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The Little Mermaid - Part 3

posted Mar 2, 2012, 6:42 AM by Madhuri Sen   [ updated Mar 2, 2012, 6:44 AM ]

Surili shook herself out of her reverie and let out a long sigh. The dark of night had now set in. The floating veil of clouds over the moon played shadows over the shimmering water. She peeked out over the surface of the sea to get a better view. The city life though now much quieter, was still dissonant with the serenity of the moonbeams caressing the sea. The driver that she had earlier spotted before slipping into her reverie, was still alternating between sleeping in the car and taking rounds around it. The neon sign of the Taj Mahal hotel still stood out proud over the other structures around; though the number of cars moving in an out had come down to a trickle. Would it get any quieter, Surili wondered. She needed to take that chance.

Getting out of the water, careful to keep to the shadows in the corners, she drained the bottle of potion in a shot. The pain lasted a fraction of a second and then relieving nothingness. 

She could hear voices. Pinpricks of the early morning light hurt her lids as she tried to open them. She had never been in the naked sunlight before, not filtered through the sea. The little that she could see – there were two boys in rags staring down at her and talking excitedly to themselves. The sky was still streaked reddish with the light of dawn. Her head was all groggy. She looked down to almost burst into tears. Her beautiful tailfin was now replaced by two long legs sticking out. She tried to stand up and slumped back immediately. Trying to put any weight on her feet felt like she was stepping on knives.

There were only a few other people passing by, but none other than the kids had stopped. They averted their eyes and moved on. She could see a couple jogging towards her from towards the other end of the pier. The girl had golden hair like many of her cousins,  that caught the sun as her tightly bunched pony swung with every step. They seem to be less dark skinned than many of the other land people she had seen so far. The guy saw Surili first just as they were jogging past. “Hey, what’s that?” The girl turned to look as well. They slowed down panting, trying to catch their breath. The girl came up, “What happened to you? Do you need help?” She looked up at the guy, “She doesn’t look like she is a local. Maybe she got mugged like they warned us happens often to tourists here.” Surili looked up without a word. The girl continued, “Think we should help her! She looks like she is in shock.” The guy took the track-suit jacket tied around his waist and covered her with it. Both of them supported her on one side each and helped her to her feet. She could barely support herself. Dragging one foot after the other, leaning heavily on them, they carefully walked her to the Taj Mahal Hotel.  On entering she felt like she was in one of those ancestral castles that she had gone visiting sometimes with her parents. They walked her to a tiny room that opened on pressing a button. The room seemed to have large mirrors in it. She looked at her reflection. Dark circles, sallow skin, long hair all messed up and tangled.

The room seemed to be rising. Upwards. Surili wondered if these were flying rooms that rose up in the air like the merfolk did in the sea. But then she had never seen flying rooms in the air or heard anyone speak of them. The room suddenly stopped rising. The doors opened and they stepped out into a long corridor with lots of doors lined up side by side. The guy supported her as the girl pulled a card out of her pocket and inserted it into one of the doors. A light on the door blinked green and she pushed it open.  The room looked like the one she had imagined for Yash’s apartment – a wide expansive sea view. They put her on the bed. “Let us get you some breakfast, dear. Then we’ll call the hotel duty manager to ask what would be best to do next.” She picked up part of a box next to the bed and spoke into it like the others did with the boxes they carried around.  “Could you send up three American breakfasts, please? Thank you.”

Surili drifted in to peaceful slumber. In what seemed like a few seconds, the girl was shaking her. “Here sweetheart, let’s get you something to eat first and you can sleep more later.” The guy spoke up now, “Why don’t you give her a change of clothes and let her first shower. Nothing like a nice cold shower to freshen up.” “Good idea,” the girl said. “She seems a little smaller than me. But I guess that’s ok.”

Surili wondered what he meant by “shower”.  The girl opened the door to another smaller room within the room, ushered Surili into it and shut the door behind her. This room had large mirrors on the walls as well.  There were tiny gadgets fitted on many corners and on a high platform with a bowl on it as well. Not knowing what to do, she started fiddling around with them. On pulling the flap up of one of them, it seemed to gush water out.  Another one hit her with a sudden cold jet of water from a round fixture higher up, But that felt good, cooled her burning skin. After a while, judging that she had spent enough time inside, she stared at the clothes the girl had given her. Looking at the various holes and gaps, she recalled how this was worn by sticking her hands and legs through the right holes. Was difficult to figure out what was right; but when she was done, she looked ok.  The full mirror showed a girl covered almost wholly in red in a single piece covering. The covering stopped quite a bit short of the knees, showing off long legs with shiny golden skin. She smiled. It wasn’t much of a “step down” from her tailfin, her girlie vanity told her. It showed her arms off fully as well. Her hair dropped to beyond the length of the dress. Locating a hair brush on the platform, she carefully brushed her hair out to a high shine and then stepped out back into the bigger room.

“M’am, if I may say so with all due respect, you shouldn’t have picked up a stranger just off the streets. There could be multiple complications with the law. Has she said anything yet about who she is and where she is from? ” asked someone sotto voice. “What complications are you speaking of for helping someone who clearly needed immediate help?” she heard the voice of the guy who had helped her say. “Many, sir”, replied the other voice.  The guy retorted back,“Well, as it may be, she hasn’t said anything at all yet. We just freshened her up, fed her a bit and she has slept most of the time since we got her here. We were hoping that you could tell us what is the best thing for us to do.” “Sir, she could even be a terrorist.” The guy guffawed, ”Yeah, a fine terrorist with no clothes even and just a laptop bag to her name! Her hair and eyes coloring seems to be like that of most Indians. But her features and complexion seems to signify she is not from here. Maybe Russian?  Maybe she doesn’t understand English, which is why she hasn’t spoken so far. We may need to inform a foreign embassy, but we need to find out which one.”

Surili stirred out of her slumber and both men immediately stopped talking. The strange man who would likely be the one that imagined she may be a terrorist came up and extended his hand, “Good morning, ma’am. I am Aravind Ramaswamy, General Manager of this hotel. I personally came to see into your case.” Surili stared at his hand. She finally held it thinking her would help her up. Instead he shook it very hard. She couldn’t help bursting out into laughter. “I’m sorry m’am.” He looked very mildly offended. “Why exactly are you laughing at me?” “No sorry,” she said, a wide grin still on her face. “It’s funny that you wanted to shake me. I am already awake.” He stared goggled eye at her and the couple burst out laughing as well.

“Certainly where you come from handshaking is not a common ritual. Where are you from? It seems though that you speak fluent English.” Surili wanted to tell them that the merfolk could have spoken any language fluently. They were able to align their language to whoever they were speaking with. There were no differences drawn because of languages in the merworld.  Instead she said, “I am sorry I have been rude. But I was too overcome to speak. I would first like to thank both of you for your kindness and help. But unfortunately I can’t recall anything from before the time that you picked me up and got me here.”