A Few Abnormalities
by Michael A. Kechula
“Did you say you’re a Pacific mermaid?”
“Yes,” said the faint female voice on the phone.
“And I’m Spiderman,” Tom said. “I swear, you telemarketers will say anything to con people into buying something.”
“Telemarketers? I don’t know that word.”
“Then why’d you call me?”
“To hear your voice.”
“My voice? Who is this?” he asked.
“Shantakumari. I know you don’t remember me. It was so long ago that I held you in my arms during that awful night when you were so terribly delirious. I gave you warmth, tenderness.” Her voice broke. “And I gave you all the love within my being.”
“Listen, Shanta—uh—what’s your last name?”
“I have only one name…Shantakumari.”
“Whatever. I really appreciate the things you say you did for me. There’s no reason to cry. Would you do something for me right now?”
“Hang up, then call 911. Can you remember that?”
“But I do not wish to speak to others,” she said. “I swam thousands of miles across the ocean to talk to you.”
“Well, we can talk later. But right now, I want you to call my friends at 911. Tell them exactly what you just told me. They’ll be so happy to hear from you. I’m going to hang up now. Have a nice evening.”
“Wait, Tom. Please tell me how to find where you live. I need to see you so badly.”
“How do you know my name?”
“Your name will be upon my lips until the moment I die.”
“Look, lady. I don’t know who you are, or what you really want. If you ever want to talk to me again, you better call my friends at 911.”
Hanging up before she could utter another word, Tom felt a tinge of sorrow for the deluded woman. He wondered what had pulverized her psyche and pushed her over the edge.
The phone woke Tom early the next morning.
“Mr. Tom Downs? This is Doctor Augustus Latimer. I’m with the University of California. I’m head of the Department of Oceanic Research. I understand you know a very unusual female named Shantakumari.”
“Oh, that dingbat. I never heard of her before last night. She called and said some very strange things. She seems to think she’s a mermaid. I figured she was having a major breakdown, or forgot to take her meds. So I told her to call 911. I figured if she told them what she told me, they’d send some guys with butterfly nets. Did she screw up and accidentally dial your number?”
“No. She did exactly what you told her. The 911 operator sent an ambulance to pick her up at the estuary in Long Beach. They took her to the university hospital. After a team of doctors examined her, the hospital contacted me. Mr. Downs, do you realize you’ve initiated a sequence of events that could get you a Nobel Prize?”
“You gotta be kidding.”
“I’d stake my scientific reputation on it. Can you meet me for lunch today at the faculty dining room to discuss this?”
During lunch, Latimer said, “Shantakumari is under observation and tight security at the university hospital. She tells quite a fascinating tale that involves you. She claims you two spent time together on Tuvalu, a Pacific island. She insists it happened fifty years ago, in 1943.”
“That’s baloney. I was never there, and neither was any other American. Tuvalu was a heavily fortified island held by the Japanese. What would I be doing on an enemy-controlled island? I was a pilot, not a foot soldier.”
“Yes, we learned that from the FBI. They e-mailed excerpts from your military records to our security department. We know while ferrying a fighter plane from Hawaii to New Guinea, your plane was hit by enemy flak. You crashed in the Pacific, and were declared missing in action. Sixty-seven days later, you showed up at an American Army base in New Guinea. Several hundred miles from where you crashed.”
“I remember when Japanese antiaircraft guns shot out my controls,” Tom said. “My plane caught fire, spun out of control, and went into a steep dive. Everything went black. The next thing I knew, I was in an Army hospital on New Guinea. Nobody ever found out how I got there.”
“Shantakumari told us she saw your plane plunge into the Pacific,” Latimer said. “She dove in. Pulled you out of the cockpit. Took you to Tuvalu. Hid you in the jungle so the Japanese couldn’t find you. She fed you things she scrounged from sunken warships. Nursed you back to health. You were together about sixty-seven days. Then she brought you to the Army base at New Guinea and slipped away before anybody spotted her.”
“She sure has one hell of a wild imagination.”
“Maybe so. But she has proof. She has your Army Air Force identification card and dog tags. Plus your flight plan and aeronautical charts. She’s had them since 1943.”
“Have you seen them?” Tom asked.
“Yes, I have.”
“This is hard to believe. How come I don’t remember any of this?”
“She claims she gave you a kelp potion to make you forget,” Latimer said. “She wasn’t sure if you could adjust to her culture. So, she took you to New Guinea, then disappeared. She said she’s been heartbroken ever since. Go see her. She really needs you.”
“Needs me? I’m seventy years old. Been divorced twice. I don’t want any women in my life. Especially one with mental problems.”
“She’s not mentally ill. She has some abnormalities, but not when it comes to her mind. We’ve tested her IQ. It’s off the charts. Her knowledge of Pacific marine life and vegetation are so incredible, we’ve offered her a job on our research staff. I think you’re extremely lucky that she’s come back to you. Do you realize how far she’s traveled to find you?”
“Tell her to go back.”
“Be reasonable,” Latimer said. “Go see her.”
“To do what? Talk about the good old days—a time of my life that’s completely blank? Frankly, I think she’s a con artist. I’m not sure what she really wants. Maybe she’s after my social security check.”
“Perhaps you’ll feel differently when I tell you about the birth mark she described to us. The one that’s way up inside your thigh. Would you like me to describe it?”
“Go ahead,” Tom said.
When Latimer accurately detailed that which only Tom’s parents and wives had ever seen, he figured something very spooky was going on. He decided to accompany Latimer to the hospital and confront Shanta-whoever.
When he went into the private room, she was lying under a sheet.
“Is that her?”
“But she looks like she’s only eleven or twelve. What the hell’s going on?”
“My love,” she called. “It has been so long. Come…touch me.” Smiling, she lowered the sheet, exposing her naked body.
“Oh my God!” Tom yelled.
The next thing he knew, security guards were helping him from the floor.
“I swear by all that’s holy---I don’t know who this child is, nor have I ever done anything to her. I don’t care what she says.”
“I have not been a child for two-hundred years,” she said, spreading her arms for an embrace.
All his instincts screamed TABOO! Yet, he found himself unable to resist.
The touch of her briny lips jolted him. Suddenly, his head filled with images of Tuvalu’s dense, steamy jungle. And how tenderly she had held him, hand-fed him, sang siren melodies to him.
“I remember loving you madly,” Tom whispered.
“As you shall again,” she said, placing his hand on her stomach.
He felt something squirming, kicking. He raised both fists to smash whatever it was.
Guards restrained him. A needle slammed into his arm.
As everything grew dim, Latimer said, “Your implantation is a magnificent, biological breakthrough. You’ll surely win a Nobel Prize. Think of the millions you’ll make from books, lectures, movie contracts.”
Tom awakened to thunderous applause and hundreds of camera clicks.
“The President of the United States is on the phone,” Latimer said, passing his cell phone.
“Congratulations, Mr. Downs!” said the President. “America’s proud of you. We’d love to have you and your lovely family for dinner at the White House. Just between us, how does it feel to be seventy and father of a hundred and fifty?”
Michael A. Kechula is a retired tech writer. His fiction has won first place in seven contests and second and third place in four others. He's also won Editor’s Choice awards four times. His stories have been published by 106 magazines and anthologies in Australia, Canada, England, and US. He’s authored a book of flash and micro-fiction stories: “A Full Deck of Zombies--61 Speculative Fiction Tales.” eBook available at Books for a Buck and Fiction Wise. Paperback available at Amazon.com.
What inspires you to write and keep writing?
I've been writing fiction only six years. Prior to that, I made my living as a professional writer of self-study textbooks and task-oriented instructional manuals for industry. By switching to fiction, I've found new outlets for my unquenchable urge to write. Frankly what inspires me to keep on going is the fact that I've been able to get an average of 1.7 stories accepted per week for thirty-seven months straight. During that time, my work has been accepted by ninety-four print and online magazines and anthologies in England, Canada, Australia, and US. With that kind of success and continuous reinforcement, the impetus to write even more is quite powerful. If my fortunes were suddenly reversed, and my work was constantly rejected, I'd write anyway. Perhaps it's a compulsion. But it's the o ne of the most rewarding compulsions anybody could hope for.