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Aquanaut 2

Alpanon Oct 24th, 2017 (edited) 1,168 Never
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  1. Dawn came and the light of the sun began to warm the shivering wet figure of Arthur Stew, who had spent the better part of the night crying. When his raft had capsized the life-preservers had pulled themselves up to the surface right away, but this had left the canvas below water and the mast pointing downward. Too shaken by the fiery wreck of the Heyerdahl to care, Art had simply fallen on the raft and cried until his strength made him collapse. That’s where the dawn’s early light found him, wet and cold and apathetic. All throughout the night the Heyerdahl had filled the horizon with a red glow as flames erupted from it, and as the skies turned blue and the brightness of the day replaced the darkness of the night it wasn’t as magnificent a sight, but it kept Art in the pit of despair all the same.
  2. No one was coming to rescue him. He was on his own. He would die like this.
  3.  
  4. The raft kept on bobbing along the waves and drifting further away from the ship. That was just as well; every sea monster within thousands of miles must’ve been heading to the wreck, their minds intent on satisfying their ravenous hunger. This at least meant none of them had any time to pay attention to Art. Ironically he would’ve welcomed the quick death of being consumed by sharks over what he faced now. He didn’t have the drugs to make his passing any easier, he didn’t have the will to hold his head underwater and drown himself. All he had to look forward to was suffering. What did he ever do to deserve this? How had the entire ship been compromised? Had any shuttles made it off? How many escape pods had made it out there? Supposing they each had at least one person, or two like they were supposed to have, it’d be… oh man, the fact that he’d taken off in one pod on his meant someone would have to be left behind, didn’t it? Or… no, he couldn’t remember if there were extras, or if the number of pods was just for the people who didn’t fit in the shuttles, and…
  5. Art found himself wondering about the vaults inside the Heyerdahl. How many people had sealed themselves in them when the fires began, only to find themselves trapped inside as the ship crashed? The wreck would eventually sink. Would the people die of starvation like he would, or from lack of oxygen? Or would they die because the fusion reactor blew up? How would being in a planet-sized ocean affect the exposed engine? Would it use the hydrogen to burn up the whole world? No, that was ridiculous; they used to make movies about that type of thing 60 years ago. 60 years before the ship left, that is. How many more years had passed since? Art’s mind was still a jumble from the stasis, and it was only now that he was beginning to fully realize how badly. He shouldn’t be out here in this condition. It would take at least three days of relative rest to get someone up and running after an extended stasis, and even then it would be a full week before physical performance reached a point where you could go on a bloody adventure at sea. He was, simply put, both physically and mentally UNSUITED for survival. Who could blame him for failing when everybody else did too?
  6. And why couldn’t those idiots put out a simple fire? How much stuff had fallen off the ship as it was burning? Spread across the entire circumference of Mare, lost into the depths. And what if there were escape pods out there, spread out over thousands of miles of water? They might be able to communicate with each other, and then one by one they would be found by the monsters and the others would wonder what happened until only one was left and they would know it all too late. Humanity had no future on this world, and they all would disappear without Art ever meeting a single one of them ever again.
  7.  
  8. For a while Art continued wallowing in self pity, but there was one shimmer of sunlight in his life, and that was the actual sunlight. The nights didn’t get that cold out here, but his body had little to no protection against the cold after spending so long in hibernation, so Art had been uncomfortably chilly all night. Now the warmth of the summer sun was making his existence slightly less miserable, and soon his despairing, apathetic lounging around became the apathetic lounging of a cat. And like a cat, he too felt extra comfort would not be out of the question.
  9. The problem was of course that in order to not just lie down on the life-preservers he’d have to get in the water and turn the raft around somehow. Or… no, wait, wouldn’t it be smarter to untie the canvas and then just bring it up from under the preservers and re-attach it? Now why was it that he always thought of the dumbest solution first? Because of the confusion in his brain after the deep freeze, that’s the ticket. And if he hadn’t been all confused and had acknowledged the limitations of his mind and body he would’ve given some thought to his actions before and made a knife out of the metal of the lightning rod instead of messing about in the water and attracting undue attention from the locals.
  10. A bitter laughter, mixed with sobs, escaped from Art’s lips. Now why hadn’t he done that? The damn rod had been there all along, and he would’ve been able to defend himself at least a little with a knife. He might’ve been able to make a screw-driver or something to work on the damaged electrical components, too. But oh no, he hadn’t thought of that at all. He’d been too damn messed up to think properly or plan ahead and because of that he had no escape pod to protect him from the harshness of the weather should there be a storm and he’d gone through all that food and water so quickly without even rationing it and he hadn’t even gotten to eat half of it!
  11.  
  12. “FUCK!” he shouted and sat up, his ass falling into the ring of one preserver. Indignant and upset, he felt like choking someone. But there was an up-side to all of this; he’d realized his mistakes, hadn’t he? Which meant his brain was working. And if his brain was starting to work, that meant he had hope of making the most of his situation, didn’t he? All he’d need to do was think about the conditions he found himself in and make some deductions.
  13. Like for one thing there was the fact that the Heyerdahl had fallen into the sea. On one hand this meant that his situation was hopeless and yadda-yadda-yadda, but on the other hand, as he had already realized, the ship probably caught the attention of every single monster within thousands of miles, maybe across the entirety of Mare since sound travelled so well underwater. So what that meant was that they wouldn’t be interested in his life pod anymore, now were they? What use was little old Death Trap when there was a much grander prize to be had? His heart went out to the poor bastards trapped inside the vaults of the Heyerdahl, but they were the ultimate bait.
  14.  
  15. Feeling a surge of energy from his ingenious realization, Art began to look for his beloved Death Trap. Where was it?
  16. He realized rather quickly he had drifted a considerable distance during the night. He couldn’t see his pod. He couldn’t see it in any direction. But that was fine, he had one point in the horizon that wasn’t moving anywhere, and that was the Heyerdahl. He could use it to aid in his navigation. If only he’d put in the effort to memorize the stars and constellations, he might’ve been able to move around at night. Of course if he’d been reasonable last night he would’ve kept close to the pod and he wouldn’t need to find it. No use fretting about that though, he had to figure out his most immediate problem first.
  17. Art took hold of the fire extinguisher and began to pull on it. His line of reasoning was that he’d pull it up and then turn his mast upside down, then he’d get in the water and undo all the knows on the canvas. That would take a very long time, wouldn’t it? And then there was the one preserver that contained his entire water supply. The opening was now underwater, so he’d need to turn that around too. Would it really be easier to do it this way rather than to turn the raft upside down again? But how was he going to turn it around on his own? He couldn’t make massive waves on his own, and the buoyant preservers would seek to set themselves up at the top while the canvas would tend to sink no matter what he did, so it was better to just do this carefully and slowly. That was fine. As ling as the Heyerdahl didn’t sink, he’d know which way… the Heyerdahl was. He didn’t actually know which way he’d been drifting from his pod. Was he closer to the ship now, or further away? Which cardinal direction had he ended up in in relation to his destination, the Death Trap? Which way was he supposed to go?
  18. Again, a problem he’d figure out later. For now he was busy as a beaver, yes sir. No use taking on more stress from problems that weren’t immediate.
  19. …even though it was his lack of foresight that had brought him to this situation in the first place. Ah. Shut up, shut up, shut up! Work! Get that mast out of the water, and… and his mast was broken. The extinguisher was there, but the lightning rod had come off. His mast was once again too short to be useful.
  20. “Fuck it” Art said out loud and kept himself busy. Work kept his mind off of despair. Being busy, being active, that’s the key. Keep moving ahead towards a goal, that was how you survived.
  21.  
  22. Without a clock Art had no accurate way to measure the flow of time, but he felt it took an uncomfortably long time to undo the tangled knots that kept the canvas attached to the preservers. It was also incredibly heavy and he could barely lift one end over the side of his raft. Every moment he was afraid something down below would grab him and drag him down. This HAD happened before so his paranoia was perfectly justified. And if the canvas went down, it would take down his flippers and snorkel with it, because he’d left those in the “tent” he’d made, and that was like a secure pouch now that it was upside down. He ha to believe that gear was still intact. Losing half his mast was bad enough. Please God. Please.
  23.  
  24. It took even longer to get the canvas hauled up and attached properly, but once it was there Art felt a whole lot better. It had been busy work that didn’t really increase his chances of survival all that much, but the shade of the now much lower-ceilinged tent would help him manage his dehydration. There was no way in hell he was going to go through all this effort a second time without a proper meal, so he could only hope that the weather wouldn’t get too bad before he was safely inside his pod again.
  25. His pod that didn’t have any food in it, mind you. No, don’t mind that. Just get back there!
  26.  
  27. As his final effort Art turned the water supply preserver around until he could drink from it and took several greedy gulps. Working had made him thirsty, very thirsty. His stomach was also empty of food, but he filled it with water instead. Nothing else to do, really.
  28. Having satisfied his baser needs he lied down and admired his last remaining possessions, the flippers and the snorkel and mask. With these he would be master of the sea, so he would. To make sure he’d never misplace them he put them all on right away, and then he lied down on his stomach and looked into the sea just in case there was something down there worth seeing.
  29.  
  30. What Art saw down there was mostly water, and some rocks, and some schools of regular fish, and some drifting plant matter, and very little else. It was too deep here for him to see to the bottom, as bright as the water was here. No way he could dive down to retrieve the lightning rod if it had fallen there, that was for sure. What did that matter though; he was finally on a proper raft again. Now he’d need to figure out where to head.
  31. For some time Art tried to figure this out by starting at the Heyerdahl’s flaming wreck and the position of the sun. How distant had the ship been when it crashed? He had no clue since he’d been vast off his raft when it cam down and from there on out he hadn’t really been mentally fit to think about things. Post-stasis a man’s mind was prone for some extreme mood swings. He remembered this now as if it was just one of those facts everybody knew. After his extensive training it only made sense that he did remember it that well. But in the end he was only human.
  32. Maybe the only human.
  33.  
  34. Shaking off the possible desperation of being the last man on Mare, Art decided he’d make his way towards the east, which was where the aft of the Heyerdahl was pointed. The ship had come from the north, or so he thought. He felt like going north-east would take him to the vicinity of the Death Trap. That seemed reasonable.
  35. Setting himself up on his back with his head facing roughly northeast, Art lowered his feet into the water up to his shins, as worried as he was of their fate, and began kicking slowly. He didn’t have the kind of strength to move the raft at any decent speed, and he while the sea was rather calm there was still the distinct possibility he’d be swept off-course by oceanic currents. Eh, if that happened then he couldn’t help it. He only had so much strength to go around until he found food – which his pod didn’t have any of – but for the moment getting to the Death Trap – which had no food – was the only thing he could think to do. He COULD have tried going to the Heyerdahl itself, but that’s the likeliest place for all the monsters to congregate too. They were probably preparing to wake old Cthulhu and Dagon back there already.
  36.  
  37. After an unpleasantly long time spent kicking and momentarily getting up to check his course, something horrifying happened. A SOMETHING bobbed against his leg, and Art pulled his feet aboard the raft so quickly the whole thing rocked. He darted up and lifted his fists up, ready to bop every goddamn shark in the nose.
  38. Instead he saw something yellow and round in the water. A… ball?
  39.  
  40. For a moment Art stared at the yellow sphere bobbing up and down with the waves. Then he fell headlong on the raft and grabbed it before fate could snatch it away from it. It felt rubbery in his hands and seemed almost translucent, but he was certain he knew what it was. Here now was fruit, and fruit was food! It didn’t matter what kind of alien biology had produced this thing, he would eat it. It was the size and shape of a pear now that he held it in full view rather than a ball, but that was fine. Who cares what shape a fruit is? It was his now and he could… Art’s eyes glanced more. There was more fruit in the water!
  41. “Ahahaha!”
  42. Clumsily using his hands to propel the raft Art guided himself closer to the floating fruit, painstakingly, all too slowly, but inevitably, and for a while he occupied himself with nothing but collecting any he could find. Once he couldn’t see any more in his immediate vicinity he ordered them up in a line and counted. Nine pieces of fruit, all roughly the size of a pear. Without even trying to count calories in them he assumed he had enough here to keep him going for three days tops, with three pieces a day. This was being generous, seeing as his physical condition didn’t really allow for that kind of fasting. He’d have to keep his eyes open so he could find more. And this was all assuming these things weren’t toxic. But why would fruit be toxic? Wasn’t it meant to be consumed? Why yes, yes it was! But not by humans; all this stuff had evolved to suit the needs of the particular biology of Mare.
  43. Ah, to hell with it. What would be today’s meal, then? Art eyed up the fruit and decided on three pieces. One of them he picked at random as the third, but the other two were an easy choice; they were the only ones from the nine he’d found that stood out. One was a shade of green rather than purely yellow and felt harder. This he presumed was still a little raw. The other was softer and browner, and obviously past its prime. Conducting a quick experiment he confirmed that the raw one floated the best and the overripe one had the least buoyancy. Here was a little factoid of science he should commit to memory so he could share it with the generations to come. Hahaha.
  44.  
  45. He ate the overripe fruit first, hoping it had begun to ferment so he could escape reality with a little drunkenness. He had no luck with that. Biting through the slightly rubbery skin his mouth was at first awash with the sugary pulp that tasted slightly like pine-apple, and then with a fish-oily aftertaste that lingered and made him curse his fate once again. Seeing no other option he finished eating and tried to wash his mouth of the unpleasantness that lingered on his tongue. His stomach immediately felt a little better, but the small piece of fruit had served only to make his innards ready for more. Should he just eat more now? If he didn’t he’d be miserable and lacking in focus and strength until he eventually did, but if he ate more now he’d have less to eat over the course of the rest of the day. There was always the possibility he might find more fruit adrift, but if he didn’t… well, that would be a problem later on, wouldn’t it? If he starved himself his enfeebled body would simply collapse on him so keeping up his strength as well as he could, would be the best, right? Put off starvation until later so you have a chance to live now? Yeah.
  46. Art bit into the raw fruit and found it lacking in both pine-apple and fish-oily taste. In their place he discovered an unpleasant bitterness that made his jaw muscles cramp, like biting into a lemon.
  47. “FUCK!”
  48. He ate the whole thing eventually. It may have been easier on his taste buds to just gobble it down quickly, but the damn thing was chewy and he had trouble breaking it down. Art felt immense relief when the fruit was gone, and his belly felt considerably less empty now. That should’ve given him a more optimistic view on his situation, but it really didn’t. He kept trying to maintain a steady course to a destination he wasn’t certain was where that course would take him, and as he did so he thought about things unrelated to his current circumstances. For example, Art thought about steak. He thought about hamburgers and fries, hotdogs, kebab, tacos, pizza, chicken wings, curry and rice, he thought about fish and fowl and beans and chilli and all the things he could have been eating. He’d never been exactly a gourmet chef but nobody had ever turned their nose at his cooking. He certainly wouldn’t do so now. The planet-wide sea was bound to be full of things that could be edible and tasty, and if only he could get his hands on some of them there’d be no telling what he could cook up. Mostly fish and prawn now that he thought about it. And seaweed. And all this terrible fruit.
  49. The majority of the day passed excruciatingly slowly. The dried up salt in his hair bothered Art but he couldn’t wash himself with anything except his drinking water so he’d just have to put up with it. After considerable pondering Art managed to find a silver lining in the fact that he wasn’t seasick despite all the rocking. That was nice; he’d probably starve to death if he started puking out his limited food supply.
  50. Several hours passed and Art grew too weary to keep kicking to make his raft move, and thus he found himself at a loss. There was no way of determining where the currents would take him if he didn’t interfere, and when he went to sleep he might actually end up further away from his destination than he had made way to it while awake. He couldn’t keep this kind of movement up every waking hour either. Sailors crossing the Atlantic or the Pacific alone would have to wake up once an hour to check their course, but they had equipment to help them determine it. He had only his eyes and an estimate. This whole process was a hopeless exercise. He had nothing even remotely resembling a life-pod in view. If there was he could try the flare. But he had only the one. If it failed to be seen by anyone, he’d be in an even worse situation as he’d be without the flare without having gained anything. And if more monsters attacked him, the flare might be the thing to save him.
  51. Art noticed the raft was already beginning to drift off-course. Of course it was off course. Eheheh. What was the point of fighting that? He might as well let nature take its course. Long ago he’d made the decision to get aboard the Heyerdahl and that had meant dying on Mare. He’d accepted that. He’d hoped and expected that death to come many, many years later, in the comfort of a proper settlement, knowing that his deeds had helped pioneer a new society of humans on this world. It wouldn’t be his that that society would never come into being. He’d done about as well as you could expect a man to do, he’d come down to this world as one of the first people and he’d lived in these conditions for two days already, going on his third. That was… that was actually kind of pathetic. He should live on for a few weeks at least, even if he was alone and there was nothing to work towards. He owed it not maybe to mankind or his deceased comrades, but to himself. He could make a game out of it. Keep on living just to see how far you can get. What else is life anyway?
  52. Seeing that in the horizon the sun was beginning to lower and a yellowish glow was beginning to overtake the blue of the sky he decided to eat one last meal for the day, his first ripe fruit.
  53. The taste proved to be bland and inoffensive, the texture didn’t offer much difficulty and all things considered he didn’t find it an unpleasant eat. He tried to chew slowly and savour it but the fruit was gone all too soon. He tried to rinse his mouth as a means of replacing proper dental hygiene but that wouldn’t fly on the long term. Not that he’d live long enough to lose any teeth or get cavities. Another silver lining right there.
  54. To entertain himself Art wondered about the nature of the plant that produced fruit that would float up as it detached from the plant itself and then began to sink as it ripened. But if the fruit still floated when it was at its best as it seemed to do, wouldn’t that mean it only sank once it wasn’t supposed to be eaten anymore? Was it intended to attract something above the waves? Was there something on Mare capable of flight? A species of flying fish perhaps? Or was the purpose of the sinking timer to make sure the fruit migrated far away from the parent plant before returning to the ocean floor? Then what was the point of it being edible? Fish would poop the seeds out some distance away just the same way the currents would spread it, so maybe the plant covered both bases. Was this fruit from a regular plant or from the sentient kind he’d met before?
  55. Art put his head in his hands as the horror of that sank in. He might have eaten the unborn children of sapient creatures. No, noo, no he couldn’t have. It was just fruit. Those plant women had breasts, so they nursed their young, which meant they gave birth rather than spreading with fruit or spores. That had to be it, yeah, he was fine. Just fine. He wasn’t eating anyone.
  56.  
  57. The sun set and Art stared at it for the entire time. He felt the chill of night but couldn’t really help it. He stayed up looking at the stars, wondering if he could learn to recognize the patterns well enough to use them as navigational aides. He didn’t remember if you could see Sol from Mare. You probably couldn’t. How many stars did the skies of Mare and Earth have in common again? Ones visible to the naked eye? Looking at infinite space always makes a man feel small, but drifting on a tiny raft on an endless sea is even more effective at that. Art had experienced solitude while backpacking in the wilds and he’d once climbed Kilimanjaro to witness the stars of Africa disappear before the dawn but even that had made him feel connected to the universe rather than isolated from it. Out here he was just so completely and utterly alone he…
  58. He heard a plop and something hit him in the chest.
  59.  
  60. The impact was hard enough that it knocked Art and caused the raft to rock violently. A sensation of wetness spread out over his body from where he’d been hit and for a moment he feared it to be blood. He’d held his eyes shut while looking for a wound, but having found one opened them to witness light. Whatever the liquid was, it glowed in the dark. He could see a greenish, unearthly glow all over his body. The sight was so mesmerizing he forgot for a moment that he’d been attacked in the first place. Then the realization set in that whatever was out there could see him with perfect clarity while he himself couldn’t make anything out in the darkness. He heard something go plop again. Did the creature dive down? Was it gone? He tried to look around in the light of the moon, the stars and the glow on his own body, but he couldn’t really make much out in the blackness. If there was anything out there what could he do about it anyway? Was this stuff corrosive?
  61. Art cupped some seawater and splashed it on his chest to try and wash the glowing stuff off, succeeding only in spreading it out on the raft and leaving a small strand trailing behind his raft. If he hadn’t been visible before, he was now.
  62. “Shit, shit, shit!”
  63. The flare! He could use the last flare and light things up. Maybe that would scare off whatever had attacked him. But if he did that, wouldn’t he just be even more visible? Would a creature that lighted up its prey even be scared of light just because it was nocturnal? What else could he do? The extinguisher was still there, he could still use that. But he’d need to actually see his enemy to hit it; spraying out randomly would just leave him open for an attack from behind or from the sides. That wasn’t any good either. For the time being his only choice was to take a sturdy and stable position – or what passed for one on this raft – and wait until he heard the plop of the water’s surface being broken again. Then he’d know which way the attack was coming from… unless it came from below. Scenes from Jaws now presented themselves in his mind. We’re going to need a bigger boat indeed. This raft consisted of materials that any creature with sharp teeth and strong jaws could bite through, releasing the air that held him above the water and sending the heavy canvas plummeting down into the ocean depths, leaving him adrift. Adrift at sea, in the middle of the night, with dangerous predators in the water, with luminescent goo on him… that was bad. That was actually THE WORST it had been since he’d gotten here. He’d escaped the slug with some difficulty but then he’d had somewhere to escape to. Now he had nothing like that, just this raft. Just his nameless raft. It was bad luck setting out to sea on a vessel with no name. He ought to have given this thing a name. Like the Espoir-Faux or something. Ahahaha.
  64. Plop.
  65. It was at this time that Art figured out how poor a human being’s ability to deduce the direction from which a sound came from was. He definitely had heard the plop, but damned if he knew where it’d come from. He kept a low posture, half-crouched, his legs wide; trying to stand steadily and put up his arms in what he hoped was a good guard for his face and throat. Turning around in place wasn’t an option, but if another attack came he’d be able to take it without being knocked on his ass this time.
  66. Splurt. He was caught in the back of his head and he fell over due to his weight being distributed unevenly in favour of his front, resulting in Art face planting in the water. He panicked immediately upon being enveloped by the darkness, and as he flailed around and got to the surface he saw the green glow spreading off his body in every direction, illuminating his body and his immediate vicinity in the water as clear as day. He must’ve been clearly visible for hundreds of meters underwater. He rushed back to his raft and climbed up with an urgency he could scarcely believe he could summon forth from his tired body, and there he fell on his belly again, hanging on to the raft for dear life.
  67. Scrunch, scrunch, gulp.
  68. “What the…?”
  69. There was something on the raft with him. Something that was eating his food supply. Art lifted his head up and looked with worry to the shadowy figure huddled at the back of the canvas tent where his fruit were stored. He couldn’t quite make it out but it looked like it was another humanoid…
  70. Splurt. Art’s eyes were blinded as the goo covered his face and with a cry he brought his hands to his face to wipe it off as quickly as possible, fearing it may harm his eyes. He felt the swaying of the raft as something crawled past him and once again he heard the plop of something falling into the water.
  71. Then there was silence. Art washed his face and felt immense relief at having found the luminescent goo was not corrosive. He put his mask on to protect his eyes from future attacks all the same, and then he sat with his back to the fruit, waiting. He stared into the darkness and looked at the glow in the water spread and fade, grow more distant as his raft drifted further away, and eventually it was all gone. He heard no new sounds no matter how long he listened for them, and after many long hours of keeping watch he began to doze off. Despite the danger Art was unable to fight off sleep and so he fell unconscious while still in a seated position.
  72.  
  73. Art woke up before the sun came up. At first he couldn’t understand what had roused him from his sweet rest but he very quickly came to realize that he was in an extremely awkward and uncomfortable position. It was true that the raft hadn’t been particularly pleasant to begin with, but now it was as if he was lying down with only a single life preserver to hold up his weight, right under his back, while the rest of his body had nothing save the canvas between it and the water. He tried to sit up and to his horror found that when he put his weight on the canvas it sank down and he was pulled down along with it, water pouring over him quickly and the damn canvas falling over his head, trapping him in.
  74.  
  75. Fortunately Art was wearing a life-jacket and was pulled up to the surface again immediately. Unfortunately he was still trapped under the canvas, which was weighing him down. He struggled to get out from under it, flailing around, until finally the old parachute released its hold on him and slowly sank into the ocean’s depths. He couldn’t keep buoyant while holding up the canvas so he had no choice but to let it go, and along with it sank his fruit, his water and the last flare. Looking around Art saw that the life-preservers had all been separated, as they were the fire extinguisher had sunken as well. His raft was gone.
  76. But how was any of this possible? He’d tied the knots well, there was no way they could’ve just come loose on their own. You’d need to be able to actually handle knots to pull them loose, so whatever had done this had to be dexterous enough to… no, what if something had just chewed through the ropes? But if that had happened, wouldn’t he have been woken up while it was happening? Even with sharp teeth you’d need to saw on the rope to actually cut it, just biting down wouldn’t… and the teeth would’ve gone through the preservers too, so… so…
  77. Plop.
  78.  
  79. The life-jacket he’d used to build the raft was now atop one of the preservers. Art slipped inside the one he’d been sleeping on and stared at it. The sun wasn’t up yet, but he could still see. It was only then he realized why. The sea around him was full of the glowing green stuff. The thing that had attacked him during the night and stolen his fruit had come back, and it had dismantled his raft. Not only that, it was now right there, fiddling with one preserver and jacket. Art could actually make out the shape of…
  80. Tentacles?
  81.  
  82. The jacket was placed on the top of the preserver to create a floor. Above this floor climbed a small mass of writhing tentacles, and above those tentacles was a girl. Looking at the size of her she couldn’t have been much older than six years old, tentacles aside. An octopus or squid mermaid, that’s what she looked like. Her hair was a wet mass of red falling down all over her head, covering her face and reaching down to grant modesty to her bare chest. It looked extremely unsettling to see the mass on tentacles replacing her legs writhe around as if they were acting of their own accord while the top part of her body squeezed her hair dry like she was just a normal girl who’d gotten out of the water. It was still too dark for Art to make out anything else, but this child’s appearance had made him forget the horror and despair he should’ve been feeling at the fact that his situation had worsened beyond all hope.
  83. Seeing where the third preserver had floated Art kicked to it and used a piece of his harness to attach himself to both of the ones he had left. Having done this he climbed out of the water and uncomfortable sat on them, hoping to keep his legs away from potentially hungry predators. And then he waited. The squid kid didn’t seem to have any interest in him at the moment, and so Art found the time to consider his situation in a new light.
  84. Fact number 1 was that she was a child. Just a child. This meant she wasn’t likely to be particularly dangerous.
  85. Fact number 2 was that if there was a child, there should be an adult. This was VERY dangerous.
  86. Fact number 3 was that she had only shown interest in his food and the raft, not Art himself. This implied she needed food and shelter, meaning the likelihood of an adult’s presence was very low.
  87. Fact number 4 was that she didn’t seem to either care about Art’s survival or was incapable of understanding the concept of him maybe drowning without his raft. The additional fact of all life on Mare being aquatic in nature seemed to support the hypothesis of her being ignorant rather than malicious.
  88. Accepting these facts led Art to deduce that he could very likely form some kind of connection with the natives here, at last. A non-threatening creature like this would pose no danger if he approached her, and if he managed to get her to understand his predicament she may prove capable of arousing the sympathies of her elders, leading to greatly increased likelihood of survival on Art’s part. This was of course only possible if he managed to form that connection with her, which would require some kind of common language between them, and as the Queen’s English wasn’t spoken by the natives of Mare, this posed a problem. With adults he might’ve been able to communicate more easily as their intellect was likely greater and more adept at coming up with solutions to such problems, but what could he do with a child? In any case he had to approach her, and doing so might be threatening to HER. She was capable of spraying ink as a means of defending herself, as he had learned. She would likely try to blind him and escape if he came near. As of now the distance between them didn’t seem to bother her. What ought he to do?
  89. The conclusion Art came to was to wait for the sun to actually come up. With dawn’s rays warming and illuminating them he might look less dangerous to her. Or maybe she was a nocturnal creature and found daylight more threatening than darkness? In any case Art needed light to work and the glowing goo he now knew to be ink had dispersed by now. It was getting difficult to keep the floating squid in his sights, but as the preserver and vest were orange he was still able to follow them. Using his hands as paddles he kept correcting his movements to keep within close proximity to his target but being careful to keep far enough away not to become threatening. The squid had finished drying her hair and was now braiding it, her tentacles making smacking sounds as the suction cups attached to one another and pulled off. Listening to this for a while Art realized she was using these smacks to create a tune of some kind, and after a while there came a low humming from her direction. It kind of made him want to sing too. Having no better ideas he began to whistle Under the Sea.
  90. As soon as the squid kid heard the sound of his whistling she stopped what she was doing and dove inside the lifejacket, somehow managing to fit inside it completely. Art knew squid could fit themselves in very small, cramped spaces, but the humanoid part of her body had made him expect her bones would get in the way of that. Now he had scared her off once again though.
  91. “Shit” he muttered and zipped his lips to make sure he’d keep quiet until dawn came. It’s not like he had anything to eat or drink anyway.
  92.  
  93.         ***
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