The dune circled a brackish pond where fresh water stream met the tide’s ebb and flow, and just breaking the rim, Sal saw hands.
He broke into a dead run, and as he reached the crest, hands became wrists, and wrists lengthened to arms. Incredibly broad shoulders curved into a graceful neck all but obscured by streaming black tresses. She lay face down, crusted with drying patches of sand. Her skin was black—a dull, flat black that shared more with killer whales and dolphins than any African or Negrito he’d ever encountered.
Ruben fluttered overhead, landed on the far side of the pool, and croaked, “Hello!”
Sal ignored his feathered buddy, and gingerly placed a hand between the girl’s shoulders. Her skin was cool and curiously firm to the touch.
“Well, Ruben, let’s have a look at her.” God, but she was heavy. He grasped her right elbow with both hands and applied all his weight to roll her over. He saw with a shock that if her back and arms were black, her front, from her upper lip to her chin and down her throat to her sandy tits, was ivory white. Indistinct nipples bulls eyed ivory aureoles without the slightest of color variation. His eyes involuntarily traced her nakedness down to an ivory “outee” of a navel. He stared dumbly at what should have been Venus Mons, but was instead a smooth plumpness which tapered down in curves unbroken by knees or feet, to curve out again into a largish ovoid paddle of a tail.
Ruben croaked “Ouch!” and fluttered his feathers.
“Ouch my ass, Ruben. It’s a…she’s a…” Sal was nothing if not a pragmatist. He straddled her waist and pressed an ear to her right breast. Nothing. He interlaced the fingers of his left hand into those of his right and tried to remember his emergency first aid training. He looked over at Ruben. “What’s the count? Was it five?”
Ruben bobbed his beak. “Perfect.”
“One, two, three, four, five.” Sal unlocked his fingers and moved in to position for the next step. He wasn’t sure what he might be liable to catch, but he was sure it wouldn’t be any of the terrifying viruses plaguing the single set nowadays. After all, how could a mermaid catch mono? Or any other human-transmitted disease? He examined her face. The black coloration painted her high forehead, broad and vaguely Slavic cheek bones, and fleshy button of a nose, which squeezed off tiny nostrils. Sal called over to Ruben. “Let’s see. Clear the airway; wait, what if she has gills?”
Rubin jerked his beak up and down. “God damn it!”