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Drowning is the best way to die. It's one of the less painful ways. Yes, there is the bought of panic when the body loses its air and the process of drowning begins, and there is the pain when the water first floods the lungs. But the panic and pain fade, leaving a smooth calm in their wake. The senses slowly fade one by one until there is only being. And then that fades too, and everything is gone.

 

That's why I chose drowning over every other possible means of suicide. It's the easiest route, there isn't any preparation. Just swim down far enough where you can't possibly return to the surface fast enough. That's it. I also live less than five minutes from the ocean, which makes it easily accessible. Easier than finding a cliff high enough to jump from, easier than finding a way to electrocute myself- which would be pretty easy, my house is a technological phenomenon- and easier than suffocating the old fashion way.

 

So in the middle of the night, when no one would dare be out in the water, I leave my home to execute my plan. No one will stop me. No one will miss me. No one will know I'm gone until I don't show up for work in three days when my vacation ends. Even then no one will know where I went or where I will be. Not even me. I'll be long gone, probably at the bottom of the ocean where no search party will ever find me.

 

I’m not even wearing a swimsuit when I go into the water. I leave my house in my green t shirt and black pajama shorts that I've been wearing since yesterday morning. They're the most comfortable things I own. They unfortunately don't contain heat very well. But I don't want them to. They don't need to anyway, it's warm tonight.

 

I take my glasses off and crush them in my hands before I step into the water. I let the pieces fall to the sand where I stand and watch as droplets of my blood mix in with the sand along with the broken glass and frame. It stings a little, but not much.

 

From my right I hear a loud caw. It's a seagull, waddling along the shore looking for late night snacks. It looks injured, its wing is held away from its body and at a weird angle. I stare at it for a few moments, watching it waddle around and peck at the sand, finding occasional abandoned pieces of food from the day time swimmers. It looks up at me, dead in the eyes, and caws. Asking for help. He can't fly to hunt fish he needs to eat.

 

I walk over to him slowly, trying not to spook him. “Hey buddy.” I whisper softly. The seagull stands still as I creep towards it, it's large eyes watching me curiously. It's waiting. I bent down into a crouch and continue towards it, reaching a gentle hand out to grab its leg so it can't hop away.

 

The seagull takes a few small jumps away from my hand. I click my tongue, not giving up. If someone's going to die today, it won't be this little guy. “I wanna help.” I soothe, managing to get close enough to grab its leg.

 

As soon as my fingers close around its leg it squawks and flaps its uninjured wing in a panicked attempt to flee. I quickly- but also gently- get my other hand around its body so I can lift it into my lap as I sit on the sand. “I just wanna help buddy.” I say softly as I hold it around its middle, not aggravating its wing and not scaring it.

 

The seagull makes a series of sounds before it calms down. I stroke its feathers with my thumb while I wait for it to relax. “Okay, lemme see your wing.” I whisper as I move one of my hands to its wing and gently pull it to its full wingspan. There are no wounds. It appears to be dislocated.

 

“This is gonna hurt. Just for a second.” I promise as I adjust my hold so it won't be able to wiggle out of my hands. “And then you'll be okay.” I tighten my hold on its wing so my grip is firm but not painful. “On the count of three.”

 

“One.”

 

“Two.”

 

“Three.” I quickly pull its wing away from its body, causing its shoulder joint to pop back into place. The seagull squawks loudly in pain and struggles in my hands. But I already fixed its wing, the worst of it is over.

 

I let go of its wing and hold it in two hands. “All done buddy.” I say as I stroke its feathers again, waiting for the pain to dissipate. It relaxes again a few seconds later and calmly caws into the darkness of the night, turning its head to look for food again. It isn't concerned about me anymore.

 

I lower it to the sand and let go. The seagull speed waddles away from me, wandering off to search for food again. It won't fly again until its wing feels better. Hopefully it gets good food by morning.

 

I stand up again and watch it for a moment as it disappears. I can't watch it for long though, because without my glasses I can barely see its shape for more than 20 meters. When it fades from my vision I turn back to the ocean. Its vastness can't be missed, even by someone as blind as me.

 

I begin to step forward. First up to my ankles. Then up to my shins. Then my knees. Then my waist. Then my shoulders. And finally my head.

 

Once I'm fully in the water I start to swim. I won't be going very far, the sand steeply descends on this beach. By the time I swim out one hundred meters the ocean floor must be two hundred meters down from the surface. That's deep enough for me.

 

I swim to what I assume must be one hundred meters and wade. The air is still warm, but I feel cool. The ocean water is sapping the warmth from my body, slowly but surely. It's not cold yet, only cool. Soft. Relaxing even.

 

I take one deep breath and look up at the sky. It's deep blue. Almost black. There are some clouds, deep gray and thin, almost like fibers of cotton, almost pulled apart but still connected. Some of the thin fibers overlap with the moon, large and white in the sky and contrasting greatly with the dark sky. It's light is soft and not blinding, perfect for a warm summer night like this.

 

I take another deep breath and look around at the water surrounding me. In one direction, the direction i'm facing, is nothing but soft and rolling waves. To the left and right it is almost the same, but some rocks litter the view. Behind me is the shore, the sand, the town, and everything I've ever known. Everything I want to leave behind is there. Everything that's caused me pain is there.

 

I take one last deep breath and dunk my head under the water. I swim straight down, unable to see anything. I don't know if my eyes are open, there is no light. There is no sound other than the moving water in my ears as I paddle forward. I feel colder now, but not too cold.

 

Suddenly, something glows a vibrant and solid red below me. It's too far away for me to know exactly what it is without my glasses, but it makes me think of those red glow sticks that hikers carry to use in case they get stuck and need a way for people to see them. Red flags go off in my head at the sight even though there would be no hiker at the bottom of the ocean. It can't be a fish either, there are no glowing fish at this depth. Someone else is drowning too.

 

I flip around and start swimming towards the surface, using the faint light of the moon as a guide. I swim faster than before, putting work into each paddle of my hands and every kick of my legs as I drive myself upwards. I need to get to the surface and breathe so I can swim down to save that person. I may want to die, but I'm not going to let someone else go too.

 

Not if I can help it.

 

My face breaks the surface and I immediately take in a deep breath. I pant tiredly for a moment, trying to get enough air back into my lungs to fuel my arms and legs so I can swim down to the person and save them. I wait just long enough to where I believe I have enough energy before I plung below the water again and start swimming as fast as I can towards the red light.

 

It comes closer and closer as I swim and it begins to take on a more defined shape. It softly lights up the sand around it, turning it a reddish pink. The red thing itself looks big- much bigger than the glow stick I took it to be. It looks like a tail almost. A large, thick, scaled tail. Too big for a fish but not the right texture, size, or shape for a shark or whale.

 

Whatever it is, I still grab it and pull on it. It's heavy- just like a human- but it feels rougher and harder than a human’s skin. I get my fingers around the top of the glowing red tail and wrap my arm around it to keep it secure- it's like I'm holding onto something the width of a medium-sized log of wood.

 

It takes another pull for me to get it off the sand. I immediately start paddling as hard as I can towards the surface, trying to get to it before I pass out from asphyxiation. I don't want to die knowing that I could have saved someone’s life. Or something's life. I don't know what is in my arm at the moment. It's not moving or making sounds to indicate what it is.

 

My lungs are burning with the desire to breathe before I get to the surface. I can see the moon growing brighter and brighter as I swim upwards, but my view is still muddled by the water. I clench my teeth and swim harder and harder until my arm and legs are screaming for me to stop. But I don't stop. I need to make sure whoever- or whatever- I'm hauling to the surface is okay.

 

Finally, I break through the water again, just as I can't wait to take in a deep breath. I gasp and sputter but don't stop to catch my breath. I immediately start swimming towards the shore, still pushing myself to the limit. It hurts, but I don't stop.

 

When I finally feel sand under my feet I collapse. I'm exhausted. I keep my face above the water so I can breathe and turn on my side to face whatever I just pulled out of the ocean. All I can see is scales, red scales. They are still glowing brightly, but somehow the light isn't painful to look at.

 

What I can see of it is curled in on itself. It's unmoving and cold under my hand, which is still resting over it from when I pulled it onto the sand. There are gashes in parts of its scales, deep and oozing thick purple. Sand is stuck in some of the wounds. Small rocks are stuck in others. They look like they will get infected soon if they aren't treated.

 

I sit up on my elbow and feel along the scales, trying to find a head or a tail. My fingertips find a texture of a rougher version of human skin. That's all I need. I pull on the figure until the part of it that feels like skin uncoils so I can see it, but only just barely. The part that feels like human skin is the color of human skin- light cream. I also see a human shape: human arms, human abdomen and torso, human neck and head. It even has hair, thick inky black hair that clings to its neck and cheeks. The only parts of its top half that look inhuman are the sharp claws on its hands, the pointed and scaled ears- equally as red as the tail- and the spasming gills on the sides of its ribs.

 

It's face is pained even in its relaxed state. It's eyes are closed and its mouth is parted slightly. It's lips are a soft purple, a gentler shade of the violet that's oozing from its tail. It looks natural though, not the result of hypothermia.

 

Oh my god, I found a merman. And I partially beached him. He can't breathe.

 

I sit up fully and push the merman back into the water. He’s still on the sand, but his gills are below the water now. I can still see him easily with the glow of his tail and I can see that his gills aren't spasming anymore. Part of his tail is still above the water, allowing me to see some more of the wounds. He’s really beaten up.

 

“What happened to you?” I wonder as I reach a hand towards his face. He can't be dead, he’s still bleeding- that purple stuff can't be anything other than blood- and his gills were just spasming out of the water. He has to be alive. Maybe he’s sleeping. Or just unconscious. I gently touch his cheek, which is softer than the rest of him. It's still rough with tiny scales, but the scales are so tiny they feel like the skin on the back of someone’s hand.

 

The merman jumps at the touch. I jump too and pull my hand back in a reflex, gasping in surprise. He lifts his head and opens his eyes: they are a deep violet, almost like his blood, but there are also flecks of bright lavender in them that glow softly, making them visible even in the almost nonexistent lighting of the moon. They look so young, but they are full of pain and fear.

 

I don't touch him again for a moment. I don't want to scare him anymore than he already is and I don't want to invoke any aggressive behavior. I've never met a mermaid, but I've heard about them. They're vicious and mean, just like sharks. They're territorial too, which means they'll kill anyone who trespasses on their territory. I hope I didn't trespass just now. I don't want to die by getting my throat ripped out.

 

The merman frowns at me, his bottom lip quivering like he’s going to cry. He lets his head fall back to the sand with a splash and ignores me. He probably doesn't have the energy to care with the wounds he has. I'm surprised he hasn't bled to death with how deep these wounds are. I probably haven't seen them all either.

 

I frown as well. He needs to get some stitches, at least, and have his wounds cleaned. There is a number I can call to alert animal control- they can fix him up better than I can- but I don't have my phone with me. I wouldn't call anyway; he looks weak, animal control would probably put him down instead of using the resources it would take to save him. I'm his only hope.

 

“Okay, let's get you to my place.” I say softly as I get to my feet. My legs have regained some of their strength while I surveyed the merman, so I'll be able to run better than if i tried to do what I'm about to a few minutes ago. “I'll help you, but you can't attack me. If you hurt me I can't help you.” I suddenly wonder if he can speak English. I don't think mermaids can. But I don't know much about them.

 

I crouch down and feel along his tail to find out how long it is. It's huge; it's at least 4 meters long. He’s going to be heavy. I grab the end of his tail and wrap it around my waist and continue wrapping his tail around me until just his human upper body is left. He cringes and whimpers in pain as his wounded tail moves, but he doesn't lash out. He just stares up at me with wide and frightened eyes.

 

“I'm going to lift you out now.” I warn as I get my arms behind his back. There's a fin there- it's sharp too- so I avoid it as I stand and throw his upper body over my shoulder in one fluid motion. It turns out his tail is the majority of his weight; his human features don't weigh much.

 

As soon as his gills are out of the water he starts struggling, which I expect. He twists and turns and cries out loudly, his voice cracked and inhumanly high, as he tries to get out of my arms and back into the water. It's easy for me to hold onto him though, he’s too weak to put up much of a fight. He’s panicking, he thinks I'm trying to kill him. He’s trying to claw me, but all he manages to do is rake his nails over my shirt and ruin the fabric. He’s too tired to break through my skin.

 

“Calm down. I have a hot tub.” I pant as I start running towards my house. If I'm fast I can run there and get him in my hot tub before he passes out. There are a lot of things I'll have to do to make it habitable for him, but he’ll survive in it until I can do that. I need to fix his wounds first.

 

The run to my place is exhausting. But I make it. My hot tub is on my back deck, shielded from prying eyes by my fences and the house itself. I open the gate to my back yard and quickly rush through it to the hot tub- which I left the cover off of thankfully- and dump the merman inside. It's not hot, but it isn't cold. I have to make it colder so he doesn't overheat.

 

The merman stops thrashing when he’s back in water. He still looks scared and untrusting of me, which I don't blame him for; I did just pull him from the ocean and put him in a tiny prison compared to the vast ocean. He looks cramped in there: the seats make it difficult for him to lay anywhere comfortably and there isn't any room to move because his tail takes up the majority of the tub. He displaced a lot of water when I dumped him in.

 

Okay, so first things first. Clean the wounds.

 

I gently grab his tail and lift it out of the water. I drape it over the side of the hot tub so I can see clearly and lean back to flick on the overhead light. With the light on the wounds I can see how deep the wounds are and where all the debris is. There's a lot of it everywhere.

 

“This is going to sting.” I warn him as I go inside quickly to grab my first aid kit. There is plenty of gauze and antiseptics and thread and a needle in it, which is all I need to fix him up. If I stop him from getting an infection he won't need more care than that. I come back and set the first aid kit on the deck and start grabbing the antiseptic solution. I uncap it and set it to the side. I'll clean the debris from one wound and then clean it and then stitch it. I'll repeat until all the wounds are closed.

 

I start with a smaller gash on the bottom of his tail. There isn't much in it other than a few grains of sand. I carefully pull them out then hold the part of the tail i'm working on parallel to the ground. I bend down to grab the solution I put aside and pour a small amount into the wound. It stays in the wound and fills it to the brim, so I let it sit for a minute to fight any infections or bacteria that are in the gash.

 

The merman flinches and groans when I touch his tail and grips whatever he can when I pull out the sand. When I pour in the antiseptic he yells out in pain, loud and shrill and inhuman. If he’s this loud for a tiny, probably not infected wound, I'm worried how he’ll sound when I clean out the big gash on his front just below his belly button. That one is going to be gruesome.

 

Once the solution sits in his wound for a minute I tilt his tail so it can drain out. I leave him for a second to grab my water hose and return after I turn on the water- just enough for a steady stream of water to come out of the hose. I let the water wash away the blood and solution from the wound until I can easily see the flesh inside the wound with nothing obscuring my view. I put the hose down and turn off the water.

 

Now I have to stitch it closed. That's going to be fun. I grab the needle and thread and loop a large amount of the thread through the eye of the needle. I dip the needle in the solution to clean it off and then bring it to his tail. I wait a second before I start stitching his wound closed, being as fast as I can but taking my time so I do it right.

 

The merman whimpers whenever the needle punctures his skin. It probably hurts like hell, but if I don't do this he won't get better. “Sorry buddy.” I soothe as I finish the stitches on the first gash. About ten more to go.

 

I slowly treat each wound, being as gentle as I can but also making sure the job gets done. The merman gets steadily louder as I work on increasingly bigger gashes until I'm at the biggest one. I'm surprised he hasn't passed out from pain, panic, or blood loss yet. I give him a minute to relax before I do the biggest wound, mainly because i'll have to almost pull him out of the water to get the wound out of the water.

 

I look at the merman for the first time since I got him in the hot tub- I've been too worried on his tail to look at his upper half. He’s hiding behind his arms- which have sharp looking fins from the back of his wrists to his elbows- and is shaking like a leaf. He’s also making small, fearful noises every few seconds, like he’s waiting for the pain to start again. He almost sounds like he’s crying.

 

I carefully reach into the hot tub and touch his hair- its soft just like human hair, not rough like the rest of him. He flinches and curls away from my hand like I'm going to hurt him. He probably expects every touch from me to be painful right now, while I am helping him it's incredibly painful. I keep touching his hair even as he pulls away, almost petting him to try and calm him down. “It's almost over.” I promise softly. “Once I'm done you can rest.”

 

The merman doesn't seem like he understands me and he doesn't relax at my touch. He squeaks when I touch him, almost like an abused puppy. I hope he isn't this scared of me the whole time he’s in my hot tub. It's kind of hard to take care of a wounded animal that quakes in fear just because of my presence.

 

I pull my hand away and sigh. I can try to comfort him more after I fix this last gash. I gently grab him where his hips would be if he was human and gently pull him out of the tub until the wound is out. I lay him on the side of the hot tub and make sure his gills are still in the water, which they are for the most part. The merman isn't trying to wiggle his way back into the water, so I start cleaning out his last wound.

 

This one is much harder to clean out than the others. There's so much stuck in it, I can't pull it out with my hands without making him bleed excessively. I grab the hose and turn on the water so the stream is stronger and use it to try and clean the debris out. It manages to get out most of the big stuff, leaving occasional sand grains still in the wound. I turn the hose off and pull out the remaining sand with my fingers.

 

Once I finish that I stop for a second. I need to find something for him to bite down on, if I pour the antiseptic in a wound this big without giving him something to bite he’ll scream loud enough to wake up the whole town. A lot of people are hunters here, i don't want to try and explain why there was someone screaming at my house in the middle of the night. I pull off my shirt and wad it into a tight ball; that should do. He already ripped the back to shreds, I won't be keeping it. I'm also wearing my bra- I don't know how he didn't rip it too- so I'm not exactly half naked. A merman won't care anyway.

 

I offer him the shirt by gently nudging his mouth with it. “Do you want something to bite down on?” I coo, making sure to stay still and not force it on him. I don't want to forcibly gag him.

 

He pulls away from the fabric and completely ignores it. He avoids my eyes and pulls away again when I offer it a second time. I sigh and drop my shirt to the deck. He doesn't want it. I'm not going to force it on him. But how else am I supposed to keep him quiet?

 

I grab the antiseptic and hold his tail as parallel as I can to the deck. I'll just go slow and hopefully he’ll be able to take the pain. I can just claim I was watching horror movies to anyone who comes searching. “This is gonna hurt really bad.” I warn before I start slowly pouring whatever is left in the bottle into his wound.

 

He cries out when the first of the solution touches his flesh. There's barely any in the wound, but he sounds like I'm torturing him. It probably feels like it, he probably doesn't know what I'm doing. He doesn't seem like he’s ever had human interaction before. I stop for a second to let him adjust and then continue again. I keep stopping whenever he gets a little too loud for my liking until the wound is filled to the brim with antiseptic.

 

I drop the empty container into the empty first aid kit box and hold his tail up for another minute. I'll throw the kit away once he’s stitched up. “Almost over.” I assure him. Just the stitches and I'll be done poking him. I can clean the deck and myself up so it doesn't look like a murder happened at my place- i just noticed I'm covered in mermaid blood, and so is the deck- and find him something to eat. He needs something considering how weak and light he is.

 

After a minute passes I tilt his tail to let the antiseptic drain out. After that I grab the hose again and rinse the wound out. I take the needle and thread and start stitching again, going slow and being careful. It takes the majority of the thread to stitch the wound closed, but I do it.

 

I put the needle down and gently ease him back into the water. I manage to get him laying across the reclining seat of the hot tub with his tail coiling in the space next to him. He curls away from me as soon as I let go of him and pulls the uninjured end of his tail into a hug. He rests his head on part of it and closes his eyes. He would look peaceful if it weren't for the still fresh stitches littering his tail and the tense and pained frown on his face.

 

I gather all of the pieces from the first aid kit and put them back inside. I close it and bring it inside to throw away; if someone finds it I can claim it was expired. After that I grab some cleaning supplies and go back outside to clean the deck. However, I don't need them- whatever makes up mermaid blood, it easily washes away with water without staining. That's nice to know.

 

I put the cleaning supplies back and go upstairs to my room. My room is simple and undecorated: it's literally just a place where I sleep. I grab some jean shorts and a tank top to change into after I shower to get the mermaid blood off me. I strip off my clothes and get into the bathtub, doing my best not to get blood of anything. I turn on the water and quickly wash my body and my hair before I get out again. I dry off and change then throw away my soiled shorts in the downstairs trashcan. I mop up what blood I can find on the floor of the kitchen and the living room and put everything away. No one can tell I brought a wounded mermaid home anymore.

 

I open my fridge and look through it to see if I have anything the mermaid can eat. I have a small amount of cooked shrimp left over from two days ago and some lettuce; maybe I can get him to think the lettuce is seaweed. Mermaids eat seaweed right?

 

I grab the shrimp and lettuce and bring them out to the back porch. This will have to do for now, I can research mermaids after I manage to get the mermaid somewhat settled and hopefully asleep. Until he is calmly asleep I can't put the cover back on my hot tub to hide him. If someone accidentally sees him then he’s dead. Either they will call animal control or a mermaid hunter to come get him- both scenarios would most likely end in death for such a weak and hurt mermaid.

 

I put the lettuce down on the side of the hot tub and open the container holding the shrimp. “Are you hungry buddy?” I coo as I take out a shrimp and offer it to him. I hope he takes it, i don't have anything else he would be able to stomach that I know of, and it's too late to be shopping for food. Besides, I don't think I can leave a wounded mermaid alone for that long. I really need to do some research.

 

The merman whimpers uncomfortably and leans away from me despite the promise of food, he is either too scared to take the shrimp or he can't eat it. I'm pretty sure it's the former. He grips his tail harder and hugs it close to his chest like a stuffed animal at my closeness. It's cute.

 

I lean forward to catch his lips with the shrimp before he can pull away again. I rub the seafood across his lips to get the taste of it on them; maybe if he tastes it he’ll be more open to eating. He looks like he needs it, I'm surprised he could be too scared to eat.

 

He pulls back from the shrimp again but licks his lips like I want. The expression on his face doesn't change, but he looks at the seafood now with a weak desire for it out of the corner of his eye. He hesitantly opens his mouth wide enough for the shrimp to fit inside and waits for me to give it to him. I think he’s too weak to lean forward and take it from me.

 

I smile and gently pop the shrimp in his mouth, being mindful of his sharp teeth. He bites down and barely chews before he swallows and opens his mouth again in a silence question for more. Is he just really hungry, or do mermaids not chew their food? He doesn't look like he has teeth for chewing, but he doesn't exactly have shark teeth.

 

I give him the rest of the shrimp and watch him barely chew each piece before he swallows. After three or four tidbits of food he looks up at me, not as scared of me now that I'm feeding him. The sudden trust makes the sides of my smile twitch wider. How can he be so cute but look so deadly?

 

Once the shrimp is gone I put the container down on the deck and pick up the head of lettuce. “Let's see if you like this.” I say as I pull off a piece small enough to easily fit in his mouth and offer it to him. Hopefully, worst case scenario is he doesn't like it and spits it out. I hope he doesn't eat it and puke it back up later because he can't digest it.

 

The merman lets me put the lettuce on his tongue and closed his mouth around it. It only takes him a second to crinkle his nose in disgust and spit it out with a slight shudder. Okay, so he doesn't like lettuce. Unless I can get my hands on some algae he’s gonna have to only eat meat. Do mermaids need to eat algae to be healthy?

 

I aww at him and reach into the water to grab the piece of lettuce he rejected. “Don't like that huh?” I coo as I drop the piece of food onto the grass for another animal in my backyard to eat. I grab the rest of the lettuce and the container that had the shrimp in it. “I'll be right back. I have to put this back.” I say as I go back inside and out the lettuce away and throw away the container.

 

When I come back outside the mermaid is laying down against the side of the hot tub with his eyes closed. They flutter open when I get close so I know he isn't asleep. He looks like he’s just relaxing. He deserves it with what he just went through.

 

I offer a smile. “I'm gonna wash my deck now, there's mermaid blood everywhere.” I say as I bend down and grab the water hose again. I use it to fill a bucket I always keep on the back porch- I have no where else to put it- and add some soap. Once I mix it together I go inside and grab a sponge and put more soap on it. I get to my knees on a spot where there isn't blood and start scrubbing. I have to get this stuff off before morning so no one sees.

 

While I clean the deck I yawn tiredly. I vaguely think how if I hadn't found the mermaid I wouldn't be here to feel tired at the moment. But I don't regret my choice to save him and postpone my plans, I want to give him a chance to live. Hopefully he lives, but if he dies from his wounds I can commit suicide knowing I at least tried my best to save him.

 

I check my phone when I finish cleaning the deck; it takes me a half hour. I put away everything I used to clean and make sure there are no last traces of my messy first aid before I let myself catch my breath. I watch the mermaid as he lays in the hot tub, in the same position as before but still not asleep. His eyes are open and he’s watching me, still a little wary but not exactly scared anymore.

 

I walk over to the hot tub and lean into the edge next to his head. He looks away from me and curls into himself a little when I get close. “Hey, it’s okay.” I coo, reaching into the water to rub his back in hopes of getting him to sleep. With his wounds, he would need rest, and lots of it. That and I can’t put the cover on the hottub until he’s asleep. I don’t want to scare him more than he must be already. “You can sleep, I’m done prodding you.”

 

The mermaid draws away from my touch into himself, though that’s all he does. I expect him to growl at me or try to claw me, but he doesn’t. He probably doesn’t have the energy. When he doesn’t relax under my hand I pull away with a sigh. He probably still expects pain at my touch, after all the stitches I had to put in him, so me rubbing his back won’t help him sleep.

 

“Aren’t you tired?” I ask, surprised he didn’t fall asleep in the time it took me to shower and clean his blood off the floors considering the amount of blood he lost. He should be exhausted and nearly unconscious, yet here he was with the energy to be wary.

 

“I know I am.” I continue, though I don’t expect him to respond. Can mermaids speak? Even if he could, I don’t think he would be keen on talking to me right now. I must seem like the bad guy still even though I fed him. Hopefully he will learn to trust me, it will be difficult to care for him if he is always shrinking away from me.

 

Maybe if I leave him to himself for a while he’ll go to sleep? I decide it’s worth a shot and go back inside where he can’t see me. I’ll go check on him in another half hour, hopefully then he’ll be asleep. To occupy myself while I wait so I don’t fall asleep myself, I turn on my tablet and get to work on researching mermaids.

 

I quickly find a site dedicated to the care of mermaids in captivity, which is full of useful information. According to the site, mermaids do need to eat a balanced diet of fish and algae, and they need lots of exercise. All I have is my hot tub though, so until he’s healthy enough to be relocated I’ll have to get creative.

 

I keep reading and find a section on how to be a proper handler. I suppose I am a temporary handler at the moment, so I read the article. The majority of it is tips and tricks for dealing with fussy mermaids, but near the bottom I find something that is actually useful.

 

Basic tips for new handlers:

 

 

  • Keep your mermaid’s claws and spines trimmed. This will prevent them from harming themselves or others should something scare them. Trimming claws and spines will not harm the mermaid.

 

 

 

  • Remember that mermaids are skittish by nature. Be patient.

 

 

 

  • Unless you know your mermaid well, never touch their belly. An insecure mermaid will interpret the touch as with intent to harm and will lash out.

 

 

 

  • Mermaids reflect the emotions around them. If you want your mermaid to be calm, you must be calm yourself.

 

 

As I read that, I groan softly to myself. I chose one hell of an animal to save, didn’t I? He will be a lot of work, but I won’t give up on him now. I already went through the hardest part of tending to his wounds, how hard could it be to earn his trust?

 

I figure enough time should have passed by now for the mermaid to fall asleep, so I turn off my tablet and go to check on him. He has not moved from his curled up position and is still cuddling his tail, but unlike before his eyes are now closed. I don’t want to tempt fate by checking if he is really asleep, so I quietly pull the cover over the hot tub. I leave a small section of the tub uncovered so the mermaid will hopefully not panic when he wakes up.

 

“Goodnight buddy.” I coo, and as I go back inside I wonder what I should name him. I don’t plan on keeping him, but it feels wrong to just refer to him as ‘the mermaid’ or ‘buddy.’

 

I decide to worry about it in the morning. I need to get some sleep so I’ll be awake to take care of the mermaid in the morning. I scale the stairs and climb into my bed, vaguely remembering that the night before was supposed to be my last. I didn’t think I’d use my bed again.

 

It’s funny, how the universe works.