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Swimming through the Aftermath
by Michael Bard
Michael Bard -- all rights reserved

She swam through the water, a grin on her face, bubbles dribbling out through her nose. This was so neat!

The water was warm, fish were coming back, everything was nice and clean and warm and happy!

In the distance she saw something glittering and waving. After surfacing for a breath of air, she ducked back under and sped towards it.

It had all started innocently enough. Quiet experiments on cetacean and human genetics. The idea had the avowed purpose of finding a way of producing large quantities of skin to transplant on to burn victims. It was hoped that by tossing in the cetacean genetics, the body's antiviruses could more easily be fooled into not attacking the skin.

The genetics combined far easier than anybody expected, but it did not do anything to help with the transplant rejection problem, so the research was abandoned.

She sped through the water, the cool liquid oozing along her sleek skin. Though her upper body looked human, the skin had the same surface texture as dolphin flesh, and allowed her to speed through the water with only a slight turbulence caused by the remaining human musculature and mammary definitions. Below her waist her body became that of a dolphin, bluish skin, dorsal fin, tail, all sleek and warm.

The glittering something was farther away than it had seemed, and she had to surface for another breath of air before she reached it.

Looming below her was the ghostly hulk of a ship, all wood and oil and metal, sunk into the bottom sand and listing to its side. A tattered sail remained raised, gently flapping in the currents.

Years passed, the world changed. New memes rose. One believing that humankind had befouled the land beyond any hope of recovery thought about returning humankind to the sea. They found the old records about the dolphin/human genetics experiments and seized upon them. Using all that modern technology could offer, they worked, changing and manipulating the genetics, looking for a delivery medium, trying to find a way to transform humankind from land to sea and thus save the planet.

Sadly, their skill, their desperation, was as great as their idealism. Using kidnapped human 'volunteers', they found a way that worked in almost ten percent of the cases, killing the others. However, even with the one in ten that survived, there was one problem that they could not seem to resolve.

That was when terrorists, acting to free their peoples from western capitalism, detonated a home built dirty nuclear device a few blocks away.

She explored the wreck, laughing and giggling at the still smooth wood, opening the hatches and portholes, and chasing and eating the fish that were nibbling the decaying meat inside the sunken hull. She made little dashes inside, to nibble on a fish, or to peer in a cupboard, and then flashed back to the surface for air.

As time passed and nothing tried to hurt her, she got more daring and went in deeper. Late in the afternoon she found one of the cabins. Pushing aside the debris and the mutilated, decaying body, she found a trunk and yanked it open. Bubbles gushed out from where they'd been trapped under the lid, and inside fabrics billowed and wavered in the moving water.

Oooing, she smiled, before dashing back up for air. She dove right back down to the chest and began running her hands through the soft materials.

All would have been fine if the terrorist group had been either closer or further away. Closer, and the retrovirus would have been destroyed, further and containment would not have been breached. Unfortunately they were at the just right distance. The containers were shattered, and the retrovirus was blasted into the atmosphere where it began to grow and multiply.

By the time it began to settle back towards the surface, the jet streams had carried it through out the world. Even worse, the retrovirus had a long gestation period as it needed to fully infest the host body, infest every cell, for the transformation to have a chance of success. By the time anybody knew what was happening, virtually every human being had been infected. Ninety percent died horribly, in pain and agony, often going mad before the end. Of the remaining ten percent, almost ninety percent of them died due to complications -- being in the wrong place, not being able to get to salt water. Their bodies putrefied and decayed as time passed. The world grew silent.

A few humans did survive, having some kind of built in immunity, but they were few, separated, alone.

And there was the problem in those who survived the transformation into dolphin-like air breathing mermaids--

The brain, the intellect, did not survive. All that was left were mermaids with the intellect of dogs.

With her hands she pulled out dresses and bathing suits, whipping them around, letting them slowly sink through the water around her. Near the bottom she found the true treasure, a silk scarf, long and yellow. Squealing happily, she pulled it out and ran it around her human torso, rubbing it against her skin. She giggled, the sound echoing off the forgotten technology around her. Speeding out and to the surface, breaching and leaping high into the fading afternoon sunlight, she clutched the scarf snugly against her chest.

Then she dove, holding the silk, twirling it around her so that it tickled her flesh. Bubbles clung to it.

And all the time the idiot grin lit up her face.

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Website Copyright 2004,2005 Michael Bard.  Please send any comments or questions to him at mwbard@transform.com