(I used probably a few too many prompts for this one. I went with SJ's Picture for a main chunk of the plot devices. Liv's song kind of inspired locale and theme. Grumpycroc's croc pic gave me some mannerism ideas even though there were no crocs. BFD's Geiger pic also for plot device visions. I also worked in Greybeard's The Who song in some of the undertone and theme. Whew. That is that for prompt citation.) The amber and hazel waves have been crashing on the cliff face for years. Nobody can say when the seas changed, it happened slowly. Steel juts would ride the brown tides crashing into the shore, what was once the greatest hive of life became a metal swathe. The little life that held on that long had to adapt. Humanity was tried by the slow loss of the sea. Some resigned theirs and embraced the waves, returning to the primordial soup. Humans that remained engaged in genetic modification, among other traits they devised solutions to the natural hazards time would unfurl. The acrid coastal air stung their noses. The research team could breathe the repugnant air but it hurt their old senses. Most of the team patched their masks back on after humoring the idea that the air was salvageable, Jason brazen enough to suggest so was in another world entirely though. Jason marveled at the chromatic swirl of metallic decay. His whole life was leading up to this, all the stories in his youth about the creatures that lie within enraptured him. He didn’t come to survey resources or to harvest oxygen, he came for the lost coves and the Serpentine. Fellow researchers teased him along the way; cynically they left him to do his own bidding while they examined samples in the portable lab. Jason knew about the other half of humanity and he was dead set on finding it, he trailed onward along the coast. Hours passed as he got lost along the expanse. The screeching metals and sloshing waves were starting to deafen him. Jason lost his footing on the blackened sand and crashed down recoiling. The sensory overload was pulling Jason in like an undertow; he started to blink off into his personal abyss. He started to hear a scream unlike anything earthly and a tug on his wrist. Too tired to move, paralyzed by the unreality, he accepted he was dreaming. His hand getting wet was a part of his dream. His arm getting wet was a dream. He was entirely submerged, iron and steel edges gashing his genetically immaculate visage as he was wrenched even deeper. Was this what he wanted? Was this what his curiosity was worth? His whole body stung and was being buffeted by solid matter. He was stuck in a loop of flinching, unable to open his eyes or mouth. Was this a Serpentine? Was some other foul iron skinned predator dragging him to his grave? Jason’s doubt and shock muted the screeching and pain before he knew it was over. The cold calm pierced his wounds as a new depth of punishment when he regained his senses. Free to open his eyes he caught a glimpse of an uncanny face among the red cloud billowing from his own body. His whole body numbed but had enough sensation to feel strange warmth as he finally submitted to the ocean. He was content with death. His wonder had slighted him and so had his colleagues. Going limp and assuming the warmth was his blood Jason didn’t curse or plead, he knew in some primal aspect this could be the only way he would go. Forgotten, foolish, a joke. The metal waves shattered against the stone. The dark volcanic rock was durable enough to resist the acrid water and blunt blades. The familiar clamorous sound of the sea woke Jason as he lay safely in a shore cave. Expecting the void of nothingness instead he found what was a brutal nostalgia. His whole body felt raw but the sand around him was as pure as it could be. He stumbled to his feet to see not a drop of blood. He could feel lighter though, some of the cuts he suffered were deep, feeling his body there were gashes all around, but healed. A notion swept over him like the sea pulling him back into reality. It was vain to consider, but he lost the only thing of worth he had, what probably got him as far as he did, his good looks. He could feel his face without touching it, he knew it was lost. Health and body gone, mind nearly too, all he knew was that only the Serpentine could have saved him. The instant he saw the shadowy face as he plumbed the depths it had to be. Jason by accident discovered a lost species capable of great feats of survival. That knowledge and his life were all he had, but the ever burning question of what that was worth now wrung him. Plodding back across the coast he passed the research site, they were all gone. They left without looking for him. How long had it been? If he had been nursed that long surely the Serpentine played a role. His mind was drifting away farther grasping for something to anchor to, something to find reassurance in. He mindlessly kept on shuffling forth, returning to utopia. The people in the street gave him icy stares, in the lab frigid stares, at the desk of his employer the rime dug into his wounds deepest. He was fired. His story and suffering only earned him a complementary medical pass for plastic surgery to reduce discrimination by employers as part of a government project. The only face that didn’t despise his was faceless. He spent the coming months of unemployment keeping his scars, they were the only proof of the Serpentine he had. Trying to reach other labs, historians, even fringe groups were fruitless. He had a burning stigma and he was tied to it. Jason headed back to the coast; the cooking pressure of everything around him had him galvanized. If he needed more proof he had to get it himself. If he wasn’t accepted there he would go elsewhere. His fevered mind took him to a sea overlook. Desperation drove him further. The rushing air fed his burning desire until it was gone in an instant. His trajectory missed, crumpled feet from the sea he was smoldering, cursing everything. As his eyes faded gazing at his twisted and maimed hand he saw a steely wet arm wrench him into the merciless steel sea.