In the fading afternoon light, the car trundled down the rickety path, heading towards the beach. The last signs of human habitation had disappeared ten minutes ago; now there was only patches of grass, the occasional tree and mile after mile of sand. Sitting beside the driver, Bill Jacobs stared out the window as the coastline swept past. There weren't even any roads in this area, aside from the rickety coast road.
Jacobs was a forensic zoologist who was a consultant for the local police; for example, several years ago, when a man had been caught selling sea turtle shells. Jacobs' analysis had identified the shells as belonging to a protected species. He turned to the driver and said, "How much farther?"
"Five minutes, sir."
Jacobs turned and said, "It won't be long now." But the tall man sitting next to him didn't answer, or even acknowledge that he had been spoken to. He merely sat, with his hand on his chin, and stared frowning out the window.
Henry Ogden wore sun-faded field khakis, and an Australian slouch hat pushed low over his head. A battered pair of binoculars hung around his neck. But despite his rugged appearance, Ogden conveyed an air of scholarly absorption. Behind his wire-frame spectacles, his features were sharp, his expression intense and critical as he looked out the window.
Ogden was a marine biologist who normally worked as a consultant to the nearby Marine Biology Institute; Jacobs would contact him to look at the occasional beached whale or dolphin.
Jacobs smiled at Ogden's snub. After all these years, Ogden had not changed at all. He was still one of the most brilliant and irritating men in science. The two had known each other a long time. Ogden was famous for his photographic memory, his sharp tongue, and the unconcealed pleasure he took in pointing out the errors of colleagues.
Ogden turned to Jacobs "What is this place?"
"It's called Aloha Beach. Tourist resort."
"I'm guessing this is a deserted part?"
"Yeah. Most tourists stay on the main beach area, about 10 miles north."
Ogden stared at the coast road they drove on. "Road looks pretty uneven," he said. "How was the thing found?"
"Couple of tourists," said. "Saw it on the beach."
"When was that?"
"Yesterday. They took one look at the thing, and ran like hell."
"Guys," the driver said, interrupting them, "The bay's just ahead."
Ogden looked out the window, his expression intense again, the conversation forgotten. The beach was deserted. The Jeep approached the sandbar. "There it is now," Jacobs said, pointing out the window.
The beach was a clean, curving white crescent, entirely deserted in the evening light. As they looked, they saw a single dark mass in the sand. From a distance, it looked like a rock.
"Who's been here?" Ogden said, with a sigh.
"Coast Guard came out earlier today."
"Did they do anything?" he said. "They touch it in any way?
"I can't say," Jacobs said.
"The Coast Guard," Ogden repeated, shaking his head. "What do they know? "
"Hey," Jacobs said. "I don't run this place. They wanted to destroy it; at least I managed to keep it intact until you arrived. I don't know how long they'll wait."
"Then we'd better get started," Ogden said. He pressed the button on his mike. "We're losing light and I want to see this thing first-hand."
Henry Ogden ran across the sand toward the dark shape. Even from a distance, he could smell the stench of decay. And already he was logging his preliminary impressions. The carcass lay half-buried in the sand, surrounded by a thick cloud of flies. The skin was bloated with gas, which made identification difficult.
He paused a few yards from the creature, and took out his camera. Immediately, a Coast Guard officer came up alongside him, pushing his hand down. "Sorry, no pictures."
"I'm sorry, sir. No photos allowed."
"Why the hell not?" Ogden said. He turned to Jacobs. "Bill, why no pictures?"
"No photos," the officer said again, yanking the camera out of Ogden's hand. Ogden stared at him. "Just go ahead and make your examination," Jacobs said.
Ogden stared a moment, then turned away. The hell with this, he thought. He hurried forward, breathing through his mouth. The odor became much stronger as he approached it. Although the carcass was large, he noticed there were no birds, rats, or other scavengers feeding on it. Reaching the carcass, he began to make his first impression.
Even so, it was clear that this had been a substantial creature, some twenty feet long. The dry skin had cracked in the sun and was now peeling upward, exposing the layer of fat underneath. Despite that, the carcass was surprisingly well-preserved; it could have only been dead a couple of days at most.
His original suspicion of it being a decomposing bottlenose was quickly dismissed. Firstly, it had been counter-shaded, unlike a bottlenose's uniform grey. A Commerson's perhaps, or a subadult orca; but it was too big to be the former and he knew of no orca pods that inhabited the area. Besides, the animal lacked an orca's prominent dorsal fin; in fact, there was no evidence of a dorsal fin at all. Whilst its skin was hairless, it did not have the rubbery skin of a whale or dolphin; rather, the skin was covered in fine scales of varying sizes, like a lizard or a snake. This texture varied in different parts of the animal, the scales larger and less distinct on the underbelly.
But the carcass was large. Ogden estimated the animal had originally weighed close to a ton. No reptiles grew that large anywhere in the world, except the saltwater crocodiles of Australia. Of course, it was conceivable that this was a misplaced alligator; possibly escaped or released. Alligators turned up in strange places, and some grew quite large. Even so, this would be a record-size animal.
Ogden moved slowly around the carcass, toward the front of the animal. No, he thought, it wasn't an alligator. The carcass lay on its side, its left rib cage toward the sky. Nearly half of it was buried; much of the tail and the back side of the animal was under sand. The head was, comparatively small and pointed, lacking a cetacean's melon or blowhole; the jaws were filled with conical, serrated teeth. Ogden saw its limbs, which were large, paddle-like flippers; there were four of them in all, unlike those of a whale or a dolphin. Whilst the tail was half-buried in sand, he got a good look at the tip, which was fluked; however, it had the vertical fluke of a shark, rather than a dolphin's horizontal one. The body did not match a cetacean's either, being long and vaguely serpentine, as opposed to the bullet-shaped body of any cetacean he knew of.
In fact, the more Ogden saw of this carcass, the more carefully he thought he should proceed. Because one thing was clear - this was a very rare, and possibly unknown, animal. Ogden felt simultaneously excited and cautious. If this discovery was as significant as he was beginning to think it was, then it was essential that it be properly documented.
Up the beach, Jacobs was still shouting at the official, who kept shaking his head stubbornly. Damn bureaucrats, Ogden thought. Why shouldn't he take pictures? It couldn't harm anything. And it was vital to document the creature.
He heard an engine revving, and looked up to see a second Jeep arriving in the bay, trundling down the coastal road. This Jeep was weather-beaten and muddy green, with the United States Coast Guard insignia on its door. In the glare of the setting sun, he could barely see the sign.
He turned back to the carcass, noticing now that the hind flipper of the animal was reduced in size compared to the front one. It suggested that this creature spent its entire life at sea, never coming to land. That was odd; turtles lived at sea, yes, but they always returned to land to nest; and no lizard was permanently confined to water.
He worked quickly now, for the light was fading and he had much to do. With every specimen, there were always two major questions to answer, both equally important. First, what was the animal? Second, why had it died?
Standing by the belly, he saw the skin was split open, exposing the rib cage. But as Ogden looked more closely, he saw that the split was in fact a wound, exposing red muscle and pale bone beneath; the more he looked at it, he realised it was a bite. Something had attacked this creature and torn a chunk of flesh from it. But what predator would go after a creature this size?
"Sorry about all this," Jacobs said, coming over. "But the Coast Guard just refuses."
The Coast Guard officer was nervously following Jacobs, standing beside him, watching carefully.
"Bill," Ogden said. "I really need to take pictures."
"I'm afraid you can't," Jacobs said, with a shrug.
"It's important, Bill."
Farther down the beach, the Jeep still hung, watching the discussion. Men in Coast Guard uniforms began getting out.
"Bill. What do you think this animal is?"
"Well, I can only guess," Jacobs said. "From the size, I'd say it was an alligator, possibly escaped or released. It's extremely large, of course."
"No, Bill," Ogden said. "It's not a gator."
"Before you say anything more," Jacobs said, conspiratorially, "I think you ought to know that several anomalous carcasses have shown up in this area. Nobody's quite sure why; some say that new species are appearing, but…"
"This is one of them, then."
Jacobs blinked his eyes. "What are you saying? It's a gator"
"I don't think so," Ogden said.
Jacobs said, "You're probably just thrown off because of its size. The fact is, here, we occasionally encounter these aberrant carcasses - "
"Bill," Ogden said coldly. "I am never thrown off. And I am telling you, this is not a gator," Ogden said.
"I'm sorry," Jacobs said, shaking his head. "But I can't agree."
"I'm not asking you to agree," Ogden said. He turned back to the carcass. "To settle this, all we need do is excavate the head, or any of the limbs."
Suddenly, they heard shouting on the beach, and looked up to see the men from the Coast Guard truck running down the beach toward them. They carried explosives and detonators, and were shouting inaudibly.
"What are they saying?" Ogden asked, frowning.
Jacobs sighed. "They're saying to get back."
"Tell them we're busy," Ogden said, and bent over the carcass again.
But the men kept shouting, and suddenly there was a roaring sound, and Ogden looked at the explosives and detonators they were carrying. Running around the carcass toward the men, he screamed, "They're going to destroy the carcass. No!" But the men paid no attention, as they approached the corpse, to which Ogden shouted, "No, this is a priceless - "
Suddenly, they turned to see a small convoy of vehicles approaching fast. The car in the lead's engine whined as it barrelled down the road toward them. The car pulled a hard right, going off the road, span around the Coast Guard vehicles, and squealed to a sideways halt, silhouetted in front of their headlights. The car in the lead was a boxy, black 1986 Ford LTD. Beside it was a truck, with a large trailer.
Two people got out, a man and a woman, each dressed in worn khakis. The woman walked up to them and said, "We'll take it from here." Ogden went, confused, "Who the hell are you?" The people flashed an ID and the man went, "We're here on behalf of Richard Hoenikker. He wants the carcass brought to him at once." The Coast Guard looked at each other, confused; how did he find out?"
The carcass was hauled out of the sand with a crane and placed on a truck. As the truck left, the man turned to the Coast Guard officer and said, "Please don't write any paperwork about this", before he got into the sedan and drove off.
Ogden was the first to speak, "What the hell just happened?"
Lincoln Loud's alarm clock squawked its incessant tune, to which the eleven-year-old awoke groggily. In the haze of tiredness, he looked at the time; 6:30. That was confusing; why would he set the clock half an hour early…
Suddenly, his father's voice yelled from downstairs, "Kids! We're leaving in ten minutes!" Lincoln suddenly snapped awake; suddenly he remembered what today was and why he'd set his alarm clock early. Their vacation day.
Lincoln and his sisters, all having the same realisation, jumped out of bed, pulled out their suitcases and travel bags and begin packing. Everyone packed their swimming costumes and beach clothes. Lynn packed two volleyballs (two, just in case she lost one; you could never be too careful) in her case and Lucy packed her Edwin bust in hers. Luna packed up her stuff and grabbed her guitar case, Luan placed Mr. Coconuts inside of his travel case, and Lincoln put Bun-Bun inside of Lincoln's suitcase.
Having all packed, the Loud kids go downstairs, where Lynn Sr. and Rita, who was holding Lily, were standing at the front door. Lynn Sr. asks, "You kids ready?", to which they all nodded, and Rita tells them, "Then let's get rolling!" At this statement, they quickly packed up Vanzilla and took their seats inside. Lynn Sr. took the driver seat as Rita finished putting Lily in.
Once Rita sits down in the passenger seat, Lynn Sr. cranks the car and they drove off. Once they were on the road, Lincoln began to speak to the viewer, "That's right, folks! It's our vacation and we're spending the whole week at Aloha Beach. The best part? All of our friends will be there!" He asked Lori, "Right, Lori?"
Lori was on her phone, fingers taping away, "Literally everyone is going to be there: Carol, Becky, Dana, Teri, Whitney, Tad, Joey," Lori frowned, "Who's bringing his little brother along," Lori looked over to Leni, "Even Chaz." Sitting next to her, Leni gasped and beamed, "This is going to be, like, the greatest week ever!"
Luna nods, "You said it, dude." She pulls out a flyer, which had the title Top of the Docks upon it, "There's going to be this music fest around the nearby docks, and Sam and her buds are going to be playing it!" In response to this, Luan joked, "That sounds like it's going to be ri-dock-ulous! Hahahaha! Get it?!"
Lynn span a volleyball on her finger, "I can't wait to get there and smoke some wimps in beach volleyball!"
Lucy smiled, "I'm just hoping to see some shark attacks."
"Impossible, I'm afraid." Lisa explained, "Aloha Beach has not had a shark incident since 1993, so it is unlikely that one would occur now." Lisa then smiles, "However, what will occur is Darcy teaching me the art of granular rock architecture." Noticing her siblings looking at her, she said, "Sandcastles."
Lynn Sr. chuckled, "Alright, kids! I know you're excited to have fun with your friends, but let's not forget why we're doing this!" Rita took over., "We're going to spend time as a family, since this might be Lori's last vacation with us.", to which the kids nonchalantly agreed with their mother.
Suddenly, Lori heard her phone ringing. Swiping it and listening to the voice on the other end, she gasped, "It's Bobby! Hi, Boo Boo Bear!"
"Hey, babe! I've got great news! I talked it over with my Mom, and she's letting me, Ronnie Anne, and Carlota drive to Aloha Beach to spend the week with all of you!"
Lori beamed, "OMG! That's literally the best thing I've heard all day!" She enthusiastically said to her family, "Bobby's coming, you guys! And he's bringing Ronnie Anne and Carlota with him."
Lincoln spoke, next, his voice excited, "No way! I can't wait to see Bobby and Ronnie Anne!"
Lori sighed, "This is so romantic. I'll get to spend a week with my Boo Boo Bear, and Lincoln will get to spend time with his girlfriend!". In response, Lincoln shouted, "She's not my girlfriend!", to which everyone scoffed.
After that, Leni turned to Luan, "Luan, what about you? You didn't tell us what you're going to do."
Luan smirked in response, "I've got a whole mess of vacation pranks I've been saving, and with all the fresh, unsuspecting beachgoers, I've got more victims than I could ask for! You know what they say: pun in the sun! Hahahaha! Get it?!"
Her family groaned at the pun, until Lynn Sr. announced, "Here we are, kids!", pulling up to a hotel overlooking the beach, "The Aloha Beach Motel!" Rita turned to the kids, "Now, remember, everyone. Best behavior while we're here. Remember what happened at the Royal Woods Spa."
The kids piled out of the car, leaving their parents behind. Lynn Sr. waggled his eyebrows and said, "I wouldn't mind a repeat of that", to which his wife flirts back, "Save it for later."
Later that night, the family were all in their rooms; since there were only four beds, they'd all had to divvy it up. The parents had took the room with the double bed, whilst Lori and Leni had taken the room with the two single beds. Lynn and Lucy had taken the bunkbeds, whilst Lana, Lola and Lisa had taken the second pair of single beds, pushing them together, with Lily's crib nearby. In order to free up space for the others, Luna had taken the armchair in the room, and Lincoln and Luan had taken the floor. As the lights went out, everyone settled in. Before he went to sleep, Lincoln looked up and sighed, "This is going to be the best vacation ever."
You have no idea, Lincoln…
I've decided to delete and repost this fic, since I've got some new ideas on how I want it to go; next update will be soon.
The inspiration for this was sthompson1's A Very Loud Summer and the Amblin films of the 80s and 90s, such as The Goonies, Gremilns and Jurassic Park. This title is a reference to a chapter in Michael Crichton's The Lost World.
Can anyone guess the identity of the carcass? If you get it correct, you probably have an idea of what is going to be an important aspect of the plot. Clue; the summary says "prehistoric sea monsters"...