In their million-year history, nothing like this had ever happened to the merfolk population before. Merdoctors in the Under-the-Sea Hospital worked to keep the baby alive with an oxygen mask and a water-proof holding tank until the village elders could decide the newborn’s fate. The boy’s parents, Merman Mike and Mermaid Sarah swam about in the waiting room, anxious to hear any news about their history-making child’s future.
Mike feebly attempted to calm his wife, “Don’t worry my dear. I am certain the elders will do what is best.”
“How would they know? Our child is the first child to ever be born in this hospital without fins and scales. He has legs and arms! Our baby is human! He cannot survive under the water on his own and we cannot survive out of it!” She whipped her tailfin violently against a nearby coral. The pain from the contact felt good.
Mike let her swim out her anger as he moved to avoid her. He’d seen her upset before, but never like this. He didn’t know what he could do to comfort her since he was suffering from his own grief. How long had they waited to spawn a child? They’d been trying for what seemed like a lifetime. Their desperation pushed them to try in vitro fertilization. The doctors had assured them the egg and the sperm belonged to them. Now Mike had to wonder.
As far as he knew, no merfolk had ever been in contact with humans. They made it their mission to not be seen. So how could this have happened to their baby boy? Was it some sort of mutation or was there collusion between the human and merfolk doctors? Through advancements in technology it could now be possible to communicate with species outside of their village. As a computer programmer Mark should know. Mark also knew how closely the village elders monitored all progress, threatening death to anyone abusing their skills and attempting to make contact outside of their sea area. But still, the fact their son was the first ever to be born human made Mark a little suspicious. If he investigated, it would have to be without anyone else knowing. It would also have to wait. Right now both he and his wife were being beckoned by the head merdoctor, Dr.
“Your son is doing well,” he said. “He is being sustained by the oxygen and although no mernurse can enter into his chamber, we are able to simulate contact with him. We know how important the merfolk touch is in the first months of existence.” He hesitated and then said, “You are aware you have not told us what name to call him?”
Though relieved to hear he was doing okay, both parents looked down, a bit embarrassed to admit the doctor was right, they had yet to agree on a name. It was supposed to be Mark Jr. until they saw he bore no resemblance whatsoever to his father. They weren’t sure they would ever even see the boy again after his birth, or whether he would live for more than a couple of hours. The fact he had made it this far was a small miracle, but the impossible would never happen. He would not be able to live with his parents. How do you name a child you will never see again?
“Yes Dr. and thank you for finding a means to keep him alive,” Mark said. “Do you know if the village elders have come to a decision as of yet?”
“I do not. My job is his well-being. I will do whatever they recommend as long as it is in the best interest of the merchild – er, uh child. Now if you will excuse me, I need to go check on some other patients.”
Mark looked at Sarah. She seemed to have settled down a little bit after the doctor’s news. Now would be as good of a time as any to talk about their son’s name. “Sarah, my dear. I think we should stay with the name we had originally considered. We should call him Mark, Jr.”
Sarah looked at him, or more like through him. “You can call him whatever you want to call him because whatever it is it probably won’t stay with him. And even if he gets to live, it will be with someone else and they will name him what they want.” She turned and swam as far away from him as the room would allow. He chose not to swim after her. He knew better.
All Mark wanted now was for the elders to come to a decision. He could not do anything to help Sarah until he knew what the next steps would be. He wasn’t too sure even then he’d be able to help her – he suspected she blamed him to some extent because it was his idea to do the in vitro, but at least there would be a direction.
“Merman Mark?” Mark felt a nudge and it took him a few seconds to realize he was still in the waiting room. He must have fallen asleep. He was dreaming about playing tag with his son, Mark. Jr., but his son couldn’t swim and then the boy started drowning. He tried to shake the nightmare from his mind. “Merman Mark?” a voice said again.
“Yes?” Mark looked around for his wife. Sarah was swimming toward him with another merman.
“We are the representatives of the village elders,” the merman said. I am Pete and this,” he said pointing to the merman accompanying Sarah, “is Sam. We cannot tell you how sorry we are for your situation and how difficult it was for us to come to an agreement as to how to handle it.”
Mark sidled next to Sarah, bracing for the news. Neither spoke to the elders, so Pete continued, “We know the only way for the child to live is for him to be taken ashore. There is a tremendous risk to our safety and secrecy in doing so, but our plan is to take him in the early morning hours, after the tides change, to where our research indicates is a well-attended beach. We cannot guarantee he will be found, but the likelihood is extremely high. I know it is not a perfect solution, but it is, nevertheless, the best solution we could devise.”
Still the couple said nothing. Although it was not easy to tell in the midst of the seawater, the wracking of Sarah’s body indicated how hard she was crying. Mark tried to console her by stroking her scales with his webbed hand, but the tears would not stop.
Pete tried to give them a few minutes before he continued, “The committee understands you might be tempted to leave a note with the boy, but must forbid you from doing so. No one can know from where he came. The transition will take place sometime tomorrow morning.” He wanted to add they could come say their goodbyes, but seeing Sarah had yet to stop her convulsive crying, he could not bring himself to say anything more. Pete motioned to Sam and the two of them left Mark and Sarah to their grief.
Author's note: this was a response to a prompt, but if you think it is a good start to a YA novel, please let me know. Thanks!!