01 Feb I’m an aquarium employee, I’ve discovered a secret passageway in the dark
I stand poised, tensed, the pin pressed against the tip of my forefinger. The aquarium is empty now, and I am the only employee left in this section of the complex, perhaps in the whole building. The atmospheric, watery blue and green lights from behind the glass shimmer and waver across the ground below me, they reflect off of the surroundings tanks through the darkness, and they illuminate my hands. Blue, to turquoise, to green. Back to turquoise, then back to blue.
Will it work? …I think to myself.
There’s only one way to find out, Savannah.
My heart beats fast as I steady my nerves, then carefully push the pin into my finger. The sharp point breaks the skin and I wince in pain, drawing the pin back as a droplet of blood buds on the tip, appearing purple beneath the wash of the lights. It builds in size, quivers for a moment, then slips, falling down to the floor below, where it splatters soundlessly.
I take a breath.
Did it work?
I lift my gaze, biting my lip, and my heart races with excitement when I realize that it has.
Directly ahead of me is the arctic section of the aquarium. Once you reach the end of this corridor you can choose to go left, to see an indoor view of the penguins. You can go right, to see an array of polar fish. And directly ahead is a wall of ice. Guests and visitors to the aquarium can put their hand on it, to see how long they can stand the biting cold before they have to pull back. It’s an endurance game. An interactive thing.
But now… tonight… A gap has appeared in the ice. A narrow split, directly through the white wall.
And it calls to me.
It worked! I can’t believe it! It fucking worked!
I pull the chewing gum from between my teeth, and smush it beneath the nearest handrail. Then I suck the blood from my finger, and stride towards the secret passage.
The first time I saw the gap in the ice, I hadn’t even realized it was irregular in any way.
It was only my third or fourth day on the job; we were getting ready to open the aquarium, and I made the quick decision to fake a fall. To deliberately stumble to the ground, to try and get the attention of one of my new colleagues. A cute guy. His name’s Rob.
He had a girlfriend already, but whatever. I love drama. Sue me.
Unfortunately I misjudged how hard to actually ‘fake’ fall, and ended up splitting open my knee. I remember the blood dripping to the ground as I held back tears, as Rob rushed to grab the first-aid kit. It was super embarrassing, actually, thinking about it. But hey, Rob was really close to me for the rest of the day to make sure I was alright, so it still worked.
I didn’t even mentally register the gap in the ice I saw that morning until a few days later, when I realized suddenly that it had vanished. I asked some of my colleagues about it, but they had no idea what I was talking about, assuring me that it had only ever been a solid wall, and so I basically forgot all about it.
It wasn’t until a year later that I saw the icy passage for a second time. This morning, in fact. I was doing the rounds before we opened, the regular checks… and I was reading through the message that Rob’s girlfriend had sent me. I slept with him a couple of weeks ago, finally, and she had sent me a long and very angry text accusing me of being a slut.
It made me laugh. Kinda hard, actually. To the point that I ended up slamming my teeth down onto my tongue, splitting it just enough to draw blood. I felt the metallic taste fill my mouth at once and choked with revulsion, spitting the mixture out onto the floor in disgust.
Yeah, I know that’s gross, but it was a knee-jerk reaction. Besides, the cleaners will sort it out later.
I was wiping my mouth, grimacing as I lifted my head and looked down the corridor, and there it was. At the very end, the split through the wall of ice. And the memory of its first sighting returned. I wanted to go down right then and there, to see what it was, to see where it led… But I was already running late, so I had to call a rain-check. The aquarium opened up, I got to work, and when I passed by the wall an hour later, the gap was gone.
I thought about it all day.
And at some point, my mind clicked. I made the connection between its two appearances. I came up with a theory. And so that’s what made me hang around tonight whilst everyone else went home. It’s why I spilled the blood onto the corridor floor.
And now my curiosity is maxed.
I approach the gap in the ice, the air cooling around me, with a grin stretched across my face. This is the kind of shit I live for. I trace my fingers across the ice, shivering at the touch, and I squeeze my way through.
It twists this way and that, and if I turn at a slight angle, is just wide enough for my shoulderspan.
I can see my breath fog in little clouds before me as the passage comes to an end. I should have brought a jacket, I think to myself; it’s so cold in here. I cross my arms over my chest and rub my hands along my upper arms, staring in wonder at the scene before me.
The aquarium extends. Not possible, of course, because I know the building well. I know what it looks like from the outside. And there’s no way that what I’m seeing should exist. Structurally, it makes no sense. But this exciting new place hasn’t allowed a little something like logic prevent it from existing, and I respect that.
The level of light is similar to that of the previous corridor; it’s dark, but for the shimmering waves of light: distorted through the glass of the aquarium tanks. The colors ripple over the ground with the faded shadows. Less green in here; more cold, pale blue.
“This is insane…” I mutter out loud, pulling out my phone to get a quick recording of my surroundings. I take some steps into this new complex.
The lights flicker in the distance. I glance to my left at the closest tank, and am fascinated by the fish I see within.
It’s not a species I’m familiar with. I head over and duck under the rail for a closer look, and watch as a long, thin, silver fish glides through the water in front of me. I can only see one of its eyes, a small black bead, right at the tip of the creature’s head. It has no visible fins, its only real discerning feature a translucent gray crest that travels all the way down its back.
And then, just it becomes level with my face, the creature stops. It stops, mid-swim, in the water, and its head snaps round to stare right into my eyes.
I swear and jump back in alarm, heart-pounding, but the fish’s sudden movement isn’t even the weirdest part. The second that it faces me directly, the instant that both its eyes connect with mine, the fish vanishes. Completely.
I stare into the tank in disbelief, watching, waiting, and a moment later the fish re-appears in the same spot, turning back to face into the water, swimming on along its way.
It takes me a minute to calm down.
“What the fuck was that?”
Another of the same species drifts by towards the back of the tank, and the same thing happens. It stops, twists its face to look at me, and vanishes from sight. I watch the water, pulse racing, and the fish reappears again as it continues to drift.
What the hell kind of creature am I looking at here?
And honestly, where the fuck even am I?
I follow on down the edge of a tank to an information card plastered onto the wall. There’s a picture of the strange silver fish, which is clear enough, but I cannot make out the text at all. It is not in any language I’m familiar with. It’s a series of circles, some darker than others, a few broken in places. As I move, I realize that some of the circles seem to be ‘closer’ than others, as if they are being pushed out of the card towards me.
I squint at it; it’s an optical illusion of some kind, one that messes with depth perception. It’s making me feel pretty sick, so I quickly give up and take a more measured, deliberate look around this curious secret aquarium.
All of the tanks, I realize, both big and small, are populated with fish that I’ve never seen. Fish that I’m pretty sure don’t, or shouldn’t, exist.
“Holy shit…” I mutter in awe, and for the next thirty or forty minutes I force away the feelings of the shivering cold and go from tank to tank, taking pictures and videos of everything I can, drinking in these bizarre and uniquely unsettling creatures.
I crouch by a column of three small box-like tanks, stacked on top of each other. The water within is tinged orange.
The lowermost contains a cluster of tiny jellyfish, perfectly round and covered in minuscule, clear little bristles.
The middle tank is home to a number of small crabs, except they are tall and thin, like armored, eyeless cylinders… crawling slowly and precariously over the white sand beneath.
And the enclosure at the top is home to a single, smooth pebble. Gray, or at least, I think it is, it’s hard to tell in the orange water. A vein pulsates on its side, and it slowly throbs and swells like the bulging throat of a frog.
The creatures unnerve me, but I cannot bring myself to stop staring at them. They are fascinating, in a disgusting, skin-crawling kind of way.
I pass by more tanks. Blue water. Green water. Larger exhibits. My footsteps echo through the otherwise empty corridors as I make my way through.
One is filled with what at first appear to be massive rocks, floating impossibly through the water. As I watch, a wet pink line appears at the front of one of these rocks; the line then extends about halfway along its form, and the rock splits: to reveal a dark, reddish-pink mouth lined with disturbingly human-like teeth.
Another tank is populated with a mass of striped, half-moon shaped creatures. No bigger in size than my fist. No discernible features at all, at first, until one of the drifting and faceless fish bumps into another. It starts to shake, and the stripes vanish in favor of a brighter, bolder, more aggressive red. A long and segmented appendage, one not dissimilar in appearance to an insect’s leg, bursts from the creature’s body and pushes through the water to pierce the skin of the other. The loser quickly fades in color and melts like gel into the surrounding water.
The scene makes me gag.
A third tank is almost completely lightless, the water a deep, dark-gray. I press my face against the glass and cup my hands around my eyes to improve my vision. Bubbles shiver up to the surface. Strange, vine-like seaweed drifts from side to the side around the tank’s rock-themed walls, and right at the bottom, half-submerged in a thick, mud-like substance, is an enormous black fish. Like the head of a great toad, only bigger, much, much bigger, and covered in spines and sharp little points. Its mouth opens with a deep and watery hiss, revealing an immense, dark jaw and charcoal-black teeth.
There’s a sign stuck to the glass on this one. I can’t read the writing, but the image is of a stick-man knocking on a wall, encircled and crossed through in red.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out what it means.
‘Don’t knock on the glass’.
I smirk, and do just that. Three quick taps.
The thing behind the glass opens its mouth a little wider. Hisses deeper. And honestly, unless I’m going crazy, it feels like the glass itself begins to subtly vibrate.
I shiver, and pull away.
I head round a corner and decide to climb some metal mesh stairs. They spiral up and around a huge cylindrical tank, softly bubbling. When I look in the glass, however, all I can see is my own reflection looking back at me.
The stairs lead me to a tunnel. It’s one of those large glass tunnels you see in aquariums sometimes, the type that goes directly through an enormous tank and gives you a view of the animals from all angles. I start to walk down it, looking left to right, but the water is too dark; I can’t make out anything beyond the glass.
It’s quiet in here.
The only sounds are the echoes of my footsteps, and the soft bubbling and hissing of the surroundings filters.
And then, suddenly, they are accompanied by the clicking and the buzzing of automatic lights, flickering dutifully into life. Not in the tunnel, but in the water, behind the glass.
I turn to look… and scream.
Stumbling backwards, falling down onto the floor of the tunnel, blood starts rushing in my ears as I stare into the eye of an abomination. A huge, roughly human-like being, though easily four times as big as any man, bloated with tumor-like bulges and greenish-gray in color is floating still in the water, right on the other side of the glass. Its fingers and toes are freakishly long and webbed, and its head is split like a hammerhead shark’s; only longer, much, much longer. A dot-pupiled eye at each end stares down at me, and I can only stare back, frozen in fear, withering under the cold malevolence of its gaze.
The creature hovers in place.
A thin stream of bubbles rises alongside it and floats up and away out of sight.
The tank gurgles.
And I think to myself that maybe, maybe, I’ve made a terrible, terrible mistake in coming here. Perhaps I should have been less reckless. As the creature’s eye bores into mine, I feel at once like an intruder. A trespasser in this thing’s watery world. I do not belong here. I do not belong. And it’s time for me to go.
I stagger to my feet, jaw clenched, and break the creature’s gaze to hasten back the way I came through the tunnel. To my horror I realize that another just like it is hovering in the water in the tunnel directly above the entrance. It must have been watching me through the darkness when I came in.
And there’s something else too. Someone’s coming. A group of people, by the sounds of it; I can hear footsteps clambering up the metal stairs, just around the corner from the tunnel’s entrance.
Panic starts to set in. My intuition is screaming at me to get away. To ensure that they do not find me, these strangers from another realm. So I turn, and I run. I run through the tunnel and out onto the other side, stumbling past tanks and exhibits, looking for- I don’t know, for something. Anything. A way out. A place to hide… My eyes are drawn to a glowing green sign, shaped like an arrow. I can’t read the shadowed circles across it, of course, but could it mean ‘exit’? An ‘exit’ sign?
In the end, it doesn’t matter.
Because I am not looking where I am going. I slip on a section of wet floor and stumble forwards, tripping into a rock-pool besides me, one at about waist-height. The water rushes into my face as I brace and close my mouth…. And as my upper half is submerged, my hand connects with something furry, and sharp. A burst of pins-and-needles rushes up my arm at once as I draw back, spluttering up into the air. I stumble away from the rock-pool’s edge and lean on a nearby rail, realizing in alarm that my hand is rapidly changing color before my eyes. The veins are popping and becoming clearly pronounced with terrifying speed… The buzzing sensation carries on up my shoulder and down my side… my joints are stiffening… I find myself struggling to move my arm…
“No”, I beg, clouds of breath heavy in the icy air. “No, please, not this, not now!”
But my pleas go unanswered. I look around desperately, wildly, for somewhere to hide. The people are still approaching, I know it, and I see a potential place. A shadowed corner behind a dark tank. I start to head over, or, try to, at least. My legs are seizing up. I’m finding it harder to move my head… I force myself on, step by painful step…
“No…” I choke out, “NO!”
…But I am too late. Heart pounding, I can do nothing to prevent myself from collapsing stiffly to the floor, frozen in place, and unable to move.
I try to scream, but produce only a hiss, with a small burst of warm breath.
I am trapped; a prisoner in my own non-compliant body.
And the strangers approach.
My hand throbs, but every other part of me is numb. I am too terrified to even cry. The edges of my vision flash with white, I dart my eyes around, trying to get a look at the strangers from my position on the floor, but I can see only their legs and feet.
They are not human.
They are not even solid. Compromised of a black and purple rippling void, strange shapes pulse out across their translucent forms as they gather around me. I hear them speak. The sound is rough and strange, like the noise of rocks being dragged over concrete.
My chest, I can feel, wants to contract with sobs, but my paralysis prevents it.
The strangers stand around me for a while longer. And then one of them grabs me. Hands hooked under my arms, they begin to drag me through the aquarium.
I try to scream out, to fight back.
My throat aches with the effort, and again, only the tiniest of sounds is made; my fingers do not respond to their orders. They twitch feebly at the tips.
I feel my mind begin to give in to despair. I wonder if my life is about to come to an end. I wonder if the people back home will ever know what happened to me.
I am dragged down corridor after corridor, past tanks full of paradoxical fish and twisted creatures beyond count, and eventually, I find myself being strapped into a harness. I still cannot get a good look at the strangers. Even as I hear the whirr and grind of some strange machinery above me. Even as I am hoisted into the air. Even as the floor falls away below me.
The feeling starts to return to my extremities. I can clench my fingers and toes, albeit painfully. My neck is stiff, but I try to turn it, just a little.
I am being lifted high up off the ground, suspended above the roof of an aquarium tank. And with a rumble, I watch in terror as the roof slides back. I watch as I am moved directly above an open tank of dark and hostile water. The unknown shimmers beneath.
And I realize what they mean to do with me.
“P-P-Please”, I whisper, helplessly twitching my elbows and knees.
And the harness releases.
My stomach lurches as I fall down, down towards the open tank, the water rushing towards me, and there is nothing I can do but wait for impact.
I hit the surface with an icy smack, the cold a terrible shock, and the pain a signal that my sense of feeling has bitterly returned. I stare wide-eyed through the grim water as I sink. Forcing energy into my limbs with every ounce of willpower I possess. Turning. Clawing my way back to the surface.
Pushing my stiff legs through the water… The water filled with any number of unknown and fearsome creatures. I think about the monstrosities I’ve seen. I force back the panic as my mind creates a plethora of possible nightmares around and below me in this dark.
The light shimmers, but I’m nearly there. I’m nearly back at the surface… I reach out for it, forcing my legs to kick just a little harder, a little faster…
…And the roof of the tank is slammed shut.
My fist connects with hard plastic, still very much submerged.
NO! OH MY GOD! OH FUCK!
Bubbles ripple from the corners of my mouth as I whimper in distress.
I smack the roof. I try to hit it as hard as I can, my fist moving slowly through the water, far too slowly to do any damage.
I need air.
I need to breathe.
I don’t know what to do.
I swim to the glass, I bang on it, I smack my head against it too. I can see the blurry forms of the strangers below on the floor, but aren’t moving. They’re just watching.
I scream. Sacrificing the last of my air in a desperate final bid for rescue.
My lungs empty.
And I feel something cold touch my shoulder.
I swivel in panic, and find myself face to face with the tank’s other occupant.
At first, I think she is a human girl, like me.
But her eyes are too large. Her nose too small. Her hand is webbed and her skin is pale and translucent.
…And her waist is covered in silver scales, scales that continue down over her tail, long and finned.
She sees something in my eyes. My desperation, perhaps. I can sense it. And before I know how to react, she has grabbed my hand. She drags me down through the deep with incredible strength towards the bottom of the tank. She reaches out and plucks a fungus-like coral from the sand and presses it quickly up against my neck.
My lungs are on fire. They ache in searing pain.
I struggle and squirm, but I cannot escape the mermaid’s grip. Red and white spots begin to flash before my eyes. I need to breathe. I need to take a breath. Even if it fills my lungs with icy water, at least that’ll be it. That’ll be the end. I can lose consciousness and mentally drift away. The panic will be over.
The fear will be gone.
But even through the fear, I feel a change. An intense and sudden itch at the side of my neck. The mermaid pulls the coral away, still gripping tight to my wrist, and before I can stop myself, I give in. I have to. I submit to my need for oxygen.
And I breathe.
…But not, I realize in amazement, through my mouth or nose.
I breathe again. In, and out. It’s air, I can feel it. I can feel it in my lungs. I stare at the mermaid, and she smiles at me. Then she reaches a hand up to the side of her own neck, and I copy the gesture.
Just to the side of my jaw, I feel a series of ridges. I feel gaps in my flesh. I take another breath and feel the pressure change around them as I do so.
Holy shit. Holy HELL. The mermaid… the coral… did they give me… gills?
I stare at the mermaid. I try to ask her. I open my mouth to speak, and my voice comes out low and warbled through the water. The mermaid instantly cringes and pulls away, putting her hands over her ears. Without her grip I find I quickly start to float back to the surface, and have to manually keep myself down with strokes of my arms and gentle kicks of my legs.
“..Sorry”, I mutter as bubbles rise up from my lips.
The mermaid turns back to the base of the tank. She reaches down and grabs the same piece of coral by the base. I watch in amazement as she presses it up against a cluster of seaweed-ferns on a nearby rock. The coral shivers, and before my eyes the seaweed begins to change. It lightens from green to yellow, and the leaves closest to the coral begin to warp and mutate into a different shape, the tips splitting off into little forks.
The mermaid seems proud. She lets the coral drop to the sand below, then she looks back at me, and smiles again.
I do not know what to do.
What the hell CAN I do? What the fuck is going on here? Do the shadowed strangers think I’m like her? Do they think I’m a mermaid too?… A fucking mermaid that belongs trapped in a tank on display?
I look down at my legs, my feet, still in my shoes, kicking feebly through the water. And I look at the mermaid. I watch how she glides through the water with ease. She smiles at me again, a little wider.
So… I smile back. The mermaid grabs my hand at once and starts to drag me around the tank. It’s not particularly big. Now that the imminence of death has passed and my heartrate has begun to settle, I have a chance to actually examine my surroundings. The mermaid is keen to show me all aspects of the place, it would seem. She points excitedly to the filter. She pulls me through the water from top to bottom, and takes great pride in carefully showing me several different-colored clumps of sand.
I don’t really know how to respond. I’m scared that she might try to attack me, and with her strength and speed I wouldn’t stand a chance, so I just nod and smile until my cheeks begin to hurt. I start to shiver too, which the mermaid doesn’t seem to understand. She mimics me for a while, then just watches in curiosity.
Then she starts to look sad. She offers me sand, which I take, but ultimately there’s nothing I can do with it besides let it slowly drift through my fingers and fall back to the bottom of the tank.
When I think it’s safe to do so, I gently begin to swim away from her. She does not follow, but watches me from below. I swim up to the top of the tank and examine the roof. I grab a hold of certain sections that seem promising and try to twist the parts that hang down… But nothing budges.
Nothing at all.
I clench my fists in frustration, my eyes really starting to sting in the water. I swim over to the filter and try to open it up, to break it even, if I can, but nothing moves.
I start to sob and bang against it in frustration, and the mermaid swims up alongside me, watching in distress. She tries to pull me away but I shrug her off, former fears temporarily forgotten as I shake the filter as hard as I can.
I know the mermaid has the strength to pull me away if she really wanted to, I felt so earlier, but she does not. She lets go of me and instead just floats alongside, watching me sadly with a pained expression across her face.
Night falls, and the level of light in the aquarium drops.
I spend the entire night in that tank. It’s one of the longest nights of my life. It’s so cold, so bitterly cold. I have kicked off my shoes and socks, but the rest of my clothes I keep on. My skin has gone deathly white, and my fingers and hands are creased and wrinkled almost beyond recognition. Having had very little life experience of falling asleep underwater, I struggle to do so now, and every time I drift off for some microsleep, my brain panics and kicks my body back awake.
It is torture.
I shiver in the darkness.
The mermaid decides she wants to hold me for a while, and I let her. But she isn’t warm. She’s barely better than the surrounding water.
And it’s so hard to think. It’s so hard to focus. The cold, and the exhaustion… How the hell am I going to get out? Do they feed us? They’ll have to open the lid of the tank again eventually, right?
Shadows dance in my vision as we float together through the water.
Time passes. Like a steadily forming icicle, the hours drip by.
Drip, drip, drip.
At some point the mermaid releases me. I don’t know when. I’m vaguely aware of her swimming back and forth by the roof of the tank, her face fixed in concentration.
It’s so cold.
The hours pass. The aquarium stirs awake.
And I am aware of the mermaid floating right in front of me. She strokes my hair through the water with one of her hands as her eyes look sadly into mine.
Beams of light break suddenly through the tank from up above. The sound of sliding plastic, distorted but still quite clear reverberates around us. And as quick as a flash, before I can even process what is happening, the mermaid has dropped down. She grabs ahold of me around the waist and rockets towards the surface with a speed I can barely process. My ears pop as blood and water rush past my eardrums at full force, I stare up at the rectangle of light as it grows closer and closer-
-and I am forced out of the gap at considerable speed. The mermaid releases me from her grip and I fly through the air, slowing momentarily as I kick my legs and hang in space, readjusting to my surroundings, looking down at the void-like and featureless strangers below through bleary and waterlogged eyes… Then I fall, crashing down onto the roof of the tank in a heap, body aching and shivering madly.
But this is it, I realize. This is it. This is my one chance for escape.
It has to be NOW.
So I run. I blink the water from my eyes as best I can and run across the roof on shaking legs, jumping out onto the edge of a metal staircase, grunting and grabbing hold of the rail to shimmy myself through.
I hear rapid footsteps.
They’re coming for me.
But they won’t get me this time.
I run down the stairs, crashing into the sides heedlessly as I skid down onto the corridor and sprint away.
Risking one last look behind me, I turn to see the mermaid, watching me escape. Her hands pressed against the glass. She raises one in a wave.
And I wave back.
“Thank you”, I whisper.
I tear round corner after corner. The strangers begin appearing in greater frequency but I pay them no mind. With a burst of relief I see the familiar rock-pool, and veer to the right, steering well clear this time. Back I go through the tunnel, my gaze fixed firmly on the exit and nowhere else. Back through the tanks, BACK into the original corridor…
…And there it is… The wall of ice.
Except… it’s closed. It’s closed tight shut.
The blood, Savannah! I scream to myself inside my head. You need the BLOOD!
So without thinking I bite down hard into the corner of my thumb. I pull my head to the side and tear off a deep strip of skin, the blood quickly forming and budding.
Please, I think to myself, Please work, Please, PLEASE work!
The wall approaches.
I flick the blood to the ground, close my eyes in a desperate plea for success, and at the last second, I raise my head.
I stumble gracelessly but overflowing with relief into the icy passage, staggering through the twists and turns as my legs threaten to give way. It’s not until I am safely back on the other side however, that I allow them to do so.
I collapse to the ground in a shivering, shuddering heap, and after a quick glance behind me to ensure that the passage has vanished, I allow myself to finally break down into tears.
A week has passed since that night. I’d been gone for a whole day during my time beyond the wall. My parents were so relieved to see me. At first. Then, they were angry. Very angry indeed. They made me promise never to disappear without letting them know where I was going ever again, and I apologized as earnestly as I could. I didn’t even know what to tell them. I didn’t tell them the truth, if you’re wondering. It just felt… wrong, somehow. Like to do so would be putting them in danger.
I haven’t told anybody the truth. Maybe I should, but… I just can’t. I can’t risk it. It feels wrong in a way I don’t truly understand.
Rob and his girlfriend broke up, by the way. I sent her an apology but I don’t know if she even read it. I’ve considered telling Rob about the secret aquarium, but, I don’t know how he would take it. I don’t want to risk him getting lost like I nearly did. It’s probably best if I give him some space for now, anyway.
…But this isn’t sustainable. I’m going to have to do something. I can’t keep wearing this scarf forever. I’ve already gotten enough strange looks and comments… But they cover the gills, you see. I still have the gills.
And I can’t get the mermaid out of my head. She’s still there, trapped in that cage all alone. I need to help her, I have to try, but… I don’t know how.
I take the gum from my mouth and pack it tightly into its wrapper, thinking over my options as I stroll to the trashcan and throw it away. I shoot a glance down the corridor to the far end. To the wall of ice.
One day, I realize, I’m going to have to go back.