Palau made Eddy Carvajal feel like a giant. Like the world was not a world at all, but this microcosm of land; just three-hundred-and-forty freckles on a cerulean marble. The archipelago itself held so much oceanic treasure that, for a marine biologist, it made a life-long career. This is why she was seriously considering moving here permanently.
The trip that her research group was taking from the Philippines to Palau each week was becoming less and less about the journey and more about the destination. As much as Eddy valued the weekends with her grandmother, her dreams were filled with seasalt. Fish like silvery lights, thrumming in swarms; coral sprouting from the bareback ocean floor, kilometres from the main triangle; jellyfish like underwater spirits, too gentle to sting.
This was Eddy’s obsession as of late. The Jellyfish Lake on Eil Malk. She had spent nearly every day working on the tourist stand, fitting travellers with scuba gear and taking every opportunity to tangle with their golden arms. Jellyfish had always fascinated her. As a creature, they were completely meditative; they moved entirely without thoughts, without desires. It was contagious. When she swam with them, she swam without fear.
They could not perceive the clumsy mammals kicking around them. When their glassy bells tore, they sensed not the void of death. They could not tell that in the last two decades, they had fallen from thirty million to less than one.
“You are the key to our future,” Eddy told them quietly one evening. She had just spent the last half hour coaxing some stubborn Americans from the water, and her frustrated scowl had yet to leave her face. “If I save you, I will know how to save us.”
Samuel Henderson – more commonly known amongst their group as Weevil, for his incredibly long nose – was filing all the forms from the day into a yellow binder. He glanced up at her mumbling, and raised his eyebrow. “Pesky tourists, huh?”
Eddy took a long breath and tried to straighten her face. “The basin should be for researchers only.” She moved over to where Weevil was trying to slot the binder into a tightly packed case. “It should be made an SSSI.”
“Why? Most research has already been conducted here.” He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a set of keys. “You’d struggle to make it a site of enough scientific interest.”
“What are we here for then?”
He smirked at her and turned to lock-up shop. “Extended field trip.”
She frowned darkly. “I’m here to conduct research on how to increase populations.”
“I suppose there is that,” he conceded. “So, what’s the plan tonight? Gonna join us on the beach for some beers?”
“No,” she said, “I think I’ll stay here a little while longer.”
“Aw, c’mon Carvajal,” he whined, kicking his sandals petulantly, “it’s nearly our last night on the island. The boat back to the Philippines this weekend is a one-way ticket.” She ignored him, leaving her skates and people clothes outside the door to walk down the platform. She heard him huff behind her, followed by the sound of receding footsteps, and then she was alone.
Her diving suit was still slightly damp, but the night was warm enough to keep the chill away. She crouched as close to the water as possible, peering into the deep, shadowy pool. By now it was nearly opaque, reflecting the darkening sky, and the jellyfish had become blurry shapes. Soon they would be entering their sleep cycle. The Nightjars cooing in the surrounding trees were counting the seconds down to it.
She wanted to push her hand into the water, but felt that even the slightest disturbance or the smallest of ripples would disturb the peace. Instead, she crossed her legs and took a candle out of her satchel. The light would be low enough to leave the creatures to their rest.
For nearly an hour, there was nothing. Only the gentle wash of water and the percussive hushing of trees overhead. The candle had burnt its own basin into the wax, and Eddy imagined the flame with a golden jellyfish floating inside. By now the rest of her research team would have been several units in, merry, and with sand in every drunken crevice. Eddy stayed quiet, watching the water like a guardian.
She thought she might have imagined it at first. Or, perhaps, a shower may be starting, making the water twist up in circles. But she felt no rain on her skin, and after a while, the ripples began to vibrate enough to knock the platform. She moved onto her knees, leaning over to stare as the lake shifted and splashed beneath her. She had to grip onto the edge of her perch to stay upright, until finally, after a tremendous growl that could only have come from the depths of the sea trench, the lake fell eerily still.
In the commotion, her candle had been blown out. Yet through the blackness, she could see something large moving. No, not something large – several things that were very, very small.
“Eddy,” they whispered, heads bobbing to the surface, “Eddy, Eddy.”
She couldn’t speak. She must have been dreaming, except – this did not have the same gossamer quality as a dream. The wood beneath her was splintering, the air sharp on her bare skin. And it kept coming. “Eddy, eddy, eddy.”
This was it. This moment had always been waiting, pulling her into its future. She closed her eyes against the currents of air, water, life.
The jellyfish had spoken.
by Bella Snow