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The Lament of Juyili
Sunday’s my day off work, the time when it should be my right to kick back and hang around--without anyone from work bothering me. Yeah, anyway, I was pretty ticked off when I got a call from Manager Somebody (I can never remember his name—it’s long and snobbish, you know?). Here I was, standing in line at Wendy’s for my cheeseburger, and my phone is blaring Kesha and announcing that the manager was calling. I snapped open my cell and stepped out of line (I like the way that sounds, assertive and aggressive, huh?). I would have snapped at him too, but a girl’s got to keep her job, you know?
So, anyway, I was like, “This had better be important.” But hoping he’d say ‘no’ just so I could get back in line for my burger and fries.
“Desiree? This is Mr. Fitzgerald. I’m very sorry to have to disturb you, but we have rather exciting news here at the Park.”
Enchanted Park, yeah, that’s where I work. It’s a sort of an original idea, when you come to think of it. People got bored of zoos long ago, and amusement parks are fine for kids, after a while, it’s all a bore. Wouldn’t people rather see goblins and dragons and nymphs, and werewolves and get lost in mazes with minotaurs? People obviously do, ‘cause the moment the Park opened its doors, Disney all but went out of business.
Of course, the only hiccup in the whole scheme is that goblins and such don’t really exist. Neither do werewolves or minotaurs or Frankensteins or vampires. But the board of directors (or whoever had the idea) didn’t let that stop them, nope, not at all. Fact is, that’s where we come in. On the days the Park’s open, I haul on a huge rubber tail and wig and – voila! “The Mermaid Princes Merianna, the last surviving mermaid and the only known to mankind, trapped in the Mediterraean by sheer luck-- blah blah blah.” The things these suckers will believe. “Suddenly, all your fantasies have come true!” I mean, you’d think they’d have caught on to it, but if they have, I’ve never heard of it. Thank you, Harry Potter!
The line was steadily growing, and if Mr. Fitzgerald had tried to enthuse me, he’d failed.
“So…Yeah?” I said.
His voice was all high and fluttery like Leonardo Dicaprio on a bad day, “I’m afraid it’s highly confidential, Ms. Smith. But it is very, very exciting.”
“Um..O.K. That’s great” it never hurts to be polite to the boss, right? “But I’m standing in line at Wendy’s. Can this wait until morning?”
His voice changed “You’re at Wendy’s?”
Yes, yes. No one likes a fat mermaid, and there was a weight limit that was part of my contract. But who cares? I’d only had salads all week, and I reminded him. There was no need to mention the bacon bits or cheddar—those were technically part of the salad,right?
He repeated the whole “confidential” thing, and suddenly I got scared. I was like, “Am I going to lose my job?”
I couldn’t think of anything in my performances that week that had been especially bad. Sure, I couldn’t stay under water very long, but they knew that from the start.
“No,no” he said quickly, and my thoughts went back to my cheeseburger. Maybe I’d get fried chicken instead.
“There’s nothing to worry about, Desiree.” Mr. Fitzgerald said carefully. “Just, most of the staff is already here, and this…er, excitement, while fascinating to everyone has a certain relevance to you.”
“Ok.” I said “I’ll come by in a minute. I don’t have anything better to do anyway, but go home and watch Jersey Shore.”
“Thank you, Ms. Smith, I’m sure you’ll be extremely gratified you came. Also, we think your act might help calm her dow— Please just come”
“Yeah, O.K.” I said, and hung up.
I decided that maybe this “confidential” thing was more important than my chow, and if the whole crew was already there, and waiting for me, I didn’t want to, as they say in Manga, lose face. So I grabbed a milk shake (Hey, calcium is an important part of your diet!) and headed out.
When I got to the Park, I drove in the staff gate (the ‘magically’ opening entry gates are for the customers), parked, and headed for the Administrative building. Tony, goblin #12, met me at the door. We were pretty good friends, all things considered, but it was the first time I’d seen him without a trace of makeup or his costume leather jerkin.
He was bouncing on his feet with impatience. “HeyDesireenicetoseeyou.”
I was like, “Hey, Tony, calm down, what’s up?”
He just jabbered some more, and it all ended in me following him down the hall, up the elevator, and to Mr. Fitzgerald’s office. I’d only been there twice-- when I got the job, and when I almost got fired for eating Doritos in front of a little girl.
Mr. Fitzgerald hadn’t lied. The whole crew was there, from actors to the board (at least they were wearing suits). He introduced me all around, “This is Desiree Smith. She may help us with our problem.” He explained.
Everybody looked like they knew what he was talking about, except for me. I told them.
Mr. Fitzgerald tsked tsked, and apologized, and finally accessed something on his computer. “Here, watch.” He said “This isn’t live, but it was what we got before she broke the equipment.”
The screen showed my usual “habitat” with its moldy sand and plastic-glitter seashells. At first I didn’t notice anything, but suddenly in a wild jumble of movement, something leapt out of the water. A moment later, the screen froze, showing the last footage before it was destroyed; a pair of green hands.
Mr. Fitzgerald coughed uncomfortably and switched the screen off.
“What--?” I hardly knew what to say.
“Ms. Smith, Enchanted Industries has hit upon, what you might call a gold vein. You see, Desiree, we have in our captivity, a live mermaid. ”
Listen, I beg you, you waters strange and blue. I urge you to remember the agreement our fathers made long ago; that you would carry each last lament of a dying citizen to their clan. It is only right and you cannot deny this.
But you still say nothing? You strange waters, I do not recognize your clan, I cannot join with you.
Perhaps I do not speak your words--I will try others, that of the lustrous warmth, where bright as coral fish swim, mixing and twirling for our delight. Come! You do not answer. You cannot deny me this last wish. To do so would deny me entry to the joyous second life. If you heard me, you would certainly not consider such sacrilege.
Then are you that of the turquoise depths, icy like the moon of the above? . You carry the words of the warriors imprisoned by the leviathan to their clan, but you will not even honor my request, while I am in still greater ill? Speak! You do not respond to a despairing one’s lament, for no one has been farther from their clan then I am now.
You treacherous waters--may you lap upon the grains and never return!
Oh lonely, small fish that I am, separated from my flock…
But my lament must be spoken, even if to betrayer waters. It is the last preparation for the last rite, and I will sing my tale:
The Last Lament of Juyili or Dancing- Ripple to her Clan- the Yili
My clan, my soul’s conditions can only be described as a strand of kelp, separated from its source, and tumulted by the Life-giver. I am very distraught, in my strange circumstances. The Lifegiver, which surrounds us,and guards us from the time we are globes to the time it decides we must leave existence is not that which I know, or that which I have heard tell. Only the strongest warriors have braved Igla the cold and the bitter who rewards those who dare face her with the tender meats of the reuji, and murders those who cannot withstand her brutality. But even she will carry the failing hunters laments back to their clan. Take heed, strange waters.
I was separated from you, my clan, by the grasping hand Uiy who is often known to snatch those in the night. Take heed, my clan, if my lament is taken to you—fear lustful Uiy in the night. But while he carried me, my head strands caught in something.
Pain, confusion, fear.
And then I knew no more.
I awoke, I do not know when, to sensations I have no word for. My body’s surface felt a sensation that I have no way to describe. My eyes were moistless. My heart was also full of dread.
I do not know how to tell you where I was. It was a strange place that lulled like the Lifegiver but was like the grains without the Lifegiver and like the air without the lifegiver.
Strange creatures moved, I cannot better express it, across the surface, making sounds that I could not understand.
They wrapped me like one caught in plant, but with stranger things. My body stung, and was only occasionally relieved by dead pieces of the Lifegiver that they cast upon me.
Would that I had died then.
The tides never changed before I was approached by a strange creature that stunk the stink of what I do not know and was the color of the coral.
He took a device, long like a conch shell, but not, and placed it on my arm.
And I knew no more.
I awoke later, my clan, with pain only in my heart. I was once again surrounded by the Life giver, but it is either dead or unconscious, it will not speak to me.
Strange creatures came. They dropped corpses into my prison. They made loud noises. How long this continued, I do not know.
I believe they intended to end my existence, for they sent one of themselves into my prison. It was covered in strange things.
My clan, you have taught me to fear nothing--even death, but you also taught me of the laws of our people. I was not afraid to die, but he did not allow me my last lament before it approached me. I will never join the clan of the second life who sing among the waves, if I do not first attend to my last rites. Even the merciless Vejw clan will permit that. But the creature did not.
I had no other resort but to protect myself. I gave him ample time for his last rites before ending his existence. He is now celebrating eternally with his clan, for do we not all share the same gods?
Now I am here. The Life Giver is either dead, or has forgotten its duties.
A strange thing was watching me. I have ended it.
I owe my obeisance to my mother, and her mate, my clan leader and her mate, and the warriors who protect my clan. I regret the pain that this message will burden you with. So saying, I conclude my rightful lament.
Carry it waters if you can to my clan, the Yili.
But I will never know, if you have heeded me, for now, I will join eternal celebration.
It would be dishonorable to do otherwise.
Desiree was still staring at me with her mouth open when I received the call. I have always tried to be patient with the girl, but as I considered her, he was once again disappointed that she did not more fully fulfill the ideals that were supposed to be upheld by a mermaid. Still, I chastened myself, she was only an actor and she did her part fairly well.
Anyway, I had the real thing now.
Perhaps, nobody was as giddy about it as I was, but to me, my life seemed suddenly fulfilled. As a child, when other played on their Gameboys, I indulged in the “childish” fairy tales I loved so well, yearning to find reality behind the meandering stories of witches and fairies. And now, what I had always dreamed of, tried so hard to recreate in the Park, had finally failed to need recreation. There were mermaids in the real world.
The phone’s flashing identification screen disturbed my thoughts, which was probably for the best, as the dramatizing of my life was hardly fit for contemplation at the moment.
I answered expectantly “Yes, hello? Have things improved?” We had tried to feed the creature several times, with fish and plants from around the area where we had found her, but she had reacted with apparent horror.
Someone on the other line stuttered, and paused.. Suddenly I realized I was very tired-- I hadn’t slept since the discovery of our specimen by Japanese fishermen about two days ago, and only my enthusiasm had kept me constantly charged.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Uh, well, Mr. Fitzergerald. Bob just came in to feed her, you know. We were hoping she might be hungry now, you know..” he paused again and audibly licked his lips.
“And--?” I was never one who could stand suspense.
“Well, sir, it, uh, appears that she…she’s dead.”
I suppose I just sat there for a moment. There was no reason to ask whether the Maintenance Department was sure or not. Somehow, I knew it was true. Desiree was still standing before me, stupidly watching my face change. For a moment I was captivated by her greasy blond hair, crudely smeared makeup, target T-shirt.
I had been so close, so close to the real thing. And it had slipped through my fingers, like droplets of salt-water, and returned to the ocean.