It took me almost an hour to get back to my house in Palmdale. It was a fairly decent two-story home; not like those huge, ridiculous McMansions that had been springing up all over the place in the past decade. It may not have been fancy, but it was still a home to me, and I was glad I could afford such a place on a cop's salary.
I pressed the button on my garage door opener, and the steel garage door slowly rumbled open. Parking my car in the garage, I got out of my car and walked out, closing the garage door. The side door of my house was built into the side of the garage; I pulled out my key and slipped it into the lock. The key turned smoothly, unlocking the door. I breathed a sigh of relief as I stepped into my kitchen; I could finally get some rest after this rather unusual night.
I flicked the lights on and dropped my keys into a glass dish on the counter. I pulled a chair out from under the table and sat down to take my sneakers off. The cool air that hit my feet as they were pulled free of my shoes was positively heavenly! Running my fingers through my hair, I stood up and trudged across the kitchen, flicking the lights off on my way out. I moved into the hallway and made my way upstairs, knowing that each step I took would bring me closer to a good night's sleep.
Stepping into the bathroom, I closed the door and turned on the ventilation fan. With some effort, I was able to peel my t-shirt off of my back, which was positively soaked in sweat. Then I stripped out of my jeans; it felt good getting them off of my aching legs. I gathered my clothes into a small pile, to which I added my white boxer-briefs.
I slid the glass door of the shower open and stepped inside. Turning the knob, I was greeted by a burst of cool water from the shower's brass head. I swear, it felt so wonderful I could have sighed out loud. After letting the soothing water flow over my body for a few moments, I began to wash with a new appreciation for indoor plumbing.
Once I had finished cleaning myself up, I left the bathroom, leaving my clothes on the floor. I had never a tidy person, and I figured I'd put them in the wash tomorrow. For now, I was tired; dog tired! I shuffled into my bedroom with a towel around my waist. I took the towel off and thoroughly dried myself.
Leaving the towel on the bedroom floor, I pulled a pair of lounge pants made of thin fabric off of my bed and stepped into them. I pulled the drawstrings of the waistband and tied them. I pulled back the thin, silky sheets from my inviting bed and flopped onto the mattress in a fashion quite the opposite of graceful. My body had hardly touched the soft bed before plunging into a deep, restful sleep.
I found myself in an empty void; there was nothing around me except for the thin whisps of mist that curled around my ankles. I tried to call out for somebody, but my voice just couldn't leave my throat. I struggled along in the darkness, trying to find a way out.
All at once, my eyes were stabbed by a blinding white light. I shielded myself, not sure of what was happening. As my eyes adjusted to the light, I could see a silouette emerging from it. I lifted my hands to defend myself, but I soon found that it wouldn't be necessary.
The light faded, and the female shark morph stood before me. She said nothing, but somehow, I knew what she wanted. It was the same thing that I wanted. Slowly, I approached her, my arms invountarily reaching out to her. She did the same, and our arms slid past each other as we came together. I wrapped my arms around her body, clasping them just under her dorsal fin. She welcomed the embrace, pushing herself into my chest. I tilted my head, her snout sliding along my left cheek as our lips pressed together into a deep, passionate kiss...
I awoke with a start, sitting bolt-upright in bed. My sheets were soaked with sweat; at least, I hoped it was sweat. I had just heard a loud noise coming from my backyard. I sat completely still, hardly even breathing, listening intently.
Suddenly, a metallic clattering sound rang out. I jumped, startled by the sudden noise. It sounded like someone, or something, was disturbing my garbage can by the back door. "Probably just raccoons," I said out loud; mostly just to calm myself. I got up anyway, because if there is anything all my years as a police officer has taught me, it's to always be ready for the worst.
Standing up, I put on a bathrobe and quietly crossed my bedroom to my dresser. Reaching behind it, I pulled out a double-barrel shotgun. Checking to see that it was loaded, I slid open the bottom drawer of my dresser and pulled out a box of shells. I stuffed several extra shells into both pockets of my bathrobe, not knowing what to expect to find at my back door.
Slowly I creeped downstairs, fully alert and listening for any more sounds. Reaching the kitchen, I flicked the lights on. I was blinded temporarily, and I had to squint for several seconds. As my eyes adjusted to the light, I walked over to the back door, keeping the barrels of my gun level to my chest, ready for anything.
I carefully and quietly unfastened the metal bar bracing the door shut. Then, I unlatched the heavy glass door and slid it open. I stepped out into the warm summer morning. The air was humid and muggy, and the orange glow of the rising sun flooded the eastern horizon. It was still fairly dark nonetheless.
I scanned my backyard for any sign of an intruder. I noticed that my garbage can was indeed knocked over. Old food and discarded wrappers were strewn all over my lawn. Looking right, I couldn't believe my eyes. It was the very same shark morph I had encountered the previous evening. She was huddled against the white aluminum siding of my house, visibly trembling. All I could do was stand on my patio, stunned.
We exchanged a long, hard stare for what seemed like an eternity. Her solid, brown eyes never broke their focus on mine. I could see the fear coursing through them. Finally, I swallowed hard, then found my voice. "Y...you are trespassing on private property. What are you doing here?" I slowly began to approach the female crouching by the wall.
To my surprise, she spoke. "P-please, mister, don't hurt me. I-I only w-wanted..." She flinched as I came closer, trying to back away from me. She fell back on her rump and covered her face with her arms, continuing to tremble.
I sighed and lowered my gun. She was breaking the law, but yet there was just something that drew me to her. Perhaps it was because I pitied her, perhaps it was because I was fascinated by her. Regardless of the reason, I abandoned protocol and reached out to her. "It's alright," I said to her in as gentle a voice as I could muster, "you don't need to be afraid of me. Here, get up off the ground and tell me what this is all about."
She sat still for a moment, unsure of whether or not to accept the hand I was offering to her. Finally, she slowly leaned forward and took my hand, pulling herself up. She stood there, unwilling to look me in the eye. "I...I was...hungry. I haven't had a full meal in...I don't know how long." She wrung her hands nervously.
"Don't you have a place to live?" I asked. She silently shook her head. "What about friends, or relatives?" Again, she only shook her head. I thought for a moment, then gestured at the door. "Alright, come in. We'll see if we can get this all sorted out." That was another thing I would never have done in normal circumstances. Here I was inviting a complete stranger into my house after finding her rummaging through my garbage for food. I usually don't show such compassion to the homeless, but there was something driving me; it was out of my logical control now.
I led her into my living room and had her sit down on the sofa. I sat down a short distance from her in an overstuffed chair. It was at this time that I was able to get a good look at her for the first time. She was most definately a shark; she was colored a grayish brown; almost like ocean sediment. Starting under her pointed snout, a shade of white ran down the front of her body, concealed by the ratty clothing she was wearing. In the way of figure, I had to admit she was quite attractive. An ample bosom filled her dirty top, and her hips were well-rounded.
She kept her knees drawn together, and her hands rested in her lap. I noticed that she had small, black claws growing out of the tips of her fingers. Small growths, what had to be evolutionary remnants of pectoral fins, protruded from her forearms. Finding the silence to be rather awkward, I decided to keep up the conversation.
"So...what is your name?" I asked her. By now, she had calmed down and started to relax. She was still a little wary of me though.
After hesitating for a moment, she softly answered me: "Melanie."
"I'm Chris Lehman, and it's a pleasure to meet you. What kind of shark are you?"
"I'm a Caribbean Reef Shark. At least, that's what I've been told." she shifted in her seat, turning to make eye contact with me.
"Who told you this?"
She didn't answer me. Instead she looked down into her lap. Realizing that I must have crossed a line, I quickly back-tracked and changed the subject. "Can I get you anything? Something to drink, perhaps?"
She looked back up at me, brightening up a little. "I guess so. What do you have? Be patient with me, though, I have lived a rather...isolated life. You'll need to explain what things are."
"Very naice!" I said in a mock Slavic accent with a chuckle. After seeing her vacant expression I smiled and stood up. "It's from a movie. I'll tell you about it later. Come on, I'll show you the kitchen."
She followed me down the hall into the kitchen, her tail swishing behind her as she walked. I smiled back at her as we entered. The corners of her mouth twitched; she seemed hesitant to smile back. "Well," I said, going over to the fridge, "let's pick something out for you."
She came over and leaned forward as I opened the door to the fridge. She jumped a little when the light inside came on. I had to smile a little; she must have been isolated most her life. I let her take a look inside, and she quickly reached in to examine its contents. "I think I can recognize some of the things in here," she said after rummaging for some time, "but I'm not sure what this is," she took out a half-filled cup with the Starbucks logo on it.
"Oh, you wouldn't want that," I said, taking it from her and putting it back, "that's iced coffee, it has caffeine in it."
"It keeps people awake. I'm sort of dependent on it, unfortunately. You wouldn't like the taste, anyway." I thought for a moment, then pulled out a large plastic jug. "Here, do you like chocolate milk?"
"I don't know, do I?"
"Here, I'll give you a little." I took a small glass out of the cupboard and set it on the table. After pouring some chocolate milk into it, I handed it to her. She sniffed at it intently before taking a sip. I could only marvel at her behavior. She reminded me of those stories about feral children and the culture shock they experienced when they entered the civilized world. She looked back up from her cup and gave me another odd half-smile. "I like it. It's very...very..."
"Chocolatey? Yeah, I know." I put the jug back and closed the fridge. "I need to be getting to bed; I have to work again tonight. Once you finish that, I'll show you where the guest bedroom is. You can stay here for tonight." I blinked after I said this; was I nuts? Sure, there was an extraordinary creature standing before me, but shouldn't I be turning her over to the proper authorities? Yet, I couldn't help but feel responsible for her somehow.
She put the glass back down on the table and tilted her head in curiosity. "You have a place for guests to stay?"
"Of course, follow me." I led her back into the hallway and up the stairs. I opened the door to my guest room and showed her in. She looked around her in awe. It was amusing to see her marvel over a room that I never believed to be quite impressive. It was well-kept, but it certainly wasn't a hotel suite. "I don't know whether or not you're tired, but to be quite honest, I'm bushed. I hate to ask this of you, but I'm going to have to lock you in for while I sleep. I just want to be careful, you know? I can't have you making off with all my stuff, though I'm sure you wouldn't..."
"Yes, I understand," Melanie nodded slowly, "It's just for a little while, right?"
"Right. Do you need to use the bathroom or anything before I shut the door?"
"I mean, do you need to expel any bodily wastes." I cringed at how formal that sounded.
"No, that's already been taken care of." She walked over to the bed and sat down. She felt the mattress for a moment, surprised by its flexibility. I smiled at her and closed the door, pulling the knob free. I had been meaning to get it fixed, but now it was really coming in handy. I walked to the end of the upstairs hallway and shut my door. I slipped out of my bathrobe and crawled into my bed, almost falling asleep before my head touched the pillow.