"All I'm saying is that in a fair fight, a Kraken would destroy Godzilla."
Ash scoffed and leaned back in his chair. It was a quiet day at Rikki's, the restaurant, and so he'd left the cashbox and food to Sophie only to find himself caught up in an old fight with Lewis.
"How is it ever a fair fight if one of the monsters can shoot energy beams of electricity at the other?"
Cleo and Rikki were both rolling their eyes at the silly argument as Lewis started defending his position once more against Ash. The group had decided to meet up for a quick breakfast that morning to enjoy one more lazy day before the start of their final term at school. It was just getting to be noon and there were still not many customers. Business would probably pick up in the afternoon when everyone had gotten all the sun they could stand and needed something cold to recharge. Ash waved goodbye to Sophie as she finished her shift and took off. He could handle the few random orders until another server, Jacob, came in to start his shift at two.
"-and when the Kraken drags it's lizard arse down to the bottom of the sea then we'll see who's in trouble mate!" Lewis finished passionately and grinned when Ash didn't have an immediate comeback.
He tossed his cleaning rag onto the table and pointed at the other teen, "Right, there's only one way to settle this! We're watching all of the Godzilla movies and 20,000 Leagues at next month's full moon movie night and the girls can decide a winner!"
Lewis started to agree when Rikki cut in.
"If you two think we're going to be watching any of those old movies, you can forget it!" She held up a hand to stop their protests while Cleo just shrugged when her boyfriend turned to her with a pleading look.
"Sorry Lewis," she smiled apologetically. "It'd be boring. Besides, we already decided to do a zombie movie marathon, so you'll have to choose something in that category." Lewis sighed, but smiled at her and nodded.
"Well, I guess we can always enjoy some good old fashioned brain eating instead." He leaned back then to get into his bag and pulled out his laptop. "Sorry Ash, I'd better get going on that written report for my boss. She gets picky when my sea turtle counts arrive late."
Although his new boss was a bit of a stickler, at least she was no Denman, and he was getting some great experience working with her. After his first month in America, an apprenticeship with a marine biologist opened up back on the Gold Coast and Lewis, missing Cleo, had snatched it up right away.
As he had explained when he showed up unannounced on her doorstep, the chance to learn was still there and he could be closer to the people he loved. Cleo hadn't even given him the chance to ask if she'd still like to be with him, too busy kissing him fiercely.
Ash stood up with a sigh as a new customer walked in, "Another time then for that Godzilla movie night, eh?" Lewis waved his agreement, already engrossed in the screen as he planned how to word his report.
The girls stood as well to get ready to leave, with Cleo giving Lewis a quick kiss on the cheek. "I'll come by later to catch up with you. Think I'll go for a swim. Do you want to come with me?" This last bit was said to Rikki who shook her head as she stretched.
"Sorry, maybe tomorrow. I promised my dad I'd go to the mall with him in a while. I'll catch you later."
Cleo sighed as they walked out the door together, "Sounds fun. Dad and Samantha took Kim out on a fishing trip. They wanted me to come as well but..." Rikki grimaced. There were too many chances to get wet on a fishing trip. She was glad her dad usually liked to stay on dry land. It made it much easier to keep their secret from him that way.
"That's bad luck. Ah, well. At least Samantha is on your side right?" Cleo nodded. Her new stepmother had been very helpful keeping the peace in their family since the wedding. Or at least since Kim had decided it was too late to try and sabotage things now. Things weren't perfect, but they were getting better.
"Yeah, she has my dad convinced it's just a normal teenage girl phase to not want to get stinky fishing. He hasn't bothered me about it since." It made her a little sad not to be able to spend more time with her dad like she used to, but it was better than explaining how she was practically a fish herself! Coming to the boardwalk they parted ways, Cleo to find a private spot to dive in, and Rikki to enjoy a little sun as she walked back home.
It was a perfect day; blue skies with a few white clouds. The beach was crowded worse than usual as everyone traveled to spend a few more days swimming and surfing before school started up again. Rikki wouldn't miss it once tourist season ended. It made it hard to walk around, let alone get in a nice swim with so many boats and people nearby. At least in another week or so, all the foreigners would be flying back home and they'd have their beaches to themselves again.
At least no one ever went out towards Mako other than the occasional random boat. The reputation of the sharks surrounding the island was enough to keep most people from wanting to swim or surf the beaches there, and it was just seen as not scenic enough to warrant any tourist boats when there were prettier reefs along the coast.
But that was alright with the three mermaids. The island truly was all theirs.
Rikki huffed as she got off the beach and had a rude sweaty woman in dark glasses almost knocked her over as she staggered her way onto the sand.
"Excuse you!" Rikki called after her, then stomped away as the woman didn't even turn to look at her. Shaking her head, Rikki made her way passed the docks and waved at Will and Sophie. She hadn't much liked Sophie when they moved in just a month or so ago, but Will was alright. Being a mermaid she had a lot of respect for someone that could dive and swim like he did. As for Sophie, at least she was a hard worker.
"Hey Rikki!" he called and waved. Sophie smiled as well, although she was packing a few iceboxes onto their boat and their diving gear.
"Hi Rikki. Will, are you going to help me with all this food you've packed? I swear, I know you work up an appetite, but we don't need this many sandwiches or water!" He just shrugged, "Well, what if you drop your food overboard again? Then you'll be thanking me for the extras."
Rikki waved back, but left the two siblings to bicker with a shake of her head. If she had a sister like Sophie she wouldn't be nearly as patient as Will.
Thanking her single child status, she let the arguing fade behind her and continued on her way. Rikki let out a long content sigh. Life was good at the moment, and she intended to enjoy it.
Emma was just refilling her glass with juice, being careful not to spill any on herself since she'd have to explain to her family why she suddenly ran out of the brunch they were enjoying. Being a mermaid was amazing, but it did make every day life a little more stressful.
Although to be honest, she was starting to get tired of all the lies. Her parents had mostly stopped asking her why she quit swimming so suddenly, but it still created space between them all that hadn't been there before. She hated keeping it from them, but Cleo and Rikki were right. It was too big. It was better for them to keep it a secret for now. Maybe when she was off to university she'd tell them. That way she could give them some time to come to terms with their daughter not being fully human any more.
"Could you pass me the juice there, love?" Her mom's voice broke through her thoughts and she handed the jug over with a smile. Emma loved their end of summer brunch tradition. They were seated on the back porch of their home, and a gentle breeze was coming off the water. Their view of the river was lovely, and it was a perfect spot to jump in for a swim. With only a few twists, she could be out to the ocean in just ten minutes.
Eventually the ability to come up with new conversation starters had disappeared along with the food. They'd already talked about their individual plans for the year. She was going to start looking into colleges she might like to go to, Elliot was planning on continuing his horse riding lessons, her mother was planning on taking on a job as a junior lifeguard trainer, and her father was going to take more golf lessons so that he could finally beat Harrison Bennett.
Before spending so much time with Rikki and Cleo, Emma had really taken for granted her family but now she knew how lucky she was to have them all. When she was younger she'd never believed the complaints from her classmates about their various family issues. After all, it wasn't that difficult to get along as a family for the Gilberts, so she'd assumed everyone else was just whining about nothing. Two years of friendship with Rikki and Cleo had shown her differently.
"So about the schools you'll be looking into," her dad Neil began, "have you given any thought to what you'd like to study? You know finance is always a great career to get into!" He gave her a wink to let her know he was mostly joking. He knew she wasn't exactly interested in it.
Emma shrugged, "Honestly, I'm not sure. Maybe I'll just start with the required classes and see what I like best."
"That's a great idea." Her mother Lisa nodded. "There's no rush to jump into anything. You want to be sure it's what you really want to do with your life."
The mermaid smiled and turned to Elliot. He was a little quiet, not entirely happy that she was going to be moving away in the next year, and sulking because of the reminder. "What do you think? What should I study?"
The younger boy shrugged and was about to answer when a ringing caught their attention. Neil winced at the look his wife gave him for having his phone at the table, but nodded to let him know he may as well answer it. Checking the caller ID he flipped it open.
"Good morning, Harrison. I'm afraid I can't talk too long at the moment. We're having brunch at-"
Loud enough that the whole table could all hear him shouting was Harrison Bennetts voice coming through the phone. Emma froze in place, before slowly lowering the muffin she was about to take a bite off to rest back on her plate.
"Listen to me Neil! It's an emergency!" In the background they could hear shouting and some screams. "Candy and I are trapped in the mall in one of the stores! There are-" There was a loud crash, and they heard more yelling and running footsteps before, a little short of breath, Harrison spoke again. "Damn, they're stronger than they look!"
"Harrison, I'll phone the police, just tell me which store-" Neil was cut off again
"Don't bother, they've already been here and it didn't stop them. Listen to me. We're not going to get out of here." In the background they could hear Candy's soft sobs. "But it sounds like it hasn't gotten to you yet."
"What hasn't? Harrison, what's going on?" Neil was standing at this point and Emma slowly got to her feet as well.
"It's bloody zombies, Neil!" Harrison's voice became garbled for a moment as they moved. "Came out of nowhere, they did! Just started attacking people! We're holed up in the back of this store. We're going to try and make a run for it. You and your family should get out now before it's too late."
"Be careful Harrison. Don't take any stupid risks. If you can, just sit and wait for help!"
Zane's father laughed softly, "You know how I like risks, Neil. Do me a favor? Zane went off this morning to fish. He's probably still out on the water. I can't reach him. Can you try and get a hold of him for me? Tell him I said he should try and meet up with your family. He's not to come looking for me."
Emma felt cold. Harrison was not a man she's known to exaggerate things. If he thought it was bad enough that they needed to leave, then they should get moving. She glanced over at her mother and saw lines creasing Lisa's face as she gripped her napkin tightly.
"I'll tell him where to meet us and keep him safe, you have my word." Neil's grip on the phone left his fingers white.
"Thank you," Harrison breathed out a sigh. "Best of luck. I'll call again when we're in a safer spot than this." Without further ado he hung up. Neil held the phone to his ear for another minute, still processing what he'd been told. Eventually he closed the phone and turned back to his wife and children.
Everyone was quiet for a moment before Neil took a deep breath and nodded to himself. "Right, you lot go pack. Just some clothes and one or two important items. We're going to leave as soon as we can. I need to make some calls." He shared a look with Lisa then walked into the house to his office to start checking on a few family and friends.
"Where are we going to go?" Elliott's quiet question got the rest of them moving. Emma reached over and gave his shoulder a squeeze.
Lisa stood then and nodded to them both. "We'll take a trip up to Grandma Gilbert's home until everything settles down. Now come on, leave the dishes this once and go pack. Your father won't take long." Ushering them inside to their rooms she hurried to her own to start packing for herself and Neil. It was only once she was alone filling a small bag with clothing that she let the worry show on her face.
Meanwhile, Emma was packing as fast as she could. If she could get done before the rest of her family she could take the time to call Cleo and Rikki, or even Ash. Either way, she could call them once they were on the road. But from the sounds of things, the sooner she called the better.
And the story continues! Things are starting to heat up and in the words of Eris, "Enough talking! Time for some screaming."
Thank you again to Kittenamos on FF for helping keep this story polished and ready to go!
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Spoilers and trigger warnings are in the end notes! Scroll down to the end if you need a heads up!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The waves rocked Zane's boat gently as they floated offshore. It had been a slow day for fishing, but it was relaxing just to sit out there and enjoy the view and the peace and quiet. Or it would have been if Nate hadn't been complaining nonstop since before they even left the docks. Honestly, Zane was questioning why he'd even invited him along in the first place.
They hadn't seen much of each other since he and Rikki started dating, and he realized what a terrible influence the other teen could be. But they'd been friends for such a long time he wanted to try and fix things between them, and hopefully stop all the backbiting that had been going on between Nate and Rikki all summer.
Cutting off the start of another complaint, Zane turned to Nate and waved his fishing rod a bit.
"With all the talking you're doing, it's no wonder we haven't gotten so much as nibble." He reeled his hook in with a small sigh. Looks like they weren't going to be having any fresh fish for lunch after all.
"Oi, you'd be complaining too if some nutty old woman tried to bite you! She ripped clean through my shirt!" Nate plucked at the torn collar of his polo shirt. "Took off a bit of skin too!" He rubbed at the scraped flesh with a grumble. "Lucky that officer saw it happening and pulled her off. She was raving as he cuffed her. She probably would have had another go if she wasn't being held back!"
Zane grinned, seeing an opportunity. He gave Nate's other shoulder a playful shove, "Oh, don't lie now. You were hoping she'd come back for a kiss!"
Nate sputtered in outrage while Zane laughed at him. Sometimes it was to easy to rile his friend up.
"Besides, it was just a little love bite, nothing to worry about." Zane turned away to bait his hook and cast out again. "Now do you mind shutting up for a bit? We might actually catch something without your screeching." Nate grumbled, but settled back as well.
They fished quietly for another hour, managing to nab a few small fish that they packed away for later. It was after another long stretch of silence that Zane finally stopped fiddling with his line and took a calming breath.
"Nate?" he called and waited until the other boy gave a soft grunt before continuing. "I know we haven't been mates lately. Things have gotten a little tense between us since Rikki and I started dating and then running the café. I understand that you were angry that I wasn't spending as much time with you. Not to mention the fact that you and Rikki keep butting heads with each other." Zane sighed and secured his pole to the rod holder on the side of the boat. He was glad Nate was just letting him talk. This was hard enough on his ego without the extra commentary Nate would usually give.
"The way that you two keep going at each other's throats, I felt like I had to choose between you." He chuckled a bit. "You two are pretty similar, you know?" He felt Nate shift in his seat and decided to take the plunge before he lost his nerve or Nate interrupted him.
"I want us to be close again like we used to be. We've been friends for a long time. I'd hate to just lose that over a stupid fight." He rubbed his hands down his shorts to dry them off from his nervous sweat.
If he was lucky, Nate wouldn't tease him too badly about talking about his feelings like a girl, but he'd felt like this was an important talk that they needed to have. He gave it a moment so Nate could speak if he wanted to. He was just about to say something else to his friend when he heard a soft choking sound behind him.
Brow furrowed Zane turned back in surprise. "Are you crying?"
Nate was sitting with his shoulders hunched and head down, with little gasping cries shaking his body. His own rod was lying along the bottom of the boat, abandoned there sometime since Zane had started talking.
Zane was frankly shocked. He hadn't see Nate cry since they were fourteen and the other boy had crashed his motorbike and broke his arm. A little hesitant he smiled and clapped a hand on Nate's shoulder.
"I didn't mean to make you so emotional."
But his smile slid off his face when Nate stopped shaking and straightened up in his seat. His face was covered in sweat and his skin was pale.
"Nate? You alright there?" Zane turned further and gave him a little shake, concerned that his usually chatty friend wasn't saying anything. Any further questions were cut off though when Nate suddenly growled and twisted towards Zane, grabbing at him.
"What the hell?!" Zane frantically reached out to grab ahold of the shorter teens shoulders in an attempt to try and hold him back. "Nate!"
But Nate just roared and violently scratched at Zane's face, his nails leaving red furrows down Zane's cheeks and neck. They struggled half sitting for a moment as Zane tried to reason with his friend.
"What is wrong with you? Stop!"
Zane's heart was beating faster amidst the fight, and his eyes grew wide when he saw Nate's eyes clouding over. By this point, the teen was beyond words as he started foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog. If it weren't impossible, Zane would have thought the boy was getting stronger. He tried to turn and shove him overboard, but the grip Nate had on his shirt was too tight and they both ended up falling over the side and into the salty water.
Water pressed around them both as they grappled. It was only thanks to his childhood swimming classes that made Zane only take half a swallow of water before he forced his mouth shut. Their thrashing was making them sink, but with one hard kick he was able to break Nate's hold on his shirt.
Nate didn't seem to remember how to swim as he was still trying to grab at Zane as he sank down towards the dark depths of the ocean. He didn't even seem bothered that water was filling his throat and lungs. This was the last glance Zane had of him before he struggled back to the surface and to the boat. Gasping and spitting, Zane pulled himself back over the side of his red speedboat. He lay there, coughing and sprawled on the bottom of the boat for a minute as he tried to get his breath back.
Still coughing up water, he sat up and looked over the edge of the boat for Nate. He didn't know what had happened, but that wasn't like anything he'd ever seen before.
"N-Nate!" he yelled between breaths, but the water was rolling gently around the boat with no sign that anyone else had surfaced.
"Shit," he muttered as he looked around.
Taking a few slow breaths, he dove back in and swam down a few feet to look around. Nate was probably having some kind of fit when he attacked him. If it was a seizure, there was no way he'd be able to make it back to the boat himself. But seeing anything in the murky water grew nearly impossible ten meters down and he didn't have any gear with him to help dive deeper. Zane couldn't make out anything resembling his friend, and with Nate likely too far down to be seen, there was no way he'd get to him in time to save him.
Another cough hit him, his throat still irritated from falling in before, and he had to surface. He swam back to the boat and pulled his phone out of the small waterproof box they'd put them in that morning. Wiping water out of his eyes, Zane dialed the number for the coast guard. In his heart he knew it was probably already too late, but he had to try. Maybe Nate surfaced too far away from him to be seen.
"Come on, come on . . ." he muttered impatiently, but the line just kept ringing. Cursing to himself, Zane put the device on speaker and started the boat. He'd try to circle around a few times and see if he could spot Nate. At least he'd be doing something until he could get some divers out to help him.
It couldn't be too late. It was just a simple fishing trip. People didn't just randomly die on fishing trips.
His thoughts were repeating in his head as Zane circled and circled, and listened to the phone ring and ring and ring.
Spoilers for this chapter: Character death and death by drowning!
And things are officially going to get darker from here on out. I hope you enjoyed this latest installment!
Thank you again to kittenamos for helping me sprinkle in commas and keep things clean!
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
Trigger warnings are in the authors notes at the end to avoid spoilers. Head to the bottom if you want a heads up of what's coming!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Rikki couldn't say that she was ever really proud of the trailer she and her dad lived in. It was in better shape now that she was getting a regular paycheck and could help with paying for repairs. But there was a reason the girls usually ended up at Cleo or Emma's houses.
Her dad hadn't been too keen about her paying for things at the beginning, but she'd worn him down. It had always been a matter of pride for him to be able to provide everything they needed. They may not have had a fancy house or ended up with the best things, but they never went hungry and she never went without clean, new clothes.
Life hadn't been easy on Terry, especially since his wife had left them. Until recently he'd been very close lipped about where she'd gone and why. Rikki had always wondered if money really was the only thing that had torn their marriage apart, or if there had been something or someone else involved.
Though it wasn't like she really missed the woman. Rikki had been so young when her mother took off, that she just didn't have enough of an emotional connection to her. It was more the idea of a possible mother figure that she could have had in her life that had occasionally haunted her growing up.
Of course Rikki hoped she was happy wherever she was, but a part of her also hoped that her mother was just as haunted by what could have been as they were.
As she came up to the front door of their home she could hear yells coming from next door. This wasn't exactly unusual. In fact, they'd been taking bets on when the couple would break up again. From the sound of things, it looked like her dad might win this round.
Inside her house, it was quiet and she grabbed a glass of juice from the fridge before letting herself slump back on the couch. With a wince, she fished her phone out of her back pocket and tossed it onto the side table. "Oi dad, sounds like Mary is going to pack up again. If she's out by tomorrow, I'll do all the dishes for the week!" Rikki took a sip of her juice and relaxed, but when her father didn't answer her right away she sat up. "Dad? Are you here?" She left the glass on the side table and got up to look for him.
As she got towards the back of the house, she heard music coming from the garage out back. Shaking her head, Rikki detoured through the kitchen to the back door. The voice of Freddie Mercury led the way as she came around the side of the house.
"Old man, you better not be covered in engine grease! We're meant to be going shopping!" This was just like him to get involved in a project on his bike and forget the time. "You can't get out of getting yourself a nice shirt that easy!"
The sight in front of her took a moment to register. It was so unexpected and odd that Rikki just froze in place outside the small open shed they'd set up last year to cover the parts he was currently working on.
Terry was laying on his back, arms and legs spread out and eyes staring up at the perfect blue sky. There was a woman lying on top of him that blocked most of the view as she moved slowly over his neck. She had on a ripped white tee and messy dark hair. She was also missing a shoe and didn't even seem to notice Rikki behind them.
Rikki stalled, trying to decide if she should say something, or sneak away and give them a moment. She'd never even seen her dad look at another person before. And he'd certainly never mentioned he was seeing someone! Mind made up she cleared her throat.
"I'll ah, just be in the house. Shall I see you two inside?"
The dark haired woman paused, then turned around with a growl. Rikki's own eyes widened as she caught sight of the woman's cloudy eyes, and the blood streaming down the front of her face from her mouth. The teen could see bits of something red in the woman's mouth. The monstrous woman slowly stood and started shuffling towards Rikki, the one bare foot bent at an odd angle and dragged behind her.
Rikki took a step back in fear, and then noticed that behind the woman her father still wasn't moving. A raw red hole was ripped out of his neck, leaving barely anything to connect his head to his body. Blood seeped into the sawdust he'd spread out to catch oil, stopping the puddle from his neck from spreading out very far.
A scream caught in her throat as she realized what had happened and she clapped a hand over her mouth to keep it in. Unconsciously, she backed up until her shoulders banged against the side of their house, all the while the woman stumbled closer.
Rikki heaved in deep breaths and her stomach fought to upheave everything she'd eaten, but she didn't have time to panic with that thing getting closer. Ignorant to the tears streaming down her face, Rikki held out her hand and viciously closed her fist.
None of the girls had ever really used their powers on people. There was the occasional trick or prank, but nothing serious. The closest she'd come to it had been when she burnt Zane on the full moon. Not even when Dr. Denman had them captured had they resorted to violence. But this thing was clearly not a person any more. Nothing that could do that to another person was human.
Gritting her teeth and softly cursing this monster for what it had done, Rikki watched as it stumbled for a moment before seeming to hesitate in its approach. Steam started to rise from its skin as her flesh boiled the blood and fluids inside its body. Her fist followed it down as the monster sank to its knees and keeled over entirely, it's body drying out into a fragile and truly dead shell. Rikki bent her powers to her will and once it was completely dry, it burst into flames and quickly turned into a twisted lump of bones and charcoal.
With the monster taken care of, Rikki released her fist and pins and needles made her fingers ache from how tightly she'd been squeezing. She couldn't stop staring at what was before her. In some distant part of her mind, Rikki knew it was because then she'd have to go back and look at her dad, and she just couldn't bring herself to do that. If she looked at him, it would make it real and not just some horrible nightmare.
But she'd never been the type of girl that just cried and gave in to her emotions. Mouth twisted in a deep grimace, she turned and looked. Everything in her wanted to just run and pretend this wasn't real, but her father had raised her to be more practical than that. Without thinking it through, her feet took her towards his body and she kneeled down next to him. Her hand gripped his cold wrist and then the tears came.
Her soft moan broke her control and she doubled over crying. Rikki's nails left imprints in the cold flesh beneath her and she couldn't stop staring at his face. His eyes were wide in surprise, and if you didn't pay attention to the bloodstaining his chin and the exposed spine, you could almost pretend he was just cloud watching.
The young mermaid probably would have stayed that way for a long time, but there was a crash of breaking glass out front that jolted her from her mourning. It finally hit her that the background noise of her neighbors fighting had ceased a while ago. It was eerily quiet on their street, but a few blocks over she could now hear the sounds of more people screaming.
With a last glance at Terry, she got back to her feet and went to the corner of their house to peek around and see what was out front.
Her blonde curls brushed her cheek as she tilted her face out from behind the wall. There was glass scattered over the gravel by their front door. She couldn't see at this angle, but if she had to guess, someone had smashed in the glass on the front door. Careful not to make much sound, she crept over with her hand already up and ready to form another fist.
Just inside the door with her back to Rikki was their raucous neighbor, Mary. She was standing still with her head tilted to the left, listening. Rikki's temper flared at the audacity of the woman, and her timing.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Glass crunched under her foot as she reached out to rip the door open. Then with a cry that was more like a howl, the housewife spun and lunged towards Rikki, eyes clouded over and teeth bared.
It was the door that saved her in the end. There was a gaping hole in it, but it still blocked the way enough to make the zombie pause. Heart hammering, Rikki realized the dangerous situation she was in and spun on her heel. She slipped and caught herself on the ground before taking off running down the street.
She wasn't the only one trying to get away. But for every person she saw running or trying to drive away, there were an equal number of monsters giving chase. The retired military veteran who lived on the corner was taking shots at a few of them, but the gun wounds didn't seem to be doing much in the way of slowing them down. They still got back up and kept advancing towards him. The last glance she had was of him slipping around the corner and away.
Rikki held in a scream as she ducked between two houses and saw what looked like the old woman from the next street over, eating the still twitching body of Mr. Brown. She turned and ran back to the street. Her eyes looked over the scene and saw just one chance. There was an opening to the canal a block over, and with the chaos growing every second, swimming might be her only chance.
Ignoring her aching lungs and pounding heart, she ran as fast as she could in that general direction, dodging any person she got close to in case they were one of the monsters. She got to the edge of the riverbank and dove as far as she could out into the murky water. Blessed silence enveloped her, and for a moment she was free from the awful sounds of human panic. The magic kicked in then, changing her legs to a powerful tail and she moved into the deepest part of the canal.
But she'd never gotten to the ocean from here before, preferring to dive in closer in clearer water and had to surface to orient herself. As she broke to the service, she was hit immediately with the sounds of screams coming from behind her and flinched. She paled as she saw a family with a toddler trying to run, being pursued by two zombies. Without thought, she raised a hand and bent her power over heat towards the monsters. They faltered in their pursuit, and the family was able to make it to a car and drive off.
Those two sank to the ground, but more were coming. Her tail splashed the water as she turned to see where else she could help. She was able to stop four more of the creatures before a few others spotted her and started into the water to attack the mermaid. Fear made Rikki dive and take off as quickly as she was able towards the ocean.
It was as she was swimming that she began to wonder where her friends were. She didn't have her phone with her. It was still sitting on the end table back in her former home, next to a half empty glass of juice. With any luck she'd be able to catch Cleo before she tried to go back on shore from her swim.
Mind made up, Rikki pushed herself to swim out of the maze of bends to get to her friends. They were all she had left in this world.
Spoilers for this chapter: Character death, specifically death of a father, and good old fashioned zombies eating people. Also a zombie gets char broiled.
So the virus is starting to spread all over now, can our leading ladies get to safety? Leave a review to let me know if you're enjoying this so far!
Shout out to kittenamos for being such a great beat reader!
Chapter 5: Chapter Five
~Trigger warnings are in the authors notes at the end. Swim to the bottom if you want a heads up about what's going to happen!~
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
There was something magical about swimming below the water. With all sounds muffled, and the steady heartbeat of the ocean currents all around, it transported Cleo to another world. She had spent a relaxing hour on the reefs around Mako, just looking at the coral and shells, but now she was suspended in the vast blue of the open ocean.
When they'd first become mermaids it had been terrifying to her, being suspended like this, with nothing but endless blue in all directions. If the light was just right, sometimes you couldn't even tell if you were looking up towards the surface or down into the depths. Back then she'd imagined that she could start swimming and never find air again.
But so much had happened since then. Now the ocean was safe, peaceful, and no longer scary to her. Nothing could sneak up on them, and the larger sea animals left them alone instinctively. She'd even had the nerve wrecking opportunity to swim with a great white once. It had come close to her, but they'd found that no sea creature would intentionally harm them.
So with time she'd relaxed, spending minutes on end just floating with the currents in the blue water.
But eventually she knew she'd have to go back to land and her life. She was looking forward to a new school year, though it would cut into their free time to swim. They'd all felt torn the first year as mermaids, constantly trying to balance the need to stay focused on school and their home lives. But at the same time there was a near constant pull to be in the water. With time they'd gotten used to their new schedule, and with frequent trips to Mako throughout the week they managed to quiet the urges to stay out in the ocean all the time.
The pull they felt to be in the ocean was still there, but was tempered by the knowledge they'd be able to spend plenty of time there after school and on the weekends. Sometimes Cleo worried that the desire to swim would grow so much that they'd stop coming back to land entirely. She never mentioned it to the other girls, but she was so glad that she had her family and Lewis to keep her coming back from the water.
The need to breath was slowly starting to burn in her chest and so she propelled herself upwards. Breaking the surface she took a few deep breaths and marked where the sun was sitting in the sky. She'd been out for at least an hour, maybe two, which would have been plenty of time for her boyfriend to have finished that report. Diving again she started back towards the mainland and the beach. There was a nicely secluded spot where she and Lewis liked to fish. It was also a great place to change back to human form without any prying eyes.
With the speed they could swim at, thanks to the innate magic they possessed, it took only ten minutes to get within sight of the beach. She slowed down to remain unseen from the boats above and made her way towards the small bit of beach that was her destination. It was odd though. The boats above her were heading deeper out to sea instead of floating around closer to the beach. Cleo shrugged it off as unusual and kept swimming. About fifteen feet from the shore she surfaced again.
She brushed her hair from her eyes and looked around to double check that she was alone. It was a good thing too as an older couple in bathing suits was just climbing along the beaches rocks. Cleo ducked down a bit to stay hidden, but she really didn't need to bother. The two were completely focused on getting across the rocky stretch of beach as fast as they could, with occasional fearful looks behind them. Out in the water Cleo heard the man urging his wife to move quicker and wondered what was going on.
Curious, and a little unsure, she turned her attention to the beach on the other side of the rocks and swam around them out in the water to get a better look at what was happening.
It was a scene straight out of a horror film. The beach was littered with towels, iceboxes, and other abandoned personal items. Big patches of sand were stained red with blood, though only a few of the spots also had bodies. Those that were on the ground were mangled beyond recognition. The sand was torn up from thousands of running people.
Cleo's dark eyes were wide in shock as she tried to see what had killed them. It only took a minute of observation to see that what she assumed was a crowd of panicking beachgoers was in fact split into two types. One group was running and screaming, and the other was attacking the first group. The sand was rapidly clearing as some people tried to run back towards the town, while others were trying to swim out into the rough waves to escape. The group of insane people followed both, but they seemed to struggle once the water got deeper than their shoulders.
A small group of the panicked swimmers was heading towards her, so Cleo dove back under the water. The scene that she was able to see was just as bad in the water. Those swimmers who were far enough out seemed safe enough, if a little tired. But those still close to the beach were being pulled under the water by the rabid attackers. Instead of attempting to swim at this point, the monstrous things were just standing under the water, reaching for the dangling legs of the terrified crowd above them. It didn't make sense how they could still be attacking. They should be drowning by now, not trying to bite into the poor souls they'd gotten ahold of.
Cleo felt frozen watching all this happen. It was surreal. She'd only been gone not even two hours at this point, but somehow the world had ended while she was away. She was jolted into action when she noticed a father was struggling to swim and hold his tiny daughter out of the water. He was dangerously close to the creatures and they were getting close to grabbing his kicking legs.
At any other time Cleo would have been terrified to reveal herself, but she couldn't stand the thought of having to watch that baby drowning or being eaten. He was clearly trying to keep away from the crowds of people, seeing as many of them were going crazy in the mist of their panic and were pushing others under the water in attempt to save themselves. He'd avoided the people, but being alone made him an enticing target for the creatures. As quickly as she could Cleo swam over, and once she was close enough, used her powers to blast a stream of water towards the creatures closest to the pair, shoving them towards the beach and giving her time to swim over and surface next to the man.
He screamed and went to shove her away, but only managed to take in a swallow of salt water.
"It's okay! It's okay! I'm going to help you!" She held up a hand to calm him and subtly moved the water to help buoy him up. His baby couldn't have been more than a year old and was screaming hysterically from the noise and the burn of salt water in her face. With a wave of her hand Cleo gently pulled the water off her face, leaving it dry. She didn't calm much, but at least it had helped her screams to become closer to regular sobs.
"You're...a mermaid? That's…!" The man couldn't seem to get anything else out, completely overwhelmed with panic and shock from the day.
"You can freak out later. Those things are too close under the water. They were about to grab you." Cleo decided taking charge was the best way to snap him out of his stupor. They didn't have time for him to babble about her not being real. Almost as if to make her point, a woman a few yards away screamed as she was dragged under.
Cleo looked around and saw that some of the boats had come closer and were encouraging people to swim to them. She picked one that was a little ways out from the others, since desperate people were swarming those that were closer. If they weren't careful they'd capsize.
"Here," she turned her back to him, "keep her out of the water and I can get you to a boat." Nearing exhaustion and out of options, the man decided trusting the mythical creature was the best chance he had to protect his daughter. He grabbed onto Cleo's shoulder with one hand and held his baby close to his neck with the other. Doing her best to keep the baby's head above water, Cleo towed them to the boat she had spotted before.
The people on board encouraged them towards the safety of the boat, but fell silent when they were close enough to see her tail. Blushing a bit Cleo tried to ignore the hushed exclamations of surprise and awe. They got to the back of the boat and it was the cries of the little girl that got them moving. They pulled her and her father onboard, and hesitantly held out hands to help Cleo up as well. She shook her head but took the chance to ask some questions while they got the two she'd saved settled with a towel.
"What happened here?"
The older bearded man closest to her blinked for a moment in surprise, clearly shocked that she was speaking to them. But he recovered quickly and waved at the beach and the chaos there.
"We're not too sure. There was a fight earlier on with some women and a few young men. Then not half an hour later another fight broke out. By then we were getting worried and all got on the boats. It all went to shit from there." He ran a hand over his face. "Maybe I've seen too many scary movies, but I'd swear these things were zombies." Cleo looked back towards the beach, but had to look away as a small group of the zombies was eating something on the sand. When she turned back the man was openly staring at her, and the rest of the small group wasn't much better. "I'm sorry," he began hesitantly, "but...you're a mermaid? That's not just a hyper realistic prosthetic?"
It hit Cleo then, now that she wasn't trying to keep two people from dying, that she was openly talking to a stranger with her tail in full view.
"A-ah, well you see...errr..." she stuttered a moment, but was saved from needing to answer when a new chorus of screams began and they all turned to look.
They were far enough away that the majority of the swimmers hadn't even tried to get to this boat. But sadly people were now swarming a small sailing boat that had been the closest to the shore. Everyone was trying to get on, and it couldn't take the strain. As they watched, it capsized, sending people under the water and creating more fear. The other boats turned then, going deeper out to avoid a similar fate.
"...You should get out of here." Cleo was getting worried now. The boats that hadn't already started leaving were being attacked. It was already starting to look bad, and it promised to get worse.
"Right," the bearded man stood then. "Scott, get the engine going. We can't risk that hoard of people pulling us under too." Cleo moved away from the propeller and jumped when a hand landed on her shoulder. "Would you like to come with us?"
She smiled up at the older man. "I'll be alright. I need to check on my family too. I shouldn't even be talking to you," she muttered the last bit to herself. Rikki and Emma were going to have a fit when they heard about this. "But, thank you." He nodded and she went to dive but paused at another voice.
"Wait! Miss mermaid!" The dad she'd saved was leaning over the side, clutching his daughter to him, "You saved our lives. I don't know how to thank you. I don't even know your name." Cleo stared at him for a moment, then to the little girl. She was completely cried out, and sleeping against her father with her blonde curls plastered to his shoulder.
"Cleo." The teen smiled up at him, "I'm glad I was close enough to help. Don't let anything happen to her. That's how you can thank me." Completely embarrassed by his thanks, Cleo dove and swam down from the boat to watch as it took off to deeper water and safety. Alone now she thought about trying to help others, but it had become a fight above her in the water. The smart swimmers had started making their way parallel to the beach to get to a spot without the insane humans.
Besides, she shouldn't have let anyone see her anyways. She should find a different spot to get out and go see how they could try and fix this. It had to be safe further up the beach, right?
Spoilers for this chapter: Zombies munching on people, general crowd panic, an infant in danger, mentions of drowning.
Thank you kittenamos for the beta work!
Chapter 6: Chapter Six
~Trigger warnings are in the authors notes at the end. Swim to the bottom if you want a heads up about what's going to happen!~
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It wasn't any better north of the beach, and from what Cleo could see from the water, it seemed to be even worse on the south side of town. She'd seen a few officers trying to control things, but mostly it was just chaos.
Swimming down one of the rivers that broke off from the ocean, Cleo returned to the surface and looked around. Seeing no one, she pulled herself up onto dry land and started the slow process of banishing all the water on her. It took a few minutes before she was able to get to her feet again, but once she could Cleo warily moved towards the street she could see in the distance.
Apparently, luck was not on her side.
As she made her way towards the pavement she discovered that the street, which was before hidden by trees and the house that she had surfaced behind, was deserted. No cars were parked outside of the homes and front doors had been left wide open. However, there were plenty of zombies shambling around, and in and out of the houses.
Cleo gasped in surprise, and that was all it took to get the attention of the closest monsters. Once they started towards her, the rest on the street caught sight of her as well. Most moved at a slow walk, but a few were picking up speed.
Cleo did the only thing she could think of in her panic and ran back towards the water and dove in. She didn't stick around to see them wade in after her until they were submerged, and instead used her magic to help her escape quickly back to the sea. Once she was deep enough to be safe and far from anyone else she stopped and surfaced.
"This . . . this can't be happening," her hands were shaking as she floated in place. "Zombies aren't real. They're impossible!" A small part of her mind whispered that mermaids were impossible too, but she chose not to think about that right now.
Then a thought hit her and she looked frantically skyward to check the time of day. It was getting to be the early afternoon. Her dad would be getting ready to come back from their fishing trip. They'd go to the docks and either be swarmed by escaping people, or attacked by zombies.
"Oh, no no no no!" Diving back under the water, she started towards the first place she could remember her dad liking to fish from.
It took several tries before she saw a familiar boat and surfaced by the ladder on the back. She'd already accepted that if ever there was a time to forget about secrets, this was it.
As soon as her head broke the water, shouts filled her ears.
"-Please stop!" Sam was shouting and Cleo could hear Kim crying. Her heart sank as she realized what was happening. With no time to waste, she created a great swell of water to lift her onto the back of the boat to sit up with her tail inside the boat.
Kim was cowering by the left side of the boat with Sam protectively in front of her, using a long handled fishing net to keep Don from getting any closer. She had tears in her eyes, but was firm. Worry for her husband and new daughter made her tense, and she was preparing to tell Kim to jump overboard and swim away from the boat. They'd been having a relaxing afternoon, but Don had been complaining of not feeling very well. Just fifteen minutes ago he'd stopped talking and had just stood still, staring out at the water before suddenly becoming violent. Thankfully Sam had learned some self-defense during her travels and was able to get him away from their daughter.
It was looking grim when suddenly their legs and feet were drenched in salt water as a wave rocked the boat. She and Don both stumbled, and she just heard Kim gasp when a floating jet of water came between her and Don. It hit her husband in the chest and knocked him into the small cabin that was on the boat. He crashed into the boxes of tackle and was still on the ground for the moment. Seeing her chance, Sam ran forward to close and lock the door, hoping it was thick enough to hold him. She had managed to secure the latch just seconds before he slammed against the thick wood with a yell and, while it was loud, the door didn't budge. To be safe she jammed the metal fishing net into the doorway to help barricade the door more.
The scientist was not prepared though to turn and find her oldest stepdaughter sitting on the side of the boat with a guilty look and a golden tail. Words failed her and she made an aborted attempt to speak, but Kim had enough to say for both of them.
"I KNEW it!" The preteen jumped to her feet, pointing at her sister. "I knew you were hiding something like this! Wait till Emmett hears about this!"
Cleo groaned and threw her head back, looking up at the sky for her rapidly disappearing patience. "KIM! Now is not the time for this! I'll explain everything later!" The younger girl sputtered in outrage for a moment, but went quiet when Cleo turned to Sam.
"Sam . . . Were his eyes cloudy?" Cleo knew the answer from what she'd seen and could still hear from the cabin, but needed it confirmed.
Ever the professional, even when finding out her stepdaughter was a mermaid, Sam nodded, brows creased.
"Yes, they clouded over after he stopped talking and before he became violent." A loud hit on the door made them all jump. "I don't understand. He was fine this morning after checking on his crews." She paused and shook her head, taking a seat on the bench that stretched along the side of the boat. "He thought he was coming down with the bug some of his crew had caught this morning, but he just kept looking more pale. We should get him back to port and to the hospital." Sam looked up when a sniffle caught her attention.
Cleo was trying to hold back sobs. She was almost dry from sitting in the sun, but her tears were keeping her from changing back as they fell onto her scaled lap. She shook her head slowly. "We can't go back now. Everywhere is a mess! There are loads of people sick with this . . . this zombie disease!"
"Of course we're going back!" Kim cut in then. "Dad is sick! He needs help! Just because you don't want anyone seeing your tail doesn't mean-"
Cleo cut her off, voice loud and hard.
"That's not why, Kim! I just tried to get on shore all up and down the beach! The whole town is swarming with people like dad! They're attacking anyone who isn't sick! They're-!" She stopped and paled. As mad as her little sister made her sometimes, she wasn't sure if she wanted her knowing just how awful things were. Cleo looked over at Sam and just shook her head. "It's not safe for anyone there right now. Everyone who could got on a boat or in a car is staying far away."
Sam liked to think she was fairly well traveled. Though she'd shared a good amount of her stories with the girls, she'd glossed over or kept quiet about the times she'd been in dangerous or in bad political areas. She'd seen how quickly something like a plague could throw a country into a panic. She could fill in what Cleo wasn't saying easily enough.
A flash of water covered Cleo's fin before leaving her dry and human, sitting on the boat with them. Sam took a deep breath and drummed her fingers on her lap. "I want to hear all about that," she waved towards Cleo, "but not now. We need to get somewhere remote for a few days and let things calm down. We don't want to be in the town when the ADF come through to clean up." Kim complained about not staying out at sea for days, but the older women ignored her for now. "Cleo, you probably know this coast as well as Don. Can you think of somewhere?"
Cleo was nodding even before Sam had finished. "Mako Island. There's a fresh spring and fruit trees." There was nowhere she could think of that would be safer. "Few people ever go out there either."
"Perfect, let's go and set up a camp. I know it's not very convenient, Kim," she shushed the grumbling preteen for the moment. "But if we want to stay safe and keep your father from being part of the government's clean up we need to hide. Once they calm down, we'll get him to the hospital. Maybe he'll come out of it himself in a few days." She didn't sound very convinced, but stood and took the wheel anyways. The engine roared to life and they were off. Kim stayed near the back of the boat, nervous to go near the rattling door.
Cleo joined Sam near the helm. As luck would have it, at top speed, the island was only about twenty minutes away. They didn't speak much on the way, but Cleo did give Sam a more complete account of what the mainland was like right then.
"It was horrible," Cleo spoke softly enough that Kim wouldn't be able to hear, but Sam could over the roar of the engine. "All over the beaches and the neighborhoods, the sick people were-" She swallowed and took a moment to compose herself. "They were eating the dead bodies. Sometimes the person wasn't even dead yet." The screams were something she would remember for the rest of her life.
Sam's mouth was a thin grim line as her stepdaughter spoke, and when they got to the island she let the boat slow down and gave her a one armed hug.
"Cleo, sweetie, I'm so sorry you had to see those things. But I am so proud of you for helping those people. You get your kindness from your father." Sam choked up a little, but shook her head and buried her own fears about her husband in order to console the shaking teen next to her. Putting aside the conversation for a less busy time, Cleo helped direct Sam through the reef to the small bay and they cut the engine.
"If you go straight past that big fallen tree you'll find the stream," Cleo said, pointing out the important parts as the anchor hit the ocean bottom. Biting her lip Cleo looked back at Kim and then to Sam. "I need to go check on my friends and Lewis." In truth she'd been panicking the whole last hour about them, but had needed to be sure her family was safe first before checking on them. Rikki and Emma were probably fine, but Lewis . . .
She didn't even want to think about it. She didn't just get him back to lose him again so soon.
She bit her lip, looking between her family and the open ocean. "Will you be alright if I go? I don't want anything to happen to you guys." Sam stepped forward and folded her daughter into another hug.
"It's okay sweetheart, we know how important Lewis and your friends are. We'll be perfectly safe here. I didn't spend my twenties knitting, you know? I can protect myself and Kim just fine." Cleo felt a bit better hearing that, but it was Kim that got her moving.
"Well, now I know why you like Lewis so much. He's in love with all kinds of fish anyways." The preteen flipped her hair over her shoulder, but gave her big sister a smile anyways. "You'd better go save that dork before he tries to study one of the zombies." Cleo wanted to protest and defend her boyfriend, but honestly she wouldn't put it past him to start asking one of the zombies questions.
"I'll be back as fast as I can with them." Not wasting anymore time, Cleo dived once again into the water off the side of the boat and took off fast as soon as her tail had appeared. Kim and Sam watched her swim off from the side of the boat in awe.
Kim grinned over at Sam. "When she gets back, she's teaching me how to do that!"
Spoilers for this chapter: Not as bloody as the previous chapters, just mentions of zombie's eating habits and a brief stressed out moment of panic.
A slight break before we get back to the grisly gore. Also I might not be updating this again until the first week of December. I'm putting my all into Nanowrimo this year with my original story! I might get out another chapter this month if I find some extra time, but I would say not to expect it! Good luck if you're doing the challenge, and have a great month!
As always, thank you kittenamos for your beta work!
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
Trigger Warnings are in the authors notes at the bottom. Swim down there if you want a heads up of what's coming!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Rikki had gone up and down the beach several times trying to find Cleo in the water, but either she was just missing her friend each time . . . or it was too late. By now, she had needed to surface several times and her tail was quivering with fatigue. Even with their increased stamina and power in the water, Rikki needed a breather. Wearily she rose through the water and took in a deep breath of air.
She was physically sick to her stomach thinking about her friends coming across one of those monsters like the one that killed her dad. She'd never be able to forgive herself for not walking home faster this morning. If she'd just gotten home sooner maybe he would have been okay.
Rikki shook her head. This wasn't the time to be thinking that way. She still had a chance to find the other people that she cared about. She could dwell on what had happened that morning later. Instead, she brushed her wet hair out of her face and took in a few more slow breaths.
It was lucky that she did, since it gave her enough time to pause as a familiar voice sounded a little ways off. Cautiously, she looked around. As a wave rose and carried her higher she saw a flash of red and recognized Zane standing alone in a boat. He was holding a phone to his ear and was clearly agitated. Rikki was just relieved to see him alive and well. He must have been out fishing when the whole thing started. She swam up in time to hear the end of the message he was leaving.
"–need to talk to you right now! I mean it dad, as soon as you get this message, call me!" He hung up and tossed the phone into the waterproof box before bring both hands up to rub at his face.
"Zane!" she called out as she grabbed onto the side of the boat. He whirled around and rushed over.
"Rikki, I'm so glad you're here! Nate lost his mind and fell overboard! Please, can you try to find him? There was something wrong with him and he just attacked me!" Hearing that, Rikki pulled away from his hands, her face going pale.
"Zane, did he bite you? Or cut you at all?" Her heart was already sinking. She couldn't take it if she lost another person she loved today.
But Zane just looked at her confused and shook his head. "What the hell? Rikki, what are you on about? He didn't bite me. We both went overboard and he sank." Though now that she'd said that, he guessed it had seemed like Nate was trying to bite him during that struggle. To add to his confusion, Rikki started to cry and came back to the boat to grab his hands.
"Thank goodness! Oh thank goodness!" She pressed her forehead to his knuckles and tried to get herself under control again. "Zane, help me up into the boat. I-I need to tell you something."
Zane could count on one hand the number of times he'd seen his strong girlfriend cry. Whatever was going on, it was worse than he'd thought. With a bit of leverage, he pulled her into the boat and stepped back to let her dry herself off in order to change back. While she worked, Rikki started to tell him about everything that she has seen. By the time she had her human legs back, Zane was left sitting in shock.
"All over the coast, as far as I've been able to travel, it's like the end of the world. People are going crazy and just attacking everyone around them. They-they were eating people, Zane! I've been trying to find Cleo out here, but I think she's already gone back from her swim." Trembling, she shook her head in regret. "I don't think I can save Nate. I'm so sorry, Zane. He must have been infected with . . . whatever this is, before you two left this morning."
Rikki drew her knees up to her chin as she sat across from him, the only sound being the waves lapping against the side of the boat. Zane stared out over the water, frozen in place as he tried to process this upheaval in their lives. His attention was brought back when he heard Rikki sniffle and turned to see her brushing away more tears angrily. He moved to sit next to her and wrapped an arm around her, giving comfort as much as taking it.
" . . . I found my dad." He could barely hear her softly spoken words, but his gut clenched at the pain in her voice. "He was . . . in the backyard with one of those things. She was . . . his neck was gone."
Bile rose in Zane's throat as he visualized what Rikki had seen. He just held her closer and closed his eyes. They just sat for a moment until Rikki stopped crying and shoved her feelings back down to deal with later.
"I think my dad might be gone too. I've been trying to call him but . . . " he sighed. He might fight with the man and disagree with a lot of what he does, but he was still his only living parent. "He and Candy went shopping today. They would have been surrounded by people."
"There's still hope. Your dad is smart, maybe he got out," Rikki said, attempting to comfort him, taking his hand in her's. He gave her a small smile, but couldn't keep it up for long.
"Maybe, but more importantly, what are we going to do? From what you told me, it's not safe to go back to the coast. Plus I can't get ahold of anyone on my phone. I've been trying for the last hour."
Given the challenge, Rikki felt herself focusing on it single-mindedly. It wasn't really much of a question for her. There was one place that would always be safe to her.
"Mako Island. If Cleo or Emma have gotten off the mainland, that's where they'd go and bring everyone with them. We need to go meet them there." Zane had to admit she had a good point. It was unlikely anyone else would go out to that tiny volcanic rock but them and a few rare locals.
"Good," Zane agreed with a quick nod. "We can figure out what to do next once we've meet up with everyone."
Neither of them wanted to voice the possibility that maybe no one else got away safe. They wouldn't face that potential outcome until they saw the bodies in front of them. So Zane started the boat again and turned towards the island and, they hoped, their friends. The spray of the water did bring back Rikki's tail, but it was better than exhausting herself to swim there on her own. By the time they could see it, she was rested again, if not as energetic as usual.
The sight of the Sertori's boat made them hopeful as they pulled into the bay. They came up alongside it to see both Kim and Sam peering over the railing to see who had gotten to the island. There was no sign of Cleo, on the ship or in the water, but considering the pairs' lack of alarm to seeing Rikki with her tail she probably wasn't the first mermaid they'd seen today.
"Where is Cleo?" Rikki called up to them, concern for her friend.
Sam was still in mild awe of the magic in front of her with all these girls turning into mermaids, but got back to business quickly. The older woman waved out to sea and shouted back. "She went to find Lewis at the juice place you kids always meet up at." Zane and Rikki traded concerned looks and she was already moving when he went to help her back into the water.
"Zane, stay here and help protect the boats. I'll go help her save whoever we can." As she slipped over the side of the boat he gave her hand an extra squeeze.
"Be careful Rikki. Make sure you get back here okay."
She was touched by his concern and gave a small kick of her tail to raise up high enough for a desperate kiss.
"I'll be back before you know it," Rikki replied before diving under the water and was out of sight in a moment.
Zane sighed and stood up in his boat to watch her go. He didn't like sending her off into danger without him to back her up, but he'd never be able to keep up with her in the water, even with his boat.
Turning back to the two on the bigger boat, he called out, "You both are okay, right? None of these infected people bit you, did they?" He somewhat regretted his words when both of their faces fell. Kim sniffed and left to go somewhere a little more private while Sam shook her head.
"We're fine, but . . . I should probably mention that the cabin on this boat needs to stay shut for now."
Spoilers for this chapter: No zombies in this chapter, just some discussion about terrible events, and a mild break down.
Thank you all for your patience this last six weeks! Nanowrimo was a huge success! I made the 50k goal by Nov 30th! This is the first year I've done it since I first started trying seven years ago! I was able to complete the first draft of my novel, and started editing it as well. It's kept me really busy, but I'm in love with the story so that makes it easier to keep pushing. I'm just going over developmental edits at the moment, and building an author platform on FB and IG when I find time between my baby's naps. It's thrilling, but terrifying to be sharing my work with my actual name.
The really good news for all of you is that I finished that first draft before I hit the 50K, so I spent the rest of the challenge working on more chapters for this story! They need a bit of love before I can even send them off to kittenamos (who is a fantastic beta reader btw, and a huge thank you to her for cleaning up this chapter), but then you'll get to see them!