Stranded By Scott Davis Part 1

14/03/2020

Stranded By Scott Davis Part 1

I never could get used to the constant rocking motion of the ship. As the

well-equiped lab in the Sea Star swayed back and forth, the test tubes clinked

softly against the sides of their holders. I fought back nausea for about the

millionth time, trying to concentrate on labeling the new samples that we had

collected that morning. Dr. Kozlowski was sitting in front of a console, typing

in notes in preparation for the chromatography tests on the samples. She was the

head marine biologist on the expedition and its oldest scientist. Her thin,

gaunt frame, beak-like nose and piercing eyes gave her the appearance of great

intelligence and scientific determination. I'd had an internship with her the

previous summer, and respected her probably more than anyone else I had ever

known. She demanded perfection from her graduate students, but she could be

quite understanding when the situation required it. A splashing noise at the

side of the ship signaled that the dive crew had returned with more samples. I

glanced out the window as the dripping, black-suited divers were assisted over

the side. Nets full of seaweed and animal specimens, along with plastic jars,

carefully set in trays for transportation, followed the divers and were

cautiously placed on the deck by the scientist crew. Amid the divers I picked

out Paula. She was the youngest on the afternoon diving team, and one of two

women on it. She filled out her suit nicely, and I watched, mesmerized, as she

shimmied out of it. She was wearing an emerald green bikini under the suit, and

she seemed more beautiful, more perfect, every time I saw her. She was tall, a

couple of inches taller than I, and had a thin but athletic build. She had long,

wonderfully tanned legs and a sexy smile that seemed to be made for flirting.

Her eyes were bright and sparkled with youthful energy. She was also a graduate

student, a few years younger than I. This was her first field internship, and

she seemed to be having the time of her life. She playfully socked the shoulder

of one of the older divers, and then sat down next to him, putting her arm

around him. I couldn't make out what she was saying. I felt my heart sink a

little. I knew, deep down, that she could never be mine. I was a loner, devoting

my life to science. I didn't have the time nor the ability to treat her the way

that I wanted to, the way that she deserved. I realized that I had really

nothing to offer her and it was best if I could just clear my mind of her and

get on with my work. "Sean," Dr. Kozlowski said sharply to get my attention.

"How's the labeling coming along?" "Fine, fine," I sputtered, trying to bring my

mind back to the business at hand. "I just have one more tray to go, then we can

begin with the chromatography testing." "Excellent," she returned confidently.

"I'm hoping we'll find some more traces of that unusual carbon molecule in this

area as well. It seems to be limited to eastern side of this small chain of

islands. I have no clue to what's producing it, though. It must be something

native to this area that we haven't discovered yet." I nodded in agreement.

"Perhaps in the next batch of specimens they just pulled up," I said

half-heartedly as I gazed out the window to the deck where the samples were

being put into laboratory containers by some of the scientists. Poul, one of the

older divers, was swigging from a tin of brandy, a ceremony he swore by after

every dive. My gaze shifted over to Paula, who was sitting on a crate with one

knee up to her chest. I met her deep brown eyes as I suddenly realized that she

was staring back at me. Out of surprise and a little shock, I immediately

averted my eyes and jerked my head away from the window, muttering something

intelligible to myself as I noticed that Dr. Kozlowski was grinning at me. "You

like her, don't you?" she said in a motherly tone of voice, still grinning at

me. "I was just checking to see what kind of specimens they brought up," I

returned, half mumbling. I realized how stupid that sounded even as I spoke but

was unable to come up with something better at the moment. "Oh, you don't have

to pretend for me. I know you too well, Sean. I think the young lady has some

pretty strong feelings for you, too. I can tell, I was a young woman once

myself, you know." I tried to ignore her words the best I could, throwing myself

back into labeling the containers. I felt terribly ashamed, being distracted

from my work right in front of my mentor by a mere grade school infatuation.

"You're young, Sean. Enjoy life a little. If you don't it will pass you by

before you know it. If I could live my life over, there are many things I would

have done differently when I was your age. Don't make the same mistakes I did,

Sean." I looked up to meet her eyes, which appeared much more tired and

weathered than I had remembered. I had always felt comfortable talking about our

work with her, but this was the first time my personal life had ever come up in

a discussion, and it was making me quite uneasy. "Science is a worthy cause to

follow, Sean. I know, I've devoted most of my life to it. But it can't fill the

void of love in your life. It will always be there, a great emptiness, eating

away at you." I knew at that point that she was talking more about herself than

me. As far as I knew she had never married. She had always seemed indomitable,

always in complete control of herself and the situation. It was a little

disturbing to find a chink in her otherwise inpenetratable armor. "Well, you

don't need me to stand here and preach to you," she said quietly, looking back

at the chromatography equipment. "I'm going out to take a look at the new

specimens. I've been cooped up in this lab all day and I need a little fresh

air. After you get done with the labeling, you might want to get out a little

too." She stretched her thin frame and walked out the door. I returned to my

labeling. Her words echoed in my mind. Maybe she was right. Maybe I did need

something more in my life. But I couldn't just think of myself, though. I really

had nothing to offer a woman. They would all be better off if I just left them

alone. I was nearly done with sample containers when I heard a slight tapping on

the laboratory door. Paula was standing there with the door half open. I had no

idea how long she had been watching me. She smiled at me warmly. "Hi, Sean,

what'cha working on?" "I'm..," I muttered while sweeping my hand in front of the

sample containers, "uh, labeling the samples that we collected earlier today." I

tried to hold an authoritative bearing to my voice but wound up with a weak

stutter. "It's for the gas chromatography testing." "Cool," she said as she

walked across the small lab, stepping behind my chair. "I had to do the same

thing last night. By the time I was done I must have set up over two hundred

slides. I thought I had lost all feeling in my fingers. But Dr. Faust did let me

use the SEM on a few samples. It was pretty neat. You could see so much detail

on the plankton." "Yeah, we've got one back at UCLA," I said, trying to hold

back my stuttering. "As instruments go, they're pretty handy to have around." I

was mentally kicking myself for not coming up with something more interesting

than merely stating the obvious. She started gently massaging my back and I just

sat there, feeling a little paralyzed. "You know, you've been working too much.

Except for sleeping and eating, I don't think I've seen you ever leave this lab.

You need to get out and get some sun every now and then. Everyone's been calling

you the 'ghost' because your never seen outside." "I'm on the morning dive team

..um.. every morning," I said awkwardly. "Well, that's about the only time you

come out of your little hole," she said, giggling. She suddenly twisted around

to look at me. "I know, why don't you come down tonight. We're having a little

party for Marty's birthday. It'll be fun." "I don't know, I've got a few tests I

was wanting to get done tonight," I muttered. "Aw, come on. You could use a

little fun. All work and no play, ya know" "Well, I could stop down in a little

bit, I guess." I couldn't believe that I was saying this. "Great!" she said as

she walked out of the lab. At the last moment she turned and gave me a

flirtatious smile. "I'll save a dance for you." The next few hours went by all

to quickly. I finished the labeling and started some of the preliminary

chromatography tests. I had trouble concentrating on it though, and caught

myself making a few too many stupid errors. I finally decided to shut it down

and finish the testing tomorrow. I could hear the music and the voices of the

celebration outside. Walking over to the window, I saw the starboard side of the

Sea Star alit with torches and floodlights. Someone had a radio turned on full

blast, and the majority of the crew were out sitting around on the crates. A few

were dancing to the music, and most were half drunk. I scanned the area for

Paula, but couldn't find her. I was filled both with excitement and dread as I

walked down the staircase to the deck. I wasn't much of the partying type, but

the thought of dancing with Paula was well worth the discomfort. As I turned the

corner at the base of the stairs, I almost ran into her. She smiled at me with a

surprised and elated look about her face. "I was just coming up to the lab to

drag you out. I had about given up on you ever coming down." "I just had to get

some stuff finished up," I mumbled. "Yeah, right! You just wanted to get out of

dancing with me!" she said giggling. She grabbed my hand and dragged out onto

the deck with her. Not that I had any reason not to follow her, but the her

action rather surprised me and I stumbled along hesitantly behind her. She was

stronger than I would have guessed from her thin, feminine build. As we came out

upon the deck to join the five other couples dancing, we were met by whistles

and cat calls from the crowd sitting around. Someone yelled out drunkenly "Hey!

Paula's got her man!" I was a little embarrassed and I noticed that she was

blushing a little, too. The radio was playing some new rock song that I didn't

recognize. It had been a while since I had kept up on the current music. I had

always found it hard to concentrate with background music playing and I didn't

often listen to the radio. The song playing now was nice and slow, with a smooth

guitar melody. It sounded like Pink Floyd, but I wasn't sure. I held her close

as we slow danced together. She was wearing a tank top and I could feel the

gentle warmth of her side and back through the thin cloth. I gazed into her deep

brown eyes and neither of us said a word as we swayed to the soothing music. She

smiled at me affectionately and let go of my right hand. She brought it around

my neck, along with her other arm, and rested her head on my shoulder. I held

her tightly, noticing how much taller she was than myself. I didn't mind,

though. She was the most beautiful creature I had ever laid eyes upon, and for

this brief moment she was mine alone. The song ended long before I was ready for

it to, and was immediately followed by an annoying used car commercial. We

reluctantly separated, but she kept her arm around my shoulder as we walked

together to the side and sat down on some crates with the others. Most were half

drunk, laughing loudly with each other every time someone would make a stupid

joke. Paula leaned back against the crate, staring up at the clear night sky.

"It's beautiful out here tonight, isn't it, Sean? There's Orion," she said

softly, pointing her arm up at the heavens. "Yeah, there's Antares," I said,

pointing at the twinkling red star. "Antares? Where?" she said as she tried to

see what I was pointing at. "Right on the back of Scorpio the scorpion. That

bright red star." She shrugged her shoulders and looked at me with a smile.

"Well, it's kind of hard to see with all these floodlights on. Maybe if we went

over to port side we could see better. I think it's dark over there." She smiled

warmly at me and took hold of my hand. "Sure, let's go." The deck gently rocked

beneath our feet as we walked around the aft end of the Sea Star to her port

side. Only the occasional deck light broke the darkness. The sky seemed so much

brighter on this side once our eyes got used to it. We stood against the railing

and looked up. She still held onto my hand like she possessed it. The starlight

glittered across the calm sea as I again pointed out Antares. She found easily

this time, and I wondered if she hadn't also seen it on the starboard side and

was merely using it as an excuse to get away from the crowd. I started to point

out a few other stars when I noticed that she was looking at me rather than what

I was pointing at. I stopped in mid-sentence and glanced at her, waiting for her

to say something. "You know I've had my eye on you since we left Santa Barbara,"

she said softly, breaking the silence. She placed one hand on the side of my

face. "You're so shy. I really find that charming. I've always had a weakness

for shy men. All the guys I work with are so full of themselves. They think

they're God's gift to women, and it always irritates me how many women eat that

stuff up. You've seen and done so much, yet you always seem dissatisfied with

yourself, like you're a failure or something." I wanted to say something back to

her, but my mind couldn't formulate any words. I was feeling very strongly for

her out under the starlight. I didn't know if it was love, infatuation, lust, or

some strange combination thereof. She stared at me and smiled again, running her

beautiful fingers through my hair. I wanted to hold her, but I was afraid I'd do

something stupid and destroy the moment. "You're so different from the others,

so sweet-natured, so sincere. You're so handsome and charming, yet you don't

realize it. I think that's what I like best about you," she said, still running

her fingers through my hair. I gathered up my inhibitions and collectively

ignored them. The moment felt right and it was now or never. I looked up into

her warm, brown eyes. "Do you mind if I kiss you?" I said, half expecting to get

slapped for my efforts. "Man, you take so long," she softly mumbled as she

leaned towards me, wrapping her arms around my neck. Our lips met as I was

backed against the railing. She curled one of her long, sexy legs around mine

and held me firmly as we kissed. It had been years since the last time I had

kissed a girl, but it had never been as wonderful as this. Her lips were warm

and soft, and I could smell her incredible scent all around me. It lasted only a

minute or so, but it seemed like a wonderful eternity. We parted, both trying to

catch our breaths. We still held each other, rocking gently with the ship. "Hey,

guys!" we heard someone yell from further down the deck, snapping us back to

reality. I recognized the voice to be that of John Dacker, one of the divers. He

had a bad tendency to be tactless, and sounded a little drunk to boot. His dark

silhouette turned back towards the starboard side of the ship as he yelled out

"I found them!" "Well, I guess we can't escape the party after all," I said to

her with a smile. We slowly walked back around the Sea Star, my arm around her

waist and hers around my shoulder. I knew it was too good to last. We returned

with the party in full swing. The beer was flowing from a couple of kegs that

someone had thoughtfully included with the cargo. We were handed plastic cups of

the cheap brew and immediately were drug into various meaningless drunken

conversations. The evening ran into morning before the party finally quieted

down and people began to go to bed. I had never had much of a taste for beer,

and had barely finished nursing one to death by the time I was tired enough to

retire from the party. I didn't have the opportunity to talk to Paula much the

rest of the night, and was rather surprised when she grabbed my arm as I was

getting up. "Are you going to bed?" she said sleepily. She had drunk quite a bit

and had trouble speaking clearly. "Ah, yeah. I think I'm going to go ahead and

turn in. I've had enough partying for one night." "Me too. Um..do you think you

could help me to my bunk? I don't know if I can make it up those stairs alone."

"Sure, I'd be honored," I said, smiling as I helped her up. We slowly climbed

the stairway. She stumbled a few times, but we finally made it to the top. She

started to pass out, so I carried her to her quarters and laid her gently on her

bunk. I was rather surprised how light she felt in my arms. I turned off the

light and stood at the door for a moment, admiring her beautiful form under the

pale deck light. I wondered if she would still have any interest in me tomorrow.

Maybe this was just a short fling for her. Well, I thought, whatever happens,

happens. I quietly shut the door and went back to my own bunk to crash out. My

alarm went off at 7:00 am and I groggily hit its button. I felt completely worn

out and didn't want to get out of bed, but I somehow did anyway. I grabbed my

stuff and stumbled down to the men's lavatory. Usually I had to wait in line for

a shower, but apparently I was the only one up yet. I imagined how everyone was

going to be suffering from hangovers and I was glad that I had gotten up early

enough to avoid the moaning and nausea. A quick, hot shower woke me up, and I

dressed and shaved in silence. The deck was a mess from the party the night

before, and I headed up the stairs for the lab. Dr. Kozlowski was seated in

front of the chromatography equipment, her thin frame hunched over some samples.

"You're up awful early," I said as she turned in her chair wearily. "Usually

you're not in here till well after nine." "I've been up all night," she said as

she ran her stiff fingers through her thin, gray hair, and rested her face on

one hand with her elbow on the desk. "Were you at the party last night? I don't

remember seeing you there, and after all you said the other day," I said

jokingly. She didn't look in any mood to joke. "I was planning on going, but I

was looking over yesterday's test results and something struck as odd. I've been

over at the SEM examining samples all night." "What's up?" She leaned back in

her chair and rubbed her bloodshot eyes. She pointed to some micrographs spread

out on the desk. "Take a look." I quickly looked through them. Premature

specimens of coral, sponges, and crustaceans, mixed with several miniature

species of shrimp and plant life were shown in the black and white pictures from

the electron microscope. I examined each one of them, but couldn't find anything

out of the ordinary. "They look like normal plankton specimens to me. I don't

understand." "Look at the magnification." I ran my finger along the data text at

the bottom of one of the pictures. 500X! That couldn't be right. A coral polyp

of that variety should be shown that size at 100X or so. I looked over the

others, nearly all shown at 500X. They varied from 10 to 100 times smaller than

they should have been. "This can't be right. I bet the SEM's computer is messed

up again and is printing the wrong values. This salty air always plays havoc

with the electronics." "No, I double checked it with the optical microscopes.

The magnification is correct. This is the strangest phenomenon I've ever seen,

Sean. What has happened to this plankton?" "Well, is there a radiation source in

the area? I guess it could be some sort of mutation. I don't know how so many

different species could mutate in such a similar way, though." "No, no. I tried

examining them for traces of radiation, I've got nothing so far. It should be

easy to detect in such concentrations. I've got a strange hunch that it may have

something to do with the new carbon molecule we discovered." "A chemical

reaction?" I asked doubtingly. "It must be. I've probed deeper but I can't find

out at what point the structure of these creatures becomes more simplified than

the normal ones. They must have all the same chemical reactions as the normal

sized specimens in order to survive. They're mass is reduced appropriately, but

I've noticed levels of certain chemicals concentrated in them at much higher

levels than they're larger cousins. In fact, some chemicals occur in them in the

same amounts as they do in the larger ones." "Where did you find these

specimens?" "They were mixed in with the normal plankton in some samples, and

totally absent in others. I think the carbon molecule is reacting with the cell

membranes of the plankton, reducing them and removing water and many chemicals

from the cells. The result is the macroreduction in the entire physical

structure, both in mass and volume." "If that's true, wouldn't it tear apart the

larger, more advanced shrimp, because the outer carapaces would remain roughly

the same size and soft, inner body rip away from it as it reduced?" "Something's

compensating. The shrimp were reduced as well, and they were doing just fine. I

don't know, Sean. I just don't know." "What could be producing this strange

chemical? It work's so well it almost has to be a product of evolution." "That's

the second thing I found out last night." "The second thing?" "Yes. I was

choreographing the specimens, trying to locate any concentrations of the carbon

molecule in question. I think I found it's source." "You've found the source?

Great! What is it?" "Well, the only specimens that seemed to have larger than

background levels of the molecule were the reduced ones, and also a rather

unusual jellyfish polyp. I dissected it and tested various organs for the

molecule. I found that it had high concentrations in certain sacks within its

body. I can't find any record of a jellyfish categorized with its markings. I

think we may have stumbled onto a new species." "Wow, a new species. I wonder

why it has this chemical, though. Can it consume the reduced plankton?" "No, but

that's a good point, though. It can't see how the polyps can discharge the

chemical, and I really don't think they use it until they become mature

jellyfish. Perhaps the mature ones use it to reduce and then consume quantities

of the plankton to get larger doses of the chemicals that get concentrated in

the process." My head was reeling from the thought of an entirely new form of

predation this represented. The implications to biology in general were

enormous. I wondered if there were any medical treatments that could be brought

about with this molecule. Perhaps tumor reductions or blood clot removal. "Have

you told any of the others yet?" I asked as she stared at the console. "I don't

think they're in any shape to listen to breakthroughs in marine biology after

the drunken debauchery last night. Besides, there are a few more tests I'd like

to make before I have to argue with their irrational skepticism." Two knocks

sounded against the lab's door. "Yes," she said, sliding halfway around in her

chair. The door opened a little and Captain Estridge stuck his head in. "Dr.

Kozlowski, can I have a word with you?" "Certainly, Captain." I got up slowly

but the captain waved his hand for me to remain seated as he entered the lab. "I

thought you might want to know that we've just got a weather report from Tokyo

and there's a storm moving just northwest of us. It's pretty big, but I think

we'll only see the edge of it. We might have to cancel the afternoon dive,

though." "Thank you captain. I'll keep that in mind." She motioned about the lab

with her hands. "With all our modern technology, we're still at the whim of

nature." "Yes, doctor. Just thought you'd want to know." He nodded to me and

left the lab quietly. "I hope this doesn't get in the way of the research. We're

right on the edge of discovering something big, I just know it," I said, staring

at the micrographs. We went to work gathering data from what samples we had from

yesterday's dive. Everything pointed to the jellyfish polyps as the source of

the strange molecule, and we soon discovered that they were more common in this

area than we had previously thought. All we needed now was an adult specimen to

test. As nine o'clock rolled around, I was dead set on finding one on the

morning dive. I breathed in deeply the brisk, morning sea air as I eagerly put

on my diving suit. We were taking samples from a plankton spread about ten miles

north of an island that was little more than a dot on our navigation maps. I was

zipping up my suit and looking over the specimen containers that I would be

carrying with me when I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was Paula, smiling at me

as she knelt down beside me. She whispered in my ear, "Thanks for doing what you

did last night. It was really sweet of you." I raised one eyebrow, trying to

figure out what I did the night before that she was talking about. She touched

her finger to her lips and pressed it gently on mine. I just sat there on one

knee as she walked back to her quarters. She was wearing sweat pants and a light

shirt that was blowing softly in the breeze. She hadn't had a chance to fix up

her hair or put on any make up, but she looked incredibly beautiful to me right

then and it took me a few minutes to get back to my preparations. John, still

putting on his suit, had a big grin on his face. "So, what were you two up to

last night?" "Nothing, really," I said, still a little dazed. "Nothing? It sure

didn't look like nothing when I interrupted you two when you snuck away from the

party. Looked like you were doing a little making out" "It's really none of your

business, John," I returned sharply, realizing that I still had a grudge against

him. "Did you know that she graduated summa cum laude in biology at Florida

State? Top honors. Double majored in physics. I know because we graduated

together. She was always really cold back then. Always had her nose in a book.

We could never get her to come to any of our Alpha Sigma Epsilon parties. She

was just too stuck up. She's changed a lot since she's been on this trip,

though. I was really starting warm up to her. I don't know why she's latched on

to you. I'd think with looks and brains like that she could do a lot better.

Maybe she's just trying to make the rest of us guys jealous." "Yeah, that's it,

Jack," I said sarcastically. "She's just trying to make you guys jealous." What

he said about her had impressed me, though, and I tried to picture Paula a

bookworm, spending her days in the collage library. I had a hard time believing

it. She just didn't seem the type. We finally got everything ready for the dive,

and rode out to the site on a rubber outboard boat. One by one we dropped

backwards off the side of the boat into the calm, blue water. I could barely

make out the reddish-brown tint that the plankton gave the water around it.

Schools of small fish were everywhere, feeding on the microscopic creatures. I

began looking around for concentrations of plankton to take samples from. I saw

a few adult jellyfish of various species gyrating amidst the spread of plankton,

but they were all fairly common and their early stages of life were well

documented. In the distance, a faint phosphorescent glow drew my attention. As I

swam closer, I could see the outline of a large jellyfish of a type that I had

never seen in any textbook. It was tiger striped, and seemed be leaving a black

trail of smoky ink behind it as it floated through the plankton. I was

mesmerized by its breathtaking beauty, and decided to take a closer look. I

glanced back at the rest of the team before I proceeded. They were all heading

back to the boat, and Dr. Chen, the team leader, was motioning me with his hand

to return. I looked back longingly at the delicate mushroom shape of the

jellyfish as it drifted down into the dark depths. Turning around I swam towards

the boat. Suddenly a small fish passed in front of my goggles and disappeared

into a school of sardines. It was only a few inches long, but it looked for all

the world like an adult blue shark. The shape of the young blue sharks was

completely different and easily recognizable. Besides, they were larger than

that when first born. It couldn't have been, though. I must have been seeing

things. Could the carbon molecule have affected a creature as large as a shark?

I quickly joined the other divers and soon we were sitting back on the boat. It

seemed that we had received a radio message from the Sea Star to abort the dive

and return immediately. Everyone was curious and a little bit worried as we

quickly sped back to the ship. We were drawn up the Sea Star's aft ramp, and the

crew helping us said that a storm was coming. I had noticed that the sea was

starting to swell quite a bit, but hadn't really thought about it much. The

storm must have changed course suddenly during the morning. I peeled off my suit

and headed for the lab. I knew it was in all probability a hallucination, but I

had to tell Dr. Kozlowski about the jellyfish I had seen and the miniature blue

shark. I met Paula as I was running up the stairs. She grabbed my arm and asked

excitedly if I had heard about the incoming storm. By the look on her face, I

could tell that she had never experienced the severity or unpredictability of a

South Pacific storm. She looked more elated than frightened. I, on the other

hand, was plenty frightened. I nodded yes and said that I was in a hurry to help

secure the lab. She decided to go with me, and followed me into the lab. Dr.

Kozlowski was packing some of the chemical testing equipment as we entered. She

looked up with a tired, worried expression, and I knew that it was worse than I

had feared. "Oh, good," she said wearily. "You made it back all right. Captain

Estridge received a message about fifteen minutes ago that the storm suddenly

turned south and is heading right for us. He's going to try to make a run for an

island bay. Maybe we can avoid the brunt of it. Anyway, Sean, I need you to

start packing the specimen containers. They're particularly valuable to us now,

considering what we came across this morning. Paula, I'm sure Dr. Faust needs

you to help pack up his lab." "Oh, we've already got it done, Dr. Kozlowski. All

we had to box up was the microscope and a few trays of slides. I just came over

to help you with this lab. You have most of the raw samples stored here, and I

thought I could be of some assistance." "Well, that's very considerate of you.

I'm sure we could use all the help we can get. You can help Sean get started

with the sample jars. Stack the crates against the far wall there. I've managed

to get some twine to tie it down." I started setting the sample jars in the

crates with Paula's help. Working with her so closely, I had completely

forgotten about the morning's dive until Dr. Kozlowski brought it up. "Uh,

yeah," I said between jars. "I think I discovered our jellyfish." "You did?

That's great!" Dr. Kozlowski exclaimed, her face brightening despite the

impending storm. "What jellyfish?" Paula asked. "It's a new species I think

we've come across. It was large, tiger striped, and certainly had

phosphorescence at points around its body. I've never seen anything like it

before. It's got to be the one. I was going for a closer look when we got called

back early due to the storm." "You guys discovered a new species of jellyfish?"

Paula asked with a certain amount of envy evident in her voice. "Hopefully so. I

can't say that I've seen anything like what you've described either. Perhaps we

can collect a specimen after the storm abates." "I hope so," I said, knowing

that it was too much to ask from mother nature. "There was another thing I

thought I saw during the dive. It was probably just a mistake on my part.

Probably just my imagination getting the better of me." "Yes?" Dr. Kozlowski

asked casually as she secured the spectroscopy equipment. "As I was coming back

to the boat, I could have swore I saw a miniature blue shark pass in front of

me." "It was probably just a young, immature shark," Paula said. Dr. Kozlowski

turned and looked at me gravely. "How small was it?" I held one hand to show her

the length with my thumb and forefinger. "It couldn't have been more than ten

centimeters long. It appeared to be completely mature." Paula rolled her eyes

like we were playing a practical joke on her. "Now wait a minute, that's just

impossible. Blue sharks are larger than that when they're born. Maybe you saw a

fish that just looked like a shark." Dr. Kozlowski ignored her. "This is

incredible if it's true. To think that the carbon molecule could affect a

creature that large and advanced, with all its intricate systems. And you say

that this shark was alive?" "It swam right by me." "I don't understand," Paula

stated as Dr. Kozlowski stared down at the floor, deep in thought. "The

jellyfish produce a chemical that is capable of radically reducing the volume of

microscopic lifeforms. If this shark exists, apparently the chemical can reduce

lifeforms on the macroscopic level as well." "This is just too strange to be

true," she said nervously. "I mean, I know I don't know everything about

biology, certainly not as much as you or Dr. Kozlowski, but I think I know

enough see that this is just impossible." "Yesterday, I would be inclined to

agree with you on that," Dr. Kozlowski mumbled, still deep in thought, "but

after last night, I just don't know anymore. We may be on the edge of something

very important, Sean." I started to reply but was cut off by huge clap of

thunder that shook the whole lab. I walked over to the window and unlatched the

wooden shutters. Rain had started pouring down in sheets and the sky to the

North was entirely black with storm clouds. The wind had picked up, and the sea

around us was noticeably choppy. The Sea Star began to rise and fall with the

increasingly higher storm swells.

Part 2

As I stared into the menacing edge of the storm, I finally grasped just how

much danger we were in. The dark clouds spread out across the sky, lit every few

seconds by cascading lightning. The thunderclaps were frequent and deafening. I

quickly shut and latched the shutters. Dr. Kozlowski stared at me gravely. Paula

was standing beside me with her hand on my shoulder. "So, do you think we're

going to beat it?" she asked, but I could see from her worried expression that

she already knew the answer. "I think we're already in it," Dr. Kozlowski

quietly answered her. "We'll just have to hope that we can weather it out. The

Sea Star is a sturdy vessel and she's been through storms before, although this

one looks awfully nasty." The ship suddenly lurched up at an angle, sending Dr.

Kozlowski back against a shelf. I caught my arm around Paula just in time,

stopping her from sliding towards the fore wall. I had a firm hold on the window

frame, and it was the only thing keeping me from sliding as well. The Sea Star

swung back in the opposite direction, but I was ready for it. Dr. Kozlowski had

grabbed hold of the bolted-down shelf. "Are you OK?" I shouted to her over the

thunderclaps. "Yes, but you'd better get a good hold on something. It's liable

to get much worse before it gets better." The ship lurched steeply again. With a

violent gust of wind, the shutters burst open, smashing against my hand on the

frame. I lost my grip with a jolt of pain and went sliding across the wood

floor, barely managing to grab onto a table leg. Paula had a hold on a chest

near the window, and was screaming something at me that I couldn't discern

through the loud thunder and wind. My hand throbbed with pain and my fingers

were numb. I tried to wiggle them, but they didn't respond. The ship swung back

again and my view through the window dipped well below the horizon. I could

barely see the huge white crests of the wind-swept waves around us. The Sea Star

dropped nauseasly into a valley between two waves, and the top of the second

wave crashed violently across the deck. The ship lurched to one side, but

quickly righted herself a few agonizing moments later. The Sea Star rode up and

down the massive storm waves, like some twisted amusement ride. I clambered my

way across the bolted down furniture to where Paula was huddled, clinging for

dear life as the rain battered down through open window beside her. "We'll make

it through this," I said softly as I held her trembling body against me. I

didn't know if I really believed it myself, but I felt better comforting her.

"Sean!" Dr. Kozlowski shouted at me. I could barely hear her over the storm,

although she was holding on less than ten feet from me. "If I don't make it

through this, I want you to make sure to get this data to..." She broke off, her

eyes frozen on the window beside me. "Don't worry!" I shouted back, trying to

reassure her. "We'll all make it through this!" She looked as though she hadn't

heard a word I'd said, still staring blankly out the window. I read her lips as

she silently said "Dear God". Intrigued and a little confused, I sat up on one

knee and climbed across Paula to see what she was looking at. We were cresting a

wave and as we rocked back I looked out beyond it at a sheer, black wall where

the stormy horizon should have been. I stared at it for a moment, trying to

figure out what it was. Lightning flashed in the sky behind it, silhouetting its

towering crest, more than thirty feet above our waterline at the top of this

wave. It was of tsunami proportions, a massive, rolling body of watery hell. I

gasped silently. Paula was trying to climb up beside me. "What's going on?" she

yelled. I slid back down and grabbed her tightly next to me. "Big wave," I

shouted, "hold on!" My stomach went into my throat as the Sea Star slid down

into the wave's deep trough. She leveled off and was drawn up the steep incline

of the wavefront. The angle increased until it felt as though we were sideways.

The crest crashed into her, toppling her over on her side and she kept rolling.

The hull creaked as Paula and I were thrown across the room. The ceiling

suddenly became the floor, and we crashed into it hard, along with most of the

crates who's twine had snapped. I was pretty bruised up, lying in a pile of

equipment and specimen jars. The room was dimly lit by the few fluorescent

lights that had survived unshattered. Paula was moaning, rubbing her head, but

she looked all right other than that. The room was rapidly filling up with

seawater, which was gushing in through the windows. My thoughts immediately

turned to Dr. Kozlowski. Where she had been lying there was now a big pile of

loose equipment. I didn't know how she could have survived the avalanche. I

clawed my way through the partially submerged pile until I uncovered her upper

torso. Her face was still fixed in that icy stare, but I could see blood

streaming out of a large fracture in the side of her skull. She was dead. I

gazed at her in horror as I felt Paula tugging on my arm. "C'mon! We've got to

get out of here before it floods!" I snapped back to the present situation. The

Sea Star was tipping over and the cabin was quickly filling up. Paula pulled me

up the slope of equipment and debris to the one window that wasn't pouring in

water. We climbed through, emerging out in the watery chaos of the storm. Paula

dove determinedly into the sea as I stumbled into the water behind her. The

cabin dropped beneath me as the Sea Star continued its slow roll and I tried to

swim clear of it. The huge waves and the rain buffeted us, making it incredibly

difficult to stay afloat. The aft end of the Sea Star rose up from the water and

she quickly slid under the waves. I had to fight to get away from the powerful

undertow, but I was able to watch as her keel submerged, knowing that it was the

last that anyone would ever see of her and most, or all, of her crew. I looked

around me for Paula, but couldn't see her anywhere. Panicked, I dove in the

turmoilous surf after her. She must have been pulled down with the ship, and I

knew there wasn't much chance that I would find her. I swam down as far as my

aching lungs could hold out. I started to rise back to the surface when

something struck against my leg. I reached down and grabbed a clammy wrist with

my good hand and struggled to the surface with her. She seemed limp at first,

but slowly came to life as we surfaced. She clung on to me and coughed up water.

I had to fight to keep my head above water, but I finally managed to get behind

her and do a back float for both of us. We were submerged a few times in the

violent waves, but I was generally able to keep our heads above water. I had

given up hope for survival in this mess when I caught a glimpse of a bright

orange object floating amid the debris. It was quite a distance away, but it was

the only hope I had if it was what I thought. I kicked madly through the water,

turning slightly every now and then to try to get a bearing on the object. The

waves submerged us regularly, and the object kept moving along with them. Paula

was barely conscious, sputtering and coughing as she tightly clung to my tired

arms. I lost sight of it as we closed in. I cried out "No!" at the top of my

lungs in impotent anguish and frustration at the dark, rain splattered waves

that pushed us around like helpless corks in the water. I was so damn close. As

we crested yet another wave, an orange blur slipped by the corner of my eye. I

reached out, and after a few tries, managed to grab its slick plastic surface. I

hauled it in and inspected it during the frequent lightning flashes. It was what

I'd hoped, a lifepreserver vest that must have floated up from the sinking ship.

My hopes soared as I found all of the straps to be intact. I quickly struggled

to get Paula's arms through its arm holes, as she was rapidly losing

consciousness and I was getting weaker. The waves kept pulling us apart as I

fought the straps, more by feel than by sight. I had to submerge my head to

fasten the last strap, but finally it was done. As I broke the surface, we were

going over a large wave. I tried to grab her, but we were ripped apart as the

white crest passed through us. Another wave pushed me farther from her. I could

see her limp form bobbing in the distance before I lost sight entirely. I

struggle to tread water in the storm torn sea was quickly sapping my strength,

and I knew I wasn't going to last much longer. At least Paula had a chance,

though. With the vest on, she might at least weather the storm and tomorrow a

rescue plane would spot her. I kept repeating that image over and over in my

mind. I couldn't bear to think of anything bad happening to her, after all we

had went through. It was almost funny. The biggest scientific discovery I could

have ever hoped for in my lifetime, and it's all for nothing now. I first time I

ever came close to falling in love with a woman, and it's all for nothing, too.

The more I thought about it as the waves battered my tired body, the more I

realized that I really was in love with her. Her eyes. Her smile. The way she

laughed and flirted with me with a strange sincerity that no woman ever had

before. I knew that I had only known Paula for a short time, but she felt right

to me. I wanted to live the rest of my life with her. I looked around at the

bleak, violent sea around me and laughed weakly at myself. What a stupid

revelation for a dying man to have. It was the story of my pitiful life. I had

always wanted to have what was just beyond my reach. My legs were numb and I

couldn't tell if I was kicking or not. I relaxed. As I slowly slid under, my

mind wandered to whether she would remember me or not. I don't know how long I

was under before my survival instinct finally kicked in. I don't know how far

down I went, either, but when I broke the surface in the torrent of rain, I was

expelling water and phlegm from my twisted lungs. A wave dunked me as I was

gasping for air and I came up coughing and spitting once again, my arms flailing

around me like a mad man. Deep down I wanted this to end, but my body couldn't

seem to accept it. My head hurt and I had trouble thinking straight. A vague

white shape passed a few feet in front of my blurry eyes. The first thought that

crossed my mind was that it was an angel sent down to see me off to the

afterlife, and that I was dead and didn't even realize it. I had never been a

religious man, but right then it seemed to make perfect sense to me. As it

drifted closer, however, I could see that was the broken remains of a styrofoam

cooler. It must have risen to the surface as the Sea Star sank. I reached out

and grabbed a corner of it with my painfully weak arm, drawing it in slowly. I

clutched it tightly to my chest, wrapping my right arm around it and bringing my

waterlogged head and torso as far out of the water as I could. Its buoyancy

allowed my tired muscles to rest for the first time since the ship sank. It felt

incredibly good. As I began to lose consciousness, I wondered if it was all for

nothing. If I were to let go while I was out, I would slide into the water and

drown in spite of my good fortune. I wondered this as I peacefully drifted off

amid the violent wind and waves. I raised my weary head and slowly gazed around.

My eyes were blurry and burning from the saltwater, but I could see that the sea

around me was calm. The cooler rocked gently in the water. The sky was black and

I could barely make out a few stars. Apparently the storm had finally passed. I

must have been out for at least nine hours for it to be night time already. My

throbbing headache made it difficult for me to think straight. I tried to move

my legs a little to see if they were still there. I could get some feeling from

them, but they were terribly waterlogged and painfully stiff. My whole body was

so sore that I could barely move. I laid my head back down on the soft styrofoam

in hopes that I could go back to sleep and end this nightmare. A dim green glow

permeated my eyelids. I slowly opened them and gazed half-asleep at the

rippling, sinuous patterns of yellow-green photoluminescence that seemed to

surrounded me. A strong, musky scent filled the air and drew me back to sleep.

My last image of the lights around me before my eyes closed again was a

strangely familiar tigerstripe pattern. I felt a distant lifting sensation,

followed by a feeling falling and hitting something soft. Then there was nothing

but darkness around me. I awoke to thunderous crashing sound. I had a pounding

headache and felt like someone had run over my body with a truck. My stomach was

twisted in a knot, and I was overcome by nausea as I started to raise up on my

sore arms. I convulsively vomited all over ground, my stomach emptying itself

quickly and trying vainly for more. I choked down a few breaths, and it was all

I could do to roll over and avoid falling into it. It was finally daytime, and

as I stared up at the soft white ceiling I wondered how I survived the night. I

wondered if Paula was still alive, or if she died of exposure or pneumonia. I

smiled to myself. Maybe she drifted to this same island and was stuck here with

me. I could here the loud surf outside, pounding relentlessly against the sandy

beach. Somehow I had made it. I could only hope that she had made it, too.

Outside? Ceiling? My eyes suddenly popped open. Where exactly the hell was I?

The stark white ceiling loomed overhead about forty or fifty feet up. It came to

a right corner above where I was lying that connected two homogeneously white

walls. The damp floor under me was made of the same material and was unusually

soft, as if it were rubber or plastic. A pool of water filled one corner of the

room, and was covered by a thick layer of sea foam. My eyes followed the

precise, uniform walls of the room. It was incredibly long, almost a hundred

feet. The far wall was open to the outside, as well as part of an adjacent wall

that appeared to have been torn out, perhaps by the storm. A sandy gravel

covered the floor near the gaping opening. I wondered what sort of eccentric

nutcase would have built such a strange, imposing building on an island, if this

were an island. Even worse, what the hell was I doing here? I tried to remember

anything from the night before that might give me some clue to my current

situation. All I could remember was a faint, distant dream about lights. My head

was throbbing and I decided I had better get outside to see where I was. As I

rolled over on my hands and knees, I noticed that I was completely naked. I

couldn't see my clothes lying anywhere on the floor. Whoever put me here must

have removed them and put them somewhere else. I started to rise to my feet, but

immediately lost my balance and fell back down on one knee. I must have been

really disorientated, as I hadn't noticed how much the floor sloped up towards

the opening. I tried again, and managed to steady myself. The floor was wet and

slippery, but I was able to half walk, half crawl towards the vast opening. The

sun was painfully bright as I stumbled out beyond the wall. The yellow gravel

hill that covered the edge of the floor stretched out as far as I could see,

like a barren desert. I took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the glare of the

sun, but when they did I couldn't believe them. The beach stretched out before

me like a wasteland. On one side it met the sea, where impossibly huge waves

crashed loudly into it, drawing great volumes of surf up hundreds of feet onto

its wet surface. The waves seemed oddly distorted, and were many times larger

than the monster that sank the Sea Star. The other edge of the beach was even

more astonishing. An enormous green wall of foliage rose from the sand into the

air. Above it a canopy of trees stretched up into the sky a good mile above me.

I just stood there for a few moments staring in disbelief at the surrealistic

Brobdingnagian landscape that surrounded me. Where the hell was I? The only

thing I could think of was that I was dreaming. That this was only some strange,

twisted dream and that I was still drifting hopelessly, clinging to the

styrofoam cooler. "The cooler", I said softly to myself as glanced at my right

hand that was supporting me against the broken white wall. I ran my fingers

against its soft, giving surface. I could make our irregular round circles

embossed all up and down its face. If it was on the same scale as everything

else around me, the room would be just about right for the inside of the cooler.

A loud scraping noise from the far side of the opposite wall suddenly drew my

attention. I cautiously crept around the opening to see what was making it.

Perhaps I wasn't the only survivor. It didn't matter, I kept telling myself.

This was only a dream. I didn't get but five steps when a menacing form crawled

out from behind the wall. It was a huge crab, easily the size of a truck. I

froze as the beast edged its way around the corner, its spindly legs searching

every crevice along the wall face for food. I froze in terror at the sight

massive creature, and barely caught myself on one arm as I fell back in the

sand. I had seen innumerable fiddler crabs in my studies, and had dissected more

than my share, but up close with it looming over me, not twenty feet away, it

was a totally different experience. I couldn't tell if it saw me or not. Its

thin eyestalks were drawn to investigating what was in front of it, and I

quickly back crawled to the edge of the wall behind me. When I finally reached

it, I turned and sprinted around the corner, hoping that it didn't have a

brother waiting there for me. This side of the cooler was clear and I ran its

full length. I turned my head near the end to see if the crab was following me,

but it apparently hadn't seen me. Being chased was a common experience in my

nightmares, but this was beginning to feel less and less like a dream. My senses

were too acute, and I could feel pain with every step I took. The massive,

crashing surf a few hundred feet in front of me looked crystal clear. This felt

real, no matter how twisted everything seemed. As I slowly came around the next

corner of the cooler, I could see debris from the Sea Star washed up for many

miles along the shoreline. It was mostly just broken wood boards, but scattered

around were also the occasional crate or foam container, just about anything

that could float and wasn't tied down, and some things that had been tied down,

too. Apparently the Sea Star had capsized close to the island, and the debris

field had found its way to shore without much dispersion. Everything seemed huge

to me as I strolled through the wreckage, trying to keep a watchful eye out for

more crabs or any other potential danger. Boards from the cabins came up to my

waist, and I couldn't remember them as being more than an inch thick. A plastic

chemical warning sign from one of the labs lay draped across a plank, looking

for all the world like a billboard. Its letters stretched two feet high.

"Warning, Highly Corrosive Chemicals." Below that a simple outline of a hand

with drop of liquid falling on it was partially obscured by the sand. The hand

was longer than I was tall. I sat down on the sign and stared out into the sea.

I was looking at all this from the wrong point of view. I was the only twisted

part of this scenario. Everything else was consistently on the same scale. The

world hadn't suddenly expanded into a gigantic state. Somehow I had shrunk down

to the size of a mere insect, while the rest of the world stayed the same. How

did this happen? The only thing that I could think of was that this was all some

absurd dream, and if I could only find some way of waking up from it, maybe

everything would be back to normal again. A thought suddenly struck me like a

sledgehammer and shattered my assumption that this was merely a dream with spark

of plausibility. The experiments. The carbon molecule. The shark. The jellyfish.

That last one struck a particular chord as I remembered back to my hazy dream of

all the lights as I floated in the calm darkness. I wasn't dreaming. I saw the

lights, the natural photoluminescence of the jellyfish. Everything started to

fall into place in a way that scared the hell out of me. Whatever had happened

to that shark and the plankton had happened to me as well. The prospect of an

astounding scientific discovery didn't comfort me much as I sat there, naked and

chilly in the cool morning sea air. I got up to walk some more amid the debris.

My thoughts turned to immediate survival. I didn't have any food, shelter or

clothing, and I was potential prey for nearly every living animal on the island

with little in the way of defending myself. There wasn't any point to even think

being rescued. Even if I could draw any spotter planes down, I couldn't imagine

how the rescuers would react to a tiny creature with a human appearance. I would

probably be stepped on for all my trouble. At least I could forage amid what was

left from the Sea Star. Perhaps I could take some of the smaller pieces of wood

build some sort of shelter. I would have to drag them pretty far up the

shoreline so they wouldn't get washed away at high tide. I would have to find

some way of protecting it from intruders as well. Perhaps a wide mote and some

sharp wooden spikes jutting out from the top and sides. Well, I'd have to see

what would work. I was walking around the side of a rather large cooler,

thinking of making some sort of spear so that I could hunt insects in the

undergrowth, when I came upon Paula's lifeless form. The magnitude of my change

in size hadn't really hit me until I saw her body lying on the beach before me.

She was easily two hundred feet long, stretching clear across my field of view.

She still had her wrinkled, soggy lab coat on, along with the lifevest I had put

on her. She was lying limply on her stomach with her head was facing away from

me, her short, dark hair wet and matted down. I stared at the back of her

lifevest to try to see if she was still breathing. I felt so useless standing

next to her. I knew mouth to mouth resuscitation, but I couldn't do a damned

thing if she needed it. I could barely make out a slight, rhythmic dip in the

lifevest that indicated life. I gave out a sigh of relief. At least things had

gone all right for her. She was tough. I was sure that she could survive here

until a rescue plane came, if one ever did. I wished I could be of some help to

her. I wanted to protect her and provide for her, but I could do neither at my

present state. It felt so ironic. Here I was with the woman I would have most

wanted to be stranded with on a deserted island, and this had to happen to me.

Her body suddenly convulsed as she coughed loudly. I stepped back cautiously as

her great arm slid back in the sand and she slowly rose to her hands and knees.

Her head lowered as she coughed and gasped for air. She looked weak and tired,

as if she had just been sleeping. She wearily looked up and squinted at the

treeline beyond the beach. She whispered something to herself that I couldn't

quite make out. I started to back up carefully in a wave of panic over

confronting her like this. She started to look at the washed up debris around

her when her eyes finally glanced over to where I was standing. She slowly shut

her eyes and focused on me again as an expression of incredibility swept across

her enormous face. "Sean?" her lips quietly formed my name. Not knowing what to

do, I nervously waved at her and said "hi" in a rather meek tone of voice. I

couldn't imagine what must have been going through her mind right then. She was

still quite disoriented and my presence didn't help any. She hesitantly sat back

on her knees, still staring at me as if I were the strangest thing she'd ever

seen. I probably was. "What are you doing so small?" she asked slowly, as if she

were trying to figure out if she were dreaming or not. Despite her enormous size

from my point of view, she was still just as disarmingly beautiful as she had

been before. My heart was racing, and I couldn't tell if it was from panic or

infatuation. "It's a long story, Paula, and I don't think you'll believe me."

"Oh, God," she said as she covered her face with her hands, "I must be

dreaming." She slowly lied down on the beach as I stood there and watched her.

She rested her head in her arms and closed her eyes. "All I need to do is go

back to sleep," she whispered softly to herself, "and when I wake up this will

all be gone and everything will be back to normal." She went back to sleep

quickly, as far as I could tell from the regular intervals of her breathing. I

stood there a few more minutes staring at her beautiful form. I had never had a

chance to look at her so closely before for any length of time. Her angelic face

looked so perfect, so innocent. I wanted to take her in my arms and hold her

until she awoke. I looked down at myself. Yeah, right. The most I could hope to

hold was her little finger. I was nothing to her. When she found out I was real,

she would probably spend all her time worrying about me and taking care of me.

What she needed to be worrying about would be trying to survive and get off this

island. I could do nothing for her in my present state, and I would be nothing

but dead weight to her. If I left now, she would think it was merely a weird

dream and maybe do better without me. I knew it was stupid and risky, but I

wanted to kiss her one last time before I left. Her massive arm blocked my path

to her face, so I decided to climb across the shoulder of her vest. I doubted

that she would feel my movement through the thick foam. The loose cloth that

covered the vest was slick but I managed to grab handfuls of it and pull myself

up. As I crawled across the back of her shoulder, I could feel her back rise and

fall with her steady breathing. It felt wonderful to be so close to her. My

hands slipped on the opposite side and I slid down, landing flat on my back only

a few feet in front of her face. I lied still for a few moments, half expecting

her to awake, but she remained sound asleep. Her nose, so perfectly sized in

proportion to her face,

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