“Jarl, I need a room!” I demanded as the door pulled open beneath my fist.
“Marin, what is with banging on my door in the middle of-” my brother’s eyes settled on what was draped on my back.
“No time, let me in!” I pushed past him and into the little bathroom attached to his one room apartment. Quickly pulling my slicker off the creature, I dropped it into the claw foot tub, its tail taking up most of the tile floor. Brilliant patterns speckled in iridescent rainbows across the breadth of the body.
“Did anyone see you?” Jarl squeaked, looking over me as I settled the mercreature in.
“If they did, most they’ll think is I caught a damn big catch and wanted to share it with my brother. Stop yelling!” I hissed.
“This is a fish story to beat all.” His eyes were going as glassy as my last dinner.
“Yeah, and there won’t be much left if I don’t get it to stop bleeding. Help me!” I tore off my shirt and yanked Jarl down in the crowded room to have him hold hard to the base of the creature’s tale to staunch the flow of blood while I contemplated the massive rusted pipe embedded there. “Got a kit?” I glanced around at the basin stand and peaked out the door.
“Most I’ve got is a sewing kit for buttons.” Jarl shook his head.
“Damn it. Should I get a doctor? I don’t think I can make this stop!” I pulled the tourniquet from my shirt tight on the tail. The creature grunted at my effort, the tail flipping limply. A crack had me looking up. The enamel beneath its grip had cracked on the cast iron tub.
“If it doesn’t die, it’d fetch an awful handsome coin for a sideshow,” Jarl nodded.
“Hell no, I’m not letting some yahoo put this guy in a traveling tub.” I dislodged myself from the nest of slick scales and rooted out the sewing kit and a couple sticks from near the wood stove.
“I don’t think splinting it’ll fix this, Marin,” Jarl hedged at the reprimand.
“Not splinting.” I shoved the stick between the creature’s teeth. It spat it out. I put the other sticks in its hands as it went to strangle me and shoved the first stick back in its snarling trap. “Don’t fucking break the tub before I get water in it, shark bait!” I pointed to the crack in the enamel. “‘Bout to drown you in several gallons of gin you keep this up ‘n I’m not partial to pickled herring.”
It threw the sticks. One impaled in the wall next to the basin stand mirror.
“Why did you bring this thing here?” Jarl demanded as he helped me hold the squirming mess down.
“Because you’re the only person I knew who had a tub and I could count on to not dissect the beast in two second flat. You want to wrestle it while I pull the pipe or do you want me to keep the creature of the deep down? One or the other!” I hissed as I grabbed for wrists that could have rivalled a black smith’s.
“You won more prizes riding bucks at the fairs every summer. Keep it from going for my throat and I’ll see about mending!” Jarl shoved me in the tub with the writhing disaster while he dove to straddle the thing’s tail.
“ ‘ll do my best. This ain’t no eight second ride.” I got the beast’s arms crossed, pinning the wrists to what I would qualify as a chest. Massive grey eyes stared up, incredulous. It thrashed out, escaping the hold.
“You gotta do better than that, Marin. It’ll bleed to death on the floor if it keeps that wiggle up!” Jarl warned from behind my back. Thunder crackled, shaking the floorboards and windows.
“Damn it!” I tackled the thing, getting its webbed hands back down to its chest, putting it in a bear hug if only to hold it still. Lightning had me gasping as my right hand shot through with hellfire, followed by numbness.
“Marin! Marin! What happened!” Jarl yelled as the metal pipe hit the tile with a clank.
“Got its fangs sunk into my shoulder. Get it done. It’s entertained for the moment.” Tears crowded and I buried my forehead into the thing’s clavicle, breathing through the pain as best I could.
“You’ve gotta be joking. This thing ain’t worth you getting some infection. You’ll get just as dead as it’ll be!” Jarl turned, his hand grasping at the waistband of my trousers.
“Get it done, Jarl! I’ve got this!” I gasped, clamping down hard around the beast. It moaned low in my ear, whimpering with the snipping of scissors echoing in the tiled room. One hand snaked across its chest to grasp onto my left shoulder, the grip sending stars into the back of my eyes. “Let up, let up, shark bait,” I breathed the command. I could take the teeth or the hands, but not both. I loosened my grip and shoved the initial stick I had back into its hand to get it to let go. It hunted out the other stick when it got its fangs out of my shoulder.
“You’re bleeding!” Jarl’s voice cracked.
“Of course I am. I’d be more worried if I was dripping glitter!” I clamped down on my shoulder to staunch the flow of blue-black blood. The creature beneath me whimpered more as it tried to push its back against the tub, working to raise itself up. “Don’t freaking eat me and I’ll help you.’ I settled a hand at the arch in its back and behind its arm to lift it. It wanted to see what Jarl was doing to its tail. Now able to see what was going on, it willingly shoved the stick between its teeth and grabbed onto my arm. Jarl nodded at it as he poured out the pitcher of water over the fist-sized hole in its tail. The stick snapped. Thank the morning tide it hadn’t been my arm that snapped.
I pushed another bit of kindling into its mouth and dislodged myself from the tub to kneel next to Jarl to quickly start patching what we could by the lamplight in the deluge of the backside of the hurricane.
“What the hell am I looking at here, Marin? It’s all freaking dark red. That’s not natural!” Jarl demanded as he got deeper into the wound.
“The thing in the tub ain’t natural,” I quipped back. Jarl wasn’t wrong, though. It had the same flesh patterning as some of the marine mammals we had caught in our nets before. “It has to be part dolphin or something. It can breathe air just fine or else it would have already died by this point.”
“With this colour show under its skin?” Jarl demanded, pointing to the starbursts of circles radiating across its skin.
“Fish fairy?” I suggested, heating needles through lamp fire as Jarl meticulously found every tendon and ligament he could. The poor beast in the tub whimpered like a beaten dog up until my brother found a spot, and all the sticks clattered to the tile floor. It had passed out. Probably for the best that it finally succumbed. It would take us another hour to finish the gruesome task.
Exhausted and in pain, I sat back against the bathroom wall, Jarl on the other side of the great beast’s tail. “Need to get everything cleaned up,” he muttered, his glance calculating damages.
“Take it out of my lockbox. I’m the one who’s putting you out doing this.” I pulled myself off the ground.
“The hell do you think you’re going? You’re in no shape to be moving with that bite. Creature might be venomous!” Jarl pushed to have me sit back down.
“It needs water or else the skin and scales will dry out and get infected.” My head was spinning, though.
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