Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams




Werewolf Loves Mermaid

How They Met

They met at a wedding.

He was in the wedding party. She was serving canapés at the reception.

On some level, reclining in a fountain while holding a tray of canapés is more efficient than circulating through a crowd with them.

On most levels, it isn’t.

“Canapé?” the mermaid asked the werewolf when he wandered near the fountain.

“Isn’t this just garnish?” said the werewolf, picking up a wilted stem of parsley.

“I guess,” said Mermaid. “I don’t really eat this kind of thing. The scallops were nice, though.” Mermaid looked toward the kitchen. “I wish they would bring me another tray.”

“Everyone will be heading in to dinner soon anyway,” Werewolf said.

“Ah, well, then,” said Mermaid, and after that neither of them said anything for a while.

No one does awkwardness like cryptids at a party.

“This is a weird wedding,” Mermaid finally said to break the silence. “They’re a weird couple. It’s creepy, don’t you think? Vampires marrying high school girls?”

“I’m the best man.”

“So you don’t think it’s creepy?”

“It’s a little creepy.”

“We should go out.”

“Um, okay. What’s your number?”

“I don’t have one.” Mermaid gave Werewolf a conch shell. “Just blow on this.”

“What, like underwater?”

“Yeah. Here, try it.”

Werewolf stuck his head in the fountain. “Flurb,” went the shell. “Bloot.”

“Ha,” said Mermaid.

“What?” said Werewolf, shaking water out of his ears.

“I said, ‘Ha.’”

“You’re just messing with me.”

“I am just messing you.”

“We should go out,” said Werewolf.

“Yes,” said Mermaid.

• • • •

After the wedding dinner and the dancing and the conversion of the open bar to a cash bar (which happened reasonably late into the evening but which shouldn’t have happened at all, Werewolf thought, because vampires are totally loaded, but whatever), Werewolf went back to his hotel.

Mermaid was swimming in the pool.

“So which kind of werewolf are you?” she said.


“Are you a traditional full-moon werewolf, or a turns-whenever-he-feels-like-it werewolf, or do you only turn into a werewolf when you get angry?”

“That’s a Hulk.”


“That last one. Turning when you get angry. That’s a Hulk.”

“A Hulk Werewolf would be cool.”

“It would,” Werewolf agreed.

“Let’s get drunk and go find a Hulk for you to bite.”

“I’m already drunk.”

“Me, too.”

“It would probably be easier to just bombard me with gamma rays.”

“Maybe if we took the door off a microwave . . .”

“It’s not really the same thing.”

“I guess not,” said Mermaid.

“I’m a traditional full-moon werewolf. Is that boring?”

“No. But you won’t be a werewolf tomorrow.”

“Is that a problem?”

Mermaid flicked her tail and scattered shards of full-moonlight over the water.

“Let’s decide tomorrow,” she said.

• • • •

When Werewolf wasn’t Werewolf he was a nice young man called Dave who was probably more disturbed than he should have been to find a mermaid in his hotel bathtub given that when he wasn’t Dave he was a werewolf who hung out with vampires who hung out with teenagers.

Dave didn’t remember much about the night before. He never did after he was Werewolf.

Mermaid didn’t remember much, either, but that was because she and Werewolf went from drunk to really drunk with a bottle of Captain Morgan. She vaguely remembered something about trying to generate gamma rays with parts from the hotel hairdryer and minifridge, but otherwise it was all a blur.

They ate an excruciating breakfast together. Dave obviously wasn’t into mermaids, and Mermaid wasn’t into Dave.

“Tell Werewolf I had fun,” Mermaid said when she left. Relief on parting company was the only thing they had in common that morning.

“I will,” said Dave, but when he found out what the damage to the minifridge and hairdryer was going to cost him, he decided he wouldn’t.

• • • •

Mermaid left her crappy job at the hotel and moved back in with her parents.

She thought maybe she would take a trip to visit her friend Mel at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Apparently that’s where the hip young merpeople went to make art and plan the revolution. Mermaid wondered if she was already too old for that, and if she was too old, whether she cared.

She swam around, trying to figure out how to hit her parents up for money in a way that made her seemed free-spirited rather than feckless.

She thought she heard someone say “Flurb,” so she was listening very hard when she heard “Bloot.”

Mermaid swam toward a succession of flurbs and bloots. When she was near the shore she popped her head above the waves.

“I didn’t think that would actually work,” she called out to Werewolf.

“Me, neither,” said Werewolf.

“I’m glad it did.”

“Me, too.”

And So This Is Christmas

For their first Christmas together, Mermaid got Werewolf a beautiful tortoise shell comb which she was only able to afford because she sold her pot stash.

Werewolf gave Mermaid a beautiful hand-blown glass bong which he bought online with Dave’s credit card because it’s not like there’s a big market for werewolf hair. Lord knows he tried.

How they laughed that first Christmas morning.

For their second Christmas together, they went halfsies on a used Nintendo 64 and spent the whole day playing Mario Kart. It wasn’t Christmas Day, but it was close enough.

His and Hers Flowbees. Eight ounces of those coffee beans that have been pooped out by civet cats because they were curious and what the hell, it’s Christmas. A custom-made combination banjo and accordion. They fought over whether it should be called a bancordian or a accordijo, but then they had such wild make-up sex that they fell on the bancordionaccordijo and smashed it to pieces, which is probably just as well because it sounded even worse than it looked, and how it looked was like it had crawled out of the nightmares of street musicians condemned to the deepest orchestra pit in hell.

The next year they bought a blender and really nice margarita pitcher.

Last year Werewolf did not exercise good judgment.

“What, you don’t like them?” Werewolf said.

“I thought you’d like them,” he said. “I thought women were really into them. I mean on TV they’re all blah blah squee! squee! blah blah Blahnik . . .”

Werewolf got hit in the head with a high-heeled shoe.

“But they have little seashells on them!” he said.

The year after that they will spend Christmas at her parents’ house. Werewolf will stand on the beach while seagulls reel overhead. It will be early morning. Werewolf is not really a morning person, but he appreciates a good sunrise. This will be good sunrise. Werewolf will hope the seagulls don’t crap on him.

Mermaid will recline on a rock.

Werewolf will hold an open gift box.

He will look at Mermaid, and look in the box, and look at Mermaid again.

He will say, “A nosehair trimmer.”

She will say, “You’re welcome.”

They will not have will make-up sex until Easter, and when they do it will not be spectacular, but it will be good enough.

Why They Will Not Have Make-up Sex Until Easter

The beach is beautiful at night. Werewolf lies on a beach towel, gazing up at the full moon. He considers baying. Is this a good time to bay? Is there ever a bad time to bay? Does this beach count as a bay? Is it curvy enough? Mermaid is curvy. Werewolf likes curves. And baying. Maybe he’ll get up and have a good long howl at the moon. But lying here is nice, too. The moon is curvy.

“Oh, crap,” Mermaid says, half submerged in the waves.

“What?” Werewolf says.

“Menstrual drift.”


“Menstrual drift. I’ve synched up with the full moon.”

“Oh, crap,” Werewolf says. “Wait, fish menstruate?”

“No, and they don’t lactate, but somehow you never question the boobs.”

“Okay, okay, sorry. Can you just, I don’t know, hold it in for a few days?”

“Oh, well, gosh Mr. Hairy Howling Metamorphosizing Dog Boy, can you just hold it in?”

“So you can’t hold it in.”

“I need Advil. And rum. Rum with Advil floating in it.”

• • • •

Mermaid is in bed. It is a waterbed so it’s okay. Don’t worry about it. Werewolf feels slightly ’70s sleeping in a waterbed. He wonders if shaving off his sideburns would help.
“Well?” says Mermaid.

“I thought you said we were in synch,” says Werewolf.

“I’m almost done.”



“But not done.”

“I can’t believe you’re being squeamish about this,” Mermaid says. “You eat people! I’ve seen you go to town on a guy’s carotid artery. It was spurting all over the place.”

“That’s different,” Werewolf says. “That’s not, you know . . .”

“Gross? This from a man who licks his own balls.”

“Um . . . yeah,” says Werewolf. “I think I might go do that.”

Werewolf Loves Velocipede

Sometimes, right before the moon passes out of the most generous definition of full, Werewolf goes into the woods. In the woods there is a clearing and in the clearing there is a locked shed and the shed contains a velocipede. Sometimes Werewolf goes to the clearing and unlocks the shed and takes out the velocipede.

Sometimes Werewolf rides the velocipede in smaller and smaller circles until the velocipede nearly tips over.

Sometimes Werewolf says, “Wheeeee!”

This is pretty much the only thing Werewolf and Dave have in common.

Dave suspects that some mornings it is not just the transformation that makes him feel like his limbs have been ripped apart and put back together again using his brain as adhesive. Dave suspects he is waking up with Werewolf’s hangover, and he is right.

“That bastard,” Dave thinks, but he is always happy to wake up next to the shed.

Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Children?

Mermaid moves into a cheap apartment not far from where Dave lives and Werewolf lives with Mermaid when he is not Dave. Their living room has a flatscreen TV on one wall and a bright red Kraftwerk poster on the other. When Mermaid plays “Die Roboter” one too many times, Werewolf puts on Björk, which drives Mermaid crazy because, she says, Björk sounds just like her mother. Especially the warbly bits.

Under the TV there are twelve different gaming consoles. Half of the controllers are wrapped in plastic bags secured with twisty ties, because Mermaid splashes around a lot when she’s winning. Also when she’s losing.

There’s a Barcalounger and a bathtub. Werewolf sits in the Barcalounger, Mermaid reclines in the tub.

A super adorable puppy sits on the rug between them. The puppy has soft, golden fur and big, bright eyes. He should be on the Internet.

“Isn’t he cute?” Mermaid says.

“I told you I wasn’t ready for this,” Werewolf says.

“He’s house-trained,” Mermaid says. “And he’s had all his shots.”

“Uh huh,” Werewolf says.

“And he’s been fixed.”

“Dear god.”

Mermaid holds up a bandana. “And he has this!”

• • • •

Werewolf is in the Barcalounger. Mermaid is in the tub. The puppy is sitting on the rug between them, next to a large fishbowl with a single goldfish.

“Really?” says Mermaid.

“Yes, really,” says Werewolf. “Well? Isn’t she cute?”

“How do you even know it’s a sh . . . wait, is that . . . a shell bra?”

“Damn right.”

“Where did you even find shells that small?”

“The gas station.”

“The gas station. So those are . . .”

“Sunflower seeds.”

“Uh huh. And where’d the little wig come from—I don’t want to know, do I?”

“No, you probably don’t.”

The puppy and the goldfish stare at each other.

“You’re adopted,” the goldfish says.

“Bite me,” the puppy says.

“I’m running away from home,” the goldfish says to Werewolf and Mermaid.

“Me, too,” says the puppy.

Mermaid Loves Toast

Mermaid sits on her rock in the bay. She doesn’t look much like the statue of the mermaid on a rock in Copenhagen. Mermaid is not little. And she is not demure. If she had legs she would sit with them wide apart like an asshole on crowded public transportation. You can just tell. Something about the way she holds her tail.

She does have a nice singing voice, though. Unfortunately the only songs she can sing are by Hall and Oates.

The Mermaid sits on her rock in her undemure way. She looks right and left and over her shoulder. No one is there to see her take a small, battered suitcase out of the water.
Mermaid opens the suitcase and takes out an old toaster. It’s chrome, curved at the top and made in maybe 1950 or so.

She holds the toaster’s chunky Bakelite plug. Water drips down through the crumb tray and back into the sea.

The mermaid sighs.

She really likes toast.

She would trade her beautiful singing voice for two slices of hot buttered, thick sliced multigrain toast.

The seawitch said, “You’ve got to be kidding.”


“We’re in the water.”

“This is why I’ve come to the magic-making seawitch and not the nice café around the corner that sells fair trade coffee and locally-sourced produce and hot buttered, thick sliced multigrain toast.”

“I don’t know how to make magic toast.”

“I don’t want magic toast,” Mermaid said. “I want regular toast that doesn’t get cold and soggy underwater. Okay, fine—I want magic toast. Please. You can have my beautiful singing voice.”

“You can only sing Hall and Oates songs.”

“‘Private Eyes’ is a good song!”

“Get out of my cave.”

That was when the mermaid was very young. Now she has hot buttered, thick sliced multigrain toast every month, because Werewolf brings it to her in the morning, even when they’re fighting.

And she sings “Maneater” to him every night before they go to sleep, gently and like a lullaby, because he likes that song.

Good Morning, Sunshine

Werewolf has a very reliable alarm clock, but once in a blue moon he forgets to set it.

“Hi, Dave,” Mermaid says.

“Gah,” says Dave.

“Your stuff’s over there.”

“Uh, thanks.”

“I put 150 bucks in your wallet,” Mermaid says, “for the minifridge and the hairdryer.”

Dave stops trying to pull his pants on and looks up at Mermaid. “That was fifteen years ago.”

“Yeah. Sorry. I tried to give it to you three years ago, but you seemed kind of busy running away.”

Dave blinks and then tucks in his shirt. “Fifteen years,” he says. “I haven’t been in a relationship that long.”

“Well, technically Werewolf and I have only been together for a year and a half.”

“You know what I mean.”

“I do.”

“I’ve moved six times.”


“I’ve been fired twice.” Dave puts his shoes on. “But he’s a werewolf. How is he in a stable, long-term relationship when I’m not?”

“Maybe you have bad taste in women,” Mermaid says.


“Or maybe you’re too nice.”

“That could be it,” Dave says.

“Or maybe you’re an asshole.”

Dave thinks about this. “That hasn’t stopped Werewolf.”

“Maybe we’re all assholes,” Mermaid says, “and you just haven’t met the right one yet.”

And They Lived Happily Ever After

Many years later Werewolf and Mermaid are lying in bed. It’s still a waterbed. It’s still okay. Werewolf has remembered to set his alarm.

“Don’t flush me down the toilet,” Mermaid says.

“What?” Werewolf lowers his newspaper and pushes his reading glasses further down his snout.

“When I die. Don’t flush me down the toilet. I mean, I know I wouldn’t fit. It’s a metaphor. Don’t flush me down the toilet like some goldfish you won at a carnival by throwing a ping pong ball into a cheap glass bowl.”

“Those are usually feeder fish.”

“I know.”

“If they weren’t in a cheap glass bowl at a carnival, they’d probably get fed to some kid’s pet crab or something.”

“Uh huh.”

“So they’re kind of screwed either way.”


Werewolf and Mermaid have been together too long for uncomfortable silences, so this is just a regular silence.

“I won’t flush you down the toilet,” Werewolf says.

Mermaid waits.

“Or feed you to a crab.”

“Thank you,” Mermaid says.

“I saw the brochure from the taxidermist,” Werewolf says.

“You would look really good in the living room. You could be baying, with your face turned up toward the—” Mermaid smiles at Werewolf. “I’ll throw it away.”

“Thank you,” Werewolf says.

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Heather Lindsley

Heather LindsleyHeather Lindsley’s stories have appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionAsimov’s, and Strange Horizons, and in John Joseph Adams’s dystopian anthology Brave New Worlds and in The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination. She has been featured on Escape Pod as a writer and on Podcastle as a reader, and her stories have been published in Polish, Romanian, Russian, and French translations. She currently lives in Brighton and works in London, which gives her more time to write her novel on the train.