Gwen awoke, tearing her head away from the notes and half-finished knick-knacks that surrounded her in her slumber. She had had these dreams every night – the body dissolving into foam, the glimmering of the knife – and while she had awoken from them clutching her body and shuddering, she knew that they entered her mind for a reason. They weren’t just dreams – they were mistakes that were actually made, memories crafted by a failure, things that needed to be fixed.
Everybody has a purpose in life. Some are meant to do great things, some are meant to expand on those great things, some are meant to be utter idiots to make those who do great things look even better. Gwen was born into a special way of life, and was born with a hunger for knowledge. Certainly she would not have those two qualities if she was not meant to improve the former with the latter. Improve she would, for she had something so few of her profession, her species had. An array of machinery, potions and things like that. Science. Science was the future. Magic and witchcraft were all well and good, but some would find it old hat. Unreliable. Science could do anything though.
As Gwen reminded herself of her modus operandi in hopes of diminishing her procrastination, a whirring caught her gigantic ears, and there she saw her little snake Samson, atop his little mechanical legs. Good old Samson. The guy was like a good luck charm to her, a reminder of her past achievements. If she could do something like that once, she could do it again. What better time to think that than when continuing her greatest project?
How long had she told the council that everything her kind could do with witchcraft could be replicated with machinery? Their magic was a finite one, only able to work on certain days, or for a certain period of time. Science always worked. Imagine if one could only watch TV or use the microwave one day a year! Society would crumble in seconds. No, if their trade was to be respected – they were always nattering about how no-one respects them anymore and blah blah whine whine – they had to advance.
On certain days of the year – on full moons, was it? – a sea-witch could read her clients’ emotions with a firm enough stare. One of Gwen’s finest accomplishments – a helmet that could allow one to do the same thing any time one wanted. Oh yes, there was scoffing. ‘It looks like a dead crab’ they said, ‘Is this a joke?’ What had kept her working on it was the mental image of her laughing at those doubters, while they hung their heads in shame. ‘How could we have doubted Gwen?’ they would say, ‘What a genius she is.’
And that dream came true, didn’t it? The former naysayers may not have used those exact words, but Gwen had pretended they did, and the response was positive anyway. She wasn’t wearing the helmet at the time, but she knew what they were all pondering when her demonstration was over. ‘That Gwen and her inventions were amazing. However could she top it?’
Simple. Simple people. Simple answer.
What was the most famous quality of a sea witch? What was their most famous spell? A spell that once could only be done once a year, but, thanks to her, could be done any time one felt like it?
Humanity. Humanity to sea-life.
Just like in her dreams.
Samson whirred again as he approached his mistress. As she took out a little treat from her skirt pocket, she took a look at the water-snake and wondered why he never spoke. Had he something to hide? Everybody did, but it was interesting to think what secrets her little fishy friends might have to offer her. She would, however, respect his privacy. After Samson munched his tiny pellets, another of Gwen’s creations, Gwen stared into the black eyes of the little creature and wondered what he would look like as a human. More importantly, what would he do? He was happy being an snake though, no need to use him as a test-subject.
As Samson wondered off for some amusement of his own, Gwen turned back to her notes, chortling at herself for procrastinating so much. She almost felt like a university student cramming for that exam. Her webbed fingers wrapped around several sheets of paper, and she held them in front of her as if she was going to read the news. No time for sleeping now, got to check your notes.
After all these years, she knew she was going to crack it. A machine, a titan towering above her and everyone else, that could turn any fish into a human being. Fins and scales and gills would vanish, arms and legs and fingers and toes would appear. It would walk on land, surrounded not by the briny blue or wobbling plants, but by buildings, and other scientific wonders. The metamorphosis may still leave them mortal, but at least they would not have a death as humiliating as being on the end of a hook.
Did the council know about it? Yes, Gwen had told them. Not just them though. Knowing what an achievement this was, she had let it slip out to the human world itself. She had read their newspapers, and she knew that was the type of news they enjoyed digesting. And there had even been some controversy – a favourite word among scientists. That controversy had come from those claiming it was unethical, that it didn’t respect the poor animals. Giving them a taste of a more sophisticated lifestyle wasn’t respect? If only they could talk to fish.
There had been some support though. Plenty of support. Fellow scientists, human scientists had backed her, noting that her experiments could aid in exploring the animal mind. Gwen had made sure that the machine would expand a creature’s mind to understand the most basic things of a human life, including speech. Oh, if only our pets could speak to us, say people. Just you wait and see.
She had also gained some support from the military. They were looking for ways to get more recruits, and they thought fish had the right mindset for a soldier.
Putting down her notes, Gwen looked towards her nearly-finished device, and stared at it in thought. It would be completed soon, but already Gwen could see small nippers inflating into men. She knew she had to complete her notes before physical construction of the machine could continue, but Gwen still stared at her green, scaly form reflected in the glass. Procrastination, but a good procrastination. It helped her get her thoughts in order, to wake herself up. And she needed clear, logical thoughts. She needed to be awake.
She needed to do this.