Dedicated to Melissa Fitzgerald
Words: Demi, Minnie, Badass, Mermaid, Resilient
One of my favorite Demi songs was playing from the radio. Ecstatic, I sing loudly as I drive my car to the park. I was meeting some friends there and I had board games in my backseat to play with them. Really, I just didn’t want to spend more money than I had and since all of us came from dysfunctional families, the park was the safest place to get together. Oh the joys of being a millennial and not being able to afford your own place in this godforsaken state of New York.
Arriving at the park, I park my car in one of the easiest spots. I’m still quite horrible at parking. Getting out of my car, I take some board games from my back seat, and with them in hand, walk over to the stage area. I’m in Patchogue docks, our normal hang out spot. I meet my friends, Brian and Ericka. Ericka is acting particularly strange today. She’s way too talkative and my mind wonders at this. Normally she is very quiet unless prodded to talk.
We all sit down and decide on a game to play. Ericka brings out the Love Letter game she brought back with her on one of her trips. I sometimes get so jealous that she goes on so many trips. Not in a bad way of course, but I wish I could do the same. We never know how she gets her money, with her being only a teaching assistant and all. We play the game. The cards have Renaissance looking art on it and can only have two to four players. It’s an awesome game, but I still think the first one she showed us, one with Japanese symbols, was better.
It’s my turn in the game. I am holding a soldier in my hand and I go to pick up a card. It is the princess. I place my soldier down in front of me and look at Ericka.
“Do you have a princess?” I say.
“Nope” Ericka responds. “Brian it’s your turn.”
Brian takes his turn. I get this gut feeling something is going on. I look at Ericka and her eyes are wandering not only at her cards, but also around her. Something doesn’t seem right. Still, I think of another Demi Lovato song, I mean come on, can’t get more badass than her right? But Ericka now seems terrified. I always thought of her as rather resilient to most things. Alright, maybe not so accurate, because she can be like a marshmallow but resilient nevertheless.
“I’m out,” Ericka says after Brian guesses correctly. “I’ll be right back.”
I nod at this and continue to play the game with Brian. So far, he is losing and since I have the princess in my hand it’s a matter of time before the game is mine. I shouldn’t have been so cocky. He picks up a card and places it in front of him and points at me. I look at the card and it is the prince. I can’t even!
“You win Brian,” I say and get up. “I’m going to go check on Ericka.”
“Alright, I’ll come with you,” Brian says and gets up.
I nod at this wishing he would just leave me alone for the time being. His past history with me was rather ridiculous. Still, he has gotten better and perhaps if Ericka got in trouble he could be useful.
There weren’t many places to hide, so how Ericka did that was beyond me. We find her in a corner of the beach. It was a brilliant hiding spot, so out in the open and yet, no one would look there. It was part of the landscape. Walking over to her, my throat caught as I saw what she was holding.
“Ericka? What is that?” Brian asked.
Ericka looks at Brian and then me, then back at the monstrosity that looks like a mutated human fish. Was that a mermaid?
“You can’t tell anyone about this,” Ericka said.
“How’d you find it?” I asked, curious.
“The water washed it ashore. I tried to bring it back to life, but it’s not working. Anyway, there are gold pieces in its stomach lining.”
I want to throw up. Was Ericka suggesting what I thought she was?
“You’re not serious about that are you?” Brian asked the question I couldn’t.
“Why not? Our student loans would be paid off and it’s better than whoring ourselves out,” Ericka replied. “Besides, if we report this, we will never see this creature again. Scientists will be all over it, dissecting it, studying it, these mermaid things will never have any privacy ever again!”
This is extremely immoral but in my mind, she did have a point. I look at the hideous gray creature. Maybe we could bring it back to life? What would Demi do?
“Have you tried everything?” I asked.
Ericka nods. “I looked up all the rescue maneuvers for fish online. Tried to even find what species this is, but it isn’t listed. We should probably get out of here quick though. Anyone bring a backpack?”
All of us shake our heads. Ericka looks at the creature she cradles in her arms. Then she looks at Brian.
“Brian, let me borrow your shirt?” She asks quickly.
“Are you kidding me? No way!”
“It’s only for right now and I’ll buy you a new one.”
After they bicker with each other for a few minutes, Brian relents and takes off his flannel shirt. He wears a t-shirt underneath. I never will understand why he wears so much damn flannel, but I won’t ever ask him that. Ericka wraps the gray thing in the shirt and holds it in her arms like a baby. A genius move, in my opinion.
We all get into Ericka’s car. Neither me nor Brian wanted that thing in our respective cars. Ericka unwraps the gray body and we take a closer look. This gray mass looks like it had a mermaid tail and a human top half that seems male. Looking at its head I see the eyes are closed, and gold came from its stomach and around its tail. Even its hair is gray mixed with gold. Was this thing truly dead? Was this thing truly a mermaid? It just occurred to me that I never screamed and I put my hand over my mouth. Screaming wouldn’t do any good now.
“I’ve tried everything, even throwing it back in the water, but the thing just sunk,” Ericka explained.
I nod and so does Brian. None of us knew what to do in this scenario. If throwing a fish creature back in the water didn’t work, what was there to be done? I still didn’t like Ericka’s idea of cutting all the gold off of it though. It seemed way too barbaric to me. There had to be something else we could do.
“Why don’t we run a hose over it?” Brian suggested.
Ericka shakes her head. Brian and I just look at her. We wait for her to explain.
“I know it seems horrible but we should just get rid of this thing and pretend we never saw it,” she explained.
“I will never be able to un-see this,” Brian admitted.
I had to agree with him. This was certainly not your average thing to see. How could any of this be explained? Then before any of us could even blink, Ericka cut the body with a knife she seemed to pull out of nowhere. She cut the gold pieces off the body and handed a piece to each of us until it was divided evenly. This time I couldn’t help but scream and then Brian covered my mouth with his clean hand.
“I’m sorry,” he said and pulled his hand away after I bite him while in panic mode.
“I understand,” I replied.
We both look at Ericka. Did she officially snap? Was my major going to be put to use before my eyes? She smiled at us.
“I’m gonna get rid of the body but now you have gold. Kiss student loans goodbye!”
Five years later, all of our student loans had been paid off. We were extremely well off. Ericka had stopped taking trips but she never said why. I had a successful publishing company and I counseled patients on the side. Brian became a successful teacher and moved to another state. All this prosperity wasn’t to last however.
One day, I was walking along Patchogue docks, and I came to same spot I found Ericka in five years ago. Instead of a dead gray creature, I saw a gold one with gray. I never did find out what Ericka did to the original body. I pick up this golden creature and it appears dead. I place it back in the water to see if it would be revived. After a few minutes, I take it out of the water when it was way too evident that it was not coming back to life. Taking my jacket off, I wrap it around the creature and carry it to my car. I didn’t want to repeat the same barbarism that Ericka had done five years ago, so I just look at the creature. I wonder if handing this mermaid looking thing to the authorities would be the right idea. Instead, I quickly text Ericka and told her to meet me where I was.
“What’s up?” Ericka said when she finally got here. I pointed into the backseat of my car. She looked and understood immediately. Then she turned to me.
“I’m not cutting this one up,” she said.
“I’m not asking you to, I just want to know what this damn thing is,” I said exasperated.
“Good question,” She responded. “I have no idea.”
At that moment, the creature coughs up a piece of paper. Ericka and I jump. What was going on? I honestly thought the creature was dead. Ericka, braver than me, picks up the piece of paper it coughed up. Even through the slime she reads the directions.
“These directions are to Dowling College,” Ericka stated.
“What? I don’t believe you. Gimme that,” I said and it ripped it out of her hands.
Sure enough, that is where the directions led. My eyes widen in disbelief and I look at Ericka.
“I can’t even,” I said and she nods her head in agreement. “This is snafu.”
“Well, let’s go there,” Ericka said.
I nod and this time we take my car. At the abandoned college, both of us wonder why nothing was ever done to it and we walk the grounds. Security was no longer there. It was a ghost town compared to when we completed our undergrads there. The directions lead us to what used to be Racanelli Hall. The building had been taken down so we stood there in confusion since nothing was there. I see a switch and push it.
The ground we were standing on starts to descend. Waving my arms for balance, I try to steady myself but didn’t think to move out of the way before it was too late. Ericka shared the same fate as me. Suddenly I wish I wasn’t in my work clothes, but at least I have sneakers on, which is rare for me. As we descend, we both stand closer together wondering what the hell was going on. Finally, the ride stopped and we were face to face with a group of people in Hazmat suits. Ericka and I look at each other and then at them.
“Welcome,” one of the people from the group said.
It was hard to tell which one said it. There were so many and the visors on the suits had a black tint. This was like being in a science fiction movie that I wanted no part of.
“This way please,” one of the people with the hazmat suit says and most of them part to make a pathway.
Ericka and I follow what seems to be the Hazmat leader down the makeshift pathway. We came up to a door labeled biohazard. Okay? Stepping through the door, I came face to face with Demi Lovato. Wait, what?
“Are you seriously Demi?” I asked.
Excitement takes over my fear and clouds my judgement.
“I am,” she says.
“I’ve always wanted to meet you. This is so exciting!”
“That’s cool,” Demi says indifferent.
Wait. Something was wrong. This couldn’t be the real Demi. No way! I didn’t have to wait long. One of the hazmat suit people presses something on her back and she literally shuts down.
“This way please,” another hazmat suit person says to me and leads the way somewhere else.
I truly look around me. Surrounded by tubes of those mermaid looking creatures, my heart drops and my throat is dry. Ericka is standing next to me, also terrified. What was going on?
“You have questions,” says one of the hazmat suit people.
“What’s going on?” Ericka beat me to the question.
One of the hazmat people takes Ericka by the arm. She tries to fight being grabbed but with no success. They tie her to a chair near a control terminal that I had only just noticed. I froze not sure what to do as they started poking and prodding her with needles. One of the other hazmat suit people restrains me before I could even blink. I watch as Ericka is turned into one of those fish creatures and I was next.