Spreading the Love, Part II
She was surprised to see the two heavily-armed officers at the entrance to the aquarium infirmary.
She dutifully produced her identification, reading the officer's lips with some difficulty due to his heavy accent.
"Thank you, ma'am, this way please, we've..." The conversation lost as he turned away and led the way through a maze of tanks, shelving and chemicals.
A courtesy knock on the office door, and she was ushered in.
"Ah! Professor, thank you so much for coming at such short notice," the facility manager shouted, unused to the heavy ear protection and equally unused to communicating with anybody profoundly deaf.
Professor Thomas smiled back, gesturing to her ears, her lips and then her eyes; sometimes it was difficult communicating with the hearing, they tended to either shout, mime words in a ridiculously over-the-top fashion, or point stupidly at items.
She had been signing since she was four, lip reading since six, and never got tired of the over- eager pantomime. Initially, many years ago, it had puzzled and irritated her. Nowadays she just thought they were funny.
He shoved a painfully thin document towards her, pantomime pen squiggling in the air, the poor guy desperate for her to sign something.
Official Secrets Act, non-disclosure agreement. Very official.
Glad to leave the Panto some minutes later, she followed him through yet another maze into the quarantine area.
She sensed a slightly strange vibration in the air, but dismissed it as part of the unfamiliar machinery keeping water temperature, oxygen and salinity levels constant.
Turning a corner, the holding tank used to quarantine larger exhibits filled her vision. The surface of the water was visibly vibrating, she took that minor detail in with a professionally curious eye, but there, dead centre, was what she'd rushed up from London to see.
In her eight-year tenure at the National Oceanography Centre she had seen and explained away some pretty weird stuff. Mostly very deep sea creatures, washed up dead on different shores nationally and globally.
She had earned the nickname of Doctor Strange due to the many, many weird creatures shed helped to identify and catalogue. She'd even had a species of Snipe Worm named in her honour!
But this...this, this was beyond her wildest childhood dreams.
All the scientific reasoning and folk law mythology she'd ever read about or witnessed paled into insignificance as she stared, open-mouthed at the creature swimming lazily, apparently singing to itself, some twelve feet away from her.
Quite simply, Professor Gillian Thomas, Doctor Strange, was only face to face with a bloody mermaid!
"You little cheat!"
The Light beamed, literally. "She was the most qualified marine biologist in the area, I can't help it if that's the one person who can't hear its song!"
"Cheat!" The Dark knocked the current game of Kerplunk, hundreds of brightly-coloured plastic sticks joined thousands of black walnut shells on what passed for the floor.
"When she finds out the Merfolk have always been in the background, spreading the love, it'll make things a little less daunting...and she won't go all Google-eyed."
"All fishy-eyed more like! And how do you think your average monkey will cope? Knowing that all the great romantic poets, composers, singers, Mario Lanza for instance, rom-com writers, and half the staff at Hallmark cards are actually fish?"
"Love will find a way. And you can't count Mario Lanza, He just used his natural talents, not actual cheating!"
"I suppose the same goes for Mark Spitz? Cheat!"
The Dark sat back, argument won.
"Here's the headlines at six: The Home Secretary has pleaded for calm following the alarming increase in crimes of passion over the last forty eight hours. Florists, card shops, chocolatiers and jewellers are under the control of the army up and down the country after the recent spate of thefts and burglaries.
Cut to VTR, crowds fighting over romantic bouquets, smashed display cabinets of engagement rings, Thornton's stores ransacked and riots outside greeting card shops.
Camera one, a worried looking Sally, "The Prime Minister gave a short address outside number ten today, stating, "I can't go on living like this, we've filed for divorce as we both love another. Deeply, deeply love another, love so deep it hurts..."
The PM was then led away in tears by a team of medical staff and advisors, who unfortunately started fighting about who loved who the most. Downing Street is still cordoned off as Scotland Yard investigate the crime scene."
"In other news, cricket was halted for three hours today when a small plastic bag blew onto the field....."
Gillian gazed into those deep purple eyes. The most beautiful eyes she had ever gazed into, you could spend eternity in those eyes.
"Professor?" A light touch of her elbow and she snapped out of it, reading her assistant.
"The wavelengths its transmitting on are off the charts!" Leslie clamped hands to ensure the ear defenders were firmly in place, "Like totally immeasurable, frequencies we've never even associated with sound, amazing stuff".
"But what is it saying? What's the message?" She dunked another Jammy Dodger into her tea, noticing the creatures perfect eyes tracking the movements of the biscuit.
She held the Dodger out to her left, the eyes followed, circles, up and down, transfixed.
"Erm, maybe it's just bored with raw fish and fancies a biccy?" The assistant was half serious.
Gillian bit out the red centre and repeated the experiment. Nothing, the mermaid floated, head cocked, waiting.
A fresh biscuit. Again the interest. Gillian turned the jam filling towards her, away from the tank. Again the creature lost interest.
"Appears subject is drawn to the colour red?" She spoke into her dictaphone whilst picking up a red biro.
Absolutely no response. Food maybe? She strode over to the fridge in the lab and dug out the half eaten pot of strawberry jam. Again, nothing.
Shapes? A circular biscuit? Removing the jam jar lid, she traced circles in the air in front of the tank. Zilch.
Red, shapes, not food...Jammy Dodger....heart? Another biscuit, nibbling away at the edges like a demented hamster, the Professor held up the slightly sticky heart shaped filling. Immediately the creature became transfixed.
Popping the goo into her mouth (never waste the middle of a Jammy Dodger!) Gillian drew a heart with the red biro, the creature followed the drawing like a puppy with a sausage. Same shape with blue pen, same results.
"Subject 1 drawn to symbolised heart shape!"
The beautiful, deep purple eyes followed the shape as she ran out of the lab, keen to find where they'd stashed the equipment used for training dolphins to communicate.
In a small, slightly stuffy basement in Vilnius, what appeared to be a human male teenager sat hunched over a laptop. His latest Internet video ready for upload. This one would go viral.
He'd sensed one of his kind calling out. Sensed, too, the confusion its message was causing. Seen news podcasts from the UK. How could these monkeys get it so very wrong?
He finished embedding the soundtrack, a short ballad of his own, set the transitions and typed in the lyrics....admittedly sourced from a free translate app...the words scrolling across the video pure gobbledygook, but he'd never been good at English, so they'd have to do.
He hit upload and sat back, waiting for the Love to spread across the interwebs.
Sounds of the ocean. The gentle lapping of surf on sand. Birdsong. No help at all.
Now this. What has he sunk to?
Bloody humpback whale song. Song in inverted commas, awful stuff.
But he'd tried everything, from lavender bags under his pillow to camomile tea, Barclay James Harvest's 'Hymn' on a repeat cycle came close once, as did the audio book of Moby Dick, dreadfully dull stuff, but sadly not sleep-inducing enough.
So, curtains drawn against the morning sun, Horlicks consumed, he'd settled down, made their bed into the usual nightshift nest and switched on the MP3 player.
Soothing humpbacks and blues sang to him. He closed his weary eyes.
Ten minutes later, the file deleted, nest unslept in once more, he'd donned his old leathers and gone for a ride instead.
Quite by chance, in a barn in Pennsylvania, one of the world's most famous musicians was experimenting with a Heavy Leslie version of the Beatles 'All You Need is Love"; the latest (to be) hit video featured threatened and endangered whales. Ocean creatures singing along to the Heavy Leslie track, perfection!
This new project was intended to be the launch platform of a worldwide charity, a way to try and bring people together, learn to love each other and the planet.
The Spread the Love Foundation would initially be funded by sales of his latest (to be) album.
The main problem was that whale song just didn't cut it. Tended to put people to sleep. He'd tried dolphin noises, but they were just silly.
Wolf howls were cool, but didn't fit the oceanographic footage he'd spent a fortune on.
What he needed was something really uber-cool, that expressed love and was also a little fishy.
In desperation he forced himself to take a break, idly surfing the interwebs for a moment's distraction.
One of his favourite bloggers, a Lithuanian, always posted unintentionally funny stuff, videos with scrolling text that often made no sense at all. The posts from his followers often just as funny. Pure switch-off magic.
He loved this guy.
As he listened and watched the latest download, he suddenly realised two things.
Firstly, he knew he'd found the perfect sound for All You Need Is Love.
And secondly, he knew he really, really, deeply loved this guy, unending, eternal love.
Thirty minutes later, he was in a cab on the way to the airport for the three-pm flight to Vilnius.
Gillian was amazed at how quickly the mermaid was learning simple sign language, it seemed to understand she couldn't hear it and stopped singing whenever she addressed it. Vibrations ceased as soon as she entered the lab.
Apart from not having any shared point of reference other than sea-related objects, she'd advanced to the point of simple conversation.
"Please, I don't like sardines."
"Please I want it to be nighttime."
"Please tell dolphin in next place to stop laughing at me."
Concepts such as purpose, desires or history proved alien to the mermaid.
"Why are you here?" "To spread the love."
"Do you need anything?" "To spread love."
"Why do you sing?" "To spread the love."
Apparently, this mermaid was a very intelligent, rather polite, sardine-hating hippy!
To be continued...