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Mermaids Explained

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"Napoleon? Do you know who I am?"

"You're Illya," I tell him, truthfully.

What a stupid question. I'm tired of stupid questions. Illya is not stupid and should not be asking me stupid questions and that is the truth. Everybody is always asking me questions. For days now, asking me questions. His hair is pretty, all gold and glowing, and that is also the truth. I want to sit up so that I can touch it, but Illya makes me lie down again.

I don't like the man with the white coat who is standing too close to Illya. He talks about me as though I am not in the room. He says to Illya: "You're the only person he recognizes."

Of course I recognize Illya. Illya is my pussycat. Meow, Meow, Meow. I want to pet him and lick him clean because he is very dirty from when he made all the explosions. The birdies didn't like the explosions. They all flew away. Now he is filthy. I decide I would not like to lick him clean after all, but I don't want his feelings to be hurt so I pet him instead. Illya does not like to be petted but I do it anyway until he makes me stop.

"Napoleon, try to pay attention. This is very important. You need to repeat for me everything that you told Thrush and then you can have a nice, peaceful nap," Illya says.

I never really noticed before how Illya is not a very good liar. Illya is a spy and spies have to tell lies all the time so how can he be not a very good liar? I'm good at telling lies. I'm a spy-er, liar pants on fire. I look down to make sure my pants aren't on fire only I don't have pants, I have a hospital gown. Maybe that's why I can't seem to make up lies.

"Please, Napoleon, what did you talk about while you were with Thrush?"

I almost told him but I remembered in time that Illya is not allowed to know the truth either. He is from the Soviet Onion where they put people in the Gulag for a very long time. I don't ever want Illya to be put in the Gulag.

"Meow, Meow, Meow," I say to him, in the language of cats. Birds cannot understand the language of cats.

The man in the white coat shines a light in my eye. It makes me blink and when I stop blinking there is two of Illya. I don't want anymore torture so I hit the second Illya to make it go away. When I blink again it is gone and Illya is trying to make me lie back down on the bed.

"He's violent," says the man in the white-and-now-red-spotted coat. He is angry and covering his nose and mouth but I can still hear what he is saying. "He should be put in a straightjacket before he hurts someone."

Illya gets very upset about this suggestion. He must remember how there is no budget left for any more new jackets this month.

"Napoleon, what did you talk about with Thrush?" he asks me again. He is making a face that means this is very important so I decide to answer.

"Mermaids," I tell him and he is really confused. Illya doesn't know about mermaids. "I can't have them," I explain. "They're misters…um, misterological."

"Mythological?"

I nod because that is true and I can only say things that are true. "They're jus like fairies," I add.

The man in the white-and-red coat says something else to Illya and then Illya says in his angry voice, "He's not demented. He's deflecting. It's one of the things we are trained to do under interrogation."

After that Illya makes the man in the white-and-red coat go away.

"Why did Thrush want to know about mermaids? I would have thought they would be more interested in our covert operations."

"They jus' asked about secrets. Mermaids are secret. They sing their mermaid songs and if you give in then it's all over."

"You're thinking of Sirens, Napoleon."

"Mmm not. You don't know anything."

"What don't I know?"

"You don't know about mermaids. I don't let any mermaids sing their mermaid songs at you."

"Of course not, you have a reputation to maintain." Illya smiles a little. He doesn't understand. I try to tap the side of my nose in a knowing way but I miss and poke my eye instead.

Illya grabs my hands and holds them. I like that but it makes me sad. "Mermaids are not allowed to exist," I tell him but he still does not understand.

The door opens and I push away Illya's hands before anyone can see. I'm not supposed to hold his hand. I think I should punch his arm instead because that is allowed but he is too busy talking to the man who doesn't like new jackets.

"Mr. Kuryakin, have you determined what information has been leaked? Our lab analysis of the truth serum suggests that it is very efficient."

"Not efficient enough to work on Napoleon. We've been going over the interrogation for three hours and I haven't been able to drag anything out of him except inexplicable metaphors. I don't think it likely that Thrush did any better."

"As you say. How was Mr. Solo able to resist?"

Illya shrugs. "He thinks of girls."

After the man leaves Illya doesn't ask me anymore questions but he looks so sad that I think I should tell him a secret anyway. I get hold of his hand because there is no one else around to see.

"I'll tell you a secret about mermaids," I say. He leans in close and I whisper it in his ear. He doesn't look sad anymore. He looks red and I think maybe it was a mistake to tell him the secret but then I realize it's not angry red, it's blushing.

He doesn't stop holding my hand.