My brother used to leave, slipping his kayak in the bay through the reeds and not return until the sky turned dark blue and the forest went black. I stood on the shore of the bay, pleading with him, like the whiny frightened sister I am, to stay clear of the stand of trees at Far Bay. "It wasn't safe," I told him, I always told him.
And he ignored me. Brothers do that. Or told me that I should go back and commune with the crystals I kept in my room. Which wasn't fair. I stopped believing crystals had spirit inside them last year and now used them to keep out negative energy. But anyways, he always left.
My brother left many days. But I think the morning of That Day will always stand out in my mind. Not because the moment itself was any different. I was up, putting pesto on whole grain toast when he came down in swim trunks with messy hair. My parents were asleep, probably suffering from hangovers. Later, he left the house and I followed him off of our summer home's porch like an anxious child. The day was at the point where it was moist and warm but not sticky. I stood at the shore, behind the reeds, and watched him in his little kayak paddle away across the grey water. The morning in itself was nothing special, it was the after that's important.
I turned away from the water and walked back up the path to our house. The house was just a summer home, filled with things that we only half liked. We left it in early fall and I would twist around in the tangle of my seat belt and watch as we left the house to stand alone in a chilly forest. I always felt guilty abandoning it so carelessly each winter. That's why I resolved to live there all year when my parents sinning killed them and they left the house to me. I could be just like Thoreau only with a supermarket. Anyway, when we returned to the house come spring (I don't think the poor old thing was ever a home) I always made sure to do an exorcism as Dad started the water. Not that the house was bad or anything but you can never be sure what witches will do in an empty house.
It was hot and sticky and uncomfortable before I figured out that day was actually That Day. I was watching my squirrel feeder, sipping the end of my tea when it dawned on me that the tealeaves were telling me that my brother would die today.
My mother was in the kitchen making lunch when I broke the news to her.
"You're neurotic," she said, and kept cooking.
I left the kitchen, ashamed of my mother's ignorance. The day was hot and exhausting, but I was nervous. I paced the stifling house. But there was no point to it. To my pacing, that is. There was no decision to be made, I would go to the water and look for my brother.
I walked out through the back door and down the little path that led to the dock. As I walked through the woods, past the chirping birds and drone of clumsy june bugs, I wondered if I was like the man in that old Indian legend. You know, the one who tried to run from Death but only ended up fleeing to where Death would be ready to greet him. The calm I felt at the first portent of tragedy left. My heart beat unnaturally fast like a rabbit stuck in a cage.
I flitted about the boathouse, not really sure what to do. A few minutes later and I was idly standing around, helplessly fiddling with an oar as I babbled senselessly about kayaking and boy scouts. Eventually, I donned a life vest and brought out the other kayak from the back.
As I dragged out the kayak, I began having doubts. Maybe I had misread the tealeaves. Maybe I should go consult other more reliable sources like tarot cards or a horoscope. I spooked at the feeling of reeds brushing my legs and dropped the kayak. It landed with a quiet splash that rang heavy with fate. No, I would go.
My hands slipped on the oar as I began paddling. I was clammy with sweat. A few strokes out and I remembered that I had never been good at kayaking. The bay was cooler than the house, but it was still dreadful hot. On shore I thought I had known where Far Bay was, but after thirty minutes of paddling I wasn't so sure. Its not that Far Bay is actually far, it's just that our house is off of a bay that's really more of a marsh and the water wraps around and through the shore like some labyrinth slowly creeping up to land.
An hour later and I was drifting in the wind, staring vacantly at all the summer homes on the shore of the bay. It was so quiet. Some people had playgrounds on their lawns but all the yards were empty. They were probably escaping the heat by pumping up the ACs and contributing to fossil fuel pollution. I didn't recognize any of the houses. I had no way to go forward and no idea how to go back home.
I was too tired to panic, I just wept. Eventually, my pity party ended and I noticed things outside of myself. The sky was lovely, full of clouds. The horizon was white and hazy while the puffy clouds above my head were silvered on the bottom with coming rain. I could do this. I would find my brother. I had to. I would hug the shore until I found something.
Hugging the shore was stressful in itself. I could never be sure what was behind the dark armies of vine-covered trees or the next bend in the bay. There could have been practicing witches, demons, or even hooligans drinking beer. I tried to convince myself that nothing, not even a hooligan, would be out in the suffocating humidity but I couldn't. The heat was making me crazy. As I paddled, I oscillated between paranoid and lethargic.
The trees didn't move in that oppressive stillness, but I kept imagining movement anyway. It felt like something should have happened to signify the end of my journey, but nothing happened. I just realized that I had finally reached Far Bay in the quiet sort of epiphany that I had been there before.
Far Bay itself was completely surrounded by muck and trees. It wasn't really a bay. It was more of a stagnant marsh suffocated by mold, mosquitoes and the surrounding trees that stood watch like prison guards. There was only one entrance, a little channel of slightly deeper water with low hanging branches growing over it. I knew I was somewhere just outside that entrance.
There was a storm blowing in from the ocean. I could feel it in the strengthening wind. Some distant part of me noted I needed to get off the water before lightning struck. I paddled closer to the copes of trees, looking for the gap in the bank that would let me enter. In the shadows of the looming woods, I noticed clear jellyfish that lit up every time my paddle jostled one. It was like they had veins of skittering, flashing LED lights.
The more I looked into the water, the more jellyfish I saw. I had never seen so many in one place before. The jellyfish bobbed in and out of visibility in the murky water. They cluttered the surface of the water. I was frightened by how many jellies must have been hidden in the murky water beneath me.
Eventually, I spotted the entrance to Far Bay. The branches hanging over the entrance were lower than I remembered. Reluctantly, I drew near the entrance and tried to look into the darkness beyond the trees.
My brother's life vest, empty, orange, and half submerged in the brown water, drifted by my kayak. I knew it was his because I always begged him to wear it before he left; and when he inevitably refused, I snuck it into the back of his kayak, just in case. I didn't touch it. I was possessed by the conviction that obtaining any way to prove his death would somehow finalize it.
I passed the life vest and entered Far Bay. Ducking under the branches, I felt loose leaves drag across my skin like the fingertips of zombies.
It was difficult to process at first. All I could think was that there were long, impossibly thick strands of sticky spaghetti wrapped around my paddle. I drew my left hand away from it.
The entire bay was filled with the slimy noodles and amorphous, pink layers that moved like kelp. Peering over the edge of my kayak I realized that the slimy noodles on my paddle were actually the tentacles of a monstrous lion's mane jellyfish. I almost didn't realize it was a jellyfish because it was so big. I could hardly see the edge of it.
In the center of the jellyfish beneath the dark water, a deer was stuck in the pink tentacles. I was so scared I didn't even scream. The deer's eyes were dreadful, glassy and open, its tongue hung out of its parted mouth as if it was about to yell to me.
For what must have been a long time, I did nothing. I was frozen, mesmerized by it. The vomit of tentacles and jellyfish organs surrounded my kayak. I think I mostly just stared at the glossy stinger that clung firmly to one end of my paddle. My brother's kayak was overturned and beached in the muck at the edge of the water. I could barely make out what I prayed were footsteps leading away from it.
I never came up with a particularly clever solution to save my brother and myself. I just panicked and then started pushing myself towards the nearby bank without shifting my grip on the paddle. The tentacle remained stuck to my paddle the entire time. I was deathly afraid of touching jellyfish poison, for some reason I was sure that if any poison got on me I would drop dead instantly and get eaten just like the deer.
I managed to beach my kayak on the shore. I chucked my paddle and the creepy stinger into the water as I half stumbled and half fell onto the surrounding reeds. I called out my brother's name as I searched through the undergrowth.
I screamed when I found him. He was on the ground and his skin was so red that for a moment I thought his entire body was covered in blood. He was covered in bright red welts and unconscious. I cried. I promised him that it would be alright before I left to go find help.
I ran straight through the trees until I reached an asphalt road. I was at a bend in the road. I couldn't see any houses. I rushed barefoot down the asphalt road. It felt like I was trapped in a tunnel of vines. I came to an intersection lined with houses and rang the doorbell of the first house I saw. Terrified that no one would answer, I kept ringing the doorbell in case no one heard the first time.
When the door opened part of me realized I should have thought of some concise and poised way to convey how gravely I needed to use his phone to call 911.
"My brother was eaten by pink stuff!" burst out with a sob.
I think the man tried to calm me down but he couldn't. There were keys and a cell phone sitting on a chest of drawers next to the door. I grabbed the cell, dialed 911 and then sobbed about jellyfish and my brother to some calm lady who told me to stay on the line. I told her I was going to go wait with my brother, dropped the phone, and ran out the door.
I wasn't even there when the paramedics came. The man in the house tried to grab me to keep me from dashing off and hurting myself. Later, he told my mother that he thought I was hallucinating. I knew I had to be with my brother, but in my haste to get away, I ran in the wrong direction and just ended up getting lost.
Somehow, the paramedics were able to find my brother without my help and they saved him. Which was a relief, since I got hopelessly lost in my frantic dash. Like I nearly ended up in the next city over lost. I couldn't calm down. The man chased me down a few streets but then he gave up.
A couple of police officers were dispatched to go look for me. Somehow, somebody was able to contact my parents and tell them about my brother. It rained and stormed on their car when they drove to the hospital. Not that it matters, not that you care.
The doctors treated the terrible red welts covering my brother. He was fine after five days in the hospital and a week of recovery. And I wasn't lost running through random neighborhoods forever. Apparently the police found me sobbing on some random family's back porch. Needless to say, the children of that house were traumatized for life.
The storm had begun to break when the police found me. It was much stronger than what the meteorologists had predicted. Boats beat themselves apart on their docks in the strong winds and a tree in our backyard toppled over in the rain. The coast guard and authorities were busy with the storm so no one managed to look for the monstrous jellyfish that night.
When the clouds blew over the next day, it was gone. I imagine that the currents from the storm sucked the jellyfish out of the bay and into the ocean. No one ever believed my story. Of course, the doctors all agreed that my brother nearly died from jellyfish stings. It's just no one believed I saw a jellyfish large enough to eat a deer in that tiny pool of water.
It's unheard of, they told me. My brother was no help because he couldn't remember how he got stung. The official police report says I hallucinated. But I guess it doesn't matter.
A/N: I'm definitely looking to improve so please tell me what parts of my writing/plot didn't make any sense and/or what was boring. I know I'm not always particularly clear or interesting when I write so yeah :P
Also this was meant to read as kind of a realistic fantasy, but I accidentally grounded it in reality a bit too much. Apparently lion's mane jellyfish do actually get super large, go figure. Of course they don't get freakishly large and eat deer like the one in the story. Also the story is set in Long Island, NY in case any of you guys have been there.