By Elizabeth Willsmore
Anya blinked in the briny light of the basement, her eyes widening and narrowing as she tried to wrap her mind around Susie’s revelation. She glanced at Susie’s face, noting how there, in the storage room, beside all the artifacts and talismans (that Anya now realized had been stolen from the cave of her mother), Susie’s skin seemed to glisten with a luminescent, aquatic glow, but much more subdued than the scales on her arm. Anya turned back around to face the room, taking in row upon row of objects, at the appropriated artifacts the oil companies had stolen, before she looked towards Susie, taking a slight step forward as she did so.
“Thank you,” Anya began, her voice more level and calm than it had been in years. “Thank you for telling me your story.” Here Anya took a deep breath in, nervous the words wouldn’t come out right. “What they did, well, you aren’t the first to have been displaced by big oil. The US government in particular has a long and disgusting history of invading and colonizing nations for the sake of oil, of tearing down forests, sending animals into extinction, and all for the sake of a fat wad of cash.”
Anya shook her head, surprised and revitalized as she felt an emotion creep into her veins which she hadn’t been capable of since before Gramps died. Her eyes narrowed, emitting a kind of hot glow as she felt her chest begin to expand, her shoulders tensed to the point of shaking. Susie took a step closer to Anya in concern, the latter’s expression unreadable and dark. Suddenly, with an intensity neither knew she was capable of, Anya looked up and stared directly into Susie’s eyes, the former’s deep brown irises smoldering with an earthen determination that burned brighter than the dirty fluorescence of the basement.
“It’s time I stopped feeling sorry for myself,” Anya said, her intensity softening slightly as she looked as Susie’s wary expression. She took one more glance around the room, her gaze coming to rest on a worn piece of green sea glass resting beside a trident. “You lost someone too,” she murmured, “you lost the person who raised you, like me, but more than that you lost your home. That’s what big oil does, it takes, it destroys, and it makes us blame each other, or worse, ourselves, for something we can’t control, for a system that’s been imposed on us for longer than either of us has been alive.”
Anya paused and blinked once, lips twitching imperceptibly and she tried to get a read on Susie’s reaction. A small, barely noticeable smile was subtly spreading across Susie’s lips, the intensity of her dark eyes casting an omniscient sparkle around the dimly lit room. Slowly, she began to nod, and for the first time, a gleam of mischief seemed to twinkle from her irises.
“That’s why you asked me here today, isn’t it?” Anya whispered, her voice dropping an octave as the realization of what was happening dawned on her like dew on a daffodil. “The plans my grandfather made, for the dome, you sought me out because of them, right?” Still smiling slightly, Susie gave the tiniest nod. Anya walked the remaining steps forward until she was eye to eye with Susie, a lock of dark red hair falling gently across her cheek. Susie’s nude pumps clicked as she shuffled, glancing down at her toes momentarily before looking back up at Anya, her dark and intense, her face serious.
“I needed to find someone who would feel their loss like I did,” Susie whispered hoarsely, her pupils burning with intensity. “When I first took this job, they asked me to clean out the old files in the back – ones from during the Climate War – and that’s how I found Charlie Cooper’s work.” Susie paused and looked past Anya’s shoulder, fixating on the smooth green sea glass Anya had seen earlier. “Charlie Cooper, he knew what was coming, but when he tried to propose it, the companies shut him down, told him if he started construction and went public, it’d cause a panic. People in the most affected areas already suspected a building like the dome would be necessary someday.
“As soon as I saw those plans in storage, I knew Clark Industries would come in like big oil had, displacing and killing other Mer-groups like they did my mother’s. So, I took the plans, secretly, and I hid them, deciding I’d search for someone who could help me transform them into something that would benefit my people as well. And that’s how I found you: Anya, Charlie Cooper’s granddaughter.”
Susie’s gaze burned into Anya’s as she subconsciously stepped a half inch closer. “I knew you were one of the best, but that you’d lost someone too, and so would understand my pain, and my need for this Dome to be built.”
Susie stopped and took a deep breath, squaring her shoulders imperceptibly and straightening her spine, before turning her gaze back to Anya, who stood still as stone, her expression unreadable. Gently, Susie reached out and took Anya’s hand, surprised by the heat radiating off her palm and onto Susie’s cool one.
“I know Mer-culture,” Susie began, softly, “and you’re an engineer, you know how to build. So yes, Anya, that is why I asked you here. Because I need someone who I know is on my side, who I know will advocate for the Mer-people, and who knows the pain that will be inflicted if she doesn’t.” Susie’s irises had darkened to an earthen smolder, the heat of it traveling over and into Anya’s cheeks.
“Clark Industries didn’t ask you here, Anya,” Susie said, her voice gravely calm. “I did.”
Gently, without so much as twitching a muscle, Anya squeezed Susie’s hand once. The same fire she’d felt in her veins when Susie mentioned big oil returned as she stared directly into Susie’s eyes, and uttered three words.
“Count me in.”
Image Credit to Artsy