"Oh. Oh-ho-ho," Hoodie says. "Oh, no."
"No," he says decidedly. "Oh, no, no, no."
It all started because of Pete Wentz.
Well, maybe that isn't fair.
Actually, no, that’s entirely fair. If it wasn’t for Pete Wentz, Hoodie would be at home, in bed, watching Netflix, and eating pizza.
Instead, because of Pete Wentz, Hoodie is going to fucking die.
He doesn’t mean, like, a metaphorical death or whatever. No. He’s going to literally fucking die. Drown, to be more precise. In the middle of the fucking ocean. Because he got sucked in by a riptide. Because he went to the beach. Because Pete Wentz made him visit his stupid-ass beach house. So now he’s going to to drown.
Or maybe he’ll get eaten by a shark.
Death by shark, he thinks to himself. He supposes it’ll be preferable to drowning. It’ll be over quicker, and besides, Pete will have the opportunity to find his mangled corpse. Mangled corpses elicit much more guilt than intact corpses.
"Death by shark," Hoodie says to himself, nodding.
"What?" someone else says.
Fast forward to Hoodie oh-no-ing.
"Oh, no," Hoodie says. "Oh-ho. No."
"Are you okay?" the… creature asks.
"I’m dead," Hoodie replies dumbly. "Like, I’ve legit died. And I’m in some weird purgatory with only a fish-man to keep me company." He blinks. "The Torah didn’t say anything about this."
"Who’s the Torah?" the creature asks.
"Who? No, the Torah’s a thing, not a person," Hoodie says, momentarily distracted.
"Then how can it tell you anything?" the creature says.
Hoodie decides that he has more important things to be talking about. "Who are you?"
The creature smiles brightly. "I’m Max," it says eagerly.
"Oh," Hoodie says. That didn’t really help him. "That didn’t really help me," he informs the creature.
"Oh," Max echoes, smile faltering slightly. It comes back in full force, however, when Max brightens and says, "Well, you can ask me anything you want! I like answering questions. I like lots of things!"
Hoodie isn’t sure that he can withstand this much earnestness so close to the source.
"Where the fuck am I," he settles on as a first.
"The ocean!" Max says. "Okay, my turn. Where is your–"
"Wait, hold on," Hoodie says, "I’m still in the ocean?"
"Well, where did you think you were?" Max says, gently splashing Hoodie with a bit. Hoodie splutters, momentarily forgetting to tread water. His eyes stay open, and before he can think ow, that stings, he sees a fucking TAIL. The gills were one thing, but a FUCKING BRIGHT RED MERMAID TAIL.
Max is pulling Hoodie back up. "Whoa, human!" it says frantically.
"You!" Hoodie says, not even caring that he’s getting saltwater into his mouth. "You! I– no!"
"What?" Max says, eyes wide.
"No!" Hoodie yelps."You! Mermaid!"
"Yes," Max says. "Why?"
"So," Hoodie says once he’s regained his senses. "Mermaid."
"Merman, really," Max says. He absentmindedly taps a little beat on the piece of driftwood he found for Hoodie to rest on. "The women just get more attention."
"Oh," Hoodie says, unsure what to say other than, "Are you sure I haven’t died?"
"Why do you keep saying that you’re dead?" Max asks, looking bewildered. "You’re not dead. At least, I hope you’re not. I like you."
"Well, I– uh," Hoodie says disjointedly, "humans… don’t really, ah, think mermaids– exist."
Max furrows he eyebrows. "That’s silly."
"…yeah," Hoodie says.
"If you didn’t think I existed before this," Max says, "do you want to ask me questions?"
"Questions?" Hoodie repeats stupidly.
"Yeah," Max says. "I think if I thought humans didn’t exist, and then I met a human, I’d have a lot of questions."
"Oh," is all Hoodie can think to say.
"Like I said earlier," Max says, "you can ask me anything you want. I’m very easy."
"What?" Max says, sounding alarmed.
"Nothing, nothing" Hoodie wheezes.
"So I guess I should be going back now," Hoodie says with a sigh. He looks at the surrounding water and sighs. He’s been atop the driftwood long enough to become mostly dry, and the idea of having to get all wet again doesn’t exactly appeal to him.
"Aw, really?" Max asks, pouting slightly.
"Yeah, it’s late," Hoodie says, checking his wrist to see if there’s a watch there. There isn’t. There never is.
"Oh," Max says, and he looks very gloomy.
"But maybe I could come back?" Hoodie offers hesitantly, and Max’s face instantly pulls into the happiest expression Hoodie has ever seen.
"Yeah!" he says eagerly. "Here?"
"Well, uh, it's going to be a bit difficult to get out this far on purpose," Hoodie tells him. "But my friend has a dock up… that way. I think," he says, pointing. "Do… can you come up close enough for me to meet you? The water’s pretty deep there."
Max frowns, following the direction of Hoodie’s finger. "I guess so," he says slowly. "Are there a lot of boats there, though? Boat engines make my ears hurt, and too much metal makes my skin itch."
"There’s, like, one boat, and no one ever uses it," Hoodie reassures him.
Max smiles brightly. "Then I’ll see you there same time tomorrow!" he says. Then, in one quick motion, he pushes himself up onto the driftwood, next to Hoodie, and grabs Hoodie’s ears. Then Max very carefully presses his lips to Hoodie’s. "Bye!" he chirps before diving back into the water, red tail waving in farewell.
"Wait," Hoodie says, realizing that he’s going to have to swim all the way back to shore on his own now. "Shit."