'Regeneration' by Christina Dalcher
In my dreams, I sit on a rock in the middle of a sea, legs curled under, connected like a fishtail, no telling one from the other. In my dreams, I have working legs again. What I do most days: Sit—in gardens and in parlors, behind windows, on beach towels. Watch—volleyballs spiking and bare feet kicking sand, suntanned bodies entwining, June kissing Jack. Listen—to hoots and high-five slaps, waves lapping, whispered I love yous.
When we were kids, Jack announced he was a prince and June wanted to be a princess. I said I wanted to be a princess, too, and June told me there could only be one princess, I’d have to pick something else. I decided on a mermaid. Jack wrinkled his nose. “And have a fishtail instead of legs? Gross.” I said it was only an imaginary thing; I’d still have my legs. Always. Legs are like eyes and ears; everyone has a pair.
Today, when the tide drags itself back out, I talk to a three-pointed starfish, ask whether it sacrificed its limbs to make other stars or if maybe escape had become necessary. June and Jack look over once before packing up; they have a kid now, a pretty blonde thing June calls her little princess, but the way she swims, she’s more mermaid than royalty.
I lie, tell them my brother’s coming to pick me up. Yeah, real soon, I’ll be fine, don’t worry. Then I take my starfish and crab-crawl to the shoreline, the place where liquid turns to foam and humans become sea creatures. We wait there, my lucky star and I, for my bottled witchcraft to cast its spell, bring sleep and dreams. In the deep dark of the ocean, we’ll both grow legs.