seemed that the sensation would never end as her own weight sank the length of his member into her body. Agnes was no stranger to this act, but the effect of her transformation had rendered the whole experience and every feeling it inspired like a euphoric drug and she felt each movement as she never had before.

She felt his hands grip her buttocks just above the margin of her tail and his thighs take her weight as they began to move together. Afterwards she could not have said how long they managed to hold the position, but she would not have complained if the thing had lasted for so long she had been frozen in place like a statue. She was sure that she climaxed there, bent like a bow and braced with her tail against his legs.

Afterwards she curled her back against his chest and lay still, expecting to sleep.

But she was surprised to feel his penis slipping between her buttocks and finding her once again, his instinct revealing that the transformation had left her vagina as accessible from behind as in front. Agnes was drowsy now and in no mood to reject his renewed attentions, so she simply submitted to them instead, lazily allowing him to stroke her body and wrap his legs around her tail as he tried to cling as long as he was able to the experience of making love to an exquisite mermaid.

When he was spent, she turned and commanded him again.

“Mitchell,” he was awake and alert at once.

“Yes?”

“Get dressed and let yourself out of the apartment.”

Agnes watched as he obeyed her orders. She knew that it was callous to simply throw him out after she had used him like a vibrator, but he had hardly hated the experience and she needed to think what her next step would be. He was done sooner than she expected and before he turned towards the door, she called out to him.

“Mitchell.”

“Yes?”

“Give me your mobile.”

He handed the phone to her silently.

“You won’t remember a thing about this afternoon, not where you were or what happened,” she was keying something into the phone as she spoke to him. “Until you hear your mobile ring and see that the call is from…Black Tail.”

Agnes handed the phone back to him and he left without another word.

What she had done amounted to keeping him around for when she was in the mood for some attention, but she could live with exploiting him so long as she was sure he was getting something out of the deal as well.

For some reason, once she was alone the panic about becoming a mermaid did not seize her as she thought it would. She soon saw the reason when she looked down and saw that her legs were slowly returning to normal, the tights becoming mere lingerie once more and the tailfin disappearing into her redefined feet.

A quick tug and yelp confirmed that the black pearl was still firmly stuck in place.

She lifted the surface of the tights and wondered to herself; would the tail appear if she were naked? For some reason she thought not, convinced that her transformation had been so closely tied to her love for such sensual clothing.

But she was sure that it could not be limited to just those stockings alone.

Suddenly her wardrobe had become something more than a collection of outfits; it now had a new world of possibilities and she was potentially the first mermaid in history capable of changing her scales with the seasons.

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Filed under Body Modification, Erotic, Short Story, Transformation

Matter Dynamics: The Heart’s Strings

The warmth of the afternoon sun had been carried into the cavernous room by the almost imperceptible breeze, keeping the air both fresh and comfortable as well as dispelling some of the jarring presence of the complex machinery that filled a large portion of the space. But the relative clemency of the surroundings seemed to have no effect on Mischa Brasi, who simply pulled the edges of her silk dressing gown ever tighter around her body as though she were afraid of catching her death without its protection.

The woman’s trepidation was nothing unusual in the eyes of the small group of scientist and technicians who fussed around the equipment, making the final checks before the process could begin. Every one of them knew full well just what thoughts of fear and trepidation were going through her mind and the reality of her role in what they were about to do. For the most part they tried to keep their eyes on their work and away from her, fearing they might add to her sense of apprehension were she to catch them giving her a sympathetic glance.

None of them felt Mischa’s anxiety more then Noa Blackwell as she steered herself into the room in the wheelchair that she had grown accustomed to using over the past months. After all, she had gone through the experience herself and the reality of matter conversion was nothing to be taken lightly.

In her previous life, Noa might have seen the other woman as nothing more than a shallow clothes horse paid to look pretty and keep her mouth shut. But her own life-changing transformation at the hands of the machine into which Mischa was about to climb had taught her to look deeper into others and find the closest thing to their true character as she was able.

Noa was under no illusions that this professional model was hiding the brains of a genius inside her pretty head, but the conversations between them led her to think that the other woman was very much oppressed by the expectations that her looks placed upon her. In fact, Noa was sure that there was not a single person Mischa thought of as a friend or confidant among the contingent of bodies that had become known to her colleagues as “their people”.

It had been the way in which Mischa’s face lit up for the first time when she realised who Noa was that the less statuesque of the two had decided that she would try her best to befriend and support the other. Many people had come face to face with the petite woman who had allowed herself to be turned into the world’s first living and breathing mermaid as she promoted the public image of Matter Dynamics. But none of the adult she had met reacted in the same way as most of the children; save for Mischa.

The expression of pure and simple enchantment that had spread across Mischa’s textbook perfect features had taken Noa totally off guard at the time. The other woman made no show of embarrassment whatsoever at being ecstatic to be in the presence of a real live mermaid. Noa found that she could not resist lifting the hem of the heavy blanket that she used to cover her tail in circumstances when professionalism trumped the need to flash her scales and treating Mischa to a quick flick of her fins.

From that point on there had been nothing but distain from Noa for the way in which the people who were financing their latest project behaved towards Mischa. The formidable presence of the assertive mermaid had become her own private champion in the course of things.

“Look at those arseholes,” Noa almost ran her wheelchair into the legs of Callum Watson as she paid more attention to the men gingerly unloading a large shipping crate than they did to Mischa. “If they’re not gawping at her body then she might as well not exist as far as they’re concerned.”

“Well,” he deftly stepped out of her path, “telling me is going to do you no good at all as they seem to pay less attention to what I tell them with every word that comes out of my mouth. Maybe if I had a pair of tits instead of a face it’d be a different story?”

“We could replace Mischa’s with your face while we’re at it,” Noa succumbed to his efforts at defusing her anger, “that way they might both be able to make yourselves heard.”

“I think the root of their negligence today,” Callum shook his head, “and don’t think that I condone this attitude one bit, is based on the fact that their boss has impressed upon them the fact that there are thousands of models in the world. But there’s only one of those.”

The contents of the crate were just becoming visible as Noa followed Callum’s gaze across the room. She could have sworn that none of the men whose gloved hands were nervously touching the carved wood beneath antique gold leaf had taken a single breath since starting the job, such was their concentration. Their faces showed frayed nerves and barely suppressed frustration as they tried with all their might to ensure that no harm came to the priceless musical instrument.

Almost as tall as a man, the harp was an imposing thing that seemed to have a personality all of its own. Noa was a scientist and not regularly given to flights of fancy, but still she could not escape the feeling that the elaborate patterns into which the wood of the harp’s frame had been shaped somehow lent it a depth that went beyond its status as an antique. It was as though the thing crouched where it was placed rather than simply standing idle, daring anyone to approach it and try to pluck its strings.

The sight of the singular instrument only served to make Noa more concerned than ever for the fate of Mischa after the process was complete. The rational part of her mind was fully aware of what was supposed to happen once the other woman entered the machine and, she was involved in the minutiae of the planning on every possible level. It was on an emotional level that her concern was building and as such there was no way to rationalise or silence her fears.

When it had been her own turn to undergo the process, Noa recalled, at least she had been able to find some comfort in the fact that she was to be melded with animate matter. There had been something to cling to in that despite the alien nature of the experience, perhaps the fact that there was some distant kinship between the stuff of her body and that of the creature she had become one with.

Mischa would be a different case; she would be broken down to a collection of molecules and then bonded to those of an inert and ostensibly dead object. The science was sound and Callum had demonstrated to her on more than one occasion the fact that their control over the process would ensure that the result was a fully living, breathing form of life. But she could not shake the feeling that elements of the transformation were beyond his ability to understand.

After all, there were still changes that had taken place in her own nature that she had chosen for one reason or another to conceal from her colleagues. The gills beneath her arms and the fact that she had swapped warm blood for cold were only the surface as far as her own new nature was concerned. So far she had been able to keep the midnight swimming, cravings for seafood and other less innocent needs secret, but there was always the possibility of them being discovered.

Noa watched as the men began to move the harp once more, perhaps this time with even greater care, into one of the large metal pods which formed a significant portion of the equipment in the room. She glanced over to the left of the pod where its identical twin stood no more than ten feet away.

Mischa had, by some odd coincidence, moved closer to the pod on the left as she stole a nervous glance at the harp. Noa was struck by the proximity she had unknowingly assumed to the apparatus she would soon be required to enter.

The third and final pod from which the result of the process would emerge stood in front of the first two so that they formed a rough triangle. No one seemed to be paying any attention to that pod apart from the technicians running their final checks.

All too soon she saw that the harp was in place and the checks were complete.

“Okay,” Callum raised his voice to be heard over the various noises filling the room, “that’s everything ready. Assume positions and prepare to power up the systems.”

Noa glanced at Mischa, suddenly realising that she had missed any chance of a final few moments of conversation, kicking herself mentally at the time she had spent complaining instead of sharing positive words with the other woman.

Mischa caught her gaze and managed to smile, trying and failing in one motion to assure her newest friend that she was prepared.

Both of them knew this was the point of no return.

Silently, Mischa dropped the dressing gown to the floor and stepped into the pod.

 

The past year had been a blur for most of the people involved in Matter Dynamics and there had been little time to do anything more than simply trying to keep their heads above water as the fortunes of the company seemed to go from nothing to cutting edge of controversy and public opinion. Noa herself had, if the pun could be allowed, been riding the wave of publicity generated by the images and footage of a real mermaid spreading across the world in mere hours.

In some respects Callum had been right to bet on the power of such an easily recognised and iconic image for their emergence into the eye of the general public, but there had inevitably been critics as well as admirers for what they had done. Some people accused them of playing god, others of meddling with forces they could not understand; accusations that he dismissed as archaic in the case of the former and ignorant in the case of the latter.

They had answered numerous questions and had many parties show interest in their technology, but Callum had been disappointed by the fact that most of the attention they received was focussed on the fantastical possibilities of the process. He had hoped that what he saw as the true potential of their work would have been evident to what he saw as the right audience, but it had simply not worked out as he had hoped.

When their first legitimate enquiry had turned out to be based on Noa’s fantastical new form rather than some sound scientific principle, he had hidden his disappointment and thrown himself into the project as best he could.

This had come in the form of a letter from the secretary of the Austrian National Opera, which seemed at once both impressive and laden with historical authority. Callum had begun reading, half convinced the thing was a hoax, and ended it more confused than he had been when he began. The chances were that he would have forgotten the whole thing if he had not begun to receive a string of emails and phone calls from the same man. During these conversations a bridge between a Scott rooted in the world of particle physics and an Austrian in the world of classical music eventually managed to find a means of communication and from there things began to move apace.

At their first meeting in person, Mr Gupter – which was the name of the Austrian in question- confounded their expectations of a small and neat man in a suit by turning out to be a towering giant in perhaps the most crumpled and abused suit of clothes either of them had seen in years. He filled the room with his person and the air with his personality, expounding on the brilliance of what they had achieved while at the same time admitting with no hint of shame that he did not understand a fragment of it himself.

After he had devoured a number of sandwiches and more than half a dozen cups of coffee all the while calling Noa’s tail a wonder of the modern world, Mr Gupter finally got around to explaining just what it was that his employers were proposing.

“It happened recently,” he began, “that a rather wealthy and in my own opinion rather vulgar citizen of Vienna died without legal heirs, having years before written his own family out of his Will in an act of spite. It seems that apart from acquiring material possessions, the only thing that the man found any pleasure in was the music of Mozart. In his lifetime he hoarded anything and everything that he could lay his hands upon that was either an artefact of or had a relation to the great composer. Perhaps he relished the idea of being the sole owner of such things, but as his death approached he stipulated in his Will that the collection should be passed to us after his demise.”

He paused to indicate that he would like more coffee, the cup seeming tiny in his massive paw.

“In the course of things,” Gupter sipped his refilled drink with a delicacy that boggled the mind, “this man died, as thankfully all vulgar people will and the collection came into our possession. Amongst the items he had amassed, we found many things that we were most delighted to have, but the most intriguing was a fragmentary manuscript for what we believe is a previously undiscovered opera.”

He let the words hang in the air and was rather annoyed when Callum simply stared back at him.

“You uncultured sod,” Noa hissed in his ear. “That’s probably the musical equivalent of an undiscovered Shakespearian sonnet!”

“Oh, Callum tried to mend the damage by looking amazed, “what are the chances of that!”

“Very small, I can assure you,” Gupter was not in the slightest fooled and went on with an expression that registered his noting of Callum as a dullard in matters of culture but at the same time appreciated in a resigned manner his attempt to stay with the story. “Understand this was only a fragment, but with the help of the most gifted talents in the world of the opera we have managed to elaborate on that and come up with what we are sure will serve as at least a fitting tribute to the idea that the great man never had the chance to complete in his own lifetime.”

“A new opera?” Noa tried to keep Callum from making things worse.

“Yes, a new production of what we believe would have been an piece intended to sit alongside ‘The Magic Flute’ in the repertoire and in such circumstances and knowing its plot, we feel we can call it nothing apart from “The Magic Harp” for fear of appearing to think ourselves anything but paying tribute to the great man.”

“And where do we fit in?” Callum’s blunt comment almost made Gupter cringe visibly.

“Dear boy,” he placed the coffee cup down before him, “the instrument in this opera is enchanted, able to play by itself and cause mischief after being carved from a tree possessed by a dryad. I have the perfect harp and the perfect girl to play the part. I was hoping that you could bring the role to life for us?”

 

Mischa was aware of the fact that she had no idea of what was happening to her. No matter how many times the process had been explained in front of her and how simply Noa had tried to put it, there was just no way that her mind could hold onto the concepts involved. She was not frustrated or maddened by the fact that she was only aware of the process taking place around her in the most simple of terms, it was just another one of the things in life that seemed beyond her to grasp.

Though she had no way of knowing it, Mischa’s ability to accept her own limitations and simply get on with life in spite of them was one of the things that prevented her from being truly stupid. There were many people in her world that may have been higher up the scale as far as intelligence was concerned, but a great number made the mistake of assuming that their limitations lay far beyond what they were capable of in reality. Some might have achieved great things by stretching themselves, but more simply overreached themselves as a result.

It may have been small compensation that Mischa had never overreached herself, but it was there all the same.

When she had been asked to play the role of a harp, she had been puzzled on account of the fact that she had never even plucked one and despite her agent’s wishes, she had never tried her hand at acting.

But then they had explained, in the normal condescending manner, that they wanted her to actually be the harp. They wanted to turn her into the instrument and use her as the centrepiece of a fantastical new opera in Austria.

After they explained they meant a country in Europe rather than an island in the Southern Hemisphere, they had introduced her to Noa and told her that the process would be quick and that they could change her back afterwards.

Mischa had weighed the entire thing up as best she was able, concluding that the money seemed right and the people behind the opera seemed legitimate.

But it had been meeting the mermaid that had swayed her to say yes.

How could they do anything wrong if they had made something so pretty?

So she had trusted Noa and stepped into the booth.

 

Mischa had no concept of the process that took place within the booth as her body was reduced to its constituent elements. Her conscious mind was simply aware of itself at one moment and then lost in the shattering of her physical form. Her awareness returned in much the same manner as though it had never been absent.

How odd, she thought, to be deprived of sensation for such a long time and then simply to regain it once more.

As the door to the booth swung open and she felt the warm air of the evening reach her naked body, Mischa was no more aware of the unusual complexity of her thoughts than anyone else in the room.

Instead they stared at the sight of her body as the mist cleared from inside the third booth.

There was no hiding the fact that Mischa and the elaborate harp had been melded together to create an artefact of strange and compelling beauty. The largest part of the harp seemed to have remained unchanged, with its body and neck still resembling the gilded wood of which it had once been composed. But it was the elegant pillar at the front of the instrument which had borne most of the changes. Here the old lines of the harp had been merged with the curves of Mischa’s body. From the top of the pillar to the bottom of the foot, the entire thing followed the outline of the woman’s form. Her head met the front of the neck, disappearing into her hair that had been gathered into a classical Roman style. Her skin was a perfect match for the gold of the frame and her torso was naked to the waist, bearing her breasts with the curve of the pillar and revealing the loss of her arms and the rounded shoulders left in their absence. Below the waist, Mischa’s human form was lost beneath a series of ornate carvings that mirrored the original shape of the pillar, but the form had been altered to simulate the outline of her legs and the curves were a wonder to behold.

None of the men in the room noticed it, but to Noa the sight was the most important detail of all. She could see just as well as anyone else in the room that Mischa had emerged from the process alive and able to function. The golden skin of her chest rose and fell in a regular rhythm and she stood proud and erect before her admiring audience. But above all, when Noa looked at her face, she saw that Mischa was smiling.
To her that was better proof than any that the process had been a success.

 

Noa decided that despite the fact the architect was long dead, she still hated with a passion the man who had designed the opera house. Perhaps he own perspective on the matter was biased, but there was really no excuse she could think of for a person from the eighteenth century to have been able to predict that there might well come a day when a mermaid was required to patronise his building. Even the subtle modifications that had been made to the building in order to allow ease of use to disabled opera goers proved to be insufficient for her own particular needs and she was forced to endure hours of discomfort as they sat through the performance that night.

She was also quite disappointed to discover that she was not a fan of the whole experience either.

Noa had always liked the idea of the opera in vague way, but now that she had been forced to sit through the entirety of one she was nothing but bored by the thing.

It seemed that opera was a foreign language that a person either understood instinctively or was totally bemused by. On top of that she suspected that there was also an unspoken rule that forbade those who did from explaining even the slightest detail to those who did not.

The fact that Callum had been enraptured from the moment the performance began did not help her mood either.

In the end she resolved herself to tuning the worst of it out and concentrated on the spectacle of Mischa on the stage below.

The press attention for their latest creation had been almost totally enthusiastic and images of Mischa had dominated the front pages of newspapers from one end of Europe to the other. There had been no courting the press this time though, the star of the new opera had been kept away from the prying eyes of the paparazzi by her employers. They claimed it was to keep the mystique of the human instrument for the performance itself, but there were rumours to contradict the official story.

Noa was more inclined to believe them than most, having been there and watching as Mischa was eased into the realities of her new physical form over a period of months after the melding had taken place. Right from the start there had been something very different about the demeanour of the woman and Noa was sure that she had an insight into the reason why.

However simple and self-loathing Mischa might have been before she was transformed, that aspect of her personality was long gone. It had been replaced by a serene manner and a look of new found confidence that Noa was sure could only have come from the new influx of genetic material in the other woman’s body.
In her own case, Noa had been well aware of the fact that she was gaining genetic material from a living creature. But Mischa had been merged with dead wood, strings and gold leaf, none of which had been alive at the time. Callum had theorised that some elements of the organic materials may have had an impact on what Mischa became, though he had no cause to take into account the instrument itself in those theories.

Perhaps that was where he had gone wrong.

Although Noa was a scientist to her core, she still wondered if there was some element of the new creature Mischa had become that was down to the harp itself. Could the complex and passionate individuals who had played the harp over the years have left something of their passion and intelligence imprinted upon it? Maybe it was nothing more than Mischa’s own knowledge of the instrument manifesting itself in a personality that differed from her own, some natural trick of the mind to hive off the personality of the woman she had been from the living object she had become.

She hoped that the change in personality would benefit Mischa in the long term no matter what the explanation.

The person she really felt sorry for was the poor girl playing the princess with whom the passionate prince was supposed to be falling in love with, if the plot was to be believed. The look the man had in his eye when he was regarding the magical harp that his character was playing in order to free the princess from her incarceration was far more believable.

Maybe the rumours were true.

Maybe the harp had bagged the prince in reality after all.

 

Mischa remained totally still and silent as she was gently placed onto the trolley and wheeled backstage. It was a skill that had developed after her transformation and was now one that she found incredibly easy to make use of in order to speak only when and to whom she chose. The effect was uncanny and more often than not people seemed to simply accept the fact that she had fallen into some kind of inanimate trance, simply treating her as a delicate object rather than a living creature.

The contrast was that inside her own head there was seldom anything but a whole galaxy of thought, as though she had looked up at the night sky and for the first time noticed the stars. She had slowly come to the realisation that her mind had become sharper and more focussed in the days after her emergence from the matter conversion device and she found that she was very happy with the results.

The simple fact that she casually used and comprehended the terminology of the process was all the proof she needed.

When she had first come to terms with the realities of her new form, she had been shocked at the loss of her arms and the fact that she was in essence rooted to the spot. But once her mind had begun to come alive, it was as though she had remembered a whole new set of limbs forgotten and left to wither in the past.

At first she had been filled with a sense of outrage that she kept to herself when the subject of her being played had come up in conversation. The idea was enough to make her compare her situation to an animal kept for its milk or meat and she bristled at the idea of hands touching her in such a way. But her attitude had changed when she was given a series of films to watch in which harps were played to produce the most haunting and beautiful music.

Mischa found that she somehow understood the language of the music, as though it were as natural to her as speaking to another human being. Soon she recognised the same forms on sheet music and found herself jumping ahead, able to predict the course the music would take. But no matter how many different performances she watched, there always seemed to be something wrong to her ear that no one else could perceive. The sound of no other harp truly sounded good enough.

It came as a shock for her to realise that the source of the sensation was jealousy.

Mischa realised that she had been biased against the sound that the other harps produced because deep down she believed that she was capable of better. On top of that, she became aware that a large element of her jealousy was also rooted in the fact that she resented seeing other harps played when she herself had been sitting idle all this time.

The battle between her outrage at being played like an object and the desire to produce music was settled when she was introduced to the man who, she was told, would be performing with her when the opera reached the stage. Her minders struggled with the definition of her relationship to the man in question, who would in effect be playing her. The term seemed to belittle her too much in their eyes and they danced around the subject like those embarrassed to look a person with a disability in the eye.

His name was Laslo, and he was very different to the men Mischa had known in the past.

She had been shown footage of a striding man with a storm of dark hair that dominated the stage with his presence. Actually meeting the quiet and nervous man in person was a stark contrast to what she had been expecting. They had told her he had been a prodigy, raised on music and song with a talent for both that made him prized in the world of classical music. He was young, not unattractive and seen as one of the greatest of his generation, but for some reason he sat in front of her looking as though he was terrified.

Once they were left alone, Mischa had a realisation almost as surprising as her own jealousy.

She saw for the first time that Laslo was terrified of her.

His eyes were only fixed upon her for a few seconds before they would dart away and a look of terrible guilt would come over his features.

Mischa had never been forced to coax another human being into communicating with her, but she tried as best she could.

“Laslo?” her voice was as quiet as she could make it.

“Yes,” he still refused to look at her.

“Do I scare you that much?”

“What?” he sounded genuinely surprised and turned to look her in the eye for the first time.

“Am I so hideous that you can’t even look at me?”

Mischa had feared that a person so devoted to the world of classical music and the culture it belonged to would be able to see her as nothing short of an abomination; she was becoming convinced that she had been right.

“God,” he shook his head, “good god no.”

“Then…”

“You have to forgive me,” Laslo stood and forced himself to hold her gaze. “I’m not sure how I am supposed to behave in your company.”

“What do you mean?”

“If I was presented with a beautiful woman, I would compliment her. If it was an exquisite instrument I would ask to play it,” his words were forced out in a tumble of nerves. “When I am presented with what seems to be both…I am at a loss as to which is appropriate and which would be improper.”

Mischa was lost for words.

She had absorbed enough of the type of language those in Laslo’s world used to be able to know that he was, in his own way, trying to say that he found her both stunningly beautiful and totally beguiling at the same time. Even before the transformation, she had been used to people treating her as an object and afterwards they had simply continued that habit once more.

No one had stood in awe of her the way this man was.

“You could always start by getting to know me,” she smiled, “and take it from there.”

From there their relationship had grown rapidly, with Laslo easing her through the experience of being played a step at a time. At first the sensation of another person plucking her strings had been strange, but he was gentle and allowed things to progress at a pace she was comfortable with. Soon she came to love the act of producing music and delight in the feeling of what his hands could do when they came into contact with her strings.

He told her all he knew about the history of the harp and filled her head with tales of the instrument and the place it had occupied for thousands of years of human history. In turn she shared all that she felt able to about her own life and the changes that the process had wrought in her while he listened, fascinated to be the first man in history to actually know his instrument and understand her feelings.

The first time he kissed her came almost as an accident, his hand brushing her naked breast as he passed one evening. She gasped at the unexpected sensation and he glanced down to see where his hand had come to rest. For a moment he remained still, feeling the strange combination of warmth and weight through the golden skin before gently pulling his fingers away.

It was as if in that moment they had both been reminded of the fact that Mischa was not simply some clever automaton that moved and spoke thanks to the winding of a key.

He stepped forwards and pressed his lips to her own, holding her head in his hands.

From that moment on they had been as close to lovers as they were able, the playing bringing them together more and more with every day that passed.

On this night, like so many before, Mischa remained as still as a statue until she heard the door of the dressing room open and was sure it was him entering. Only then did she come alive for the precious few hours they enjoyed every night.

It amused her to think how close to a fairy tale their lives had become. She was the woman who had been turned into a magical instrument and cursed to remain an object until the spell was broken and he was the man who had vowed to wait for her to become human again. They counted down the days until her contract was due to expire and they could be together finally as equals.

But until then there was the music and they plucking of the strings into the small hours of the morning.

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Filed under Body Modification, Matter Dynamics, Short Story, Transformation