Nokia of Friendship

Gianna Carruth, Through Chlorine Tinted Goggles. Colored pencil and water color, 2023.

 

By Riley Sandoval

        Aisha has a ritual.

        On every Tuesday of every other week she searches for scraps. Soft spongy things, sharp pointy things, smooth hooks, anything she can take home and show her family. They always find a use for anything she brings, but this one is different. 

        It is a small, black, rectangle with clicking buttons. Too small to be a weapon, too light to be a weight. As Aisha asks around, she gets different answers. 

        “A toy!”

        “A tool!”

        “A treat!”

        No answer feels right. So she does as any logical creature would, and decides to find where it came from. 

        It was time to discover what was really on the surface.

        It’s 4:15 p.m. by the lake where Millie spends her Sundays when she sees it. A fish–a girl? Her proportions seem human, but the rest of her looks like an abomination of fins and fingers and flippers. Scales the color of river moss cover her skin. Flaps of thick skin trail down her sides, and her arms and legs end in massive webbed flippers. 

        It’s mesmerizing. 

        Millie approaches the thing and hears a hiss. It crawls from the lake. It’s trying to escape!

        “Hello?”

        It looks up. Its eyes look glossy and fogged like Grandpa’s cataracts. 

        “Mrrrp?” It’s a question, Millie understands that. 

        “Are you okay? What are you–” Millie takes a step closer, but quickly jumps back when the creature makes a noise.

        “Okeeee.”

        Is it mimicking her? That’s…scary, to say the least. “Okay?” Millie asks again.

        “Okeye. Mrrop, mrr.” It opens its hand to reveal a Nokia.

        “Oh, my phone! I need that.” She tries to snatch it, but the creature pulls back with a coo.

        “No. Phone. Phone.”

        “Foen.”

        Millie darts a hand for the phone, but just as she touches it, the creature pulls back. Millie stumbles on a large, slick rock.  

        “Mrah, foen.” 

        “No, phone.” Millie gestures to herself. “Mine.”

        Millie grabs the phone and tries to pull it away. The creature pulls back, blindly chomping at air. “Can you even see?” she says. 

        “Yoo. Mrre mrrup myrrh?”

        Millie stares at her. “I don’t know what you’re saying.”

        The creature snatches it back and swims underwater.

         “I need it before my parents find out!” Millie yells at the calm water. Then she sees a ripple. She stands up, and watches as the creature comes surfaces, perches on the shore next to Millie. 

        The creature points to herself, garbling something. “Mrah, Aisha.”

        “Isha,” Millie repeats and Aisha looks up. “Is that your name?”

        “Mrahh, Aisha, Aiiisshhaaa.” She taps her chest more prominently.

        Millie reaches for Aisha, who doesn’t pull back. She takes Aisha’s hand and puts it to her own chest. “Millie.”

        “Miyi,” Aisha says, making Millie laugh. “Close enough.” 

        “Foen.” Aisha says pointing at Millie’s, or Aisha’s now, phone.

        “You know what Isha?” Aisha perks up at her name. “I think me and you have some talking to do.”

        Aisha has a new friend. She can’t understand half of what she says, but she does know that they’re mostly nice things. Her Tuesdays have changed from finding treasure to learning Miyi’s language. She’s learned words like ‘foen’ and ‘tank’, something to hold water, and ‘broher,’ some kind of thing that annoys you. It became part of the new ritual to bring the foen. 

        It seemed to be a gift of friendship, because Miyi always paid special attention to it, but this Tuesday comes with a shock. Aisha forgot where she put it. She searches the area for it to no avail. Panic settles in her chest as she sits on a rock, looking around and trying desperately to calm down.

        It’s fine, Miyi probably won’t be upset.

        But what if she is? What if she’s angry and doesn’t want to spend any more time with me?

        For a second, she considers not even going, but she can’t let Miyi sit and wait. She swims to the land and can hear Miyi’s voice before she even breaks the surface.

        “Hi Isha!” 

        “Mrr!”

        “Where’s the phone?” 

        She knows.

        Aisha tries to play it off. “Foen? Foen. Hrmmmm.” She puts her hands up, to show that they’re empty.

        “Did you lose it?” 

        The words sound concerned, making Aisha nervous.

        “My parents are gonna kill me.”

        Miyi puts her hands in her head and groans. Aisha looks up and puts her claw on her friend’s pale arm.

        “What?” Miyi snaps. The sharp tone in her voice makes Aisha instinctively retreat to the water. “Morp map..mrrrye.” she asks.

        “Where could it have gone?”

        “Mew.” Aisha points at the water. Miyi looks back at her, disappointed. “Yeah, I got that..Oh I hope it’s not- Oh.” Miyi stared behind Aisha and into the water.

        Aisha turns to see that the human was looking at. That’s when she feels the pool of dread in her stomach deepen.

        Right there in front of her, the foen washes up on shore, broken in half. She looks back up at Miyi who starts laughing. 

        “Look at me. I’ve met a new species and I’m worried about my phone.” Miyi sighs and looks at her friend. “I think I’m gonna visit more often.”