Two weeks later Elena laid in bed stroking Isaiah’s hand. They were now living out of a hotel.
“Tell me about your husband, was he a pilot? I’ve met a few pilots in my time.”
“No,” Elena replied.
Isaiah had been getting sick. At first, Elena assumed it was his diet. Whenever he didn’t adhere to a strictly vegan diet he became violently ill. But when he became so weak he was bedridden she realized there was something very wrong.
They had been living on Elena’s dead husband’s military pension. But that would not last very long, or stretch very far, in Hawaii. So Isaiah had the brilliant idea to use Elena’s husband’s identifications to get a job at a department store.
Elena was certain that his plan would backfire, but nope- he aced the interview AND background check. He held the job, for all of three days.
Elena found work as a maid, working odd hours. She was on-call with an agency, cleaning homes, offices any place that contracted out their cleaning staff. She stayed away from the beach but the beach called to her, literally.
Elena would hear voices in the pipes, the sink, even the toilet. She chalked up the instances to plumbing problems. After all, she had grown up with a fish tank as a child so she knew that water and plumbing tended to make noises that sounded like speech.
“Water, water in the pipes,” she said, mimicking the ‘mirror-mirror on the wall speech from snow white.’ “Who’s the fairest of them all? No, wait that didn’t even rhyme.” She tapped her fingers along an exposed pipe as she wiped down the sink of an office break room.
“You stole him,” the words were clear as day. And voice sounded soft, child-like. It had to be the water.
Elena chuckled and knocked on the pipe, as if knocking on a door. “You have anything to say to me?”
“You stole him… Give him back.”
That was the last time Elena went to work.
With her phone turned off she laid in bed by his side. “How do I help you?” Elena asked as she stroked his face. Isaiah was burning with fever.
“You… must journey to my homeland.”
“The ocean?” Yes, that had to be the key. The ocean sent him to her, the ocean would hold the key to saving him. “Come with me.”
“I couldn’t even if I tried.” Isaiah rolled over in bed to face the light of the window. He started to cough but the sound quickly evolved into vomiting. He threw his head over the side of the bed. From his mouth poured an obscene amount of water. It was as if he had been drowning.
Elena put her arms around him. She didn’t want to leave only to return to his corpse. But if she stayed she would be forced to watch him die. Her mind drifted to the voice in the pipes. Had she received stolen property, is that what he was? He was so eager to learn about the human world, it was sweet like a gender swap litter mermaid. But was he actually someone’s pet or perhaps even a slave of some kind? “Will you be OK on your own?”
“ I’ll stay in the room as long as I can, but If I’m not here, I will leave you clues on where find me.”
“Ok,” Elena replied in a meek voice. It was all she could do not to cry.
It was around midnight, the moon high in the sky, but people were still out partying on the beach.
Elena wore a long t-shirt over a plain black bra and underwear (which could easily pass for a swimsuit.) She locked eyes with a few young men partying around a bonfire. They raised their beers, as id offering her one. But she shook her head, and dove into the waves. Elena didn’t know what she was looking for, all she knew was she had to find it.
In the darkness. She took a breath and started to swim out to the place where she had seen the ocean goddess, but she felt something: fish, lots and lots of fish. Since the beach was pretty well lit for the nighttime crowd and (and to prevent the rampant homeless population from taking residence)Elena had brought a single pen-sized flashlight. She had bought the overpriced souvenir just before starting her walk. It seemed like a wise idea at the time but now she wasn’t sure if she wanted to see just what was below her.
Standing in waist deep water, she stroked the surrounding ocean with the flashlight, shining the beam just a few inched below the surface. The crystal clear water sparkled with colorful fish. Sailfin tangs, lined surgeonfish, all seemed to circle around her. The way their metallic skin sparkled was mesmerizing.
Elena blinked her eyes and gripped her flashlight hard. They were making deliberate patterns. She knew if she wanted to get out of the water this was her chance; she could easily fight off a school of aquarium fish. “That’s pretty cute,” she said out loud. “Do you also do birthday parties?”
She felt a sharp pain in her leg. Elena had been stung by a jellyfish before, the pain was not intolerable, just annoying. A wave crashed down upon her, pulling her under before she had a chance to take a breath.
She quickly surfaced for air. The water was now neck deep, and among the glittery fish were dozens of box jellyfish. Elena’s only solace was that she was still wearing her t-shirt; without access to her chest and vital organs, there was only so much they could do. Death by drowning was also not a pleasant thought, but in the moment it felt like a preferable option. Especially when she felt a massive searing pain, like being hit in the thigh with a branding iron.
Another wave hit. By the time she surfaced her feet were no longer touching the floor and she had lost her flashlight. But by the light of the moon she saw them; an entire heard of Portuguese man-of-War forming a circle around her. With each sting she was pulled underwater. She instinctively tried to come up for air, her body desperate to survive. But as the pain of the stings compounded, she knew what she needed to do. “I trust you, Isaiah.” She took off her wedding ring and released her last breath.
As she closed her eyes, she could see a school of white trevally swimming in a figure eight above her. Their silver bodies looked like links of chain, securing her fate.
Her body trembled, as she sank lower into the darkness. She closed her eyes, when she opened them she was surrounded by giant stone-like walls. The walls were moving, circling her. As they closed in on her she reached her hand out to touch one. It blinked. ‘Sunfish, of course,’ she thought to herself. She had only ever seen pictures of the massive creatures. But now, for whatever reason, they had gathered (or been summoned) to pull her to a watery grave.
“Don’t even try to escape,” said the same voice from the pipes. Distorted like an old radio signal, but strangely innocent. The sound seemed to be coming from all around her, as if the entity was able to communicate through the waves.
In her current state, Elena was unable to scream or communicate in any way, so she decided to at least have her last thoughts be of something kind. ‘I’m sorry.’
“I know you are….” Suddenly Elena’s ring floated down in a bubble of air. “And I know I won’t be able to find my brother without your help.”