To start at the beginning, use this link: Link to chapters 1-25
The next morning, one of the guards gave Allen a ride to the hospital for his appointment with Dr. Hansen. After the usual wait, a nurse led him into an examination room in a different part of the hospital than he was used to. The nurse took his blood pressure and pulse and then had him take off his blouse and bra. She gave him a robe to wrap around himself instead. Dr. Hansen came to see him shortly thereafter.
“How are you doing?” She asked him.
“I feel fine.” He answered. “Why are we meeting here instead of your normal office?”
“This is the mammography area. Just as a precaution I ordered a mammogram for you. Do you mind taking off your robe now, so I can check out your breasts?”
Allen took the robe off and the doctor did a breast exam. It felt a little strange to Allen, but Dr. Hansen was very professional about it.
“I don’t detect any lumps or anything unusual.” She said when she was done. “And there doesn’t appear to be any discharge at the moment. How often do you notice it?”
“Since Katherine noticed it the other day, it seems to be almost constant, though it can be hard to tell when I’m in the aquarium most of the time.”
“Can I see your bra?”
Allen handed it over and the doctor felt in his bra cups for dampness. She even sniffed them.
“Hmm. It looks like there is a little bit of dampness here. I would really like to get a sample to test. Do you mind if I squeeze your breasts and try to express a little of the fluid? It might be a little uncomfortable.”
“I doubt you will squeeze them any harder than my wife has been the last few nights. Something about the discharge drives her crazy.”
“Really? That’s interesting. Hold this cup under your nipple please, and think about your wife.”
The doctor started kneading Allen’s breast with her fingers, working from the back to the front. He closed his eyes and tried to imagine Katherine was there. Before long, a few drops of fluid dribbled out into the cup. When Dr. Hansen decided she had enough of the liquid, she put a lid on the cup and labeled it.
“You can put the robe back on now, and we’ll go over to the mammography machine.” She told him.
The doctor led him down the hall to another room, where a technician had him roll up to the mammography machine and take off the robe. She squished each breast in turn between two plates and then stepped behind a shield while she took the X-rays. Now Allen understood why women complained about getting mammograms. It wasn’t a very comfortable process. When the technician was done, the images of Allen’s breasts came up on a large screen nearby, and Dr. Hansen studied them carefully for a few minutes.
“Well, I don’t see anything unusual here.” She said. “But we’ll have a radiologist check the images as well. We should get a report in a day or two.”
They went back into the examining room and the doctor told Allen he could put his clothes back on. Allen put his blouse back on, but it was the blue one with the zipper in the back, so he had to ask the doctor for help. If he kept leaving the aquarium, he was going to need another shirt.
“So do you have any idea what the discharge is?” Allen asked her.
“I’m not sure just yet. You say it drives your wife crazy?”
“Yes. Not that I’m complaining. We’ve had some very exciting nights.”
“What about other people? Have you noticed any unusual behavior in the people around you?”
“Well, now that you mention it, several of the other mermaids seem to go out of their way to get close to me.”
“What about the men?”
“No, I haven’t seen anything unusual in the guards or any of the other men I’ve encountered lately.”
“Well, I have a theory that is a bit unusual. Have you heard of pheromones?”
“Yes. Aren’t they chemicals that some animals use to attract mates?”
“Among other things, yes. Many insects are known to use them to communicate with each other. But despite what some perfume manufacturers would have you believe, no human pheromones have ever been proven to exist, though there are a few compounds that are theorized to be human pheromones.”
“I suppose that could account for Katherine’s behavior. But why would I be secreting pheromones? And why would they be coming from my breasts?”
“Those are very good questions. And I don’t have any sure answers. But you and the other mermaids have been dosed with large amounts of healgel, which is derived from jellyfish. And you are covered with a protective slime generated by bacteria with discus fish genetic material in them. Who knows all the ways your body might react to that?”
“And since my breasts were made using healglue injections, they are the sites with the most foreign material. I suppose that could account for it.”
“Yes. Do you know if any of the other mermaids are experiencing discharge like you?”
“None of the mermaids, no. But Fernando mentioned that he was having some.”
“And he also has artificially grown breasts. How do the other mermaids react to him?”
“Well, we don’t exactly share what goes on in the bedroom. So I don’t know how Anna has been reacting. But I did notice the other day that Monica couldn’t seem to keep her eyes off of him.”
“That adds a bit of credence to my theory. I’d like to have him come in and see me as well.”
“I’ll ask him to make an appointment.”
“The good news is that whatever the fluid is, it doesn’t appear to indicate anything bad is going on. I should have some lab results back in a few days, and I’ll call you if anything comes up.”
“So I shouldn’t be concerned?”
“No. It looks like this fluid may be a natural consequence of being a merman with breasts.”
“Well, in another week or so I hope to be rid of the breasts.”
“I had better study the discharge while I can, then. Before you leave, I’ve scheduled another scan for you, in the combined PET-MRI machine. We were surprised by how much new tissue had grown in Carla’s tail, and I want to see what’s happening to you as well.”
“Well, I was planning to visit Carla today. I guess I’ll stop by and get a scan first.”
“Actually, we have to inject you with a tracer material before the scan. My nurse will do that and then you can visit Carla for an hour before getting your scan.”
“Okay. That should work out.”
“Thank you. If I ever have time to write them up, your case is going to get me several interesting articles for the medical journals.”
Allen thanked the doctor and then sat still while a nurse injected him with the tracer material. Then he got help from the nurse to find Carla’s room. When he arrived, Carla was standing beside her bed holding onto an IV pole. A nurse was helping her take a few small steps. She couldn’t take large ones because her legs were still fused above the knees. She had bandages on her legs and one around her neck.
“Allen! It’s so good to see you!” Said Carla. “I’m glad you came to visit.”
“How are you doing?” Allen asked her.
“Well, as you can see, my collar and all the scales have been removed, and my legs have been split below the knee. They are doing a series of smaller operations to give me time to heal and recover in between.”
“When do they think they will be done?”
“The last operation is scheduled for next week. Then Dr. Hansen says it will take about a week for me to recover enough to leave the hospital.”
“And everything has been going smoothly?”
“Pretty much. The doctor says the operations have been a bit more difficult than expected because my body had created so much new muscle and new blood vessels and nerves. They’ve been doing lots of scans so that they can plan out how to separate my legs and move things around to rebuild them. And now they are making me walk around like this to build up my walking muscles again.”
“Yes, Dr. Hansen told me about the extra tissue growth. She’s got me scheduled for a scan after I’m done visiting you. What are your plans for when you’re all done?”
“I was a little worried about that, but Audra said she would hire me as a technician in the pharmaceutical plant, so I’ll be working right next door to the aquarium.”
“That’s good news! We’ll still be able to visit then.”
They continued talking about Carla’s plans until the nurse came back to take Allen to the scanner. When the scan was complete, Dr. Hansen came to review the results. Allen looked at the multicolored images with interest as the doctor paged through the screens full of data.
“So what does this all mean?” He asked her.
“As I expected, the process is even more advanced with you than it was with Carla. Your muscles and tendons are re-arranging themselves to work more like a fish tail than two legs. And it looks like you have tissue quite far into your tail fluke. You probably haven’t even noticed, but I’ll bet you can curl up the tips of your fluke now.”
Allen wiggled his tail fluke and realized that the doctor was right. He could independently move the ends of the fluke several inches beyond where his toes should end. He reached down and squeezed the fluke, and he found that he had feeling beyond the end of his toes as well, though it did not extend out all the way to the end.
“It appears you are growing some nerves down into those areas as well.” Dr. Hansen commented. “But they haven’t progressed as far as your muscles.”
“So do you have any idea where this growth will stop?”
“No, not really. Normally, the human body doesn’t regenerate lost tissue. With healgel we can now regrow skin and some muscle from burns, and we have had some success regenerating lost fingers or toes, but they always grow back into the original form. This is something new. Apparently your body, with help from the healgel, is responding to its environment, growing new structures more suited to how you are using your body. If I had to guess, I would say that the changes will stop when you are completely adapted to the mermaid shape.”
“I’d much rather adapt to a merman shape, if I have to change at all.”
“Well, maybe that will happen after next week.”
“This makes going back to having two legs even less likely, doesn’t it?”
“I’m afraid so. The longer you keep the tail on, the more your body adapts to it. You are the most advanced because of the burns and the early start you had, but I would guess all the other mermaids are changing in the same way. If any of them want to follow Carla, the sooner they decide the better.”
“I’ll pass the word.”
Allen called the aquarium and asked for a guard to pick him up, but it was rush hour so it would be an hour or more before his ride arrived. Wondering what to do, Allen sat in his wheelchair in the hall for a few minutes. After a while, one of the nurses approached him.
“Excuse me, but I wonder if I could ask you for a favor?” She asked.
“What kind of favor?” Allen replied.
“Well, we have a little girl in a room a few doors down the hall. She’s badly injured but she has a mermaid doll that she holds all the time. If you have a few minutes, I think it would make her very happy to see a real mermaid.”
“Why not?” Allen said. “I have some time. What is the girl’s name?”
“Alicia. She was in a car accident a few days ago and her back was broken. She’s paralyzed from the waist down.”
“I can see why she might need some cheering up. Let’s go see her.”
The nurse took the handles of Allen’s wheelchair and pushed him down the hall to the room with Alicia in it. As they entered the room, Allen could see the little girl propped up in the hospital bed, desultorily watching a children’s program on the TV. A worn-down looking woman dozed in a chair in the corner of the room.
“Alicia, I have a visitor here to see you.” Said the nurse.
The little girl looked over at Allen, curious to see who he was. When she saw the mermaid tail, her eyes lit up.
“Hi Alicia.” Allen said. “I’m Ellen the mermaid. I heard you might like a visit.”
“Are you a real mermaid?” The little girl asked.
“As real as they come. See my tail?” Allen lifted his tail and wiggled the flukes.
“Wow! You are beautiful! But where are your seashells?”
Allen was not used to being called beautiful. “You’re very pretty too.” He said. “But what do you mean about seashells?”
“Like my doll, Melissa. See her seashells?” Alicia pointed to the seashell bra embroidered on her doll.
“Oh, now I understand.” Said Allen. “Melissa must be a wild mermaid, so she wears seashells for a top. I live at the Gulf Aquarium, and we wear regular shirts when we are out of the water.”
“Do you wear seashells when you are in the water?”
“No, we just wear regular swimming suits.”
“Why are you in a wheelchair? My legs won’t move anymore, so the doctor says I will have to use a wheelchair too.”
“Well, mermaid tails work great for swimming in the water, but when we’re on land, mermaids can’t walk. So we have to use a wheelchair too.”
“Is it hard?”
“It takes some practice, and it can be hard to reach things, but you will learn to get around. Would you like to go on a ride with me?”
“Oh, yes! Can I?”
“If it’s OK with the nurse and your mom.”
Allen looked over to the woman in the corner, who was now awake.
“I don’t see why not.” The woman said.
The nurse agreed, and she helped unhook Alicia from her IV and slid her out of the bed into Allen’s lap.
“Shall we make a lap around the floor?” Allen asked his passenger.
“Yes! Can you go fast?”
“I’ll try. I don’t want to run into anybody though.”
Allen wheeled out into the hall and turned. The long hallway seemed empty at the moment, so Allen started pumping the wheels as fast as he could. Alicia shrieked with delight as they sped down the hall, with Allen shouting “Coming through!” to warn anyone who might step out of a room into their path. They had to slow down when they got to the corner, and the other halls around the perimeter of the floor had a few people and carts in them, so they weren’t able to go quite as fast.
“That was fun!” Alicia said as they re-entered her hospital room. “Do you think I’ll be able to go that fast in my wheelchair?”
“If you practice. You have to have strong arm muscles to push your chair with.”
Alicia snaked her arms around Allen’s back, burying her head in his bosom and giving him a big hug.
“Thank you for the ride.” She said.
“Yes. Thank you.” Said her mother. “Alicia hasn’t been this happy in days.”
“I’m happy to help out.” Allen answered. “How would you like to visit the aquarium when Alicia gets out of the hospital? I think I can arrange for some tickets for you.”
“Oh, yes! Can we mom?” Said Alicia.
“If you do everything the doctors and nurses tell you to, we can go when you get home.”
“Yipee! Can I watch you swim, Ellen?”
“We can do better than that. If the doctor says you are ready, we can get you your own mermaid tail and you can get in the water with me.”
“Really? My own mermaid tail?”
“Yes. You work on getting better and I’ll talk to your mom, OK?”
The nurse helped lift Alicia back into her bed and Allen spoke to her mother for a few minutes, gathering her address and phone number so he could work out the logistics of their visit. When they were done, it was about time to meet his ride, so Allen went down to the entrance of the hospital. He returned to the aquarium and explained the results of his visit to Katherine and the other mermaids. Fernando agreed to set up an appointment with Dr. Hansen so she could check out his secretions and compare them to Allen’s. When he told them all about the results of the scan, Allen was surprised that none of the other mermaids reacted strongly to the news.
“I thought you would all be pretty upset.” Allen said to Anna in the cafeteria at dinner time. “But everyone seemed to be OK with having a permanent mermaid tail.”
“I think a week or two ago I would have been upset.” Anna answered. “But I’ve been feeling really different lately. I find myself thinking that I’m not really a human any more, and we mermaids do things differently than humans.”
“I’ve felt the same way.” Said Audra.
“From you, I would have expected that.” Said Allen. “Since I know this has been a dream of yours for some time.”
“Could I ask you for a favor?” Audra asked.
“Sure, what do you need?”
“Can I get my own sample of your discharge? I want to run a few tests of my own.”
“I suppose. Come on into our room and you can collect some.”
“Let me get a container and I’ll be right there.”
Katherine and Allen went into their room and Allen took off his swimsuit. A few moments later Audra called from outside the curtain in their doorway.
“Can I come in?”
“Yes, we’re ready.”
Audra swam into the room, carrying a small sample bottle in one hand. There were already drips of fluid on both of Allen’s breasts, and he could tell that Katherine was responding. Audra’s eyes widened and her breathing quickened as she pressed the jar into Allen’s breast.
“Can you squeeze a little of it into my jar for me?” She asked him, her voice husky.
Allen held onto a railing with one hand and used his other to squeeze a thin stream of liquid into Audra’s jar. When the jar was full enough, Audra lifted it away, letting the back of her hand rub against his damp nipple as she did. She put the lid on the jar and then licked her hand, shuddering as she did.
“Oh, that’s really nice.” She said. She reached out with her hand, her mouth partly open, and then she shook herself and backed away.
Audra left, and Katherine promptly pounced on Allen. Twenty minutes later, Allen asked her a question.
“How did you feel when Audra was in here collecting her sample?”
“Not jealous? Audra was pretty obviously strongly attracted to me.”
“No.” Katherine answered. “In fact, I was hoping she would latch on and suck you dry like I do.”
“Doesn’t that seem strange to you?”
“Intellectually, I understand why it might seem strange.” Katherine answered. “But it feels very right. I think mermaids see the world differently than humans.”
Allen thought about that response over the next few days.