CHAPTER FOUR - LEAVE
“Bex, where are you going?” Cathy asked as he ducked out from under the bar.
Bex opened his mouth to lie, but nothing came out. He caught sight of his father over Cathy’s shoulder. His father was dodging around guests, but he couldn’t move as quickly as Bex could.
“Bex? What’s wrong?” Ned asked, his forehead scrunched with concern.
“I… I have to…”
Bex broke off as another cry came. This one more was more frantic, more afraid. It was so desperate. Bex couldn’t ignore it. He raced outside. He thought he heard his father call his name, but Taron couldn’t act alarmed because people would notice, people would talk, people would know that something was off and then maybe they would notice other things. So Bex took advantage of that.
He slipped between cars in the parking lot as he honed in on the cry. The cry was like a vibration in his veins, in his heart, in his brain. His senses swept outwards. He felt the minds of a few humans who walked in the moonlight on the silvery sands of the beach. No one was on the pier. That was good.
Then he reached out farther. He could feel the ocean as if it was a living thing, a thing with its own mind. The sweet flicker of fish brushed his mind. He reached further out. He felt the swells grow and the temperature of the water drop. Even as his physical body was just at the edge of the pier, his mind was half a mile out.
That was when he touched the creature’s mind directly. Instead of seeing the silvery wood of the pier stretching out before him. He saw the moon on the water. He heard water slapping against the side of a boat. He saw two faces above him. They looked like twin moons themselves, but ugly instead of beautiful. They were twin grinning faces wearing plaid.
The Bailey brothers!
The view of everything was obscured by…
A net. It’s caught in a net!
And the Bailey brothers were inartfully trying to haul it in. The creature thrashed and tried to get out of the net, but it couldn’t see a way to do so. There were two many lines cutting into it. It was confused where was up and down. The Bailey brothers were chortling more.
“Bex?!” Cathy cried, sounding breathless.
Bex was brought back to the pier. He’d stop dead in his tracks when he’d reached the creature’s mind. He swayed as his mind and body reconnected. His vision swam before he focused in on Cathy’s face. Ned ran up, too, breathing hard.
“W-what are you doing, Bex?” Ned gasped. “God, I’m out of shape. But, crap, you move like the wind!”
Bex thought about lying. A lie was on the tip of his tongue. He saw Cathy studying his face.
She’ll know I’m lying. She’s expecting me too. If I lie again our friendship will be damaged beyond repair. Or I can tell her some of the truth and just trust her.
“The Baileys have caught something,” Bex told her.
Ned frowned. “How could you know that?” He scanned the nearby water and could not see anyone. “I mean, I don’t see--”
“Shhh,” Cathy said and put a hand on Ned’s right forearm, but she didn’t look away from Bex. “Okay. So what can we do? Do you need a boat?”
Bex shook his head. “I don’t need a boat. I can… I can get out there more quickly.”
Ned stared again at the water. “But the Baileys… I mean they must be way out there!”
“About half a mile. Right there.” Bex pointed to where he sensed the creature and the Baileys.
“How do you know that? You can’t see a mile out!” Again, Cathy touched Ned’s arm to stop the question. But Ned pressed on, “Cath, these are legit questions!”
“They are, but you already know he can do it. He’s telling us the truth. You know he is.” Though Cathy didn’t say it, what was unspoken was the word “now”. Bex was telling them the truth now.
Ned’s head bobbed, but he said, “Yeah, but…”
“I know you have questions, but--” The cry came again and Bex felt the creature thrashing. He closed his eyes and put his hands to his temples. He felt the netting around the creature like it was around himself. His eyelids shot open. “I have to get out there.”
“So how can we help?” Cathy asked.
Bex glanced around. His eyes confirmed what his senses already told him. There was no one around to see. Not that anyone would see anything until his skin hit water. He pulled off his shirt as he was toeing off his shoes. He handed the shirt to Cathy.
“I need you to take my clothes to the beach around Spivey Point. No one should be there. That’s where I’ll head back to. I can’t come here. Too many people,” he explained.
She nodded as if this made complete sense that he was going to swim out into the ocean a half a mile to save a creature that he couldn’t name from the Baileys who he couldn’t possibly know were out there. Oh, and he wasn’t coming back to the pier he was leaving, because he couldn’t be seen when he came back. And somehow this wasn’t phasing Cathy.
“No problem,” she said as she folded his shirt and reached for the pants he’d just dropped to the pier after fishing out the foil cutter that he always had in his pocket. It was small but sharp and he could cut through the netting with it. Cathy continued, “We’ll meet you at the beach and will make sure no one’s there when you get out of the water.”
She knows. She knows what I am. How?
He felt the brush of her mind and, for a moment, he was seeing a memory of hers. Moonlight on the cliffs near his home. She was outside, looking down at the water, and she had seen him. He wanted to dive deeper. He wanted to link their minds. Show her what he thought and felt fully for a moment, but he held back. He just felt grateful for what he had now, not what he might have with her later. She’d known and she’d been waiting for him to tell her that he was a Mer. And how, he just had, not in so many words but in enough.
“Great, thanks,” Bex said. The words were so insufficient.
Bex was down to his boxer brief underwear, but he wouldn’t take that off. Unlike the other clothing it wouldn’t impede his swimming. Ned was looking between Cathy and Bex.
“Are we really saying…” Ned began then stopped. He looked sheepishly at Cathy. “I mean, we only talked about it like you and me and we never thought… to say anything to Bex.”
“Now is not the time,” Cathy said. “Right, Bex? You have to go.”
Bex nodded and with one last look at them, he turned and raced down the pier. When he got to the end of it, he dove off. Bex knew what they were seeing. He didn’t dive like a human, but more like a rocket. He speared into the water over twenty feet from the edge of the pier. A human could not do that. He knew his friends had seen it. Yet more to confirm the unspoken truth: I am not human. I am Mer.
The water wrapped him in its familiar embrace. He felt the skin on his sides split open as his gills appeared. Webbing appeared between his fingers. More webbing streamed from his toes, allowing him to move even faster in the water. Even though his mission was grim, he grinned. He always felt a wild freedom in the water and tonight’s freedom was even greater than usual.
His friends knew! They had suspected for a long time. But they knew now and they were helping him. Without question. Without doubt or fear or anything. Just “okay”. Just “how can we help”.
Bex, come back! His father sent, his mind voice frantic.
It was the first time that his father had touched his mind since the House Silvyr Mer had come. It felt like water hitting dry earth. But the creature’s cry was more important. Stopping the Bailey brothers was more important.
No, Dad, I can’t do that, Bex sent.
It’s not what you think! It’s a monster! His mother’s voice joined his father’s.
Bex frowned. He’d been in the creature’s mind and--though alien--he had not sensed evil in it. It was like any other being in trouble. In fact, it felt more innocent than that. Like a child.
It’s doesn’t matter. The Baileys are hurting it. I have to make it stop, Bex said as he continued to shoot through the water.
Bex, you don’t understand! His father’s voice was ragged.
I’m cutting you off, Dad. The other Mer will hear if I don’t, Bex said and did exactly that. Shutting his parents out for the first time. They’d been the ones to always cut off the connection with him as it was agony to do so. But now, he ignored the pain and did it for the sake of all of them.
The Baileys were now only twenty yards ahead. The water was dark, but the silvery moonlight streamed down. His night vision though made that light unnecessary. He could see the bottom of the boat bobbing up and down. He could see the net with something ghostly white and glowing inside of it.
The creature was long, about six feet, and had the sleek body of a dolphin. Except there were long sleek tendrils that streamed off of the head. There looked to be barbs on the end of the tendrils, but most of the tendrils were lashed to the creature’s sides by the net so it couldn’t use them against the Baileys. At least not all of them. He saw the two that were free were zapping upwards towards the two brothers.
“It tried to stick me!” Denny cried, jerking his hand away just as the slender tendril shot out towards it. “Could it be poisonous, Dirk? If it’s poisonous--”
“We should cut the tips off. That’s where the barbs are,” Dirk said and reached back into the boat for something. Bex guessed it was a knife.
Hold on! Bex sent to the creature, connecting their minds as easily as he did with his parents.
It ceased thrashing for a moment and he caught sight of a large silver eye that turned towards him. It was wide with terror and that terror was mirrored in its thoughts.
I’m coming. I’m going to get you out, Bex said and sent the image of the net parting and it being free.
The creature’s fear turned to a cautious joy. But it didn’t respond in words to him. Or rather, it did, but he couldn’t understand them, yet they seemed familiar. And then Bex was there, underneath it. That silver eye widened, but it had stopped thrashing. He opened the foil cutting knife and grabbed the netting, immediately cutting through the strands as fast as he could.
Draw your tendrils down. They’re going to hurt you, Bex told it.
He glimpsed Dirk up above slashing at the two free tendrils. The creature pulled them back down, out of reach.
“It’s not fighting anymore, Dirk!” Denny cried to his brother.
“Let’s haul it up,” Dirk said as he reached down to grab the net with his free hand while still holding onto the knife.
Bex cut faster. A two foot section was cut and the creature twisted in the net to move its head out. It thrust itself through the opening, squeaking in terror, but two feet wasn’t as wide as the middle of its body and it got stuck.
Calm down. Calm down. I’ve almost got it, Bex assured the creature.
Silver eyes fixed on him and it stopped trying in vain to wriggle through. Bex went back to cutting just as the creature was hauled up another few inches. The creature cried out in his head and in his ears.
Running out of time! Running out of time! Bex repeatedly thought.
The creature wriggled and squealed. He cut through six more loops of the net. It shot through the opening before reeling around as soon as the whole of it was through. The Baileys fell back into their boat as the net was suddenly empty and they were still straining with all their might to lift it. The boat bobbed wildly and Bex couldn’t help his grin.
The Baileys on their asses is a sweet sight!
That was when he saw, out of the corner of his eye, the creature swimming back towards the boat at speed.
No! What are you doing?! Bex cried.
The creature slammed into the bottom of the boat. It was fiberglas so it didn’t break but instead the boat popped up out of the water and flipped over. The Baileys were thrown into the water. Bex saw their bodies falling into the deep. Their arms and legs streamed out above them. Bubbles surrounding them as they sank.
The creature tendrils, which had been lying flat against its body suddenly flared out, forming a circle around its head. Each one lit up like there were tiny LED lights which allowed him to clearly see the two-inch barbs that he had just managed to glimpse before. The way the tendril were aiming, Bex knew that they would curl around Dirk or Denny’s body and then thrust into them. There was likely poison in them. The creature intended to kill its tormentors.
Bex saw Dirk’s head jerk towards the creature as he just managed to right himself in the water. Dirk’s eyes went wide as saucers as he caught sight of the creature coming for him.
It’s not what you think! It’s a monster! His mother’s remembered statements came to him then.
Bex dashed between the creature and Dirk. He doubted that Dirk or Denny would recognize him in the dark water. Hopefully, they would think he was the other Mer. He didn’t dare touch their minds at that moment. He had to keep all of his attention on the creature or the Baileys would be dead. He felt the creature’s confusion and anger that he was getting between it and its tormentors.
You can’t kill them! Bex cried. They’re not worth it!
The creature stopped moving forward but its tendrils continued to pulsate. He heard the frantic swimming of the Baileys as they scrambled towards the surface and the overturned boat. Getting up there wouldn’t save them. Even if they managed to clamber up on top of the boat, the creature would be able to capsize them again. Bex had to convince it not to kill them.
The creature’s face was very much like a dolphins, except for the wreath of tendrils and the much larger eyes that were silver. It’s mouth opened and showed fangs too. It sent images of blooming red pain, terror at being caught in the net, the cruelty of the Baileys as the netting lashed its skin, and the knowledge that they intended to hurt it.
I know. I know. They are awful, Bex agreed with it. But killing them would be wrong. You’re not defending yourself now. You’re free!
The creature did not quite understand this. He got the impression that not killing the Baileys would leave an enemy stronghold intact.
No, no, it’s not like that! If you kill a human, more humans will come looking for you. Killing them makes you less safe! Bex explained.
The creature appeared thoughtful. It then sent him a thought of bringing more of its kind--far bigger--to attack the humans.
No! These two are bad, but most aren’t! Bex told it. You mustn’t hurt them.
The tendrils laid flat against its sleek body. It agreed to not hurt them. The skin around the creature’s eyes creased almost as if it were smiling and it bobbed its head up and down, mouth opened, letting out a bright happy sound. It was thanking him. Bex smiled.
I am glad you are all right, Bex told it.
It happily circled him. And then a thought appeared in his head. That he was not like the others.
Like us, the words were uncertain but definite at the same time. Like us!
I’m not sure what you mean. Bex frowned. Not like the humans or--
But he didn’t get a chance to finish that thought as the creature froze in terror. Its silver eyes widened and then it was streaking away from him, away from the island, away from the Baileys. It moved so quickly it seemed as if it disappeared in a blink of an eye. Bex had no idea why until he felt the pressure of the House Silvyr Mer’s mind against his own. Bex whipped around. Not twenty-feet from him the other Mer.
This above all things was what his parents had feared. More than being discovered by their human friends as Mers. Being seen by another Mer was the end in his parents’ minds. And now here he had gone and done it. He had revealed their existence to this Mer.
No, I’ve only revealed mine. I can pretend I’m alone. That I have no family or House or anything. If the Mer are really looking for my parents, they’d be looking for a couple much older than me.
Swimming away would be pointless at this moment. It would just cause the other Mer to be more suspicious, rather than less. No, Bex could ride out this discovery and maybe even turn it to his advantage.
The other Mer swam towards Bex. He was beautiful as all of their kind seemed to be, but even more so in the water. The blond hair surrounded the classically handsome face like a halo. It looked like a mixture of silver and gold under the moonlight. He had a strong jaw and high cheekbones, but there was a softness in the plush mouth and wide blue eyes. His chest was layered with muscles. His long legs seemed to stretch forever. The shift around his waist covered nothing as it floated upwards around his waist. His cock was as well formed as the rest of him. Bex had never seen another Mer like this other than his father. The effect almost stunned him.
But then he felt the other Mer trying to reach his mind and riffle through it. His parents were the only ones that had ever accessed his thoughts, but not like this. It was almost intrusive. It was intrusive. He mentally pushed back against the other Mer. His expression showed his disgust at this violation. He realized that the other Mer’s mind--his name is Elaric--was open almost completely to him.
“They are no secrets among the Mer,” his mother had once told him.
“Oh, there are!” His father had laughed. They are just more carefully hidden. You see, Bex, what you do to hide a secret is offer up so many other things we don’t care about that the real thing you’re trying to keep secret is lost.”
You are a hybrid! Elaric said.
What? No! I’m… Bex stopped himself. He had responded. He should just be swimming away. Let Elaric think he was a hybrid and leave him alone, except that--
You must be. You wear their clothes. Your mind… what is wrong with your mind? Elaric swam towards him. He was only five feet away now. So close that Bex could see the faint luminosity in his blue eyes that some Mer had.
Bex flushed slightly at the thought that he was wearing underwear. Elaric found it distasteful and strange. He suddenly knew that this Mer really didn’t like humans. There was this sense of revulsion from Elaric as he saw even their clothing.
There is nothing wrong with my mind. I just didn’t want you searching through it like you owned the place! Bex retorted.
What House are you? Elaric swam around him, inspecting him.
Bex twisted his head about, following him. None of your business! Why are you here? What House are you?
Elaric stopped swimming in front of him. He actually seemed to puff up his chest as he answered, I am Lord Elaric Silvyr, Scion of House Silvyr. And I am here at the bequest of my parents, the Lord and Lady of the House, to protect these… humans from themselves.
The way he spoke of his parents they were likely some kind of bigwigs in the Mer world, but Bex didn’t know them from Adam! And he didn’t care to. Again, the way he spoke of humans as if he were saying mutants said all that Bex wanted to know about this other Mer.
There is no need for you to be here. As you can see, I am taking care of this island. Bex jerked his head up towards the overturned boat.
Elaric glanced up at the two humans who were clinging to the sides of the capsized boat. Bex wasn’t going to directly save them. That would reveal him and his parents to everyone. He had been planning to go back to shore and anonymously phone in their location to a few local fishermen friends of his father who would go out and get them.
I have been assigned here. No other Mer are to be present, Elaric answered with narrowed eyes.
You know everything that every House is doing? You’re that important? Bex sent those thoughts with a derisive laugh.
You’re a single Mer from a single House. That’s all you are. If you were so important, I highly doubt that you would be here by yourself, Bex scoffed, trying to offend the Mer into leaving.
Those blue eyes narrowed. If I am so insignificant by being assigned here then what are you?
I live here, Bex answered. I protect this place.
Why do you live here? More suspicion boiled in the mental spaces between them.
Because I love it here, Bex answered with a shrug.
Love… are you in love with these--these humans? If Elaric was speaking out loud he would have spit when he said “humans”.
I am. Bex lifted his chin. So I will not let anything happen to them. I need no assistance from you to keep them safe.
This afternoon I had to save--
You took too long! Bex’s anger cut through the water through them and the other Mer’s eyes widened. It is obvious you don’t like humans, that you don’t care to keep them safe, so I am telling you that you can leave.
More narrowed eyes. Only my parents can relieve me of my duty.
Bex’s heart was hammering and he swallowed though that just caused more water to flow over his tongue. Should he tell Elaric to inform his parents about him? He likely would anyways. So why not try to use it to his advantage.
Tell your--your parents that things at Huntingbelle are taken care of and your presence is not needed, Bex’s mind voice was tart.
If the water had not been all around him, the other Mer would have seen him sweating though. Would this work? Would Elaric actually leave?
Elaric said nothing and his thoughts were shadowed. I need to tell them the name of the Mer and the House that is taking care of things here?
Alarm went through Bex. His parents had kept their House’s name on the island because it would mean nothing to the humans and they had doubted any Mer would find out. But Bex knew that he could not tell this Mer their House name. That might trigger people looking for his family.
I have no House. I am alone here, Bex told him. But the people of the island are safe with me. You don’t wish to be here. I can feel that. You only need to tell your parents I am here. They will know that you’re telling the truth and not abandoning this post.
He felt the other Mer’s sudden joy that he tamped down quickly. He was suspicious of Bex, but he was deciding that it didn’t matter. Maybe Bex had secrets, but they weren’t ones that affected him. And Bex was giving him the opportunity to go home, to protect his people. All of this rushed from his mind to Bex’s.
I leave you to it then, Elaric said with a cold smile on his face. Protect the humans.
Elaric then turned and sped off into deeper water, in the same direction that the creature had. Bex stared after the retreating form and felt a wave of joy fill him. The other Mer had left. He didn’t care who Bex was. He had taken Bex’s offer to leave eagerly.
Bex smiled. He won’t be back. We’re safe now.