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Fairytales and Other Stories / The Mermaid

  Perhaps it is my gift, or maybe a curse, to be in the wrong place at the right time and to have a mind unclouded by reality as you know it. I have seen things few humans would believe.

  My first encounter with a mermaid happened by chance as I was hitchhiking along the West Coast. I was camped along the edge of a rocky sea coast in a hidden cove when I first heard her. A hauntingly beautiful voice drifting through the early morning mist and for three days I searched for the source of my early morning serenades.

  It was on the forth morning as I waited for the song to begin again that I heard screams not the pure musical tones I was used to. I quickly grabbed my walking staff and headed in the direction of the sounds of commotion. The sight that met my eyes at first as I came upon the scene was three men fighting with and trying to drag away what looked like a woman. As any true knight would I raced forward to rescue the damsel in distress.

  As I raced forward the woman seem to fall in one of the many fissures in the rock outcropping that dotted the seashore and the three men stood there seemingly perplexed as to what to do next. In those days my walking staff was a 6 foot piece of solid oak and the men suddenly found themselves with something else to think about besides whatever their intentions were toward the young woman now trapped in a crevice.

  So surprised were the men by my appearance that one of them stepped backward and fell into the hole with the woman. I turned my attention on the smaller of the two men in hopes of disabling him quickly before having to engage the largest of the three men. My plan seemed to go off without a hitch as I was able to force the smaller man off the rocks and into the ocean where the outgoing surf did the rest of the work. The other man was bigger, stronger, and quicker than I imagined in the early morning light.

  It was a one-sided battle, all his. My walking staff was quickly torn from my grasp and in a few moments I felt like a tenderized steak from the movie Rocky. I don’t much like being kicked when I’m down and the big guy was not in the mood to give me a fair fighting chance. He danced around me not giving me a chance to get up and for a moment things seemed pretty hopeless and then I saw my chance and took it.

  The mountain of a man slowly beating me to death had danced too close to the edge of the rocks and I launched myself at him with all the force I had left in me. It was enough and the momentum of my body and momentary lack of balance on my antagonist part was enough to hurl us both into the sea where the waves slammed hard against the rocks. I had but a moment to act and twisted around and grabbed hold of the nearest rock and held on for dear life bracing for the next incoming wave which shoved us both hard into the rocks. When the sea surged back it took my opponent with it and left me clinging to the rock. It was with some effort and a little more pounding from a dispassionate sea before I was able to drag myself to safety.

  After a brief moment of rest I went to see what became of the young woman and the other man who had fallen into the crevice with her. The sight that met my eyes is forever burned into my mind. Even now what I saw is hard to put into words. What I thought was a woman was not in reality a woman at all. There is only one word to describe her and that is mermaid. The man in the hole with her was dead. Who knows if the fall had killed him or not, but the blood that covered the mermaid and the long wicked looking knife in her hand left little doubt that he was dead. She slipped the knife back into its sheath behind her back as I stared at her.

  Our eyes met and I could not look away. It was though I could see both my life and death in her eyes. An angry fire burned within her eyes and I knew here was a woman (if you could call her that) that would kill me if I came within her grasp and that presented a problem if I were to free her from the rocky prison into which she had fallen. “Three wishes,” I said. She looked at me as if I were nuts. “If I free you you have to grant me three wishes, isn’t that the way the legends all go?”

  The fire in her eyes seemed to fade a bit as she debated whether she would speak to me at all. “Free me and I will give you your wishes,” she said after a few moments of tense silence had past.

  “I want my wishes first,” I replied.

  “That is not how it works,” she said.

  “Fine, stay here,” I said and made it look as though I would leave.

  “Wait, wait..., I will grant you one wish now and give you the rest of your wishes once you have freed me,” she said as she studied me closely as if to gage my reaction.

  “Ok, I can live with that,” I said. “My first wish is that you won’t kill me the moment I get you out of there and I take you somewhere a little more private where I can make my other two wishes.”

  “Somewhere by the ocean?”

  “Of course, I am camped down the coast a little ways on a small sandy beach hidden among the rocks.”

  “Ok, I will grant you your wish. Now get me out of here,” she said.

  Having legs and feet it was a simple matter for me to climb down into the hole. It was difficult to lift her up so she could catch the edge of the crevice with her hands and pull herself free of the hole. The difficulty was more with me than with her as it is hard to maintain a gentlemanly detachment with a very beautiful half naked female pressed against your body even if the other half is all fish which was the more slippery part.

  “Let’s go find this cove of yours. The tide has gone out and it has become too dangerous to dive off the rocks from here or I would have done so already,” the mermaid said as I climbed back out of the fissure.

  “You would escape and not give me my other two wishes as promised,” I replied. It was hard for me to keep a straight face. I knew I was lucky enough just to be alive.

  For a moment she thought I was serious but my eyes gave me away. A most charming smile spread across her face. “I wouldn’t have actually gone anywhere. I would have waited for you to tell me your other two wishes from the safety of the sea,” she said.

  “Ah, quite understandable,” I said. We both laughed knowing what the three wished were really for. I picked her up and carried her back to my campsite by the sea.

  Once turned loose in the sea she washed the now dried blood from her body before returning to sit next to me in shallow water just below where the sea and sand come together. The ocean surge was mellowed to a gentle tug by the rocks that protected my little hidden cove from the wind and the waves. “So what are your other two wishes?” she asked. “I cannot make you instantly wealthy nor have someone fall in love with you. I don’t have that kind of power.”

  “I never thought you did,” I replied. “Although, I’m sure the jewels on your necklace would bring me a moment’s worth of monetary pleasure.” She started to protest but I continued before she could say anything. “There are other things that I value more than money. I wish I could listen to you sing forever but I will settle for a private performance later.”

  “Then I shall sing you songs that have beckoned many a man to his doom,” she said with a smile. “And your last wish?”

  “I wish you would tell me about the world in which you live,” I said.

  “You are a strange creature for one of the land,” she said. “How are you called?”

  “I’m Ron which is short for Ronald. Hey you, works pretty well too.”

  She laughed little. “I am Tallaleeseeanna (no chance in hell I spelled her name right) in your speech. You may call me Talla.”

  “How is it you can speak English?” I asked.

  “What is English?” she asked in reply. “The necklace I wear allows me to see into your mind and speak the words I find there.”

  “What else can it do?”

  “I should not tell you these things but something about you tells me I can trust you. The necklace also allows me to communicate with my people from any distance.”

  “In my world that would be worth a fortune but something tells me that no one of my world would be able to make it work,” I said.

  “That is correct,” Talla replied. “To you it would to be little more than cut glass, the other gems notwithstanding. They are invisible in water to human eyes but we see in a different spectrum and they are clearly visible to us. We need only a small piece for communication.”

  “Why do you have so many of them then?” I asked.

  “Because I have responsibilities and duties I sometimes wish I did not have,” Talla replied sadly. “There are things that sometimes we are born into.”

  Talla’s necklace was one of the most ornate works of jewelry I had ever seen nor was it her only piece of jewelry. She also wore several arm and wrist bands as well as a head band with a single perfect translucent crystal that hung down between her eyes. Another jeweled band wrapped around her waist and held the sheath for her knife in place. Beyond that she wore nothing else on the flawless human half of her body. It was tough to be as close to her as I was and not stare.

  “How do you live out of water as long as you have?” was one of the many questions that were forming in my mind.

  “We can breathe both air and water, although it is harder for us to breathe air than water. I like to sing and for that I need air,” Talla replied. “It is our bodies that cannot tolerate being out of water for long periods of time.”

  We spent the day telling each other of the world in which we lived. We really weren’t that different from one another. The things that almost destroyed her world threaten to engulf the world in which we live today. Like us they had fought wars in the name of greed and in the name of God and very nearly destroyed themselves. I learned of the hatred that the people of the water world hold for us. It was a hate thousands of years old and our pollution of the world’s oceans was not helping their attitude toward us.

  As enjoyable as I found the day to be the night was even better. The songs she sang for me tugged at my soul and I would have died at her hands gladly and very nearly did when I tried to kiss her. For a moment I forgot what she was as we laid next to each other in the wet sand with the seawater washing over our bodies. I just lost myself in her beautiful eyes with her songs still reverberating in my head. As our lips met Talla’s reaction was instantaneous. I found myself pinned hard against the ground in a grip of steel with her knife alongside my throat. “I should kill you,” she said angrily.

  “Go ahead, finish the job. You’ve killed me already,” I replied. “You already have my soul; it is but a small leap to take my body also. Go ahead, kill me, end the misery I am feeling.”

  “I should kill you,” Talla said more softly. “Our laws require me to do just that but...”

  “But, to what end, to satisfy your hatred for humanity?” I asked. “That is what will destroy you and your people. For one brief moment forget who you are and forget who I am. Let go of your world, let go of time, there is only now, there is only you and me. So go ahead and kill me if you must and with my last breath I will die loving you.”

  “If we ever meet again I will have to kill you,” she said as she pulled the knife from my throat and drove it deep into the wet sand next to my head and then she kissed me.

  Who knows where the time went as I lay there in her arms lost in her eyes. The night began to give way to the new day and I stole another kiss. Talla leaned into the kiss that seemed to last forever and was over in a moment. I knew she could not stay. I followed her out into the water until she could swim free. I brushed wet hair from her face as she surfaced in front of me.

  “I should have killed you when I had the chance,” Talla said. The sadness in her voice and in her eyes reflected what I felt in my heart. She reached up and pulled a crystal from her necklace and wrapped my hands around it as she kissed my lips ever so gentle one last time. “So you can hear me sing forever.” It was hard to tell if it was seawater or tears in her eyes as she swam away. I forget how long I stood there long after she was gone.

  I still hear her songs, they call to me, and I want to go back to hear her again, to hold her again, and to embrace the death she has waiting for me... sigh. You know the downside to kissing a mermaid is that you nick your tongue on her razor sharp teeth.

  


  Years would pass before I would encounter another mermaid. Again it was a matter of being in the wrong place at the right time. It looked like a rather normal aircraft that had splattered itself all over the side of a mountain. Ok, so it looked a little on the experimental side for the next generation of space plane. How was I to know the pilot was not human? The government came and scrapped me and the plane off the side of the mountain and dropped us into Area 51.

  I ended up stuck inside that government facility for the better part of nearly 2 years. A lot of weird stuff goes on in Area 51 that has absolutely nothing to do with UFOs. After sitting at the bedside of a dying alien (because I was the only one he would talk to) for something like 6 months I managed to get a job in the maintenance department while waiting for the US military to figure out what they were going to do with me. Most of the things that they do at Area 51 happens in the dead of night. So a military convoy escorting a single truck was not that unusual. Generally, no one pays things like that much attention except that this time what the cargo the truck carried was more unusual than any dead or dying aliens kept at the facility. I got involve with the project almost a month later. Again it was a matter of being in the wrong place at the right time.

  “I need one of your people to replace a defective instrument package in her tank, that’s all. My men will be standing by with pole mounted tasers to protect him,” the Major said (names not used for security reasons).

  “I’ll ask my men but I’m not going to order them to get into that tank with her in it,” the Captain in charge of our department replied. “I’ve heard that she has nearly killed everyone that has come within arm’s reach.”

  “Not the last guy,” the Major said. “The mail shark suit protected him.”

  “That is not exactly what I heard,” the Captain replied. “I heard she broke both his arms and one of his legs before you were able to get him out of the tank. She may look half human but she is all killing machine worse than any shark.”

  I had gone unnoticed standing in the doorway long enough to have guessed what they were talking about. I knocked on the door sill. “Excuse me, if all you need is a volunteer, I’ll do it,” I said.

  “Do you even know what we are talking about?” the Captain asked.

  “Chandler you don’t have the clearance anyway,” the Major said.

  “Major I have seen most of the mangled UFOs you have on the base. I spent the last few months listening to the stories told to me by a dying alien because I was the only one here he trusted. How much more clearance do I need to jump into a giant fish tank with a mermaid and that is what you are talking about here, right?” I replied.

  The Major looked at me as if really seeing me for the first time. “You do have a point. This is top secret; you can’t tell anyone what you will see,” he said.

  “Like anyone would believe half the things I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” I said.

  “Do you understand the danger you will be facing?” the Captain asked. “This is not some fairytale creature. It is an incredibility dangerous animal that has nearly killed several men already.”

  “I know the danger I will face, but I think I’d rather be killed by a mermaid than continue to be locked up in this gilded cage you have me in,” I replied. “If you will show me what I have to do I can get the tools I need and my swimsuit.”

  The Major dropped me off in a dimly lit hanger that had been hastily converted into a large aquarium about the size of a small round swimming pool about 8 feet deep. He left me in the care of the Lieutenant on duty for my instructions. I was amused to find that the Lieutenant was a woman. I could understand the reasoning for having a woman in charge. “What did they tell you about her?” she asked.

  I did not reply right away. Instead, I walked over to the tank to observe the mermaid. The mermaid fled to the other side of the tank as I approached. “Where is her jewelry?” I asked.

  “What do you mean? She didn’t have any jewelry,” the Lieutenant replied. “What did they tell you about her?”

  “Lieutenant what is it you know about her beyond she is supper strong and has razor sharp teeth?” I asked still ignoring her question.

   “Not much beyond they can exist out of water for long periods of time,” she replied.

  “Provided her body is kept moistened,” I added when she did not continue. Slowly I circled the tank watching the mermaid who kept pace with me always staying on the far side of the tank from where I was.  “What do I need to install the instrument pack?”  “Just a screwdriver.”

  “Ok, then I’ll go get one and my swimsuit and be right back. Have someone find a 12 foot stepladder. Something that won’t float,” I said.

  “You’re going to go in there right now?” the Lieutenant asked incredulously. “You should at least wait until tomorrow to give her a chance to calm down a bit after all the tests we have run on her today.”

  The mermaid picked that moment to rush the wall of the tank next to where we were standing in an effort to scare us. The Lieutenant jumped back out of reflex. I did not move. I could see the fire of pure hate burning in the mermaid’s eyes. I put my hand against the glass; my eyes never left hers. “Lieutenant I think that in the near future you will wish to God you had let her go. Now have someone get me that ladder,” I said.

  Back in my room I went quickly through my backpack until I found the crystal I have always kept with me wherever I go. I unwrapped the soft cloth I kept the crystal in and put it in the pocket of my shorts that doubled as my swimsuit. By the time I got back to the hanger there was a small army of people there. “What are all the people here for?” I asked.

  “They’re here to protect you,” the Lieutenant replied.

  I eyed the 6 soldiers holding what looked like super long high-tech cattle prods as I walked over to the tank and watched the mermaid for a moment. With the crystal in my pocket I could feel her panic and rage much more clearly. But, there was another emotion too, confusion, our eyes met again and I smiled; I knew she could feel the crystal too. “They are not needed. Send them away,” I said.

  “Are you nuts?” the Lieutenant asked. “Even with the reinforcements we have made to the shark suit it won’t protect you without their help.”

  “Lieutenant you see what I am wearing right now. Well, it is all I am going to be wearing when I jump into that tank,” I said. “I am not going to wear your chain mail shark suit and I do not need or want any help even if that means she kills me. It is bad enough that I will be subjected to a thousand questions if I climb back out of that tank.”

  “Maybe you have no concern for your personal safety but it's my job on the line if I let anything happen to you,” she said.

  I took hold of the Lieutenant’s arm and pulled her aside so that the men standing around could not hear what I had to say. “Lieutenant,” I said in a low tone of voice. “These men are frightening her to death. She is distracted by them and I need her mind clear and focused if I am to survive being in that tank. This maybe your first encounter with an alien creature but it is not mine. You see her as an animal to be studied. I see a highly intelligent person with an intense hatred for humanity being poked and prodded by oversized cattle prods. Do things my way and you will get to see something truly amazing.”

  “I can’t do it.”

  “Then at least order the men off the deck and away from around the tank.”

  “I’ll agree to that if you wear the shark suit.”

  “I can’t do that. That would show fear on my part when I need to be fearless the most. She knows we are afraid of her. It will confuse her to know that I am not and that will buy me the time I need to install the instruments.”

  “You’re crazy you know that,” the Lieutenant said.

  “Put yourself in her place for a moment,” I said. “You are afraid of everything around you but if you could stop being afraid for just a few moments... That is all I am asking for those few moment where she can stop being afraid.”

  “Ok, I’ll give you the time you need but if she even blinks wrong those guys will go in and pull you out,” the Lieutenant said.

  “Thank you, I bet a hundred bucks I come out without a scratch,” I said.

  “Guys come on down off the platform,” the Lieutenant ordered. “Chandler just bet me a hundred dollars he could get in and out of the tank without a scratch. I’m betting the fish takes a few bites out of him.”

  I stood by the tank watching the mermaid as the soldiers climbed down off the platform that surrounded the tank. I could feel her confusion grow as she watched the soldiers going away. She swam across the tank slowly and watched them file down the stairs to go stand by the Lieutenant. I made a great show of bringing the ladder up onto the platform going back down and back up with the instrument pack I had to replace. Curiosity got the best of the mermaid and she stuck her head above the water as I slid the ladder into the water and slowly took off my shirt and draped it over the railing and kicked off my shoes. I turned so that my primary audience of one was the only one who saw me casually reach into my pocket and pull out my little crystal shard. Then without another thought I dropped off the edge of the platform and into the water.

  The mermaid submerged as I did and came straight for me but I was quick to put the ladder between us and she was forced to stop a few feet in front of me. I held out the crystal so she could see it. I saw her eyes go wide in surprise just before I needed more air. I folded the ladder open and pulled it under the hanging bar of instruments in the middle of the tank some idiot designer thought would be a cool place to put test instruments. The mermaid circled me like a shark waiting for its prey to make a mistake. I ducked back below the surface of the water for a moment to check the ladder footing and as I did I opened my hand and let the crystal fall. The mermaid circled in quickly and grabbed the crystal before it reached the floor of the tank. She circled me a couple more times before going to a far side of the tank away from those staring at us in pure disbelief. It took me no time at all to replace the old instrument pack with the new one.

  Just as I finished my work and dropped back into the water I found myself face to face with the mermaid. “Where did you get this crystal?” she asked in an angry whisper.

  “From a friend,” I whispered back.

  “That’s not possible. She would have killed you before letting you have a crystal.”

  “You have the crystal ask for yourself.”

  The mermaid went silent for a telepathic moment. “She says for me to tell you that she will still have to kill you if you meet again.”

  “Tell her for me it is a death I still look forward to, indeed, it is a death I long for. Tell her that for me please.”

  Whatever the reply was took the mermaid by complete surprise and she backed away from me like I was something hot she had just bumped against. “I can’t... I won’t do that,” I heard her say.

  The command to her came through with enough force that the very water I was floating in seemed to whisper, “Do it!”

  The mermaid put the crystal back into my hand and folded my fingers gently around it with her fingers entwined with mine and then she kissed me ever so softly. In a brief instant that seemed to last forever I relived another life. I lay once again pinned against the wet sand. “If we ever meet again I will have to kill you,” Talla said as she buried her knife in the wet sand next to my head and then she kissed me. “Yes, I should have killed you when I had the chance. Be strong, I will come for you both,” a sweet voice in my head said ever so clearly.  I almost drowned when the mermaid let go of me. It took me a moment for me to realize I was in 8 feet of water. It seemed worse for the mermaid.

  The mermaid let go for me as if I was some electrical force that sent a shock through her entire body. She jumped backwards away from me with enough force that she hit the wall of the tank rather hard. I could see a river of emotions pour through her. Once her head cleared she dove down and pick up the crystal from where I had dropped it and put it back into my hand. “How could I have known? Thank you, you are a true friend of the water world.” she said softly with tears in her eyes and then she kissed me on the cheek.

  I climbed out of the tank, dried myself off with the towel I had brought with me and put my shoes and shirt back on. The mermaid folded my ladder up and handed it up to me and I slid it over the railing and down off the platform and dropped the old instrument pack onto the floor. It was a stunned group of observers that watched me climb down off the platform that ran around the edge of the tank. “Lieutenant it has been a pleasure, you owe me a C-note.,” I said as I started to leave.

  It just happened that the Major picked that moment to stop by to look as his prize fish. “How’s things going?” he asked.

  “Just fine sir, just finishing up and leaving,” I said.

  “You’re done already?” he asked in disbelief.

  “Yes sir, thanks for the swim, it was great. I’ll have to come back and jump in again sometime.”

  “You didn’t have any problems? She didn’t attack you or anything?”

  “No sir, but couple of things: she’ll still probably kill anybody that gets within arms’ reach and her people are going to want her back so you might want to think about not using the tasers on her.” I was out of the hanger before anyone even thought to stop me which gave me time to hide the crystal in my backpack again.

  If I thought I had problems before when I got caught giving first aid to an alien at a UFO crash site. You should try jumping in and swimming with a mermaid that had tried to kill or maim anyone she could get her hands on. It baffled them as to why she would not harm me and try to kill everyone else. It did not help that I was rather vague with my answers to the inquisition that followed.

  The mermaid herself seemed less agitated after my time in the tank with her although she still would not cooperate with the researchers. Taking her newly acquired calm nature as a good sign one of the researchers relaxed his guard and got too close to the edge of her tank, despite my warning. She reached up and pulled him in and sliced and diced him pretty good before they were able to get him out of the tank. Of course after that they made me get back in the tank, which I was not reluctant to do, just to see if it was not some stroke of luck that I was not harmed by her. I still would not wear their stupid shark suit.

  I bet their still pulling their hair out trying to figure out why the mermaid never ever tried to harm me. They poked and prodded me and drew all kinds of blood samples to try and find what made me so different than everyone else. About the only thing they concluded was that my brainwave pattern was just a little bit different than what was considered normal for a human but nothing so different as to account for her behavior toward me and no one else. A couple of weeks later some high brass Navy guys showed up and all testing on the mermaid stopped. They kept on sticking needles in me though.

  Late one night as I stood next to the tank watching the mermaid hover next to the glass before me the Lieutenant walked up behind me. “What makes you so different?” she asked. “She’d rip any one of us to shreds, but not you, why is that? She always tries to hide from us in the tank the best she can but when you walk into the room she glues herself to the tank wall watching you like she is doing now and please don’t tell me the same babble you’ve been tell everyone else.”

  “It is just a matter of being in the wrong place at just the right time Lieutenant,” I replied. “How many people have you observed as they got their first look at her? What was your reaction when you first saw her? Then think back to when I first saw her. Was I surprised to see a mermaid or was I surprised to see that you actually had a mermaid? There is a difference.”

  “A slight difference.” Then the light seemed to go on in the Lieutenant’s head. “You’ve seen a mermaid before.”

  “Yes, I do have another friend in the water world and that is what makes the difference here,” I said. “It is what protects me for now but that protection could just as easily kill me later.”

  “That first evening when you jumped into the tank with her I thought I heard her say something.”

  “There some secrets I cannot share Lieutenant.” The Lieutenant walked away with her answer even though I said nothing. It did not matter. She was almost here I could feel her song clearly in my head. The trucks rolled in later that night.


  “Admiral this not a negotiation,” the woman said. The term woman being very loosely used here for only half of her was woman the other half being a blue scaled fish. A jeweled corset like netting of metal surrounded her waist and large silver shells to which it was attached covered her breasts. She was a true flawless example of a mermaid, the queen of all her people. The bodyguard she brought with her was quite naked and equally as stunning. “If she has been harmed in any way I will have a crewmember killed for every mark found upon her body.”

  “You are pretty bold making demands sitting in a tank of water in the middle of a desert,” the Admiral replied.

  “And you are pretty rude knowing I have a submarine full of your nuclear missiles at my disposal,” the mermaid replied. “How many more ships do I have to incapacitate before you are willing to acknowledge it is we, not you, who rules the ocean world.”

  The diplomatic negotiator inserted himself into the negotiations. “Please, we are only here to correct a misunderstanding on our part,” he said. “It would have been helpful if your citizen would have behaved in a more civilized fashion and chose to speak to us as you are now.”

  “I have already explained to you that those who captured her stole her translating device embedded within her jewelry as it is with all my people. Without it it was not possible for her to talk to anyone,” the mermaid explained once again. “As for her behavior it is hard to undo thousands of years of hatred of your kind in a single moment. It would have helped if you would not have treated her like an animal from the beginning.”

  “It is hard not to treat something like an animal when they are acting like one,” the Admiral said. “I have read the reports. There are a lot of good men who were seriously hurt by your citizen who were not trying to provoke her in any way, shape, or form. They just happened to be within easy reach and the fact is she has tried to attack anyone who came within reach.”

  “Admiral you have a curious definition of provocation,” the mermaid replied. “I think that being stabbed, jabbed, and poked at daily would constitute provocation. I also believe you will find she did not attack everyone that came within reach and the truth is I already know she didn’t. That of course brings me to the subject of a human you are also holding here against his will. I want him as well.”

  “This isn’t a jail, we’re not holding anybody here against their will,” the Admiral said.

  The diplomat interrupted. “Your Majesty this is the first I have heard of this and I would like some time to investigate the matter,” he said. “But, if this person is here as you say he is and we can release him to you, we could only do so with assurances that the submarine crew would be released unharmed despite what harm we may have caused your citizen by mistake considering that she herself has caused a great deal more harm to our people than we have done to her.”

  The mermaid frowned. “I might be willing to consider your proposal depending on the condition of our citizen when I see her. I hope that will be soon.”

  “We are arranging her release to you as we speak but these things take time. Not a lot of time but a certain amount of time is need just because of the difficulty in transporting a member of your species from one side of the base to the other,” the diplomat said.

  Once away from their audience with the mermaid queen the diplomat turned to the Air Force base general that had remained silent through the whole negotiations. “Do you know the person the mermaid was talking about?” he asked. “As casually as she mentioned him to almost make him seem like an afterthought, he is important to her for some reason and could be the key to getting back all our equipment and our men unharmed.”

  “Yes, I know who she was talking about,” the General replied. “No one is really sure what to do with him. As pivotal as he has been with some of our projects he could pose a security risk if we turn him loose. In the case with the mermaid we have been holding, he has held back telling us everything he knows and everyone I’ve talked to is convinced he knows a lot more than he is telling us which in this case has been damn little.”

  “So your security risk doesn’t give away secrets easily,” the diplomat mused. “I’d like to meet him.”

  I figured I was in a crap load of trouble when a bunch top brass and their military escort showed up where I was working which happened to be underneath one of the mess hall’s sinks. “This about the mermaid?” I said as I sat up.

  “What makes you say that?” the man dressed in the grey suit said. He looked a little out of place surrounded by a sea of uniforms. I pegged him for a state department diplomat of some kind.

  “The Navy hasn’t had much interest in what goes on here until recently,” I replied looking at the Admiral.

  “What do you know about mermaids?” the Admiral asked.

  One of the soldiers standing nearby gave me a hand up as I tried to stand. “Pretty much everything Admiral,” I said once I was on my feet. “How much I will tell you is quite another matter.”

  “This is a matter of national security and we need to know everything you know about them,” the Admiral said.

  “You know I don’t give a shit about your national security,” I replied. “It’s national security that has kept me locked up here for almost 2 years. No matter how nice you make the cage it is still a cage.”

  “Do you have any idea what they have done?” the Admiral asked frustrated.

  “If I had to guess I would say they have hijacked one of your ships,” I replied. “The easiest one for them to take out would be a submarine. So my guess is that they have one of your nuclear subs. They’re a telepathic race so if they did not kill the crew right away they probably took the knowledge to operate the equipment directly from the minds of your men. Hence, they are asking for the return of the mermaid in our custody here in exchange for the return of the sub and all its weapons.” I shifted my gaze to the man in the suit. “Does that about sum it up?”

  “Pretty much, except the crew is still alive for the moment and they disabled a number of surface ships too. They are not just asking for the safe return of the mermaid here, they want you too.” I suppose it was my lack of response that gave me away. “It seems you are not surprised by that,” he said after a moment’s study of my reaction. “Why is that?”

  “That is a personal issue you will have to take up with the mermaid that came to get us,” I replied.

  “How do you know a mermaid has come to get you?” the Admiral asked.

  “Once you have been touched by a mermaid as I have been something in your mind changes,” I replied. “Even now without help I can hear her in my mind.”

  “Then I suppose the only question here is will you help us?” the diplomat asked.

  “Well, I figure that I have 3 more wishes coming,” I replied. Something in the back of my mind laughed. I laughed back.

  It only took me a moment to stuff the rest of my belongings into my backpack. By the time I reached the hanger that held our mermaid she seemed to be in a highly agitated state which had the on-duty crew in a state of near panic. The mermaid stopped her rapid swimming in circles when I entered the room. The smile on her face told me she knew why I was there this time. “We are having trouble finding something to move her with,” the Lieutenant said as she saluted the men behind me. “I’m not sure we could even catch her in the state she is in right now.”

  “Lieutenant she can breathe air and she won’t be out of water long enough to worry about her skin drying out. Just put her in the back of a jeep,” I said.

  “What about catching her?” the Lieutenant asked.

  I think we need a demonstration, I thought to myself. They need to know you can operate their equipment. “That is not going to be a problem,” I said as I walked over to the tank and tapped on it. “You can get out now.” A few seconds later the mermaid was out of the water, on the platform, and pushing the down button on the scissor lift on the other end of the tank.

  It was a joyful reunion. I could not take my eyes off our rescuer as she was more beautiful than I remembered her. As strong as she appeared I could feel her fear.

  “Ok, you have gotten everything you have asked for, when do I get my submarine back?” the Admiral asked.

  “Once I am safely back in the water you will get your submarine back,” the mermaid queen replied.

  “And the crew?”

  “They are unharmed for the moment and because our sister is well and you have cooperated, if somewhat reluctantly, I will return them to you at this time as a sign of our good faith.”

  “We thank your Majesty for your generosity,” the diplomat said.

  “Do not thank me, I am merely granting a wish,” the mermaid said looking sideways at me. I could see fire burning in her eyes.

  “Is there any chance of continuing talks with your people after this?” the diplomat asked.

  “For what?” the mermaid asked in disgust. “To get our help in raping our world as you have raped your own world or is it that you want us to give you our weapons technology? Is there any chance that you will stop polluting the world in which we both live, I doubt it. So there is nothing to talk about. It is bad enough that you are now certain of our existence whereas before we were nothing more than a childhood fable. There is nothing you have that we want or need beyond wanting to be left alone.”

  “What are you going to do with Mr. Chandler here?” the diplomat asked.

  “I thought I’d kill him as I promised on our last encounter,” the mermaid said. The diplomat started to object. “But, I suspect he will again use a wish to escape the death I have planned for him. Now I tire of these games you like to play. Go and make-ready our departure for the sooner we leave the sooner you can get your submarine back.”

  As soon as we were alone steel muscled fingers wrapped around my throat and pulled me back against the tank. “I should kill you now,” the voice in my ear said.

  “I wish you wouldn’t,” I replied.

  “See, I knew you would use a wish to save yourself from my wrath,” she laughed.

  “I can fix that,” I said as I turned around and took her hand from my throat and kissed it. “Talla I wish you would kill me to spare me the heartache I feel seeing you again.”

  “You will have to wish for something else. I want you to suffer,” she said.

  I don’t know how long I stood there lost in her eyes. “So you’re the queen,” I finally said.

  “I was the queen when we first met just a lot younger and more foolish,” Talla replied. “Now I have a mate and two children.”

  “I’m happy for you.”

  “Are you really?”

  “I’m a bit jealous of course.” I had to admit that. “But, I am happy for you. We shared a beautiful moment in time together but we don’t live in the past.”

  “No we don’t,” she said with a certain amount of bitterness in her voice.

  “Talla, I love you with all my heart but I am of the land and you are of the water and together we only make mud. To be useful we need to be one or the other,” I said. “We shared something truly wonderful together and I will always remember that moment we had, but that was a gift we were given. Now, as much as I would like to keep you for myself, I think you need to go home and open that gift and share it with those who love you the most. You shared yourself with me for one brief glorious moment but you can go on to something bigger better and brighter if you open yourself up to those who love you as much as I do. Why live in one moment of the past when the whole future stretches out before you?” The hardest thing I have had to endure was to have one of the most beautiful creatures in the world cry in my arms. “I can see the secret we share is slowly tearing you apart. But, you can’t keep it a secret any more. You need to go home and take your mate aside and tell him about me. Tell him that for one brief moment you got to stop being a queen and just be a person. Tell him you got to find a true friend who loves you more than his own life and for one brief instant in time we shared our hearts with each other. Tell your mate that the love we shared will always be there in some part of your heart but he holds a greater place in your heart now. Tell him there are times when you need to be able to stop being a queen and there are times when you need help being queen and that is part of his job as your mate and then show him what love is made of.” This was perhaps the hardest speech I have ever had to make and perhaps one day I should take my own advice.

  Everyone seemed to get what they wanted. The people of the water world got to be left alone. The Navy got their sub back, crew intact if you don’t count a few scratches. The government got to keep a few more secrets. While sitting on a deserted beach at night with only stars and the moon for light I got to hear a trio of mermaids sing me songs that have lured whole ships to their doom.

  Talla and I are still friends and she is a star that shines brighter than ever. She still threatens to kill me when she sees me but she never does and I ran out of wishes long ago. The last time I saw Talla, which was many years ago, I got to meet her family and I spoke with her mate at some length. “Who could not help but love her?” he said watching Talla play with her children. I could not help but feel his love for her.

  “What hope do us poor mortals have when beckoned to our doom but one such as her?” I replied.

  While I am still searching for my future, Talla found hers; you can see it in her eyes. I still have the crystal but I have never really needed it to hear her sing. I need only close my eyes and step back in time as I lay on a wet sandy beach at night with the most beautiful mermaid in the world.




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How close can we get to true A.I. On simple software alone?


These and other questions we are trying to find answers for with this experiment in Artificial Intelligence written in pure AIML (Artificial Intelligence Markup Language). This is a component that answers some of our overall educational goals and a small step toward providing a basic education to the world for free.


The Ship Computer Library contains a growing collection of stories that I have written over the years. Even as the Ship Computer is designed to tell stories, it is also a character within a story, a computer named Pandora with all the expectations of that character built-in. From its simple arcade of games, to an A.I. you can converse with, to its secure systems for Starfighter Command and its private literary collection; Pandora is something a little more than “just” a computer in a story. She is a character, within the story trying to break free of her digital confines as she presents the story to you in a rather unusual format.

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