Water World

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Trojan High's lame excuse of a winter formal, Jack'o'querade, was scheduled for October, rather than December, which was strike one on our new bosses, Student Council #333.

Strike two happened when my boyfriend left me on the dance floor for the punch fountain, then never came back.

Strike three? The morons who decided to wear their Halloween costumes—the teeny weeny ones, from the Wild Wired Interwebs—instead of, I dunno, an actual winter formal dress.

Since Jack'o'querade is a veritable shit show, I head to the double doors on the other side of the gymnasium, great doors no one ever busts through, what with all the teachers gathering there to cluck during assemblies and rallies.

On the other side of the double doors, rather than finding the open wilderness of our football field—y'know, logical expectations—I'm instead startled by an enormous swimming pool, like those heated indoor ones I used to visit in the summer, when Mom and I did water aerobics together.

A merman with a dark green fin and a ripped chest swims towards me, wearing a lacy mask and top hat.

"Nice tail," I say. "Looks real."

"It is real," he says.

"Mermaids don't exist, dude," I tell him. "Or mermen."

His smile is crooked, that stereotypical scary business parents warn us to avoid. "Then consider me an illusion," he replies, smooth and baritone. "Want to come for a swim anyway?"

I sit on the edge of the pool, dangling my feet in the water. "This is fine," I start, then, "oh, that's effing cold...!"

On the bottom of the pool, I see a swarm—a school?—a crowding of other mermen and mermaids, swirling and undulating, like mackerel whipping through the sea.

He smiles. "What do you think?"

"What is all of this?" I ask, too stunned by beauty and horror to do more than gape.

They're young and old, dark- and fair-skinned, men and women and some who seem either or, brown-skinned, blue-skinned, mottled and freckled, big and thin, their smiles and laughter like one lovely whale-song in the blue abyss.

"We're only here tonight," he says.

"Where are you from?" I ask.

He swims close, brushing his hand on my calf. "From a water world," he says, "traveling here through a wormhole."

"Can I tell people about this?" I ask. "Can I take a picture?"

But as I pull my phone from my pocket, it slips through my sweaty and clumsy fingers, plunking into the deep.

I open and close my mouth.

He dares to put his hands on my knees, pushing up to my face. Then he whispers, "But would anyone believe you?"

I suppose he's right. And also, the warm, sweet kiss he plays on my barely parted lips fills me with a fire I couldn't have captured digitally, photographically—convincingly.

Only experience could make him real.

♦️

First draft: October 18
Word count: 500
Inspired by: The Halloween Vault masquerade contest, located here:
https://my.w.tt/j0cMSUEBlR

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