9: Fish Stories

"We're hungry. We're tired. And when that happens sometimes you just think you see things, you know?" Arial said, clutching Dak's Tyvek lapel.

  The insistent bass pounding was getting louder, but no faster, still a regular boom, boom, boom like the heart of a giant blue whale.

"Maybe we're just dead and this is hell," said Dak, groping for a better explanation.

Paula was looking through the porthole, unconcerned. "It's men's night, that's all."

The professor looked, "Mermiin!" he said, remembering delicious strawberry Smart Daiquiris.

Paula tugged at Dak and Arial to look through the porthole again. They did. And they saw what they saw the last time. Mermen. Male mermaids. Nude male mermaids.

"No, you're not crazy," Paula said, "It's Mermiin, one of the professor's favorite bars."

"What... Why... I..." Dak said.

"You mean... is that... look at that the tail on that guy..." Arial said.

They were mermen. Well, not real mermen, of course, those had been hunted to extinction in the late 1800s. These were Amsterdam's famous Mermiin (Dutch for Mermaid) who performed nightly at the underground bar of the same name. From the bar it looked like they were swimming in the canals, but they were really in a heated, chlorinated pool complete with a dolphin, assorted fish and plant life.

"Tuesday night is men's night, you know, so instead of mermaids they have mermen, I love Tuesdays!" Paula said, staring through the porthole.

The professor had seen mermen before, and seemed much more interested in the chunks of interesting metal scattered about the floor of the cell. They were filling his pockets of his overcoat and causing them to sag, almost touching the floor.

Dak didn't really care who they were, or what they were wearing or not wearing, all he was thinking about was a route out.

"The porthole's too small," Dak said.

"I can see just fine," Paula said.

"Look at that guy!" Arial said.

The mermen were impressive, and not just from a physical standpoint. They didn't just swim around but had carefully choreographed synchronized swimming routines which required them to hold their breath for up to two minutes.

"No, the porthole's too small to get through." Dak noted. He felt around the door and found a small corroded bolt sticking out of the door. "We'll have to somehow open this airlock door."

Arial was mesmerized by the activity through the porthole, so Dak took the light stick and looked around the baseboards of the cell.

"I'll bet they get terrible ear infections," Paula thought aloud.

After putting every loose piece of metal in his bulging pockets, the Professor finally took notice of the porthole. "Must cut off the circulation," the professor noted, pointing at the tight spandex fish tails, for the first time seeming to know where he was. "Lecithin's good for circulation," he added.

"We've got to find the handle," Dak said as he searched for a handle to no avail.

The professor dug in his pockets and handed Dak a handle.

It didn't fit easily onto the bolt, but after prying Arial away from the porthole, Dak was able to knock the handle onto the bolt, hitting it with his shoe.

But no one could turn it.

Chapter 10: Merman to Mermen

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