I keep my eyes on the back of the pharmacist’s head, focusing on his salt-and-pepper hair to avoid looking at his white lab coat as much as possible. I need to do everything I can to keep any and all unpleasant memories at bay while I’m in here.
He disappears into one of the aisles momentarily and I continue to try to stay calm as I look around warily, finding myself surrounded by several shelves of medicine and drugs and all sorts of medical devices, therapeutic gadgets, and herbs.
In the distance, a small TV hangs high on a wall, switched on but with low audio. My eyes instantly go wide at the images on the screen, my lungs stilling inside my chest, and I wish to hell I hadn’t looked up.
‘Breaking News: The Roadkill Merman.’
My heart literally stops for a small eternity…and then proceeds to thump faster than it ever has.
I can’t believe it’s already on international news. It hasn’t even been a full hour yet.
This is the absolute last thing I want to see right now.
And that title…
My eyes remain glued to the screen, unable to break away from the re-renderings of what I just experienced firsthand as I listen to a young news reporter cover the story. She holds nothing back and the station wastes no time in broadcasting images and bystander interviews of the “latest myth-buster”, speculating that there are now mermaids and mermen living on land who are so evolved and adapted to look like and blend in with humans.
And, apparently, they’re not the only ones.
According to the news banner at the bottom of the screen, several other news networks quickly caught on and the story has spread like wildfire all over the world in less than an hour after it happened.
It’s currently the number one topic trending online.
A part of me still can’t even believe it myself; being so close to an individual who can actually breathe under water. That he—and probably many others like him—have become so evolved that he could live and breathe on land, and do it so well that he could easily assimilate with humans.
Just as my thoughts and surroundings start to overwhelm me, L.T. Thomas comes back, appearing once again with five or six small boxes clutched between his arm, along with his generic smile plastered across his face. I try to act normal, ignoring the television behind us. I swallow against renewed anxiety as I regard his face, hoping he won’t see through my fear, and I find that his expression bothers me for some reason. I can’t really pinpoint it, but there’s something off about his smile. Off and…kind of annoying.
My eyes dart from his face to the boxes he holds, each a different size and color with various names and fonts.
“You do have a few over-the-counter options,” he says, holding a light pink box out to me. “This is Fenzine, a muscle relaxant. It’s effective against stiff ligaments, soreness, and can help relieve general achiness. This here is Viramol,” he continues, swapping the pink box for a green and blue one with its name sprawled across the front of it in an italicized, dark blue font. “Now I know you said you didn’t want any tea or anything, but these are herbal capsules with a lot of detoxification and cleansing properties, and they can help alleviate toxicity in the body which, a lot of the time, can manifest itself as stress and lethargy. And this here is…”
He keeps on talking, showing me the different boxes and explaining what they are and why they do or don’t do this or that. I’m not sure when exactly it happens, but at some point, I realize I’m not listening anymore. I’m trying to, but I just can’t seem to focus on anything he’s saying. It’s so strange; as if I’m becoming faint, but not quite.
I see his lips moving, see the subtle expressions on his face changing even as he maintains his signature smile but, suddenly, all I can hear is the sound of my heart beating loudly in my ears and the blood it’s furiously pumping rushing to my head.
I don’t know why, but I begin to feel agitated.
For no reason!
The reaction is so abrupt and unexpected I honestly don’t know what to make of it. I feel like I’m approaching a whole new level of crazy.
I rub furiously at my throbbing forehead and temples, an intense surge of frustration and impatience plaguing me as I try—and fail—to stay calm.
In a crazy rush, more scenes from my past replay themselves in my head. Random images and still moments of my childhood that I’d rather forget abruptly resurface of their own accord. I try to block them out and focus on what the pharmacist is saying but they refuse to go away.
It feels like time is slowing down somehow, and I begin to grow faint, almost as if I’m in a state of mental freefall. It’s a very strange and novel feeling; nothing I can really put into words or accurately describe. Then again, most of the things I’ve experienced and witnessed in the last two weeks can’t exactly be put into words, either.
Suddenly, my mind settles on one particular scene. It’s choppy, dim, and considerably unfocused, but something is being shoved into my mouth while someone pinches my nose, forcing me to swallow it.
It’s a pill, I realize, and, more importantly, it’s my father who’s administering it to me, whispering calming words and assurances in my ear as I flail around and fight with all the strength my nine-year-old body can muster.
As the dimness closes in on me, the last thing I can make out before I’m completely knocked out cold is a small box on an antique coffee table. It’s laying on its side with the top open, displaying replicas of the pill that was just forced down my throat.
I can see the writing on it so clearly even as the darkness ensues and eventually takes over my sight.