And on the seventh day, I rested.
I’ve been in bed for several hours, actually, lying on some blankets in the diveroom.
“You’ve likely done permanent damage to your lungs, David,” said Lin. She sat with me this morning, pressing me for information: what was it like? What did I learn? Then she shifted gears into part-lecture and part-concern. “What were you thinking?”
“Right now I’m thinking I’m so tired I’ll never get out of bed. Except for the fact that I’m so hungry I might eat it.”
She didn’t react. “I’m intentionally limiting my questions about the sea.”
“I know. I appreciate that,” I said.
“I want to make sure you’re getting healthy.”
“As a clam,” I said. “Look, tell me what you want to know and I’ll do my best to fill in the details.”
“Tell me about the jelly,” she said, eagerness creeping into her voice.
“It gets everywhere…”
“…I think it regulates the body’s gases somehow, through the pores.”
“Are you going to do that every time?” I asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Interrupt me. I said three words before you made up some science-speak.”
“Don’t be juvenile, David. This is important.”
I shrugged, deciding to just give up what I knew. “I’ve also seen the hunters use the jelly as something like Second Skin. You know? The stuff athletes use to cover blisters?”
Lin pursed her lips before responding. “This is what I first began to hypothesize during my Ph.D. research. Everything I’ve witnessed firsthand leads me to suspect I’m right. If your account is credible…”
“…then it could be a naturally occurring antibiotic.” Lin didn’t even slow down when I interrupted her. “But you didn’t see any eggs?”
“None,” I said. “Do you still think it’s amniosis? The jelly?”
“You’re learning, David. That’s good.” She looked impressed. “That’s my hunch, but I’m still speculating.”
“Here’s my speculation. I think something big–Leviathan, most likely–is using the tunnel openings as nests. He or she or it–or whatever–seals the tunnels with the amniotic sac and lays eggs inside.”
“When the lava tubes open into the water they have to cool quickly,” said Lin. “This turns them into obsidian, black glass, and typically would seal the tunnels shut. The fact that the tunnels remain open to the water suggests your theory might have some credibility.”
Normally I would have felt smug, but just then I wanted to turn the conversation back to something a little more pressing. “Lin,” I began, “I need to ask you about Chris.”
Lin started, paused, and then slowly began to answer. “I’m worried, David. He’s locked himself into the bridge and refuses to let me in to talk. He only comes out when he’s sure I’m asleep or in the restroom.”
“Call it ‘the head,’ Lin,” I said, referring to the restroom. “It’s nautical.”
“Do you want to hear about Chris or not?” She shot me a look. “I think he’s suffering from effects related to the increased pressure. I hope that’s what it is. The alternative is something much worse. It’s not HPNS or it would have manifested earlier, likely on Daedelus. It’s not nitrogen narcosis either. But it’s something. Chris isn’t right.”
“Are you sure it’s him, Lin?” This was dangerous territory and I knew it. The hostility in the Monk was palatable. Being on the sub was like being trapped in a pipe organ, where the only notes that get played are hate and spite.
“Have you been near the bridge?” she asked. “Can’t you smell it? I can only imagine what uses Chris has found for the storage shelves and locker compartments.”
Before I could press the issue further, a knock came at the sub door. I thought about ignoring it, but since the Atlanteans were so polite, I figured any interruption had to be for a good reason. Crossing the hallway to the side hatch, I opened it to see Jailer standing there. His head was low, but he still seemed attentive. I invited him inside, motioning with my hands. He began gesticulating, but it took us a few moments to piece together what he was trying to say. Lin got it first.
“It’s Nessa,” Lin said. “She’s dead.”
We went immediately back to the comb where Nessa had been resting. She was still laying in the glowwater, unmoving and lovely. Her face had gotten paler, and there was pinkish circles around her eyes. I felt unbearably sad. I placed my hand upon her cheek. It was already colder than the water.
There was some confusion about what to do with the body. I’m not yet sure if they have burial customs here, but we tried for almost an hour to convince the Atlanteans to let us take her (though we hadn’t really figured out where). They gently insisted she remain where she was. Maybe that’s so they can observe a proper grieving period. A lot of cultures do that, to help with the pain.
I feel horrible. Caught up in the adventure of Atlantis, I’d barely gone to see Nessa. I could have done more. I could have prayed harder. I could have, at least, been there when she passed.
What’s wrong with me that I have to remind myself to care about others?