Catch of the Day
"Uhhh, muuuh," Ariel grunted, tugging on the ropes that bound her wrists and elbows tightly behind her back. She was hung upside-down by her tail. Her mouth was filled with a huge wad of cloth held in place by a tight cleave gag knotted begin her head, another strip covered her eyes. She could feel the motion of the boat, the itchy feeling in her skin as it dried in the air. From the motion she could tell she was on a boat, her best guess the same one she hidden under. She’d woken up to find herself in this position, her wrists tightly bound and cinched behind her back, further rope pinned them to the small of her back, more rope pulled her elbows together till they were almost touching. No matter how she twisted her fingers she couldn’t reach any knot. She daren’t wriggle too much, she had no idea how high she was over the ground, or what was beneath her as no amount of shaking her head could dislodge the blindfold. A mermaid’s tail was mostly solid muscle, and even Ariel’s had enough power in its strike to seriously injure if not kill a human. In water she would be more than a match for any human, but on land she was at a serious disadvantage. She had heard rumours that her father’s navy had mermaids trained in fighting on land, here and now she hoped those rumours were true.
She guessed she was below decks and possibly only a few inches off the ground but didn’t want to take the chance. For now she had little option but to hang helpless in the air and wait for her captor to appear.
Ariel took a break from struggling, her wrists were beginning to get sore and all the squirming around was making her feel giddy. She had some hope, she could feel a bit of give in her blindfold, if she could see where she was then she might be able to plan an escape, once in the water she’d be out of reach of the human. She was sure there was only one on board and knew the boat was small enough that she would be able to find her way to the deck. All this was totally academic as none of the ropes would budge, there wasn’t the tiniest bit of slack in any of them. This was most unfair as in the stories she read, the heroine was always able to find some slack and free herself, unless she was content to wait to be rescued of course. Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of approaching footsteps, she wasn’t that naïve to think this was a hero; there was only one pair of shoes on this boat.
“Huuuh!” Ariel tried to move her body away as a hand ran over her stomach.
“Ahhh your skin is getting dry.” Her captor was male, he moved away from her. Picked up an object which made a sloshing sound then returned. There was a faint repetitive squeaking noise, she felt a fine cool mist hit her skin, seconds later she was writhing in pain; it was fresh water! More water was sprayed over her and the burning stopped, mercifully this was seawater. There must have been a small amount of fresh water in the tube. The dryness and itching quickly subsided though Ariel could still feel a dull ache where she'd been sprayed with fresh water. Any hope she had of being released were dashed when she heard her captor leave and close the door. Moments later the engines roared into life and she started to swing about as the boat powered its way through the water.
After much twisting of her head Ariel had finally managed to shake off her blindfold, as far as she could tell she was in a cabin of some sort, there was a bunk in one corner and some storage but most of it was utilitarian, and devoted to fishing. That in of itself didn’t alarm Ariel, mermaids often ate fish; they even farmed fish – non sentient fish of course. Most mermaids were omnivores so the simple act of eating fish didn’t worry Ariel, what did worry her was that her captor saw her not as a fellow sentient being but as something that could be covered in breadcrumbs and served with tomato ketchup. There were some knives in view but these were too far away, they weren’t scattered about like they were about to be used to butcher her but were carefully stowed away, safe, and out of reach. The only other significant object was a clear plastic tube with several fittings for pipes. The tube was hinged on one side like a coffin with a black seal and catches going all the way round. She had a horrible feeling that it would feature large in her immediate future. She was glad she hadn’t tried to shake herself free, she was several feet off the deck. She was also in the centre of the room, well away from anything even vaguely useful for escape, it didn’t stop her trying.
Ariel began to feel more nervous and panicky as she began to smell land, she began to whimper and struggle again as the boat slowed down. It, and she, was nearing journey’s end. She hung still, by letting her muscles recover she might have enough energy for one last escape attempt. But it was not too be, moments later the man re-entered the cabin. He didn’t seem too perturbed by her missing blindfold, he simply picked it up and put it in his pocket.
“Meeet eee goooh!” Ariel slowly and as clearly as her gag would allow “emmm uh encess.”
“My. my, my, you’re a talkative one aren’t you? Now I wonder of the reports were true.”
He untied the cleave gag and removed the wad of cloth from her mouth.
“Let me go! I’m a princess of the first rank in the royal household!”
“They were right, the books were true!” The man clapped his hands and laughed “Say something, say something else!”
“This is an act of war! King Triton will hunt you doownnph muuugh!” Ariel squealed with indignation as the man shoved the gag back in then stuffed the blindfold in for good measure. He tightly re-tied the cleave-gag to keep everything in.
“And that’s enough of that high-pitched squeaky voice of yours.”
"Hhduuuhooou!" Ariel was incandescent, nobody spoke to her like that.
"Air is less dense than water so your voice has a higher pitch."
"Exactly, time for phase two."
"Yes," Ariel's eyes darted towards the tube "correct again."
The man went to the tube, undid all the catches then opened it up. The tube was sitting on a set of wheels, they squeaked as he wheeled it over, to Ariel it was like nails down a chalkboard. He quickly lowered her into the tube. Ariel's tail flapped about trying to get a purchase to leaver herself out or tip the tube over but muscles were tired from struggling. The rapid change from vertical to horizontal caused her head to swim. By the time she had regained her balance he was locking the last of the catches closed. Ariel mumphed and wriggled to roll round till she was lying on her back. Lying on her bound arms was very uncomfortable but it did mean she could see what he was doing. Which she regretted, she saw him hook up a clear hose to each of the openings. Ariel struggled desperately as she saw water make its way up the hose near her tail, if it was fresh water the osmotic shock would kill her. Just as a human diver has to decompress when surfacing so a mermaid has to do the same when moving from salt water to fresh water. There was nowhere to hid from the water, she braced herself for the end, it was brackish water, unpleasant as it made her skin itch and feel all puffy but not fatal. The itchiness would pass once she acclimatised, that she couldn’t scratch would her nuts. The tube filled relatively slowly allowing Ariel to swap over to breathing water.
“There you can rest now. Don’t want you causing a scene now do we.” With that he covered the tube with a heavy cloth to conceal it, and Ariel. Ariel squirmed in the tube, trying to rub her itchy skin against the tube. Ariel assumed the water was being pumped from the sea, from the slowly decreasing salinity she guessed they were heading for somewhere up a river. She knew that this part of the human world was dotted with numerous small ports and marinas. There was no way she could communicate acoustically with either human or seal-life, but a mermaid had other ways. Like many creatures who evolved underwater mermaids could detect substances dissolved in water, they could also communicate via chemical. Whilst some mermaids looked down on this ‘primitive’ feature it was still useful, to seduce a lover, as a form of personal identity, by some of the more meat-headed mermaids when sizing up to each other, and to indicate a mermaids general emotional state – which in Ariel’s case was distress. The mermaid distress pheromone was still in use as mermaids were prey to some sea creatures. It evoked a visceral ‘fight-or-flight’ response in even the most aloof mermaid. The ability to control the release of pheromones was partially under conscious control. Ariel contracted her bladder and released a steady stream of alarm pheromone. Despite knowing what was about to happen couldn't help but panic as concentrated alarm pheromone washed over her, and hopefully out to sea, leaving a trail for others to follow.
Constant exposure to her alarm pheromone coupled to her claustrophobic confinement kept Ariel on the brittle edge of blind panic. She managed to keep herself sane by focussing on the taste of the water, the boat was approaching the port she could sense the salinity of the water diminish as it took on an unpleasant earthy taste. She could feel the vibrations from the boat start to change, there was some rocking motion then the engine died. Ariel felt her insides tremble as she awaited her fate, but nobody came. Teddy waived to a fellow boat owner as he secured his boat. Everything needed to appear as normal so Teddy had caught some fish and worked on his tan. They exchanged pleasantries as Teddy unloaded his catch, Teddy mentioned that he was coming back this evening to do some work on the boat. The social exchange over both went their separate ways. Teddy was on a tight timescale, he had to prepare the fish he’d caught; after all he had a guest to feed.
Ariel lay helpless in the dark, she managed to wriggle onto her front to ease the pressure on her arms. In a dark warm cocoon Ariel found herself drifting off to sleep. Her hands and arms were becoming numb, her body felt numb while the boredom was making her mind become numb. Ariel was tired out from struggling, she was too tired to release any alarm pheromone; sleep was the better option that looking at darkness.
“Muugh! Hmmpe!” Ariel awoke with a start, panicking to find herself bound and confined in a tube. She rested her head on the tube and wept, was this how he intended to keep her for the rest of her life? She was torn, on one level she wanted him to return, on the other hand she was scared of what would happen when he did
“Nuuug!” Ariel exclaimed as the cover was removed from the tube, she squinted in the brightness.
"Ahhh still awake. Good all is in order." The man ran his hands slowly over the tube over Ariel.
"Eeze un-eyyy eee," Ariel wriggled her arms, hoping he'd get the message and untie her "eyell ee ood."
He smiled at the sight of her struggling, despite the hours of being left alone she was still as securely bound and gagged as when he'd left her, all that time in the boy scouts learning knots had paid off. Ariel watched helplessly as he stopped the water flowing into the tube and slowed down the rate it flowed out. He removed the hose then replaced it with a different hose which began to run water into the tube.
“Now, we have to be very careful here.”
Ariel immediately recognised the stinging sensation of fresh water. She whimpered into her gag and tried to shuffle away. It was hard to decide if he was trying to acclimatise her to fresh water or torture her. Ariel know if he did this slowly enough she’d acclimatise but as she couldn’t control the rate of change it could still be incredibly painful. Death by desalination was still a punishment on the statue books in her father’s kingdom, if she survived she was determined to change that. Ariel flicked her tail to mix the water together to increase the chance of successful acclimatisation, she'd heard condemned prisoners did that in a bid to save off the end.
Teddy paid careful attention to Ariel, the old manuscripts had been very precise about the rate at which fresh water should be introduced to avoid damaging the meat and ruining the flavour. As soon as he saw her begin to convulse he added sea water till she stabilised. Teddy stopped and took a drink of water as he let the fresh water flush through the tube, they’d been going for nearly an hour and finally they were done. Ariel lay limp in the tube, exhausted and aching she had no more strength left. She groaned quietly as she heard the water stop running, finally it was over, the only good thing was the earthy taste of raw fresh water had gone as the processing involved in making tap water rid it of the taste of the land, a taste most mermaids found nauseating. Again he covered the tube with a tarpaulin but rather than being left alone she felt the tube being moved. She felt it lift, sway alarmingly for a few seconds before descending onto solid ground. She frowned as the tube rocked from side to side unable to figure out what was happening. She could just about make out some noise from outside, further things were being fitted over the tube, some more rocking about then silence.
Teddy jumped down from the pick-up truck he’d hired for this trip. Happy that the load was secured and well hidden, there was some boating odds and ends protruding from under the tarp to allow people to fill in the gaps of what was under cover. He climbed into the drivers seat and set off for home. Ariel noticed the vibration at first, it wasn't until the vehicle was off the marina and onto the roads did she get the impression she was moving. Her heart sank at the realisation that was being moved inland, her pheromone trail would be a dead-end. Teddy drove carefully towards home, it was late evening and the frantic rush-hour traffic had all but vanished but the nighttime assortment of drunks and college kids being stupid weren't on the road yet. Because of this it was shift change for the local police so provided he didn't do anything stupid to attract attention he'd be fine. Teddy did have one encounter with the police. Just outside his house, a local unit was investigating a report of a dangerous dog on the loose and spied Teddy trying to reverse the truck up his driveway so they helped guide him in. Once the garage door was closed Teddy went outside to talk to the officers by way of being polite and to help, he’d seen a dog running about that morning. While Teddy was being helpful Ariel sweated it out in the tube, it was becoming stuffy and she was feeling thirsty, she’d lost a lot of salt and was feeling it’s effects.
As soon as Teddy returned he set to work, he removed the cover from the tube then used a hoist to take it off the truck and lower it to the ground. He ran a hose from a drain to lowest port on the tube, opened the top port and let gravity do the rest. Water began to drain from the tube, as soon as there was a big enough space Ariel put her head above water to acclimatise to breathing air, a task which would be a lot easier if she wasn't so heavily gagged. As soon as the tube was empty he undid the catches and opened it up.
"Pheeeeze," Ariel implored.
"Yes, yes, all in good time. Let's get you out of there."
He used the hoist to lift Ariel out then pushed it through a door to the back part of his garage. He laid her face down on a narrow metal table. Ariel felt something cold and tight around the base of her tail. There was a rattling sound when she tried to move it.
"Don't want you running away now do we?"
The man produced a knife from under the table, Ariel flinched as he brought it near her, but the only thing cut were the ropes binding her arms. Freed from their ropes her arms flopped to her side. She let out a soft moan as blood returned to her arms causing them to tingle painfully. Ariel gave a muffled grunt as the man began to massage her shoulders and arms.
"Don't you worry, I won't put you back in that tube. I have a better place."
Couldn't be much worse she thought darkly.
"And we'll get rid of that gag soon."
As he spoke he fiddled around with her left wrist, Ariel looked round to see him snugly applying heavy leather cuffs to her wrists, each locked in place with a substantial padlock.
"Now." The man gave her a stern look, reluctantly Ariel put her hands behind back. He locked them together with another padlock. From that ran another length of chain at the end of which was leather collar which he locked round her neck.
Ariel wriggled her wrists and arms. While they had a lot more movement than before the effect of connecting her wrists to the collar was to pull them up so she couldn't slip them over her tail.
"Time to sit you up." He manoeuvred Ariel so she was able to sit up. She'd never felt so vulnerable as she did now.
"I'm going to ungag you, one sound and you will not get any food or water tonight, understand?'
"Good." The man untied the cleave gag and removed the packing.
"I assume you want a drink?" Ariel nodded eagerly "Seawater?" Ariel nodded again.
He brought a large soda cup with a straw poking out if the top. He patiently let Ariel drink as much as she wanted. Ariel soon felt better, mermaids need a high-salt diet if they spend any length of time in fresh water.
"Done for now?" Ariel nodded.
"Now this is fresh from today." He brought over a bowl full of sliced fish and proceeded to feed her using a pair of chopsticks. He didn't rush but let her eat her fill. Ariel decided to eat all the fish on offer not knowing when she'd eat again. To end with he gave her some more saltwater to drink.
“Time to show you your new home.”
Teddy went to the end of the table, he pressed down with his foot and the table began to move. He pushed the table out of the room, through another door into his gym. It contained a few weights, and some bits of gym equipment but the centrepiece was a small endless pool in the corner of the room. He freed Ariel’s tail, picked her up and lowered her in.
“Now it is late and I need to get to bed, but don’t think for a moment I won’t hear any noise you make.”
He brought out a baby monitor, he demonstrated to Ariel how it worked then left the transmitter on the metal table. “So any noise out of you and you’ll be regagged understand?” Ariel nodded “And just to make sure you don’t go anywhere.”
Resting against the wall was a metal grille. He pressed a button on the side of the pool and grille swung down trapping Ariel in the pool. Just to make sure he secured the free ends of the grille down with some bolts. Ariel could just about fit her head through the gaps in the grille. She decided that wasn’t a good idea as with her hands bound she wouldn’t be able to free herself if she got stuck. The water level wasn’t too high. She could comfortably sit with her head above water, there was even a seat built into the bottom of the pool. Suddenly her world went dark as the man rolled a tarpaulin over the top of the pool and secured it down. Only small slivers of light crept in round the edges. She heard him walk away and a door open.
“Good night my mermaid, I will see you tomorrow morning.”
The lights went out and the door closed a locked leaving Ariel in virtual darkness with only the glow from the baby monitor for light.