Editor’s Note: This story is by Tina. Do you know Tina? You should know Tina. I first met Tina in the Pluto Academy for Intergalactic Emissaries and Sometimes Ninja Spy Assassins. She helped me with my poisoned needlepoint and I helped her win the heart of the school’s sentient fighter jet.
This story was originally published by Brain Harvest which, sadly, is not a black market for organically farmed cerebellums but is a great place to find awesome speculative fiction. Enjoy!
by Tina Connolly
Proceed 20 feet and arrive at your destination.
Scanning…. My sensors affirm there is no human female, 36, in this house.
New destination___? Speak up, please. Remember my audio receptor was damaged, and there are no replacements left within a 300 mile radius.
The battery is capable of completing this journey. Please affirm you have the necessary equipment: Scuba Gear. Wetsuit, preferably your least favorite. One pound fresh produce, tightly bagged, state type___? Long-cherished dream of co-worker, describe wistful
Cease. That is plenty to go on
Take on-ramp to Hwy 101S.
Continue 32 miles, avoiding potholes. Though potholes are ubiquitous, some of these could swallow a minivan. Be alert.
The off-ramp sign is gone, but you will see a broken billboard reading White Sands Mall. Take that exit and drive until the water is too high to continue.
Suit up, put me in your fanny pack, and wade out. Though I am capable of self-propelled motion, you will need me near.
Crawlstroke when necessary. That patch that sparkles is the blacktop roof of the mall. They have pipes there to run the oxygen and catch seagulls.
They also have booby traps. Stay away from the roof.
Dive down and frogkick 220 feet to the right.
The mall has one landlubbers’ entrance, through the Nordstrom’s. If you see the Cinnabon you’ve gone too far. Grab the N of the Nordstrom’s and lever yourself down three flights to the front door.
It will be dark on the inside. Show them your spinach and the guard will let you in. They still have sneakers, and are willing to trade.
The Nordstrom’s floor is generally wet. The carpet got soaked when the first wave hit and never really dried out. If you are allergic to fungus, get a move on.
The further in you go, the better sealing job they’ve done. Nobody lingers in the Nordstrom’s.
You will have to navigate several layers of waterproofing devices. It will seem like no one is watching you. This will be untrue.
Near the Topsy’s, you will meet the inhabitants. Though they seem an average cross-section of humanity, this is not the case. 90% of them have agoraphobia. Another 8% are afraid of the ocean.
You will recognize their leader by the amount of Claire’s Jewelry he wears. He will likely be scented with Warm Vanilla Body Wash from the Body Shop. Even his agoraphobia hardly dims his lustre. You may find your interaction goes more smoothly if you tell him how brave he is for keeping his tribe alive and thriving in the mall under the ocean. He will pretend he is too modest for compliments. He would rather interest you in a fine selection of colognes in exchange for your spinach.
You’re still interested in the girl? Yes, my sensors have located the likely target. But she is a small mousey thing, saddled with acute shyness in addition to her other fears.
Proceed 80 feet to the Women’s Shoe Locker. She has made a home for herself behind the Nikes and Adidas, and she is not likely to go with you, even if you produce an extra wetsuit that you have brought.
It does not matter that you have thought her name in your dreams.
It does not matter that you think you knew her when you were both young, and foolish, flipping ice cream at the Cold Stone Creamery in the Food Court.
That is a different girl. That is a girl who left. This is a girl who stayed.
And she is not so much a girl, is she? In your dreams she is still 19, and she laughs when you sneak over to the Chick-Fil-A and drop scoops of ice cream in the fryer. But here in the mall she is 36, and she prefers rubber soles and aglets to the world above.
You take her by the hand (a moist, under-the-sea hand) and you say softly, come with me.
Time passes and the water pools in your flippers. The leader will come soon, and want to exchange Mrs. Doubtfire DVDs for your spinach.
You are waiting.
You must decide, and I cannot stay here forever. The sea air will ruin my processor, and I have a vested self-interest. You cannot blame me for this, where this is leaving you with a mall of stored dreams, vacuum packed against love and foreseen apocalypses.
Tina loved that sentient fighter jet. He was a sharper, an acer, an all-in-one battle phaser. But he got caught by a white knight and deliquesced. After that she turned her days to confectionery. Her sugared orange peel has been exhibited at the Tri-Galactic Auto! Show and eaten by the Artellian natives from Pelsinore, who exist solely on imported sweetmeats and the kindness of strangers. She once went into a Claire’s, but it went nova. Her website is www.tinaconnolly.com