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Enchanted Dreams
Woman: Skydancer
Change of Life Virus
The Race To The Sea

Brenda would remember that panicked drive to the sea for as long as she lived. Though it only lasted five days, it had begun nearly a year before. That day, that changed the world and had even forced calendar reform worldwide, was the day Bishop Theodric's crazed plan had gone into operation. He had decided to punish the Jews and Moslems by releasing a virus to change them all into the animals their religions felt were "unclean" or "contaminated". Thousands died as the first wave of transformations hit. Those that survived were left wholly or partially as animals: pigs and dogs. The world had, at first, responded by offering aid. Then, when the virus seemed determined to become a local pandemic, with quarantine. By then it was far too late. It had become airborne. Riding the winds of the world, a mutant version had spread worldwide.

Brenda had been terrified by the first news of the transformations. Most were horrified but the idea of changing into something else scared her beyond belief. After the quarantines went into place, she, like so many others, relaxed and felt safe. After all, the government knew what it was doing. That was until the flu arrived months early (or at least everyone thought it was just the flu). She suffered through her three day bout with it wondering why her flu shot of the previous year hadn't at least made it less severe. But the flu, even a sever one, runs its course fairly quickly in any one individual unless they were weakened to begin with. Brenda's flu soon passed and she went about her daily routine thanking God that she'd survived the flu that had killed so many others (literally millions of the very young and the very old hadn't survived the virus).

While the government's of the world were busy investigating how such a pandemic could arise without anyone even so much as catching a hint it was coming and politicians everywhere pointing blame and weaker governments toppling like bowling pins, the second stage of the disease kicked in. Women were now the target. Women everywhere began to change. Not just pigs and dogs, this time. It seemed the virus also infected other animals though far less severely than humans. In doing so, it picked up a cargo of animal DNA. Soon there were thousands of variants, each transforming its victim partially into some other creature. Men, it seemed were immune, because of a slightly different body chemistry.

Brenda's time of change began quite innocuously. She began to notice that the skin on her hands was starting to extend out along her fingers. By the time she started her time of major change, the local governments had instituted home quarantine and self reporting. She dutifully reported her symptoms and prepared to change at home. She dreaded each day's change. The virus, no longer as controlled as it had been at first, could horribly distort its victims. Although initially fairly well behaved as viri went, by the time it had circled the globe for the fourth time, it had mutated and the careful genetic programming to ensure host survivability was dropped.  Some didn't survive the change because the virus changed the body into something that lacked key openings or scrambled the internal systems or fouled the metabolism. Brenda knew she was destined for one of those changes and dreaded each day's changes.

At first, though, her changes were mild. Her finger webs soon stopped spreading when they reached the first knuckle on each finger. For nearly two weeks afterwards, that was all that happened. Brenda wondered what was going on. She knew, deep in her heart, that she'd not get off lightly. She'd surely end up distorted into some grotesque beast that would be loathed and hated (if she didn't die outright, of course).

When the next set of changes began, they were equally mild. She began to grow a tail! Now she'd heard rumours that you could tell what kind of creature you were becoming by looking at the tail. She used her cell phone's camera to shoot pictures of her tail every day and went online to try to discover what animal it belonged to. This task, at first in desperation and finally in consternation, proved fruitless. It was a tail but it wasn't growing fur. How could you tell what animal if you didn't have fur to compare it to? The tail, for nearly three weeks, remained inscrutable. All it was as a tail, covered with her own skin, that was growing increasingly longer and becoming wider at the base of her spine. It was inconvenient, too. As it became longer, it got in the way of her walking. Once it reached its full length, it dragged uncomfortably behind her.

The day came when she discovered that the muscles in the tail had strengthened enough to allow her to move the thing. The discovery that she could move the thing was made quite by accident. She was startled by a noise outside her apartment (the weekly delivery of supplies, as it turned out). The surprise resulted in the tail twisting to one side and lifting from the floor. The thin tip acted like a fat whip and knocked her collection of ornaments from a shelf. Fortunately none were broken. Brenda spent the next few days learning how to control the tail. It would be much easier to get around if she could move it into some convenient position as she walked. It turned out to be fairly easy to master the tail. In less than a week, she managed to become quite dexterous with the tail and could handle it with ease.

The tail, though, continued to change. Once it reached a length nearly a meter longer than her legs, it began to thicken. Brenda had, at first accommodated the tail by sewing openings in her undergarments. This soon proved useless as the tail swelled from the thickness of her forearm until it was as thick as her hips at its base. She wondered what kind of creature had such a wide tail. None of the creatures on the Internet seemed to fit: not dogs, not cats, not deer, not beavers, not rats, not anything she could think of. This appendage seemed to have its own idea of what it was becoming and, despite hours spent on her computer, Brenda had no idea what creature it belonged to.

The puzzle was solved by the development of a pair of bumps on either side of the tail at its tip. These soon flared into increasing wide and flat flukes. Brenda realized she'd been looking in the wrong place. It didn't take too long to realize that her tail was a white sided dolphin's tail. She reported this finding to the authorities like any law abiding citizen would and waited for their response. Being overwhelmed by thousands of changing women (and even a few men), they merely noted the fact and went on trying to control chaos with their equivalent of a teaspoon.

Brenda began to read up on everything she could about dolphins. She needed to know where they lived, what they ate, everything. It was on one of these information hunts that she ran across the unwelcome information that they couldn't stay on land too long. Millions of years in the ocean made it essential that their bodies were supported by water. They could, being relatively small, slide up on an edge (a common trick in seaquaria) but it was only for a few moments. Then it was back into the water. Her panicked phone call about this discovery was met with a laconic "Well, you'll just have to get into your bathtub then, won't you dearie?"

That condescending response angered Brenda. It was apparent that they'd be no help and were unwilling or unable to offer her the help she felt she would soon need. She decided to run to the sea. At least in the sea, she'd be in the water. She'd be able to live without worrying about drying out or hurting herself being on land too long. Her only problem was that she lived in Calgary. Calgary, being in Alberta in Canada, was just about as far away from the ocean as you could get in any direction. The Atlantic lay completely across the country, thousands of kilometres away. She thought about taking a plane but realized quickly they'd not let her on with her tail as it was. So the Atlantic was out. The Arctic Ocean, to the north, was slightly closer but the idea of swimming in ice floes was not exactly what she wanted. Besides, it was still only early spring. Likely the northern waters were still solidly frozen. That left only the Pacific. Now the Pacific was considerably closer. Only 1500 kilometres, give or take a bit. Only problem there was the Rocky mountains. It would be a tough drive. She knew, from past experience, that it was best done in two days rather than one but she knew that no motel would take someone in the middle of a transformation. They'd report her and that would be that. She'd end up in one of the quarantine camps and die for lack of water.

It was while she was trying to make plans that her changing body decided her timetable. Her legs began to weaken. Just as the tail had thickened over a week or so, her legs began to shrink. They went from their normal sexy forms to legs that would have been more at home in an area of the world wracked by starvation. Brenda, watching them shrink for the first few days, was beside herself in terror. She contemplated suicide. Better that than dying slowly, trapped on land. The arrival of the weekly food parcel spurred her to action, though. With a week's worth of food and whatever she could glean from the rest of her pantry, she could easily make it to the coast.

Once the quarantine agent had completed his weekly assessment (through the door, of course) and departed, Brenda launched herself into action. First the parcel was repackaged into smaller bundles she could manage. The loading of her car was accomplished without incident. There were a number of factors that had operated in her favour. First, it was midday. All the men were off working (in fact, new government legislation made the work day 12 hours instead of 8 for the duration of the crisis to keep the economy running). The ten wives in the apartment were in the middle of their own changes and wouldn't leave their apartment for anything. Brenda half thought to offer them a ride away from the apartment, too. She quickly realized her small car had no chance whatever of holding them all. Her practical side supplied an equally logical reason not to disturb them. One half-changed woman might make it to the sea, a whole herd of them? Never. Besides, they probably didn't even want to get to the sea. Their changes were probably going in all sorts of other directions.

When all was packed, she made a discovery that just about put an end to her flight to the sea before it even started. She had no idea how she'd get her tail into the car and still be able to drive. Standing outside her car, she realized her only hope was to cut away part of the seat to let her tail rest in the back on the floor. Hardly comfortable but it was the only idea she had. It took several hours to remove the padding at the seat base and cut through the wires that supported the padding. She eventually had a hole large enough but the sharp wires scared her. She solved the problem by folding the leather of the seat over them and using duct tape to hold it in place. She prayed it would hold long enough to get to the coast.

She discovered that she had a nearly full tank of gas. The week she'd started her changes (was it really only a few months ago that all this had begun?) had been a payday. She always filled her car on payday and was thankful for that mercy. The car would be able to get nearly three quarters of the way there before she'd need to risk a service station and discovery. She decided that she'd best leave as soon as possible. Later on, everyone would be home and she'd be caught before even setting out.

Slipping her tail in through the hole in her seat, she covered it as best she could with a pair of folded blankets. She hoped that the packages in the back seat and the blankets would make her look like she was moving or something. She carefully backed out of her parking stall and made her way outside. Momentarily blinded by the light, she narrowly avoided striking the light just outside the parking garage. That would definitely have put a stop to her escape!

Once on the road, things soon settled down. For the most part, traffic was extremely light (after all, with everyone at home or working long hours, who was left to drive). It was mostly trucks and couriers. The few government and military vehicles caused momentary fear but she controlled it, realizing that she was better of acting completely normally rather than attracting attention. She thanked the planners of years past for their careful design for it only took fifteen minutes to get to the edge of the city and onto the Trans-Canada highway that would take her to Vancouver and the coast.

Cresting one hill (carefully at the speed limit and no higher), she caught sight of a collection of cars on the horizon. By the way they were placed across the road and on the shoulders, it was apparent this was some kind of road block. She couldn't possibly make it through a road block and took the first exit off. She decided that travel on the main highways, though convenient, was too dangerous. Fortunately, the land was crisscrossed with gravel farm roads right up to the foothills of the mountains. They were slower going but safer, in Brenda's opinion, than travel on the main highways. They were also a lot less comfortable. Her tail ached after only a few hours on the rough roads and she decided to return to the main highway. She reasoned they'd not have enough people to man too many road blocks. This proved true up to the point where the roads all converged on one of the few passes through the mountains. As she approached the Banff National Park gates, she realized that she'd soon face her first major test. She'd traveled to Banff on many a day excursion in happier times and realized that she'd have to face the wardens at the park gates. She wished she had a year long pass and could use the bypass lane but she hadn't had any reason to go to the mountains yet that year.

As she approached the gates, though, she realized they were unmanned. Obviously, they were needed elsewhere or were sick themselves (she remembered that most of the staff on the gates had been women in past years). The gates were open and the lights green so she drove past them breathing a sigh of relief.

This relief was short-lived though. Up ahead, on the only road through the mountains and with no convenient gravel roads to escape on, was another road block. She almost decided to turn around then and there. Having come this far and with the sun starting to set, she steeled her courage and drove calmly up to the road block. They quickly checked her back seat, asked a few questions about her destination (she lied about a sick father in Vancouver), had her pop her trunk (it held empty suitcases but she'd decided to make it look like she was on a trip and had packed clothing, too) and then waved her through.

She drove ten kilometres down the road to get out of their line of vision, pulled over to the side of the road and leaned out through the door and heaved her guts out. She'd never been so scared in all her life. She wondered that they'd not heard her heart pounding. When she recovered sufficiently, she continued her drive. Remembering that there was a full service gas station in Banff itself, she turned off the trans-Canada highway and entered the township. The bored attendant quickly topped up her tank, took her credit card and returned a few moments later with the chit for her to sign.

"Moving?" he asked.
"Sick father in Vancouver."
"Sorry to hear that," he answered automatically.

She signed the paper and he wandered back to his glass cubicle. She drove off, enough gas now to make the coast, and returned to the main highway. Within hours, the sun set and she was faced with the first major decision. The Coquihalla highway was much shorter than the trans-Canada but it was also a toll highway. She knew there were no side roads off the Coquihalla anywhere and, if there were a road block, it would be at the summit. She'd gotten through one road block but didn't relish attempting another one. Besides, her legs were beginning to hurt. Reluctantly, she decided to stick to the main highway and find a place to rest a bit. Choosing a relatively deserted roadside turnoff, she parked her car, set the emergency flashers and made herself as comfortable as possible.

Three hours later, she was awakened by the flashlight of a Mountie.

"You okay, miss," he asked.
"Tired from too much driving, sir," she replied her heart racing again.
"Where are you headed?"
"On my way to Vancouver from Regina. My father is sick and I'm going to help out."
"You know there's highway curfews on now."
"I'm sorry, sir. This is an emergency. He may only last a few days," she lied.
"In hospital?"
"Yes. Heart problems again."
"I understand. Best stay here the night then. I'll just make a note of your license plate and mark you as an emergency transient. Did you get a transient pass before setting out?"
"No. I didn't know I'd need one. Jim, my brother, phoned. I just packed things and left."
"You should have gotten a pass. Would have meant a lot less problems. You'll have to tell your story to every road detail from here to Vancouver as it is. You might want to consider stopping in Kelona up ahead. Have the local RCMP phone the hospital and confirm your story. They can issue you a permit then."
"I'll do that. Thank you," she smiled at him.
"Have a good night."
"Thank you, sir," she responded carefully controlling her breathing.

He drove off after a few moments and she was left in the dark trying to compose herself again. Sleep, when it came, was filled with nightmares of capture and display in a tank as an exhibit with snotty nosed kids poking at her as she swam about or tapping the glass to startle her. When morning came, despite the fact she had little real sleep, she started the car and returned to the highway. Despite the officer's suggestion, she knew that she'd not be able to get an emergency transient pass. There was no brother and no father in hospital. She drove through Kelona and on down the trans-Canada highway.

As she drove she tried to think of some plan to get to the coast. It was apparent to her that the trans-Canada (and likely every other highway) would have road blocks. So the choice of highway didn't really matter all that much. It was the endpoint of the journey she was most concerned about. Vancouver was a huge metropolis. Getting through all that without being stopped several times was unlikely. Each time she was stopped she knew she risked discovery. She was only a few hundred kilometres from the coast and didn't want to get caught now. So the lower mainland around Vancouver was definitely out. She dug out a map of British Columbia. Maybe she'd be better off heading north towards Prince Rupert. She'd just have to change her story a bit if stopped. Sick father in Prince Rupert. Of course, she wasn't about to head to Prince Rupert either. It too was a fairly large city. But halfway there, there were any number of auxiliary highways that went to smaller communities on the coast like Bella Coola. She could more easily make her way tot he sea from one of them.

The decision made, she turned north at Cache Creek. Everything went well until around noon. Her legs, as they continually weakened, soon made themselves part of her equation. She soon was unable to drive any farther than about an hour at a time before pain in her shins and feet forced her to stop and massage them. Every time she stopped, she knew she risked being investigated. She soon learned that the side farm roads often had copses of trees where farmers drove into their fields. These provided much better cover than simply stopping by the road. Each stop, though, slowed her down. Her two day trip (for that's what it should have taken, soon entered a third and then a fourth. The auxiliary highways were seldom in as good condition as the main ones. The country roads were even worse.

Early in the morning, on the fifth day, Brenda turned a corner and saw her destination for the first time. The Pacific Ocean stretched to the horizon. Only half an hours drive separated her from the beach and life. It was then things took a turn for the worst.

"Pull over now, miss," a loudspeaker blared.

A patrolling RCMP cruiser had pulled up behind her. She slowed and stopped, expecting the same drill as had happened on all the other times she'd been stopped.

"I'll need your driver's license and registration," his stern voice requested.
"Here they are, sir" Brenda passed the documents through her window.

He returned to his cruiser and called it in. As the amount of time increased, Brenda became increasingly anxious. The sea was only minutes away. Once again, her heart raced and she felt her chest tighten. When he returned, his face had changed.

"Out of the car," he demanded. "You're in quarantine."

Brenda responded by gunning the engine and screaming off down the road. The sea was close, too close to let the police and quarantine stop her. She knew the policeman was a far better driver than she was but she knew where she was going and he didn't. The road, though rated for 80 kph, wasn't in terribly good condition in some places. The highways to outlying towns like Bella Coola often didn't receive as much attention as the main routes. She bumped along, pushing her car to its maximum. With each bump and twist, she felt her tail protest. Why couldn't he just let her go to the sea?

The police car caught up only a few minutes later and, once again, demanded she pull over. Brenda couldn't for the sea was too close. She desperately tried to stay on the road as each bump and twist threatened to toss her and her car into the ditch or trees. As they approached the coast, things became even more precarious. Steep cliffs down to rushing rivers fell away on one side or the other. Mountain peaks rose on the opposite side. The police car pulled up almost on her bumper. She'd seen enough of her brother's race games to know what he was doing. He was trying to stop her with a fish tail maneuver or by ramming. Despite the fact that it might mean her death, he obviously had orders to apprehend at all costs anyone caught out of quarantine.

The sea filled more and more of her windscreen as the road approached the small community of Bella Coola She raced towards it hoping the police car wouldn't be able to ram her before she reached it. He'd not attempt anything too destructive once he reached the town for fear of injuring civilians (or so she hoped).

She felt a sharp bump from behind and felt her neck snap back! She'd been rammed from behind. Her foot was all the way down on the accelerator now and she very nearly lost control. Her need, though, gave her strength and she quickly caught the skid before it had gone too far. Bella Coola was only minutes ahead (or so the green highway sign indicated). In a few minutes, she'd be safe in the town and then in the sea itself.

Once again, she was hit from behind. This time, the hit only sped her towards her goal. It was apparent that the officer was trying to stop her before she reached the town because he rammed her a second and then a third time in a matter of minutes. Just on the town limits, as the road widened, he tried to spin her out of control by twisting her car's rear end. The toll of the chase plus all of the rough roads over the past few days resulted in her bumper detaching. She and her car sped towards the harbour and safety. A sign indicating the ferry flashed by her and she headed towards the dock. Unless the ferry were there, she could escape to sea by simply crashing through the barriers and into the sea.

The police car again tried to ram her. She caught sight of some terrified people scattering away from the street as she roared through. The first barrier was wood and splintered as she crashed on through. Seconds later, she careened off a metal railing badly damaging her passenger side door. The ferry dock (and no ferry, thank God) was seconds ahead. The only thing between her and the sea was a metal bar. It caught her car at the level of the headlights but it hadn't been designed for anything going as fast as she was. It tore loose and spun away. It had its effect though as it spun her out of control. Her car, spinning wildly, struck a concrete block and began to tumble. Brenda screamed as the world began to fade. Then she felt a strange calm as she watched the edge of the dock spin away beneath her car. Only sea and sky was visible for the few seconds left before the car struck the water and began to sink.

Brenda took as deep a breath of air as she could. She knew she'd have to struggle to free her tail from its prison in the back seat. The shattered window on the passenger side let the sea pour in but Brenda welcomed its soothing touch. The sea! She'd made it. The car continued to sink until it finally settled into the mud in the harbour. Brenda began the task of getting herself loose. This was made even harder by the floating boxes and debris from the supplies she'd packed five days previously. Finally, she managed to roll down her window and tried to pull herself loose. Her legs, weakened by her change, were nearly useless as she pushed things aside. Finally, with the pressure equalized, she attempted to open the door.

It wouldn't budge! Some time during the last few minutes, it had been damaged sufficiently that it would no longer open. She twisted her tail from side to side trying to get purchase on something inside the car to help her escape. The sea, once her saviour, was now likely to end up her death. She was sure she'd not be able to hang on much longer. She was sure that more than a minute had passed and she'd never been much at free diving.

A sharp spike from her chair stabbed into her tail and spurred a reflex twitch enough to rip the seat loose from its damaged moorings. With the seat free, she discovered she could twist loose of the wreckage. A flip of her tail and she was outside the car. The silt the crash had stirred up still filled the water making it impossible to see. She made a snap decision to head away from the car and into deeper water for as long as her air lasted. Strangely enough, her breath lasted nearly four minutes and her flukes propelled her nearly a kilometre and a half away before she was compelled to breath again. She quickly refilled her lungs and swam towards the open sea and safety.

Over the next few weeks, she learned to hunt fish and avoid sharks. Her legs slowly shrank and were absorbed into her body entirely save for her feet which flattened into fins. But that final chase and crash, the desperate escape from her sunken car, those events would haunt her nightmares the rest of her life.

Months later, when the fishing season was in high gear again, strange reports surfaced of a mermaid being seen on the coast. Of course, mermaids didn't exists, did they?

Chapter II Some Years Later

Brenda soon learned how to fish with a simple spear she created from a pole and barb she salvaged from an old wreck. At first, she dove and swam from every surface contact. She was terrified of being caught. But, as the weeks turned into months and the months into years, the number of boats dwindled. From nearly hourly contacts, she found herself diving at most once a day. Sometimes several days would pass before she'd see a boat. More and more, the boats were paddled or sails. It was as if something had changed radically on the land but Brenda had no way of finding out and little incentive to make contact.

Brenda enjoyed sunning, too. She had a few deserted beaches that she would carefully pull herself up on. It was more to untangle her hair and cut her hair with a knife she'd found on the beach. Although the traditional mermaid had long flowing tresses, they got in the way. It was hard to get her hair short though for the knife wasn't exactly the correct tool for the job but it was the best she could manage. She didn't discard her hair either. Braided, her hair made useful rope and string for any number of projects she had going.

It was on one of these sunning/grooming sessions that she found herself facing her worst terror. Her deserted beach was suddenly not deserted! A young man, about her age, was making his way rapidly towards her down the loose stones and dirt on the steep escarpment behind the beach. Brenda was convinced he was some kind of official and hunting her because he wore a uniform of some sort. He was shouting something to her as he scuttled down the steep face but the showers of stones and dirt and the pounding of her heart made hearing his words nigh impossible. She made it into the water and away only minutes before he reached her sunning stone. As she dove, she heard him shout "Wait! Don't ..."

It was several more days before she dared return to the spot. She was far more careful this time about checking the area before hauling herself out onto the beach. All went well for nearly an hour before he appeared again, this time running along the beach itself. Once more, she rolled into the water and was away. This time as she surfaced a fair distance off the beach, he curled his hands around his mouth and shouted to her.

"I won't hurt you. I just want to talk."

Brenda, her flight to the sea still fresh despite the number of years, didn't even reply. She just dove and swam off to her island cave.

Her next encounter with the man was at sea. He had a small kayak and was paddling about, clearly searching for her. She half thought she'd just stay under and leave him to his fruitless searching for she knew he could never find her in his kayak unless she let him. She surfaced about 50 meters from him.

"Why are you chasing me?" she demanded.
"I just want to talk."
"So talk then."
"Well, there's no one else anywhere along this coast. Ever since the third wave of the virus hit anyway."
“Third wave?"
"Worse than the first two. Lethal nearly 80% of the time. Hit everyone, not just women.  When it reached North America, I took to the hills. Packed a radio, supplies, a gun and things. Thought to wait it out, you know."
"I wouldn't know about that. They chased me into the sea before that happened."
"Look," he said, shading his eyes. "This shouting is hard on my throat. Can't you just swim a bit closer?"
"And let you net me or something?"
"Why would I do that?"
"You're an officer of some kind. You've a uniform on."
"This?" he seemed startled. "I found this in a ranger's station I broke into last winter. Figured they'd never need it again and my stuff was getting pretty thread bare."
"How can I trust you?"
"Well, have you seen anyone else? Official or otherwise?"
"Well, no, but ..."
"They stopped the hunt for the changelings nearly two years ago. Not enough unchanged people left alive to coordinate it. Normals are pretty much an extinct species now. Every other mix outnumbers them fifty or sixty to one the last word I got on my radio. Though that's months old."
"The regular radio broadcasts are finished. No one left in most of the cities any more. Only time I hear anything is when someone sends up a shortwave message. Those are pretty uncommon these days.”

She swam a bit closer. It was clear the man was skinny, too skinny to pose a threat to her. As she neared the kayak, she realized even the uniform was tattered. Clearly, he wasn't the original owner of the uniform. It was clearly for a larger man for he'd cinched the pants on with a rope and they and the shirt flopped loosely. He'd need to do some sewing if he wasn't to freeze in the winter.

"You really aren't a forest ranger, are you?"
"That's what I've been trying tell you for the past weeks. I'm Herb, by the way."
"I'm Brenda. So what were you before?"
"Just a clerk. At a sporting goods shop. I stole a bunch of stuff from the store when I ran from the city."
"So you can't tell anyone about me even if you wanted to."
"Well, I don't want to for a start. The nearest town with anyone still in it is a ways up the coast. They've made a sort of living of it by fishing and farming. The local sheriff there isn't much interested in anything other than local law matters. Even if I told someone, I'd likely get a 'That's Nice' and 'On your way now'."

Brenda snickered. She pictured him wandering up the sheriff and trying to convince him he knew of a wanted mermaid. Not exactly plausible sounding even if the virus made it possible. He was clearly telling the truth as far as she could tell.

"How long since you were changed?" he asked, blushing a bit.
"Years. Maybe five or six now."
"What did you do, before, I mean?"
"Mostly secretarial. Local businesses. I've had a couple of jobs."
"You seem to be doing okay for yourself. What do you eat out here?"
"Fish mostly. There's a few plants and things that are edible, too. Clams and such, too."
"You're doing a lot better than I am. I guess I'm no great hunter. I think I've lost maybe 25 kilos."
"Well, I did okay until I ran out of ammo. Thought using a bow would be easy. Hardly. No scope. You have to allow more for the wind. An arrow doesn't do near the damage a bullet did. Been trapping and snaring things, too. Tried to start a bit of a garden but I'm no farmer."

There was a longish pause in the conversation.

"I don't suppose we could, um, head for the shore. These swells may not bother you much but I'm getting a bit queazy," the man admitted.
"Oh, sure."

Brenda began swimming towards the shore.

Their friendship grew over the next few weeks. He provided her with what he could and she supplemented his diet with fish and shellfish. She watched him fill out again with the extra calories. Some time over the months that followed, they found love. Nothing too demonstrative at first. He began to swim in the warm current with her and she'd spend increasing amounts of time sunning on the shore to be near him.

This all changed suddenly. One evening, Brenda pulled herself onto the sunning rock to catch the last of the sun. She expected Herb to be along soon. When he didn't show, she wasn't too worried. He might have caught something big that needed slaughtered immediately. But when he failed to show up for two weeks, she became frantic. She envisioned him injured or maybe even dead. She knew she couldn't get to the ranger’s station he’d talked of to help him as much as she might want to. She began building a fire with a fire steel he'd given her every evening to let him know where she was.

After nearly a month, a single column of black smoke rose from the direction of the station in the early morning. She wondered what it might mean. She decided something had gone seriously wrong. She tried to think of some way to move on land to get to him but could think of nothing. She mourned his loss, sure he'd been killed. She began patrolling the shore, near enough to see him if he showed up, but not so close that she'd be captured if some government agents came after her.

After three quarters of the day had passed, she watched a man make his way with difficulty. Something told her it was him but something was extremely wrong. He made his way to the shore pulling some kind of bag or sack. Once he made it to the water, he seemed to gain strength. She swam towards him as fast as she could and gathered him up in her arms.

He had changed, and changed a lot. She recognized many of the changes as she'd gone through them herself. His legs were thin and weak and the sack she thought he'd been dragging was a tail as thick as his hips with the beginnings of a dolphin's flukes at its tip. He was still running a fever, she could feel it as she held him in the shallow water. She wondered whether she should make a fire on shore to help him warm up or whether the warm water would be better as it helped cool his fever.

"I made it," he stated triumphantly before fainting again.
"Yes, you are back," she agreed.

The next days were tense. Brenda split her time between caring for him in a cave with a fire and hunting for food for them both. She watched him finish his changes exactly as she had years before. Six weeks after he first disappeared, his changes were complete: dolphin tail, dolphin flukes, webbed fingers. Except, of course, he was still himself and still very much male as she discovered one morning. He had clearly had some kind of erotic dream and his still hard penis sticking from his tummy slit. As he awakened though, it shrank back into his body.

"Good morning," she stroked his face. "Feeling better."
"Still weak," he admitted. "How long?"
"About ten days. You've been through the same changes I went through."
"Wonderful!" he smiled as he fell back asleep.

He got his strength back quickly though and, within a few days, was helping hunt and gather for the pair of them. She found him an able and wonderful partner, extremely good company. Thinking back on their first few months, she wondered how she could ever have mistrusted the man. It was wonderful to have company.

Early one spring morning, as the sun was rising just after the last of the snow had melted from the beach, she felt a stirring in her insides. She'd not felt anything like it before. She hoped she wasn't becoming sick. Even though Herb would gladly care for her if she became ill, she didn't like to place any extra burdens on him. She snuggled up close to her mate and drifted off to sleep again. When she awakened, it was to a totally different mate.

He awakened her by playfully stroking her sides and tummy with his pectoral fins. Somehow, this awoke something she'd long suppressed. She responded to his ministrations with her own. They swam out of their sea cave to play with each other in the warm water. Playfully, they rubbed sides and tummies, held hands, kissed. After nearly an hour, they found themselves floating upright in the water in each others arms. He continued to play with her nipples and she was nibbling on one of his ears. She felt something slid into her from below and felt the need to swim. Slowly, the pair of them swam, belly-to-belly, as his now solid penis found its way into her ventral slit. She could feel the tip turn and twist to gain access. She'd had boyfriends before and was no virgin but this was totally unexpected and unbelievably stimulating. Her ardour rose as his penis began to pulsate. Finally, with a surge, he came and, with his ejaculation, her own orgasm peaked as well. All that day, they played together, mating again and again. Brenda had never had so many orgasms of such intensity. By the end of the day, exhausted and hungry, the pair of them returned to their cave and fell asleep.

The next day, they tried again, but for some reason it just wasn't working. It wasn't as intense for either of them. Some what dissatisfied, they swam together and decided to go hunting.

Six months later, Brenda made a startling discovery. She had put on significant weight in the middle of her tummy, just below her fins. She was astute enough to realize what it meant.

"I'm pregnant," she announced to Herb.
"That's wonderful!" he beamed. Then he frowned. "Will the baby be like us or a normal human?"
"Like us, I hope."

Brenda knew there was little hope of them raising a child in the ocean unless it too could swim. She carefully measured her girth to try to figure out when it was due but, since she'd not had a period since she'd changed, she had no real way of figuring it out. The best she could guess was that marvellous day had been the start but she should be larger at six months than she currently was. She resolved to keep track of her growth and hope for the best. Her appetite increased, as it often does in pregnancy, and her mood became less even. Poor Herb couldn't tell sometimes from one hour to the next whether he'd be greeted as a lover or as an enemy. He only hoped that things would get back to normal once the baby was born.

That blessed event came three months later. Brenda had decided that that special day couldn't have been the start because it had been nearly a year ago and everyone knew that a pregnancy was only nine months. Herb countered that anything was possible after the change they'd been through. Brenda had been feeling tired for days when she woke up. She awoke one morning feeling tight in her tummy and full of energy. Herb remembered his mother noting that women about to go into labor sometimes felt very energetic. He advised her not to was the energy as he was sure they'd have a baby before nightfall. She countered with a joke of "Yes, doctor"

Herb was right though. Brenda began to feel slow contractions and the weight of the baby moved lower down in her body. Herb helped in any way he could but pregnancy is not a time when men traditionally know what to do. Still, he rubbed her shoulders, got her favourite things, talked to her, even joked a bit (though that didn't work quite as well as he'd hoped). With each push, Brenda felt the baby slide farther down inside her. She found slowly swimming with the current eased the pain of each contraction. In the middle of one particularly strong push, there was a gush of fluid that was quickly carried away by the current. Herb, worried that that might draw sharks, had his spear strapped to his back. Three contractions later, Herb told Brenda that the baby was coming out. He could see the tail!

Brenda panicked. A tail first delivery was dangerous. Her aunt had died in a feet first delivery. That scared her even though it had been decades since that had happened. She began to swim agitatedly back and forth. Herb tried to calm her and talked her through the next contractions. With each push, the baby slid farther out. It didn't appear to be getting hung up or stuck anywhere -- it was just coming out tail first.

The birth itself was sudden. The baby slid free and the umbilical cord snapped in a cloud of blood. Brenda scooped the child up and guided it to the surface where it took a first breath, changing from bluish to pink. Moments later, a second gush of blood and tissue was ejected from her body. The trio sped quickly away from the birth site. If the breaking of the amniotic sac hadn't attracted sharks, the birth and placenta definitely would.

It was two hours later, in the safety of their sea cave, that Brenda tried to find out the answer to the ultimate question: boy or girl. With the child firmly latched on her breast, she carefully felt the ventral slit. She was a girl! Now they needed to agree on a name for her.
LoveLatex64 Featured By Owner 5 days ago
I think this is perhaps the most detailed of stories in this series, the first time I also learned about the third wave. But what a wonderful ending, things can only get better from here. Hopefully they'll meet some more mermaids:-)
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