Invasion of the Sea - Season 1 Episode 4
Dr. Eurus gets to experience the night life of Fons before receiving some information from a colleague.
Tides was written by Jesse Schuschu and directed by Jesse Schuschu and Ayla Taylor. It was produced by Ayla Taylor and edited by Bridge Geene. Art by Sarah Durst.
Dr. Winifred Eurus is played by Julia Schifini and Dr. Robert Montague is played by James Oliva.
Tides is the story of Dr. Winifred Eurus, a xenobiologist trapped on an unfamiliar planet with hostile tidal forces. She must use her wits, sarcasm and intellectual curiosity to survive long enough to be rescued. But there might be more to life on this planet than she expected. . .
Find us at www.tidespodcast.com and follow us at @tidespodcast at Twitter or Tumblr. You can support our show at patreon.com/tidespodcast.
Music in intro is "Shimmer" by Scott Holms and the ending music is "Drift" by Scott Holms.
Sound effects include those that were previously credited and:
"Large rocks.mp3" by shatterstars and "Walking on a Stony Beach" by bone666138 on freesound.org
Other sound effects used in this trailer were either downloaded in accordance with their copyright or were created for the use in this podcast.
[Sitting on the ground at the base of the rocks, slightly above most of the shells]
Winifred Eurus: Well I’ve spent the last little while sitting here just contemplating the absurdity of it all. I traveled across the stars on a speck of metal to hit a slightly larger speck of water and dust impossibly fast. The whole time spinning around at nausea-inducing speed. Then I fell through the atmosphere of a mostly unknown planet, on fire the entire way, and crashed into an ocean undergoing massive tidal fluctuations. And that was before anything went wrong!
But what got me at last was a short awkward drop from a ledge onto rocks.
This might surprise you, but I’ve never broken a bone in my life. I wasn’t a sedentary kid, I swam and hiked and ran track; I was just lucky and never really got badly injured. I have gotten a mild sprain before, and this feels worse, but I don’t know what a hairline fracture feels like. Nor do I have the training nor the medical knowledge to even hazard a guess. Biologists are not doctors. I do know the bone isn’t sticking out, so that’s a good thing, I guess.
I know just about enough to take some aspirin, which was quite a trick - it involved me opening my visor a crack while holding my breath, tossing a sealed little sharp-edged packet into my face, specifically right in my eye, closing the visor, then pulling in my arms and struggling to open it for about twenty minutes.
I’m halfway up the rocks, haven’t moved much except to scoot and drag myself up the slope a little. It’s full dark now. No more birds that I can see. The gas giant is almost fully gone, and the sun is well gone over the horizon. I don’t know precisely when the tide will come through again, though I know moonset is generally low tide on earth.
Night life is all around me. I’ve shut off the helmet light but my eyes are adjusting to the glow of Volturnus’s sliver and the three other visible moons. These are very bright, but small. They help a little to illuminate all the wonderful worms and crawling things. Not enough to see them clearly, just enough to know that they’re there.
Night here will be cold, but still it’s better than the glaring sun of midday for the moist invertebrates that are trying to hide in the mud. There are numerous types of worms, more variety than I’ve seen before. They crawl and leave trails from pool to pool, glimmering in the moonlight. The largest are five feet long, maybe, probably tan or brown. Many of them are smaller and darker. As for other animals, there are splashes and noises coming from I don’t know where exactly.
Ah, my head still hurts.
I can walk - well, hobble - just not climb past this steep bit. Still far too low for the wave. Now, I could go on the landward side of the hill but that won’t make much of a difference. If I wasn’t immediately killed I’d definitely get swept away. And then I’d just be smacked against the continent slightly later. If only I had a surfboard. You know, maybe if-
No, self, don’t get any stupid ideas. We’ve come this far without stupid ideas. You and me, we’ll be okay. We always figure something out.
I’ll never get used to the new constellations. It’s getting cloudier, but the night sky that I can see is completely unfamiliar.
[Laughs] Oh, who am I kidding. I knew so few constellations from Earth to begin with that it mostly looks the same to me. Seriously. I knew Orion, of course; walking home on cold nights in the snow under a clear sky, it was the only one I could pick out for sure. Big Dipper if I was really looking for it, and from that the North Star. My field or at least how I apply it requires astronomy, but I wouldn’t say navigation is my strong suit.
It’s getting more and more cloudy, and the glow from the other moons is going away. No rain, luckily. With the volcanos nearby any rain would be acidic and unpleasant. As it is the dark’s bad enough - I didn’t want to try climbing before and I definitely don’t want to do it in complete darkness. Shit.
I will eventually have to try, of course. Just not quite yet. Maybe in a few hours my foot might feel a little better.
[Quieter] Something’s moving out there. Hold on, I’ll be right back.
[Out of breath, more curious than afraid] I think - I think I scared it off. Huh. It was one of the weirder things I’ve seen. Kind of like . . . well . . .okay it's kinda hard to describe, and I only got a glimpse of it by flashing my helmet light. The first thing I noticed were the eyes of course, these two yellowish spots about a foot and a half off the ground. Just barely enough starlight to reflect from them. Blinking slowly. And then there were these crunching noises, wet smacking ones. So I limped a little closer, and then turned on my light.
It was just an instant before it leapt away, but it was maybe three feet tall, with a bulbous top, and eyes near the bottom. Between each individual eye was a bundle of segmented legs. Its body was almost like an upside down . . . Did you ever have those horrible waxy candy on Halloween? Dots! Dots! I think they’re called Dots. Like that, except fuzzy-looking and dark at the top fading into, like, a lighter gray on the bottom. Down there was some sort of mouth I couldn’t see well and what looked like the ends of half-eaten worms hanging out. [Mildly horrified but intrigued] It was crouched, slurping up the worms like you would slurp up your grandma’s linguine.
Oh god, sorry. That sounded way less gross and way more folksy in my head.
So it leapt behind a boulder - and I do mean leapt, it was surprisingly athletic. I waited, then tried to get to a position to see around, and it was gone. There was some disturbed soil on the ground, and so I suspect it burrowed into the mud somehow. There might be more of them in the area as well, either hiding or walking around unseen. Which is a pleasant thought.
In the gloomy distance there are flashes of light, like eyes - green, yellow, some of them reddish. Nighttime low tide, before it’s cooled down too much, that’s the time for predators. The big shellfish are safe, however, from anything without a large beak or a jackhammer, and the worms are easier and abundant prey.
Oh god. I just imagined being stuck here long enough to consider eating a foot-long rubbery worm. Maybe if I was down to either oatmeal raisin, banana, or worm, it would be a toss-up. Of course I haven’t been able to do a proper chemical analysis on the lifeforms, so at best I’d have horrible diarrhea as my body rejected the exotic substances without being able to digest them. Worst case scenario, the protein or protein-like molecules making up the worms are compatible with my own to some extent and it poisons and kills me.
[Quieter] Snuffling sounds nearby, another possible large animal.
It was gone when I pointed my helmet toward it. I think it was attempting to dig up one of those trees, leaving huge scratches in the dirt around it, getting that good nutrient-rich tuber or pod underneath. The creature must have quite some claws, so I’ll have to be on the lookout. I’m not dumb enough to think that just because something is an herbivore it won’t be dangerous to encounter.
The tree itself - and looking at other trees I think it’s a trend - it’s shorter than it was before. Maybe the darkness is causing them to withdraw, no more light to absorb on a planet-less night? The only time I saw them shrink this much was a little before the previous wave, so I don’t really know.
You know, the best case scenario for eating a worm isn’t how I presented it before. The BEST case scenario is that it’s compatible with my biology, and also delicious. Just roast it on a stick over a wood fire, watch the skin get all crispy and the juices drip and sizzle in the embers. Put it in a bun with some sauerkraut and dijon mustard, take a big bite and it’s just like a big fat kielbasa. [Unclear if disgusted by this or not] Oh sweet jesus.
How long has it been since I’ve had real food? Over a year ago, the team potluck dinner right before the launch. Stevens brought pigs in a blanket, which were . . . not terrible, I guess. Montague brought some sort of bean casserole, which I think had one piece taken out of it by the end of the night. Melissa brought these desserts, mini cheesecakes that were store bought and cookies she made herself which were pretty good, if I recall. The captain brought beer and drank most of it too.
I brought plates. Everyone needs plates.
I’m walking around as well as I can - a half hour rest, a half hour moving, testing out my ankle. It's not doing all that much better, actually. Mostly I’m finding and picking up ration bars that were scattered around after I fell, getting into little crevices in the rocks. One was broken into by something. That’s not ideal; but at least they’re sterile, in theory. It has raisins in it anyway so. . . Unless . . . oh no, it could have been a chocolate chip one. I hope not.
My ankle feels a little better now, though it’s swollen tight inside the boot. I’m in among the shells, taking a quick look before I try climbing up again. No gas emissions directed at me, even when I placed a hand on the shell. So the sign stimulus must be very specific to initiate the action; something like a beak tapping sets it off, but not light touches. The larger predators I’ve seen wandering around here may not merit being driven off, since they can’t penetrate the shells at all. Probably they are beneficial since they limit the populations of wormlike creatures.
These shells are so impressive when you look at them closely. Huge, not remarkable in color but with these subtle patterns and markings. The growth patterns seem to spiral around from the attachment to the hatched opening, retaining an overall almost spherical shape that I think is slightly narrower in the cross section in the direction that faces the brunt of the wave. The shell continues a bit into the rock itself at the bottom, adhering with a kind of mortar or cement more crude-looking than the shell itself. Stevens, I want you to look into some papers in our database on shell growth since I can’t remember anything about it right now. Not that knowledge of Earth organisms can give us much insight other than the broad strokes. I’m not even sure what material these are made out of. Calcium carbonate is the obvious choice, but who knows how many ways there are to solve the same problems, you know?
They definitely hum a bit to the touch, and tendrils connect neighboring shells. I’ve noticed some cohabitation by parasitic organisms, pushing open the hatch at the top and crawling in and out. These animals are about the size of a small dog but mostly are tentacles, with these tiny squinty eyes. They creep out and grab a worm or something else and then slither up the side and back in again. It’s interesting. The hatch seems almost designed to let them in and keep other things out - I’m reminded of many mutual relationships on earth, where allowing one beneficial houseguest keeps unwanted ones in check.
I’m going to slowly limp up the hill a bit, rest a moment, and then try to climb again.
You know, I’ve noticed the treelike plants are much shorter now. Extending and retracting like that must be energetically costly, which explains why they need to filter feed as well. At night though there’s no reason for them to extend, so with Volturnus gone they retreat and wait for the wave to come. That’s the theory at least.
More notes from a higher vantage point. I can see a little better now that Juturna has come out from behind the clouds. It’s only a little smaller in the sky than Earth’s moon. You know, I think it’s funny that Juturna is Fontus’s mother in mythology, yet Fons is the larger and more interesting satellite of Volturnus. We should have waited to start naming them until we got close enough to actually see them clearly.
In the cold reflected light I can see the shells, half-shadowed giant unmoving lumps. I'm up past most of them now.
I am trying to keep an eye out for any larger animals around. I think I saw our tree-digger earlier. It was slow-moving, like a bear sized creature with humongous claws. Luckily it and most of the other creatures are keeping away from me.
But there’s no time to really observe more. I’ve been hanging out down here for too long. I need to start climbing
[Static, voices. Eurus is resting on a ledge, less than a third up the rocks]
Hello? Hello? Can you hear me? Oh fuck it, this stupid thing. . .
Robert Montague: Fred! Fred! Hey, can you hear me Fred?
Eurus: Montague? Shit of all the people - Montague, I can hear you! Come in, roger, whatever the fuck, am I even using this right - The stupid button fell off last time and. . .
Montague: Thank god! Fred, you’re coming in clear. Jesus, can’t believe you’re alive. Getting a strong signal from the beacon, we’ve got your position down. [Sincerely curious] How is it down there?
Eurus: [sarcastic] Oh you know, it’s great, just that nice ocean breeze, lots of places to make sandcastles and pretty seashells to look at, oh you know and also the constant fear of death and being lost forever in the relentless crushing force of the sea. Yeah, uh-huh, I have a nice place up on a rock and I eat granola bars all day and I get to poop in an envelope. And I’m also, I’m also out of envelopes.
Montague: [laughs nervously] Okay, well, don’t worry, we’re gonna come and -
Eurus: I can also not smell my own body odor anymore inside this suit, which, you know, is definitely an improvement.
Montague: Wait, you’re still wearing the suit? I would have taken that off days ago. You said the air was fine, right? We’ve only gotten spotty reception of your signal, but I didn’t realize that you would still be -
Eurus: Contamination, Montague! Damn, just for a second have a thought about the biosphere I’m in, that’s way more important than my comfort. How could I possibly justify ruining this for future research?
Montague: Uh, I get it, but if you had just-
Eurus: Do you? Because what did you do at Alpha Centauri, did you just rub yourself all over the rocks?
Montague: [Defensive] Well, that was the Geologic Survey, we aren’t so strict about - alright, anyway, did you get the supplies that we dropped?
Eurus: Yeah, yeah. By the way, if it was your stupid idea to include chocolate chip and raisin oatmeal I will literally come up there and -
Montague: No no no, Fred, that was, uh, I distinctly remember that was Stevens. I told him no. I said don’t put that in there, she will fucking destroy you when she sees you next but he did it anyway. I put the chocolate chip in there. That was me. It’s because I care.
Montague: Listen, we got it as close as we could. Dammit, Eurus, we’ve all been worried about you. Melissa and the captain have been trying to calculate when we’ll be able to send the drop ship to pick you up, but it’s difficult with the radiation and the debris field and everything. It’s a damn good thing that Tellus planned for a full month in orbit, otherwise we’d probably have . . .
Eurus: Otherwise what? You’d leave me here, because the corporation said so? [sarcastic] That figures. [Pause, then accepting] Yeah, yeah, I know, the mission comes first, that’s what we signed up for. I can accept that.
Montague: [Sincere] No no, definitely not! Look, like I said, we’re coming down to get you, very soon. The magnetic inference is starting to clear up, and now we’ve got a fix, the next time we come around, we’ll be able to pick you up. We will be out of radio contact for a little while as we pass around the other hemisphere.
Eurus: Okay, fine, fine, I guess. As long as I know you’re coming, I’ll be fine. [pause] You guys I mean, not you in particular, to be clear. By the way, why are you the one on the coms?
Montague: We’ve been taking turns around the clock. Stevens is here most of the time, you know, recording and making notes and stuff. Dr. Wang hasn’t been here as much, she’s mostly been trying to predict the tides better, she has all sorts of charts and simulations she’s running. Oh, by the way, I’m glad you found high ground. I’d hold on tight for the next few hours.
Eurus: What? What do you mean? Volturnus isn’t at it’s nadir yet, it just set a little while ago . .
Montague: Yeah, but! Can you see Juturna from there? Should be the brightest satellite in the sky.
Eurus: . . . Yeah, it’s there.
Montague: [Excitedly] Okay, okay. The other moon’s a lot more dense than we thought - really exciting for mining prospects, actually, I can’t wait to take some samples of its crust but . . . alright look - but this time of whaddayacallit, uh month! I guess. It gets really close and offsets Fons’ tides. Really cool, even though it’s probably the source of the mishaps you’ve been having -
Eurus: Oh fuck. Fuck me. When, Robert?
Montague: . . . Huh?
Eurus: When’s the fucking wave, Robert?
Montague: In about, uh, twenty minutes?
Eurus: Montague . . . Robert, I, I hurt my leg, I’m down below the high tide, I don’t know if I can climb back up in time -
Montague: . . . Oh.
Eurus: Jesus motherfucking Christ.
Montague: Okay, okay, hold it, okay we can do this Fred. You need to get behind something, tie yourself to a heavy rock, and once the force has passed, you can swim back up -
Eurus: Well fuck, Robert, I was in a metal sub with a solid anchor last time. That’s not gonna work.
[Pause, at a loss]
Wait wait wait . . . I may have an unorthodox idea.
Montague: What? . . . Fred?
[Scrabbling sounds, then suddenly a high-pitched squeal]
Eurus: Come, ON, you fucker get out of the way.
Montague: Uhhhh, what did you just do?
Eurus: [laughing a little hysterically] Served an eviction notice.
Montague: . . . On who, exactly?
Eurus: Wait a second, let me wedge this rock in here - there we go. Montague, how much time?
Montague: Closer to fifteen minutes, now.
Eurus: Okay. Okay. [deep breath] Robert, I’ll be out of contact for a while, possibly you’ll be out of range by the time I come back out.
Montague: Out of where?
Eurus: I’m, I’m going to do something a little stupid. I’m banking on the assumption that this mollusk thing is even stupider than I am. [Cough] Which it’s not, exactly, since it’s trying to kill me with chlorine gas. Oh man, this close up I feel like I can almost taste it, that is. . . that is not good. [Squealing] Get out of here, squid-dog, Squidward, whatever the fuck [sharp squeal as she kicks the tentacled animal]. Urg, that’s gross. Montague. Montague, if I die -
Montague: Yeah I heard it the first time, ashes in magnetosphere, push Stevens out the airlock, sure. But what’s going on? You’re hiding behind one of the shells?
Eurus: I’m climbing into one of the shells. Just had to kick the dog out first.
Montague: [Horrified] Uh, no no no no, maybe don’t do that. Yeah, I’m going to say, that’s a very bad idea Winny -
Eurus: [Reflexively] Don’t call me Winny.
Montague: [Restraining himself] I’m sorry, that’s a very bad idea, idiot. That thing in there, you don’t know anything about it -
Eurus: Doesn’t know what it’s got coming if it tries messing with me. Okay, I can feel the ground trembling and I can see the crest of the wave on the horizon. It’ll be here soon. I’m going in, feet first of course. Safety first, you know. [pause as she gets into position] Welcome to Earth, bitch!
Montague: Fred, you’re not on Earth! Fred! Fred? You’re not on Earth. Shit. That doesn’t even make sense in context. Think about it- Fred?
Son of a bitch. Fuck!
Julia Schifini: Tides was written by Jesse Schuschu and directed by Jesse Schuschu and Ayla Taylor. It was produced by Ayla Taylor and edited by Bridge Geene.
The voice of Dr. Eurus is Julia Schifini. Dr. Robert Montague was voiced by James Oliva.
Special thanks to Sarah Durst for designing our cover art.
You can find us online at our website tidespodcast.com and follow us on tumblr and twitter @tidespodcast.
If you like our show and would like to help us keep making it, you can support us on Patreon at patreon.com/tidespodcast.
Thank you so much for listening.
Montague: This is a Rock Fact.
This is Dr. Robert Montague. Rocks FUCKING ROCK! [Obnoxious air guitar noises] Just showing you how it’s done.