Only a Test

I don’t remember much of my early childhood. You can hardly blame me; it was over 170 years ago. All I remember are snippets and flashes. But I do remember one thing clearly: My mother and I fleeing from our tribe in a desperate bid to save my life. Hers was already forfeit.

We were a primitive culture by your standards. Our most advanced technology was woven baskets; our most advanced weapons were spears. We lived a nomadic existence as hunter-gatherers, traveling far and wide to keep up with fresh game. Our tribe was one of hundreds that roamed the Atlantic seafloor.

Oh yeah. I’m a mermaid. I probably should have mentioned that earlier.

I was four years old when the first of our tribe started to get sick. The disease quickly spread. Children seemed to be more resilient at first, but soon they, too, succumbed.

We weren’t doctors or scientists. We didn’t understand contagions. Epidemics were unknown to merfolk. Our shamans declared the sickness a punishment from the gods to those who were unworthy. But once the shamans themselves died, that theory seemed suspect. By the time I was five, most of our tribe had died. We heard tales from travelers that all the tribes were suffering the same fate.