An enormous tidal wave on the west coast of North America has just killed millions. Lenie Clarke, in a black wetsuit, walks out of the ocean onto a Pacific Northwest beach filled with the oppressed and drugged homeless of the Asian world, who have gotten only this far in their attempt to reach America. Is she a monster or a goddess? One thing is for sure: all hell is breaking loose. This dark, fast-paced SF novel returns to the story begun in "Starfish": all human life is threatened by a disease (actually a primeval form of life) from the distant pre-human past. It survived only in the deep ocean rift where Clarke and her companions were stationed before the corporation that employed them tried to sterilize the threat with a secret underwater nuclear strike. But Clarke was far enough away that she was able to survive and tough enough to walk home, three hundred kilometers across the ocean floor. She arrives carrying with her the potential death of the human race, and is possessed by a desire for revenge.
The Pacific Ocean stood on her back. She ignored it.
It crushed the bodies of her friends. She forgot them.
It drank the light, blinding even her miraculous eyes. It dared her to give in, to use her headlamp like some crippled dryback.
She kept going, in darkness.
Eventually the sea floor tilted into a great escarpment, leading into light. The bottom changed. Mud disappeared under viscous clumps of half-digested petroleum: a century of oil spills, a great global rug to sweep them beneath. Generations of sunken barges and fishing trawlers haunted the bottom, each a corpse and crypt and epitaph unto itself. She explored the first one she found, slid through shattered windowpanes and upended corridors, and remembered, vaguely, that fish were supposed to congregate in such places.
A long time ago. Now there were only worms, and suffocating bivalves, and a woman turned amphibious by some abstract convergence of technology and economics.
She kept going.
It was growing almost bright enough to see without eyecaps. The bottom twitched with sluggish eutrophiles, creatures so black with hemoglobin they could squeeze oxygen from the rocks themselves. She flashed her headlamp at them, briefly: they shone crimson in the unexpected light.
She kept going.
Sometimes, now, the water was so murky she could barely see her own hands in front of her. The slimy rocks passing beneath took on ominous shapes, grasping hands, twisted limbs, hollow death's heads with things squirming in their eyes. Sometimes the slime assumed an almost fleshy appearance.
By the time she felt the tug of the surf, the bottom was completely covered in bodies. They, too, seemed to span generations. Some were little more than symmetrical patches of algae. Others were fresh enough to bloat, obscenely buoyant, straining against the detritus holding them down.
But it wasn't the bodies that really bothered her. What bothered her was the light. Even filtered through centuries of suspended effluvium, there seemed far too much of it.
The ocean pushed her up, pulled her down, with a rhythm both heard and felt. A dead gull spun past in the current, tangled in monofilament. The universe was roaring.
For one brief moment, the water disappeared in front of her. For the first time in a year she saw the sky. Then a great wet hand slapped the back of her head, put her under again.
She stopped swimming, uncertain what to do next. But the decision wasn't hers anyway. The waves, marching endlessly shoreward in gray, seething rows, pushed her the rest of the way.
Book Two in the Rifters Trilogy.
Book One: Starfish
Book Three: Behemoth