Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Short Story: Gills


Samuel guided the sailboat. It was mostly unnecessary since there wasn't another ship in sight but he liked the feel of being in control. Sarah was lying on the bow sunning herself, joking that she wanted a tan. He shook his head, she was a bit off her rocker. She liked the warmth, so much different from where she had come from.

“Sara” he said “You are going to catch skin cancer”

She laughed “You don't “catch” it like it's some germ, silly”

He was also a bit uncomfortable lying there nude, so vulnerable. He scan the horizon again. Still there was not another ship within his vision. The sonar readout in front of him said there were no threats detected from beneath either.

“Where are we?” Sarah asked.

Samuel looked down at the mapping screen. “The satellites have us over Houston, that's why the water looks darker. Because of the smog”

She didn't laugh at his joke. Probably did not even understand the reference. He laughed at her non-reaction but only he thought it was funny.

In the end they had all been wrong. There was no nuclear war, there was no climate disaster or alien invasion that ended the world as we know it. Instead deep inside the Earths core something changed because of our relationship with a star that changed. Earths core contracted and the continents sank and the planet got a bit smaller, but the seas did not lose water. Now nearly all land was deep under the seas.

Some humans survived. Over a number of years some buildings in high altitudes were re-engineered and the water pumped out. These acted as underwater cities now, because the ships had been crowded and they couldn't stay afloat forever. Denver had a number of buildings, some of them reached above the water.

There were others who genetically enhanced themselves to live in the water and called themselves the Mer. As the continents sank many thousands of desperate people had taken this gene therapy and now there were colonies and kingdoms of these people all over Earth. They mostly refused to associate with regular humans and deemed themselves a new species.

Fights and battles between humans the Mer were common. People wanted things that had been left to sink to the bottom but the Mer now claimed the whole worlds ocean as theirs. Many humans disliked the Mer for these reasons and over time distrust and bad blood became the standard.

So when Samuel was accepted by the Mer of Arimasu it was a big deal. It was also a pretty big deal when he and Sarah ran away together. She being the daughter of the King of the Arimasu, they had sent groups of warriors to take her back. So far he and Sarah had survived and gotten far away. Once they made it to Denver he knew they would see Sarah and distrust her. Maybe even hate her. He hoped they would get to know her like he had.

“I think you need to get wet” he told her “Or should I call you 'himono'?”

She laughed and held out her hand. He took it and helped her to her feet. Her webbed fingers and toes and the fins on the back of her calves and forearms were some of the obvious differences but she also had a second, clear eyelid and hidden gills behind her ears. Otherwise she was human.

They sat on the deck for lunch. He ate fried fish and she ate it raw. “Sooner or later they will find us. Your people, I mean. Should we fight them? I don't want to kill them, I know you don't either” he said as he ate.

“I know” she answered “Sooner or later we have to go back. I do not know if my father will ever relent though”

Samuel didn't think so either. The rumors of a vessel carrying the genetic enhancement formula to South America had never been proven true. Yet, the medicine never did reach that continent. Only a small tribe of humans survive on Machu Pichu was all that had ever been found.

“Maybe” he said “Maybe we can find the formula. An old tale says it survived aboard a ghost ship still sailing the waters like a ghost”

She laughed “A silly story is no way to make plans. If the ship didn't sink it might have become part of the southern ice pack”

Antarctica now covered the lower quarter of the planet. When the core had shrank the planet it seemed to have shifted the tilt of the planet a bit. Now the southern hemisphere was mostly covered in ice, there were rumors of human tribes surviving down there like the Eskimos did up north. Some of these people were from South America if the stories were true.

“Let's do it” he said “Before we surrender to your fathers wishes, let us make an effort to find the formula”

“Okay” she answered “Let's give it no more than six months, though”

He thought about it “Why six months?”

“That's about how long it will be before our child is born” she told him “I must be back in Arimasu before that happens. This is one tradition that must not be broken”

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