The cargo ship Halcyon shut down her engines, pulling to a stop beside the tiny lifeboat that bobbed in the calm ocean next to her. Hansen and several other crewmen called out to it, but although there appeared to be someone huddled in on end there was no reply. When the men finally hooked the boat and climbed aboard, they found that it was only a loose bundle of women's clothing. The boat was otherwise deserted, apparently abandoned.
Inside the bundle of clothing, Hansen found an appointment book. A crude diary had been written within. As the men worked tying crane cables to the boat, he began to read it...
The Diary of Angela Russel
It's been two days since the ship sank, and since there's no one else in the lifeboat with me I have decided to pass the time by keeping a diary. Hi, Sam, in case you're reading this! I'm so scared, alone in the ocean. The weather is calm, but there's absolutely nothing on the horizon and I have no idea how long it will be until rescue comes. I have lots of food and water, since presumably the boat was intended for many people, but I would prefer for there to be other people to have to share it with. Did I mention I was lonely? Sorry, I won't keep going on about that.
Hansen skimmed lightly over the next few pages. There wasn't much happening worth talking about in the open ocean, so it was mostly idle talk about her thoughts and feelings. Angela sounded like a fairly interesting person, though, and Hansen resolved to go back and read it later. He wanted to find out what had happened to her first.
Today I have company; a pod of dolphins have been playing in the water around the boat for several hours now. I have heard stories of dolphins helping people lost at sea. I'm not sure I believe most of them, but that isn't stopping me from hoping that rescue might be at hand. Perhaps they can tow the boat to shore, or something. At the very least, it's good to finally see some life out in the endless emptiness.
The dolphins have finally gone, about four hours after they first came. I guess I won't be rescued just yet, then. Still, they seemed friendly enough, perhaps they'll be back. Dolphins must have made cavorting into an art, for the last little while there they were swimming in a pattern around my boat more complex than anything those coordinated swimming teams do in the olympics. I wonder what it means?
Something weird is happening to me. I'm so scared. This morning I woke up very uncomfortable, my panties felt like someone had given me a monster wedgie. When I tried to fix it, I discovered that my buttocks are sticking together! Not like they've been glued or anything like that, my buttocks are growing together and the crack is closing down my back. What the hell is wrong with me? It's restricting my legs a little, but so far it's not debilitating. I hope I'm rescued soon, I really need to see a doctor.
It's worse today. It's like my legs are fusing together like a zipper, fusing from the top downward. It's halfway to my knees, and I can't walk properly. It's like I'm wearing a really tight short dress. But it isn't something wrapped around me, it's my flesh! Have I got cancer or flesh-eating virus or something? I'm having trouble thinking straight, I'm so scared. I'll try to document this rationally, though, in case the doctors need to know. I was worried at first that I wouldn't be able to go to the bathroom, but my legs started closing at the back and my anus can still be accessed from the front. Not that I need to go, I think it would be rather messy. I can't wear my pants, so I've had to strip from the waist down. God, I hope this is some sort of sunstroke hallucination or something.
No good. It's getting worse before my eyes, though not fast enough to actually see it. My legs are fused down to my knees, and the crease between them is filling in. I guess I'm in shock, looking down at my lap; it doesn't look human any more. As the crease filled in, my anus has pushed forward so that now it's just below my vagina. My butt has shrunk, it's getting hard to sit without slipping. I'm getting tired; what's it going to be like tomorrow?
I'm sorry I asked. My legs are fused all the way down to my ankles, and my feet are changing too. They're growing longer and wider. I'm struck by a weird idea; am I turning into a mermaid?? My legs could almost look like a mermaid tail, if you added the tail fin. But I'm a little freaked right now, so I don't think I'm really ready to face this.
I just had to go to the bathroom. Ugh. I couldn't hang out over the edge of the boat like normal, since my butt's in front now. I was right about my feet, I think; They're even larger now, and flatter, and when I relax they sort of splay out to the sides. But I think my hair is starting to fall out, and my breasts are shrinking. Is that normal for mermaids? Holy shit, am I really thinking all this stuff? I guess I can't help it, the evidence is too clear. I'm a mermaid. Holy shit.
Something's definitely wrong, as if turning into a mermaid was right in the first place. Most of my hair's fallen out, and my chest is virtually flat. On top of that, my arms are shorter! I wish you were here, Sam. I'm so scared, I have no idea what's happening to me any more. I can't stop crying, I'm too tired. I can't put into words how I feel. My own body is
Fell asleep writing last entry. My God, where to begin? I woke up lying in the bottom of the boat, since I can't sit up properly any more. I was lying on my back, very uncomfortable. When I tried to get up and roll over, though, I found that my body was all wrong! My arms are half their normal length, and I can't bend them well any more. They're thick and clumsy, and my fingers are starting to fuse. I could barely get myself turned over and pull myself to the front of the boat. My neck was stiff, too, and I could barely look far enough over my shrunken shoulder to see what was causing my discomfort. I have a dorsal fin on my back now. My teeth are falling out.
This is very hard to write. I'm going crazy, I'm sure of it; either I'm hallucinating all this, or I'm not and this change will drive me crazy. How the hell is anyone supposed to deal with this?! My legs have finished turning into a tail, it even bends like a tail now. I can't reach or bend far enough to touch it, but I can feel and see it. My skin is turning a sort of bluegrey color, and it itches. I wonder if I should try getting in the water? I don't think so; I'm too scared this is real.
My hands are hardly able to pick up this pen any more. They're turning into flippers, that's clear now. I'm also having a hard time seeing what I'm writing, so please excuse sloppiness; my face is stretching out in front of me and I can't turn my head down very far. I think I'm turning into a dolphin. I can't speak any more, my voice is gone. I wonder if they did this to me? When I prayed for help, did they do this to me? I hate them! I want to stay human!
Flippers useless. Teeth growing back, now they're pointed. Can't believe this, my nose is on top of head. Feels weird to be like this. Can't talk. Help me, please! Feel hungry, burning. Have to get wet, but can just barely crawl. If I go in the water, can't climb back out. Don't want to go in the water forever! Have to. Can barely write. Can still cry. I am still me! Try to find
Bye Sam, love you.
Hansen had no idea what to make of it. Had she gone crazy and abandoned the boat? That's what it sounded like, all right. It was the only thing that made sense, and it fit the rest of the evidence. But Hansen was troubled, affected by the strength of emotion apparent in the writing. He walked over to where the men were hauling the lifeboat onto the deck and leaned against the railing, looking down on the desolate expanse of water.
After a while, he saw it. A lone dolphin, slowly circling in the distance and watching as the boat was brought on board. Hansen strained to examine it, the twilight-zoneish feeling stronger than ever. He glanced over at the other men, wondering for a moment how crazy they would think he was if he tried waving to the dolphin. He decided that there wasn't much harm in trying, and turned back to the ocean.
The dolphin was gone. Had she given up, he wondered, or was she just temporarily out of sight? But after a moment he realized exactly what he was thinking, and shook his head. More likely, his mind was playing tricks on him. Taking one last look at the water, he turned and went inside.
But as he put the booklet away, he made a mental note to make sure that 'Sam' got the diary. Perhaps Sam would think he was crazy, perhaps not.