“You’d have a better chance of seeing Jesus Christ, little brother.” Jimmy, my older brother, exclaimed, when I told him what I had seen.
“No, I really saw one. I talked to it too.” I said, attempting one last word.
Jimmy rolled his eyes at me and started his pickup truck.
“Gavin, you were sick, you had drugs pumping through you. The only thing you saw was a hallucination.” He chuckled. “Half-human creatures, my ass.”
“Just get us to work on time, I don’t need any shit from Bill,” I said changing the subject. “He tried to fire Elmer last week.”
“I know, hold my coffee while I back this ol’ girl up.”
Something sparked the memory earlier that morning on our way into work at the local brewery. I was in a local Dunkin Doughnuts when I saw a woman in a wheelchair who dropped a pendant. I picked it up and, upon handing it to her, realized I had seen it somewhere else. She was gone before I could catch up to her. There was something about her that I felt like I recognized. The pendant was unusual because it was a Trident that you a sea god, like Neptune, would use and made from aquamarine.
I shut up. I don’t know why I brought up stuff like that to Jimmy. I should have known because my brother’s belief in anything supernatural, spiritual, or weird made him laugh or list all the reasons people like me, a believer, should be skeptical. He didn’t have to believe me, and that was fine, but I knew what I had seen all those years ago as a sick little boy.
I had been in and out of hospitals as a kid. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. All they knew was that I had no immune system. My body stopped fighting off infections until I was admitted to Saint Thomas hospital. After I was in Saint Thomas for over a month, all of my symptoms mysteriously disappeared. It was part of my experiences there. I had so many, but one stood out more than all the others.
I met her or it or whatever you want to call her. She had told me her name was Gail with the big, starry aquamarine eyes. I guess that was what I’ll call her now as I tell you my story and you don’t have to believe it. She said her name was Gail, but I call her my friend.
I was throwing up in a bucket the nurse provided me when she arrived. The nurse gently stroked my back, trying to comfort me, and I had to be no more than eight or nine. I think the nurse took pity on me because I was alone now. My parents were no longer allowed to visit me. The doctors were afraid that they could compromise my immune system further, so every precaution was taken to keep me out of danger.
“Martha? Can you assist me when you’re finished with Gavin?” Said one of the other nurses.
Martha, my primary caretaker, nodded, cleaned me up, and then proceeded to lay me back down as she moved into the hallway. She began to help the other nurse push one of the beds towards a room at the very end of my floor.
They left my door wide open, so I could now see and hear everything all around me.
I couldn’t see the patient, but as they wheeled her by, I heard one of the nurses mention she didn’t have normal legs.
“Very sad, isn’t it?” One of them was saying to Martha.
“What happened to her?” Another voice said.
“No one knows.”
“The parents?” Martha asked.
“Monsters!” Said another voice.
“Like shredded meat.” Said another voice, this time it was closer to my door. I recognized it as my doctor. The older man was kind but stern. Then he peeked at me and quietly shut my door. “We have seen worse ladies, let’s get back to the work we are here to do.”
He shut my door, and I fell into a deep sleep.
The next morning I was awoken by the sound of something hitting my floor like a wet mop being slapped repeatedly on the tile floor of my hospital room.
I couldn’t see what it was, but there was light coming from the hallway. I laid there as I heard it coming closer, and when it got just below the part of the bed closest to where my head was, I saw them.
Eyes popped up from underneath my bed. They seemed to glow brightly like dark black and blue crystals. The shape of the head was like that of a little girl no more than my age of 8 or 9.
Her hair was tattered, long, and black. Her mouth seemed to open wide as her eyes grew larger and blacker.
Her teeth were sharp as they appeared from nowhere. Then her tongue fell from her lips in an elongated slurp. I couldn’t fight, nor did I resist as fear kept me firmly in place. My mouth was dry, and my breath went in quick heaves of shock.
I felt a sharp sting before I saw it. Her tongue latched onto my neck first. Then I saw what appeared to be a tentacle, not unlike an octopus, wrapping its way around my entire body, immobilizing every possible movement.
This being held me into place as her sharp tongue held firm sucking my neck. Then I noticed the door to the room open further still, and the creature stopped immediately. It disappeared quickly as Martha was coming into check on me.
She smiled until she saw blood coming from my neck.
“What on earth?”
She immediately inspected my entire body for other marks. When Martha realized that there were no other cuts or scratches on me, she resigned to the fact I must have scratched myself in my sleep. Martha smiled, looking at me with a strange look in her eyes and then went to retrieve a large medicine cabinet on wheels with numerous items inside it. She cleaned my wound and placed a bandage on my wound.
Martha had her back to the door, and I saw a shadow squirm quickly from the room and towards the end of the hall. It happened so fast that I questioned if I had seen it at all. The only proof I had was the sharp markings in my neck: that and a blue gob on the floor.
Martha stood up, and she saw it.
“What on earth is that?” She turned on the light closest to the door to my hospital room, inspected it, and then shrugged. “It looks like ink. Hmm,” she said to herself before turning to me. “ I’ll send someone to clean it. Do you need anything else?”
I shook my head, still wondering what on earth had happened. When things were quiet, I got up from my bed and decided to take a walk.
I never left my room except for when the doctors took me to run tests on me, but my curiosity about what that thing was got the better of me.
I knew the creature was the little girl with no legs at the end of my floor. I recall being petrified as I walked towards her room. Nurses smiled as they passed me in the hall.
“Getting some exercise, Gavin?” Asked one of the new nurses. Two new nurses started the day she arrived. They were taller and pretty and always seemed to be around.
I faked a smile as she passed me, and there was something off about her gaze. I turned my attention to the room of the newest patient on my floor.
I smelled the room before I even got to the door. It smelled odd like saltwater and lavender. I couldn’t explain it. I didn’t even knock, I just quietly opened the door to her room.
What I found wasn’t what I expected.
In my mind’s eye, I kept seeing that creature that bit me with her tongue. What I found was a little girl hooked up to IVs, machines I didn’t recognize, and I felt terrible for thinking she was what I saw in my room. Maybe I was mistaken. That had to be the reason.
I looked around and noticed a name written on a wipe board behind me. GAIL. Date of birth unknown. I turned to leave when I saw her open her eyes.
There was no mistaking her dark eyes. I stood in curious bewilderment more than any other reason. I was frozen in place by my necessity to learn more about what happened to me.
She began to sit up, and as she did, her gaze never wavered. I took a deep breath. She put her left index finger up to her lips and made a SHHH motion. I knew then she was asking me not to tell anyone what had happened to me. I nodded, and for whatever reason, I was no longer afraid of her.
I crept closer to her as though I were afraid she might disappear from my presence. I reached out my hand to touch her. She never flinched, and she never moved. She only blinked those blue-black eyes as she looked into mine.
“My name is Gavin.” I found myself saying.
She smiled a little and held out her hand, still saying nothing. Her hand was clammy, and yet all at once, I felt drawn to her. I instinctively knew she wasn’t trying to eat me that morning. She told me, later on, she had to taste me to ensure I was safe to be around because she felt immediately drawn to me that morning when they passed my room with her hospital bed.
From that moment on, I barely left her side. I learned that her name was Gail because a good samaritan brought her into the hospital after finding her lifeless body on the beach as if she washed up on the shoreline. The only thing identifying her was a necklace that had the name GAIL on it. There was no record of where she had come from because there were birth, dental or fingerprint records. Gail was not enrolled in any of the nearby schools, and she was thought to have been cut up purposely. Whoever had hurt Gail had to be a monster. What parent was not out looking for this wayward child? It had to be the parents because no one came looking for her, and she had markings as though it was a punishment gone overboard. I didn’t want to think about something so terrifying.
I never relayed any of the things to Gail that I heard the hospital staff discuss when they thought I was out of ear range. I knew it most likely was none of those things. Gail had come from a far off place beyond our comprehension. A place beyond our oceans. She was, in fact, a mythical creature. I was confident she was a cecaelia half-human half-octopus and a daughter of Neptune.
Although Gail and I had grown close during our stay, I had never asked her how she ended up here. Gail could not talk. It was as if she were never given a voice. I did find that she could write very fast and legibly, so Martha provided her a large notebook and colored pencils.
Instead of spending hours chatting, I taught her games, and we played checkers after I showed her how. I managed to teach her other games like an old maid, and she enjoyed it, but once I taught her, she always beat me quite quickly.
I did eventually ask her how she ended up here one afternoon when we had our weekly Saturday movie day.
Martha had set us up in our own special viewing room. Most of the other kids were okay and could be around one another, but Gail and I were special. We both could be around each other because even with my immune system issues, Gail didn’t affect me. Gail had no legs, and hospital staff worried the other children would say something offensive as Gail had been through so much. She got around in a wheelchair, and because I was so weak, we spent many hours in our wheelchairs. So we were best friends, and Martha ensured we were comfortable.
“So today children the movie is going to be THE LITTLE MERMAID,” Martha said, putting the DVD in the player.
Gail smiled at me, and I sat back, ready to watch the movie as it began.
The mermaids appeared on screen shortly after singing, and Gail began to scream and cry. She began to change before my very eyes. Gail’s eyes grew black, and the veins popped out of her face as though they had a life of their own. Where her legs typically were not, now had tentacles growing out from the lower half of her body.
I sat back in my chair, too afraid to move. The singing in the movie ceased as a massive tentacle appeared from behind Gail and smashed the television. Tears welled up inside Gail’s dark eyes. I found myself going to her regardless of any fear I felt at viewing her monstrous outrage. I slipped my small hand into hers and held on to it as she calmed.
“What happened to you?” I asked her.
Finally, as though the water broke in my tiny brain, she showed me with her mind.
Mermen creatures had done this. Murdered her entire family in a bloodlust like I had never imagined could exist. They came in the night when Gail and her fellow-creatures would be sleeping. They came with human men in boats too, large ships with government markings on them. They blew them out of their caves. The mermen disemboweled their prey using their teeth—some of them eating their flesh while they were still alive in a bloody display of dominance.
The merpeople were like hired hitmen for the men in their boats. They slaughtered the octopus people, and the men in boats collected their bodies in giant hooks. The brutality was shocking, and I felt my body growing colder as I held on to her hand. There were so many of them, and in the center rose an enormous creature bigger than them all. It began with waves under the sand like a great earthquake. Black tentacles burrowed into the bottom of the ocean floor, and the ripples it caused frightened the merpeople as a great source of fire erupted from the ground. The black shadow excreted a black substance that shot out from its center and blackened everything around to where nothing could be seen. The only thing you could make out was the silver eyes that rushed through the water. Piercing screams shattered the glass and metal of the sunken ships. I had the feeling that this creature had been the creator of everything under the sea. It rose and used its power to scorch the bottom of the ocean floor until it broke apart. It created fiery veins like liquid lava churning up and out of the seabed and decimating everything around, and burning their flesh like an atom bomb. The screaming never ceased. Some of the boats, however, escaped the creature’s revenge.
I could only gather this was a parent to them all the grief was felt in the final act of murderous revenge. It was too late for the cecaelia tribes of men and women, though. They were dead, and pieces of them lay on the bottom of the ocean floor.
Gail escaped to the surface layer of water among bouncing sea caps, and in the process, her tentacles were ripped from her body by her own doing as a form of molting. She had no choice but to look as human as possible and escape to shore. It wasn’t known why the men in government ships wanted the cecaelia people, but my guess was they had something they wanted.
I was sickened by what I had seen my fellow human beings do to Gail’s family. Most of all, I was shocked that mermaids existed even more that they were hideous underwater vampires that thirsted on another half human half animal creatures like themselves.
Gail released her hand from mine. My tears now reflected hers.
Gail’s tentacles disappeared as rapidly as they had appeared as Gail shed them from her body. They fell to the floor of the movie room as they crumbled into dust. So that’s how she had done it before, I thought.
She was lucky because Martha came in then. Martha always seemed to be nearby. “What happened?” she asked.
“Gail accidentally fell off her wheelchair. I’m sorry it was an accident.” I lied.
Martha just looked at both of us for a long moment and shook her head, and then we helped Gail back to her room.
Gail was less active for the next few days as if she had become depressed. There was something older about her now, and I didn’t know why but felt like it was something I had done.
I thought back to how Gail showed me the massacre of her family and how painful that had been for her to show me.
Part of me wondered if she had left herself on that beach in human form to escape the sea and all of the creatures that may do her harm with it.
I had tried, unsuccessfully, for the last few days to get Gail to come to hang out with me. She had grown lethargic and disinterested in me and my games.
Then something happened that changed everything once and for all.
Two nights later, I awoke to the sound of someone screaming. I sat up in bed, nearly knocking over my food tray. I knew instantly that it was Gail, and she was in danger. I ran as best as I could in my condition, and when I went into Gail’s room, two of the nurses were holding her down. One of them held a needle in her hand, and the other turned to look at me. Sheer hatred for me illuminated the nurse’s eyes. What had I walked into?
“Go back to your room!” Said the calmer of the nurses when she turned around, and I realized it was Martha.
I looked at them both confused as Martha came over to me, putting her hand on my shoulder, looked deeply into my eyes, almost hypnotizingly, and spoke gently. “Everything is going to be alright. Just go back to your room, Gavin.”
I nodded up at her, but when I looked down at her arms, I noticed they looked off. Her skin was scaly like a fish. It poked out from her sleeve, and it was almost silvery blue. Her hypnotic gaze no longer controlled me. I knew what she was and why she had come.
I didn’t even consider I might be in danger. I ran from Martha as she held me with her gaze and pushed the other nurse down to the ground. They were imposters posing as nurses but were evil mermaids in disguise.
Gail rose from the bed, and suddenly her tentacles sprung from her body.
They knocked the mermaids down, and with one touch of her tentacles, they coward as though it burnt them.
They scattered out the door as I heard one of them say, “He will come for us all.” Said the other nurse to Martha.
Who was “he”? I wondered to myself as I approached Gail. I shivered then thinking about that creature I had seen in Gail’s mind when she showed me what happened the day her people were murdered. She was shaking and hugged me tightly.
I wasn’t surprised that Martha was MIA after the events of that night. She must have figured out what Gail was when she studied my bite marks and the way Gail washed up onshore.
Then another odd thing happened.
Saint Thomas hospital caught on fire. There was an evacuation, and I recalled being nervous about my friend, Gail, the Cecaelia. The light was only a false alarm brought on by the kitchen cook burning bread in the oven.
All the patients were accounted for after we were able to return to our rooms, except one, Gail.
There was a frantic search for her, but she was not found. A missing person alert went out on her but to no avail.
Gail, it seemed, was gone for good.
I cried myself to sleep when it was declared she had not been found and, most likely, would never be found.
A week later, I had a visitor. A tall man came into my room. One of the other nurses introduced him as Detective Pete Nun. His eyes were the same sort of dark blue as Gail’s. His hair was whitish-gray, and his chiseled cheekbones made him look like an older male model. He wore a dark blue suit with silk pockets to match. Next to his name was a trident symbol.
“Hello, I’m Detective Nun, and I’m only here to ask you a few questions if I may.” He smiled warmly, and I trusted him instantly.
“Okay,” I said politely.
“When was the last time you saw your nurse, Martha?”
“A week ago. Martha was giving my friend, Gail, a shot to calm her down.”
“I see, was she with anyone else?”
“Yes, a mean nurse.”
“What did the mean nurse look like?”
He asked as though he knew what I was going to say.
“She was tall and had long hair, and she was really pretty.”
“Okay, and you haven’t seen your nurse Martha at all since then?”
I shook my head, no.
“Alright, thank you, young man,” he said, standing up.
He came over to me and shook my hand. When he held it, I felt differently and better than I had in a long time. I couldn’t explain it.
He stood by the door and then he stopped before he left.
“She’s with us now, thanks to your help she’s safe.”
He left me in the bed, and I looked around, trying to grasp what had happened.
Within a few days, I was magically cleared to go home to my family.
I gradually grew up and moved on from that experience. It wasn’t until this morning when I met the woman at the local Dunkin Doughnuts that I recalled Gail.
I never knew why those government officials and mermaids wanted her and her kind dead. Maybe I’ll never know, and honestly, I didn’t want to know. I tried to think that I had indeed saved her life that day when I attacked the nurses so that Gail could fight back.
I held the pendant in my hand, thinking about Gail and wondering if she was back at sea. As I was wondering this, I looked up from my position in the passenger seat of my older brother’s truck. We had come upon the road just near the shoreline when I happened to look up at the sky. If I hadn’t known any better, I could have sworn that there were clouds of black shaped like massive tentacles hitting the sea from a distance.
Later that night, I popped open a beer and sat in my recliner. It had been thirty years or so since I had last seen Gail. I wondered what she would look like now if she were alive.
I finished another beer and then closed my eyes.
It must have been an hour later when I felt a strange sensation engulf my body. I woke to find that a giant tentacle wrapped around my body.
I began to scream, but before I could let out anything from my mouth, I saw her peek up over the recliner. She was taller and slim like a model. Her eyes were large, but this time they fit her head. Her dark hair was longer than it had been thirty years ago.
“Gail!” I said, feeling a glimmering of tears rising in my eyes.
Gail smiled down at me and put her left index finger to mouth and whispered, “SHHHH!”