XXIV. Pb & J

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Jessica lay on her bed staring at the ceiling.

It was an irrational thought, but on some level, Jessica had imagined it would be cooler for your dad to be in jail.

She knew incarceration tore families apart, and she felt that she had been fully cognizant of the fact that it would suck for anyone you knew to be locked up.

But... still. Her straight edge dad turning out to be a rebel who said no to the President because the dumb jerk was going to get a bunch of people killed?

She couldn't help but feel like that should be cool on some level. And it just wasn't.

It wasn't that she wasn't proud of him, but... nothing made sense and nobody would tell her anything. Nobody could tell her when the court martial would be. Nobody could even tell her what had actually happened that day even though everybody saw it happen on TV.

When the people on the news interviewed scientists, they talked in circles about the need to study the thing and the fact that the government was keeping all information related to the creatures secret.

When they interviewed politicians, they either seemed to pretend everything was back to normal now, like the President, or they pointed out how that was a completely bananas position to hold when everybody knew monsters had attacked.

She pulled up the best video they had of the smaller creatures like the one that had attacked Bruno and her dad. It was security camera footage from a gas station southeast of Oakland. Someone had been attacked by one of the things-- pulled right off her feet and whisked off into the night-- and her wife had saved her by hitting and pinning the thing with her car and setting it on fire.

"Relationship goals," Jessica said to herself.

There was another video out there now. A new one. Some Russian guys with a modest internet following had apparently been killed on a fishing boat during a live stream.

People at her school were saying it was fake. Jessica wasn't sure she wanted to watch it whether it was fake or not. It was supposed to be really violent and disturbing, especially at the end. Apparently the thing had screamed or talked at him, then stabbed him and ripped his head off. What the hell?

The feeling of unease had stayed with her ever since Bruno had been attacked. She was so tired of the uncertainty and fear. She just wanted to either know what was going on or not have to think about it anymore.

With a sigh, she checked her phone to see if Gabriela had responded to her last text.

Jason stretched out with a happy sigh. He finally had leg room. The little office wasn't really big enough for two people, but two was infinitely preferable to three.

He put his feet up on the section of desk that had been Sarah's and Dave turned from his computer to give him a dirty look.

Jason happily ignored it. He'd finished everything he needed to do for the day, and in just two hours, he'd be on his way home. He had big weekend plans, and all he had to do was run out the clock without getting bogged down in any unfortunate entanglements.

Dave punctured the pleasant silence. "You seen this Russian video yet?"

With a vast expenditure of effort, Jason did not let the question intrude upon his Zen. "No, Dave. And I'm not going to unless and until it is specifically my job to watch that horrible thing."

"We're the team that got the best footage of the attack."

Jason sighed and took his feet off the desk. "So? That makes us responsible for everything the monsters do? Get real. We did our part."

Dave made an inarticulate sound of disagreement but didn't press the argument.

Jason spent a moment focusing on his breathing. It was just two more hours. He just had to hold out for two more hours and then--

"Have either of you seen Adam?" Sarah stuck her head into the office she had previously shared.

"He was talking to Winslow." Dave was already on his feet. "Where are we going?"

"No," Jason said, pushing his chair back into the corner.

"Got a call about something weird over in Half Moon bay. I want to go check it out."

"We checked out three beaches already this week," Jason complained. "We're not getting anything but footage of sand and water."

"I'm grabbing Adam. Meet you at the van." She disappeared from the doorway.

Jason groaned. "Why, Dave? Why us?"

Dave patted him on the shoulder. "If you wanna know the truth, Jason, it's 'cause we're just that good."

Jason snorted, but Sarah reappeared in the doorway.

"He's right, Jason," she said. "I could have my pick of anybody I wanted. I don't trust them. I trust you guys."

She disappeared again. Dave didn't look back at him.

"Why's she gotta do that?" Jason muttered.

He reached for his satchel.

Positron Mobile🔋84% 3:32pm


I'll text you later


i hope he's ok :(

oh jeez that sucks

Heading to the emergency room

It actually stung him pretty bad

Hey sorry


get out of there? somehow? tell your dad you have a stomachache idk??

please please can you like just

but seriously gabriela

thank you

Good job on having a little sister

Julia wouldn't do this

Why is he like this

I swear

No he picked one up

he ate a jellyfish??



He actually did it

Oh crap

I didn't want to believe me. Everything's just a huge fight now and it's just


ever again?

NOT go to the beach?

im sorry im kinda freaking out right now. can you uhh

Nothing except wait for Cyrus to eat a jellyfish or something

There's nothing to do and half the places are closed anyway

We're all down at San Pedro

I told you this?

you're at the BEACH??

I know it happened, I just..


I mean, it feels kinda... not real?

But here we are, walking on the beach like there aren't who knows what tentacle things down there

It feels like it's just a matter of time til something else happens

REALLY gung ho on the whole "don't let it control your life" kick.

I feel pretty much the same way, but my dad is...

I'm just not sure what to say

No, no!

thats a lot

ugh wow sorry

i feel like i cant trust myself or anything i think

then all of a sudden everybody just pretends everything is fine

like, everybody was so excited about the end of the world until actual monsters attacked

like if this is biblical stuff doesnt that mean this is the end times??

"iT wAs dEmOnS"

not like the president just says

actually over


you know

looking forward to this being over


How are you holding up?

Ah jeez, yeah of course.

not even a little

i just cant even

ugh please no

See that messed up Russian video?

Hey yourself!


Gabriela is typing...

Sarah scanned the mostly empty beach. It looked fairly ordinary except for the heaps of rotting jellyfish. She felt Jason's eyes on her back as she gazed out into the water.

"All right," she said, turning around and smiling, "I've got somebody coming over to meet us who's going to tell us about these jellyfish with lead poisoning."

"Lead poisoning." Adam raised an eyebrow.

"That's what I'm given to understand. Heavy metal poisoning, anyway." Sarah flicked back through her text conversation.

"Actually, copper can do it too," said a voice from behind Jason. He turned to see a woman wearing large dark sunglasses and a long coat approach.

"Could be heavy metals. It could be something else." The woman gestured out at the sands. "It's not unusual in any case to see a die-off like this. The unusual thing is what kind of jellyfish these are."

"You must be Dr. Avery," Sarah said.

"Uh, excuse me," Jason said. "What do you mean what kind of jellyfish?"

"Before I say anything else," Avery said, "I want to make some things clear. I apologize, but Avery is not my real surname, and everything I say to you has to be completely off the record."

"I understand," Sarah said without blinking. "You can have my assurances that I will protect your anonymity as a matter of my integrity as a journalist. I can also assure you that my senior editor will back me up to the hilt."

"I know he will," Avery said. "I've seen his work. And yours, of course. That's why I'm standing here." She exhaled.

"So, there was something about what kind of jellyfish these are?" Adam looked blankly at the doctor.

The doctor grimaced. "Stand back about twenty feet." She reached into a pocket of her coat and pulled out long rubber gloves, a face mask, a plastic face shield, a small pair of tongs, and a plastic bag.

She shrugged out of her coat and handed it to Jason. He looked at her with an expression that asked what it was about him that said coat rack, but in her defense, he took the coat from her.

The doctor finished donning the protective gear and stepped out toward the place where the waves met the shore and lumpy translucent bodies sat in putrid piles.

She carefully collected a specimen with the tongs and placed it in the plastic bag, then she put that bag in another bag. She carefully stripped off the protective gear and put that in a separate garbage bag.

"This isn't making me feel great about being on the same beach with those things, Doctor," Jason said, stepping a few feet away as she approached.

"Gonna be honest, me either," Sarah said, her eyes fixed on the bag Avery held.

The doctor held up her cell phone and activated its flashlight, then held it up so that it shone through the dead, translucent body. Black spots swam in the thing's body.

"I'm not a marine biologist or toxicologist, but that doesn't look like metal poisoning to me," Sarah said.

"No," Dr. Avery replied. "And-- it won't be as apparent with this much daylight, but--" She pulled the phone away and turned the jellyfish corpse so that the place where the powerful LED had been shining was turned toward them.

The spot where the light had struck the thing's skin was a different color. No-- it was faintly glowing with the residual light of the flashlight.

"Like a glow-in-the-dark toy," Adam said, looking at the dead animal in wonder.

Avery shook her head. "No, not exactly. If we were in a dark space, you'd see that the light actually pulses irregularly."

Sarah's eyebrows furrowed. "What does that?"

"I have absolutely no idea, and weird new stuff out of the ocean, after what happened a week ago? It spooks me."

Avery took her coat back from Jason. She started to hand him the thing in the bag, but he backed up quickly. Sarah reached out and gingerly took it with two fingers instead.

Avery pulled her coat on and said, "Right now, my bosses high up in a branch of the government have established that our policy is not to investigate or acknowledge potential connections between sea life anomalies like these and the events of eight days ago."

"What do you mean?" Sarah asked sharply. "It's considered a waste of resources, or?"

Avery shook her head. "I can't speak to their motivations. All I can say is I'm pretty sure jellyfish aren't supposed to look like that. I could be wrong, but it is what my doctorate's in and I could be arrested for talking to you, so please take that into account."

Sarah nodded. "Is there a way we can get in touch with you?"

Avery shook her head again. "I don't think we'll talk again. Excellent work covering the attack, by the way. You're a credit to your profession."

"Thank you!" Adam called warmly. He looked over at Sarah, who was holding the plastic bag like it was a live grenade.

"She seems nice," Dave said.

Jason sighed loudly. "What do we do with a mutant jellyfish for a lead?"

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