The Existence of Merfolk by Kim Purcell-Shipman

Alana drives hours inland for a deal. Her car docks in an immense lot. Her feet, surprised to be in use, flounder. The desert stretches to the horizon. The spa discount store appears as a dark door leading to an endless dive.

Inside, whirlpool salesmen con under the factory outlet roof. The drone of jet streams and sales pitches reverberates off converging steel beams above and echo locate her to a goliath tub. A salesman stomps close, causing her blouse to bloom and settle. His name tag spells Bob.

“You know about the science of displacement? This larger model may seem a waste of water.” Bob inhales.

Alana hovers in the hum until she hears the word again.

“Duisplacemeaunt.” The word hangs heavy. Bob raises a wineglass of water and plops in a streaked marble. “You may have missed it with just one.” He plops in another. The water rises and the two marbles spin and dance. “This tub is built for two.”

Alana fixates on the refracted union of the crystalline spheres. Bob pours in a pocketful of marbles; the water erupts.

“This here is a party.”

Overwhelmed by the interruption of the original two, Alana blinks away an ancient memory while a tear escapes.

“Should we look at a smaller model?”

“No, this will do.”

In Overdrive, Bob whirls on, arranging and collecting information, demonstrating and warning: “This bottom jet sucks water in. It can goose you if you sit on it.” He laughs alone and points at the controls. “To stop, hold the red button down for ten solid seconds.”

Disoriented, Alana envisions herself home:

The whirlpool is installed at the top of her condominium. A view of the sky surrounds: Rolling black clouds devour the blue. Lightning divides.

She imagines the room until it is real to her: steam drifts and blurs. There’s an alchemistic array of salts and oils to choose from. Immersed, Alana sprinkles the Dead Sea salts and spills a bottle of myrrh. Her eyes close to the pungent aroma. She conjures the new, but the old -the hopeless one -the one she must live without, arrives instead. She strikes the jet button to blast the resurrected away.

“I’m creating space, inviting the new!” Her desperate tone kicks free a cry. She surrenders to wooziness. Her elbows sink straight. Her hair sways like a sea plant. The current strokes her inner thigh. Again, the hopeless one appears; she can not let his image go. Everything blackens. She rises, but the jet-vacuum jerks her by the hair. She slaps at the stop button.

Unsuccessful, she stills.

In the black, there is peace and a stirring sense of an unfamiliar yet resonating presence.

A weight covers her body.

There is pressure on her hand. Pressure holds down the red button. Pressure on her lips. And somehow there is breath. There is a kiss. Her eyes open: her hair freed, the sky cleared, and the water displaced.

Bob says, “Sign here and you’ll be living the dream.”

Kim’s MA  dissertation was on story structure. Formerly a University Creative Writing and Proficiency Lecturer for Rijks University in the Netherlands, where she was co-founder, editor and a major contributor to Platform, a student magazine. Currently she is a creative writing consultant and blogger for Our Story Matters 2, and provides unique workshops on soulful writing, intuitive writing, and writing as a healing art at River Tree Arts in Kennebunk, Maine, where she is a member of the faculty. Her love is screenwriting and she is working on her fourth spec script.  In addition to finishing her memoir, she is at the beginning stages of arranging flashes of her decade in the Netherlands around Dutch words that made an impact.

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