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Scyphozoa

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You know Cthulhu isn't real. You know Lovecraft just invented the creature and it took the imagination of millions by storm, perhaps more of a hurricane than anything else, deadly and unstoppable. Sometimes you wonder if perhaps Lovecraft had been like one of those poor people he wrote about, someone who had seen something he never should have. Someone who was just desperately trying to make sense of something that made no sense, that couldn't make sense, given his understanding of the universe.

Usually this is when you see one of the jellyfish.

Becky holds you close at those times and whispers in your ear about the strange things she saw underground. The trees that grew like they were in the fresh air and under the best sunlight ever. The planes and people and desert oasis lingering beneath the dirt. Sometimes you ask her how you met. She laughs and reminds you of the boat. Of how they pulled you under the waves leaving only the blindfolded boy, your brother, to tread water and shout out 'Marco, Marco, Marco'.

Sometimes you wonder how you ever stopped screaming.

But Becky kisses the screams away until you can hide them under your skin once again. They claw, trying to escape, but you push them down, down, down, so far down it's like they were never there. Then it's just Becky and you and the jellyfish you see from the corner of your eyes. You ignore the cracked and crooked smile Becky gives you because you know it mirrors the one on your face.

There are others, besides the two of you, who have seen the world as it stands and survived.

The boy who you meet for coffee told you about how everything around you was just an Alternate Reality Game for a species so different they didn't even realize we were here; let alone that we were sentient. You think past the screams and know that they know you, at least, exist. It's mildly comforting to think that perhaps they didn't realize you could think, but perhaps it wouldn't have changed anything if they had known. You share broken smiles with the boy as he tells you how once you realize the truth you can make the world into any game you want.

He extols the virtues of brick breaking as you sip your coffee and try not to stare at the tentacles floating in the air behind him.

The photographer tells you about the jellyfish that appear in every picture he takes. You can see them floating above the ground, the nerve net caught in a gentle breeze, perfectly captured in every picture hanging on the walls. Everyone else sees landscapes and birds and the various things that were behind and around the jellyfish, but you watch the exhibit and see the way people shudder. The way they look twice and rub their eyes. The way their brains deny the reality of what is hidden behind the frames. One girl breaks down in tears and her boyfriend holds her close, rubbing her back, eyes never leaving the picture behind her. You notice that he doesn't tell her everything will be okay.

The photographer sells most of the pictures by the end of the show.

There's a girl whose name you never did catch. She hasn't seen the jellyfish but she believes they exist. She's seen the way others react to them and she knows the world is not the way she sees it. It pisses her off to not see the truth and you can't help but feel sorry for her. You'd give anything not to know the truth. Becky laughs at her frustration as she grips your hand tight. The two of you end up donating your CD collection to the strange girl as she picks up a shot gun and gets into a car with friends. She claims that when the computers fail it won't matter anyway. She thinks it's because they won't have any power to listen to music. You know it's because there won't be anyone left to listen.

You wonder if your screams could be considered music to the jellyfish.

Elizabeth was with you on the boat. She was pulled beneath the waves with you and watched the world fall apart and get put back together. She claims she found the truth in the broken, sunken wreck of a ship. Everything is literal. Everything. The system is rigged so she climbs rigging. You're not sure if she even listens to the words sprouting from her mouth anymore. Instead she climbs and climbs and cuts the ropes to swing through the air. She says everything will be fixed soon.

You want to believe her, but Becky's laughter against your shoulder makes it hard.

There are velociraptors in the high grass. You walk out to them and pet them before feeding them the small creatures you caught on the way out. They chirp and tell you how they avoided the jellyfish. You listen and laugh at their clever tricks as they entertain you after dinner. Becky never comes out to see them with you. You're sure it's because she has no sense of humor, Elizabeth notwithstanding, and the velociraptors get concerned when you don't laugh at their jokes.

Sometimes you notice the faint hint of concern in her eyes when you head out to see your friends.

Sometimes you notice the faint smell of rotting meat when you put your catch on the dinner table.

When the screams get to be too much and not even Becky can help you push them back down you look to the sky and watch the whales. They float above everything and you know they are watching. Becky likes it when you describe them to her while you lay on your backs on the mountain. She can't see them without binoculars, but you've never had that problem. No matter how far away they are you can make out every detail.

The jellyfish don't go near the whales.

Becky leaves a note one day, waiting on her pillow when you open your eyes. It says 'I figured it out. The trees are the answer. I'll be back when it's done.' You wait for weeks and you hear nothing. Eventually you sit down for coffee with Elizabeth after her ship limps into shore, lacking most of its sails and lines. She looks at you in confusion when you tell her about Becky and asks, “Who's Becky?”

The photographer smiles sadly and shows you a picture of yourself with Becky wrapped around you, her mouth curved into a smile and her teeth oddly pointed. “I don't remember this,” he says sadly, “and the teeth grow sharper every day.”

You think of the boy and his Mario Land delusions and think of how even delusions are real these days. You ask the velociraptors what they think and they whisper warnings before running to hide, saying the tall grass is no longer safe. You watch them go with tears in your eyes because you know you'll never see them again.

It's surprisingly easy to sneak into the airport and not even challenging to lash yourself to the airplane. No one notices you because no one would ever think to ride the outside of a plane.

As the plane climbs higher you move into position. You'll only get one chance to make the jump. You can see the whales floating above you and then below you. You leap and fall and remember Becky with everything you have.

Her teeth don't bother you when you see her again. Yours are almost as sharp.