From Earth to Fons - Season 1 Episode 1
In the first episode of season 1, Dr. Winifred Eurus is stranded, makes a plan and has an unpleasant encounter.
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.
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 @TidesPodcast on 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:
"Footsteps, Muddy, E.wav" by InspectorJ of Freesound.org
"Water Wading.wav" by Motion_S of Freesound.org
"radio click 4.wav" and "radio click 3.wav" by ERH of Freesound.org
"wave1.wav" by Kayyy of Freesound.org
Other sound effects used in this trailer were downloaded in accordance with their copyright here, and here and are not the property of anyone involved in the making of this podcast.
Dr. Winifred Eurus: I-it seems to be working. Hi there.
Hello? Hello? Shit. I might have to wait. Orbiter comes back around in . . . oh damn. A while. I’m not sure if I’m getting through since you’re probably passing on the other side of the globe right now, so I’ll just keep talking on this channel. Shit.
I have the beacon, I can - no, shit, I can’t stay here. I’ll, I’ll start walking, okay, alright-
[SFX: walking in mud]
This is Dr. Winifred Eurus. Wait, you know that. But if this is found by someone else some day, I . . .
Should I be saying, something like, “Personal Log, Entry 1” or something? I’m hoping this doesn’t last long enough to be a full-on diary. Mostly I just want to keep talking, and you guys will hear me, and everything will be fine.
I came to this world, as all xenobiologists do, in search of the vague existential concept of extraterrestrial life. Instead I was deposited, birthed from the sea like our ancestors, wet and freshly formed, on the stark shores of reality. Instead of benevolent mermaid-like aliens reaching down to help me I quite literally hit my head on a stromatolite. It’s a stark reminder that life is less of a romantic ideal and more something very similar to a rock.
Oh, was that a bird? Ah, I missed it. Oh well.
The tidal wave brought me here and deposited me like so much refuse on a silty mud flat. Like the ancient Nile brought renewal to the Egyptian riverbanks, it washes over and feeds this entire wide plane; what you might call an intertidal zone. I’d probably call it a whole lot of nothing. I don’t feel much different right now than the various fish carcasses and . . . squishy . . . flotsam lying around. The water’s all gone back to sea again, God knows how many miles from here. My vehicle and equipment were probably dragged back out to the open ocean. Thankfully I was able to get my environmental suit on before the sub was wrecked. I liked that sub. It's all in pieces now, I assume. Sorry you never got to take a dip in it Stevens, but you probably would’ve liked it.
I’ve made the somewhat foolhardy choice to open the valve on my suit to outside air. This is only because I was able to confirm our previous readings and it’s relatively breathable. Need to conserve my stored oxygen, I may need it later. I- I can breathe fine for now. Doesn’t smell good though, even through the filters. Did- did I mention those fish carcasses?
The first planet with significant amounts of multicellular life, and here I am, lucky enough to be here, complaining about how it smells.
But yeah, I would estimate my position is quite a ways from my anchor point, which complicates things. First the sub was pushed significantly westward and wrecked; then the backflow of the water dragged me and a lot of the debris back eastward. So I. . . I have no idea where I am right now if you come looking. I know I’m on the continental shelf though at the very least; in front of me I can see a few rocky barren mountains. I’ll see if I can make higher ground by the time the wave comes back. It always comes back around.
I’m not going to try to set up the beacon on the tidal flat. The best case scenario, you’d pick up the signal right away and would be able to spot me in the first flyby of this hemisphere in . . . forty hours or so. Attempting a rescue would take even more time. With the magnetic storms we encounter before, and me being in an unknown location, I think it might take a few tries. And I only have less than three days, about sixty-eight hours, in which to do so. So, better to get to a more stable spot first, I think.
I should have gone for deeper water, but then the anchor cable wouldn’t have been long enough, I know, I know. Still, calculations for the forces involved must have been off. Hear that Melissa? I think we underestimated the effect of other satellites in the giant’s system on reinforcing the tidal forces. But, hey, that’s not my area. I’m the creepy crawlies guy. So, maybe I’ll focus on that for now.
So, did I take a closer look at the dead fish? You bet your ass I did. The ones that I caught in the submersible to bring back are probably dead, but I like to imagine they escaped the wreck back to their natural environment. These ones are almost all dead. They’re a similar variety to the videologs I sent back, though less colorful now. They’re in various stages of decomposition. No skeletons, as I predicted. They’re shaped like fish, but their shapes seem to be maintained through hydrostatic pressure, like a sea cucumber on Earth. This makes dissection difficult since they leak when cut into, and most are like deflated tires already, mashing together in gelatinous clumps. I gave a few names before, arrogantly I guess, especially to the colorful ones. Now they all look blue-black, or blue-gray, and just, very dead.
I say most were dead. I did see a few live ones. It’s an interesting adaptation to the intertidal zone, the fish can live, it appears, for a little while outside of water in a sort of dormant state until poked, at which point they twitch in an alarming fashion. They’ll have to wait three days, though, Earth standard, for the next wave. Maybe they’re adapted to the conditions on the low tidal zone, and were swept up here by accident. The most lively ones seem to be a little bit more suited to this, the mid-tidal zone.
I’ve seen some worms, ranging from white to tan and segmented, that come up out of the sand and feast on the decaying fish. Little in the way of flying insects though, which is a blessing. There are also these coconut-sized brownish orbs surrounded by a foot or so of transparent gel. They have four black spots, probably eyes, which are arranged tetrahedrally. They constantly swivel their small round bodies inside of the gel cocoon, pointing each of the spots toward the sky in turn. These are tucked away in small crevices in the rock but not completely out of the sunlight. It’s odd how exposed they are. You’d think that they’d burrow in further to avoid desiccation. As for sea plants and plantlike animals, there is a large amount of green-blue seaweed like material, probably algal colonies. None of the forests of tall, flexible seaweed I saw far out to sea, though some broken-off fronds lay scattered around.
It’ll be a while before there’s water here again. Speaking of which . . . I need to keep walking, if I want to make higher ground before then and set up the beacon. And, you know, not die.
[Audio cuts out]
[Sfx: Wading through water]
Still walking guys. I need to talk as I go, I think, for my own sanity.
The mountains ahead are sharp and foreboding, though fierce erosion has made the trek leading to them a long gradual incline of mud. Really aggravating to walk through. It’s not even sand exactly, just mostly mud with that kinda brown-greenish tinge of algae to it. It’s been drying out more and more though as I walk along.
Well, mostly. There are these small pools. [sigh] Like this one. Mostly I can avoid them but some of them stretch so far to either side I have to wade through. They’re shallow though, so it’s not too bad.
Oh, something moving. . . Damn, they’re so skittish.
Nice. This one seems to have another stromatolite. Or, something like it. It’s definitely analogous, and the layers of growth of the bacterial colonies imply some of these pools are more permanent fixtures of the low-tide landscape than I thought.
I’m worried about contamination, of course. My presence here is an unwelcome intrusion into what might very well be a fragile ecosystem. So far I’m not removing my helmet and trusting the biofilters to just do their job. But I can’t help but wonder if on the outside of this suit a single, very lucky tardigrade is waiting to unleash havoc on the hapless Fonsian microbes. I’m less worried about myself, but only in the sense that I doubt anything here would be able to interact with me on the biochemical level. Now that I think about it, maybe it’s the same egocentric self-assurance that lets people eat sandwiches that fell on the ground. Hear that, Montague? I remember. And now everyone will know. If anyone hears this at all.
[Sfx: Walking in mud]
As a side note . . . I don't blame you Montague. A sandwich is a valuable thing. Sandwiches are extremely rare when viewed against the vastness of space, even though it was a pretty poor sandwich - just the last of the cheese spread, nutrient crackers, and a little bit of that lab-grown protein, if I recall. But it was worth saving, because there is nothing like it around this star for billions of miles. I wish I had that sandwich. I have maybe a week’s worth of emergency rations that taste like they are supposed to taste like banana, something that would be passable, but after the second one a few hours ago I’m just already sick of it.
There is less mud now, I’m walking through an area of clean-swept rock. The animal life that I can see is a little hardier up here. There are a lot of shells, tightly sealed and adhering to the rock. White, featureless, circular, a plate of shell that’s being pushed up from the bottom, instead of being added to from the opening like terrestrial mollusks. I wish I could take some with me, but I’m overburdened as it is, and anyway many of them seem to have occupants. The predominant species in this area range from about three centimeters to almost twenty centimeters, and are approximately oval, with a height of about five centimeters above the rock, though most seem to congregate in these conveniently eroded pockets in the stone. A few others of similar sizes but different shapes and a few different colors. The stretch from here to the coast, if you could call it that, requires extreme hardiness to weather the boiling hot days and cold nights, broken up only by the periodic and traumatic inundation. They are all stuck fast to the surface and no amount of force from me can detach them. So no souvenirs for you.
In the pits in the rock are these small more vulnerable wormlike creatures, a dark bluish black, that stick their pointed ends just out of their own personal puddle. If I brush my hand over the top of the rock I don’t touch any of them; every individual is positioned out of the direct force of the wave.
Stevens, are you writing all of this down? I hope you are.
It’s a hell of a wave, too. The crash of it into the single continent of Fons was only a thin white line from orbit but at sea level - which is a vague concept around here - the hundreds of feet of water looming over the horizon is pretty intimidating.
Saw something else, on the horizon way to my left as I was walking. It was pretty big, though far off. It was ovoid and bumpy, quite large, though hard to tell because of the distance. It was supported oddly above the sand by some kind of struts unlike any natural rock formation. I wish I had binoculars. There was steam or something that rose out of it and dissipated in the air. Huh. Maybe the remains of something big from the ocean depths, just tossed up here by the tide.
Sorry, sorry, I’m rambling.
[A second or so more of walking sounds before the audio cuts out]
[Panicked] Christ. Okay. Okay, oh Jesus.
Well I’m nearing some higher hills and rocks that look less eroded, I’ll be there in time for the next wave - I’ve been walking for about twenty hours now, resting every couple hours, trying to sleep a few times. It’s hard, though, I feel utterly exposed between the silt plain and the sky, and the endless daytime is starting to get to me. The endless night to follow in a few days from now may be even worse. Either way before the sun reaches its zenith I might have to seek shelter even if I’m not on dry land yet, since I don’t know the exact temperature limit of these suits. Not in one of the pools though! Screw that. I think I’ve been cured of my distractible nature from now on, and I am walking in a straight line towards the highlands as fast as possible.
Let me, let me tell you what just happened now.
[Takes a breath]
I- I just found a relatively sheltered and deep pool. In retrospect I think it might have been burrowed and maintained against the erosion but that didn’t occur to me at the time. Hoping to see some more lifeforms I waded in and bent down close to the water. In it I saw many of the fish that I had seen earlier from my sub, the shallow water ocean fish, that were trapped here in this pool. I was watching them swimming for awhile, scales flashing in the omnipresent sunlight. I think I almost fell asleep, just mesmerized by the patterns in the pool. The fish positively frolicked about in there, which I interpreted as playfulness. It was deep enough that the water would not evaporate in the long sunlit days between tides, and it offered a quiet refuge.
I’ve described the ocean fish pretty extensively in my previous notes from the sub.They seem to be a species I saw a lot of in the epipelagic zone, although generally smaller. Caudal fins are very similar to Earth fish, but the main body is radially symmetric, with five evenly spaced pectoral fins that beat in unison. Seeing them move in the calmer water of the pool I noticed behavioral differences. In the open ocean they were oriented vertically, about three feet below the surface, preying on floaters. But here they pointed every which way and moved constantly, always in the middle of the pool. I wasn’t afraid of them biting off my feet. I mean this suit is pretty well made, right? But their behavior disturbed me. I decided this wasn’t playfulness but most likely confusion; like they hadn’t meant to be caught here.
So I sat for a moment with my suited legs dangling in the water, just contemplating nothing, and then I decided to try out the desalination kit that was in the emergency supplies I had grabbed from the sub when, you know, it started filling with water. It’s heavy with its canisters and tubes and extendable solar array, But, eh, not so bad in five eighths G, and listen, given that it’s capable of producing distilled water from an ocean on an alien planet, I’d say it’s worth it. I hesitated just a moment before drinking, though by then I was just. . . extremely thirsty. I worried that some unknown chemical could somehow survive the heat source and slip past the filter to kill me, but it also occurred to me only as I attached the nozzle to the water reclamation system in my suit and took the straw in my lips that this was water no human had ever drank before, on a planet where no human had ever tread. This was a significant moment. And then I drank it, because shit, was I thirsty.
It tasted like filters and sweat and aluminum cans. With just a hint of urea. Four out of ten, would not recommend.
Anyway, I kept seeing movement out of the corner of my eye. Not the fluid graceful movements of fish, but jerky, like stop motion animation, small quick motions in the sand and pebbles that I didn’t quite catch. One small fish darted close to the opposite side, and then I saw it. A claw poked out and then a whole section of the side of the pool moved, a four foot wide section, and that was when I realized I had made a mistake.
They were everywhere dotting the sides of the pool, perfectly camouflaged or possibly just covered in a layer of sand and silt. I would use the word “crab”, but that doesn’t do them justice. They did have two strong frontal pincers that reminded me immediately of crabs. The rest . . . it happened too quickly to get a good impression. I got a glimpse of a chitinous or almost glassy - maybe silica-based? - covering. When that fish strayed too close to the walls it was immediately seized and brutally dissected with horrifying speed, and other creatures stirred and reached for the drifting pieces, giving away their positions. The sand beneath one of my feet moved and I kicked without thinking, splashing the water and sending out circular ripples. The creature was surprised but not thrown off its footing on the rocks. There was an unimaginably tight pressure on my ankle as it grasped at it with one claw and robotically began to pull it towards a sharp beaklike mouth. I fell to one knee and turned around onto my back, half in and half out of the pool. I had a good look at the face but I couldn’t describe it to you for all the emergency rations on the planet. It was terrifying, a mishmash of eyes and other appendages that I can only guess at the purpose of.
That’s about fourteen and a half, by the way. Fourteen and a half rations left on the planet. My burps taste like banana. I would be worried about how to dispose of my solid waste but that doesn’t matter since I’ve been backed up for over twenty-four hours now. Anyway . . .
Anyway, I’m obviously still alive. I didn’t even soil myself, what a missed opportunity. What did happen was very simple. I brought my other foot down on the face of the creature and used the leverage to slowly try to pull away. It was a struggle, the thing was designed to pull in prey much faster and more slippery than me. After what felt like an eternity of shoving back and forth it let me go and scuttled back to its previous spot. I scrambled out of the pool as fast as I could and retreated a little ways away before stopping to catch my breath. Luckily, the claw was not able to pierce my suit. Who says that Tellus Initiative doesn’t take care of us? I think my ankle is bruised but I can’t really take it out to look at it right now.
I’m going to try to sleep a little. I need to, despite all of that. I’m nearing some higher rocks on the leading edge of the slow dissolving continent. The mountains still look ominous; one is belching a thin stream of smoke. I think I even felt a tremor in the ground a little while ago. I hope I’m not in an area due for an earthquake or eruption. Honestly I wish one of you geologists was here with me. Maybe I can finagle a seismometer out of something in the small pack of equipment I salvaged. I'm sure you'd appreciate the data, however haphazard.
I should get there in time. If not . . . I guess I could climb into a pool out of the way of the brunt of the force, hope my oxygen lasts, and chance it with the crabs. If I’m in the open when it hits, well, my body will become part of this ecosystem, forever tainting it. And this recording won’t ever be found by anyone. On the other hand, the tide does have a way of throwing things ashore.
If my body is found, I request to be cremated, protecting this and any other ecosystem from its microscopic inhabitants. If you want to waste the fuel to bring it back to space, spread the ashes in the upper Fonsian magnetosphere where Volturnus’s particle winds can destroy them forever. Montague can play a song on his trumpet, maybe an ominous march of some kind? Then shove Stevens out of the airlock too. Like the ancient Egyptians I have many needs in the afterlife, including research assistants.
For now though, I’ll just try to take a nap. Dr. Eurus, signing off.
[Audio cuts out]
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. 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 at @tidespodcast. If you like our show and would like to help us keep making it, you can support us on patreon.com/tidespodcast. Thank you so much for listening.
And now, an Ocean Fact:
Winifred Eurus: This is Dr. Winifred Eurus and this is Ocean Facts.
Fact #1: Oceans are big. Just really fucking big.