• KL Forslund

Murder Most Fowl

Warning: Swearing, Violence, Fan-fiction

The clues that Moreau Cay was a murder island were there from the day I woke up inside the murder house, I mean, Moreau Cay Research Institute. Yeah, I don’t like to think about that, but it’s raining, and I got nothing but time to think as I lay in my sleeping bag and tent that the local raconteur sold me on credit. The locals suggested I just move into Dr. Moreau’s house, also known as the Research Institute, but clearly they’ve never been inside the place.


The locals are nice, maybe a little too nice. Everybody compliments my outfits, which is total shit because I’ve been scavenging from the recycle bin and, like I said, living in a tent for the last month. Honestly, it feels like I’m some kind of Mary Sue with the way everybody’s life seems to revolve around me. I know real life isn’t a story, but I swear an MFA candidate wrote everybody’s dialogue. I should know, I got mine in Creative Writing last spring from, well, I can’t remember.


Frantic pawing at the tent door interrupted my kvetching. “Jennifer! Are you in there, dagnabbit?”


“Hang on, Billy.” I crawled out of my sleeping bag and unzipped the flap to let a soaking wet Billy in. He’s wearing his favorite blue sports jacket and little else. That’s because he’s an anthropomorphized talking goat. Totally not weird. He paced and rubbed his paws in some kind of worry.


“Hey, you’re getting water all over, what you want?”


“It’s terrible. I don’t know what to do, dagnabbit.”


I took a deep calming breath. The people here are needy. Every other day, I’ll run across one in a deep funk or worry and it’ll be some argument they had that they want me to run errands for or if they should change Dr. Moreau’s nickname. I just need to find out which it is today.


“Dagnabbit, this is bad. You need to come with me. I’ll show you.”


What? I don’t want to go out. I wanted to huddle in my tent and wallow in my amnesiac misery. He stopped pacing and looked pleadingly at me with his creepy hourglass goat pupils. Fine. I won’t get any sleep, anyway. I grabbed the mismatched rain gear from the pile of clothes I’ve scavenged and suited up.


“Alright, show me what’s got you upset, Billy.”


He led me from the campsite, past the zen garden, and way the hell across the island to the eastern beach, past the northern bonfire that nobody bothers to put out. It’s dark back here, and I know there’s the spooky graveyard up on the cliff, and above that, the windmills that power the island. There’s a dark shape on the beach at the waterline. Waves washed up against something larger than seaweed.


Billy stopped before we got any closer. “I was making my daily beach run, dagnabbit, and I found— I found—”


It’s dark. I really don’t want to find out what he found. It’s probably that stupid sailor guy who keeps turning up on the beach. Yeah, that’s it. I took a few steps closer. Still too dark. The form shifted as the waves lapped into it. Fine, I’ll get closer. A flash of lightning flared and I saw too much. It’s Gulliver, the seagull sailor who I’d find sleeping on the beach every week.


I nudged him with my toe.


Nothing.


Another nudge got me the same.


I pushed harder on his shoulder to flip him onto his back.


Oh, that’s not a good sign. There’s X’s over his eyes and half his stomach is missing. Dinner rose, and I turned and launched it into the sea. I heard Billy retch a couple of yards away while I tried to catch my breath.


“What the fuck!”


“I told you it’s bad, dagnabbit.”


Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. I caught myself pacing like Billy was earlier. This is not my first crime scene. Shit. This is not my first crime scene. Who the hell can say that? I just wanted to write children’s stories like Floopsy Boopsy and the Perfectly Safe Day At School. Then I woke up in that calamari smelling place and nothing’s been normal.


Billy put a hand on my shoulder where I sat in the wet sand, my arms wrapped around myself, rocking. “Let’s go warm up by the bonfire, dagnabbit.”


We trudged over to the flames and I felt better with the horror behind me. I needed to figure out what to do.It’s clear goat boy won’t be much for problem solving. Hell, I can’t even solve my own problems. When I was growing up, I remember having to sit with my parents while they watched police dramas on the television. I can’t even remember what a TV cop does next, let alone what mom and dad’s names are. An idea hit me. Not about my past, I’m sure that’s a door I’ll never open. I tapped Billy on the shoulder, “C’mon, let’s go to Resident Services.”


“Do we have to, dagnabbit? Every time I go in, Tom reminds me about my loan.”


“Well, we’re residents and we need service.”


His shoulders slumped, but he turned and headed down the beach with me. We’d cut across Rex’s yard to get to the walkways leading to the plaza where the Resident Services building stood. From what I learned over the last month, Dr. Moreau organized everything on the island, but everybody insists he’s not in charge. I’m not sure where he found the time to order everybody’s life and run the Research Institute. There’s no shortcut as we slopped through the rain. So maybe he wasn’t all that great.


The bright light in the Resident Services office made my eyes squint. Isabelle, the yellow spaniel dog person, sat in her chair, dozing. The racoon-looking guy, Tom Nook ignored us as he stood at his filing cabinet, doing god knows what at this hour. I had a choice, sit down in front of Tom’s desk and get reminded about what I owed for that crappy tent, or sit down in front of the dog who couldn’t keep her personal life out of the daily announcements.


Picking the lesser of two annoyances, I coughed and waited for Isabelle to blink the sleep out of her eyes.


“Oh, is there something I can help you with?”


“Yeah, we found Gulliver’s body up on the beach. Can you call the cops?”


She put her furry paws to either side of her cheeks. “Oh, dear!” It was adorable if you still liked those cutesy critter figurines that Hello Kitty company makes.


“So, can you call the fucking cops already?”


Tom Nook waddled over to stand next to Isabelle while holding a coffee cup. “I couldn’t help but overhear, did you say you need police?”


“Gulliver. The bird. Is dead. He has ceased to be. Kicked the bucket. Fled the mortal coil.”


“I see. This is very serious, yes, yes. I know!”


I swear to god a lightbulb lit up over his head. He continued his brilliant chain of thought I knew was going to volunteer me for something. “I’d like to appoint you as Moreau Cay’s very own police detective. Yes, yes.”


I blinked. That makes total sense. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it. Sure, I’ll investigate this myself and what the fuck is he thinking in that racoon brain of his. Smiling, I got up and left the building. Billy trailed after me and we stood staring into the night as the rain beat down onto the brick plaza.


After a while, Billy summed it up. “At least he didn’t ask about our loans, dagnabbit.”


Shit.


What kind of stupid people think the mystery woman with a hole in her memory who lives in a tent is qualified to solve a murder. Hell, was this a murder? There are sharks in the water, I used to see their fins now and then when I walked along the shore. That idiot Gulliver and his pirate doppelganger Gullivarr were always falling off the boat and waking up here. Maybe a Great White finally caught up to him. Or not. Except for me, everybody here is an animal person. Some of them predators. Could one of them have done it? I’m stuck here, and maybe it’d be nice to know who the murderer is. Besides, y’know, whatever happened to Dr. Moreau?


Billy looked miserable as he stood shivering in his little rain coat and hat with holes cut out for his horns. “Alright Billy, you’re gonna be my sergeant. Let’s go secure our crime scene.”


“I guess. Maybe I’ll warm up and burn some calories.”


“Sure. C’mon.”


We hiked back out past the bonfire and the body was still there. I guess that would have made the investigation worse if it vanished. Billy’s NookPhone took decent photos, so we got as many as we could, although even our previous tracks had washed out by the time we came back. The other problem was what to do with the body. Billy mentioned a chest freezer Dr. Moreau gave him last summer, so we used my rain coat to haul the body. He also mentioned that he used to live closer, where the Museum now sat, but Dr. Moreau moved him, Marcie and Flo over to the west coast. I decided I hate Dr. Moreau despite having never met him. By four in the morning, we stowed the body in his freezer and I made it back to my tent to shiver alone until I fell asleep.

***


I awoke around noon to the sound of somebody tromping around the trees, stepping on fallen branches. If it was Sahara looking to sell me some stolen rugs, I’ll snap her camel neck. I crawled out, still wearing my patched clothes I put on when I got back.


The penguin named Flo paced around the trees, her paws rubbing each other nervously and muttering, “What should I do?”


“You okay, Flo?”


She turned and a light of hope lit in her eyes. “Jennifer, I was hoping I’d run into you!”

Hoping? I’m camping in the middle of the fucking woods past all the developed areas of the island. She tried pretty hard to coincidentally bump into me. Whatever.


Flo plowed on with her rehearsed speech. “Well, I had an argument with Fang yesterday, and I feel terrible about it, but I just can’t face him right now. Could you bring this gift over to him to apologize for me?”


Every so often, they’d come up to me with some goofy apology ritual. How hard is it to walk up to somebody and say, “I fucked up. Sorry.” But she’s adorable, so I take the wrapped package from her and tell her I will.


Then I remembered the dead body in Billy’s refrigerator. Yeah, I know, who forgets something like that, but I didn’t get a good night’s sleep. “Hey Flo, where were you last night?”


“Oh, I stayed in last night, you know we had that storm.”


“When did you argue with Fang?”


“Well, oh yeah, I was out in the earlier evening and ran into him. But then I went home and went to bed. I was so upset.”


I nodded at her and shambled off to grab an orange from the orchard behind the museum. My speed increased when I passed the house on the hill. The Research Institute looked more overrun with weeds than before. The sooner I got my orange, the sooner I’d sneak through the hedge maze adjoining the museum grounds and start talking to suspects. Starting with Fang.


Fang, the wolf. lived in a quaint bungalow on the eastern beach, but that’s not where I found him. I went through the boardwalk, first. Dr. Moreau thought to build this huge commercial zone with an arcade, bar and sushi stand that nobody used. Sometimes residents futzed with it. In this case, while I was rounding the corner of the local convenience store called Nook’s Cranny, yeah, everything is named after Tom Nook and I think the name is a euphemism. Anyway, down on the far end, I saw Fang tossing something blue into the trash. Nobody uses the trash around here. I know, because I used to check every day when I got tired of eating fruit off the trees.


The wolf wandered back across the bridge to the eastern side of the island, where his house sat among empty lots. There used to be ten residents on Morea Cay, not counting the mysterious Dr. Moreau. Over the month I’ve been here, they’d say they missed Dr. Moreau and were thinking of moving. Naturally I told them to go and before I knew it six people left. Whoops. I could count my list of potential suspects on one of Fang’s paws. Rex, Flow, Billy and Fang. I’m pretty sure Bill didn’t do it. My next step should be checking out Fang.


With Fang out of sight, I head over to the garbage can and lift the lid. It’s empty, except for something blue down at the bottom. I gave up pride three weeks ago and leaned in all the way, legs flailing to keep me balanced. While I towered over the residents here, I’m not tall. I could feel my center of balance slip as my hands grasped the discarded item. I screamed as something grabbed my ankles and pulled. The plastic trash liner clung to me as I flailed. Darkness surrounded me and the weight of a thousand leagues pressed down on me.


I came to laying on the boardwalk next to the tipped over trash bin while Rex’s maned head looked down at me.


“What’s up, cool cat?”


Craning my neck to get my bearings, I said, “What happened?”


He extended a paw out to help me up. “You almost fell into the can, so I pulled you out. Are you alright?”


“Thanks. Guess I over-reacted there.”


He gave me a toothy grin, “Nonsense. One time I thought I was in an avalanche but it turned out the shelf holding my snack crumb collection broke and fell on me.”


I glanced around as I brushed myself off. The prize I sought still lay half hidden in the can. “Hey Rex, I was curious, what’d you do last night?”


“Me? I hung out at Nook’s Cranny, picking out snacks until they closed and kicked me out.”


That meant ten o’clock with an alibi. Maybe he had time before Billy found the body around— Shit, I don’t even know when that was. I should ask Billy later. That’s another sign I don’t know what I’m doing. I should ask another question and get Rex on his way.


“So did the shop have any meat snacks?”


Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. What am I thinking? What the hell is that going to tell me?


“No way! Those don’t even leave any crumbs. Dr. Moreau always said meat wasn’t good for us, anyway. I like townhouse crackers, they’re the crumbiest!”


“Good to know. Don’t let me keep you from your quest for snacks, Rex. I’ll pick this up.”


“Sure thing, cool cat!”


I watched him meander up and around the corner past the open air self-serve coffee shop before grabbing the mystery item. Unfolding it, I could tell it was Fang’s favorite blue sweater with snowflakes. It looked fine except for the smear of blood on the front. I’m not sure why he tossed it. I folded it up and tucked it in with the present from Flo into my messenger bag. Guess I found a suspect. Maybe I should find Billy before talking to Fang.


I turned around and headed to the west side of the island where the other half lived. Weeds surrounded Flo and Billy’s homes and the taped-off empty lots where people used to live. Billy’s curtain was open, so I knocked and let myself in. Billy paced around his woodblock table, glancing at the chest freezer on the back wall. His eyes looked bloodshot.


“Holy crap, man, did you get any sleep?”


He stopped and glared at me. “There’s a dead body in my house, dagnabbit. Of course I can’t sleep.”


“Sorry man, I slept bad, too. But I found some stuff out this morning.”


“Me, too. I looked closer at the wounds after he, uh, froze.”


I winced. Blood and guts made me queazy. I faked a letter citing religious reasons to get out of dissecting frogs in biology. Billy’s showing more initiative than I gave him credit for. “Ew. What’d you find?”


Billy stopped pacing and stood across the table from me. “That wasn’t a shark bite. I found some kind of black powdery residue.”


“Like black powder?”


“Yeah, the powder was black.”


I don’t think we’re meaning the same thing, but close enough. I filled him in on the sweater evidence.


“Dagnabbit! Fang killed Gulliver and sprinkled pepper on him?”


I’ve got a hunch, but that ain’t it. “No, maybe the murder weapon uses black powder. C’mon, let’s go talk to Fang.”


We left Billy’s house and took the path behind the boardwalk, past the playground and empty concert hall. Marcie was the only one with a kid, and that baby never left the kangaroo’s pouch. She said it didn’t feel safe to raise a child here without Dr. Moreau. Guess she’d never been inside the Research Institute.


“Hey Billy, have you ever been inside the Research Institute?”


“Uh, no. I don’t think so. Why do you ask, dagnabbit?”


“I don’t think anybody’s been in there. Not even to look for Dr. Moreau.”


He stopped. “It wouldn’t be right, dagnabbit.”


It took me a few steps before I realized it. I turned to look at him. He fidgeted in place. “Look, I don’t want to go in there either. But that’s messed up. Look at you, you’re freaking out just talking about it.”


“Dagnabbit, let’s just stick to the case. Sooner we get it solved, we can get back exercising.”


Billy brushed past me and set a new pace that I had to power walk to keep up with his short legs.


We arrived in front of Fang’s house. A tiny garden of red lilies spread out on one side, with a rusted iron garden table facing the beach. A pale white pumpkin sat next to his step for Halloween at the end of the month. The smell of salt breeze came off from the ocean. I couldn’t find anything else to notice and delay this, so I knocked on the door and we entered.


Fang sat with his back to us on the couch, reading a book. He didn’t look up as he grumbled at us. ”What do you want?”


I’m not sure how to start the conversation without saying we think you murdered somebody, how are you. But then I remember the extra weight in my bag. “Hey, uh, Flo asked me to deliver a package to you.”


“I don’t want it. She’s wrong.”


Normally, when I have to play apology courier, they take it and everything’s happy again. Guess our days of simplicity are over. “Okay, do you want to tell me why you threw your favorite blue sweater away?”


Fang slammed his book shut, stood, and faced us. “Why don’t you say what you mean, cha-chomp.”


I slipped a glance at Billy and he shrugged. “Alright, where were you last night between eight PM to midnight?”


He stepped up close and bared his teeth. “I’m not saying. You just think you know it all, don’t you? Cha-chomp! Little miss hole in her mind. Why don’t you tell me where Dr. Moreau is, huh? Oh yeah, nobody blamed you for that.”


“So I guess you know Gulliver is dead, because I bet if we went to the Research Institute and tested it, we’d find it’s his blood on your sweater. You’re under arrest for the murder of Gulliver. Cuff him Billy.”


Billy dug in his pockets. “I don’t have handcuffs, dagnabbit.”


“Well, shit. Um, alright, you’re under house arrest. I see you’ve got a crafting table, I’m going to try this DIY I found in a bottle last week.”


We left Fang’s house, a set of iron jail bars blocking in the door. When I set the last one in place, while Fang stood in the doorway, I swear I saw a tear go down his furry cheek. I can’t look in his eye. Yeah, I know he’s a murder suspect, but I not feeling like the good guy. Have we really got the right guy?


Billy and I ended up over at the coffee stand. A pumpkin scarecrow stood at attention behind the counter. I had a bit of time on my hands last week. The coffee was tolerable, though. Billy didn’t look happy, either. He spoke first, “Why would he do it? We’re all friends here.”


I remembered something Fang said the first week I learned about Gulliver. “He said something about that idiot sailor, once. I don’t think he liked him.”


“Dagnabbit, that’s not a reason to kill.”


“Easy with the harsh language.”


“What, you think I say dagnabbit, too much?”


“It is kinda corny.”


He set his coffee down and looked me down with those creepy hourglass eyes. “Alright, what do you want me to say instead?”


“Motherfucker.”


“I’m not a potty mouth like you, Jennifer. I’m not saying that.”


I took a sip of my coffee as I stared him down. Still delicious. “Suit yourself, jockstrap. Guess you only like to play with balls, but don’t have any of your own.”


“OK, fine. You’ll see how mature it sounds, motherfucker.”


“Wow. It’s like you’re a grown-up now.”


He rolled his eyes. “Let’s get back to the case. Have we considered anybody else, motherfucker?”


“I think Rex and Flo have alibis. And you probably didn’t do it.”


“Motherfucker, you know I didn’t do it. Maybe you did it.”


Ouch. Point goes to Billy on that zinger. “I’m pretty sure I didn’t do it. How about Tom or Isabelle?”


He shook his head, his ears flopping a bit. “Those two never leave the Resident Services building. It’s kind of weird, but I’d think they alibi out.”


Billy’s getting better at this police thing. All I can do is ask questions. “How about Timmy or Tommy in the Cranny?”


He doesn’t go for a dirty joke, but sticks to being the straight man. “Not them either. Again, they stay in the store, sleeping in the back. Plus, there’s a camera. We should check it. What about the Able Sisters?”


I poured more sugar into my cup while thinking of an answer. “Maybe they’d cover for each other. But again, they never leave their shop. What is up with that? How about the guys at the airport?”


“Well, they could just leave and strand us all here, but their plane is still parked out there.”


I tried to take another sip, but apparently I’d been doing a lot of that and my cup is empty except for a glob of sugar stuck at the bottom. “Unless that’s what they want us to think. Maybe I should talk to them. Plus, what about Gulliver’s ship, or Captain Gullivarr?”


Billy chugged the last of his coffee and said, “One other thing, where’s his phone? I didn’t find it on his body when I checked this morning.”


A lightbulb went off over my head, or at least in my head. “Y’know, usually he’d ask me to dig around to find it. So maybe it’s buried in the sand.”


Billy showed more initiative and said, “How about you check the DAL and I’ll search the beach with a shovel.”


“Good plan. You’re getting good at this, Billy.”


“Yes we are, motherfucker.”


After splitting up, I walked over to the Dodo Air Lines building, set right on the beach off the boardwalk. Orville sat in his usual chair behind the ticket counter. I noticed the camera watching my every move. I spent my second night here because a storm came in and I hadn’t talked to Tom Nook about a tent, yet. Orville wouldn’t let me fly without naming a destination or a friend, which I couldn’t remember anybody. Stupid technicality.


“Orville.”


The dodo swiveled to face me in his chair and rested his clasped paws on the counter. “Ah, Jennifer, how can I help you today?”


“Can I see your camera footage from last night?”


“No, only DAL employees or law enforcement can do that.”


“Tom Nook appointed me as a police detective.”


He tilted his head at me. “Do you have a badge?”


“No.”


“Then I can’t do that. Is there anything else I can help you with?”


“Can you fly me out to Gulliver’s ship?”


“Do you have an ID?”


No. I don’t even have a NookPhone, unlike everybody else. I said as much.


“Then I can’t do that, either.”


“Can you fly me out to Gullivarr’s ship?”


“It’s the same ship, and no, I can’t fly you there because you’re undocumented.”


Disappointment and knowledge seem to come hand in hand. That’s interesting. I’ve talked to both, and I never knew that. Gullivarr’s definitely a pirate, but Gulliver is just a crewman with the pirate is new information.


I turned around and left the airport without a word. Damn dodos. No wonder they went extinct. Except here. And they talk. This has bugged me for some time. Darwin wrote his Species book around 1859. Dodos went extinct like way before that. This island is called Moreau Cay. Cay is another word for island, so basically we’re on the island of Dr. Moreau. Which was written by H. G. Wells in 1896. I know that because of literature classes thanks to my MFA degree from Unremembered U. I’m getting my steps in as I headed east and then north to find Billy. But I’m pretty sure there’s more to this story and weirdness about the real Dr. Moreau.


The trail of open holes led me past the bonfire and beyond the spot where I thought the body was. I couldn’t tell as all the sand looked clean. I guess the tide washes away all sins. I caught up to Billy by the rocks on the northern corner. A few beach chairs sat on the flattest surface for folks who liked to come up this far. His shovel lying beside him, Billy kneeled at one chair, inspecting something. I guess that’s why the English called them Inspectors.


“Find something Billy?”


“No phone, but I found more of that black powder, kinda of stuck in some spots on this chair.”


“That sounds like evidence to me. Let’s bag it and tag it.”


He looked up from the chair. “We don’t have any bags. Or tags, motherfucker.”


I put my hands up, “Alright, alright. Maybe you should go back to dagnabbit, huh?”


“Nope, You made my bed, now you gotta look at it. Wrinkles and all.”


The movement of the waves called to me and I stood right where the water lapped up against the soles of my recycled boots. “Why don’t we store that at your place and I’ll swim around and see if I can spot his phone?”


Billy moved to my side in an instant. “No. It’s not safe in the water. Sharks may not have got Gulliver, but they could get you.”


“But I haven’t seen any fins in the last two weeks.”


“They’re like ninjas, waiting to jump out. No, stay out of the water. You notice none of us go in there.”


“Fine, Billy. I’ll stay out of the water. By the way, DAL sucks, but they told me that Gulliver and Gullivarr serve on the same ship.”


Billy pulled me away from the waves toward the chair. Evidently, he wanted me to see it. “I didn’t know Gulliver was a pirate. Can we fly out there?”


“Maybe you can, but I don’t have an ID so I’m on the no-fly list.”


“Motherfucker!”


“I should have said that.”


A muted yell reached my ears, and I looked back down the beach to see Rex running towards us. “Jennifer!”


I waited while Billy folded up the chair to bring it back. Rex caught up to us and he needed a moment to catch his breath. “Take your time, Rex.”


“I was looking all over for you, cool cat!”


Please don’t say you found a dead body. I nodded for him to continue.


“This is for you! I heard about what happened and that Tom Nook put you in charge. So I made you a badge!”


He thrust it at me. It looked like the top of a soup can, edges filed down with a rock, and Moreau Cay Police Department scratched on it. In smaller scratches, it said Detective Jennifer. A wind gust blew sea spray into my eyes, so I needed a moment to wipe them clear. While I’ve been here a month digging for scraps, these people were constantly handing me clothes and stuff every other day. Maybe my time would have been easier if I’d put my trust in them, like they have in me. Except for Fang, unless he isn’t the murderer. I wondered if this is more complex. Maybe there’s a place I can go now to find out. “Thank you, Rex.”


Rex wandered off and Billy and I set out to bring the chair in as evidence. By we, I mean me because I’m taller and Billy couldn't carry the damn chair without dragging it in the sand and contaminating our proof. This felt familiar as we retraced our steps from last night to his house.


Once we finished that chore, the sun was going down. Fang began howling, a lone mournful cry that spoke of injustice and loss. I had a feeling something bad might happen, so Billy and I hid in the weeds among the trees near Fang’s house. Nobody got any sleep. Not one of my better ideas.


The next morning, I nudged Billy awake. Fang stopped howling around five AM, but I could see his pacing shadow through his window. A camel stopped in front of us, “Hello, I am carrying rugs—”


“Not now, Saharah!”


The camel shrugged and tottered off with her backpack of mysteriously obtained rugs. I don’t know if she stole them. Maybe that’s me projecting my suspicions on somebody who doesn’t know what kind of rug she’s selling until I buy it.


Billy and I stretched out. I waited for him to check on Fang, then I told him where we were going next. He didn’t like it, but I lied and told him it was totally safe.


Orville at the DAL counter greeted us in his usual chipper way, “Hello Jennifer and Billy, what can I do for you?”


“We’d like to see your footage from the other night.”


“I’m sorry, without a—”


I held up my gift from Rex and Billy cut in. “Now, motherfucker.”


“Oh, oh my. Of course.” He turned and started tapping on his keyboard. Soon, his console displayed high-speed takes of nobody arriving or departing and Wilbur waddling in around seven to play cards all night with Orville at the front desk. A bust. But it felt nice that my badge worked.


“Alright, now you’re going to have Wilbur take us to Gulliver’s ship. Or you’ll be obstructing our investigation.”


Flop sweat flung off of Orville as he pounded the keyboard to set up our flight plan. The gates opened, and he said, “There you go, have a good flight, and remember, what would Dodos do?”


I keep my answer to myself and Billy and I board the plane for my first time off this island that I can remember.

***



The plane ride took us out to deep waters where no islands could be seen in the distance. Wilbur circled an old sailing ship. It could have been in a museum, except for the satellite dish placed on the forward deck. The S.S. Lollipop looked to be anchored with its sails down. Wilbur set us down and taxied the plane within gangplank distance in the calm waters. Still, crossing over looked dicey.


Ever the gentleman, Billy let me go first, but cautioned, “Be careful, don’t fall in.”


The first steps went well, but then the plane rose as a wave swept under and I dropped to my knees on the plank. The clear blue waters were so close, growing ever darker in the depths, beckoning. I shook my head and got back up and hurried to the rope ladder hanging off the side and a marmot crewman who offered a paw to me.


Soon, Billy and I stood on the main deck and the marmot spoke. “I’m Marco, what brings you out to our perfectly normal ship, polo?”


I pulled out my badge, “We need to speak to your captain.”


Marco’s craned his neck, looking to see if anybody else was watching. “Well, uh, he’s not here. What’s this about?”


“When was the last time you saw Gulliver?”


“That loser? The only thing he’s good for is swabbing the deck. He must be around somewhere.”


Billy put his paws in his jacket pockets and said, “Well, he’s been in our morgue for the last few days, motherfucker.”


Marco didn’t miss a beat. “So he fell overboard one too many times, I guess.”


“You don’t seem bothered by this news.”


“He wasn’t good at anything. The captain was arguing with him a few days ago in his quarters.”


Billy asked, “Whose quarters?”


“The captain’s, polo. Gulliver slept in the rigging.”


I nodded to the satellite dish. “What’s the dish for?”


Marco crossed his arms, “We’re in International Waters. We intercept signals from cable networks and repackage them.”


Billy snorted, “So you guys are movie pirates.”


“Sure. What, did you think we were cold-blooded killers or something?”


“Well, Gulliver is dead...”


“He finally drowned. Didn’t he?”


I walked back over to the railing and looked down for portholes or hatches. “Does this ship have any cannons?”


“Just one, Captain Gullivarr kept it in his quarters for safekeeping after the tapioca incident.”


“We’re gonna need to see it.”


Marco’s shoulders slumped. “Fine.” Then he led us to the back of the ship where the captain’s quarters were. I went in first. It looked like a pirate bachelor’s pad. Pirate pants and red pirate shirts lay everywhere. No cannon in sight. I figured that would stand out. I saw a shimmering edge of something under a sock. Lifting the soiled footwear revealed a CD. Who still uses those? The label said “Morea Cay Research Institute: Chimera Test 2”


What the hell does that mean? I held up the CD for Billy to see. He cocked his head, but then shrugged. I put it into my messenger bag between the sweater and present for Fang. That box is taking up room, so I pulled it out and opened it. I held up a red pirate hat for everyone to see.


Marco was the first to speak, “How’d you get the Captain’s hat? There’s only one of those.”


Good question. How’d Flo get it, and what did this have to do with their argument? And where was Captain Gullivarr?


“Marco, you said the two argued a couple days ago. Did you see them?”


He backed up against a chest. “No, but I heard them arguing about something.”


“Okay. Have you ever seen them together? Ever?”


Marco used a paw to scratch behind his ear as he thought. “Come to think of it, no.”


Billy started rifling through the clothes pile. “What if Gullivarr and Gulliver are the same person?”


“You mean like Dissociative Identity Disorder?”


“I mean like what if he had multiple personalities?”


“That’s the same thing. They renamed it.”


Billy stopped rummaging and looked back at me. “Who?”


Marco smirked as if he knew something. “The people who name things, polo. Get with the times.”


“Guys, that’s not important, but maybe the same person thing is. Billy, we need to check out this CD and talk to Flo.”


We should have done it first, but before we left, Billy took a few photos of the room with his NookPhone and then we walked the plank back to the plane. In short order, Wilbur had us up in the air and headed back to Moreau Cay.


During the flight, Billy asked me, “where are we going to use that CD, I bet nobody has a thingy to read that anymore.”


I raised up the disc, showing the label. “There’s one place that would.” Billy looked glum and we finished the flight in silence.

***

When we landed, the DAL terminal was empty. The front desk sat abandoned. Wilbur remained back at the plane, dicking around with ropes and stuff. Billy looked up at me with a question on his lips, but he said nothing.


We stepped outside and crossed over to Nook’s Cranny. Products stood in their usual place, but no Timmy or Tommy wandered about to pester us about prices. That’s not a good sign.

“Where’d everybody go?”


“I don’t know Billy, but we better check on Fang.”


The pair of us sprinted over to Fang’s house, racing past the empty plots where Friga and Julian used to live. Somebody knocked the jail bars inward and the front door stood open. Inside it looked like a struggle occurred, but no blood. No sign of Fang, either, but I don’t think he left willingly.


It took another hour to check every house and shop together. I’d seen too many teen horror movies to know we shouldn’t split up. Everybody was gone. Even the Resident Services building was deserted. We checked the back, where we found separate rooms for Tom and Isabelle. We solved that mystery, at least. Despite our running about, we didn’t come across Saharah.


By the time the sun set, we’d checked everywhere except the house on the hill at the northern edge of the island. The stairs loomed before us like the long walk to face a parent with a letter from school saying we’d gotten detention. A brisk evening breeze shook the nearby cherry trees, causing us both to shiver.


“Jennifer, I can’t go up there.”


My chest felt heavy, as if stones were piled up on it. “I— I don’t want to either, but—” I thrust my hands into my worn out Labelle jacket, catching the point of a tin star into a knuckle. I pulled it out and looked at it. There were cops who were cops because they were scared. They sucked. I remember that much. Then there were cops who were there to help, the ones who were scared.


“Billy. I don’t know why we’ve got an aversion to this place. But we’re the cops. And our friends are missing. We gotta get our ball and take it home.”


Billy did a little run in place psych up, pounded his chest to get the blood flowing and said, “Alright. Let’s do this, motherfucker.”


We climbed the stairs and approached the front door. Each step added to our inexplicable sense of foreboding. My hand rested on the doorknob, but I couldn’t find the strength to turn it. Billy reached out and together we twisted the handle and pulled it open. Then we stepped inside into darkness.


The entryway led into a lobby kind of room. A metal counter in front of us with a computer and phone on top. The screen faced away from us, but the light revealed bench seating along the wall and a coffee maker. The stench hit us like something died a long time ago. Loose papers tumbled on the floor as we walked behind the counter. I handed the CD to Billy as he got his hands on the keyboard and clicked around.


While he did that, I circled the room. To the left of the main entrance, I found an office. It looked like an old man’s office. Big wooden furniture and wood framed record player. Leaving that room, I went to the back where a short hallway opened to the source of the smell. Locked panels lined the walls and in the center of the room, sat stacks of fish tanks and bug cages. All the occupants were dead. Was this some kind of genetic material bank? Why would that idea come to mind?


I returned to the lobby where Billy had windows open and was just stuffing the CD into the computer. He tapped the screen, “There’s a journal in here dating back to the 1800s. How old was Dr. Moreau?”


Something in my gut twisted up, but I continued my circuit of the room to the doorway on the right. My foot scuffed at the entrance and I looked down. Some kind of dried crusty footprint. In the dim light, it might have been dark brown. I tried to take another step, but couldn’t. Looking back at Billy, I could see he remained engrossed in scanning that disk. I pushed myself to lift a foot up and move it forward, then another. I repeated the action until I returned to the room where it happened.


Water washed over me, draining off, and I couldn’t breathe. I thrashed and my mouth gaping open and shut. Something slithered around me, wet and grasping. A grey-haired man’s face recoiled in horror flashed before me. Then tentacles tearing at him. The last thing I remembered was his one eye staring dead at me. Where am I? What am I? What have I done?


I came to myself again, finding myself huddled in the corner. Past the big screen TV still playing canned videos. This was a recovery room. Both beds were empty with the curtains pulled back. My eyes locked onto the second bay. Dry blood splattered everything, but I could still see the laptop screen. The images it showed—


“Uh, Jennifer, I think I found out where you came from. Oh.” Billy stopped in his tracks. His eyes frozen in place, looking not at me, or the bloody floor. There was another laptop on some equipment in the other bay. The images showed a young blonde man and Billy, but the name beneath it read—


“Ahoy, I see you’ve found out about William and yerself now.” Captain Gullivarr stepped out of the shadows of the corridor, holding some kind of pistol. “Such good timing. I’m amazed ye overcame the subliminal programming, yarr.”


Billy spun to face the captain. “Gullivarr, you’re not Gulliver!”


The pirate sneered, “Of course not. My idiot twin brother was going to spoil everything. But that’s fine, I’ve found better spoils once I spent time in Dr. Moreau’s lab.”


Billy rushed Gullivarr, but the captain squeezed the trigger and a jet of liquid blasted into Billy’s eyes. He fell screaming, “Aw, my eyes, my eyes!”


I tried to get up but a second blast hit me and I felt my arms turn into noodles before my vision clouded and I couldn’t hold myself up. Darkness overtook me as I struggled to breathe.


The sound of a muffled monologue, as if heard from underwater, kept me company as I felt myself dragged up stairs and strapped into something. Followed by more darkness.


When I awoke again, I found myself strapped onto a lab table, surrounded by equipment and blinking lights. Along the walls were giant tubes of fluid, each containing a missing resident. Billy floated in one, a breathing mask over his face. His paws flailed to no effect against the glass.


Gullivarr came into view, rolling a robot arm with a stabby looking bit at the end. “Yarr, have ye figured it out, Jennifer?”


“Dr. Moreau made everybody years ago.”

“Aye, most of us have been here a long time. He made us from animals. Kept us tame with messages hidden in K.K. songs. Except for my crew since we sing our own shanties.”


“But I’m not—”


He adjusted the machine, bringing the scary bit closer to my chest. “Not what? Animal? Well William, there was a new experiment. To take a human and turn him into us. It worked.”


I clenched my fists. “I’m human!”


“Keep tellin’ yerself that lassie. T’ were his fatal second attempt. A little saline solution and you go all wibbly.” He waved his pistol at me. “Squirt gun works great in the eyes. Lighter than a cannon, too. Yarr.”


“What do you want with me, you murderer!” I cringed inside. That felt so tropey, but what else could I say?


Gullivarr flipped a switch on the machine and the blade started spinning. “I be extracting yer DNA and be upgrading me’self.”


I couldn’t take my eyes off the dangerous blade as it moved closer. My blood pounded in my ears, louder as it edged closer. I heard a crack and my head and twisted my head to look. Billy’s tank sported a fracture in the glass. He lowered is head and rammed it again.


Gullivarr tried to get around the table while he shouted, “No! Ye scurvy sea dog!”


The glass shattered and Billy landed on his feet while ripping the mask off. “MCPD, motherfucker!” He lowered his head and charged. Not the machine, not the pirate, but the table.

I watched blade lower as the table flipped and I fell into the inch or so of water, a taste of salt in my mouth.


My arms and legs grew and doubled, and thousands of suckers formed along their length. My vision improved and I could see the dark room clearer than midday. Three of my arms wrapped around the murderbot and flung it across the room, breaking open two more tanks. The rush of salt water hit me and my transformation continued. Bones turned to rubber, and I crawled over the debris and wrapped a tentacle around the craven pirate as he tried to crawl away toward the stairs. Suckers stuck to him and soon I slithered on top of him and my chitinous beak scissored into his soft feathery belly. I ate my fill of the wayward seagull. Collapsing under the weight of the oppressive waterless atmosphere, darkness claimed me again.

***


Warm blankets surrounded me. I pulled them up closer before I remembered I don’t have warm blankets. Billy sat in a chair watching me. “You feel better, now dagnabbit?”


I tried to sit up and fell back. “What happened? You changed back! I changed back. What happened!?”


“Stay put. You turned into a kraken for a bit, solved a murder, cleared Fang’s name, and rescued everybody. Tom said that’s worth some Nook Miles.”


Looking around, I don’t recognize this place. The walls are simple and the floor is pine. “Where am I?”


“I used your miles to pay off your tent and signed you up for a house loan. Figured it was better for you, dagnabbit.”


This house is mine? I’ve got a place to live, finally. A place to belong. There’s still some questions, but this is a start. A new beginning.



KL here, I reckon you're wondering what in the heck you just read. A challenge to write something for 1,000,000 Bells in the Animal Crossing game came up. I could have recycled a story, but the muse gibbered in my ear and I wrote this instead. This was inspired by Animal Crossing, but I imagined it as many adults do, and transformed it into an experience we might imagine having if we actually lived there. In this case, I based my in-game island on The Island of Dr. Moreau (I got to ACNH late and NOBODY thought of that). Then I removed myself from the island (the good Dr. Moreau), and let a situation unfold. Except for Jennifer (name not used in the game), the characters originated with the folks at Nintendo. I've merely explored what it might be like if something truly went wrong. Which is transformative if any IP lawyers come sniffing.

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