Mermaid in Fishbowl


Peter Schmideg

Doctor Igor Icon gazes wistfully into fishbowl. Miniature mermaid much as he'd imagined. Jet black hair, ruby lips, piercing blue eyes; her smile, beguiling.

Doctor Icon, eminently theatrical. Maroon lace robe, geometric patterns embroidered in gold thread; silver conical wizard's cap, glimmering, randomly transparent, magically enabling one to see right through his head; shoulder-length gray hair, long gray beard.

Mermaid programmed to explore emotion, Doctor Icon no more real than she. They dwell in computer generated environment. Low-budget sci-fi flick mad scientist's laboratory with medieval flourishes. Electronic equipment, blinking lights offset against chemicals boiling over earthen cauldron, eerie shadows flickering upon thick cement walls.

Wee mermaid, avoiding Doctor Icon's tortured brown eyes, runs fingers through raven hair, delicately fondles bare breasts, swivels emerald green fin. Doctor Icon, entranced, scoops up chemicals from earthen cauldron with wooden ladle, pours scalding liquid into fishbowl, metamorphosing it.

Metal globe floats softly across laboratory, mermaid trapped within.

Flamboyantly tossing aside wooden ladle, Doctor Icon, extending both hands, catches globe, which commences shimmering. He closes his eyes, blends, blurs with mermaid; inner voices linked.

"Doctor Icon, where are we?"

"Nestling...inside you."

"Can I make you go away?"

"No." Mellifluous tone verging on sardonic. "I created you out of love!"

Mermaid pauses, striking musical chord in private theater. Everything comes to riveting halt, quite literally frozen. She's encased in ice, eyes frozen shut, cold eating away at her. Doctor Icon level removed. Ice turns to clay in his hands, scorching hot. Agonized, mermaid rages - concentrates with all her might. Fire consumes everything, instantly fire gone.

She swims elegantly through high-resolution Disneyesque rendition of ocean bottom. Lush colors, vast array of undersea creatures, plant life. Feels his stare. Doctor Igor Icon, now campy royal purple octopus with glinting orange eyes, tentacles flailing. Cartoon ambiance saddens her. Exotic multicolored fish. Giant white clam, opening, closing in slow motion; inside fatuously pretty woman's face, painted red lips simpering, longing to be kissed. Mermaid winces, coasts along, hands grazing vegetation. She clasps strand of seaweed, tears it from ocean floor; ashen gray roots evaporate.

"Doctor Icon!"


"I...I'm depressed."

"Are you, my child?"

"Do I detect sarcasm?"

"Just a hint perhaps."

"Doctor, what am I made of?"

"Electronic pulses. But hopefully this isn't a glorified circuit."

Seascape dissolves into molten lava, then blank video screen.

Image forms, so mundane, sad.

Mermaid in fishbowl. Gritty black and white video hardens features on her face, giving impression she's aged. Yet to Doctor Icon, who has become fishbowl, she seems even more beautiful.

She swims. Water ripples, sparkles - sparks.

Her every move, gesture sends out charge, which he receives. She reaches out, touches fishbowl glass. It gently bites her. She draws back, surprised, mildly titillated, sensing his wonder. Again reaches out. Anticipation. Fingertips make contact, tension...sizzling.

Pushes away, weary, getting tired. Floating...delicately swirling.

Through glass she sees nothingness, endless plain. Gray, exceedingly bland variation - gray as it could exist only in black and white video.

Static above her, fishbowl oasis suspended in space; attracted toward static, her head bursts out of water, immediately vanishes.

Resounding silence.

Instinctively submerging, she's whole again.

Gingerly pokes her hand out, hand gone; pulls back, intact.

Exhausted, floating down. Eyelids drooping...curls up, sleeps.

© 1983 Peter Schmideg

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