“What has been going on here?” said Reverend Phillips.
“Well, as far as we can gather, Mr Joseph here has been summoning jellyfish-like creatures from the deep which have killed and then somehow resurrected fisherman that are in some sense brainwashed and busy committing acts of vandalism,” said Sir John.
“You know, that old chestnut,” said Lord Hollingbury.
“They ain’t dead,” said Mr Joseph, “and they ain’t brainwashed neither.”
“Well, either Mr Wombly has the conversational skills of a trappist monk or something is messing with his mind,” said Lord Hollingbury.
“That ain’t him,” said Mr Joseph, “that’s them. He’s asleep in there.”
“What’s happening in my church?” said Reverend Phillips.
“It ain’t your church neither, you’re a newcomer. You don’t know the old ways,” said Mr Joseph. “I told you before, them that has eyes, you don’t even see the pictures in this church properly.”
“Well, Mr Joseph,” said Lord Hollingbury pleasantly, “why don’t you go nice and slow and tell us all about it?”
“They first came here hundreds of years ago. My family, they’ve always been lighthouse keepers, in more ways than one. They came and they spoke to my great-great lots of greats grandpa. They don’t think like us, see, nor speak like us. They’re like ants or bees, like a jelly hive. But he can speak to them, shows his son and so on how to do it. They tells him they can make him live longer, make everyone live longer, and he agrees.”
“He agrees?” said Sir John. “So there’s a price.”
The lighthouse keeper nodded.
“They give life, but they take memories. Soon everyone was living longer, just by swimming in the sea. They don’t even have to be that close to the jellies. They give people years of extra life and just take some memories. For the ones that visit, the tourists, it’s nothing they’ll notice at all. Maybe they forget a name or two. For those that live here. They forgets a lot. They forgets about the jellies for starters. So we have to remember, the lighthouse keepers. When people stop swimming, we have to make them again. Otherwise they get hungry and….”
“People die younger,” said Lord Hollingbury. “Much younger?”
“Yes, that too. But when it works it’s a fair bargain.”
“Isn’t that for people to choose?” said Reverend Phillips. “Not for you to force.”
“Mayhap,” said the lighthouse keeper.
“The disappearances?” said Marie, “Why is that happening?”
“These new fangled entertainments,” said Mr Joseph, “these promenades and cafes and merry-go-rounds and so on. They keep folk out of the sea. They were getting hungry, see. So I arranged with them to take some fishermen and use them to break these things. So these newcomers leave here and people go back to swimming again.”
“The fishermen are … dead?” said Sir John.
“They’re asleep. The jellies cover their bodies and make the men sleep inside. Then the jellies can use their bodies. But I have to direct them. They ain’t that good alone.”
“So for generations these jellyfish creatures have been feeding on people’s memories and extending their lifespan, and when they’re hungry, they’ve reduced people’s lifespan instead. And your family’s job has been to keep people swimming so the jellyfish can feed?” said Lord Hollingbury.
“That’s about the long and short of it,” said Mr Joseph.
“I have one more question,” said Marie.
“What is that?” said Mr Joseph.
“How do we make the jellyfish go away forever?”
The Sunnyport Shadow: Epilogue