Water Wings

I can’t pinpoint the moment I realised our daughter was different, but I know exactly when I accepted her difference as fact. This moment right here, right now. There were signs along the way – some subtle, others not-so-much – which offered hints, slowly preparing my husband and I for this beautiful reality. Despite these glimpses, we were still woefully unprepared for the truth.

Since neither of us has a womb, we chose to adopt rather than use a surrogate. Why create a life when there are so many languishing in orphanages, for want of a loving home? With love and patience, we knew we could overcome any challenge offered by an unknown heritage and gene pool. And since the hypocrisy of the church had infected our government, we were forced to adopt overseas. That’s how we ended up in Thailand.

As my husband and I wandered through the cribs of the orphanage, I heard Sebastian’s heart break as clearly as I felt my own. I gripped Seb’s hand tightly, borrowing his strength so I could endure the onslaught of misery and despair. So many tears, so many pleading faces, so many sad stories. All these children, ranging from newborns to toddlers, knew they faced lives of hardship and we were a potential escape. I wanted to choose all of them. Then we saw her; the calm amongst the storm.

She was beautiful. She was tiny. She radiated cleanliness and tranquility, despite her filthy sheets and nappy, despite the loud misery which surrounded her. She had beautiful Thai features with luminous skin, a knowing expression, and smiling eyes. Her eyes, however, were a piercing blue. We asked about her background, unable to take our eyes off her.

“We think she’s six weeks old,” we were told. “She was discovered by a fisherman last week, floating in a bed of seaweed just offshore.” The orphanage administrator pointed out to sea as Seb and I exchanged surprised looks. No gut-wrenching backstory with this child. Her story was almost a fairy tale. “We’ve been calling her Ariel but you can change her name if you adopt her, obviously.”

And adopt her, we did. She kept the name Ariel; it just felt right. My family loved her immediately, as did everyone who met her. Everyone except my dear mother-in-law.

“What an ugly baby,” the racist old crone screeched. “Does it have Down’s Syndrome? You know, everyone always said I was beautiful, even as a baby.”

“Do you know how lucky you are?” My mother frequently asked this question. “Ariel never cries. You cried relentlessly when you were a baby.”

Seb and I knew exactly how lucky we were. Not only did Ariel never cry, she also took the bottle without any difficulty and slept through the night, every night. “Easy babies become difficult teenagers,” Seb said frequently, preparing us for a wilful child later on in life.

As the weeks became months and the months turned into years, we just accepted the ease of Ariel’s childhood. At first, we suspected she may be challenged on a developmental level. She showed no interest in learning to crawl or walk, never made any noises trying to emulate our speech. She just lay there, her intense blue eyes absorbing everything.

“What would you like for breakfast?” I asked Ariel one morning as I slid her into the high chair.

“Apple puree, please Daddy James.”

The response, so clear and flawless, stunned me. I looked around, certain my mother was playing a joke on me somewhere.

“Would you like it warmed up?” I asked, watching Ariel intently.

“Yes please.” Her lips matched the sounds. She was speaking, fluently. She noticed my surprise. “Is everything OK?”

I just nodded and prepared our breakfast. Seb was stunned into momentary silence when he returned home from work that evening.

“What a joy!” he eventually exclaimed. “I guess she just didn’t want to say anything until she had it right.”

Unfortunately Ariel’s leap into language wasn’t welcomed by everyone. Seb’s mother, who was never going to win grandmother of the year, stopped visiting completely because of her punishing schedule of ‘painting lessons and tennis’.

My mother expressed her unease and scaled back her visits, as well. “It’s not normal,” she said, on more than one occasion.

We became a close knit family, a self-contained unit which never needed anybody else. Our daughter was special and didn’t deserve to be shunned. So we made sure we never needed a babysitter, never scared another person with Ariel’s mastery of the language at such a young age. She didn’t have the emotional skills to understand the negative, fearful reactions.

Then one evening, as Seb arrived home from work and closed the door, Ariel leapt to her feet and ran over to give him a hug. “Hello Daddy Seb” she said, giggling her delightful laugh. He swung her around, delighted with the greeting. Seb and I exchanged surprised looks over Ariel’s shoulder.

“No baby steps for her, obviously.” Seb had just kissed Ariel goodnight and joined me for a glass of wine on the back porch. “No crawling, no unsteady steps.”

“Hopefully, by the time she starts school, she won’t be so advanced for her age.” We clinked glasses and snuggled against the chill of the autumn air.

Eventually, when Ariel was at an age appropriate for her to be talking and running as she did, we started introducing her to other people. She spent a few hours at daycare most days, and then kindergarten. She went to birthday parties and had play dates. The uncommon bursts of her early development no longer mattered; she was an ordinary girl, now. Then I had the bright idea of teaching her how to swim.

She’d aways loved bath time. She’d splash and giggle. She loved showers and sitting in the blow-up kiddy pool. So off we went to the indoor council pool.

At first, Ariel made no effort. She didn’t try to kick, didn’t splash her arms. She just lay in my arms, lolling about like a stuffed toy. I had assumed that eventually, she would just kick off and swim like an olympic medal winner. However, after three visits to the pool, I realised she wasn’t going to have another leap in development. So I bought some water wings for our next swimming lesson.

And that brings us to now, the moment I finally accepted our daughter’s difference. She is Different, with a capital D. We’ve just entered the water for our fourth swimming lesson.

“Let’s get these water wings on,” I said, reaching for the little plastic inflatable tubes.

“I don’t need those, Daddy James,” Ariel giggled. She wriggled from my grip and showed me her hands. I gasped; I couldn’t help myself. Her fingers had webbing between them, growing thicker and stronger before my eyes. Then I noticed her legs. They fused together and formed a tail, her feet becoming fins. Blue scales spread over her tail, reflecting light on the roof of the pool complex.

Ariel flicked her tail and swam on her own. She giggled as she swam circles around me, relishing her freedom of movement in the water. She was completely unaware of the gasps and screams her transformation had provoked in the people around. She only had eyes for me. She only wanted her Daddy’s approval.

“Way to go, Ariel!” I applauded, so proud of my little girl. “Wait until Daddy Seb sees this!”

Microfiction for Scifantor
Theme: Water

Liar Liar Pants On Fire

GG woke with a start, and her first sensation was heat. Intense, broiling heat. Panic flared as she struggled for breath, afraid to open her eyes.

“Sshhh, just relax.” The voice was soothing, pleasant. “Take your time, there’s no rush. We have an eternity.”

GG fought to control her breathing as she slowly opened her eyes. Standing before her was a demon; an actual demon with horns, red skin, and yellow eyes. She gasped, then swallowed back her hysteria.

“That’s better,” the demon said. “My name is Davrett. We’re going to play a game.” Continue reading “Liar Liar Pants On Fire”

Amy

“Tell me a bedtime story, George.” Amy, seven years old, tucked herself into bed as she pleaded with her companion.

“It’s a little late, isn’t it?” George questioned, his voice stern.

“Pleeeease?” Amy smiled, exposing the gaps where her front teeth had fallen out.

“OK, fine.” George relented with a sigh. Amy squealed with delight and snuggled under her covers.

“Do you know your Earth history?” George asked.

“It’s the home of humanity.” Amy was keen to show off her knowledge.

“That’s right,” George continued, “and if Earth were still around, today would have been a solstice day. Do you know what a solstice is?” Continue reading “Amy”

Fele

The inhabitants of the planet Fele referred to themselves as ‘feisty’ and ‘passionate’; however, other member races of the United Planets called them bloodthirsty, belligerent, vain, and a little fragrant.
Through civil wars, blood feuds, and family disagreements, the planet Fele was an arid wasteland. Only after its inhabitants ran out of resources for their war machines did they finally band together to seek a solution.

Their answer? Invasion. A hostile takeover of another planet. Scientists were seconded from research into war machines and moved into the search for intelligent life outside the United Planets. The Fele could have moved on another planet within the UP, however no other known species had developed a brain which could host their intelligence. Continue reading “Fele”

Dayko

Dayko, test pilot and youngest son of the Phan royal family, sat in quiet contemplation with his head resting on his knees. His perch at the peak of the palace afforded him views across the landscape in every direction. His  next test flight – possibly his last test flight – was due to take place shortly, and Dayko took a deep, trembling breath. He raised his horned head and looked outside, reminding himself of the stakes involved.

Lightning flashed constantly across the sky of dark turbulent clouds, reflected in Dayko’s sad, red eyes. He noted the acid rains had ceased, for now, replaced by falling ash. Neither rain nor ash doused the burning oceans, however. In a desperate twist of fate, those plains of burning pollution, along with the constant flashes of lightning, provided the only light in a world where all forms of energy and industry had failed. Continue reading “Dayko”

Not-So-Funbags

From the moment they erupted into existence, Left and Right hated each other. The only thing they hated more than each other was their jail on the chest of their host. They despised being forced to co-exist.

Left was slightly larger, Right slightly perkier. Left hogged the bra, Right hogged the attention. Left was flawless, Right had a birthmark. Their hatred for each other, however, was perfectly symmetrical.

They performed their duties, of course, reliably and without complaint. There’s nobody to lodge a complaint with, after all. No Boob Arbitration Panel; no Nork Defense Group. Nobody ever campaigned for equal rights for tits. So Left and Right were stoic and accepted their fate. They let themselves be manhandled by the host’s dates. They supported pearl necklaces. They peaked over the top of tight dresses. They even caught food on occasion. The only function they recoiled at was feeding the host’s spawn. Continue reading “Not-So-Funbags”

Who Let The Djinn Out?

Let’s do it… let’s shove that genie back into the bottle

But can we? These days, nothing can be completely undone. No action goes unrecorded. No data is irrecoverably deleted. Every movement leaves a trace. Smoke and mirrors cast shadows.

This particular genie had paid out generously, when first released from his ornate little prison. Booming populations were fed, nomadic societies settled in their own area, industries flourished, and class structures were formed. AGRICULTURE was a boon with a barb in his tail, however. As the population expanded, he just couldn’t keep up. Continue reading “Who Let The Djinn Out?”

Get Out!

Get out!

The sticky message oozed down my freshly painted kitchen wall, blood contrasting nicely with the daffodil yellow I’d chosen at Bunnings. I placed the paint roller into the tray and stepped back, frustrated and shocked. The reason for my frustration? The wall was still wet. The reason for my shock? This entity can spell. More words appeared as I stared, a suitable look of horror planted firmly on my features.

The house is mime. Continue reading “Get Out!”

Sudden-Onset Boganism

We’d saved  for millennia for this meal. It took five centuries just to save the reservation fee. Now, finally, we had a table for two at the Restaurant of the Universal Mindscape, the product of the combined spare processing power of every human mind in the galaxy, all jacked into one stunning simulation.

Our table, labelled The Winners, had an uninterrupted view of the Aurora of the Feeble Minds beneath our feet. It was spectacular. The glow of the aurora lit us from below, and we could almost feel the warmth of the dying neurons. Continue reading “Sudden-Onset Boganism”

Giddy Up, GG

I won the eBay auction! the text read. Come check out my new sexbot! LOL

My blood ran cold. I adore my kiwi friend, Fester, but his tastes can be questionable. At the moment, our social circle is calling him the Cougar King due to his propensity for scoring with older chicks. I joke along with the others, poking fun at him, but secretly I’m jealous. At least he’s getting laid!

I rang the doorbell and waited. I’ve been here many times, so I can visualise the process happening inside. First, he has to change from frumpy house clothes into something sporty, probably lycra. Then he has to mess his hair stylistically. On his way to the door, he strews a few empty condom packets and pairs of female panties around the apartment… just for atmosphere, of course. Then a quick mist of his face with a spray bottle, making it look as though the visitor has interrupted him mid coitus. He opens the door, panting. Continue reading “Giddy Up, GG”