To start at the beginning, use this link: Link to chapter 1
Monica’s gut started to clench with fear, but when she realized she was having no trouble breathing, the feeling abated somewhat. Not long after the top closed completely, Monica felt the floor of her box retracting, and she dropped out of the box into the large pool in the restaurant area. Several other mermaids were waiting for her there. She recognized Christina, Jennifer, Lucia, and Veronica, who all rushed over to hug her when she dropped out of the box. Hanging a little apart from those four was a large blonde woman – the same mermaid Monica had seen alone in the tank when she was being held by Mr. Ruiz. Unlike the other mermaids, this one had not been provided with a top—perhaps an indication that she was a holdover from Mr. Ruiz’s time. Something about her seemed familiar, but it didn’t seem right that she was aloof from the other women. They were all in the same boat, weren’t they? The woman seemed surprised when Monica swam up to her and gave her a quick hug as well. At first she didn’t respond, but after a moment or two she brought her arms up to return Monica’s embrace.
The other four women continued to hold back. When Monica finished her greetings, Christina took her hand and escorted her to a back corner of the tank. There was a grating in the bottom of the pool there, and Christina pointed to the slit in her tail and motioned down to the grating. Monica nodded her head—this was where they used the bathroom. Next Christina led her to the back wall of the pool, where there were a two rows of metal clamps. Christina swam up next to the wall and put her tail in one of the lower clamps. She closed it around her ankles and then straightened up. She motioned for Monica to come closer, and then she showed her a wire coming out of the wall below the top clamp. She inserted the wire into a plug in the back of her collar and then closed the top clamp around her neck. Then she held her hands beside her head and leaned her head over in a pantomime of sleeping. Monica nodded to indicate her understanding, and Christina pulled open the clamps and disconnected the wire.
Lastly, Christina led Monica up near the top of the pool on one end of the back wall. Two clear tubes with nipples on their ends hung down from the ceiling there. Christina took one of the tubes and began sucking on the end, then motioned to the other tube. Monica took the other tube and tried sucking on it. Cool fresh water squirted into her mouth, and Monica drank her fill. She hadn’t realized quite how thirsty she was until that moment. When she had drunk her fill, she swam to the bottom of the pool where the other mermaids were sitting in a group, with the blonde one off to one side. Monica sat between them. She looked at the blonde woman again, and then it finally came to her—this was the woman who stood to one side of the pool while the mermaids performed! She was the mermaid trainer! That explained why the others were reluctant to associate with her. The blonde saw the recognition in Monica’s eyes and lowered her head, sure this meant Monica, too, would shun her. But Monica reached out and took her hand. This woman may have been one of Carlos’s minions at one time, but now she was a victim just like the rest of them. They needed to stick together, not weaken themselves by shunning someone.
Still holding the other woman’s hand, Monica slid over to join the circle of former harem girls. They slipped aside to allow them room, and Lucia reached out to take Monica’s other hand. On the other side of the blonde woman, Christina reached out as well, bringing their former enemy into the circle with them. They sat like that for some time, squeezing each other’s hands in a show of solidarity and comfort. Eventually, Lucia let go of Monica’s hand and started writing in the sand in front of her.
Hi Monica. Are you OK?
Monica looked around. Was this OK? They had never dared trying to write messages to each other in the harem.
I’m OK. She wrote back. Won’t we get in trouble for writing?
We’ve been doing it for 2 days. Lucia responded. I don’t think Mr. Simons pays much attention to us. We haven’t even seen him eat in the restaurant.
Why are we here then? Monica asked.
I don’t know. But it seems like he can only transform two of us at a time. I think he may be waiting until he has a certain number of us before he takes the next step.
I wonder what that will be.
I don’t know, but I’m sure we won’t like it.
Monica turned to the blonde woman.
What is your name? She wrote.
And you were the one who trained the other mermaids?
The woman hesitated before answering, but finally wrote: Yes.
But now you’re one of us. What happened?
Audra pulled me into the water when I was feeding them. They had a wire or something that they used to open the clamps on the wall. When Carlos couldn’t re-capture them, he ordered me to take their place.
Can we do the same thing? Who feeds us?
That won’t work. They never open the top any more. You’ll see at dinner time. They don’t even bother to lock the clamps now.
That didn’t sound good. But Mr. Simons wouldn’t keep them in there forever. Monica was sure of that. He seemed to have some definite plan for the mermaids. Monica could only hope that some flaw in that plan would allow them to escape.
The written conversation continued for a while, with all of the other mermaids participating as they discussed their situation. Eventually, Monica felt like she needed some exercise. She swam around the tank, trying to learn how to swim with the tail. She knew from watching the original group of mermaids that it was possible to swim quite gracefully with a mermaid tail, but her attempts were far clumsier than the beautiful dance she had seen before. Eventually her efforts left her tired and she settled back down on the bottom again.
Not long after she did, Monica heard some sounds coming from overhead, near the back of the tank. All of the other prisoners perked up at the sounds and quickly swam towards their source. Monica followed. She found all of the other mermaids congregated near the drinking tubes. A window had opened in the wall behind the tubes, and inside there were two stacks of discs and an untidy pile of ration bars. Christina grabbed two of the discs and motioned to Monica to turn around. When she did, Christina pulled the two discs out of the back of Monica’s collar and replaced them with the two from the alcove. Monica turned around and saw Christina place the used discs back in the alcove on the other side. Then she took two more discs- a red one and a black one- and handed them to Monica before turning her back on her. Monica looked closely at the back of Christina’s collar and found two flaps on top that could be opened to reveal the discs underneath. She pulled them out and replaced them with the new ones, then pressed the flaps closed again.
The other mermaids helped each other with their discs, and then each one took one of the ration bars. A moment or two later, the door to the alcove closed. Monica ate her ration bar, which tasted slightly salty and soggy from being immersed in the water. She took turns with the other women at the drinking tubes, which now dispensed orange juice. Each mermaid took a few mouthfuls of the juice before letting the next one drink, then lined back up for a second round. On Monica’s third time at the nipple, she got about two swallows before the juice ran out and she found herself drinking water again. Then she understood why they were so careful to take turns. Veronica finished the juice in the other tube at about the same time. Once the orange juice was gone, they all drank their fill of water before passing the tube on to the next person.
Once everyone had finished getting their drinks, Christina headed over to the corner with the drain for a moment and then swam up to one of the pairs of clamps and plugged her collar in, closing the clamps around her neck and tail. Monica pulled Veronica down to the sand so she could write a question.
Why is she putting that clamp around her neck? She asked.
The lights will be turning off in a few minutes, and the clamps hold you in place while you sleep.
Why not just sleep on the sand? It would be a lot more comfortable.
It takes a few hours for our collars to recharge, and you can only do that at one of the clamps.
By this time, Lucia had done her business and settled in next to Christina, and Gretchen was headed in the same direction.
Come on. Veronica said. It’s easier to find the charging cord while the light is on.
Trusting in the experience of the others, Monica found an empty set of clamps and closed the lower one around her feet before plugging in her collar and closing the one around her neck as well. She opened it again, just to be sure she could, before closing it once more. Moments later, the lights went out. Since the restaurant was underground and had no windows, the tank became very dark. Monica could understand that it would have been quite hard to find her way around once the lights were out. She closed her eyes and tried to sleep.