Moments In Time


There was a single moment in time when his heart stood still and the entire world seemed to slow down. He watched as she fell, blood already pooling from her chest even before she had sunk completely under water. She transformed into a mermaid before his eyes, that brief second of being water, where thin red lines seeped from her – the blood that had already left her body didn’t turn into see-through liquid. He tried to take it as comfort – if she transformed, that must mean she wasn’t dead yet, at least.

She disappeared beneath the surface, the last of her hair swirling in the red mess of her blood.

He couldn’t move, but he could scream.

“Oh, stop it.”

The gun to his head was back, and he fought tears and fear. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt like crying, but now, with Rikki sinking to certain death and his own life having a very short expectancy, it was all he could do to not let the tears run down his cheeks.

“Please—” he said, and he wondered how long ago it was he said that word the last time, to anyone but Rikki. “Please, let me save her—she doesn’t deserve to die.”

“She’s a freak,” the man in the mask spit. “An alien. Coming here to take over our world. We need to get rid of them before they have time to settle here.”

Zane wanted to tell him that Rikki, Cleo and Emma all were regular girls up until two years ago. He didn’t, because he was fairly certain that this lunatic wouldn’t accept it – his warped mind would probably decide that they were, somehow, even more dangerous then.

“She’s not a freak,” Zane snapped at him, although his voice shook so much it could barely be called a snap.

The man leaned forward to him, the voice coming close to his ear. “You’re in love with her, aren’t you?”

Images of Rikki – beautiful, funny, wonderful Rikki – flowed before Zane’s eyes and he stared out over the ocean before them. He wondered if she would breathe in automatically in unconsciousness, if she would die there on the ocean floor. He had no idea of how deep the water was – he hoped that he’d be able to go in and get her, and save her, because he didn’t want to think about life without her.

“So what if I am?” Zane asked.

“You’re just as bad as them,” the man growled. “In league with the mer-freaks! You deserve to die just as much!”

A fist struck Zane and sent him reeling, still bound to the chair, and his world seemed filled with stars and sudden pain. But the punch had a positive – he got away from the man, nearer the edge of the boat, and in a single second, he threw himself overboard, the chair following him into the water.

“Fine!” the man screamed after him, levelling his gun at him. “You die that way instead, in your ocean grave!”

Two shots rang out, but they must have missed, because Zane didn’t feel anything in his blind panic, all his energy focused on getting out of the chair and the bounds that tied him to it. He sank, feeling the ropes cutting into his wrists, but with the water they became slick and easier to pull out of and suddenly, he was free. He pushed back up to the surface and gasped for air, hoping that he wouldn’t meet a bullet, and dove again.

He could barely see in the salty water, but he thought he saw a glimpse of gold a long way down. He didn’t have much to lose, and he swam downwards, his lungs already burning and his ears hurting from the pressure of the water.

It was her, right below him, out of his reach. He had to go back up, lest his lungs explode, and he gasped and spluttered for air at the surface, noting that the boat of their captor was already gone, driving off in the distance, leaving them for dead.

Emma! Cleo!” he yelled, knowing that no one but them could possibly help him now, or have any chance of hearing him. They must have figured out that something was wrong, they must be out looking for them. If not, Zane and Rikki were both lost.

He dove again, pushing downwards quickly until he saw her, hair swirling like a ghostly halo around her face. She was unconscious, her mouth slightly open.

His fingers closed around her wrist, and he pulled her up with everything he had. She floated up easily, not the least bit heavy in his arms. She was completely unresponsive, following like a doll, pulled in any direction he wanted. He only wanted her up, up, up to the surface.

They broke it, and he gasped.

“Rikki!” he screamed at her. “Rikki, come on!”

Two fingers to her throat, holding her up with the other arm, legs already burning with the attempts to keep them both afloat. He felt a weak pulse, and moved his hand down to her chest, where she was still bleeding. He pushed at the bullet hole, hoping that was the right thing to do.

But she wasn’t breathing. Her head lolled to the side as he held her, and he pulled her close, pulling her face to his and breathing into her mouth in an awkward mouth-to-mouth.

“Emma! Cleo!” he yelled again, between breaths into Rikki’s mouth.

Suddenly they were there, wide-eyed and fearful at the sight of him and Rikki, swimming in water turned pink from all the blood.

“Help her,” he cried, still cradling her even as his own legs cramped in protest as he tried to keep them both afloat.

“Rikki!” Emma said. “Cleo, take Rikki – Mako Island, now. And keep her above the surface.”

Cleo nodded wordlessly, and pried Rikki away from Zane, who could hardly stand to let her go. He stared after them as they disappeared, Cleo swimming as fast she could.

“Zane, come here,” Emma said gently. “I’ll take you.”

Zane looked at her, mind forming protests that never made it to his mouth, because he realized that he could never get to dry land on his own. He’d die out here in minutes.

He wrapped an arm around her neck, and wondered if he’d ever live it down, being rescued by her. The look on her face was pure worry, though, fear just like his own. She held him loosely, perhaps equally uncomfortable – and then she swam.

It was like sitting on an odd sort of boat – Emma moved so very fast, and there was water everywhere, in his nose and mouth and he squeezed his eyes tightly shut, and tried not to think at all. His thoughts went immediately to Rikki, the images of her as she fell overboard, bleeding from a gunshot wound courtesy of a madman.

“Hold your breath,” Emma said suddenly, and Zane did, without thinking.

Emma dove, swimming quickly through the underground tunnel that led to the moon pool. Zane had only ever heard of the tunnel; he’d never been in it, and though he had had an idea of swimming through it at some point, this was nothing like he’d planned it. He’d have liked to be wearing goggles, to see the underwater life for all its richness and beauty – but all he saw now, was Rikki’s lifeless face, her body hanging limp in his arms as he tried to keep them both afloat.

They came through the tunnel in a few stretched out seconds, feeling like forever. His lungs already burned from the lack of oxygen earlier, and holding his breath was the last thing he felt like doing. He felt a cough building, and as soon as they broke the surface in the moon pool, he gave into it, spitting water and gasping for air.

Cleo, still a mermaid, had pushed Rikki up onto the ground. She was still a mermaid too, her alabaster skin nearly see-through and glowing in the blue light of the cave, clashing with the red of her blood. Most of it seemed to have washed away, but she had to be alive still, because her heart was still pushing more blood out of the wound.

“Rikki!” he gasped, crawling out of the moon pool, wet clothes sticking to him, heavy and cold.

He placed two fingers to the side of her throat again, feeling for a pulse, and when he found it there, weak but present, he leaned his face against her mouth to see if she was still breathing.

“Come on,” he mumbled, heart breaking at the sight of her. She was supposed to be full of life, not be like this!

He couldn’t feel a breath, no air escaping her, and he placed his lips over hers and pushed air into her lungs, two fingers pinching her nose. Emma and Cleo gasped and cried, trying their best to dry off so that they could help, but he concentrated on Rikki. Her chest rose as he breathed air into her mouth, and fell when he pulled back.

She started breathing suddenly, gasping and coughing weakly. Her eyelids fluttered and he grasped her hand, holding it tight in his own.

“Zane,” she breathed, blue eyes focusing lazily on him.

“Rikki,” he said.

“Hurts,” she said, and one hand moved to her shoulder. When she saw it come back red with blood, she closed her eyes, wincing.

“He shot you,” Zane said. “I—I tried to stop him, but—and I got you out of the water, but I couldn’t—and Emma and Cleo are here—”

“’s okay,” Rikki said.

“No!” Zane said. “It’s not okay. But you will be—I’ll make you, I swear.”

She placed a hand on his cheek, fingers shaking. “I love you, Zane.”

“No!” Zane repeated. “No, no, no, you’re not giving up.”

But her head lolled to the side in unconsciousness, and no more words passed over her lips.

Hot tears fell down Zane’s cheeks. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d cried – it must have been years, a decade at least, when he was little and his father had not yet implemented the rules on that boys shouldn’t cry. Now they ran down his face, dripping onto Rikki’s still face as she lay motionless in his arms.

The moon, a crescent moon, illuminated the cave in its weak silver light.

Cleo and Emma cried too, gripping Rikki’s hands in their own. It felt so unreal, so wrong, their triad broken, his love dead. With every fibre of his own being, he wished for her to take another breath, for the wound to close up on its own, for this afternoon’s horrid tragedy never to have taken place. He wished for her to be alive.


Emma’s voice was hesitant, still filled with tears. He ignored it, cradling Rikki closer. He never wanted to let her go.

“Zane,” Emma said again. “Zane, look.”

“What?” Zane spat, angry  at her for disturbing his grief.

“She’s—breathing,” Emma said softly.

“And the wound,” Cleo said, “the wound is closing up.”

Zane stared down at Rikki, not believing what they were saying. It couldn’t be.

Where the tears had once landed – his own, Emma’s and Cleo’s tears – silvery tracks now could be seen, moving over Rikki’s body. They formed a net, a fine silvery net, across her whole body, the tail and the fins and her arms and her chest, out over her wet hair and still fingers. The bullet, which had been lodged beneath her collarbone, was pushed out, a trickle of blood following in its wake.

The net sank into her, as suddenly as it had appeared.

Rikki gasped for breath.

Zane stared, eyes still filled with tears, his face feeling puffy and red. He realized he was holding his breath, as he waited for her to say something, to break the spell and prove that this was nothing but a dream brought on by grief.

“Everybody’s staring at me,” Rikki said softly. “Was it something I did?”

“Apart from dying and now being not dead?” Emma asked, already laughing slightly with relief, “No, nothing you did.”

Rikki sat up on her own, Zane realizing that he’d held her all along, and his arms dropped to his sides and he scrambled back. Was it for real? She had felt real – warm and breathing and real in his arms – but she couldn’t be.

Then again, if the moon could turn them into mermaids, it ought to be able to heal them.

Rikki turned to him, her beautiful blue eyes searching his curiously, perhaps wondering why he was keeping away from her, like a frightened animal. She reached out, fingers making contact with his wet cheek, where the tears had not yet dried.

“You saved me,” she said. “You jumped in after me.”

He had almost forgotten – it couldn’t have been more than minutes ago, but it seemed like forever had passed since.

He nodded, swallowing under the intensity of her gaze.

“What I said before is still true,” she said softly.

“Before?” he croaked before he could stop himself, his voice not holding.

“I love you,” she said again, and it made his heart sing.

“I love you too.”

“And we love you,” Cleo piped up, always a fantastic mood killer and moment-ruiner, and beyond that, she seemed awfully ignorant of just how close a call they’d just had. Rikki shouldn’t be there now, smiling and looking breathtakingly gorgeous, a mermaid still but a beauty in every shape.

Rikki rolled her eyes at Cleo’s words. “I guess I owe you thanks too.”

But she moved towards Zane instead, her body shaking with the effort once she reached his side.

“You’re shivering,” Zane said.

“You too,” Rikki replied.

He hadn’t realized, but as she said it, he could feel it. His fingers and hands shook and the edges of his vision seemed to be darkening, blood pumping in his ears. He remembered having the same feeling when he was drowning; it was what came before losing consciousness.

“Lie down,” Rikki ordered. “You’re not looking well.”

“If you lie down with me,” Zane said weakly, taking her hand.

“Let’s call Lewis,” she said. “He’ll get you home, and then we can lie down together all you want.”

Zane nodded, and closed his eyes. He felt awfully tired. He let his eyelids drop, heavy as though they were lined with lead, but he didn’t let go of her hand. He had no intention of ever letting go of her hand again. Still, darkness was blessed and he welcomed it.

When he came to again, he was surrounded by softness. Without opening his eyes, he felt through his own body and surroundings – the mattress below him, the cover over him, and the soft, warm body snuggled against his own, an arm gently wrapped around his waist. He felt sore and despite the blanket, slightly cold.

He opened his eyes and looking down, he saw a head full of white blonde curls. He moved slightly and dropped a kiss on the top of her head.

Rikki stirred, and looked up at him, blinking slowly.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hey,” he said, his voice rough.

“How are you feeling?”

He thought for a moment. He felt tired, exhausted, his body sore and hurting – but with her wrapped around him, the good definitely outweighed the bad. He shrugged in response, regretting moving at once.

“You’re going to be fine,” Rikki said. “You just had a flesh wound no one saw until we got back. We think a bullet graced you.”

He frowned; he couldn’t remember having been hit, although he could still hear the bangs of bullets fired.

“So there was some blood loss,” Rikki continued. “But Lewis and I bandaged you up, and you’ll be fine.”

Lewis had helped? He had no recollection of such an event, but then it seemed that he’d been unconscious for a while, so it wasn’t odd. Still, it felt weird to know that the little nerd had aided him up.

Her arm around him tightened, and she cuddled closer. When she moved, he felt the flare of an injury, and realized that the bullet had nearly hit him in the side. His blood ran cold at the thought – not that he would have been dead now, had the shooter been better, but because if he’d been dead, then Rikki would be dead too. Emma and Cleo wouldn’t have found her until far too late.

“How ‘re you?” he asked.

“Sore,” she said. “Feels like I’ve been shot and then healed. Or something.”

He lifted his hand to hold her closer, fear of losing her still coursing through his body. The images of her lifeless body would never leave him, the feeling of her still body in his arms. He felt his heart start to beat faster at the mere thought of it.

“What ‘bout him?” he asked.

“Him? You mean the madman?” she asked, and at his nod, she continued, “The coast guard picked him up, after an anonymous tip on him having illegal firearms onboard. He’s facing criminal charges.”

“’nonymous tip, huh?”

She smiled slightly. “Lewis called it in.”

They fell silent, revelling in the feeling of simply holding each other. His eyes travelled over his room – they’d taken him to his home, possibly because it was the only place where no parents were home, which meant less awkward questions, and no one to tell him and Rikki that they couldn’t lie in bed together. He suspected his father would care if he knew about it, but he wouldn’t, because he was travelling on business and wouldn’t be home for another three days.

He ran his hand through her hair. It was soft and fine.

“I love you,” he whispered.

“I know, you said that,” she smiled, glancing up at him. “Right back at ya.”

He relaxed, basking in the love she offered, enjoying the moment. He wondered if he would ever get tired of holding her.

He doubted it.

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