Ted hummed to himself as he crossed the empty parking lot. He bobbed his head and matched his steps to the beat of pop music playing through his earbuds. His long shadow, created by the sun peeking over the warehouse, seemed to dance on the dark asphalt behind him. He wore light grey sweatpants, a black tank top and a small red rucksack hanging on his back. Ted planned to spend most of the daylight exploring the abandoned hill-top complex.

The cluster of buildings rested on an East-facing hill and was shrouded in mystery. Ted liked to research any spots before he went poking around to make sure he stayed clear of any trespassing charges. No one knew anything about this place. It had been abandoned as far as anyone could remember; no one even knew anything about the company based there.

The warehouse Ted chose to start in looked almost brand new. It had white, clean walls and crystal clear windows. If Ted had not been eyeing this place for weeks he’d be tempted to assume it was just closed for the weekend. He reached the heavy, windowed double doors and smiled to himself.

“It’s gonna be a great day,” he said. One of the doors was cracked open. It had been left to close under its own weight but it did not have enough force to shut properly; friction caught it against the frame. He pulled the door open with ease and took a step over the threshold. Ted stopped before his leg touched the floor inside and slowly pulled his leg back out of the building.  He leaned back to look at the sides of the building. Dozens of clear windows line the tall white walls. Ted looked into the building again. The interior was pitch black with no sign of the growing daylight penetrating the windows. “Huh,” Ted stood in the open doorway and peered into the darkness. He pulled one earbud out to see if he could hear anything. A soft, blue light glowed to life somewhere inside the moment music stopped flooding his ear.

“Wonderful day,” Ted smiled and stepped inside toward the light. The door shut firmly behind him but he continued moving forward. Now that he had a starting point Ted put his earbud back in. The light vanished; Ted froze in his tracks. If he had his eyes closed behind a blindfold at night, it would not be darker than it was inside that building. He turned to face the door but couldn’t find it. There was no light coming in through any of the windows that he knew were there. “What the hell…?” he pulled his earbud out again to concentrate and listen. He noticed a soft blue light at the edges of his vision and turned around again.

A wide blue circle glowed on the ground a bit further ahead of him. It reminded him of a still pool lit from below the water. It was a perfect circle about 10 feet across. While keeping his eyes on the pool he slowly inserted his earbud to bring his music back; the pool vanished.

“No way…,” Ted pulled the earbud out again and the lit surface appeared again. He tried it once more to be sure. Earbud in: light gone. Earbud out: glow on. Then he remembered he had two ears and pulled the other one out leaving both of his ears bare.

Brilliant golden light flooded the room as if heavy curtains were pulled back from his eyes. His mind instantly felt sharper, clearer than it ever did, and he heard a soft, beautiful, melodic humming somewhere in his soul. The pool’s surface looked like a perfect mirror, it reflected all the green around it. High green grass grew around the pool and tall, red-needle pine trees formed a half forest around one side of the pool. Ted looked around and the building was not what expected.

Instead of an empty, abandoned, messy warehouse, Ted felt like he was in a hidden meadow somewhere. He searched for the doors, but he could not even find the walls anymore. Just wide open sky and plain and trees and grass. And a pond.  He noticed a small wooden sign next to the pond and walked over to inspect it.

The short, 12-foot walk was possibly the most pleasant experience Ted ever had. The soft grass melted under each step but managed to support him. He felt a cool breeze protecting his skin from the warm sun that he couldn’t see. He heard what sounded like a chorus of angels singing from within his soul. He felt the song with his whole being, not just his ears. As if their harmonious voices kept the fabric of the universe together. He smiled as he strolled, then stopped at the sign. It was waist-high planted into the earth.

“Property of Sharp Development

#47 La Corona: Harper – Mermaid”

“Mermaid?” Ted chuckled to himself and shook his head. Even as he denied it a naked woman popped her head out of the water. The mirror surface barely rippled. Her eyes smoldered like deep blue fire. Her long aqua-green hair was plastered back and down her slender, pale-blue neck.

“They remembered me!” she smiled at Ted with breathless excitement. Every syllable she voiced held a month’s worth of the pleasant walk he just had. She sounded like his mother and every single woman he’d ever loved unified into a single, loving, all-forgiving voice. “Hi,” she floated to the edge and rested on the green grass as she would at the side of a concrete pool.

“Hi,” Ted let himself collapse in front of her. He leaned on his side facing her and planted his elbow on the ground to prop his head up. “What brings you here?” he asked awkwardly. He was not embarrassed though. It didn’t matter what he said, he just wanted to get her talking about herself. He wanted to know everything about her from her own perfect lips.

“You,” she said with a playful bat of her eyelashes. Ted smiled and shuffled himself forward. He wanted to be close enough for her to touch on the off chance she suddenly decided she wanted to touch him. He did not want to miss any opportunity to make her happy.

“Me, huh?” he asked playfully, flirty. “What uh… what is it about me that got your attention?” Harper the mermaid leaned further out of the water, closer to Ted, and inhaled deeply.

“Your smell…,” she said. “I bet you taste delicious,” she sighed as she looked into his eyes. “They haven’t fed me in so many years…” her complaint came out as a soft, whispered whine. Ted shook his head as a rush of anger coursed through him.

“Those bastards,” he gritted his teeth as he sat up and slipped off his tanktop. “Don’t worry, I’m here now. I’ll take care of you.” He stood then dropped his sweatpants and briefs. He eagerly dove into the frigid, clear water. “Dinner time,” he smiled at the mermaid. Her eyes flared crimson as she charged at Ted. He leaned back in the water. “Amazing day,” he said to himself.

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