Chapter 1- Summer of Fun, Love, and Other Clichés
Summer vacation. The very mention of the phrase tends to conjure up images of sun-kissed beaches and crashing ocean waves. It’s a wonderful period full of leisure and frolic. A sacred time to just let all the stress built up over the year peel away like dead skin. Three whole months to kick back and relax, before you inevitably realize ‘I probably should be doing something important right now’. Yes, you’ll eventually have to face those consequences of not doing what you were probably supposed to be doing for the past few months and start making life choices again, but that’s later. Maybe you’ll be dead by then. Summer vacation is a glorious time filled with lots of good memories, painful sunburns, and people in barely legal swimwear. That is, if you plan to spend your summer like the average society member.
Adrien Jones apparently wasn’t one of those people.
Adrien found himself starting his summer “vacation” stuck on a massive ferry with fourteen other abnormal souls who had also decided to sell their summer to the higher education system. He was just nineteen and had barely finished up his first year of college at the University of Washington, determined to be a Marine Biology major. Normally, Adrien would’ve spent his summer how every college-aged guy in the greater Seattle area was planning on spending it. He was going to play video games, till he no longer knew what natural sunlight was and his butt was literally fused with his chair. Then, occasionally at night, he’d bum around a campfire at the beach with his worthless gang of friends. It had been the game plan through every high school summer and Adrien was set on making it this summer too. However, being in college now and having a lot of his friends halfway across the country at different schools, apparently that plan had to be revised. He had no choice but to make something else of his summer and the woman already poised to change it for him was his oceanography teacher: Megan Vogel.
She sat beside him playing blackjack with some of the others on the slightly sticky table in front of them, blending in seamlessly, despite the fact she was at least twenty years older than all of them. Although, she seemed to be just your average, surprisingly cool teacher, she actually wasn’t like that at all. In reality, she was someone far cooler than that. Ms. Megan Vogel was a wild woman, who literally stormed jungles and swung vines when she wasn’t teaching her quaint, little, college classes. Her summers were usually spent in remote, exotic places like Costa Rica or the Galápagos Islands. She spent her time doing exciting things, like catching new species of spiders and hugging giant tortoises the size of boulders, but apparently even that wasn’t enough for someone like her. It was rumored that she even had enough extra time for a secret identity, her students knew little to nothing about. Some rumored she went to thrash metal rock shows in her spare time. Others thought she might play Dungeons and Dragons in a secret underground bunker. Regardless of all the speculation and tactless rumors surrounding her, she was still the epitome of adventure and life. Everything that Adrien clearly wasn’t.
However, this summer, Professor Vogel had decided she was going to change up her summer and insisted Adrien come along on this little trip, to do the same. She swore that it was going to be the perfect getaway abroad, despite all the extra coursework they’d be doing, and he’d really benefit from attending. Adrien thought that she had heavily downgraded her exciting summer adventures to take a group of undergraduates to the Friday Harbor Laboratories in the San Juan Islands. He would never know why she chose this, over something like Costa Rica. For three months, they were pretty much going to be doing a summer quarter of college, except in a more hands-on, major directed field. It was going to be like summer camp with more work, which frankly sounded just awful. Did he really want to be spending his valuable time off, stuck in research labs all day with serious white-lab-coat-types and attending more school? It wouldn’t even affect the time he graduated by that much.
As someone who was still fairly young and privileged enough to dodge the hell that was part-time seasonal employment, Adrien was still under the impression that the whole point of summer was getting away from school work. However, being the not-so-secret marine biology nerd he was, he thought it had the slightest chance of being fun and agreed to the trip. They’d probably get to spend some time trawling on boats and tidepooling for undersea garden critters. Surely, it wasn’t going to be dry with Ms. Vogel at the helm of it all. He might even make some new friends he could geek out about the ocean with. Adrien had no college pals yet. Apparently how college friendship worked was basically making friends one quarter and losing them the next when you don’t have classes with them. If anything, the trip was definitely going to be a new experience, even if it wasn’t remotely fun. All Adrien was hoping for out of this summer was a slight change of scenery and not to drown. Be it figuratively in work, or literally in the Sound.
Currently, for the past hour they had been aboard at least, Adrien had been staring mindlessly out the window at the June sunset, in a desperate attempt not to have painfully awkward small talk with any of them. There’d be time for that later. However, the ship’s intercom started to buzz and fizzle, breaking Adrien’s silent focus on the dimming horizon. He gazed upwards at the adjacent wall in preparation for an oncoming message, listening along with most of the people that were on the floor.
“Attention, passengers. It appears we have a pod of our resident orcas swimming at 3 o’clock.” the captain announced, in a very nonchalant tone for such an exciting announcement.
Before he could remember how a clock was figured on a ship, Adrien found himself smashed against the glass as his teacher and pretty much everyone else on the ship glued themselves to the windows to try and catch a glimpse at the majestic creatures in their natural habitat. Once given slight room to breathe, Adrien quickly made his escape under the table, praying the many pieces of chewed gum stuck under it wouldn’t get caught in his short, slightly wavy hair. It was already enough of a pain without gum in it.
“Good thinking.” a voice exclaimed, from above. Adrien couldn’t turn around, but he felt somebody dropping themselves down and attaching themselves to the legs of his pants. With nothing else that he could do, Adrien moved them both forward. He came out first and turned to find the girl sitting across from him, shuffling the last few inches to get out herself. Her name was Magdalene Blanc.
Adrien didn’t really know much else about her beyond that. The entire group had all technically met at an orientation that had been held a few months prior. However, most of the information and faces were already a blur. Adrien could hardly even remember who his roommate was. But, he did remember Maggie. They were both in Ms. Vogel’s ten-thirty class and she usually sat two seats in front of him, but they hadn’t really ever gotten a chance to speak to one another. He knew she went by Maggie, through brief class introductions and he knew her appearance because it was one not easily forgotten. She had curly-cue cork screws for hair that were a mixture of her many different shades of blonde (It was nothing personal, but every time Adrien caught a glimpse of her in class, he either had a hankering for curly fries or ramen noodles) with dyed ends of an aquamarine color. On top of all that madness, she always wore a red beanie, as a salute to the great late oceanographer, Jacques Cousteau. Her eyes were the same color as tropical waves and she always had a light brown, Hawaiian tan despite the fact they lived in dreary Seattle.
“Want to go outside to try and get a better look? People seem to be forgetting that’s an option.” she smiled, pointing to the doors to the outside deck.
“Nah, I’m fine. If I really wanted to see Killer Whales, I’d just go to Sea World.” Adrien laughed. She glared at him, judging him with harsh severity. He mentally face-palmed. D’oh! Maggie was considered the oceanography class genius because she interned with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration all throughout high school and the Seattle Aquarium. He’d forgotten that her final essay for the class was seven pages about orcas in captivity. When they had to present their essays in class, she got so frazzled about the infinite number of points she had and went into a full-on rant about the morality and idiocy of the industry. All-in-all it was brilliant, but she seemed kind of intense, compared to other girls in their class.
He could’ve just let her be angry with him and walk outside on her own, not so secretly despising him. However, that didn’t seem like the best way to start a three-month long trip. Like it or not, they were kind of going to be stuck together, might as well attempt to be friends. Also, she seemed like the type that didn’t take grudges to lightly and he didn’t want to have to be on guard for dead fish in his Cheerios at breakfast. Adrien start to laugh nervously, “I’m sorry. I was just joking around. I’ve got a really bad sense of humor, don’t I? Jesus…”
Adrien started mumbling incoherently. He was making a complete ass of himself already and he hadn’t even been talking with the girl for more than five minutes. That had to be some sort of record. However, Maggie’s glare still softened up a little and she smiled rather brightly at him. She began to lead the way to the heavy metal doors and, assuming he was forgiven, Adrien followed her outside. They pushed out together and were instantly overcome by the harsh winds of the sea. Adrien immediately regretted not putting on his favorite navy hoodie. He accidently left it downstairs in the van and was now left facing the wind in an old rock band t-shirt and a red plaid over-shirt. Maggie, on the other hand, was slightly more prepared for this he was in her yellow fisherman’s rain jacket. When somebody once told her, “Dress for the job you want to have”, she must’ve accidentally taken it way too seriously. She often wore very eccentric clothing with a nautical theme. Dresses with fish prints, shirts with anchors or navy stripes, sensible closed toed shoes, like someone was going to ask her to start hauling line on a ship any moment. Finally, in this moment though, she looked to be right at home. She glued to herself to the green railing at the starboard side, however, Adrien failed to see how she was planning on seeing anything with all that hair blowing in her face.
“Can you see them?” Adrien questioned, despite knowing she wasn’t actually able to see a thing with the mass of curls in her way.
“Hold on,” she reached into her jacket and pulled out a pair of binoculars hung around her neck. Adrien slightly marveled at her ready preparedness, unlike him she had really planned for this trip months in advanced. He was holding up his hand to try and keep the wind out of his eyes and look out as well. He did not see what she apparently saw that was so magnificent. Noticing his squinted glare in the corner of her eye, Maggie tapped him on the shoulder, “Want to see?”
Adrien nodded and took the left side of her binoculars for his right eye. Suddenly, he saw what everyone was getting so hyped about. There were several dorsal fins rising up and falling down at the spot in the distance. No spy hopping, or jumps, or anything exciting like that, which Adrien found more than a little boring.
“Wow, those slight bumps in the water are pretty fantastic.” Adrien remarked, highly satirically. He pulled away from the uninteresting view, but she yanked him back towards his lens.
“Sarcastic nerd!—Just give em’ a second,” Maggie exclaimed back, already speaking quite informally with him. She didn’t seem like such an extrovert when she was in class. He never saw her talking with her desk mates, or even so much as text someone on her phone before class started. However, Adrien was already discovering she was about as wild a girl as Ms. Vogel, at least when it came to things like this. “I see some seagulls swarming. There’s either a fight going down, or they’re hunting.”
“You think they could be going after like a Harbor Seal, or something?” Adrien inquired, perking up a bit at the prospect of some violence. It was savage fighting of animals, what guy wouldn’t be more interested in that then just plain, barely visible bumps in the water?
“Oh, I hope not. I just adore Harbor Seals. They’re my favorite marine mammal.”
“I’m not a fan.” he admitted, truthfully. “I mean, what’s the big appeal? They’re just fat blobs who lay about all day. Also, those big eyes give me the serious creeps.”
“Are you sure you picked the right major?” she asked, looking at him rather skeptically.
“Look, just because I don’t like everything in the ocean doesn’t mean I don’t like the entire ocean,” Adrien replied, defensively. “I’m just more of a shark kind of guy. I want to spend my life researching different types of sharks.”
“Then, what do you expect to research when we’re at the labs? There’s not really many sharks you can actively study here.” Maggie inquired. Adrien sighed. She was being a little bit of an annoying know-it-all, but she had a point. Other than the reclusive, mysterious Sixgill and the boring, ever-so-common Spiny Dogfish, the Puget Sound was not the most abundant place for sharks.
“I’m sure I’ll think of something else…”Adrien added, a little forlornly. “—maybe I’ll steal your topic and learn a thing or two about seals.”
Maggie was about to respond, probably with something else witty and clever, when suddenly the wind took her hat right off her head, with plans on tossing it into the Puget Sound. Maggie gasped and attempted to try and grab it before it was too late. However, her arms were not long enough to reach it in time. Adrien’s were, though. He suddenly found himself leaning over the railing and catching the beanie in his hand.
Unfortunately, he was just too far over the railing to still be attached to the ship anymore.
While Adrien was busy regretting most of his short life’s decisions and having all those horrible decisions flashed before his eyes, Maggie was determined to pull him back. Her arms looked like twigs, but apparently, she had the strength to yank a 140-pound guy back to the ground. If he’d been any heavier, he probably would’ve gone over. He fell on his backside on the rough, painted metal flooring and she fell down to her knees beside him. They both were huffing with the rush of adrenaline, before either one of them could started talking again. Maggie caught her breath first,
“I’ve only really known you for about fifteen minutes, but I can honestly say, you’re a real idiot,” she gasped, swiping the beanie he still had clutched into his hands and putting it back on her head. She drew the hood of her jacket, just to be certain it was less likely to fly away again, “I mean, I’m glad you saved my hat, but you could’ve died.”
“What good is a friend, if they’re not insane enough to jump off a forty-foot ship to save your shit.” Adrien grinned, foolishly.
“You’re absolutely crazy,” she laughed, trying to constrain herself and sound serious, but failing miserably. “I like that.”
“Come on, whale geek. I’ll buy you a coffee, if you let us go back inside,” Adrien remarked, bracing himself up and off the ground to stand up again. She nodded in agreement and held out a hand, so he could lift her back onto her feet as well. “I may not die from drowning and massive head trauma today, but I’m definitely going to die from hypothermia if we stay out here any longer.”
They went back inside to the warmth and tranquility of the second-floor lounge, the pandemonium from the orca sighting finally dead. Adrien ordered two cups of crappy coffee and a bag of jalapeño chips from the concessions bar, while Maggie found them a new table to sit at that wasn’t playing a violent game of blackjack. They spent the last hour of the ferry trip talking about things like TV shows and hobbies, things people usually discuss at the start of friendships to determine if they actually had anything in common. Turns out they both loved horror anthology shows and cryptids, which was enough to keep them talking for at least a little while.
Eventually, another intercom announcement said that they were about to arrive at the docks in Friday Harbor and everyone started rushing back down to their cars. After stuffing fifteen teenagers into a van that was way too small and already stuffed with all their luggage, Ms. Vogel very slowly drove them through the flow of cars loading out. The port was dark, and all the stores were already well closed, even though it was barely eight o’ clock, so they couldn’t really see much of the town as they drove through. However, it was better that you could at least see some things, or you could be like Billy Flannigan, who was lying under people’s duffel bags and couldn’t see a thing because his face smashed into someone’s purple unicorn stuffed animal.
“What did I do to deserve this?” Billy whined, from under the pile.
“I heard you call a sea star a starfish while we were in Anacortes, waiting for the ferry. Unforgivable offense. I thought I taught you better.” Ms. Vogel replied, ruthlessly. The rest of the group laughed, snickered, and oohed at his foolish mistake, like the ocean-obsessed dorks they all were. Billy just sunk back into the unicorn’s back, groaning, and complaining about his back like an old man. Thankfully, for him, it would not be a long ride.
After twenty minutes of haphazardly driving through the forest and almost hitting several deer along the way, they finally made it to a series of buildings that they could only assume to be the Friday Harbor Labs. They all unloaded with their stuff, letting Billy finally be able to stretch and to hand what was apparently Fawn Beauchene’s unicorn back to her. Once they were more sorted, they headed into the main office building for check in and a quick orientation.
Unfortunately, like with most orientations, it was filled with boring, basic information that they already knew, or could’ve figured out on their own through common sense. Even though it was only like eight o’ clock, after spending all day driving and riding the ferry, everyone was exhausted. The fifteen undergrads were filled in the chairs, and couches, trying desperately not to fall asleep. Boundaries and personal space were already starting to fade away after the first few minutes. Pretty much, if you were sitting next to someone, odds were they were already using you for a pillow. Maggie was using Adrien, while he was trying to listen and be responsible, so all the guys wouldn’t completely fall on their asses’ tomorrow morning when they didn’t know what to do. Billy had stolen the purple unicorn again and cuddling up with it, while Fawn used his broad back as an extension of an arm rest, so she could prop her head up more effectively. Eventually, the teachers took notice they were all practically knocked out and released them off to their dorm wing. The hike up slightly woke everyone back up, except for Maggie, who Adrien had agreed to piggyback the rest of the way. They used Billy as a pack mule for their stuff. She was surprisingly lighter to carry then his duffel. However, by the time they crowded in the dorm building, people just wanted to collapse into bed again. Room assignments were posted on the doors and, since he didn’t request anyone specific to room with Adrien had ended up with Billy as his randomly generated companion for this trip. There thankfully wasn’t any complications are mishaps during this moving in process. Everyone was done and sleeping in about fifteen minutes.
After setting Maggie and her stuff down in a room at the end of the hall, Billy and Adrien were able to take up their spots in the last room at the left end and finally crash along with everyone else. Adrien climbed into the covers to hopefully get a few hours of sleep in before Ms. Vogel was banging together trash can lids at the crack of dawn to wake them all up for classes. However, despite the tired pessimism, today had not been too horrible. Maggie turned out to be kind of cool and the dorms were a lot nicer than the ones on campus. Unfortunately, a summer of work and hardships still laid ahead of him. Would he still feel the same by the time the week ended?
Especially, when he found out what was lurking outside in the dark waters…