Your hands drop to their waist and grab hold as you force your own tongue back and past their lips. Their eyes widen and then go half-lidded.\n<<set $kiss_actions = $kiss_actions +1>>\n<<display "Kiss Actions">>
You bear down in an instinctive and confusing way and feel something flaring wider down near the base of your tail. It feels like there's something stuck somewhere. Nothing down there hurts, exactly, which is one good thing at least, but the sensations are relentless and intense. The mer you just met squeezes your hand tight as you bear down and bear down and bear down...\n<<set $laying_choices = $laying_choices + 1>>\n<<display "Egg-Laying!">>
You're in a small crystal cavern below the rocky coastline of an uninhabited island's west side.\n\n<<set $cave_actions = 0>>\n\n[[Look around|Look Around Cavern]]
Kind of slim pickings around here, at least compared to back home. You suppose there was a reason you'd settled in one place other than just wanting somewhere to stuff your miscellany, after all. But after doing some careful hiding around rocks you're able to coax a few small, dumb fish close enough for you to dart out and grab them. You rip them to shreds with your long, sharp teeth, suck in their guts, strip the meat and muscle from their bones until all that's left are a few broken skeletons that you let drift toward the ocean floor. Good, and you're not quite so hungry any more, but the fish won't be enough by itself.\n<<set $food_count = $food_count + 1>>\n<<display "Food Actions">>
"Oh, um, uh," you say uselessly. "I'm from, um, out west? I don't really know how far." You think about it and decide to try to define this in terms of time. "Weeks, maybe a month."\n\n"Far, very," they say, eyes widening a little bit. "Waters quiet." Maybe it shouldn't be, but the way they're speaking is really endearing. They sound a little bit innocent, although after thinking this, you glance back at that spear in the sand and remind yourself that assumptions are dangerous and stupid.\n\n"Yes," you say. "Very quiet. I um, I lived in a cave, but I... I had to leave." You're blabbering and you know it, but it's difficult to do anything else. Sentient contact is not something you're accustomed to. They nod slowly.\n<<set $talk_choices = $talk_choices + 1>>\n<<display "Talk Actions">>
<<if $cave_actions eq 3>>\n[[Think about your situation|Think About Your Situation]]\n<<else>>\nWhat should you do?\n<<actions "Examine the exit" "Examine the floor" "Examine yourself">>\n<<endif>>
You're beginning to really get lost in this when it strikes you that for some reason (some crazy empathy?) you've progressed from not knowing this mer to sharing one of the most intimate possible activities in a matter of minutes. It's surprisingly true that you're really into it, and it does seem to have worked as far as making you feel better goes.\n\nThen something twitches hard up somewhere weird inside of you in a way you've never felt before. You feel a little bit like you're going to puke, but that doesn't happen, and then there's pressure somewhere unexpected and, oh shit.\n\nMaybe the kiss catalyzed it or maybe it's a ridiculous coincidence, but you're about lay your eggs.\n\n[[Find someplace to go, now!]]
"So is it... safe here?" They shrug as if to say 'as safe as anywhere.' They have a point, you've got to admit. "I see this island. Are there any humans here?" You really, really hope there aren't, although you figure that if there were, you wouldn't be meeting this lovely little mer right now. Hmm. Lovely. That wasn't a word you'd meant to attach to them. How odd.\n\n"Human leave," they say. "Time gone. Safer." You feel a rush of relief and wonder what happened here, if there's a reason the humans deserted a settlement in the middle of the sea, but it's not really important, so you let it go. "Place good. Hunt good." They gesture at their spear and you're glad to understand that it's at least mostly just a hunting tool.\n<<set $talk_choices = $talk_choices + 1>>\n<<display "Talk Actions">>
You're not really doing it on purpose but sheer panic grips you along with your internal contortions and you flex muscles you weren't totally aware you had before in a futile attempt to hold everything in. The anxious mer says something inaudible. After a little of this you slacken a bit and give up trying to resist, because it's not helping anything.\n<<set $laying_choices = $laying_choices + 1>>\n<<display "Egg-Laying!">>
You swim. You swim and swim and swim and swim and swim and time keeps passing, and when you're hungry (which is too often) you hunt, and when the sun's out you're following or fleeing it, and when it's not you search for places to sleep, some of which are a lot safer than others and some of which are more than a little bit dubious. You're pretty sure that with every passing day your belly grows more and more; you're feeling something bulge noticeably deep underneath your skin. You start to worry that you're not going to find whatever it is you're looking for in time, and you still don't know how much time you have left.\n\nThe waters around you grow stranger and eventually shallower. You're not sure if that second part is a good thing, but whatever. And one day you sight land; an island, maybe remote and maybe not, you can't tell. You're a bit skittish about getting this close to places that humans might frequent, but for some reason you have a good feeling about this place; call it women's intuition (mother's intuition?).\n\nIt's evening again when all of a sudden you're not alone. The shock of seeing another mer after so long on your own is difficult to process; you're elated and afraid at the same time. The other one is distant at first; you can make out a patchwork of orange and black, and they're holding something in one hand. It might be a weapon. It's probably a weapon. You try not to worry; there shouldn't be anything to fear here. You wonder whether it's a woman or a man; as they close in you scrutinize their body to figure it out and in the end you aren't really sure what to think. They're androgynous, with small swells for breasts and a lithe body structure that could be a woman's or maybe a somewhat feminine man's. Whatever they are, though, you aren't getting that skeezy feeling mermen always inspire in you, so that's good. Their tail is particularly beautiful, with scales that shimmer even in the dim light and a number of transparent, almost ethereal fins.\n\nThey definitely are holding a weapon, though. It's a long spear that actually looks metallic, which is weird for a mer, but you suppose stranger things have happened. They look you over too, there's a tense moment as they seem to assess your potential threat level, and then they plant the spear in the sand and wave.\n\n"Hello," you say, "I don't mean any harm. I'm sort of looking for help," and your voice comes out squeaky and rusty. When was the last time you bothered forming words out loud? They look at you quizzically and you're immediately sure that there is a language barrier here.\n\n"Pleasant night," they say, and their voice is hesitant but still lyrical. "From where?"\n<<set $talk_choices = 0>>\n<<display "Talk Actions">>
Your tongues break metaphor and seem to literally tangle. It helps that theirs is a lot longer and thinner than yours.\n<<set $kiss_actions = $kiss_actions +1>>\n<<display "Kiss Actions">>
You shut your eyes and let their tongue explore the inside of your mouth, caressing soft flesh and flicking over your pointed teeth.\n<<set $kiss_actions = $kiss_actions +1>>\n<<display "Kiss Actions">>
<<if $laying_choices eq 3>>\n[[Lay your eggs]]\n<<else>>\nWhat should you do?\n<<actions "Resist instinctively" "Let it happen" "Try to push them out">>\n<<endif>>
Content warning: gore, people making out, graphic depiction of pregnancy and egg-laying\n\nCoding help from the illustrious [[Porpentine|]]\n\nStylesheet made by [[Leon Arnott|]]\n\n[[Play the game|The Beginning]]
The cave is dark except for where it catches the stray streams of light that gleam down from the entrance a few dozen feet above and then explode into multiple colors upon reaching the hard crystal formations near the floor.\n\n<<display "Cavern Actions">>
You try to relax and just let them flow, but it's not that simple. Your insides are churning and you've never felt anything like this before. The eggs are probably not actually that big but inside of you they feel colossal. It is completely silly to think that they are going to fit out of this orifice. The other mer strokes your arm gently.\n<<set $laying_choices = $laying_choices + 1>>\n<<display "Egg-Laying!">>
You can't see your own face here of course, but you take a minute to admire the rest of yourself, which in your giddier moments you might admit you are rather proud of. Your skin is mostly purple and tinted faintly pink in some places; your long hair is a bright wild fuschia that spreads out behind you like a tangled cloud. Your breasts are modest but respectable, and at the waist your flesh fades smoothly into iridiscent pink scale as your tail takes over, then narrows before opening up into your thick, two-forked caudal fin, which itself is slightly transparent and a lighter pink than the rest of your lower body.\n<<set $cave_actions = $cave_actions + 1>>\n<<display "Cavern Actions">>
You haven't exactly been keeping track of time since you set out on your own. Your mother always seemed to follow the passage of days, but you evidently did not inherit that particular skill, though you like to think that you at least got the stunning magenta of your eyes from her.\n\nAnyway, the point is that you didn't realize how old you were, just how many weeks and months and years swam by as you frolicked and hunted your way through life. But here you are, and the slow, almost alien pulsing in your belly says exactly what you don't want to hear.\n\nYou are thirty years old and your reproductive system is taking its cue to start growing eggs. That's what's been bothering you for the past few days (weeks?), that weird grinding feeling, the pains in your gut, the dizzy spells, being hungrier than usual.\n\nSo you're pregnant. That's something.\n\n[[Think about biology|Think About Biology]]
You're gently but firmly shaken out of your deep slumber. The mer who has become the second parent to your children looks urgently into your bleary eyes. You uncurl yourself from around the eggs and then realize what's happening.\n\n"Born," they say, "Now happens." You look at the eggs, some of which are beginning to jitter and shake. The little lights inside are barely visible now that they lack such strong contrast to their surroundings, but you notice that some of the lights are pink and some are orange. This is fine with you, you decide. This is okay. On impulse you tug the other mer closer and kiss them quickly on the lips. Then the two of you huddle close over the clutch and begin to wait.\n\nSlowly, ever so slowly, the first of the eggs begins to open. Membranes part in one place as what you realize must be absolutely the most heartrendingly adorable little girl in the whole ocean nibbles her way free. It's kind of hard to believe you were ever this tiny; the baby, your first baby is maybe the size of a big shrimp. She wriggles in the water and lets out a tiny squeaking noise; you gently snatch her up and hold her in your hand, where she wiggles a little more and then nestles down, cradled in your palm. The other mer wraps an arm around your waist and you realize that you're crying again, except this time it's different, it's some sort of bizarre and overwhelming happy crying that part of you wishes could last forever.\n\nYou realize as the eggs are chewed through one by one and more and more little merfolk emerge that this is easily one of the most important things you have ever seen. Before today you didn't, couldn't really understand, but now you do, you do and it's shining and it's glorious.\n\nAs far as you can tell the genders of your children are pretty even; in fact, you count them again, and maybe it's a twist of fate or maybe it's just biology you aren't familiar with, but there are nine pink little boys, nine pink little girls, and nine orange and black somethings. You're still not sure what to call the other mer or these little ones, but you aren't really worried about that. Whatever they are, they're here and they're yours and they're beautiful and that's what matters.\n\n[[Epilogue]]
Well, you didn't exactly feast, but between the fish and the crabs you're feeling pretty good again. You think maybe you can get in a few more hours of swimming before you tucker out and crash for the night, so you gather yourself up, clear your head a bit and then blast off. These waters are still mostly uninhabited so you keep close to the surface; you pop out of the water every so often to keep a lookout for ships, but if there are any you'll see them long before they're a threat, and then you can just dive. Humans are dangerous, but this isn't their domain, and as long as you're careful they'll never come close to catching you.\n\nAlmost before you know it the moon is out, and you're tired and also a bit worried about trying to navigate without the sun to use as a compass, so you poke around underwater until you luck out and find a nice little cave to curl up in for the night. It's nothing like your old home, it lacks the space and the shiny splendor, but it's cozy and seems pretty safe. Despite your circumstances you feel very young and a little bit frightened and you fall asleep curled up into a tight ring, hugging your own tail.\n\nYou have a short but awful dream. In it, you've laid your eggs and are floating guard nearby, but something distracts you and when you turn back around the clutch is being menaced by an unreasonably massive shark. You're holding a short, sharp spear, but when you charge the shark the head just breaks off in its thick skin without doing any real damage. It turns from the eggs to you, which seems like a good thing for a second before it charges and bites you in half at the waist. You watch in agonized horror as your tail disappears into its gaping maw. Your torn entrails spill out in slow motion as thick blood clouds the water. Your last thought is the realization that you've died for nothing, and as soon as it's done with you, the shark will be back to your clutch...\n\n[[Wake up!]]
You wake up choking back a scream, but the calm light of morning brings you back to reality fairly quickly. You remember that your eggs are still safe inside you, sharks don't get that big around here, and you have not in fact been eaten alive.\n\nBefore leaving the cave you lay a hand on your stomach (a habit you suspect will stick around for a while). It's small, but the difference is there; even just since yesterday the eggs have grown. You kind of panic a little bit, because even though you want these kids, you also don't want these kids, and there are semi-living things growing inside you and it's scary and even though you haven't seen her in a decade you kind of wish your mom was here right now. You'd give anything to have someone to talk to about this, to give you advice or even just listen. You remember the way you'd wrap your small arms around her waist and cry whenever you were afraid. She'd tangle her fingers in your hair and stroke your head and sing to you, wordless songs about everything and nothing. You never totally understood how she did that, but it always made you feel so much better.\n\nYou have the odd realization that if you are now thirty years old, then your mother has already spent her fifteen free years and is preparing to enter her next matron phase. It's kind of unsettling to think that, assuming she's still alive (and she must be, right?), your mom is pregnant at the same time you are.\n\nSometimes life is just weird like that, you suppose.\n\n[[Swim]]
Minutes pass, then hours. The sun curves across the sky; you track its progress as it slowly stops being your target and heads west. Despite the freedom of the open sea and the infinite sweetness of cold infinite skies above and cool infinite depths below, you begin to feel more and more hurried; you don't really know how much time you have before things start to... move along, and who knows how much progress you're actually making? Before you know it the sun is behind you, another thing to flee with all your might.\n\nAt this point you're still not really even sure what it is you're running from. From motherhood? Maybe. From males? Of course. From yourself? It's starting to look that way. If only you really could run away from yourself; if only the eggs steadily growing inside of you were something you could escape just by swimming.\n\nAt one point you're resting for a while, just kind of floating in a peaceful stretch of sea and waiting to recharge, and your hand drifts down and strokes your belly. Yesterday it was normal but today it's bigger, just a little bit, just enough so you can notice. You wonder how many eggs are in there right now, how big they're going to get, whether it's going to hurt when they eventually come out. When are they going to come out, anyway? How long does all this take? You really wish you knew. Did your mother tell you these things when you weren't paying attention? Did you forget? Did you ever know?\n\nYour stomach growls. It almost feels like something moving in there, even though that makes zero sense, it's not like you're some mammal, but it still scares you half to death before you realize you've been swimming hard for most of the day and haven't eaten a thing.\n<<set $food_count = 0>>\n<<display "Food Actions">>
"What's your name?" They stare for a little while, head cocked to the side in confusion. You point to yourself and say your name, then point to them. They smile and shake their head. What does that mean? Do they not understand? It sure seems like they understand, though. "You don't have a name, is that it?\n"\n"No means," they say, shrugging, "Nothing." You're pretty sure you understand now, so you nod vigorously and then they surprise you by giggling and swimming around in a little excited circle. Maybe they haven't seen any other mer in a while, either. Maybe they just like you. That idea makes you blush a little and you're not sure why.\n\n"You live here?" They nod at you and smile wider, then spread their arms to indicate the island and its surrounding waters.\n<<set $talk_choices = $talk_choices + 1>>\n<<display "Talk Actions">>
The idea is so tempting. Of course you could wait it out, lay your eggs and then just... leave. So a few unborn merfolk get eaten by fish or whatever; the sea is full of your kind and it's not like you only breed once every thirty years... oh, wait, that's right, humans have driven the mer deep into the seas where they number few, and while reproductive processes vary by species, the sad fact is that nobody is having a whole lot of kids.\n\nBut that's not your responsibility. This is your life. You don't owe anything to your race or whatever; you didn't sign up to be a parent, it's not your fault your stupid body thinks it's time to make babies, and it's not like they'd really be alive if left unfertilized anyway.\n\nThen despite all of that truth you have an awful mental image of some nasty deep sea fish messily gobbling up a school of little merfolk, its weird teeth ripping apart young flesh, blood in the water, something monstrous eating children... eating your children.\n\nNo, you guess you're not going to ditch the eggs. Damn your stupid sentimentality.\n<<set $egg_choices = $egg_choices + 1>>\n<<display "Egg Choices">>
Time is a funny thing, you realize: like the water that spreads life across the earth, it ebbs and flows. Sometimes it cycles for months or years, its rough surf breaking again and again against the rocks that contain the most critical moments of your life. Sometimes the current moves against you and the days crawl by, though this is not always a bad thing; sometimes it moves with you and the years slip by in your wake. In your own life you have experienced all of these things, but now you follow the lattermost path.\n\nIn the early days the babies form a precious little school of bright swishing colors, swimming tiny circles all around you. You catch fish, break their spines and let the little ones swarm over them until there's nothing left but bones. The other mer (your mate? Yes, you think eventually, that's the right word to describe them) comes and goes; unlike a male, or at least the males you knew, they never really disappear from your life, but they do make many forays out into the greater sea. Communication evolves and becomes easier, and as the years go on and your children age, the two of you only seem to grow closer.\n\nAs for the children, they become the light of your life, the sea in which you swim, the stars in your sky. The nights are cold and the ocean can be cruel; not all of them survive. Death strikes when it will and the rest of you mourn the holes left forever in your hearts, but in the end you force yourself to be content with the fact that most of them at least make it to adulthood.\n\nFifteen years come and go so much faster than you could ever have imagined back in your first maiden phase, and the night your last daughter leaves, you spend a while beached on a slab of sea-worn rock, sobbing with pain and joy that is greater than you can fully comprehend. You run your fingers over your mother's pendant and wonder where she is. You wish that she could see you now, see what you've made and raised and loved.\n\nBut the morning comes, and you are not alone, and together, hand in hand, you and your nameless, beloved mate leave your home behind; the empty island, the pier under which your children were hatched (rotted and collapsed years ago), the waters that seemed so strange at first but are now mapped out in your head like the scales on your tail.\n\nYou swim far and deep, finding seas newer and stranger still. Even though your children have left and in that way your heart has broken, there's much love and happiness to wring out of life; your first matron phase is over and your second maiden phase begun, and there is still something intoxicating about returning to an existence nearly free of responsibility.\n\nFifteen years, you think to yourself. Fifteen years of roaming and adventure, and then it will be time for another kind of adventure all over again. You wonder if next time you'll still be scared, if you'll still be with your mate or if life will have taken a different course. You wonder a lot of things, but now you believe you know that whatever happens, there is beauty and meaning everywhere, and life will always find a way.\n\n*THE END\n\n[[3x3x3]]
You struggle to remember everything your mother taught you. It's been at least fifteen years now, you realize, but you can still pull up the basics. Your species (one of a great many, naturally) reproduces through the following seemingly simple process: starting at age thirty, once every thirty years the female's body automatically begins to produce eggs. After some amount of time you can't quite recall, the eggs are ready to be deposited in a safe place (you hope that part isn't going to be too unpleasant), where they will wait for a male to release a cloud of genetic material which acts as the final catalyst for the young to hatch; while most of the work is done by the female's body, without that last minute fertilization by a male, the eggs will not be viable.\n\nThis might not be a problem if you were interested in any males, or even knew any at all, or, most importantly, if you were sure you were ready to raise children in the first place.\n<<set $egg_choices = 0>>\n\n[[Leave the cave and gather your thoughts|Swim Around Thinking]]
Looking down, the cavern floor glitters below you, strewn with natural crystal formations and the few possessions you own. You see things that you're no longer really interested in; land-dweller relics mostly, such as a child's lost shoe (the rubber sole of which fascinated you for hours when you found it), a bloated and blurred book (that day you learned that some things don't do so well underwater), a chain of rusted keys (you still wonder what they might have been meant to open). Of course, the only possession that really matters to you is around your neck where it stays always, this being a pendant left to you by your mother many years ago.\n<<set $cave_actions = $cave_actions + 1>>\n<<display "Cavern Actions">>
This idea has potential, but where are you going to find anybody willing to take two dozen or so fresh eggs and spend the traditional fifteen years raising them? (And let's not even start on how you could possibly let a merman anywhere near something of yours to fertilize it in the first place...) The women are either busy working on their own kids or enjoying their maiden phases, and the men... well, really, the less said about the men, the better. What good are they, anyway? All they do on the rare occasion that you intersect with other merfolk is get in stupid fights and try to show off for the girls. Again, it all comes back around to reproduction, although you suppose if you're being fair, maybe some of those guys are actually interested in romance and not just feeding their egos by spraying some random maid's clutch. Gross, though. Gross.\n\nSo as much as you'd like to pass the eggs off into somebody else's hands, the reality is it's probably not going to happen. Even if you found the rare stable community you don't think you'd run into a mermaid willing to take on a double-load of kids or sacrifice one of her fifteen-year stretches of freedom.\n\nYeah, as much as it sucks, adoption is probably a no-go.\n<<set $egg_choices = $egg_choices + 1>>\n<<display "Egg Choices">>
A few panicked gestures toward your spasming belly and the look on your face make it obvious to the surprised mer what is about to happen. They swim around in circles for a minute, apparently thinking furiously about what to do, then they take your hand in theirs and tug you along the side of the island with them. It's tough going in the state you're in, but you manage.\n\nAbout a mile down the coast is the abandoned ruin of a human village, and the androgynous mer waits anxiously while you try to figure out the best place to settle down. Eventually you find a little nook on a slope under a decrepit pier that will hopefully serve your purposes and it's a good thing too because something hard is knocking at a previously unused oviduct and you're not sure how much longer you can oh my god they're coming.\n<<set $laying_choices = 0>>\n<<display "Egg-Laying!">>
"I came all this way," you say slowly, "because I..." but then you trail off because you're not even sure where to start, and honestly you're not even sure why yourself. They cock their head to one side. "I um, I'm thirty now and, and I guess I'm pregnant?" They don't seem to recognize the word, so you point to your belly, which is now rather large and has been throbbing painfully off and on for days.\n\n"Children," they say simply, and then you start crying because somehow that sums everything up way better than you ever could have. You cry uncontrollably for maybe a whole minute before they tap you on the shoulder, startling you out of your emotions. They're right in front of you, their face is up close to yours, and god damn, it's in a way you can't quite describe but they're beautiful, they're so beautiful and their big black eyes are deeper than the bottom of the sea, it's such a cliche but it's true, and it's arrogant but you read their face and you think maybe they're thinking something similar.\n\nThen they set their soft hands on your shoulders, squeeze gently, lean in and kiss you deep. Their tongue is warm and salty and a little bit sweet and feeling it move against yours sends hot lightning down your spine.\n<<set $kiss_actions = 0>>\n<<display "Kiss Actions">>
Why does the thought of those eggs never hatching make you sad? You don't care. You certainly don't give a damn about any males, and you don't even want kids, anyway.\n\nRight?\n\nLike, seriously. You, a mother? The idea is almost as ridiculous as it is absurd. Hell, you didn't even notice you were of breeding age, how could you take care of children? The whole thing would be a disaster. They'd probably all die. And even if they didn't, the law of the ocean says that some would... and how could you possibly deal with that? No no no no no. Not going to happen.\n\nSomewhere in the back of your mind there's a blurry scene like something from a dream. A small hand held in yours, an innocent smile, a shrill and sweet voice calling out, "mommy."\n\nOkay, so maybe part of you does want to be a mom after all.\nFuck.\n\n[[Formulate a vague and desperate plan]]\n
Uh, no. That's not a good idea. First of all, you're really hungry and starting to get tired, so dinner is kind of important. And secondly, lest you forget (hah, like that could happen), you're pregnant and if you do want to be a mom (you don't! you do! you... shit!) you think that starving yourself while your eggs are still developing has to be a bad idea. How awful would it be if you did see all of this through and something went wrong because you were too lazy and stupid to eat some damn food?\n\n<<display "Food Actions">>
<<if $talk_choices eq 3>>\n[[Tell your story]]\n<<else>>\nWhat should you do?\n<<actions "Talk about home" "Ask about them" "Ask about the area">>\n<<endif>>
<<if $egg_choices eq 3>>\n[[Think some more|Think some more]]\n<<else>>\nWhat should you do?\n<<actions "Ditch the eggs" "Try to get the kids adopted" "Find a willing male">>\n<<endif>>
<<if $kiss_actions eq 3>>\n[[Oh, shit]]\n<<else>>\nWhat should you do?\n<<actions "Let them kiss you" "Kiss back" "Kiss hard">>\n<<endif>>
a mermaid's tale
You've got nothing to lose and the sudden throbbing pain behind your navel is saying "get a move on, girl," so the next thing you know you're racing away from your newly abandoned cave, slicing the water like a shimmering pink blade, chasing the rising sun.\n\n[[Keep swimming]]
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You didn't even just think that. No. Just no. Even if he left afterward, which is customary in a lot of places anyway, the idea of letting some male interact with your eggs is just... nasty. You spend a while ruminating sadly on the unfairness of being born with romantic feelings that seem to extend only to the wrong sex.\n\nWhat could your life be like, in a world where things were different? You imagine holding hands with another girl (woman? it's odd to think of yourself as already being thirty), showing her your dorky little cave... No, though. The odds are stacked way against you, and you're not going to bother hoping for something that isn't going to happen. And anyway, that's all beside the point. You were trying to figure out what to do with your rapidly escalating pregnancy, not obsessing over things that can never be.\n\nFinding a male, though. Nope. Not going to happen.\n<<set $egg_choices = $egg_choices + 1>>\n<<display "Egg Choices">>
<<if $food_count gte 2 >>\n[[Okay, you're good for now]]\n<<else>>\nWhat should you do?\n<<actions "Just keep swimming" "Hunt for some fish" "Any crabs around here?">>\n<<endif>>
You make your way down low to some ridges of rock where the light begins to dim. It turns out that yes, there are some crabs around here, which is great because crabs are pretty easy pickings. You snatch up a couple of lively specimens, bash them against the rocks, crack open their twitching limbs and scrape out the tender meat inside. You spend a little while savoring the meal; crab isn't really that hard to come by, but you've always had a special liking for it. It's not a whole lot of food, but it tastes good and it's way better than nothing.\n<<set $food_count = $food_count + 1>>\n<<display "Food Actions">>
Then something kind of gives way, like it's finally been stretched far enough by the incredible pressure, and there's a slow sloppy pop as the first egg leaves your body. It's surprisingly small, maybe about two inches in diameter, and it kind of just floats there. You think that maybe this should be embarrassing because it is probably literally the most intimate thing that has ever happened to you and somebody you barely know is watching, but it's not, it's too crazy and overwhelming for you to actually feel anything except what's happening directly to your body. The other mer points at the egg meaningfully and has a question in their eyes. You shut yours for a second, mustering the energy to place that kind of trust, then nod. They ever so carefully pluck the egg from its slow drift away and, holding it between their long, slender thumb and index finger, set it down in a little nest of kelp that you hastily erected less than an hour ago.\n\nA long time passes this way. They're all easier after the first one, but it's a time consuming and exhausting process, and there are a whole lot of eggs. You lie there and live out the same cycle of slowly pushing out one egg, letting the other mer place it carefully into the clutch, and then pushing out another.\n\nThe moon is high in the sky when the last egg leaves your body. The pressure slowly relents as your reproductive muscles figure out that they won't be needed again for another thirty years, and you lie back against a sandy slope, your whole body worn out and slightly twitchy. You look over the cozy little pile of eggs and try to count them. You're pretty sure that all in all, there are twenty seven. The other mer finally lets go of your hand.\n\n"Should?" they ask simply. "Can?" This is the one remaining thing you were worried about; does this mer have the anatomy necessary to finish this process? Are you even compatible like that, species-wise? But their question shows that they know what needs to be done and so you figure the answers are 'yes' and 'who knows but it's worth a shot' respectively. You nod.\n\n"Yes," you say, and they look touched, elated, and scared all at once. They carefully position themselves over the eggs, shut their eyes for maybe a solid minute, and then a small cloud of murk puffs out from somewhere on their body and settles over the eggs. A moment passes, and from inside the soft pink orbs, tiny lights begin to glow.\n\nEverything has gotten all fuzzy and strange and even though your stomach is empty it feels incredibly warm. You roll over slowly, and as you curl up protectively around your clutch and fall asleep, the orange and black mer floats watch carefully, their spear kept within reach. Then everything is close and black and endless and you don't have to think about anything for a while at all.\n\n[[Be shaken awake]]
she dances in the depths, spinning ever down\ntoward caverns streaked with shimmer-stone\ngills flared and run through with salt and sea\nshe roams deep where the glitter-things glow\nwhere the anglers are angling and open-mouthed\nand the lights from the land are long lost\n\nand through the swift years she swirls\nin concentric circles and somersaults\nwithout a thought, needing not a prayer\nbut years they bring new changing\nparts and feelings slowly rearranging\nyoung ones, growing up is never fair\n\nyou see the sea it teems with life\nand life must always seek a way to spread\nself-propagating nature always wins\nand one day she sees the shifting\nin her belly where nothing used to be\nfor life must always seek a way to grow\n\nuntouched by man (nor woman, either)\nthe fact is not all races spawn the same\nand the eggs inside are swelling\nthe hunger pangs, the extra hunts are telling\nalthough the future is not what she wishes to face\nthe present has shown and cannot be erased\n\n"but i have no mate," she ponders, "i wander\nthese waters alone. the eggs must find a place\nto rest, hidden and safe, held close to my chest."\nbut her species has no way to bring a child to breathe\nwithout some meaningless heterosexuality\na brief stop and genetics bringing 'unity'\n\nand what of the orbs inside her gut\ngrowing every day? she questions what \ndoes she want for herself anyway? days\nand nights in worry, a shepherd's life\nwatching children wander off and die\nundone by the sea's heartless mercy?\n\nand always she had somehow thought\n"well, that will never happen to me"\nbut biology has a way of making naught\n"i'll live my days out wild and free"\nof the dreams for which we've fought\n"not held back by eggs of three by three by three"\n\nimagines herself simply laying to run\nthe clutch sinking into the shadowed sea\nand though she knows that eggs are not true life\nin her heart they are hers and she could not bear to see\nthem torn and devoured by the strife of the seas\n"no," she declares, "no such fate for my own progeny."\n\nbut what of the other, the partner in crime? she has never\nfelt the stir of flame for man, be it man of earth or sea\nand she curses the specifics of the species she was born to be\nso with no time to waste she journeys far and deep\nto find a solution, in search of some key\nto break the bonds of what she was born to be\n\nthen miles from home and far to the east\nis something she's not seen in months at least\nanother of the folk who frolic in shallows and reefs\nand small and strange and orange as this one be\nlittle lights glow in the back of their eyes\nand when she tells them her story, they kiss her deep\n\nand so in a warmer place in an empty league\nshe lets herself lay and the other watch anxiously\nher eyes close tight and her muscles jeer\nand by night they fill a large hole just under a pier\nthe maiden swims wearily, then the other's release\nand together they watch as the eggs begin to creak\n\nin the morning the children they open their eyes\nby the moon's fall they swarm around her all night\nlittle maids, men, and folk no larger than fat little shrimp\na spectrum of pink and orange spotted imps\nthe maiden and person go their separate ways\nand she takes to the sea to raise her babes\n\nand the years wear on and the years go by\nsome children grow fine, some children die\nand in the end when they leave her, strong and sweet\nthat night she lies upon her favorite rock beneath a yellow moon\nand thinking of what she has loved and let go, she weeps "too soon"\nbut in the morning she swims deep, because whatever she has made of herself\nin the end she will live her days out wild and free.
3x3x3 was inspired by a poem which in turn was inspired by a dream. i hope that whatever you take from the game that you enjoyed yourself, and i hope that whatever course your actual life takes, you manage to find some sort of meaning in it!\n\nwhat follows is the original poem, which differs a little bit from the game. feel free to read it, or just close your browser. either way, thank you for playing!\n\n[[Read the poem]]
Restless and disturbed, you decide to wander a bit and see if that helps you gather your thoughts. A few flicks of your powerful tail and you're sailing up and out of your cavern. Swimming up, up, up, you burst from the sea and fly through the air in a short smooth arc before knifing back down below the surface. The exhilaration of motion and the cold morning air on your rarely exposed body distracts you for a little while but doesn't really contribute to your plans.\n\nAs you thrash out your frustration in undulant swerves around skittish schools of fish and outcroppings of underwater rock, you contemplate your future. You're pregnant, there's no getting around that; it was going to happen eventually, even if you had kind of felt somewhere in your heart that it never would.\n\n<<display "Egg Choices">>
You turn your gaze up to the entrance of your small home. After spending hours down here in contemplation, staring directly at the blazing light hurts your eyes. Of course you know that your cave opens out of a high rock wall against which angry surf thrashes day and night. You don't think you'll be bothered down here, at least not today.\n<<set $cave_actions = $cave_actions + 1>>\n<<display "Cavern Actions">>
Wait! Years ago, when you were a child yourself, you remember your own mother telling you stories about other sorts of merfolk way out there in that infinite ocean, strange cultures with strange customs, strange people with stranger biology. If you were to journey far enough from familiar waters, who knows what you might find?\n\n[[Swim, swim, swim!]]
Kayla Overkill