Chapter 2: Awakening
Experiment 016, wakened from deep sedative-induced slumber, gazed with wide eyes at the startled young scientist. Marcus noted that her eyes were as the others said, two endless pools of deep blue, as he watched them glance nervously around the small, sterile room. Bubbles of air constantly escaped the transparent oxygen mask secured around the lower half of her face as she released quick, panicked breaths of air. The microphone wired into the very mask that provided her oxygen in a liquid environment enabled her to speak, transmit her voice to the speaker located just outside the vat she floated in—obviously intended for later use. Her voice came now through the speaker, high and sweet, tainted with fear.
"Where am I?"
Her simple, fearful question was enough to bring Marcus out of his shock. He approached the girl as one would approach a wild beast prepared to strike, slowly and warily. He had no need for the speaker as he responded to her—several microphones were built into the vat for, of course, communication purposes (again, intended for a later time). "You're in our laboratory," Marcus said.
"A laboratory? Why? Why am I here?"
Marcus sighed and tried to form the situation into words that the girl could easily accept. It wasn't an easy task. It was for this reason that the scientists wished to keep her asleep until the experiment was complete. But now that she was indeed awake and confused, Marcus was forced to attempt an explanation. "You're . . . part of an experiment," he began, his words slow and hesitant as he thought of how to continue. "You see—"
Her next question cut his explanation short, the edge of fear in her voice like a sharp blade slicing through Marcus's words. "Experiment? What kind of experiment?"
The girl's fear-bladed voice cut him off once more. "D-Don't!" she exclaimed, having changed her mind; she didn't want to hear anything about the crazy experiment she'd been dragged into. She then glanced to the left, and gripped several of the wires connected to her body with her delicate, trembling hand. The girl wondered fearfully, what were these strange wires, and why were they connected to her?
"Um, don't touch those," said Marcus, worried that she might disconnect one of the more vital wires. The girl released the wires and turned her frightened gaze back onto him. "Might . . . Might I ask your name?" Marcus had been the only scientist there that disliked the fact that this young girl, this human being, was referred to only as "the girl" or more commonly, "Experiment 016." He knew she had a name; it was simply forgotten over the course of the experiment. The other scientists had forgotten that she was a human girl. They had come to view her as nothing more than a test subject—something Marcus refused to do. So as a first step to getting to know this girl, Marcus asked for the name that had been forgotten so many months ago.
"Uh . . . M-My name is Melissa," said the girl. She placed her hands on the glass separating her from Marcus, shading the glass where her palms pressed against it.
"My name is Marcus," the friendly scientist replied. He, too, put his hand on the glass, over one of Melissa's hands. Were it not for the thin barrier, their hands would be touching in this moment. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Melissa."
The hand that would be touching Marcus's hand remained in place, but Melissa's other hand curled into a fist against the glass. "Marcus . . . Please, can you get me out of here?" Her voice and her eyes pleaded to Marcus for freedom, laden with fearful desperation.
Marcus was forced to resist the plea. "I'm sorry," he said. "I can't do that. Not until the experiment is over . . ."
"Why not? Did they do something to me?"
"Well . . ."
Melissa suddenly stiffened visibly as she realized something that increased her fear tenfold. "Why . . . Why can't I feel my legs?" She looked down, and at once discovered the results of the scientists' experimenting, that fishlike tail in place of her human legs. The startled and horribly shocked girl let out a shriek at this sight; the high pitch of her scream elicited a cringe from Marcus. "Oh, my God! What have they done?" Her question was more of a screech than an inquiry—which, again, had Marcus flinching from the sound of her panicked voice. Reacting to the girl's panic, Melissa's tail began twitching restlessly, swishing back and forth and stirring up the green liquid inside the vat. Several times, the strong tail slapped against the glass, which unsettled Marcus—particularly when small cracks began to form in the glass, unable to withstand the assault.
"D-Don't do that, please!" Marcus pleaded nervously.
Melissa responded with a plea of her own: "Let me out! Please! Get me out of here!" Panic and fear had taken over her mind. It was obvious that she was not thinking of the consequences of that plea being fulfilled. After all, what would she do if she were to escape the vat? She no longer had legs to walk on; she had a tail best suited to swimming. With no such thoughts in her mind, Melissa continued her attempt to break free, now consciously utilizing her powerful tail to try and break free from her glass prison.
Small fissures split the glass now, and green liquid trickled from the growing cracks. Marcus stood completely still, unsure of what to do—approach the breaking glass to try and halt the impending destruction or step back to a safe distance?
It was inevitable now—the cracks spread across the entire surface of the glass; it was going to shatter, and soon.
The sound of one last, loud crack was soon followed by the clamorous clattering of shattering glass. Marcus, having chosen to remain at a distance, took several more steps backwards as the green liquid once held inside the vat flooded out onto the floor, carrying Melissa with it in the brief torrent. The girl now laid face-down on the cold floor, her pale body dripping with the liquid that had sustained her life within the vat for so long. Her tail twitched and twisted on the floor, delicate fins waving weakly at nothing. On land, out of its proper element, this powerful, strong tail of hers seemed fragile and weak. The girl turned mermaid was, literally, a fish out of water now.
Several alarms sounded from the machines and monitors in the small room, beeping their various warnings; Melissa's escape had disconnected all the wires from her body, which had been connected to these machines. Marcus walked to where Melissa lay and kneeled next to her. "Melissa? Are you okay?"
Melissa groaned and raised herself up, her arms trembling as she attempted to support herself with the weakened limbs. "I'm fine . . . if you don't consider the fact that I'm a freak of nature now," she answered bitterly. "Ugh!" Her arms gave way, and she fell back to the floor with a grunt.
"Melissa . . ." Marcus tried to help her, only for his efforts to be dismissed with a wave of her hand. "You're not a freak of nature, Melissa. You're a wonder of science! I'm trying to help you. Why won't you let me?"
"Why do you want to help me? Are you afraid your insane experiment will be ruined?"
"No, it's nothing like that!" Marcus exclaimed. "You're more than a test subject, Melissa." At least to me, he added in his thoughts, considering the attitudes of the other scientists. Slowly, clear blue eyes rose to meet his dark brown gaze. He continued, "You're a girl whose life has been drastically changed by our experimenting. All this—" he gestured at her tail and the small lab around them—"wasn't my idea. And . . . I'm sorry that this had to happen to you."
Melissa kept eye contact with Marcus for several moments before she averted her gaze again. "I . . . What do I do now, though? I want to get out of here, and you want to help me, but what are you going to do? Carry me out?"
Marcus opened his mouth, only to close it again. He thought he would carry Melissa in his arms, but the truth was that he was simply not strong enough to carry her all the way out of the lab. He stared at her for a little while as he tried to think of what to do, watching the lingering green fluid on her body cling to her pale flesh and slowly drip onto the floor. He watched her wet, useless tail sweep from side to side, trying to do something, anything other than remain useless. He wanted to do something—he needed to help her. But how?
A light shiver traveled across Melissa's body like a small tremor. "It's cold in here . . ." she remarked quietly. Straightaway, Marcus began looking around the lab for a towel or something similar, at once remembering that Melissa had no clothing to protect her from the sterile chill in the air of the lab. He found a white towel, and thus draped it over Melissa. She grasped the towel, and began to gently rub it across her body as best she could in her awkward position on the floor. Gradually, her skin was dried.
And it was then that something incredible happened. Something that science could never begin to explain.
When Melissa's skin was dried, a transformation began to happen before her and Marcus's eyes. Her tail became enveloped in a soft glow, consumed by gentle white light. This light conformed to the shape of her tail as it appeared to change form and split in half. Both Melissa and Marcus watched in wonder as this took place, their awed faces highlighted by the glow Melissa's tail was emitting.
The light suddenly dispersed. In its wake was several glittering fragments of light—and two human legs where Melissa's tail once was.