The Little Mermaid (Idea)

Sci-fi version of “Little Mermaid” where Ariel is a genetically engineered mermaid who is part of a top secret military program (Atlantica). She is capable of sinking submarines and ships with a powerful sonar she is able to create with her underwater voice. She is ordered to sink a fishing vessel (mistakenly thought to be a foreign military vessel) in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Los Angeles. She saves the Captain (Eric) but becomes depressed about her situation of destruction and lack of legs. Of course, she’s smitten by Eric and wants to be with him on land.

Eric’s father happens to be the Admiral who has Project Atlantica under his budget. Once he hears of the incident, he decides to shut it down. The program director (Dr. Triton) is told of the news to shutdown the program and is ordered to euthanize all of the creatures in the program. Of course, he has to keep it a secret, but the AI running the facility (Underwater Research System – Los Angeles) discovers the plan and uses Ariel’s love of Eric to coerce her into becoming a bipedal land dweller.

URSLA sends an AI lobster bot (Sebatian) to make arrangements with Ariel to become bipedal. URSLA fabricates some bionic legs to allow Ariel to see the world through a bipedal experience. Of course, Ariel must do a favor within 72 hours for the URSLA AI by plugging in a blue and yellow device (Flounder) to the USB port of an specific computer (Admiral who is shutting down Atlantica/Eric’s father).

Since Ariel is an underwater creature, she cannot vocally communicate outside of water, and there is not enough time to create a vocal communicator for her. The AI hides her from Dr. Triton but doesn’t let on that it knows Dr. Triton is euthanizing all the creatures and allows them to be systematically killed, including others just like Ariel.

Meanwhile, Ariel gets Eric to fall in love with her via online dating apps and virtual reality, masking her lack of voice. She gets to meet Eric’s father after Eric invites her to have dinner at the Admiral’s house. There she discovers that the URSLA program is slated to be shutdown by Eric’s father because of the incident where Ariel sank Eric’s ship, killing everyone aboard. This is only after she has already plugged in the device to the USB port.

The URSLA AI spreads to a nuclear submarine and begins to move the submarine into the Pacific to initiate global nuclear war. The only one who can stop it is Ariel, but since she no longer has fins, Eric must take her in an old ship, under heavy weather, and drop her into the ocean where she can destroy the submarine. She will have no way to make it back to the surface without fins, but it’s the only way to save Eric and humanity!

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The Cost of Living

Cost of living expenses have continued to soar while wages have remained relatively stagnant for an historical 20 year run. Unemployment rates have remained near historical lows as have crime rates. In fact, crime is all but eradicated. The gap between the cost of living and average income continues to grow and remains a concern for potential increases in crime. To combat this massive living wage gap, the United States government has recently passed the Government Economic Oversight Act to help empower families through a variety of somewhat controversial (but effective) incentive programs.

The newly formed Economic Empowerment Department is well underway with ensuring that population growth does not outpace economic growth while offering parents alternatives to traditional family options. Rebecca and Jonathan are in their final weeks of a rare twin pregnancy. Concerned with the future conditions for their children, they meet with an economic counselor to discuss their situation.

“Welcome to Economic Empowerment!” The counselor sounds like a self help guru. “I’m glad you are taking the time to explore your options with your…” the counselor pauses, pointing at Rebecca’s stomach, “unique condition. It has been quite some time since we’ve had a pregnancy such as yours. So many opportunities for you!”

Rebecca explains to the counselor that she has read up on all the programs online. Rebecca doesn’t view any of the options available as opportunities, but both her and Jonathan are concerned about the grim future for twins.

The counselor holds up a finger to get Rebecca to stop talking and reaches deep into the lower left drawer of his desk. He practically disappears behind the desk, he’s reaching so deep. “Well, there is one new program…” the counselor grunts from behind the desk, “that you might be eligible for,”

“What’s that?” Jonathan stands up to see if the counselor is okay.

Pulling a green folder up and sliding it with his long bony fingers gently on the the desk, the counselor begins to explain. “This is the Governing Responsibly Economic Empowerment Directive. It’s a new program with very strict eligibility requirements and strong privacy guarantees. It is unlike anything else we offer. And it’s good for our economic environment.”

“I’ve never heard of it, but it sounds good,” Jonathan says as he sits down.

“With this program, we run a few tests on your child to discover certain genetic determinants. What that means is that we can predict with 91.9% accuracy how your child’s genetic makeup lends itself to them being a productive member of our society. In the event that your child will not make a living wage, you are given options.”

Rebecca and Jonathan look at each other and then back to the counselor, “Continue.”

“If your child is determined to be unable to achieve an adult income over the predicted livable wage, the United States government will provide you with his/her lifetime earnings in exchange for you donating your child to scientific research.”

“WHAT?!” Rebecca is disgusted.

“Keep in mind that you will also be receiving this payment from our government 100% tax free. No restrictions. And what you’re doing is for the greater good of our fragile economy.”

“You want me to abort my child for a few measly dollars?” Rebecca stands up, but Jonathan remains seated and grabs her wrist.

“Rebecca, listen to what he’s saying. I’m sure the government isn’t going to abort our child. That’s illegal anyway.” Jonathan looks at the counselor, “You’re not going to abort our child, are you?”

“Of course not! That’s illegal!” The counselor motions to Rebecca to sit back down. “Your child will become part of scientific research. None of which involves abortion. It is part of a government program to ensure that we have enough subjects for ongoing child development research and studies into social behavior. It’s all for the greater good, really. This program ensures your child lives a happy, healthy life without concern for financial well being or being a drain on societal resources. It also provides financial security for your family.”

“It’s tax-free, Rebecca,” Jonathan interrupts.

“I’m not going to do it,” Rebecca says adamantly as she gets up and walks out the door.

Jonathan turns to the counselor, “Give us some time. Do the tests have to be performed before birth?”

“No, Mr. Jones. You can perform the tests and complete the paperwork anytime within the first 24 hours of giving birth as long as you have not returned home with your child. Keep in mind that a lifetime of wages for an individual child is often more than $5 million in tax-free income.”

#

Jonathan and Rebecca are in a car riding back to their apartment. She’s giving him the cold shoulder.

“This is something we need to consider. We don’t make enough to support two children. We can barely make enough just to support ourselves,” Jonathan pleads with Rebecca.

“Jon, this is OUR child we’re talking about. This isn’t a cat or a dog. This is our baby. Our unborn child who we will never get to see grow up. Who will probably be poked and prodded and experimented on. God, just thinking about the children who have already been subjected to this experimentation. For what? For science!? For some fast money. A few measly bucks!”

“He said all the experiments were for the greater good, Becks. It’s not a few measly bucks! And we’d only accept the offer if our children qualify by not making a living wage, which means they’d be a burden on us their entire lives. If they are going to be making a living wage, then we don’t even have to consider it at all. It’s a non-issue!”

“The whole thing is a non-issue, Jon. I’m not giving up my children just so that we can have money. I can’t even believe that there is a program like this. It’s disgusting! And the fact that you are even considering it…” Rebecca looks at Jonathan with more anger than he’s ever seen before. “This topic is never going to come up again. You understand me?!”

“Yes, ma’am!”

#

Rebecca is breathing heavily and working through the pain as she’s being rushed through the maternity ward of the hospital. Jonathan is holding her hand and trying to remember the coaching they received during Lemaze class. However, they both know this isn’t a situation that Lemaze prepares you for. Rebecca’s breathing is becoming erratic and her eyes start rolling into the back of her head.

“Emergency C-Section!” The nurses escort Jonathan out of the room and take the now unconscious Rebecca into the emergency ward.

Jonathan is standing in the hallway, palms sweating as he nervously chews on his fingernails. The counselor from the Economic Empowerment Department taps him on the shoulder.

“Have you given further consideration to what’s available to you, Mr. Jones?”

“Rebecca said no way.”

“It would seem Mrs. Jones is incapacitated at the time, is she not? You could sign for her. The tests take only an hour to run through our AI simulator. I can get back to you with the amount, and then you can make the decision.”

“It won’t matter. Rebecca said no way. I can’t make that decision without her.”

“Mr. Jones, you have no obligation to donate your child to the greater good. This is merely to run tests. If you give me your consent, as the only able-bodied parent I can find at this time, I can run the tests and then bring you back all the paperwork and a check with the full 100% tax-free lifetime amount.”

“But it won’t matter. She’s going to notice millions of dollars showing up in our bank account.”

“We can arrange an installment plan, Mr. Jones. You have an opportunity to win the lottery right in front of you. The choice is entire up to you, of course.”

Jonathan nervously fidgets with his fingernails as sweat is starting to bead on the side of his head. He knows that $5 million would allow him to retire. Who knows, it could even be both children. Then he and Rebecca would be $10 million richer! They could retire today. They’d never have to work another day. They could travel the world. Jonathan snaps out of his day dream.

“Mr. Jones?” The counselor extends paperwork towards Jonathan as his eyes widen.

#

Rebecca and Jonathan sit on the balcony of their apartment, drinking coffee. Their son waddles up to them and tugs on Rebecca’s shirt.

“Yes, Aiden.”

“I love you, Mommy.”

“I love you too, sweetheart.”

“Oh, and I think Jackson pooped himself.”

Jonathan jumps up, “I’ll get that on my way out, honey.”

Jonathan walks into the apartment while Aiden crawls into Rebecca’s lap and snuggles up with her. Jonathan puts his empty coffee cup in the dishwasher and washes his hands. He then walks out of the kitchen and into the living room to the fowl odor of poop.

“Aiden was right! You sure pooped yourself!” Jonathan reaches down and picks up Jackson from the crib and places him on the changing table. Jonathan whistles while changing his newborn son and looks out on to the balcony to see his wife and Aiden snuggled up with each other.

Aiden lifts his mom’s sleeve on her left arm and starts tracing his finger along her tattoo.

A beautiful red rose surrounded by a child’s footprint with a banner above the toes: In Loving Memory of Rose.

happiness happens here

Eric lays in bed, hands shaking, heart racing, and emotionally devastated as it seems his entire world is falling apart in this very moment. Everything he’s worked so hard to build over the last five years is falling to pieces. All that time, effort, hard work, sweat, tears… It was all for nothing. He stares at his phone with the latest heart-break. An email from his last lender: We regret to inform you that a review of your credit has determined that we will be reducing your business credit.

All of his life dreams are coming to and end. That dream home. That dream car. Those dream vacations. Providing for his wife and three children. It’s all no longer possible. There is no way out of this. This is it.

Eric’s wife, Eva, enters the room. “Jenna is here, sweetheart. Do you want to go first?”

“What’s the point?”

“What happened? Is it the business? You’ll make it through. WE will make it through anything, sweetheart.” Eva knows how much Eric has put into his business. The long hours. The late nights working with his team to build their prototypes. The research. The constant failures, and the occasional success.

It has all taken its toll on Eric over the last five years. Eva has seen him deteriorate into deep states of depression, with each bout stronger and longer than the last. Jenna could not have arrived at a more perfect time!

“I don’t think I can do this anymore, Eva. No, I don’t want to do this anymore. I just don’t. I can’t. Just go out there and meet with Jenna, and come get me once you’re done.”

Eva knows that’s Eric’s cry for help. She’s seen it twice before when she had to call the paramedics to save Eric. First time was a belt wrapped around his neck. Second time was downing an entire bottle of his anti-depressant medication with a half bottle of sleep medication and as much Vodka as he could stomach without puking.

“There is no way that is happening, darling. Even if you meet her in you pajamas, you’re meeting with her now. You know this is going to help.”

Eric looks at Eva with tears in his eyes. “Sweetie, don’t you understand that I don’t want this anymore. I love you, but I just can’t do this anymore. You are better off without me.”

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 50 years on this planet it is that I am most certainly NOT better off without you. I will never believe that, no matter how hard you try to convince me. Now, I’m going to go out there and make her some coffee. I’ll see you out there soon. I love you so much.” Eva kisses Eric on the forehead.

Eric knows there’s no escaping. Eva has skillfully removed everything from the bedroom and bathroom that he could ever use to hurt himself. He contemplates tying the sheets together before Eva interrupts his daydream…

“Don’t even give that thought any attention.”

Eric feels like she can read his mind, but his desperation is written all over his face. Even their dog can sense it as she jumps up on the bed and start licking Eric’s face.

“The dog’s still got it!” Eric laughs.

#

“Eva told me about your episode this morning.” Jenna says kindly to Eric.

“Ya, well, you know how it goes. Can’t win ’em all”

“No, I don’t know, Eric, but help me understand. I want you to start from the beginning. Let’s start with your very first memory. Go as far back as you can remember, and tell me everything. I might jump around with questions, but by the end of today your entire story will be known.”

Eric begins telling Jenna everything. Starting from growing up in a trailer park, to his abusive father and mother, to his run-ins with the law, to his troubles with relationships and even friendships, to years of therapy, to his attempts at suicide, and now his business failures. Eric tells Jenna everything while she diligently takes notes and asks questions. Then, finally, Eric is done telling his story.

“Let’s take a dinner break, Eric. Then we’re going to get right down to it.”

Jenna pulls out a meal from her cooler bag and asks to use the microwave to heat it up. Eva comes out into the kitchen to makeĀ  dinner for her and Eric. The three of them sit around the table talking about Eric and Eva’s marriage and how it and their three children have been the single source of happiness for Eric over the last ten years.

Eva can sense that something is opening up for Eric just by having shared his story with Jenna. She knows that Eric’s tough childhood lead to his drive to work so hard. She looks lovingly at him while he shares a rare happy story from childhood when his family pretended that they were camping in a tent in their living room. They passed around a flashlight and told each other ghost stories like they were sitting around a campfire in the woods.

“It was the only time I ever really remember being happy as a family.” Eric looks down at his empty plate. “We literally got evicted the next day, but in that moment I remember being filled with so much joy. I never felt that happy again until I met Eva.”

“Well, Eva, I hate to say it, but you’re going to have to go so that I can get back to working with Eric.”

Eva gets up from the table, bends down to kiss Eric and then whispers in his ear, “I love you sweetheart. I’d be happy living in a tent with you.”

#

Jenna continues her inquiry. “Eric, do you know why your parents did what they did when you were younger?”

“I know my dad was abused. Not really sure about my mom.”

“That might very well be true that your dad was abused. We can’t truly know that because we weren’t there. What we do know is that he abused you in the worst ways possible. You were there for that. And he did that for the same reason that we all do what we do.”

“What’s that?”

“We all do what we do because that’s all we know to do. We don’t know any better. And when we do learn better, we do better. Which is why you are not like your father or your father’s father. Or even your mother.”

Eric looks down at the table while Jenna pauses.

“Eric, you are here today because your wife loves you and your children love you and your dog loves you and because deep down inside you really do love yourself. You are here today because you don’t want to be your father to yourself anymore. You don’t want to be your mother to yourself anymore. You don’t want to keep abusing yourself or hiding from yourself anymore. You are here because you saw your life unraveling before your very eyes. Your entire existence was coming to and end, and that is one thing you are right about!”

Jenna pauses again. Eric is looking puzzled.

“Eric, your life as you know it is ending today. This life where you continue to abuse yourself, where you have become your father inside your own mind. This life where you think so low of yourself that you’re willing to end it all just because your business failed is over.”

Jenna continues on with Eric, addressing his questions and concerns about how he’s going to recreate his past. She shares with him about psychological studies regarding memory recall and gives him physical, artistic, and mental exercises that he is to do every single day; provided he is not overexerting himself to the point of possible injury.

He needs to flood his life with anything and everything that makes him happy. All day long, he is to surround himself with positivity and people/things that make him happy. Everyday, a new list of things that made him happy that day needs to be written down and posted on the wall in his home office. Everyday, he is to read a cognitive reframing statement the two of them have come up with to rewrite his past. The list of daily activities is long but necessary to combat Eric’s darkness.

“You will push back. Your body will go through the equivalent to drug withdrawals because you are quite literally halting your use of drugs that your brain is producing when you are depressed.” Jenna warns Eric. “This is normal. Knowing that it’s coming won’t make any difference. Your body is still going to do what your body does. When that happens, read your reframing statement until you believe it. If it takes reading it 100 times in a row, you’re going to read that statement out loud, right?”

“Yes!”

#

It’s been three months since Jenna visited a suicidal Eric. There have been scores of phone calls, panicking text messages, and desperate emails. Eric and Eva are eagerly awaiting Jenna’s arrival. Each week, Eric has improved. His happy jams playlist has grown to a 6 hour-long mix of rock, rap, country, classical, jazz, and pop music that would make anyone dance nonstop for 1/4 of a day! He’s meditating daily and has updated his reframing statement to include relationships in his life other than his parents.

Eric’s confidence is returned. His business bankruptcy is well underway, and it is not dragging him down. He still has frequent depressing thoughts, but he hasn’t had a suicide thought in more than a week.

“Often times, I’m finding myself just being happy for no reason, Jenna! I smile just because it’s today.” Eric shared with Jenna about how grateful he is to have the loving support of his wife for when Jenna isn’t instantly available to help, and how their kids can really see a difference in him as well.

Eva is beaming with joy about how Jenna has given her back the man she loved. “I always knew he had this in him. I always knew he could find happiness within, and I just didn’t know how to bring him to that place. I don’t know how you are able to do what you do, but it’s amazing, Jenna! I can’t thank you enough for giving me back my husband and my children’s father.”

“It’s all within you, Eric. I was merely a listening device to allow you to hear you story about your past for what it is; just a story.” Jenna begins going over how the remaining six months of Eric’s treatment is going to go. Much of the same work for Eric but with a greater focus on independence from contacting Jenna.

“We’re essentially weaning your off your reliance on me. We should have had enough interactions by now that you’ll know what I’m going to tell you no matter what comes your way. Let’s not pretend that tomorrow is going to be negative thought free or that a negative thought free day is even the goal. Negative thoughts can sometimes help you live a more fulfilling life. YOU just need to make sure you don’t get wrapped up and consumed in them. And you do that by sticking to your regiment of happiness.”

Jenna hands Eric a card. “And if it’s not working and I’m not around and neither is Eva. If you are all alone and can’t see the blue sky, I want you to read what’s on this card 10 times out loud with more enthusiasm with each time.”

Eric looks puzzled, “But the card is blank, Jenna.”

“Exactly. What do you want to put on it?”

Eric looks down at the card and smiles.

happiness happens here