Perry threw his keys on his kitchen table, heaved off his wet jacket, and slammed his apartment door behind him. Seymour, his smoke-gray cat, lifted his head and glanced at Perry nonchalantly.
“Not a man! Not a man!” Perry complained, his voice high and whimpering. Earlier in the day, he had met with Minerva and she told him the news. She tried to be gentle, but her news enraged Perry. While it was hard enough hearing that he wasn’t haunted, it was devastating to find out that he wasn’t even human.
“A Deep One,” she said, making eye contact, leaning forward. Perry could tell it was bad news from her body language.
“What is that?” asked Perry.
“They are an old race that live in the ocean.” Minerva replied, as simply as she could.
“Like Atlanteans?” Perry’s mother used to tell him tales of Atlantis, the lost city with greatly advanced technology that sank into the ocean, how their scientist-priests saved their civilization by sending all the citizens to the four corners of the world. The scientist-priests were said to have stayed on the lost island, managing a life in the archives of the sunken city. Perry would have liked to be an Atlantean.
“Different. Deep Ones, as a race, are older than Atlantis. Their origin is difficult to guess at. It is clear that they are descended, in part, from the Elder Gods. Dagon and Mother Hydra, specifically.”
“So, I’m a demi-god? Like Hercules?” asked Perry, beaming. He began to understand why he felt so different, why people treated him poorly: they were jealous. He was descended from gods, better than just a human.
“More like Humbaba,” said Minerva, putting her hand to her lips, looking suddenly nervous.
“What?” asked Perry.
“Humbaba was a demigod. He did not look entirely human. He had the face of a lion. If you were to go to the sea, as your dreams have been telling you, you would undergo a transformation. You would look less human, more like a fish.”
“A fish man, Seymor! A fish man. Of all the things to be.” In his apartment, Perry slipped into his pajamas and sat down in front of the television. He tried to lose himself in the news, but he couldn’t calm his mind. He wondered why his mother never told him what he was. He had a right to know, especially after everything he went through as a kid. Seymour padded silently over and Perry patted his head. “At least you don’t care what I am.”
Perry switched off the TV and thumbed through his record collection. He pulled out a compilation of Patti Page’s biggest hits and set it spinning on his player. The singer’s silken voice floated through the air, warming and comforting Perry’s agitated mind. He looked at the pile of dishes and sighed, resigning himself to washing them. He filled the sink with water, humming along with I Went to Your Wedding.
A loud rapping on the door nearly sent Perry into a fit. He never had visitors, and especially never late at night. He shuffled to the door and peeped through the hole. It was a delivery man in a rain coat.
“Go away!” he said. ’I didn’t order anything.”
The delivery man knocked on the door harder, causing it to tremble on its hinges.
“Go away!” bellowed Perry. “I said I didn’t order anything.”
“Let me in,” said the delivery man. The muffled voice cut through Perry’s heart; the shock of hearing it almost sent him crashing to the floor. It was his father’s voice. He recognized it easily despite the decades since he heard it. No, it can’t be! The thought blew through Perry’s mind, but when the voice persisted, he knew the truth couldn’t be denied.
“Open up boy. We need to talk.” The voice was Evan Walters’ own; raspy and deep. When Perry opened the door, his father tossed back the hood of his slicker and Perry gasped. His father looked inhuman, hairless, and fish-like. Evan’s beady eyes were expressionless, yet seemingly alert and filled with predatory cunning, like a shark. “About time you opened the door. First sensible thing you’ve done in weeks. We’ve been watching you, waiting for you to heed the call.”
Evan restlessly shambled around the apartment, poking at the artifacts of Perry’s modern life. Picking up a copy of Maxim, Evan’s thick lips curled in a sour scowl.
“I didn’t know. You never told me. Mom never told me. I thought I was crazy.” said Perry, sliding each object his father disturbed back into place.
“You are crazy. Living on the land, surrounded by mammals.” Evan said with disgust. “This is not a life fit for anyone. Chasing after bullshit, collecting crap as you roll along. I fell into the trap, but I’ve been librated. In the sea, we have purpose.” Evan extended a finger towards Seymour, but the cat simply hissed and darted into a closet.
“I heard about what you‘ve got planned. Just this afternoon I was told how your kind scheme against those that dwell on the land, plotting to unleash terrible horrors on the shore.” Perry was livid; his arms swept in grand, abrupt gestures tinged with violence.
“Your kind is it? Our kind. They deserve it, the traitors. They’re the ones that turned their backs on us. They get what they get.” Evan waddled towards a chair and slid onto it. “Do you have food? I’m hungry.”
“Meat will do. Just give it to me boy. No need to fuss with your mammalian techniques.” The way Evan said “mammal” made Perry cringe. Hearing him say it had the same effect as hearing someone say “darkie.”
“I don’t have any food for you.”
“Great big fatty like you has an empty fridge. I don’t believe it. Get me something.” Perry shook his head and pasted a frown on his face. He left the room, stomping into the kitchen. Mechanically, he pulled a small, round steak out of his fridge and let it flop onto a plate. He held the plate out to Evan with contempt. Evan’s webbed and clawed hand darted out, snatching up the red meat and sliding it into his mouth, which was lined with pin-like teeth.
Perry looked away, trying to hide his disgust.
“You need to come boy,” said Evan, smacking his flabby lips loudly.
“We need the numbers, you see.” Evan rose and stood uncomfortably close to his son. His nose nearly pressed against Perry’s as he said, “You’re one of us, like it or not. I know you feel it in that tiny brain that rattles up there. You need to become. No more of this human bull shit.”
“No,” said Perry, pulling away. His body was nearly shaking with anger and fear.
“I didn’t say you had a choice. We’ve been watching you. We.”
Perry looked at the window that lead to the fire escape and saw the moonlight reflected in wide, dead eyes outside.
“You can’t make me,” said Perry.
“Can’t I?” threatened Evan.