I watch dad as he works over the grill. The headless fish sizzle on the bars, and I almost drool at the sight.
“These few are almost done. Do you ladies think we will need more?” My father asks us in his usual happily light tone.
“I don't think…”
“Yes please” I say cutting off my mother, knowing this hunger requires more.
She looks at me with confused eyes. “Are you sure?”
“The night time swim just made me really hungry,” I tell them with a smile. Hoping they will buy it.
“Well grab the plate from the fridge. It should be wrapped in tin foil.” He tells me, and I quickly skip along.
Once I get to the fridge, my nose the fish before I even open the door. With plate in hands, the urge to eat is so over powering that one is down my throat before I even realize.
Once realization hits, I look around. Pleading silently that no one is around. 'No.' Relief! That is mine.
My heart races, and I realize that this isn’t going to be easy. The creature took over in that second of weakness, and the hunger still needs to be fed.
'Take another fish.' I hear a thought that isn't mine.
'No, I can wait for the ones on the grill'. I silently argue back.
Wrapping the plate tightly, in the hopes that the smell will be nulled.
Nothing. My heightened senses still able to be reached. Thankfully the hunger isn't as severe, and I manage to make it back without losing control.
“What took you so long?” My father asks, referring to my extension of a relatively short trip.
I pause, thinking quickly for an answer far from the reality.
“I had to pee. Sorry to much liquids today,” I tell him like everything is fine.
“You two make your plates, and I'll go ahead and finish these few.” He motions to the table only a few feet away.
Mom and I head over, and I mount my plate with fish three times as normal. Only managing to get a few curious looks from my parents, as they observe my behavior.
“You must be about to hit a growth spurt squirt.” Dad says as he brings the rest of the fish to the table.
“She is due one.” Mom says siding with dad, and I just want this conversation to end.
“Topic change. How about next weekend. Are we still heading the aquarium,” I say referring to our annual family trip.
I have always loved the sea, and that includes all its inhabitants. So naturally, the aquarium is my favorite place.
“We should really stop by that shop I like so much. What is the name again?” Mom asks as dad chimes in. “Bennie's antiques, I think.”
“It is” I say aloud, glad to feel somewhat normal in this moment.
Once the meal is through, I find myself heading off to bed. The day thus far ready to come to an end for me.
“Where are you headed squirt?” Mom asks me before I make it out of the kitchen.
“I'm exhausted, I’m thinking about calling it quits for the night.” I tell her, and she seems to be satisfied with my answer.
“Well I guess it's goodnight then.” She says, deciding to give me a hug before I head off.
Without much thought, I fall fast asleep.
Turning on my Pandora, I decide to choose a station playing Florence. Her song radiates as I find my perfect shower temp. Finally settling on one that is oddly cooler then my used liking
Getting in, it sends a chill down my spine. One of pleasure instead of shock. I notice quickly something off about my breathing. Feeling my neck in find out the reason.
Gills run down the outer front of my neck. Freaking out I jump out, to marvel at the sight. This creature couldn't have changed my body, could it?
But indeed, it is true. Checking myself in the mirror, I notice them flare with each breath. I feel the small slips in my flesh, but quickly pull back in shock. My heart races as I hear my mother call. 'She can't see me like this,' I think quick, and jump back behind the safety of the curtain.
“Is everything okay?” She asks through the door.
“I'm fine, the shampoo just fell.” I say, coming up with a simple lie. 'What she doesn't know won't hurt her.'
I wait a moment, making sure she's gone, before letting out a breath I didn't know I was holding.
Once I am dry and in front of my makeup table, I search for gills that no longer reside where they did once before. 'Strange.' I know I saw them before, but why not now? Maybe they only come when they are needed? ‘Hungry!’ I hear a voice shout from within, and realize it must be the creature again.
Now in realization of how empty my stomach feels, I venture downstairs to find something to eat.
I lay on the beach, and watch all the people around wonder in and out of the deep blue abyss ahead of me. My skin craves kisses of the waves, but for some reason it doesn’t feel safe. The eyes around me make me squirm. I decide to find a spot to swim away from everyone. My secret spot.
I find the cave I love so much, and decide to strip my cover off. Once I jump into the salty water, I notice an odd tingle come across my skin. Even more so on my legs, and when I look down, awe takes over. 'A tail?' My legs slowly morph into an iridescent tail of purple and blue colors. Small fins come out on either side of my hips, and one at the end that curves and flows elegant like silk under water.
I breath, and feel my gills out again. My senses new, my body, even my soul. I have been reborn, and it feels invigorating.
Like I said, all I've done since the fire is run.
And here I was running again, sprinting down a side street with my pursuers close behind. They shouted obscenities at me, threatening to burn me at the stake or how they'd throw me in the river with rocks tied to my feet. Spurred on by fear...