72 HOURS: Strange Love Meets Weird Science - Day 3

My transformation into a mermaid was two thirds complete. In just 24 more hours the state-of-the-art synthetic mermaid tail I'd GLOO'd myself into would be a permanent part of me + there'd be no going back!

Not that I would ever want to. This had been my deepest desire ever since I was a little boy; and each time my mermaid-worshiping fiance asked if I was sure about going through with such an irreversible change my answer was a resounding YES!!

While I realized even the fanciest fake mermaid tail wouldn't really turn me into the mythological creature I'd always dreamed of being, I knew I'd be very happy living as the closest thing that reality would allow...

But unbeknownst to me & Greg, impossible changes were occurring within my body that would merge reality with dreams + make our strange fantasies far more real than either of us had dared hope...

72 HOURS: Strange Love Meets Weird Science (meets GLOO!)
Laika Pupkino - 2018
Part 3 of Four

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DAY THREE:

Yesterday I'd awoken to find our bed empty, while my fiance was off preparing me a breakfast in bed fit for a princess. This morning I was the first to wake up, nestled in Greg's arms as he snored gently a few inches from my face. Greg's snoring used to be much louder, but the 40 pounds he'd lost over the past five months has had the unexpected benefit of turning down the volume on his snoring to a catlike purr.

Or not quite catlike, more like a large asthmatic cheetah; but it was no longer making me startle awake in the middle of the night thinking a 737 was about to plow into the house! Or those times when it didn't wake me all the way up but found its way into my dreams, like the one where I was lost in a howling snowstorm-

Wait... Had I had the howling-snowstorm dream again last night?!

No, I realized as caught a clearer image of that fleeting moment from my dream. Because it hadn't been snow that had been swirling around me but a galaxy of tiny black specks. And it had all taken place in an eerie unnatural silence.

At least until those weird buzzing voices started speaking to me, like ten thousand Stephen Hawkingses chanting in unison, telling me...

Something. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't remember a word of what they'd said, only that whatever those voices that should've scared the crap out of me were saying had filled me with a wonderful, grateful feeling; the same feeling that the dream I'd awoken from yesterday had left me with. It might have even been the same dream, but since I could recall even less about that one I couldn't be sure...

The clock on the wall said eighteen after six.
25 Hours, 22 Minutes...

And now the dream feeling was fading away, but it was still a beautiful morning with a lot to be grateful for: My beautiful new tail. Our beautiful house. That beautiful lagoon surround by lush tropical vegetation I could see through our bedroom's sliding glass door. This beautiful loving relationship I was in; the first one I'd been in that wasn't seriously problematic in some way.

But what definitely wasn't beautiful was this rank odor I was smelling, which I figured had to be me even before I sniffed the hairless concavity of my armpit; and it was...

I couldn't recall the last time I'd gone this long without a bath or a shower; it was disgusting! And even if I could stand myself for another whole day poor Gregory shouldn't have to put up with a stinky mermaid!

Because Greg and I were being extra careful about getting my tail wet before the GLOO! holding it to me had completely dried, we'd agreed that about the best bath I'd be able to give myself during these 72 hours would be to wipe myself down with a damp sponge. But looking down at where my human skin disappeared under the tail's scales I realized this was the only place where water could possibly get into it; which gave me an idea that would reduce the risk of this happening to almost zero...

I quietly scooted over the side of the bed and climbed into my wheelchair- a maneuver I was already getting fairly good at. Mist was rising from the hot tub out on the patio right next to the pool. This was a good sign. Greg had turned it on in anticipation of us using it on Monday, and however much its water had heated up since last night it would certainly be warmer than what would come out of the garden hose this early in the day.

I rolled into the kitchen and with some difficulty managed to grab the white plastic cleaning bucket and a heavy black 50 gallon trash bag from the cabinet under the sink, then made my way back to our bedroom, where as quietly as I could I searched Greg's side of the bedroom's dresser, looking for that Ace bandage he used to wrap his messed up knee with back when I'd first met him. I really hoped he hadn't thrown it...

When he'd consolidated all the dresser's contents into one side I was afraid Greg might be sacrificing space he needed for my benefit, but his four drawers weren't even close to being overcrowded. For a man of considerable means he really didn't own a lot of stuff.

And it wasn't that he was some ascetic or super-frugal by nature; when he needed a new suit or a better washing machine he'd spring for a really nice one. It was more a matter of the one thing Greg wanted in life seeming so impossible that all the toys that rich people usually covet seemed like shitty consolation prizes. Which led him to spend most of his free time living his impossible dream vicariously, by writing and reading stories in which mermaids were something real; although not quite as much now that he'd found his dream girl-

Ah, here they are! Not just one Ace bandage but two of them, down in the big bottom drawer that seemed mostly full of charity swag; tee shirts and tote bags emblazoned with the logos of PBS, the Red Cross, Cancer Society, Humane Society, etc. (so apparently sending regular donating to these organizations was something else he did with his money...). I also found a couple of Swedish magazines with women in garish makeup and cheap looking mermaid tails on the cover; that I had to look through to confirm that yes, apparently there really is such a thing as mermaid porn. Their tails were about the crummiest ones I'd ever seen, but since these periodicals seemed to date from the 1980's the pornographers probably had to figure out how to construct one from scratch.

Flipping through them I almost laughed out loud; and I knew I would have to start teasing Greg about them in a Swedish-mermaid accent the next time we made love...

I dropped the two rolled-up bandages in my bucket, went into the bathroom and grabbed my shampoo, soap and conditioner; then remembered it was time to take my pills.

I rolled over to the sink and began working the lever that elevated my chair. I had to marvel at my friend Rae's mechanical ingenuity: The one-way socket-wrench-type lever spinning the axle that disappeared under the seat, which spun a gear with a bicycle chain around it that turned a smaller gear below it, which rotated a worm screw that pushed the base of the bottommost "X" of the scissor lift assembly inward, forcing it and the two X's on top of it upright and raising my seat...

One day at work Rae had asked me how I planned to get around on land once my tail was a permanent part of me. I told her I guessed I'd have to use a wheelchair, like the mermaid Lori Lemaris did in the comic books; And she suggested a certain brand of electric one that could go 100 miles between rechargings.

Rae seemed surprised that I didn't want a powered chair. I said that to me motorized ones are for people who are so disabled they can't use their arms to move their chair around. She disagreed, saying they were for anyone smart enough to not want to make unnecessary work for herself, so I asked her why she'd want to walk around Yoyodyne's twelve acre campus instead of just riding her segway.

“Sometimes I do ride it,” she said.

“But would you want to if the only way you could was to have it permanently attached to you, like a damned cyborg?!”

“No, I guess not. But I did always want to grow up to be Inspector Gadget when I was a kid.”

So then she started asking me questions about what kind of manual chair I would want: What type of tires, how wide a wheelbase, sidepull or clincher brakes... Which probably should have tipped me off that she was planning to build this one for me. She kept trying to load our hypothetical wheelchair up with an onboard navigation computer and all sorts of other devices; and now I was glad that I'd said no to anything that was electric, since I was planning on going outside and dumping water all over myself-

Suddenly the hand lever wouldn't ratchet anymore, and I realized my chair was as high as it would go. I was way higher than I needed to be to get my pills, and instead of my face what I mostly saw in the mirror on the medicine cabinet's door was-

HOLY SHIT!!

My breasts looked like they might be just a smidge bigger than they were 24 hours ago, or maybe not. But what there was not the slightest doubt about was how large my nipples were! Or not so much the nipples themselves---although they were a bit plumper---but the disks of flesh they poked up from.

Unless his hormones are seriously out of whack the areolas of a man's nipples tend to be much smaller than a woman's; and yesterday---despite taking female hormones for the past four months---mine had been depressing male looking; not much bigger around than the nipples they surrounded. I'd been looking forward to them getting larger as my “girl pills” kicked in...

But I hadn't expected it to occur overnight- growing from the diameter of a dime to bigger than a Kennedy half-dollar in just eight hours!

While this was a welcome development it was kind of worrisome because it didn't seem possible, and if they kept growing at this rate it wouldn't be long before they were so huge they were freaky looking!

Should I schedule a doctor's appointment about this? Try to look up any instances of this happening to someone on line? Or just wait to see what they were like tomorrow?

I lowered my chair enough to grab my pills and washed one down with a half a glass of water. It couldn't have been these 2 mg Estradiols that had done this to me. Even if I took a handful of them hormone pills don't work this quickly outside of bad transgender fiction.

Could the fact that they'd gotten irritated on Friday have caused this? That didn't seem likely either...

The one thing I was sure about was that I still stunk and still needed a bath. I plopped my soap, shampoo and conditioner into the bucket on my lap, returned to the bedroom and slid the outside door open, and was halfway through it when I heard Greg yawn.

“Morning! What are you doing?”

“I was gonna try to take a bath.”

“Outside?!”

“I didn't want to get the bathroom floor all wet. I'm using water from the hot tub.”

“That's smart. What were you screaming about in there?”

“Nothing bad, it's just my... Come outside where the light's good and I'll show you.”

“Let me go poop first,” he said, and as I went outside he lumbered off toward the bathroom.

Our hot tub was a big redwood barrel that could seat four people, half of it jutting out over the lagoon on pilings like a little pier. I park next to it, hunched forward in my chair, unfurled the bandages and tied them into a single long one, then I folded the big polyethylene bag into a six inch wide belt that I wrapped around the top of my tail and the inch or so of skin just above it.

I was wrapping the extra-long elastic band tightly around myself when I heard Greg's voice, “You could've just GLOO'd that bag in place. We still have plenty of GLOO! and solvent.”

“I didn't want to open a whole new tube for just a ten-minute job,” I said, “This should be good enough for taking a bucket bath, I'm getting this bag cinched to me pretty tight.”

“Don't give yourself bruises making it too tight. It's been two days, I think we're well past the main danger period here.”

I tied the ends of the bandage into a bow and looked up. I was surprised to see that he wasn't wearing the pajama bottoms he'd been lounging around in since Friday, but actual clothes: Khaki shorts and a shirt with a pattern of kelp fronds and mermaids in hues that were rather understated for a Hawaiian shirt. He had on desert boots and was even wearing his watch.

“Going someplace?”

“Just into town to pick up a Sunday Times. But do you need a hand with that first?” he asked as he loped across the patio toward me.

“Maybe, but what I do need is your opinion on something. Notice anything different about me?”

He looked me slowly up and down, frowning until his eyes fell on my nipples. “Wow! Where'd you get those? Are those the self-adhering kind?”

“In a sense. So what do you think?”

“Very nice! It's incredible how real they look,” he marveled as he leaned in to inspect them. He ran his thumb over the areola around my left nipple, palpating the spongy flesh until the nipple itself stood up at attention. “Wait a minute! These are you?!”

“I think so...”

“But how?!”

“'How' any of the changes I've gone through in the last 48 hours?! My improved skills as a fellatrix... my tail so getting so sensitive, and right down to the end where I shouldn't be able to feel anything... I'm starting to think everything Rae told me about GLOO! is true.”

He rolled his eyes. “Your little 'nanite' buddies...”

“Have you got a better theory?” I asked as I scooped up a bucketful of hot tub water.

“No, but that doesn't mean there isn't one. Here, I'll do this,” he said, grabbing the bucket from me and dumping it over my head. “How's this water? Warm enough?”

“It's fine, give me another.”

As he did he said, “I can't deny you seem to be changing physically. But there's a big flaw in this whole nanomachine theory. Let's suppose there is such a thing as nanites. They're in some tube of GLOO sitting in the store, that anyone can buy for anything they want to glue; even normal stuff like fixing a lamp. But let's say it's you, putting on this tail. Or your fox friend with her fox ears and such. Or someone who wants to turn himself into a Martian...

“There probably is somewhere,” I said as he doused me again.

“So then how do the nanites know what to do? Nobody's programmed them, and they're not going to know what a mermaid or a fox or a Martian is. How do they know to do one thing, and not something else?”

“That's a very good question. And I have no idea. But they sure seem to know what I want.”

“They do at that,” he said, and poured another bucketful on me, “Just tell me when to stop here...”

“Stop!” I said after the fifth bucket of warmish water splashed down over me.

I squeezed some of my shampoo into my hair, lathered it up, and had Greg rinse it with another five buckets. I worked a little conditioner into it and while my skin was still wet I soaped up my human half. My tail might need to be washed at some point (the instruction book recommended dish soap and a cellulose sponge) but this morning it was still brand new and perfectly clean. Greg doused me with another seven or eight buckets to rinse me clean. “Hows that? We done here?”

“Almost,” I said, “But I'm kind of a fanatic about getting every last bit of shampoo and conditioner out of my hair. And I think the best way to do that would be to just hang off the patio and dunk my whole head underwater.”

“Aren't you afraid you'll fall in?”

“I won't if you hold me.”

The patio ended at a row of big river rocks along the lagoon's meandering edge. Two stones that were taller and skinnier than the others had a person-sized gap between them, where ladder rungs were bolted to the lagoon's side (eight meters away was a bathtub sized sloping bay-thing that I could wriggle up out of; but I needed this more vertical pool exit for what I was doing). I slipped out of my chair and crawled like a commando to the gap, inching forward until I was mostly out over the water. While holding myself up by the ladder's top rung I had Greg straddle me then sit down on my butt.

I let go of the ladder and was able to submerge myself to just past my ribcage. I worked my fingers all through my hair for a minute or two, then grabbed the rung and raised myself up.

Greg shifted his weight on me. “Let's get you out of there-”

“Hang on! I need to go back under for a bit.”

“Again? I think your hair's rinsed about as clean as it can get.”

“I know, but I need to try something. An experiment. Remember when I was going down on you yesterday, and you were amazed at how long I could go without breathing?”

He chuckled lewdly. “I won't be forgetting that anytime soon!”

“Well I want to see if how that ability might translate into being able to hold my breath for... for the mermaid thing. That watch you're wearing has a second hand, right?”

“Just a sec,” he said, and made his watch go beep a few times. “There, now it's a stopwatch. So how long you gonna try to stay under for?”

“I really have no idea. Just sit there and time me, and if you start to worry tap me on the back. If do this-” I held my arm out beside me and made a waggling a thumbs-up gesture, “-leave me under. If I don't, then pull me out immediately.”

“Maybe it would be safer if you just tried holding your breath up here.”

“Except a person can actually do it longer when their head is submerged. I think they call it the 'dive reflex'- where the body sort of goes into energy-saver mode. Are you ready?”

“I can't say that I'm crazy about this, but say when.”

“Okay, NOW!” I said, and let go of the ladder.

I hung there limply, staring down at the lagoon's concrete floor. It was adobe colored, and textured in an attempt to make it look more like a lake bed than the smooth bottom of a swimming pool. I was glad that the water in here wasn't too highly chlorinated. Besides looking beautiful, the waterfall kept the lagoon's water constantly circulating, and an aggressive filtration system that it passed through on its way up through the mountain also kept algae from proliferating.

I hung suspended between two worlds. The warm mass of Greg's butt pinning me to the patio was an oddly pleasant sensation, but this weightless buoyancy my top half was enjoying had me wishing I could just drop all the way in and go mermaid-ing around through the crystal clear medium I'd always felt so at home in.

I wondered how long I'd been underwater. It couldn't have been too long; If Greg had growing anxious up there I think I would've been able to tell...

My mind drifted back to the day when the concept of “being a mermaid” made the dizzying jump from mere stories at a fiction site or our lovely weekends of role play to potentially becoming a reality that I'd never have to relinquish. It was late afternoon, and we were here in the backyard, lounging on a pair of chaise lounges next to the smaller rectangular pool he'd had then. I couldn't recall what we'd been talking about, but I sure remembered Greg dropping that mind-blowing proposition on me...

“Move in with you? You mean here?! Seriously?!?”

“Well certainly not frivolously. You know how I am. I've been weighing the pros and cons of this for a week; and I couldn't really find any cons. Not from my end of it. And I can't see much sense in you having to shell out $800 a month for that tiny place when there's just me here, and so much room. This is way too much house for one person. You come here every chance you get as it is, and we both love it when you do...”

“I know, and both hate it when I have to leave. But it would be one hell of a commute from here to Irvine and back every day!”

“Then quit.”

“I don't think I could find anything local that I'd like nearly as much as this job at Yoyodyne. That dry cleaner's on State Street always seems to have the 'Help Wanted' sign up, but there's probably a good reason for that.”

“You working there would be a serious waste of your talent!”

“Talent? Would that be my mad typing skillz, or that I can always get the copy machine unstuck when the paper gets jammed up? Or is it being such a whiz at putting people on hold,” I said with a button-pushing gesture.

“Your talent! You're a damned good writer!”

Someone went tap! tap! tap! on the small of my back. It was the other Greg; The one in the real world who was making sure I didn't drown. I gave him a thumbs up and returned to my reminiscing...

“My writing's sure not going to pay the rent,” I told Memory Greg, “Mermaid fiction isn't exactly a top seller on Amazon Kindle.”

“You wouldn't have any rent to pay here. Didn't you tell me you wished you could just write all the time? Or get back into painting?”

“Those are just dumb dreams!”

“Dreams aren't dumb!” he said adamantly, and then realized: “Or no, I guess some are. I'm not gonna quarterback for the Cowboys at my age. But yours aren't! And what about your other dream? Your big one?!”

“That one's even less realistic! People don't turn themselves into mermaids!”

“Nobody turned themselves into the opposite sex---that wasn't 'realistic'---until fifty or sixty years ago when that gal went over to Denmark and had it done! And now transgender people are doing it every day... But I sure don't have to tell you that!”

“You want me to be the Christine Jorgensen of mermaids?”

“It's not what I want! Or I mean it is, but not unless you'd want to. Which I'm pretty sure you do, when you say things: 'It's so damned depressing having to take this tail off and go back to being a human on Monday...' And it's like you're this- Well I won't say a whole different person---you're still the same 'you'---but you really come alive as a mermaid, in a way you don't in that so-called real life. You're just so much more... uh-” He gestured vaguely, as if trying to pluck the word he was looking for out of the air; finally just saying, “Well you must've noticed it too...”

“Oh I have,” I sighed, “It's like part of me is missing. Like I'm not quite real somehow!”

“Then why not let yourself be real? Why should who you are have to keep on being just a dream; When nothing would make me happier than to help make it come true? You know I love you being a mermaid as much as you love being one...”

“And do what? Just let you support me?!”

“Hey, what else am I gonna spend my money on? I've never wanted a $300,000 car or a $3000 watch; and I got wanting to see Tahiti and Rome, the Pyramids and Uluru out of my system when I was in my thirties; when I finally realized I'm really just a homebody. Being able to spend time with you makes me happier than anything I can think of.”

“But I'd feel like a sponge, a parasite!”

“That's absurd! A parasite takes and doesn't give anything back. What you give me can't be weighed or measured, and nobody has ever been able to put a price tag on it; but it's the most valuable, most perfect thing there is. Unless you can honestly tell me you don't love me...”

I looked into his eyes. Saw my love, admiration and respect for him magnified and reflected back at me; unconditional and total. And I loved how when he looked at me he didn't see a deluded boy in a silly fake tale who thought he was a mermaid, he saw a beautiful mermaid who just happened to have been born a boy. I told him, “I could never say that. But I don't want to get your hopes up and then back out later when I come to my senses. So for now I'll just say-”

The other Greg tapped on my back again. I waved him away irritably.

Memory Greg nodded. “I wouldn't expect you to say yes right now. Think about it, and tell me when you can. Next week, next month, next year... I swear I won't rush you. Or I'll try not to.”

“All right, I'm definitely thinking about it. And I must be certifiably crazy, wanting to turn myself into something that doesn't even exist! But you know what a hold this mermaid thing has on me! Although to be one this far from the ocean seems sort of strange. I mean they do call this part of the state the 'Inland Empire'!”

“Well we do have a pretty big sea.”

“It's two feet deep and it's drying up, with San Diego getting all the water that used to go into it.”

“Then I'll build you an ocean.”

“I don't think you have that much money.”

“Or at least a pretty good size lagoon. This is a big yard here.”

I knew Greg liked old movies, and from his smile I could tell he knew which one I was paraphrasing when I said, “Tell you what: If you build it, I will come!”

At the time I figured we were just spinning a beautiful fantasy, that our finding-a-genie-bottle magnitude wishes might somehow become reality. Little did I realize he was already surveying the yard around us and imagining how it could be turned into our own private theme park...

I grinned, “Okay for the sake of argument, let's say-”

Suddenly some great unseen thing grabbed me, and for a terrible disoriented second I didn't know if it was a giant octopus or Slender Man or WHAT, as real-world Greg dragged me none-too-gently out of the water.

Realizing where I was and what I'd been attempting I cried: “What'd you do that for?!”

Looking like he was almost in tears, Greg held his watch up accusingly, “You were under there for thirteen minutes and twenty seconds!”

“Really?! That's some kind of record, isn't it?”

“That's IMPOSSIBLE!” he roared.

[Which it actually wasn't, I discovered when I consulted Wikipedia later. A diver had set a record of 22 minutes in 2012; but he'd saturated his body with oxygen by breathing pure O2 for a half hour beforehand. My 13 minutes was a record for non-oxygenated diving, by well over a minute...]

I grinned. “I think I can go a lot longer! I'm not even breathing hard...”

“But wait until tomorrow, please!” he gasped, “And don't hurt yourself just trying to prove something... “Oh God! I need to catch my breath now!”

“This isn't about setting records or trying to get famous for some freaky thing I can do- I'm not the damn Bunnylove Twins! It's about me finding out, for me: What all these changes mean, what I can do, and if it's not nanites then what the hell is it? And I'm not gonna try to stay under any longer than I'm comfortable with. Or not much, ” I promised.

He breathed a sigh of relief. “Okay. I trust your judgment...”

“Now let's get these damn bandages off me. My girdle is killing me!”

My skin had a fabric pattern impressed into it where the tightly wound bandages had extended past the rolled up polyethylene bag, but they'd done their job. There was no moisture at all around the top edge of my tail, and its scales didn't look any worse for having been squished in like that. And it felt so good to be clean!

I dropped the soppy wad of bandages into the bucket. Rattled the dripping bag at Greg. “This is still usable.”

“It can dry off on Mr. Tiki Guy here,” he said, and slipped it over the glowering 4-foot tall grey granite Easter Island head rising from the edge of the nearest patch of landscaping. “So what do you want to do now? How about we get one of those breakfast specials at the Indian casino?”

“I know what I want to do,” I said, gazing at the waterfall pouring into our lagoon, “That little dip I had was just a tease!”

“If you want to go in that bad, do it. You should be okay by now. That whole waiting-72-hours was just us being extra cautious.”

“No, I'm gonna be strong and stick to the plan. What time is it anyway?”

“A little after nine,” he said. (23 HOURS to go...)

“I can wait,” I shrugged, “For now I'll just look at it. Take a roll around the lake.”

“I'll join you. Which way we going?” he asked, indicating the two ends of the paving stone walkway that started where the patio stopped and made a circuit of the whole backyard.

“Counterclockwise,” I said, pointing toward the trailhead on the right. The walkway followed the edge of the lagoon for a while then veered off between two tiny hills that sported ferns and jade plants and various other types of jungle foliage. The scenery to our right ended at our new 10-foot redwood fence, which totally blocked our view of the property next door, and vica versa.

Whoever lived in that big Tudor-style house at the center of their two acre lot would be able to see the top of our fake mountain and our palm trees sticking up, and if I was them I'd be curious as hell about what other crazy shit we might have back here; but they were never home. Probably because they owned several houses elsewhere. Quite a few of the residents of Jacinto Springs had fortunes that made Greg's few million dollars seem like chump change...

The walkway passed through a miniature bamboo grove---where a stone Buddha as big as a person sat meditating beside a koi pond---then emerged into sunlight and the grassy hillock that had our three palm trees rising from it, with enough room left over for two picnic tables and a charcoal grill on a post for cooking burgers or whatever. Hidden behind the little hill was a plain dirt area that Greg hadn't decided what to do with yet, and then the back fence.

Across the rear half of the lagoon we could see one end of the house poking out from around that fake mountain that rose out of the water like an island. Its backside didn't have a waterfall but did have a water slide cast into its fake stone surface, with a little flip at the bottom that would send you flying out over the water. I couldn't wait to try it!

“My God,” I laughed, “The gaggle from work are gonna freak when they see our place!”

“That's right, we were going to invite those girls from your old job over. All the ones you told the real truth about you 'going to live in Hawaii'... When did you want to do that?”

“I'm thinking this Saturday. I'll call Rae and she can tell the others,” I said.

“Saturday sounds good. I really need to meet these girlfriends of yours! They sound a whole lot nicer than that bunch from your old transgender-support group, who had a damned peculiar notion of what the word support means,” he said bitterly, “The way they treated you!”

I shook my head. “But it's like Sara, Mary, Kellie and all them can afford to be more accepting of some crazy mermaid chick. They're not stigmatized and marginalized- Well no, I guess there's a couple who are. When we go out and they're being affectionate we might hear some jerk saying shit about 'those dykes over there', or 'You bitches just need a real man. Come here and I'll straighen ya out with my big straight 12-inch rule-her!'”

“Did someone really say that? What an ignorant asshole!”

“Well it does give the bouncer exercise. So I know my gay girlfriends catch shit from homophobes, and and the rest have plain old basic sexism to deal with; But no one's telling any of them that their whole identity is a delusion and they can never be who they feel they are inside, the way they do to trans people. Those girls from my support group, they just want to be accepted. To be believed! And if they were being jerks, it's because they felt threatened by by how people might lump them in with me, and say that me being this loony-toon who thinks she's a mermaid just proves that we're all just males suffering from mental illness. I understand their fears, but I'm sure not going to sacrifice being who I have to be, just so they can maybe be accepted by cis people if the act 'normal' enough...”

“Maybe you should invite them over on Saturday too.”

“My trans group? Here?!”

“It's just an idea... But I'm thinking that if they reject you because they're afraid people will use you to judge them by; then maybe, if they could see you living as who you are, in your natural element, so to speak,” he grinned, indicating the lagoon with a sweep of his arm, “In a relationship, and with a bunch of non-transgender friends who aren't all aghast about you being a mermaid, then they might see that there's at least one place in the world where you being who you are is no threat to them being accepted for who they are; and that it's possible; and something to shoot for instead of just playing by the bigots' rules. Or hell, I don't know... Maybe it's a bad idea.”

“If it is you do a pretty good job of selling it. Sure, let's do it! I'm still a member of their Yahoo Group, I can post the invite there. I doubt they would've gone through the trouble of removing my name. There's three of those girls who I really regret losing contact with, and Audrey, Jayne and Savannah are the ones most likely to show up. The others, well at least I offered them an olive branch, and if they don't want it that's on them.”

“Maybe the ones who do come will have such a good time they'll convince a few more to come to our next party.”

“Maybe...”

The walkway veered off through another little patch of jungle as it looped back toward the patio. The sprinker system had just shut off here, and water was dripping off of everything. I ran a hand over the mammoth leaf of an elephant ear plant that had sort of spilled out onto the trail. “It got a bit chilly again last night. Are all these plants gonna survive the winters here?”

“They should. Eldorado Nursery asks you where you live when you're ordering something, and if this house was any farther up the hill I'm sure they would've recommended against a lot of these species.”

“If we were any farther the hill we'd be in Cleveland National Forest, and you can't have a house there. Except for whatever they have for the forest rangers or whoever.”

He shook his head no. “There's more than a few houses up there. A little town smack in the middle of the federal land, that I guess was there before it was designated a national park. But it snows pretty good up there in winter; so you won't find any yards like this up there. But it's just beautiful, I mean if you like the woods.”

“I do. It sounds nice.”

The walkway returned to the lagoon's shoreline. We passed the pier bridge that led to an opening in the side of the artificial hill that was the land entrance to our grotto, a little area above the pool in there that had a pair of couches and a big TV; and a table with a lantern on it for romantic subterranean dining. Closer to the cave's entrance was a beautiful little antique cage elevator that went up to our fake hill's summit and the top of the water slide, for anyone who like me would have a rough time climbing that spiral staircase wedged in a slot in the cliffside...

The last time I'd been inside the grotto it had been a waterless and there were been work lights blazing and plaster dust everywhere. But just as I was about to suggest we go in for a look, Greg asked, “So how committed are you to hanging around here while waiting for that GLOO in your tail to dry?”

“Hell yes I want it to dry! I am totally one hundred percent committed to being a mermaid. In fact-”

“Okay, that's good to hear; But what I meant was: Do we have to wait for the stuff to dry here? Or would you want to take a little drive into the mountains?”

I had envisioned this 72 hour wait as a sort of ritualistic staycation, during which my attention would be focused on the process of my transformation, a time when even any boredom I suffered would be part of the experience, somehow good for the soul, like an Orthodox Jew observing the Sabbath. But by now I'd been-there/done-that; And my soul was ready for a change of scenery.

“Sure!” I said, “And would this be to Idyllwild?”

“It would. I was really wanting to go somewhere today. A when you said you'd never been there; Well now I know where. It's your typical little tourist town with mostly just a bunch of souvenir and candy shops, but it's nice; and there's an excellent restaurant where we can have lunch or dinner, depending on how long we're there.”

“Sounds like fun!”

It took me twelve minutes to get ready, most of which was spent gawking at my newly enlarged nipples in the mirrors on the closet's doors and deliberating whether or not the breasts they sat on were bigger as well. It would be nice if they'd start growing too, but maybe not at the same pace or they'd be riddled with stretch marks...

With such a limited wardrobe it wasn't too difficult to choose what to wear today. I put on the B-cup bra that I only wore with my sponge rubber breast forms, and after sticking them into it I wriggled into my blue and white cotton peasant dress, which seemed to have been made for one of those tall skinny humanoids from Avatar. But its length was what I needed for going out in public. I folded its bottom hem under my tail fin and lowered it onto the my chair's foot rest; and after checking myself out in the big mirror I decided I was indistinguishable from just a regular disabled person in a wheelchair.

Disabled person in a wheelchair...

Suddenly I felt really weird about going out in public like this; enough so that when Greg returned from folding down the seats in the back of the Caravan he could see it in my face.

“What's wrong?” he asked.

I gazed at our reflections in the door. “I just don't know about this...”

“About Idyllwild? We can go somewhere else.”

“It's not about where. It's about being there in this... disguise.”

“How did you think you'd be going out?”

“I knew how, obviously; But there's all these... ramifications to doing this; about mermaids and wheelchairs and public perception-”

“What are you talking about?!”

“It was this thing I read yesterday.”

“What thing?”

“A blog. About handicapped people and- Y'know what?! Never mind! I'm gonna have to do this eventually; And a whole different town is probably the best place for me to be out in public for the first time. Just let me do my face and we can go.”

I put on a some eye shadow, a little mascara and my pink lipstick. When I finished Greg was sitting on the bed reading a map. I said, “That's good! We don't wanna make a wrong toin in Alba-koikee!”

He chuckled indulgently. “No, this is a trail map for Cleveland Forest. I almost forgot I had this. It says there's a hiking trail just before Idyllwild you'd be able to take that chair on. Every national and state park has at least one like that, I think it's the law. It's a two mile loop, not too many hills; if you're up for it.”

“Well I did promise I'd join you on your next walk.”

I stuck my phone and paperback into my purse, and out in the garage managed to hoist myself and it up into the Caravan. Greg loaded my chair into the back, then a whole plastic wrapped case of Costco brand bottled water. He hopped in, hit the garage door opener and we were off!

Rolling down our driveway we saw the plump middle aged woman who lived in big hacienda-style McMansion next door pulling weeds in her front yard. She waved. Greg waved. I waved...

“She's always out there,” I said uneasily as we turned onto the street. “It won't be long before her and her husband realize they have a mermaid living next door.”

Greg grinned, “Oh hell, they probably figured you out a long time ago.”

“You think so?”

“For one thing, you're here every weekend. They saw the lagoon being built, and they already knew about my mermaid fixation.”

“You told them?”

“I admitted it, after Marcia went over there running her big mouth about what a disgusting pervert I am,” he said, and laughed, “That sure didn't go over the way she expected! They told her to get the hell off their property; and after that were even more on my side, and 'always there if I need to talk'. Bob and Eve Phillips are the last people you'd need to worry about judging you. They were totally fascinated by me having this fetish they'd never heard of. But what they don't appreciate is folks who go around gossiping about what somebody else is into, or what he or she does in their own bedroom, being somewhat sexually unorthodox themselves.”

“Really?! But they look so normal!”

“That's what they said about me: 'And here we always thought you were just straight up vanilla.'”

I knew what subculture liked to dismiss less sexually adventurous people as 'vanilla'. Fifty Shades of Snobbery. “You mean they're into...”

“Yep. With a little fake dungeon playroom and everything.”

“That's cool,” I said, “But yee-ouch!! I never really understood that one...”

“Do you understand your own one? Can you explain why you wanted to be a mermaid?”

“Well of course! It's because…..................... Okay I see your point.”

Traffic on the two-lane Highway 74 wasn't too terrible but there were lots of campers and trailers full of quads and jet skis, and far more of them were heading into the National Forest than out of it. As we swung into a gap in the stream of vehicles Greg dropped two granola bars onto my lap. “I'm afraid this is breakfast, unless you want to wait 'til we can get something in Idyllwild. I never tried this brand, but they're supposed to be chock full of good stuff.”

FROM NATURE WITH L♥VE? Looks delish!” I said as I ripped one open. I took a big bite. It had the texture and probably the taste of one of those bird treat sticks you put in your parakeet's cage for him to peck at. I swallowed and croaked: “I'm gonna need coffee!”

Greg tried his. “UGHHH! Chock full of chalk! It's eight miles to Mountain Center, they'll have coffee at the Gas n' Go.”

“Gas station coffee,” I said dubiously. “You've got me totally spoiled with your little grinding machine and that serious gourmet shit from Mozambique or wherever it is.”

“Sumatra, by way of Trader Joes. And I guess I should've filled us a thermos for the road,” said Greg. He pointed at the stream of cars ahead of us, “But with this many people on the road at least they won't be selling us the sludge that's been sitting in the pot since last night.”

I fished my brush out of my purse. My hair was now longer now than I'd ever had it, and needed a good brushing after my bath. When I finished I swept it all back and clamped the wide Alice band I'd brought down over it. Glancing over, Greg broke into a grin, “I like it like that. Simple, classic.”

“Is it? I'm just trying to keep it all out of my face if the wind kicks up.”

“It goes good with that blue dress. Like a grown-up Alice in Wonderland.”

Huh?!? I grabbed the overhead rear view mirror and swiveled it to look at myself. This wasn't the same style of dress, but with the white satin headband it did look like some half-assed attempt at a cosplay costume...

“Okay, kind of. But I wasn't even thinking about that when I was getting dressed, I was mostly concerned with hiding this,” I said, patting my tail through the fabric, “I didn't have a lot options for what to wear today.”

“You sure didn't. When a woman complains about having nothing to wear it usually means she's tired of what she does have, but you really don't have anything. We've got to get you some more duds! You won't to be in the pool or lounging around teasing me with your succulent new nipples all the time! If you need longer items, pick an evening and we'll hit the tall racks at Mr & Mrs. Large in the Winchester Outlet Mall.”

“That sounds good for skirts. But I'm really only 'tall' from the waist down, so I can pick up tops and tees anywhere. Target has some cute stuff, and it's more in my price range.”

“If you want. But let me buy you at least one really nice dress for if we ever want to eat at some real fancy place, or if somebody wants to give me another award. I don't know why they do that---I don't design my buildings and I don't physically swing a hammer and knock them together---but they do. And if I have to go to one of those things I want you to be there to help me get through it. And if you are I'd like you to have something elegant for it; something by Armani or Dolce & Gabbana...”

“Jesus Christ! Do you have any idea how much a dress like that would cost?!?”

“Believe me, I'm painfully aware of how much they cost. I payed for a whole closet full of them!” he said, “So stopping after one or two is going to seem like a real bargain. But I do want to see you in something befitting your natural beauty. Do you think you could let me do this for you?”

I had suffered through wearing a suit now and then as Bill, but I'd never had an occasion to get dressed to the nines as Lori. Neither my work nor any of my recreational activities in the past year had called for it, and when dining out with Greg we'd never gone to any place ritzy, which I'm sure there even is around our neighborhood. But I had to admit a dress like that had always appealed to me. Something black and backless in some delicious fabric, its classic lines transforming me from a tall skinny dork to a slender and statuesque runway model. Albeit with a tail...

“All right. But when we get married I don't want a fancy wedding dress. In fact I don't want any dress! We'll have a mermaid wedding, right in our own backyard,” I said, figuring this would more than offset the cost of a few overpriced gowns. I made a breast-cupping gesture, “Just get me a couple of shells to wear; And my bridesmaids can wear those grass skirts left over from my moving-to-Hawaii party at work...”

“What a wonderful idea! And I'll wear a tuxedo jacket and swim trunks!”

Which was exactly what we did...

MOUNTAIN CENTER 3 MILES, said the road sign.

The two-lane highway had been steadily climbing higher into the mountains. For a while we'd been getting an occasional view of the towns back there in San Jacinto Valley but now it was all dry hills and canyons adorned with rocks and scrub brush, its population of rabbits, rattlers and coyotes well hidden, except for the ones that hadn't quite made it across the road.

A thought occurred to me: “Speaking of getting dressed up. How fancy is this 'excellent restaurant' you're taking me to?”

“It's not. As nice as it is it's totally casual, since they depend mostly on the tourist business. The whole town's really laid back; in that peasant dress you'll fit right in with all those old hippies and crystal wearing Wicca ladies up there. So don't worry about how you're dressed!”

“Who said I was worried?”

“You did! Whatever it is you were starting to tell me about back at the house. Something about what people were going to think when they saw you, and the implications or the ramifications of... of something that you decided you didn't want to talk about.”

“Because it's stupid,” I shrugged.

“But it's obviously bothering you. If this is about your tail, no one's going to suspect you've got anything but a pair of legs under that dress.”

“It's not the tail, or not exactly. It's this wheelchair. I keep thinking about how everyone's going to be looking at me and wondering what's wrong with me. And about what they might say if they knew. They'd think I was one of these pretenders going around in a wheelchair to get attention; Or for some reason even more messed up! Some weird, kinky, fetishy I wanna-be-a-cripple kind of-”

“But you're NOT! The only reason you're in that chair is because you're a mermaid on land, and you need it to get around. You're not pretending to be anything else. And whatever conclusions 'they' might come to about it---which is so hypothetical it's silly!---that would be their problem, not yours. I mean wouldn't it?”

“But the pretending is implicit in using one. If I was wearing a Marine Corps uniform with sharpshooter badges and Purple Hearts and Medals of Valor all over it, it would be pretty fucking disingenuous to go: 'Hey, I never said I was a combat veteran, that was your assumption!'”

“Okay, I guess it is something of a disguise. But I don't think your fake war hero analogy holds up. This isn't meant to make people think one thing or another about you, it's trying to make them think less about you, to draw the least possible attention. They might glance twice at a person in a wheelchair but they're not gonna whip out their phones and start snapping pictures, like they would if you were a mermaid riding in a wheelbarrow. And isn't this what mermaids in stories and films have always done when they go 'undercover' among the land dwellers? You never saw your namesake agonizing over the ethics of her disguise, or worrying about what everyone was thinking!”

“Lori Lemaris doesn't have to wonder what people are thinking. She knows!”

“Oh that's right! She's one of those telepathic mermaids.”

[Neither Greg or I were huge comics fans; but somehow we'd both stumbled across the reissued anthologies of stories about Superman's mermaid friend, and we had each fallen in love with the character Lori Lemaris. Me as the girl I wished I could be, and Greg as his first adolescent crush on a mermaid. She'd first appeared in Superman #126 in 1959, as a coed attending the same university a young Clark Kent went to, where she posed as a crippled girl in a wheelchair by hiding her tail under a blanket. She came out to Clark when she telepathically discovered he harbored a secret as big as hers, and the Siren from Atlantis became Superman's all-time second greatest love after Lois Lane...]

I said, “But the thing is, she's a fictional character; and when she was created she could only worry or think about what the writers wanted her to. And things were different then. A lot of the ways disabled people were portrayed back then and that were acceptable at the time are considered just plain wrong today.”

“But you're not disabled. You're a mermaid.”

“Except wheelchairs are automatically associated with the disabled, and with our increased awareness about respecting them, for anyone else to ride around in one is seen as a mocking them somehow.”

“I would think mermaids would get a pass. It's not like you can walk.”

“You'd think so, wouldn't you? But yesterday I found this blog at Mer-Mania about the history of mermaids and wheelchairs; and I went 'Wow, that's what I'm about to do!', so I read it. And it's what got me started me worrying about this.”

“A blog?! People blog about all kinds of stupid crap!”

“This one was well researched, and it was by Call Me Wanda.”

“Really?” he asked. Wanda was an author we both admired. “What did she say?”

“Back in the 1970's a singer named Bette Midler used to have herself pushed out onto stage at the start of her act sitting in a wheelchair in a mermaid costume, and everybody would laugh and cheer.”

“She had a concert movie where she did that too,” said Greg, “Or no, wait- It was Madonna.”

“Yeah, that was Madonna. She did the wheelchair thing too, on tour and in that movie back in the 90's. And maybe at the time a few people grumbled, but there wasn't any huge outcry. But when Lady Gaga tried this same bit in 2011 she was pelted with eggs for making fun of the disabled. She issued an apology, saying this was never intention and some of her best friends are cripples, yadda yadda yadda... but it didn't matter. She was this evil person for being so insensitive that she could even do such a cruel, disgusting thing. And surprisingly---for a woman who doesn't usually let controversy stop her from doing something artistic---she ditched the wheelchair from that part of her act.”

“So how's a mermaid supposed to get around, crawl on the floor?!”

“I guess, or magically grow legs. Because DC comics got rid of Lori Lemaris's wheelchair too. The last couple of times she showed up in them they'd made her one of those mermaid who becomes human when she's out of the water, like Madison in Splash or the mermaids on that kid's show H2O. So it wasn't just a one time deal, or doesn't only pertain to stage acts; it's pretty much across the board a thing you just don't do. Like singing Mammy in blackface.”

“You could grow legs when you want to go out. It's not too late. We can go home, supersolvent this tail off of you, and you could just wear it at home. Give that chair back to your friend...”

I didn't even have to think about it. “Hell No, I'm not doing that! I'm not going back to just wearing my mermaid half, now that I'm so close to being a mermaid! Whatever people would think or I'd think they might think is just something I have to deal with. And if they actually start to get in my face about it I'll have Rae build me a nice wheeled dolphin.”

“What's that?”

“It's a dolphin on wheels. Mine would have to be motorized, but it's what Lady Gaga started riding out onto the stage for her mermaid number instead of a wheelchair. I guess no one had a problem with that.”

“I'm surprised PETA didn't protest. Ah, we're here!” he exclaimed, and at a clever three sided interchange sort of like a roundabout he pulled into the Gas n' Go and went in to get our coffee.

Greg came back with two giant 32 ounce coffees and four little white plastic tubs of half and half for me. I pried the coffee's lid up and poured two in. He watched me take a sip. “Any good?”

S-l-u-u-u-urp, “Very!”

We found our way around the articulated roundabout to Highway 243, and continued on up the mountain. Traffic was less than half of what it had been, since most of the folks in RV's or with trailers carrying boats or motorbikes had continued on down 74 to Lake Hemet or Cochella Valley. Soon the landscape's orange dirt, crumbly granite and squat, combustible shrubs were joined by the occasional pine tree; and up above the next looping switchback we could see a whole wall of them where the forest started in earnest.

“So are you ready to hit the town in your un-politically correct wheelchair?” asked Greg.

“Not completely. But I really only have two choices. I mean not just today, but with my life. And since detransitioning from a mermaid is unthinkable to me I have to be willing to face whatever negatives come with moving forward; real or imagined...”

He shot me an 'I'm proud of you!' grin and asked, “And should I stop asking you if you're still sure you want to be a mermaid, and reminding you that come tomorrow there will be no going back?”

“No, keep it up. At least for-” I checked the clock in the dashboard, “-the next 21¼ hours. I don't know why but it's comforting. Like you're doing your job. Hey, can we put the windows down?”

“Good idea,” he said, then shut the AC off and hit the buttons for both front windows. Inhaled the pine scented air.

I slid my partially eaten granola bar out into my palm and inspected it. Suddenly my hand jerked sideways- “OOPS!

“You littering slob! That's it, the wedding's off!”

“But I didn't toss the wrapper. See?” I held it up. “Something will come along and eat it. And they are called From Nature With Love, so I'm just sending it back there. Minus the love...”

A minute later I heard an “OOPS!” and then: “I guess we can feed the rest of these to the squirrels.”

“We could stash them in the freezer in the garage until Halloween and give 'em out to the Trick or Treaters.”

“And three guesses who'd be scrubbing the front of the house after we got egged...”

A mile before Idyllwild we pulled onto a dirt road that lead through the trees to a little clearing with just one other car parked there. I dumped the rest of the Nature bars into my purse for the birds or whoever might eat them. Greg pulled my chair down out of the back and opened my door.

I eased myself down into it, grabbed my purse and rearranged the hem of my dress to completely hide my tail, then slipped my hands into the fingerless bicycle gloves Rae had left in one of the chair's saddlebags. I'd never thought about how someone's hands might blister from shoving a wheelchair's wheels forward again and again until I found them, but the second I did their purpose was obvious.

“How many bottles of water do you think you'll need?” asked Greg.

“For two miles? Two. But I'll take four. My chair has these side bags, I can carry yours too,” I said, “So where's this trail?”

“Over there by the bathrooms,” he said, pointing at a sign that read: Strawberry Creek Loop Trail.

Which sounded lovely, but I never saw it. The ground beneath me was firm dirt all the way to the bathrooms building, nearly as easy to roll across as asphalt. But from there onward, the trail that made its way up a gentle hill ahead of us until it veered off behind some trees had the consistency of sand. Not terribly deep but loose enough that my headway through it was inch by inch. I stopped after about four meters. What I could see of the rest of the trail didn't look any better.

“Goddamn it!” Greg huffed. “My map said this was an 'improved dual-access trail'. Somebody sure screwed up!”

Two guys and a girl about my age on mountain bikes appeared from around the bend in the trail, headed this way. They were up off their seats, pumping hard to make headway through the loose soil. I said, “I think that's your 'dual access'. Both bikes and hikers are allowed. Nothing about wheelchairs.”

“So I guess I'm the one who screwed up. Goddamn it! Let's get out of here.”

“Not yet,” I said, and as the first cyclists passed us I asked, “Excuse me. Is the whole trail like this?”

He knew what I meant. “The back two thirds of the loop is pretty solid, but you'll never get that far in that thing. You'll want the wheelchair-access trail by the ranger station in Pine Cove. Or better tires.”

“Thanks,” I shouted after them.

As they hefted their bikes onto their car's rooftop rack Greg said, “Then let's just go to Idyllwild. We can get our two miles in on the paved streets there; look at all the cabins and whatever...”

“But we're already here. You go ahead. I got my book, and the bathroom right here,” I said, and fished my phone out of my purse and checked it, “And I've even got bars on my phone. I've been meaning to to call Rae all weekend, so I'll have plenty to do to keep me busy. It'll take you what, an hour?”

“At the most. Are you sure now?” he asked, and after a few more assurances that I'd be fine he stuck his cheap no-name sunglasses onto his face, stuffed a water bottle into each of of the big pockets on his shorts and quickly hoofed it up the trail and out of sight.

I pulled my unneeded gloves off of my hands. The mechanical odometer in my chair's armrest read: .02 km. Not much of a hike...

Ours was the only car in the parking area. I was completely alone here. For a while I just sat listening to the breeze rustling the nearby pine trees, the blue jays squawking and various other birds chirping and twittering. Pleasant sounds.

The sun beating down on me through a gap in the trees felt nice too, but I didn't want to get all sweaty before we even got to town so I twisted around and raised the telescoping pole jutting up from behind my seat to its full height, swung the device at the top like an oversize folding fan into its horizontal position and opened it, its triangular sections clicking and locking one by one until they formed a complete circle. This thing would not only kept the sun or rain off me it was also a solar energy collector, which originally was intended to charge the chair's battery and run all the devices Rae had wanted to install before she learned I wanted to go manual with everything. But she'd left a little jack in the post in case I ever needed to recharge my phone or run a small popcorn maker or something.

I deployed my armrest's cup holder and adjusted its size to fit my coffee cup, and then it occurred to me that since this chair had saddlebags the big purse I had sitting in my lap was sort of redundant. I spent the next few minutes transferring its contents into them, finding a perfect little pocket or slot for nearly every item.

After making sure I was the only soul around I pulled my dress up so I could look at my new tail again, admiring how it sparkled, and the way the sunlight shining through my semi-translucent caudal fin created a pretty patch of emerald green stained-glass light on the ground beneath it. I was something of a fish out of water sitting up here on this mountain, but at least I was a fish. Which reminded me...

I cracked open my paperback novel and dove back into the fantasy tale about a 15-year-old transgender kid named Suzie who had been magically turned into a mermaid named Enomena. Unlike me---who could never even pretend---the book's young narrator had at the age of 12 resolved to get over her infantile obsession with mermaids; figuring it was time to put away childish fantasies and focus on the actually attainable dream of becoming a female human.

But now that she was a mermaid she was realizing that she'd only abandoned her childhood dream on the assumption that mermaids weren't real. Having discovered they were, she embraced her new form, her new family and friends; forming an especially close bond with the teenage mermaid princess she'd become twins with. Enomena and Anemone lived with their mother the Queen in a castle next to a quaint lvillage populated by 2000 or so mermaids and mermen (which weirdly enough was called Shellcastle- the last name I'd made up for myself!). She was slowly adjusting to her new undersea life, and learning to live without the internet and other comforts of the more technically advanced human world...

Her big problem was that she'd already had a life back on land, with a mom and dad who had just begun to accept that their “son” was a girl in heart and mind. She knew her vanishing without a trace was causing them unimaginable grief, and her sadness and frustration about this cast a dark pall over even her most wonderful adventures. Every chapter had at least one flashbacks to her former life.

While you might think I would be envious of the stunningly beautiful princess she'd become, who could breathe underwater and would someday be able lay eggs and hatch babies like a real genetic girl; the parts that made me jealous were these passages about her old life on land. Suzie's childhood memories seemed utterly alien to me, being so Spielbergian and normal. For all the pain the loss of her original family caused her, I couldn't help thinking: At least her parents miss her!

Not like when I ran away at about her age and returned home hungry a week later to find my parents still sitting on the couch like they'd never moved from there. They took a perverse delight in my shock when I found out they hadn't so much as picked up the phone to try and discover my whereabouts; but only leveled their bleary lidded eyes at me and asked: “So are you done with your theatrics?”

After some of the horror stories I've been told by friends who suffered serious physical abuse at their parents' hands I considered myself fortunate that mine were mostly just weirdly cold and contemptuous. I only remember being struck once, when I was about nine. My mom was at the front door paying the paper boy and told me to go grab her purse. I was carrying it past my dad who was sitting in his recliner watching TV, when from out of nowhere I was backhanded across the face and sent reeling.

I blurted out: “What the hell did you do that for?!”

“You know!” he spat disgustedly, but I didn't have a clue. It was only years later that I figured out that it had to do with the purse I'd been holding, and his growing suspicions about me.

To this day both he and my mom are convinced that my being transgender is something I'm doing to spite them. I felt surprisingly vindicated when in the course of the half dozen sessions we'd spent discussing them my gender shrink told me, “Stop minimizing what they did to you! It wasn't 'sort of' abuse, it was ABUSE!”

But I was really glad that Doctor Randi didn't keep dwelling on my childhood, past asking me if I'd heard from them since our last session and if there was anything new I want to share about them. She wasn't trying to cure me of all my neuroses, our work together focused mostly on how I was getting along in my transition. She must have thought it was going well, because unless I was having some huge emotional crisis---(I'd had a few, but never deemed them huge enough to bother her with)---I was only seeing her once a month now.

I was dreading my next visit with her, knowing I'd either have to lie my ass off and say my legs had been paralyzed in a car crash (“No, you can't see them!”) or come clean about my mermaidism and about this wonderful fiancee she was so happy I'd found being a mermaid weirdo too...

But that potential catastrophe was three whole weeks away. It was a beautiful day, and this part of the book I was reading was really cute, until it culminated in Eenie have a scary fight with an enormous hammerhead shark.

I finished the chapter just as my coffee ran out, and I realized I needed to pee. I slogged back through the trail's sand to the cinderblock bathroom building, dropped my coffee cup in the trash can next to it, went into the women's side and peed. Knowing I had more coffee working its way through my system I parked myself right next to the restrooms.

I had dug my phone out of my side bag and was starting to call Rae to thank her for my chair and ask if her if it would possible to get off-road tires for it, when I noticed someone bouncing down the hiking trail's incline toward me. It obviously wasn't Greg; not unless he had shucked off his shoes and pant, shrunk down to about 5'6”, turned female and grown luxurious snow white fur all over while sprouting an adorable pair of long fluffy ears from the top of his cute little white furry head...

The bunnygirl had fur on every part of her except for her more or less human face, and the slender little hands that she held curled in front of the swell of her furry breasts, which except for a modest bit of cleavage were hidden by the rainbow colored checkerboard-pattern vest that was her only clothing (besides her fursuit, I assumed...). As she came hopping down the trail toward me I could hear her singing happily to herself: “Hippity hoppity, bunny bunny! Hippity hoppity, bunny bunny! Hippity hoppity, bunny bunny-”

She was a good hopper. The ease with which she bounded along---more like a kangaroo than an actual rabbit down on all fours---made me wonder if there were springs in the bottoms of her bunny costume's big clodhopper feet, which were nearly twice as wide at their fronts as they were at the heel.

The white bunny seemed so preoccupied by her hopping and singing that she didn't notice me sitting here until she was almost to me. When she did she stopped hopping and singing and started walking normally. Or trying to, but it seemed a bit difficult for her. She was lurching slightly, in the upright manner of a dignified drunk trying and almost managing to walk in a straight line. I could tell she was embarrassed and was wishing I would stop staring, so I did.

I pretended to get back into my book, opening it at random to some page from a part I hadn't read yet, in which the story's mermaid heroine was now a human girl named AAAAIIIEEEEE!! and she had fallen in with a bunch of wacky space aliens who liked to slap each other with dead chickens. I hoped this passage would make more sense when I read it for real---in the context of whatever had come before---but no matter; Miss Bunny was almost to me.

As she passed by I glanced up as if I was just noticing her for the first time. “Oh... Hello there!”

“Hi,” she said shyly. She seemed to be a few years younger than me, but Rae once had told me that that people generally tend to guess low when estimating the age of an anthro furry.

I stuck my hand out. “I'm Lori.”

“I'm Bonnie,” she said, and as we shook hands I noticed her oval nails were each a different bright cheerful color, like little Easter eggs. Her hand extended from her white fur as if from the sleeves of some insanely fluffy angora sweater. Besides her hands, the oval of her face was the only original part of her that I could see, the fur on her head conforming tightly to it, sort of like a fleece ski hood with the drawstring pulled tight.

It was a cute face, and mostly human except for her little twitching heart-shaped pink bunny nose. With fur as white as hers I had sort of expected her to have the red eyes and pure white skin of an albino, but her eyes were a pretty violet color and while her complexion tended towards fair there were freckles on the skin around her nose, which also bore a small number bristly whiskers that jutted out sideways from right about where a rabbit would have them. She had a cute overbite that she'd probably been born with, and a pair of massive Bugs Bunny teeth that for her sake I hoped she hadn't been. It would be hell going through school with teeth like that.

She pointed at my blue dress and white headband and lisped, “You look like Alith in Wonderland!”

“So I've been told,” I grinned, and pointed at her tall fluffy ears, “And you look like the White Rabbit!”

“Yeth I do. And I thuppoth you're wondering why I'm dreth'd in a bunny thoot...”

“Well actually I have several friends in the-”

Before I could say 'furry community' she launched into her story. It was a long convoluted saga that she rattled off with barely a pause to take a breath, so I'm not going to add to the confusion by trying spell every word with an S-sound in it the way she actually said it, especially since there were a few other words she mispronounced...

“Well basically I'm stuck wearing thith thing, permanently, thanks to a terrible set of circumstances and this sticky stuff called GLOO! Not glue, GLOO! But you must've heard of GLOO!”

“Why yes, as a matter of fact I-”

“You see what happened was, I went to this costume party on the Friday before Easter, at the Epsilon Omicron Upsilon sorority house at UC Riverside.”

“They had a chapter at Fullerton. Are you a member?”

“No I'm a bunny!” she cried, sort of looking around in confusion as if my interruption had made her lose track of where she was in her story, before she remembered and jumped back into it: “But anyway, the theme of this party was 'The Rite of Spring'; So your costume had to be something about springtime. My friend Sally went as Aphrodite, she wore this white diaphragmacious gown and a wreath of flowers; But I figured the Easter Bunny would be good for spring because it was, you know, in two days. So what happened was: I get the costume at this thrift shop, and Sally says if I really want my bunnysuit to fit good and not look like I was wearing a big furry bag I should use this stuff called GLOO!, 'cuz it glues real good. Well I was pretty proud of those 20 pounds I'd just lost, and I didn't wanna look like a furry bag, even if I was a bunny; so I said: 'Is this GLOO-stuff dangerous? I don't want to get stuck like that!' And she said: 'No, it pulls right off if you use the solvent that comes with it...'; so I said okay...

“And the party was great, and everybody loved my costume, but I sent a selfie of myself to my sister in Santa Ana, and she texts back: 'Oh you look so CUTE! You just gotta be the Easter Bunny at my church picnic on Sunday!' And I said okay to that too, because it would be fun; And you know, for kids!”

Two things occurred to me while she was saying all that. First off, this story of hers seemed oddly rehearsed. And second, that it it was highly unlikely that this costume she was wearing came from a thrift shop. The feet alone looked like they'd cost a couple of hundred dollars, the way they ended in four distinct and lifelike toes, each with a stubby clawlike nail protruding through the fur. Her whole costume seemed nearly as well-crafted as the tail I was wearing, and could only have been made by Furtech- the furry prosthetics company that my fox friend Rae swears by.

Bonnie the Bunny was so into her story that she didn't seem to notice as I surreptitiously picked my phone up off my lap and brought up the Furtech's website's catalog, and typing Bunnysuit, White, Female into the search bar. After scrolling through a surprising variety of white female bunnysuits I came across one that was exactly what she was wearing (minus the vest), at a price of $1200!

“And so anywhoo,” she continued, “I knew you have to take anything you GLOO to yourself off within 8 hour or the solvent won't work, and you get stuck like that. So when I get home I go to take the costume off, figuring I knew how to do it now so would go quicker when I GLOO'd it back on again on Sunday morning. So what happened was, I get the solvent out, when allofasudden my boyfriend starts bangin' on the door. And he's like really drunk! When he sees me he goes: 'Ohmigod, you're a BUNNY! I gotta have some bunnysex RIGHT NOW!' I know how much Bruno likes bunnygirls so tell him: 'Okay but just a quickie, 'cuz I gotta take this suit off real soon or I'll get stuck like this!' And he says: 'No you won't. There's this stuff called GLOO! Super Adhesive Solvent that can take it off up to 72 hours after you GLOO it on. My friend has a whole bunch of it; and as long as you use it by Sunday after your Easter egg thing you'll be fine'; So I say okay and we had bunnysex, and then bunnysex all day Saturday and Saturday night---and I'm screamin' 'FUCK ME! FUCK ME! I'M A BUNNY!!'---Except for when I made him go to his friend Larry's to get the supersolvent, because Larry is kind of a flake and if we wait 'til the last minute he might not be home or something. Because I'm not STOOPID! I mean, do you think I'm stoopid?!”

“No, but there is something silly about you.”

“There is?!” she gasped, her unusually large eyes widening in alarm.

“But in a good way,” I said, “Silly's good when it's the fun kind of silly!”

“Oh!” she said, her smile returning, “And you're silly too! So Sunday morning I get ready to go to Santa Ana for the thing and Bruno says: 'I wanna go to church with you!', and I said: 'But you hate church!' And he says: 'Hey, don't you want me to get saved?!', all sarcastic like; But it was funny, and he goes: 'I'll even drive!' so I said okay. And we went and did the Easter egg hunt, and the cervix was nice, and the kids were great, and Bruno even behaved himself and didn't make fun of the Christians and their 'imaginary Sky Daddy', or tell them he worships the Flying Spaghooti Monster, which he doesn't really but that's his joke...

“But then we're driving back to my place to get me out of this suit and he goes: 'Hey, let's stop at this bar and have a drink!' And I said, 'I really don't think that's a good idea.' But he's all: 'It's only noon, we got lotsa time!', and 'Plus we have to celebrate it bein' April Fools Day!' Because Easter Sunday was also April first this year; and so I said okay...”

“It was, wasn't it?” I remembered. I didn't go visit Greg that weekend but we'd met up in the Mer-Mania chat room on Easter, where people were joking about the concurrence of these two holidays.

“So right, it was April Fools Day but it turned out the yoke was on me!” she frowned, “Because what happened was: we went in the bar and everybody was all: 'Hey it's the Easter Bunny! Let's buy the Easter Bunny a drink!' And they bought me a lot of drinks; so many that I couldn't drink 'em all and gave a bunch of mine to Bruno; until all of a sudden he goes: 'Whoah! Look at the time! We gotta split!' And I said, 'We're both kinda drunk, maybe we should call a cab...' But he goes: 'We're not drunk,' and I go: 'Yes we are!' But he says, 'Believe me, I drink a LOT; and I know when someone is drunk!'; and so I say okay. You know how they always tell you to 'drink responsibly'? Well that's kinda hard to do when you're drunk...

“And so we're driving back home to get me unGLOO'd, sipping those little airplane bottles of Jagermeister and singin' the Bunny Song we made up, that goes: 'HIPPITY HOPPITY, BUNNY BUNNY! HIPPITY HOPPITY, BUNNY BUNNY! HIPPITY HOPPITY, BUNNY BUNNY! HIPPITY HOPPITY, BUNNY BUNNY! HIPPITY HOPPITY, BUNNY BUNNY! HIPPITY HOPPITY, BUNNY BUNNY! HIPPITY HOPPITY BUNNY BUNNY! HIPPITY-'”

A dreamy, far away look had come into her eyes as she sang her song---and it seemed like her record had gotten stuck---so I interrupted: “And so what happened was: the cops pulled you over and you both went to jail; And you missed the 72 deadline for the Gloo Adhesive Super Solvent to work and now you're stuck as a fluffy white bunny forever.”

She gasped, “How did you know?!”

“I kind of saw where this story was headed.”

“Well that's exactly what happened! I told them and I told them County Sheriffs: 'I gotta get home and get this costume off or I'll be stuck like this!'; And they just laughed and said, 'Tell me another April Fool's story!'; Because all this stuff about GLOO! was only startin' to be in the news then, and I guess they didn't believe me. And when I finally got home the GLOO! Adhesive Super Solvent didn't do anything, it was like puttin' stinky water on it, and so now I'm a bunny and I'll be a bunny for the rest of my life,” she sighed.

“So did you sue them?”

“Huh?!”

“The Sheriff's Department. I mean they did ruin your life!”

“What good would it do? It's not gonna get this bunnysuit off of me. And at least I get to be something cute, and it feels so nice to be all fluffy like this, like I can be my own pillow! And you wouldn't believe how sensitive most of my bunny parts are!”

“Actually I would, because-”

“So all in all, I'm learnin' to make the best of this bein' stuck bein' a bunny thing!!!”

“Yes, I'll bet you are. But I just have one question.”

“What's that?”

I knew she wasn't going to like this, but I had to ask: “Did any of that really happen?”

He eyes narrowed. “What do you mean?”

“I mean what happened to you over Easter and how you got stuck this way. It all just sounds... how do I put this? Too convenient, too perfect. I mean don't get me wrong, it's a great ancecdote---the way one thing leads to another to keep you in that fur suit past the 72 hour mark---and if someone wanted to turn it into a screenplay the thing would practically write itself. But I'm calling bullshit on your whole story!”

Her little pink nose started wriggling furiously. “How DARE you! I tell you about the misfortunous weekend that changed my life and you... you... How would you like it if you told me how ya got all crippilated and I called you a liar?! HUH?!!? Why on Earth would you even say such a thing?! You don't even know me!!”

“I think I kind of do though...”

She crossed her fluffy arms. “All right, Miss Smartywheels! If you know me so good then how did I get like this?”

“Okay, how does this sound? All your life you wanted to be a pretty white rabbit. Or maybe not all your life, but when you found out Furtech made these amazingly realistic bunnysuits you knew what you had to do! You saved up, maybe worked two jobs for a while, and when you finally had the $1200 you ordered one... For the next few days you kept looking for that UPS truck coming up the block, and when the package finally arrived you ripped it open with trembling fingers and beheld the thing that would finally make you feel whole! And when you saw yourself in the mirror in it you knew you never wanted to take it off. But you already knew that, which is why you'd bought all that GLOO!”

Bonnie stood gaping at me like I was a magician who had just pulled an elephant out of my hat.

“You GLOO'd yourself inside your new bunny body, but then you had to wait 72 hours for the GLOO! to dry. It felt like the longest 3 days of your life, and the clock barely seemed to move... But finally that glorious hour arrived when the GLOO! had finally dried and you knew nothing could ever take off your bunny nose or your bunny teeth, your bunny fur or your bunny ears. Everything about you finally felt right; And since then---in spite of the judgment from folks who just don't understand, for whom you've concocted your whole 'Easter accident' story---you've never for one minute regretted turning yourself into a beautiful white bunny,” I said, then bent forward in my chair, taking a little bow. “How's that? Did I leave anything out?”

She said faintly, “It was three jobs, for a little while. Until I just couldn't. But everything else, that was it! How it happened... Are you like... telepathic?!”

“No. But I am a mermaid,” I grinned as a reached down and yanked my dress clear up to my waist.

She squealed and clapped her hands in delight! “Oh my paws and whiskers, what a boo-ful tail! I didn't know Furtech even did mermaids!”

“They don't. It's from a German company called Traumfabrik. 'Dream Factory'... But if I was gonna go furry I'd definitely go with Furtech, their stuff is great. And that's an amazing suit. You make such a cute bunny!”

“Really?!” she trilled, blushing adorably. My blunt and tactless accusations were forgiven, we were buddies now; and in some strange way sisters. Or at least cousins. She bent over for a closer look, “Can I touch it?”

“Go ahead.”

“It feels so smooth and slippity!” she exclaimed as she slid her hand down my tail, “Not as nice as fur, but nice!”

She was close enough that I could reach out scratch her fuzzy belly, which if her suit was as sensitive as my tail I knew she'd enjoy. On a strange whim I went: “Oodgie goodgie goodgie gooooo!!”

She started squirming and giggling, her big left foot rapidly thumping the ground in a way that was clearly involuntary! A bit embarrassed by this, she hopped back to a spot just out of my reach. She said, “And those pretty scales of yours! Like a thousand lil' shiny emeralds! Why would you wanna hide such a gorgeous tail?!”

I shrugged. “I guess we each have our own way of lying about who we are. Me by literally covering it up; and you with your made up story about how you got this way and that it wasn't intentional.”

“Well I just tell that to people I don't know,” she said, “And not all of it was a lie. Some of it's true...”

“Not the getting arrested part, I hope! They say Orange County Jail is the pits.”

“No. I did go to that Sorority party and then to the Easter service with my sister, but not in my bunnysuit, because it didn't come until the Friday after Easter, But when it did, boy did me and Bruno have a lotta crazy bunnysex! That's the true part...”

I was looking at her crotch, as smooth and featureless as the loins of a cartoon animal. I said, “I have a question. I might seem kind of personal...”

“What do you wanna know?”

“Well you wouldn't have to get real graphic, But in general terms, what exactly is bunnysex? I mean how do you-”

“It's sex when you're a bunny!”

“So would that be a lot of like oral, or what?”

“Oh yeah, that too! And I was kind of afraid it might be dangerous for Bruno, I mean with my new teeth; but Bruno said he kinda liked the danger. But mostly we did, you know, regular...”

“Regular?”

“Regular, normal, his-dick-in-my-pussy sex,” she said, and when she saw where I was staring she said, “Oh! You can't see it, can you? And that's what's so cool about what they did for me. Ya wanna see?”

“Is it weird that I do? Because it's not like I'm a lesbian, or trying to- Er, I guess there was that one time with Linda Holt when we were- Well okay, it was three times; But this is just wanting to know about your bunnysuit and how you can do that. Because Greg and I---that's my fiance---we can't really, I mean-”

“Relax! It's just us girls here,” she said with an impish grin; and after looking around to make sure we weren't being observed she reached down and pressed her hands on either side of what I'd assumed was a faint seam in the bunnysuit's crotch---(but now I remembered that Furtech products didn't have visible seams of any sort...)---and pushed her fur on either side of it out away from it, causing a slit to open, exposing the ruddy soft tender flesh of her vulva, which I guess was human enough (I'd never seen a rabbit's...), except for a dense ridge a quarter inch thick all the way around its perimeter, which was obviously her fursuit since her underside's short fuzzy fur started at its top edge; but from this distance it looked more like skin or animal hide than the synthetic material I would have expected. Then she removed her hands and it was gone---instantly!---replaced by the chaste blank crotch of a child's plushie toy.

I said, “Well that explains bunnysex, but I didn't see that feature mentioned in the Furtech catalog.”

“You wouldn't. The suit didn't come like this. The nanites from the GLOO! did this for me; fusing the suit with my girly bits under it and makin' it all invisible like I asked 'em to, so I don't gotta wear pants.”

“What do you mean you 'asked them' to?”

“You know, like a question. And they said okay. They're very helpful like that!”

“You can talk to your nanites?”

“Not most of the time, our brains are usually too noisy to hear them. And it's not really like regular talking. And most of 'em are gone from me by now, so it's harder. Ya ever notice how bad nanites itch when they're leavin' your body?!” she asked, and started vigorously scratching the fur under her chin. What startled me was she was doing this with her foot, while only stooping over slightly, her whole leg bent impossibly up in front of her!

“So then how do you talk to them?” I asked after she lowered her leg.

“Well first I got to be in bunnyspace. Which isn't a place but, you know, in my head.”

“Like meditation?”

“I don't know, is there a hopping meditation? 'Cause that's how I go into bunnyspace. I start hopping, like this-” She began boinging up and down like Tigger; and after getting a rhythm going she said: “And then I start singing my bunny song, that goes: 'HIPPITY HOPPITY, BUNNY BUNNY! HIPPITY HOPPITY, BUNNY BUNNY! HIPPITY HOPPITY, BUNNY BUNNY! HIPPITY HOPPITY, BUNNY BUNNY! HIPPITY HOPPITY, BUNNY BUNNY! HIPPITY HOPPITY, BUNNY BUNNY! HIPPITY HOPPITY, BUNNY BUNNY! HIPPITY HOPPITY, BUNNY BUNNY! HIPPITY HOPPITY-'”

Her big violet eyes looked a million miles away. Realizing she wasn't about to stop any time soon, I screamed: BONNIE!!!

“Oh, sorry,” she giggled as she came to a stop. “God, that's addictive! Okay, so what happened was when I was in B-Space I talked to my nanites, and they talked to your nanites. And your nanites told my nanites you're not even at the 72 hour mark yet. Is that true?”

“It's tomorrow morning at 8:00,” I said, wondering if there was any other way she could have figured this out about me.

“Oh wow, so you're just a baby mermaid! You are gonna be sooooo amazed! The changes in your body, the things you'll be able to do! Your nanites told my nanites to tell you there was no way to work out the underwater breathing thing; so they're going for the next best thing.”

My dolphin-like ability to stay under water for long periods of time...

“Tell them I said thanks!”

“You should go into mermaid space and tell them yourself...”

“How would I do that?”

“You don't know? Because it seems like you must've already gone there.”

“I'm pretty sure I haven't though.”

“You want me to ask my nanites to ask your nanites how?”

And maybe I should have agreed to it. But Bonnie's Bunny-chanting looked like some infantile self-hypnosis, and my mind was balking at the idea that this could be the key to talking to a swarm of magical sentient microscopic supermachines. I didn't want her to tell me that I would have to raise and lower my chair while singing: “SPLISHY SPLASHY, FISHIE WISHIE!” because I knew I would try it, and it would alarm the hell out of Greg!

This was just too much like something I'd find in this goofy fantasy novel I was reading, a deliberately absurd hodgepodge of science fiction, fairy tales, old movie cliches and slapstick surrealism. It seemed like it might be dangerous to start taking this kind of down-the-rabbit-hole-type stuff for something that could be real...

So I changed the subject.

“No, that's okay,” I told her, and I reached into my chair's saddlebag. “Would you like a granola bar?”

Bonnie took it from me. Opened it. Sniffed it cautiously. “This doesn't got any animals in it, does it?”

“I wouldn't imagine it does. You're a vegetarian?”

“Well duh! I'm a BUNNY! And not one of those fake bunnies, like those stoopid Bunnylove Twins!”

“They're more the Playboy kind of bunny.”

“That's not a bunny! They might have the ears, but they don't know the first thing about bein' a rabbit! And what's wrong with their mouths?! They been goin' around kissing bees?”

“It's called collagen...”

She harrumphed, and chomped down on the energy bar. Her eyes widened, “Wow! This is GREAT!”

“Then here, have the rest. I don't like them,” I said, and started digging out the rest of them.

“Thank you so much!" she said, setting them on the ground in front of her. "Hey, do you want a carrot?”

“Sure!” I said. I was hungry and a carrot would help tide me over until breakfast.

She had two pockets that rode low on either side of her vest, and from the way they bulged must have had quite a few carrots in them. But when she slid her hand down into one what she pulled out wasn't a carrot. It was a rabbit's foot.

Or not the foot of an actual rabbit but a white furry glove with pointy little fingernails poking out of the center of each finger. And in her other pocket all she found was the glove for her other hand. “Sorry... I guess I'm outta carrots.”

“That's okay. So those are the hands for your bunnysuit?”

“Paws, yeah,” she said sheepishly. “I love bein' a bunny, and I know if I'm s'posr to be a bunny I shouldn't have human hands like I got... But I can't really do anything when I got 'em on; Or not a lot of human-type stuff; and I sure couldn't do my job with bunny paws. And I need this job. Because I tried foraging in the forest for nuts n' berries, and it SUCKS! So I leave my front paws off most of the time, which I know is kind of a cop out...”

“It's not a cop out. You and I, we both turned ourselves into the nearest thing possible to what we always felt like we should be, but sometimes you have to compromise. Technically a mermaid should live in the ocean, but I live in a house with a fake lagoon to swim in. And sometimes there's things that someone who was born as the thing we wanted to be can do, that we'll never be able to.”

“Like breathing underwater?”

“That's a good example,” I said, although I'd been thinking about was genetic women being able to have babies. I asked, “So where do you work, Bonnie?”

“Oh, it's so much fun! I work at Village Veterinary up in Idyllwild where I answer phones and take people's credit card info and give 'em receipts and tell them their fur baby's in good hands with Herb and June, who run the clinic. They're both vets and they're really nice! And sometimes I help out with the kitties and doggies, and that's the best part. I give them baths, because we do that too, and you don't need a veterinary degree to do that. And sometimes when they're scared I just hold 'em and pet them, and they really like me 'cause I'm furry like them! And so what do you do for work?”

“I used to work at this big company in Irvine that makes everything from jet engines to computers, but I quit. I met someone, and he really likes mermaids, and we're getting married.”

“That's wonderful!” she said, “I hope it works out. I'm kind of between relationships.”

“What happened to Bruno?”

“I thought we were doing great, especially after I bunnied up. But out of nowhere he up and leaves me for some cougar!”

“Oh Honey, I'm so sorry," I said. "So how old was this woman?”

“No, not a cougar. A cougar!” she said, making a cat-clawing gesture.

“Oh. Well that doesn't suck any less. So is today your day off?”

“Yeah, and I always take a long hop in in the woods when I can, because from the start of next month into August I'm gonna have to stay around town. It gets too dangerous for a bunny out here.”

“Too hot?” I asked, thinking maybe her suit wasn't climate controlled like mine was.

“No, RABBIT SEASON! On the first of the month there's gonna be a thousand people running around these woods with guns going 'Kill the waaaaaaabit! Kill the waaaaaaaaabit! Kill the waaaaaaaaaaaaaabit!' A bunny would have to have a death wish to come out here then!”

“But you're not-” I caught myself. I was pretty sure 'You're not a real bunny' would be the last thing a bunnygirl like Bonnie would want to hear. “But you walk upright, and you wear clothes!”

“And why do you think I wear this vest with all these colors? Because even now there's people who don't care if it's the right season or not. And sometimes they're drunk. The guy who shot my deer friend Jane Doe didn't notice that she was walking home carrying groceries. They didn't even charge him for assault, said it was a understandable accident. So I stay the hell out of here until they're gone. I hate hunters! I hate guns! I don't even wanna see them! I mean even if I was totally safe I wouldn't wanna watch them killing other animals and laughing about it! It's sickening! Why are hoomans so mean?!

“That's a question people have been asking for thousands of years,” I shrugged, “I'm not any kind of fan of my old philosophy teacher, but the one thing Professor Wood told us that sort of made sense was-”

I stopped when I realized Bonnie wasn't listening. She was staring up the trail at something, looking like a rabbit caught in a car's headlights. I turned to see Greg strolling down the trail with something long and cyllindrical cradled in his arm like a shotgun. Whatever it was, I could tell it wasn't a gun, but maybe Bonnie was as nearsighted as a real rabbit.

“Don't worry, that's only Greg-”

“EEEEEEEEK! A HUNTER!” she shrieked as my voice snapped her out of her frozen state, and then something happened that made it seem like reality itself was popping its rivets!

In a blur she jumped straight up, soaring clear over the roof of the bathroom building! Wherever Bonnie landed I didn't see or hear it, so it was like she had vanished into thin air; and for an instant I even wondered if I hadn't hallucinated her and our entire conversation.

But Greg had seen her too. Sort of...

“Who was that you were talking to?”

“Did you see that?”

“I saw you talking to somebody,” he said, looking around, “Did they go use the bathroom?”

“I think maybe she beamed up to her space ship,” I said, still stunned by what I'd seen. And why was Greg carrying a car muffler and a section of tailpipe? This was turning out to be a very weird day! “What are you doing with that dirty old thing?”

“It's not dirty, it was sitting in the waterfall,” he said, and dropped it into the trash can, “It was trash, so I hiked it out. But what's strange is, that highway down there is only road near here. I figured it came downstream from somewhere, but I can't imagine from where...”

I looked up in the sky, almost expecting to see Bonnie. “Maybe it fell off an airplane.”

“Maybe. So who was that,” he asked, “And why was she wearing a fur coat in this weather?”

So I guess people really do see what they expect to see. Not giant disappearing rabbits...

“That was Bonnie. She's a bunny,” I said, and as we went back to the Caravan and loaded it up I told him about her.

“Really?! She sounds delightful! I'm sorry I scared her off...”

We pulled out onto the mountain highway and continued up the hill. Greg asked, “You ready for breakfast?”

“Absolutely. What's did you have in mind?”

“There's a bakery on the main drag that's really good. Their boysenberry scones are incredible!”

“That does sound good...”

On our short drive into town I kept thinking about Bonnie's vagina. Or rather about my vagina; the one I didn't have. When I used to think about turning into a mermaid a vagina was never part of the equation. Starting as a kid---a time when I never thought about sex except as that mysterious place that babies came from---the smooth look of a mermaid tail always appealed to me. This aesthetic preference kind of carried into adolescence and my first sexual stirrings, so that whenever I fantasized about sex it was always about the things a crotchless fishgirl would be able to do. Getting fucked between a pair of tits that would be big enough for this to be possible seemed wonderful; And a bit more realistically, In high school I would discover the joys of fellatio with my football player boyfriend...

If you could can him that. He threatened to beat me up if I told anyone about us. And while he was occasionally protective of me when his buds were harassing me (I could see the conflict in his eyes, and felt bad for him...) it was never more than he could do while pretending he didn't know me, or want to. Something like: “Let's go; The little fag's not worth it!”

It probably doesn't say much for my teenage self that I would settle for such a relationship. There were things I put up with then that even by the time we graduated I had learned not to. The self-respect I've gained since eleventh grade has been hard earned, with a steep learning curve...

I'm pretty sure that during our furtive trysts Danny was imagining that who was on her knees in front of him was Sherri Stevens, who he had a serious crush on but never gave him the time of day. He'd even asked me for advice once on how to win her over: “You're kind of a girl... what do girls like?”

Meanwhile my own fantasies were more maritime in nature; and in them I always had a perfect mermaid body. A body that didn't have a vagina, because to me the image of normal human woman's pussy situated on the front of a mermaid's tail had always seemed disturbingly out of place to me...

But today Bonnie had showed me a vagina that wouldn't look weird at all on me, since it wouldn't be visible until needed. And now suddenly I really wanted my invisible mermaid pussy! Greg and I had never discussed such a thing, probably because it seemed so impossible, but I knew he'd enjoy having face to face intercourse with me as much as I would.

Bonnie said her nanites had manufactured that discrete opening in her bunny crotch on request, but with my male internal anatomy any nanomachines dwelling in my body would definitely have their work cut out for them trying to do the same thing for me, even if I could go into “mermaid space” (whatever that was) and talk to them...

In town we joined the line of cars crawling slowly down Main Street. It didn't seem likely that we'd find a place to park anywhere close to downtown but suddenly we were in the right place just as someone was pulling out. We slipped into the spot, and there across the street was the Sunshine Bakery.

“A good omen,” said Greg.

We ate our pastries at one of the tables on the sidewalk in front of the bakery and I had a cappuccino. Already I could tell I was going to get more attention in this wheelchair than I would walking around in sneakers (Our waitress's “You need anything else, Hon?” carrying an unspoken 'you poor thing!') but none of it triggered any anxieties and weird thoughts. I was Lori Lemaris- Undercover Mermaid; and it was actually kind of cool!

We spent the day exploring every part of Idyllwild's small downtown area, poking around in even the shops we had no real interest in. We paid four bucks apiece to visit the California Wildfire Museum, a barnlike structure with a bunch of antique firefighting equipment, photo displays of tanker planes and smoke jumpers, and a plaster Smokey the Bear; then wasted over an hour playing Skee-ball, Pinball and a game of billiards at Ye Olde Funland Arcade. My chair was great for putting me at the right height for playing each game...

Greg had begged me to help him stay out of Granny's Fudge Shoppe---he had a real weakness for the stuff---but what was driving us both crazy was the aroma emanating from Cap'n Pappyjack's Rib Palace. You could smell it from clear down the block, it was just brutal; and by one o'clock we broke down and split a half rack of their dry rub pork ribs, which at least didn't have a lot of sugary sauce all over them.

At some point we split up and started hitting shops seperately. Village Veterinary was open, I went in and asked for Bonnie, even though I knew it was her day off. Maybe I was just being nosy, wanting to see if a person in a bunnysuit could actually get a regular job. Apparently so, if the employer was as nice as Herbert Gold, DVM here. He and his veterinarian wife both loved Bonnie to pieces, and were delighted that she'd found a friend. He pointed out her apartment across the street above General Mercantile and Sundries for me and suggested I go pay her a visit. Then he realized I'd have to climb the stairs to do so, and asked, “Do you want me to call her? I'm sure she'd come down.”

“No that's okay. Just tell her Lori came by and said hi,” I said. I asked him, “So what do your canine patients react to being handled by a giant bunny?”

“I'm pretty sure they just think she's a very furry hooman,” he grinned, “Since she doesn't smell like a bunny. I guess those GLOO-nanites can't do everything...”

“So she told you about them? You're a doctor, what do you think about all that?”

“You mean do I believe her?” he asked, and lowered his voice, “What would you do if I told you something extraordinary was going on with Bonnie, and probably a lot of other people who have modified themselves with GLOO? Something traditional science can't explain...”

“What do you mean what would I do? Oh, do you mean would I go to the tabloids, or on line and blab about how I met a mutant superbunny who can jump over a small building? HELL NO! I have my own secrets to protect!”

Doctor Gold was staring at where my the dress was hiding my tail and looking like he wanted to ask about it, but he just nodded. “That's what I wanted to hear! Now I don't know how the HIPAA regulations would apply to this situation; They're not something veterinarians usually have to worry about, and we didn't do this as part of our practice but just out of concern for a friend when she started having a bit of trouble walking, and refused to go to a regular MD about it; but June and I have X-ray'd Bonnie, her legs mostly. And...”

He'd trailed off. “And?”

“I'll let Bonnie fill you in on the details, however much she wants to tell you about it. But I will answer your question: Do I believe there's such a thing as nanites that can produce extraordinary changes within the human body? Absolutely!”

“Well thanks! You've been a great help. But my fiancee's probably wondering where I've gotten off to. We're having dinner at the Blue Skies pretty soon, so I'd better get moving,” I said, but as I turned to leave I spotted a stack of colorful business cards in a little tray on the counter that said: BONNIE THE BUNNY ~ Birthdays. Easter Events. All Occasions.. They had her phone number and e-mail addy, so I grabbed one. “She does this too?”

“It's what she was doing before she worked here, and still does it as a sideline. She does magic tricks, games, singalongs. She's great with kids,” he said, and as I was almost to the door he asked, “Now I have a question for you, if you don't mind. And I'm asking this for Bonnie's sake. You're obviously in a wheelchair. Does this have anything to do with GLOO? Something that went wrong, or some unintended side effect she should be concerned with?”

“Not at all. I got exactly the effects I wanted, and it's nothing she can catch. I'll let Bonnie fill you in on the details. Tell her Lori says it's okay to... Bye!”

Continuing down the sidewalk, I decided to hit the last three shops on this block and make my wandering in and out of every business in town complete. Just as I was leaving a little t-shirt shop (Oh You Tees!) I spotted Greg coming out of the shop next door (PINE AWAY!), the only one I still hadn't been in. We each had a bag.

“What did you get?” he asked.

“It's for you,” I said, pulling it out and holding it up for him. It was a black t-shirt that had a cheesy out-of-style tuxedo printed on it (with a pink blob that I guess was supposed to be a lapel carnation). I held it up. “It's your tux, for our wedding. It'll go good with your swim trunks...”

“That's a good idea, since they'll probably wind up tossing both of us in the pool! I got something for you too,” he grinned, pulling something out of his bag and presenting it to me.

It was deformed looking mermaid made of stuck-together pine cones in sizes ranging from small to tiny, with those cheap little black on white googly eyes glued to what I assumed was its face. This might very well have been the ugliest nicknack in the world. The little black disks in its eyes were rolling around spastically. I busted up laughing. “Sweet Jesus! It's hideous!”

He tried to grab it from me. “Well if you don't like it I'm gonna go get my $7.50 back!”

“Don't you dare! She's a special needs mermaid! If we don't give her a home where she'll feel cherished and loved who will?! Ain't fat right, Piney?” I asked the thing as I turned its little eyes toward me, “Piney Gir, that's her name! She'll have me and you, and all her little mermaid figurine sisters to take care of her and protect her.”

The faux-antique clock on the squat little tower rising from the Bank of America building said 6:33

Dinner time, or close enough. I was amazed at how quickly this day had gone!
(13 HOURS and 27 MINUTES to go...)

We could see our car from there so we stopped off to toss our bags into it before heading to the restaurant. As he was about to shut the door I told Greg: “Crack the window a little...”

“What for?”

“For Piney, you dope!”

“You're a nut!” he laughed, but indulged me in pretending a mass of pine cones would need air. He asked, “How are your hands holding up?”

I pulled my gloves off, looked at my pink tender palms. “No blisters yet, but they're getting a little sore even with the gloves.”

“Then I'll push you,” he offered.

I accepted, sitting back and enjoying the ride as he carted me down the sidewalk, and then across the street at Idyllwild's only stoplight to the restaurant.

The Blue Skies was a large building made out of logs, with a steeply pitched green metal roof that had gables of various sizes pointed this way and that. The interior's ceiling beams, stone fireplaces and rugged Northwestern décor reminded me of our living room, minus all the mermaid stuff.

We had to wait for a table on the outdoor terrace, but the view of the sunset was worth it. Our sixty-ish waitress was Stella and she was all smiles, remarking on how sweet it was to see a couple who were so obviously deeply in love. I thought this was her way of telling us she was accepting about our age difference, but there was more to it than this: “You remind me so much of me and my husband when we dating.”

Among her tattoos from various decades I noticed a name inscribed on the underside of her left forearm in pirate-like cursive lettering. From the faded sheen of the ink it looked like one of her earliest ones. “Your husband... that would be Jack?”

“It would! The first time I met him was a job interview. I didn't have much hope that I'd get it when I applied for that secretary position as his law office but I needed something right away, and figured it was worth a shot. And when I saw him, I won't say 'love at first sight'---with the rent due my mind was anywhere but on romance---but there was something. He looked like Charlie Rich with that hair of his. He was so distinguished!”

I was about to make some crack like 'and here the similarities end...', but when I saw the face Greg was making at me I could tell he was expecting it. We both laughed. Stella grinned at this exchange.

“Yep, that too! The humor, the comfort. Somehow Jack decided to take a chance on me over all those more qualified girls he'd seen, even though he basically had to teach me my whole job. I know my looks might've had something to do with him hiring me---I had them then---but he was a gentleman about it; no funny stuff! It was six months before he asked me to dinner. But after that-” she smiled wistfully, “Life can sure take some crazy turns sometimes!”

I said, “Sometimes good ones.”

“Sometimes...”

“I'm sure he loves you very much,” said Greg.

“Yes he di- does,” Stella said, and I saw a flash of pain and loss from behind her big brown eyes. She hefted her order pad. “So have you decided what you're having?”

As she headed back toward the kitchen I asked Greg, “Who's Charlie Rich, and what's so special about his hair?”

“A country singer back in the seventies. And his hair... Well they called him 'The Silver Fox'.”

“Oh,” I nodded, “So Jack was...”

“Yeah, was,” intoned Greg ominously. So he'd caught her making that sudden shift from past to present tense too; not wanting to memento mori us with how their wonderful May-September romance had ended.

“She's nice,” I said, “Big tip?”

“Big tip...”

Greg declared his lean chicken breast and braised green beans perfection, and my jalepeño-jack buffalo burger was cooked just right, but was smothered in so many jalepeño slices it was ridiculous. But after picking off a few dozen of them it was perfect too. And now I could tell there was a slight difference to the taste of buffalo meat from regular cow, but not enough that I'd ever have to order it again.

Greg killed off the last of his diet Coke and looked at his watch. “Seven forty-one. Won't be long now...”

“Nope. Twelve hours and change. And if you're wondering; Yes I still want to do this!”

“Actually I was going to suggest we celebrate.”

“Yeah! Let's do a whole bunch of shots of tequila and sing 'HIPPITY HOPPITY, BUNNY BUNNY!' and wind up in jail!”

“Uh... You can do that if you want. I'm just going to have a beer. A real beer,” he said, tapping the little cardboard stand-up on the table that said: WE HAVE ANCHOR STEAM ON TAP.

“You wild man!” I kidded, and when our waitress came back I asked him what the name of that tequila drink was that he'd made me on the second night after I'd had all my toenails removed, since piercing parlors can't prescribe painkillers (well I didn't say all that in front of her, I just said, “my toe surgery”). I ordered one of those made with the house tequila plus a shot of Patrón silver.

Stella studied my face for a second. “I'm gonna have to ask you for your ID.”

I had already fished it out, always happy show someone my license now that it said LORI SHELLCASTLE and and FEMALE. I told her, “We're celebrating!”

She decided it was legit and handed it back to me. “What's the occasion?”

I probably should have anticipated this question. “Uh... You know, just-”

“She made the swim team,” deadpanned Greg.

I started laughing wildly. “Boy, I'll say!”

Stella went off to the bar grinning and shaking her head.

Our drinks arrived. Greg slurped the top inch off his beer with a little grunt of satisfaction. I held my glass up against the orange and red evening sky. They looked identical. “Are you sure this isn't a tequila sunset?”

And then my drink and the sunset and Greg's face all ran together in an orangey-pinky blur as my eyes started watering and stinging really bad! I rubbed them clean with the little napkin from under my drink but everything was still blurry. My eyes seemed to be watering not just from the tear ducts but from all the way around them, like they were melting or something.

I tried not to sound to panicked as I felt. “Uh, Greg... I can't see!”

“Oh Jeez!” he said, “They're really watering! Did you touch your eyes after you were playing with those jalepeños?”

“I must have.”

“Go rinse them out real good. Can you make it the bathroom?”

“Not without running into something. I really can't see! If you could push me to the door of the lady's room I'm sure I can find the sink in there.”

Even though I was trying to act discrete about this I could sense curiosity and concern from the blurry room as he wheeled me across it. What's wrong with the crippled girl?!

“I'll be right outside the door,” said the tall blur with Greg's voice, and even half blinded I could see his posture was dutiful and serious, standing upright like a sentry.

“Relax, go finish your beer. I'll be right back,” I said, and pushed the door open to make my way bumpity-bump like a defective Roomba toward that moving blue blur that I knew was my reflection in the mirrors above the sinks. Finding the faucet and a wad of paper towels I rinsed my eyes out really good, and then did it again, and then managed to grip the counter and get my whole face under the faucet; making a mess of the bathroom and getting my dress drenched. After a while my eyes started feeling better, but my reflection or my hand in front of my face were still indistinct blobs.

I'd never had any trouble with my eyes before, and suddenly I was essentially blind. I had never felt so helpless before in my life! All I could think to do was rinse out my eyes again. And again...

“Greg, is that you?” I asked the person who had entered the bathroom, but they were much shorter and wearing black pants and a sky blue shirt like the staff here all wore.

“No, Honey, it's me,” answered Stella's. “How you doing?”

“Not good,” I admitted, “They stopped hurting but I still can't see anything. I don't know what's going on.”

“Your boyfriend was mentioning the jalepeños on your burger. Do you think it's maybe an allergic reaction?”

“I hope that's all it is, something that will clear up! But this is obviously the end of our day out. If you could hold the door open I'll go wave for Greg.”

“Let's fix your dress first. I'm Stella, by the way. I waited on you.”

“I know. I'm Lori. What's wrong with my dress?”

“Your tail came out.”

“Oh yeah, about that-” I said, wishing I had a story like the one Bonnie had told me to account for me having it.

“You don't have to explain. But I'm assuming you're trying to hide it, I mean with this long-ass dress. Can you lift it up?” she asked, and when I did she pulled the end of its hem down around my tail fin and held it underneath as I lowered it, “There. No one can see.”

“Thank you! We like to keep it a secret when we go out. We don't want everyone gawking.”

“I guess I would too. So you're a mermaid?”

“Pretty much.”

“That's kind of cool. And is this a GLOO! thing? So it's permanent?”

“Yep, I did this to myself. As crazy as I know that sounds...”

“Every generation does something that sounds crazy to the one before. Flappers, zoot suiters, beatniks, hippies, bikers, punkers, goths, and whatever came after that. I'll let you guess which one I was. But I have to say you GLOO-heads have really raised the bar on weird!” she chuckled appreciatively, “I know a pretty white bunny you'd probably want to meet.”

“I met her earlier. She's a trip!”

“Bonnie's a sweetheart. People give her shit, and I admit I didn't know what to think at first. But she's not hurting anybody; and I'm realizing she's more someone I'd want to know than any of the ones who make fun of her. So you ready?” she asked, getting behind my chair, and when I said 'sure' she wheeled me out into the dining area and to our table.

“Feeling better?” asked Greg, and I explained that I was but I was still blind as a bat. He handed Stella his card and as she started clearing the table I asked for my drinks. Dumped the good tequila into the fruity mixed drink and sucked it down with the straw. He waited until I'd finished to ask, “Are you sure that's wise?”

“No. But I already ordered it and I'm kind of freaking out here. I needed this!”

Stella must have been assigned to helping us because the seating hostess didn't squawk when Stella shepherded us across the street and down the block to the Caravan.

Greg opened the door on my side. “Or did you want to lay down in back?”

“That's not going to help with being blind. Just put the chair back there after I'm in” I said, and waved off their help as I raised to level with the seat and clambered across.

“Cool chair!” said Stella.

“It is. I have this canid genius friend who made it for me.”

“Canid?! Is he like Wiley Coyote?”

“It's 'she', and sometimes she is. But her inventions work a lot better...”

Stella leaned into the SUV to give me a quick hug, and addressed the starless sky, “I hate this! Now I'm gonna be worrying about if that mermaid girl ever got her sight back.”

The car jounced a bit as Greg got in and started it up. I told Stella, “I have Bonnie the Bunny's g-mail address. I'll either write her or have Greg do it, and ask her to keep you informed.”

“That'll work! You know, by tomorrow she'll have told the whole town about the mermaid she met, and most people will just go 'Yeah, sure!'; like about her fairies from the old oak tree. Okay, watch your fingers!” she said and snicked my door shut.

We pulled out and headed down Idyllwild's main street, which with all the little white year-round Christmas lights coming on was lit up like some extremely blurry fairyland.

“Did you remember to tip Stella?” I asked as we passed a dark blotch that might have been the turnoff to the Strawberry Creek Trail.

“You're worried about that now?” he asked incredulously, “I put in two twenties. It's all I had, and she earned it. So how you holding up?”

I tried to think of a joke. Couldn't. “This is scary! And the pain is coming back.”

“I wish I could tell you there's nothing to worry about,” he said, “We'll know more when they checked you out at the ER at Hemet Medical Center.”

“Our favorite emergency room,” I said glumly.

'And what if they can't help me?!' I thought. I'll be a blind mermaid. Maybe my mad scientist friend could rig me up with some kind of dolphin sonar.

Tall green blobs dopplered past in the beams from our headlights. I sighed, “I guess Hemet Valley Medical Center is gonna find out I'm a mermaid.”

I knew Greg was anxious when he said fuck: “Fuck 'em if they don't like it. And there's privacy standards they have to follow about anyone they treat. But they'll probably be as nice as Stella was, and afterwards I think we need to talk.”

“About what?”

“We'll talk about it after we what they have to say. How's the pain? One to Ten...”

“About a three; but it's different than before. That was like sand or ground glass in my eyes. This is like pressure, and it's not as bad- but it's building. Like now it's almost a four.”

Greg indicated the guardrail on our right and the black space beyond it. “I can't really speed on this highway, but after the turnoff onto 74 I'll try to break the record you set when you took me to the ER!”

The pain was at about six as we approached the straighter highway---it felt like my eyeballs were preparing to pop right out of my head---but just before we made the turn the weirdest thing happened: There was this squisssssh sound like when your ears pop, but I could have sworn it came from my eyes. The pressure immediately stopped, and-

“Holy fuck! I can see!!”

He made the turn. “Are you sure?”

“Yes I'm sure! It's completely back to-” I looked around. The dark trees, the dark mountains. The sky that didn't seem to have any stars a minute ago now had billions of them. “It's better than normal. It's like I have night vision!”

“You mean like infrared?”

“No, it's not all black and green like that, or like thermal. It's more like when I would watch movies on my parent's ancient VHS player, and now I'm seeing one in high rez Blu-Ray. Everything just looks like... like more!”

“Really?”

“Absolutely! I think we can skip the trip to Valley Medical Center.”

“I would feel better if we got you checked out.”

“And tell them what? The pain's completely gone, I don't have any symptoms. They'd be like: 'Get out of my ER you crazy mermaid!' If you really want we can go the walk-in tomorrow.”

He frowned. “Tomorrow might be too late.”

“For what? I'm fine!”

“Because, ever since we put your tail on you weird things have been happening to you.”

“But not bad things- they're all good!”

“We don't really know that. I'm thinking we should slow down until we figure out what's going on.”

There was only one way I could think of to slow this down. “You're kidding!”

“Just until we know more. We have the GLOO Super-solvent, so taking it off isn't going to damage your tail. I want this, Honey. I really do! I want you to be happy, and you know I love you being a mermaid just as much as you! But it's not worth risking your health for.”

“But I'm fine! Better than fine. All these changes, it's like magic out of that book I'm reading!”

“You know what they say about things that seem too good to be true... Maybe we're both caught up in magical thinking. That can be dangerous. Do you remember the stories on the news that girl in down San Ysidro, Maria, the virgin-birth girl?”

“No, when was this?”

“Last year. She believed, and she convinced her parents and I guess her whole parish she was pregnant without having sex. She had the belly, every sign of being pregnant, not to mention the name. Everyone was so happy! It was a blessing from God, maybe even the Second Coming. Right up until the tumor that it turned out to be killed her.”

“Oh my God that's a fucked up story!”

“So when you keep talking about nanites---nanites this and nanites that---I'm getting a weird echo of what happened with her. I mean nanites are great for stories at Mer-Mania, but let's have some empirical evidence before we put all our faith in something we've never even seen! You're just taking this Rae girl's word for it. Geniuses can be completely wrong too...”

“There's been a growing body of empirical evidence. I mean you saw how Bonnie could jump!”

“To be honest I'm not sure what I saw. These nanites, maybe all they do is go into a person's brain and make them hallucinate things. I had GLOO! all over my hands, so I've probably got them in me too- I mean if they exist. We need to slow down and think about this. And as we find out more we can decide if we want to try this again later.”

“But what's the point if the nanites are already in me. In my blood, everywhere. I don't think taking it off now would get rid of them. Plus my tail is so sensitive now, it might really hurt. And I'm afraid I've already changed too much. Afraid of what we'd find under here if we did take this tail off!”

We were approaching the road leading into Jacinto Springs, the little street sign perfectly legible to me in the dark. This was where we would either turn or continue on to the Emergency Room. Greg said, “It's your call.”

“Home,” I said, and he hit the turn signal indicator.

“Sure hope this isn't a mistake,” he muttered as we made the turn. “I guess from here on in you're in the lap of the gods. Let's hope they're kindly disposed!”

“I think they are...”

Although a half hour ago I wouldn't have been so sure that they were. Believing you're going blind is a terrifying experience. I hadn't been that scared since our horrible Christmas eve at Hemet Medical; and I'd forgotten how exhausted pure primal fear like that can leave you.

It was all I could do to brush my teeth, wash my face, arms and pits and slither into bed. Greg turned off the lights and climbed in, but then turned on the TV. As wiped out as I was I knew this wouldn't bother me. As I started to fade I heard a ticking stopwatch...

Someone was nudging me.

“WHAT?!” I barked crossly.

“60 MINUTES,” he said, “It's about GLOO!”

“Oh for fuck's sake! Now?!” I whined, but knew I had to watch this. I slapped a pillow against the headboard and scooted up against it, elevating my head just enough to see the screen.

The segment was called GLOO! NATION. A female reporter stood outside a convention center in the Akron Ohio who's big animated scoreboard said FURCON 2018 and WELCOME FURRIES! She gave a bit of background about what a furry is, saying: “But there are furries, and then there are furries-”

-before moving inside and showing the throngs of animal costumed attendees. Many mugged and waved and made goofy faces at the camera, but they were only interested in interviewing the few who had used GLOO! to make their fursonas their day to day-selves. First a fox, which jarred me fully awake before I realized it wasn't my friend Rae---she wouldn't be in Ohio, and this anthro kitsune was a guy---and then a pair of self described GLOO! Girls, a lithe 19-year-old cheetah and her somewhat chunkier and more butch looking little Armadillo girlfriend, with bonelike armor covering most of her body and continuing up over her head and the bridge of her nose like Batman's cowl.

Both were adorable in their way but I wished the show had picked someone brighter to represent 'GLOO! Nation'. Which of course they wouldn't; since that wouldn't fit the increasing.ly anti-GLOO! slant of the piece...

The animal girls assured the obviously aghast correspondent that no, their costumes could never come off, and no they weren't going to regret their choice in ten or twenty years. Because sure it might be kinda hard to like find jobs and stuff at first, but this wasn't a problem since with five or ten years furries will have taken over the world. The interview concluded with both girls raising clenched fists and cheering: “GLOO POWER!”

Lesley Stahl paid a visit to the hot pink + zebra stripe Hollywood condo of those self-discribed superstars the Bunnylove Twins- a pair of 20-something blondes with permanent rabbit's ears who had modified themselves into identical huge-breasted Barbie dolls before GLOO-ing themselves together into the world's first artificial conjoined twins. Bunny and Lovie Bunnylove couldn't articulate why they had done this to themselves---they didn't seem to understand the question---but this became obvious as they raved on and on about how fabulously famous they were, and the number of subscribers they had on YouTube. But since they couldn't sing, dance or act I doubted if they would be remembered long once the shock value and novelty wore off. I hoped they got along well, they were gonna be stuck with other for a long time...

By now if I didn't know several GLOO-heads who were sanely functioning members of society (let's give Bonnie the benefit of the doubt...) I would have exactly the opinion about the GLOO! Movement that this program wanted me to. And now they moved in for the kill: A story about a large man with antlers who looked more like Bullwinkle the Moose than I ever would've thought possible. His name was Hayden Walter and he deeply regretted his decision to moosify himself.

With no way of changing back, he only hoped that his story might serve as a warning about the false promises of trans-speciesism, and that the Church of the Universal Solvent he had founded might help prevent others from making the same mistakes he had. He rattled off some fake sounding statistics about 'transformation regret' and furries committing suicide by turning themselves into roadkill. But he seemed to be doing all right for himself, having become the darling of the right's alarmist fringe...

Finally there was an interview with none other than Paul Fucking McHugh; who was tying the GLOO! Menace in with his usual anti-transgender tirades: “This is exactly what I said would happen if we started letting people with mental illnesses decide they know what's best for themselves!”

I struggled to stay awake as he compared the GLOO! movement to a cult... a dangerous cult; with their bizarre quasi-mystical beliefs about the adhesive and its properties... these proponents of self-modification making unfounded claims---each more preposterous than the last---about GLOO! and its so called 'nanites'... reckless and unaccountable... charlatans pushing illusions of freedom.... Seduction of the innocent... countless lives ruined by irreversible modifications... mamas don't let your babies grow up to be moo-cows... 10,000 times more addictive than heroin... Escape From the Fluffy Zone... Hippity hoppity bunny bunny... down gyring dark maelstrom of post-rational cloudthink... No such thing as mermaids... breakthrough in the gray room... oh god the dip... show me all the blueprints... forty years of darkness... cats and dogs glooing together... mass hysterectomy...

Okay so I was falling asleep. Or I was hallucinating. Or renegade nanites had invaded the 60 MINUTES studio...

Because now the show's reporters were turning into animals in little outfits like from Wind in the Willows:

Scott Peley was a badger...

Charlie Rose was an otter...

Lara Logan was a darling fluffy bunny who was having trouble giving her report because of her teeth...

Steve Kroft was Mr. Toad...

And standing in a forest clearing in the misty dawn playing his reed pipes was Anderson Cooper, with the hind legs of a goat but human from the waist up.

Or no, much more than human... a beneficent but somehow terrifying primeval god!

“Hey, are you watching this?” asked Greg.

I replied slurrily, “Oh Mole, I am afraid! I dare not gaze upon His Magnificence!”

“You're a nut,” he said and kissed me on the forehead, “Good night, sweet mermaid...”

.

And then things turned really weird.

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TO BE CONCLUDED...

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COMMENTS MAKE ME VERY HAPPY...
PLEASE TAKE A MINUTE TO COMMENT!

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Like I said last chapter you'll find out more about Lori's friend Rae HERE:
https://bigclosetr.us/topshelf/fiction/74866/glood-tails-01
In this story by Ray Drouillard

And Chapter 02 of his story has stuff about Rae and Lori
and Lori's last days of working at Yoyodyne
https://bigclosetr.us/topshelf/fiction/74946/glood-tails-02

And check out Chapter 03 for more GLOO-ey goodness:
https://bigclosetr.us/topshelf/fiction/75232/glood-tails-03

(And the "paperback" that Lori's been reading? That's this story:
https://bigclosetr.us/topshelf/fiction/60614/deep-end-1-arrr...
that I really need to get back to writing + posting!)



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