[Estimated reading time: 4 minutes]

[This is a work in progress.]

Intros first. I'm Samantha Wally, junior in high school, runner, hockey player, and amateur photographer. I've got two moms, no siblings, and three Golden Retrievers: Queen, Gwen, and Timoty.

The striking fake-blonde is Chloe, my best friend since preschool. She's rocking torn-up black jeans, black jacket, black concert shirt underneath. Her makeup is minimal and very dark, her eye shadow looks like the void.

Last week was weird. My friends, family, even my freaking dogs, they all just started acting so strange. We would be in the middle of a conversation - or playing, in the case of my woolly beauties - and suddenly they'd change their mind. "Sorry, what were we talking about?" It's like the world shifted underneath their feet and they're surprised to see me.

I don't get it, but whatever, people are weird, and Mercury is in retrograde, so miscommunication is expected. But, still, weird.

The last time it happened was at school, this morning. Mr Hale, the biology substitute for the past couple of weeks, was really getting on my case. I was presenting my research on the regional varieties of mussels and he kept interrupting me to point out that I was doing something wrong. Every. Fucking. Sentence.

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[Estimated reading time: 7 minutes]

[This is a work in progress.]


I move quietly, slowly, as my eyes are roaming and taking in the neon-hued sights. Bright glowing fishes watch me, single and in pods, but they are in their own worlds, their attention is fleeting at best. I move past the red and blue tetras, awkward little guppies, a handful of bettas, utterly forgettable goldfish, strange angelfish, rainbowfish who are true to their name, and of course the catfish.

I turn and walk past the salt-water aquariums and start testing my memory there. It's a bit more complicated, but I've long ago memorized the species, even named some. I go through the list anyway: lunar lyretail wrasse, red-toothed trigger, blue hippo tang, and so on and so forth.

It's some time after six, but I haven't looked at the clock in a while, I'm fighting the constant pressure to see how much time is left on my prison sentence.

The shop is empty save for me. No one needs to get a pet fish at 7pm, least of on a Saturday night, and I've said as much to the management, but orders are orders. So I meander through the neon-lit aisles and pretend I'm snorkeling in Hawaii. Not that I've ever been, but I'd like to imagine.

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[Estimated reading time: 5 minutes]

[This is a work in progress.]

The gray asphalt segments the world in two. On the left are calm waters, on the right are righteous waves and whitecaps. I descend down, closer to the water. Up ahead artificial structures pop up from a green landscape. I look past the buildings, out to some sixty miles in the distance, toward the glowering snow-covered mountain peaks. The Olympics, my destination. I drive my trusty truck over the floating bridge and cross over into Seattle. It is just the first leg of my journey.

An hour later I'm on the ferry from downtown to Suquamish, across the water. I spend the ride in the truck, nervously checking and double-checking my equipment. The camera gear is fully charged, the GPS beacons are working and I'm able to locate the ferry on my tablet, and the AR gear shows green neon arrows around me. The green arrows have text next to them, the distance from my current location to the various points I'd bookmarked in advance.

The trip is uneventful. From the ferry terminal it's a drive up through various small towns no one outside Washington has ever heard of, like Sequim and Elwha. From Elwha it's forest service roads, which themselves are little more than frequented paths set deep in the woods. By sunset I get to the first of the bookmarks. This one I'd labeled simply "Base Camp".

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