Serpentine rapids are careening over a precipice. Cubist brush strokes paint jagged rectangles: marbled Niobe is cast in a sculpture of plunging water. Opaque liquid is jumping away from darksome rocks.

The wind is making the waterfall descend in a blurry helix. Big charsafs of mist are coddling a dim rainbow. A lexicon of warped cacophony uncurls in Hera’s inner ear. Loud echoes are scintillating near the river’s dazzling shallows.

Sasha and Hera are riding their bay leopard appaloosa, Cupid; the horse is wading into the river, and Sasha is holding the horn of his saddle. The horse is swimming into deeper water. Sasha’s shoes are flooding. The rising water is forcing air up his trouser legs; his pants look like a balloon. Both riders are floating in the river on Cupid’s slick back.

Sasha is dismounting mid-river; he is sinking into the river’s clear depths; now, he is kicking furiously, and thereby propelling himself towards the water’s surface. He is above water, flipping his head violently; his wet hair is throwing an arc of amber beads into the warm air.

Sasha is grabbing the horse’s reigns. He is leading Cupid and Hera up to the sheer wall of water. Virga and mists are curling around the swimmers. Hera’s hair is pasting itself to her face like octopus tentacles. Sasha is swimming silently; his body is relaxing some: they are successfully circumnavigating the whitish, torrential curtain.

They are now in a hidden vestibule behind the falls. The grotto is slick and shiny, like wet snakeskin. Broken light is casting bars onto the shallower water within the grotto; panes of blue, translucent shadows are floating on the water’s surface.

Sasha is leading Cupid and Hera up to a smooth shore of black rock. Now, Hera is dismounting Cupid. The hems of her cloak and gown are dark with wetness. She is sopping wet all the way up to her lace bra. The only part of her that is dry is her mouth.

“I’m thirsty,” Hera says quietly.

“Here,” Sasha says tossing her a canteen he found in his saddle bag.

Hera is pulling a silver ring off of her middle finger. The ring has an infinitesimal mermaid engraving. She is handing it to her brother Sasha.

“Go get Xyla.”

Sasha is taking the silvery jewel in his slender hand. He is walking into an adjacent cave inside of the grotto. The cave leads to a narrow rock corridor; the corridor terminates in a round room of rock with a natural skylight. At the center of the room is a winkling pool of deep water. Sasha is casting the ring into leagues of blue. The ring is making undulating ripples in the pool; now, it’s sinking. He is waiting.

A shadow is appearing underneath the bedsheets of the water; umbra is darkening the epicenter of the pool. The androgynous blip is morphing into a defined silhouette; pool water is exploding into sun crystals. Wet arms slap the granite platform at Sasha’s feet. Green hair and eyes smile at Sasha; exhumed from the grotto’s crypt: a mermaid.

Xyla is a mermaid; she is a mixture of folklore and experimental engineering.

It happened years ago: Xyla lost both of her legs in a freak accident. Resultantly, her colleague, Dr. Yoshimoto, offered to do some prosthetic work on her.

Before the accident, Xyla worked in special operations as an adroit assassin. She worked closely with the doctor, as he was an authority on chemical warfare and genomic research. His work gave her an edge as a professional killer.

Dr. Yoshimoto’s operation on Xyla has rendered her a cyborg: Xyla’s green eyes are modified; she now has miniature computer screens built into her corneas; she has photographic lenses in the anterior chambers of her eyes: her crystalline eyesight is one-hundred times better than that of the average human’s; she is now a savant.

Xyla’s mermaid tail is made of scaly, bulletproof armor; the tail is a translucent flesh color, and allows a glimpse at her complex wiring; it is also highly flexible, waterproof, and fire retardant. The lower half of Xyla’s body is nearly invincible. In addition, Xyla’s lungs have been edited to accommodate a special respirator that allows her to breathe underwater.

Xyla is handing Sasha an infinity hoop of silver; he is taking the wet ring and sliding it onto his middle finger.

Now, Sasha is looking at Xyla’s brown face: long, blunt-cut bangs are falling below her eyes. Her bronze fingers are pushing her wet bangs away. Coruscating circles of deep green are looking at Sasha. Xyla’s eyes are analyzing his vital signs. She is detecting a pique is Sasha’s heart rate. Her skin starts burning.

Xyla is running nervous fingers through her big, tangled sausage curls; the sea green curls are falling over her armor-clad breasts. She is touching the back of her head which is neatly buzz cut.

“Sash, you don’t have to stare,” she says.

Sasha isn’t saying anything. He’s smiling and touching his face unconsciously. Now, he is raking his fingernails through his red hair.

“Sorry,” he says, “Oh! I remember, someone was tailing us earlier. Could you check it out? You know, go for a swim, and see what he’s up to? Not that I want you to go—it’s just you’re…”

“A robot,” says Xyla.

“No! No! It’s just that you’re better equipped for this sort of thing and–”

“Calm down. I’ll do it. You’re so easy. To mess with, I mean. I’ll be back.”

Xyla is diving into the belly of the pool. Minutes are passing in damp quietude. Xyla is appearing from the mirror of the pool; her sudden presence is like a reflection materializing: yearned-for flesh is begotten Pygmalion style.

Xyla has a pea-sized object in her hand. She is clipping the device to her hair.

“What’s that?” asks Sasha.

“A wireless computer server. Its primary function is to receive global intelligence in the form of video footage. I’m logging into a program called Nomenclature now.”

“Oh, wow.”

“I can see yum.” Says Xyla.

She is blinking twice to focus in on the real time images.

“Uh oh,” says Xyla.

“What?”

“Sash, he’s gotta gun.”

***

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