This snippet is an "outtake" of Hopeless Part 2. It's a bit of story that I wanted to work into the main narrative, but I just couldn't find a place for it. I think it illustrates a little more the kind of man Dr. Cresh is (as if he needed any more illustration), showing how in his mind, other men exist only as clay that he can reshape at his whim. Sometimes he even convinces himself that what he does is for his victim's own good. I couldn't find a way to fit this scene into the story, so here it is as a standalone. You probably want to read Hopeless 2 before reading this.
Hopeless is standing in a room he has never been in before, a large, two-story space. The bottom half is taken up by a fishtank, the kind you would find at an aquarium with a thick glass wall on one side and steps leading up to the top, where there is a platform at the upper edge of the pool. He is being dragged along on a tour of Dr. Cresh's compound with the doctor, Pete, and three clients.
The tank was large, though it was hard to see exactly how large from where we were standing. The view through the glass wall was dim and showed a view of mostly water with rocks and plants and such sprinkled around on the floor. Refraction distorted the image, making the rocks seem like boulders, the plants like trees. Bright orange and black and white fish swam in lazy circles. It seemed like a lot of space to devote to a fish tank.
Then, off in the distance, I saw a much larger fish flash through the gloom. The thing must have been the size of a shark, its pale skin shining in the dark water. I only caught the one glimpse before it vanished again, but that one glimpse was enough to call up in my mind all sorts of primal fears about large, toothy creatures lurking in inky black water. I wondered why the smaller fish didn't seem more scared of the thing, then figured maybe they were. For all I knew, they were acting terrified: what did I know how fish showed fear? The shark-thing never came close enough to the window for us to get a good look at it.
I still wasn't sure why I was being brought along on this tour, but now I had an awful thought: perhaps I was bait. An image flashed through my mind of Pete pushing me into the tank, leaving me to flounder in the water, splashing my arm-stumps around, trying to keep my head above water while the crowd of observers placed bets on how long I would last and whether the creature would get me before or after I drowned.
I resolutely pushed the thought out of my head and kept my eyes down.
Dr. Cresh led us up a set of stairs next and we came out on a landing that overlooked the tank. The tank was even larger than I had supposed, curving around the central platform that we were standing on. From our perspective, we had a view down into the whole thing. I immediately started looking for the shark-thing, keeping my head down but darting my eyes all over in search of it.
It turns out I needn't have bothered. Pete put his hand down into the pool and clanged some kind of bell. A few moments later, the pale shape came swimming up from the bottom and broke through the surface.
It was a man.
"Come on out, Finn", Pete said. "Let the gentlemen get a look at you."
Finn looked us over from down in the water, his eyes flitting from one to the next. I have no idea what he might of thought of the scene: Dr. Cresh in his suit, Pete and three other men dressed in unremarkable clothing, and me, naked, armless and dickless, with a chain wrapped around my neck connecting me to Pete's hand. It couldn't have been that unusual a sight for him, because he showed no sign of surprise. He just lifted his body - naked like mine - out of the water onto the platform. He didn't stand up, though, and it was easy to see why.
His legs had been fused together.
He held them out where we could see them. The doctor started talking, but I didn't pay much attention to the words at first. I was too distracted by the sight of a single leg where there should have been a pair of them.
His double-size single leg extended down from his pelvis, bending at his paired knee, flexing at the conjoined ankle, and ending in a fan of toes that looked halfway like a flipper. His toes had been stretched out to the sides, it seemed, and the webbing of skin between them had been enhanced. He had remarkable control over them, showing the tour group how he could flex and twist the skin of his flipper into all kinds of shapes. I noticed he still had a perfectly normal looking dick, but his balls, if they were there, must have been tucked away inside.
"... three titanium rods in his bones," he was saying when I tuned in again. "They connect his legs together at the knees, the ankles, and the tarsals, just under the base of his big toes. The skin was opened at the junction line and brought together all along the seam. Some additional tissue had to be encouraged to grow to fill in the spaces, muscle and fat and such. It took a number of surgeries and a long healing time, but the results are exactly what we had hoped for. Finn is truly a mer-man."
Repellent as the result was, I had to admit the work was top quality. There was only the thinnest of scars along the seam where Finn's legs used to come apart. The muscle and tissue underneath looked solid and healthy. When he flexed and bent his leg, it was with smooth, fluid motions, as if nature had intended him to be built the way he was.
"Tell me, Finn, how do you like what Dr. Cresh did for you?" one of the onlookers asked, probing at the seam along Finn's upper thigh with his finger.
"It's fine," Finn replied, but his voice was flat. "This is what I wanted."
Pete took over. "You might remember Finn from the Olympics about twelve years back, though he went by a different name then. He was the star of the show, took home six medals, four golds and two silvers. For a couple of weeks, the media couldn't get enough of him. He got all kind of endorsements, and the money started rolling in, and Finn upgraded his lifestyle to match."
Finn just stared into the water of the pool.
"Then, like always happens, they dropped him for the next hot story. The money train petered out and Finn found himself stretched a little thin."
"I think we can spare our guests the sad details," Dr. Cresh gently chided. "Suffice to say that after a bit of soul-searching, Finn realized that all he really wanted to do was swim. How did you say it in that CNN interview, Finn?"
Finn never raised his eyes from the water. "I feel more at home in the water than out of it," he said in that dead-sounding voice.
"Precisely. All I did was help him to achieve his potential to the fullest."
The guests finished examining Dr. Cresh's surgical work. "How about a demonstration, Finn. Let's show them a speed run around the pool."
Finn slipped noiselessly into the water, sank down to the bottom, then back up again. He took a deep breath and waited, poised, just below the surface. Pete reached in and clanged the bell and Finn took off like a rocket. I couldn't believe how fast he could go. He kept his right side a hair's width away from the wall as he shot around the outer edge of the pool. In less than half a minute, he had returned to his starting point.
"Just over twenty-four and a half seconds," Pete said.
"Not bad, Finn," Dr. Cresh said. "Not record time, certainly, but still an impressive performance."
They took Finn through a series of tricks, as if he were a trained dolphin at Sea World. I wondered, watching him, exactly how voluntary his presence here was. He didn't seem to be like me or the others back in the cell, captured and held completely against our will, and yet being compelled to perform on command was clearly not something he enjoyed. I finally decided, while we watched him hold his breath for five long minutes, that the most likely explanation was that he truly did love his watery life. Most of the time he probably got to swim alone with his thoughts, just the way he liked it. Occasional interruptions like this were just something he had to put up with.
When Finn finally popped his head up again, his lungs heaving, it was to a sprinkling of applause.
"Tell me, doctor," one of the clients asked, "is he available for... other services?"
"Indeed," the doctor replied. "Although Finn is not like the rest of the animals in the stable. They have been thoroughly broken and tamed, and pose no threat to a client's safety." He said this without even looking at me, as if I weren't there.
"Finn, on the other hand, is still a creature of the wild who can only be taken on his own terms, in his own environment. There have been several guests who have ventured into the pool to sport with him, right Finn?"
Finn nodded, arms and leg working slowly and smoothly while he treaded water.
"Two of them thought they could master him even with the advantages he held. Their aim, I believe, was to force Finn to submit to anal intercourse. Neither of them succeeded. One never even laid hands on him and finally gave up. The other did manage to catch him and the two of them wrestled for a while before Finn's superior lung capacity gave him the victory. It was a near thing for the client - fortunately for him, Pete and Aaron were able to drag him out of the pool, get the water out of his lungs, and restart his breathing before it was too late. Of course, he knew the risks going in.
"Finn can be more amenable to other forms of play, but only if he's in the right mood. For instance, though he self-identifies as straight, he does occasionally allow himself to be orally serviced. He cannot be forced, though, only coaxed. More often he enjoys taking visitors for a swim around his pool, sharing his world with them, but again, what he is willing to do depends on the mood he is in."
There was a short silence then, disturbed only by the sound of the water lapping against the platform.
"Thank you, Finn, you may go," Dr. Cresh said.
Finn ducked his head down with barely a ripple and disappeared off to one side.
"There are air hoses located in several places at the bottom" the doctor said. "They allow him to stay under for as long as he likes. After being put on display like this, he usually likes to stay out of sight for a while. He's a very shy creature who likes his solitude."
We traipsed back down the stairs to continue our tour.