Annihilation

by

Jeff VanderMeer

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The biologist is the narrator and protagonist of Annihilation. She is a solitary and analytical person, often preferring to study her environment rather than interact with other people. Growing up, she was something of a loner who loved observing the plant and animal life that sprung up in the swimming pool behind her house. This tendency to isolate herself eventually caused difficulties in her marriage to her husband—he was outgoing, whereas she was quiet, and he believed that she didn’t open up to him. When the biologist’s husband returns from the eleventh expedition to Area X with severe melancholy, memory loss, and terminal cancer, the biologist volunteers for the following expedition. She not only wants to find out more about Area X and what happened to her husband, but she is also drawn to the possibility of adventure and to Area X’s isolation from other environments and people. In Area X, the biologist tries to be analytical and objective, but she quickly realizes that everyone’s experiences are completely subjective. When she inhales spores in the Tower, she starts to change—becoming immune to the psychologist’s hypnotic suggestions, seeing the Tower more clearly, and acquiring heightened senses. Over time, she also realizes that the spores have created a “brightness” inside her that is slowly taking over her whole body. The biologist is constantly searching for answers to the major mysteries of the novel: why the government is sending them on expeditions, how to interpret all of Area X’s mysteries, and particularly what the Crawler (the creature in the Tower) is doing. However, she starts to recognize that even with all the information in the world (like the journals that she pores over from previous expeditions), she will never truly be able to solve all of Area X’s mysteries. Instead, at the end of the book, she goes after her husband when she reads in his journal that he set out on a boat to try to recross the border. She recognizes that she does not want to go home, instead ultimately deciding to become a part of Area X.

The Biologist Quotes in Annihilation

The Annihilation quotes below are all either spoken by The Biologist or refer to The Biologist. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Farrar Straus & Giroux edition of Annihilation published in 2014.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Far worse, though, was a low, powerful moaning at dusk. The wind off the sea and the odd interior stillness dulled our ability to gauge direction, so that the sound seemed to infiltrate the black water that soaked the cypress trees. This water was so dark we could see our faces in it, and it never stirred, set like glass, reflecting the beards of gray moss that smothered the cypress trees. If you looked out through these areas, toward the ocean, all you saw was the black water, the gray of the cypress trunks, and the constant, motionless rain of moss flowing down. All you heard was the low moaning. The effect of this cannot be understood without being there. The beauty of it cannot be understood, either, and when you see beauty in desolation it changes something inside you. Desolation tries to colonize you.

Page Number: 5-6
Explanation and Analysis:

At first, only I saw it as a tower. I don’t know why the word tower came to me, given that it tunneled into the ground. I could as easily have considered it a bunker or a submerged building. Yet as soon as I saw the staircase, I remembered the lighthouse on the coast and had a sudden vision of the last expedition drifting off, one by one, and sometime thereafter the ground shifting in a uniform and preplanned way to leave the lighthouse standing where it had always been but depositing this underground part of it inland. I saw this in vast and intricate detail as we all stood there, and, looking back, I mark it as the first irrational thought I had once we had reached our destination.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Biologist’s Husband
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

As I came close, did it surprise me that I could understand the language the words were written in? Yes. Did it fill me with a kind of elation and dread intertwined? Yes. I tried to suppress the thousand new questions rising up inside of me. In as calm a voice as I could manage, aware of the importance of that moment, I read from the beginning, aloud: “Where lies the strangling fruit that came from the hand of the sinner I shall bring forth the seeds of the dead to share with the worms that…”

Then the darkness took it.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Tower/The Tunnel
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

Most important, however, I now could guess at one way in which the spores had affected me: They had made me immune to the psychologist’s hypnotic suggestions. They had made me into a kind of conspirator against her. Even if her purposes were benign, I felt a wave of anxiety whenever I thought of confessing that I was resistant to hypnosis—especially since it meant any underlying conditioning hidden in our training also was affecting me less and less.

I now hid not one but two secrets, and that meant I was steadily, irrevocably, becoming estranged from the expedition and its purpose.

Related Symbols: The Tower/The Tunnel
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

I got my shit together because we were going to go forward and the surveyor couldn’t see what I saw, couldn’t experience what I was experiencing. And I couldn’t make her see it.

“Forget it,” I said. “I became disoriented for a second.”

“Look, we should go back up now. You’re panicking,” the surveyor said. We had all been told we might see things that weren’t there while in Area X. I know she was thinking that this had happened to me.

I held up the black box on my belt. “Nope—it’s not flashing. We’re good.” It was a joke, a feeble joke, but still.

“You saw something that wasn’t there.” She wasn’t going to let me off the hook.

You can’t see what is there, I thought.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Surveyor
Related Symbols: The Tower/The Tunnel
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

I know this information might not be hard for anyone to find out, but I have hoped that in reading this account, you might find me a credible, objective witness. Not someone who volunteered for Area X because of some other event unconnected to the purpose of the expeditions. And, in a sense, this is still true, and my husband’s status as a member of an expedition is in many ways irrelevant to why I signed up.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Biologist’s Husband, The Surveyor
Related Symbols: The Tower/The Tunnel
Page Number: 55-56
Explanation and Analysis:

How what we had seen below could coexist with the mundane was baffling. It was as if we had come up too fast from a deep-sea dive but it was the memories of the creatures we had seen that had given us the bends.

Related Symbols: The Tower/The Tunnel
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:

At first, I must have seemed mysterious to him, my guardedness, my need to be alone, even after he thought he’d gotten inside my defenses. Either I was a puzzle to be solved or he just thought that once he got to know me better, he could still break through to some other place, some core where another person lived inside of me. During one of our fights, he admitted as much—tried to make his “volunteering” for the expedition a sign of how much I had pushed him away, before taking it back later, ashamed. I told him point-blank, so there would be no mistake: This person he wanted to know better did not exist; I was who I seemed to be from the outside. That would never change.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Biologist’s Husband, The Psychologist
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

This was really the only thing I discovered in him after his return: a deep and unending solitude, as if he had been granted a gift that he didn’t know what to do with. A gift that was poison to him and eventually killed him. But would it have killed me? That was the question that crept into my mind even as I stared into his eyes those last few times, willing myself to know his thoughts and failing.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Biologist’s Husband
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

But there is a limit to thinking about even a small piece of something monumental. You still see the shadow of the whole rearing up behind you, and you become lost in your thoughts in part from the panic of realizing the size of that imagined leviathan. I had to leave it there, compartmentalized, until I could write it all down, and seeing it on the page, begin to divine the true meaning. And now the lighthouse had finally gotten larger on the horizon. This presence weighed on me as I realized that the surveyor had been correct about at least one thing. Anyone within the lighthouse would see me coming for miles. Then, too, that other effect of the spores, the brightness in my chest, continued to sculpt me as I walked, and by the time I reached the deserted village that told me I was halfway to the lighthouse, I believed I could have run a marathon. I did not trust that feeling. I felt, in so many ways, that I was being lied to.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Psychologist, The Surveyor, The Crawler
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

Then the dolphins breached, and it was almost as vivid a dislocation as that first descent into the Tower. I knew that the dolphins here sometimes ventured in from the sea, had adapted to the freshwater. But when the mind expects a certain range of possibilities, any explanation that falls outside of that expectation can surprise. Then something more wrenching occurred. As they slid by, the nearest one rolled slightly to the side, and it stared at me with an eye that did not, in that brief flash, resemble a dolphin eye to me. It was painfully human, almost familiar. In an instant that glimpse was gone and they had submerged again, and I had no way to verify what I had seen. I stood there, watched those twinned lines disappear up the canal, back toward the deserted village. I had the unsettling thought that the natural world around me had become a kind of camouflage.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Biologist’s Husband
Related Symbols: The Tower/The Tunnel
Page Number: 97-98
Explanation and Analysis:

But fun for me was sneaking off to peer into a tidal pool, to grasp the intricacies of the creatures that lived there. Sustenance for me was tied to ecosystem and habitat, orgasm the sudden realization of the interconnectivity of living things. Observation had always meant more to me than interaction. He knew all of this, I think. But I never could express myself that well to him, although I did try, and he did listen. And yet, I was nothing but expression in other ways. My sole gift or talent, I believe now, was that places could impress themselves upon me, and I could become a part of them with ease. Even a bar was a type of ecosystem, if a crude one, and to someone entering, someone without my husband’s agenda, that person could have seen me sitting there and had no trouble imagining that I was happy in my little bubble of silence. Would have had no trouble believing I fit in.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Biologist’s Husband
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

The lighthouse had drawn expedition members like the ships it had once sought to bring to safety through the narrows and reefs offshore. I could only underscore my previous speculation that to most of them a lighthouse was a symbol, a reassurance of the old order, and by its prominence on the horizon it provided an illusion of a safe refuge. That it had betrayed that trust was manifest in what I had formed downstairs. And yet even though some of them must have known that, still they had come. Out of hope. Out of faith. Out of stupidity.

But I had begun to realize that you had to wage a guerrilla war against whatever force had come to inhabit Area X if you wanted to fight at all. You had to fade into the landscape, or like the writer of the thistle chronicles, you had to pretend it wasn’t there for as long as possible.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Psychologist
Related Symbols: The Lighthouse
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

“How many of your memories do you think are implanted?” the psychologist asked. “How many of your memories of the world beyond the border are verifiable?”

“That won’t work on me,” I told her. “I am sure of the here and now, this moment, and the next. I am sure of my past.” That was ghost bird’s castle keep, and it was inviolate. It might have been punctured by the hypnosis during training, but it had not been breached. Of this I was certain, and would continue to be certain, because I had no choice.

Related Characters: The Psychologist (speaker), The Biologist (speaker), The Biologist’s Husband
Page Number: 126-127
Explanation and Analysis:

“I’ll give you this scrap: The border is advancing. For now, slowly, a little bit more every year. In ways you wouldn’t expect. But maybe soon it’ll eat a mile or two at a time.”

The thought of that silenced me for a long moment. When you are too close to the center of a mystery there is no way to pull back and see the shape of it entire. The black boxes might do nothing but in my mind they were all blinking red.

Related Characters: The Psychologist (speaker), The Biologist (speaker)
Page Number: 129-130
Explanation and Analysis:

Cleaning up a little later, a fit of laughter came out of nowhere and made me double up in pain. I had suddenly remembered doing the dishes after dinner the night my husband had come back from across the border. I could distinctly recall wiping the spaghetti and chicken scraps from a plate and wondering with a kind of bewilderment how such a mundane act could coexist with the mystery of his reappearance.

Page Number: 153
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

I didn’t tell my husband my walk had a destination because I wanted to keep the lot for myself. There are so many things couples do from habit and because they are expected to, and I didn’t mind those rituals. Sometimes I even enjoyed them. But I needed to be selfish about that patch of urban wilderness. It expanded in my mind while I was at work, calmed me, gave me a series of miniature dramas to look forward to. I didn’t know that while I was applying this Band-Aid to my need to be unconfined, my husband was dreaming of Area X and much greater open spaces.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Biologist’s Husband
Page Number: 156
Explanation and Analysis:

There were thousands of “dead” spaces like the lot I had observed, thousands of transitional environments that no one saw, that had been rendered invisible because they were not “of use.” Anything could inhabit them for a time without anyone noticing. We had come to think of the border as this monolithic invisible wall, but if members of the eleventh expedition had been able to return without our noticing, couldn’t other things have already gotten through?

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Biologist’s Husband, The Psychologist
Page Number: 157
Explanation and Analysis:

Slowly, painfully, I realized what I had been reading from the very first words of his journal. My husband had had an inner life that went beyond his gregarious exterior, and if I had known enough to let him inside my guard, I might have understood this fact. Except I hadn’t, of course. I had let tidal pools and fungi that could devour plastic inside my guard, but not him. Of all the aspects of the journal, this ate at me the most. He had created his share of our problems—by pushing me too hard, by wanting too much, by trying to see something in me that didn’t exist. But I could have met him partway and retained my sovereignty. And now it was too late.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Biologist’s Husband
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:

The enormity of this experience combined with the heartbeat and the crescendo of sound from its ceaseless writing to fill me up until I had no room left. This moment, which I might have been waiting for my entire life all unknowing—this moment of an encounter with the most beautiful, the most terrible thing I might ever experience—was beyond me. What inadequate recording equipment I had brought with me and what an inadequate name I had chosen for it—the Crawler. Time elongated, was nothing but fuel for the words this thing had created on the wall for who knew how many years for who knew what purpose.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Crawler
Related Symbols: The Tower/The Tunnel
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:

A swimming pool. A rocky bay. An empty lot. A tower. A lighthouse. These things are real and not real. They exist and they do not exist. I remake them in my mind with every new thought, every remembered detail, and each time they are slightly different. Sometimes they are camouflage or disguises. Sometimes they are something more truthful.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Crawler
Page Number: 189
Explanation and Analysis:

Imagine, too, that while the Tower makes and remakes the world inside the border, it also slowly sends its emissaries across that border in ever greater numbers, so that in tangled gardens and fallow fields its envoys begin their work. How does it travel and how far? What strange matter mixes and mingles? In some future moment, perhaps the infiltration will reach even a certain remote sheet of coastal rock, quietly germinate in those tidal pools I know so well. Unless, of course, I am wrong that Area X is rousing itself from slumber, changing, becoming different than it was before.

The terrible thing, the thought I cannot dislodge after all I have seen, is that I can no longer say with conviction that this is a bad thing. Not when looking at the pristine nature of Area X and then the world beyond, which we have altered so much.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Crawler
Related Symbols: The Tower/The Tunnel
Page Number: 192
Explanation and Analysis:

Observing all of this has quelled the last ashes of the burning compulsion I had to know everything… anything… and in its place remains the knowledge that the brightness is not done with me. It is just beginning, and the thought of continually doing harm to myself to remain human seems somehow pathetic. I will not be here when the thirteenth expedition reaches base camp. (Have they seen me yet, or are they about to? Will I melt into this landscape, or look up from a stand of reeds or the waters of the canal to see some other explorer staring down in disbelief? Will I be aware that anything is wrong or out of place?)

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Crawler
Page Number: 194
Explanation and Analysis:

I plan to continue on into Area X, to go as far as I can before it is too late. I will follow my husband up the coast, up past the island, even. I don’t believe I’ll find him—I don’t need to find him—but I want to see what he saw. I want to feel him close, as if he is in the room. And, if I’m honest, I can’t shake the sense that he is still here, somewhere, even if utterly transformed—in the eye of a dolphin, in the touch of an uprising of moss, anywhere and everywhere. Perhaps I’ll even find a boat abandoned on a deserted beach, if I’m lucky, and some sign of what happened next. I could be content with just that, even knowing what I know.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Biologist’s Husband
Page Number: 194-195
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Biologist Character Timeline in Annihilation

The timeline below shows where the character The Biologist appears in Annihilation. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
The biologist, the anthropologist, the surveyor, and the psychologist all start out for Area X; they are... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
...dusk, and it is difficult for them to recognize which direction it comes from. The biologist relays that even their basic experiences—seeing the black water in nearby bogs, the grass, and... (full context)
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
On their fourth day in Area X, the group finds what the biologist calls a “tower.” It is about 60 feet in diameter and rises up from the... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
It is expected that they will all keep a journal like the one the biologist is writing, which will either return with them or be recovered by the next expedition.... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
...psychologist is excited by their discovery and asks if the others are also excited. The biologist feels like the psychologist’s tone is like that of a bad actor, but she says... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
Originally, the expedition had five members and included a linguist. To reach the border, the biologist recalls that they had to enter a white room with a door and a metal... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
...other members so that they would not experience hallucinations when crossing the border, but the biologist isn’t sure that this is the real reason she hypnotized them. When she woke up,... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
Looking around, the biologist found herself on a dirt trail with ants and beetles and tall pines on both... (full context)
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
The biologist qualified for the mission because she was familiar with complex ecosystems, and Area X had... (full context)
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
...The surveyor has medical and firearm experience, the anthropologist was once an architect, and the biologist knows very little about the psychologist. (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
...start with the tower to make sure there’s nothing invasive or threatening in it. The biologist agrees with the surveyor, interested that it seems deliberately excluded from their maps. Inwardly, the... (full context)
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
...bid each other goodnight, as it has become dark. Sitting alone with her thoughts, the biologist wonders what could be hidden at the tower’s base. (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
...the assault rifle to take aim at the boar. However, when the boar approached, the biologist noticed a spark in its eyes, a kind of inner torment. It veered left abruptly... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
...a handgun and grabs the assault rifle herself as they approach. With the gun, the biologist feels a new tension. Members of the second expedition had committed suicide, and members of... (full context)
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
...have uncovered the entrance, which is why it was not previously on their maps. The biologist thinks that the psychologist is simply trying to reassure herself with facts, and that it... (full context)
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
The biologist reiterates that she thinks of the structure as a tower, not a tunnel, and the... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
...their first day at base camp, the tower’s purpose is totally unfamiliar to them. The biologist feels uncomfortable in the silence, and she asks many questions as to the tower’s potential... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
The group looks down into the second stairwell, where the biologist observes glowing green vines along the left wall, progressing into the darkness. Eventually, she realizes... (full context)
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
The biologist gets closer to the vines, which in reality look like a green moss or fungi,... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
The biologist tries to remain calm, but she is worried that she might be infected with something.... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
At the top, the biologist tells the psychologist what they saw, and the psychologist insists on going down to observe... (full context)
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
...the words before. The psychologist asks if the anthropologist needs to be calmed, but the biologist butts in to say they should decide what to do next. They return to camp... (full context)
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
Back at camp, the group splits off to focus on individual tasks. The biologist sees a red and green tree frog, climbs up a pine tree, and stares at... (full context)
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
...dinner, the tension has lifted, and the group finds a renewed sense of camaraderie—though the biologist writes that it will prove short-lived. The biologist gets along with the surveyor, though she... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
...of authority,” and immediately the surveyor and anthropologist go slack, with their eyes unfocused. The biologist tries to mimic what they do, hoping the psychologist doesn’t notice. The psychologist says that... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
After the psychologist snaps, the women return to their tents. The biologist realizes how much control the psychologist has been exerting over them, and she guesses how... (full context)
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
Estrangement is typical of the missions, as the biologist knows from having watched reentry tapes from members of the 11th expedition. They all said... (full context)
Chapter 2
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
...gun. The psychologist tries to say that she only took what she needed, and the biologist wonders why the psychologist isn’t using hypnosis on them. (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
Sensing that the psychologist is lying, the biologist knows that she and the surveyor have a choice: they can accept the explanation or... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
At the tower, the surveyor and biologist plan to spend the full day inside while the psychologist stands guard at the top... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
The biologist notices on this descent that the tower is breathing, as though it is made of... (full context)
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
The biologist chose her career path due to an overgrown swimming pool in her backyard growing up.... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
The biologist’s parents scolded her, thinking that she was too introverted. But when she told them that... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
The biologist and the surveyor continue to descend into the tower, and the biologist almost wishes that... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
The biologist and surveyor are both able to see the words and the creatures living among the... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
...hour descending the stairs, the surveyor notices that the words seem to be fresher. The biologist asks the surveyor to turn off her light, and the surveyor hesitates, still rattled from... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
The energy becomes much more charged as the biologist and the surveyor continue to descend, walking more swiftly and speaking quietly. After 20 minutes,... (full context)
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
...the second and third expeditions did not return, and subsequent expeditions had varying success. The biologist’s husband was on the 11th expedition as a medic. He was recruited by a friend,... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
About a year after the biologist’s husband left for the expedition, she lay alone in bed at night when she heard... (full context)
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
After talking, the biologist helped her husband shower and change before they had sex, and she realized that he... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
The biologist and surveyor continue to descend into the darkness, and the biologist wonders if her husband... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
The biologist goes first, and she realizes that the body is the anthropologist. Her face is burned,... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
Surveying the ground, the biologist realizes that whatever left the slime had turned in a frenzy in a clockwise swirl,... (full context)
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
The biologist explains her theory to the surveyor, noting that the psychologist has been hypnotizing them while... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
As they ascend, the biologist is amazed at her own gullibility and how there was so much misdirection in their... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
When the biologist and surveyor emerge, the biologist is shocked at how mundane the outside world feels in... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
With the surveyor wondering what to do next, the biologist decides to examine the samples and photographs they took and return the next day. The... (full context)
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
The biologist spends the rest of the afternoon looking at samples and developing photographs. She finds most... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
...out of focus, as if the walls were emanating something that distorted the image. The biologist also realizes that she should have sampled the walls, because she knows they were part... (full context)
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
The familiar moaning begins at dusk again, but the biologist hardly notices it. It begins to rain as the biologist and surveyor eat in silence,... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
The final weeks before the expedition, the biologist and her husband argued violently. She shoved him and threw things at him to break... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
Once, the biologist told her husband about the pool, which made him think there were more revelations to... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
The biologist brought up none of their arguments when her husband returned from his expedition, knowing that... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
After a nap, the biologist realized that her husband had left their bed. She panicked, eventually finding him on the... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
After dinner, men came for the biologist’s husband in unmarked cars with a surveillance van. They approached him with watchful gentleness, like... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
The biologist later visited her husband in the observation facility, where he had little to say except... (full context)
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
At base camp in the morning, the biologist feels a “brightness” spreading through her chest from the spores. She now has a decision... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
The surveyor scoffs, realizing that the biologist still thinks that they’re continuing with the mission. The biologist says, “There’s no reward in... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
...made from 30-year-old parts, and that they’ve been living in some sort of reenactment. The biologist doesn’t respond to this, but she instead asks if the surveyor will stay until the... (full context)
Chapter 3
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
As the biologist walks to the lighthouse, she observes the environment with new eyes: the marshes, the algae... (full context)
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Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
The biologist thinks about what she found in the tower and the expedition overall. She knows an... (full context)
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The biologist posits that the words are essential to the well-being of the Tower or the Crawler... (full context)
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During training, the biologist was told that the first expedition went in two years after the Event, setting up... (full context)
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When the biologist reaches the deserted village—halfway to the lighthouse—she sees it has 12 or 13 houses. Few... (full context)
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As the biologist leaves the village, she sees something coming towards her in the nearby canal. She pulls... (full context)
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The biologist reaches the lighthouse around noon, exhausted. She takes her gun out, leery of the little... (full context)
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...is now only fragments of wood. Vines have started to “colonize” the walls. Warily, the biologist picks up a stone and rolls it through the front opening, but she hears no... (full context)
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The outer rooms at the lighthouse’s base are empty. It is dark inside, so the biologist uses her flashlight. In the front rooms, the floor is covered in debris, and oak... (full context)
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The biologist then ascends the stairs, finding more bloodstains on the walls, phrases that tracked remaining supplies,... (full context)
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The biologist comes to another landing, which has seemingly been cleaned. Opposite a tiny window is a... (full context)
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The higher the biologist climbs, the more she thinks that someone must be living there—it smells like soap, and... (full context)
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The biologist searches the room. When she pulls back the rug, she finds a trap door. She... (full context)
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The biologist’s third field assignment out of college involved traveling to a remote location in a very... (full context)
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Every day, the biologist drove a dangerous winding road to a place called Rock Bay. It held complex tidal... (full context)
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The biologist thought, after a time, that she had become part of the community—the “old biologist” the... (full context)
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At some point during their relationship, the biologist’s husband started calling her the “ghost bird,” as a way of teasing her for not... (full context)
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The journals confront the biologist with her husband’s death all over again, knowing his account is likely there. Once, he... (full context)
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...gather in the darkness and surround the world with the power of their lives…” The biologist lays the table across the entrance to the stairwell, so that if the psychologist comes,... (full context)
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The biologist chooses journals at random, realizing that the dates—found in a journal from the “first expedition”—do... (full context)
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Sometimes omissions are worse than inclusions. The biologist finds a journal in which the writer focused solely on a particular plant and never... (full context)
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The biologist then finds a journal that isn’t the same type as her own. It dates back... (full context)
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The biologist finds that, to the expeditions, the lighthouse is a symbol providing an illusion of safe... (full context)
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The first sentence that the biologist found in the Tower appears in a surprising number of the journals, but the others... (full context)
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The biologist decides on one last effort, climbing to the top of a pile to find more... (full context)
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As the biologist emerges from the trapdoor and sees the sky and sea’s beauty around her, she realizes... (full context)
Chapter 4
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Everything that the biologist knows about the psychologist comes from observations during training, which amount to little. The biologist... (full context)
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The biologist approaches the psychologist in the sand in front of the lighthouse; she must have jumped... (full context)
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When the biologist touches the psychologist gently on the shoulder, the psychologist recoils and desperately screams “Annihilation!” over... (full context)
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The psychologist says that she saw the biologist coming, and that she was like a “flame.” She also tries to hypnotize the biologist... (full context)
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The biologist then asks what happened with the anthropologist. The psychologist explains she miscalculated—the anthropologist got too... (full context)
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The biologist then asks what happens when they cross the border. The psychologist replies cruelly that removing... (full context)
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The biologist tries to get the psychologist to talk about the Crawler and Area X, but the... (full context)
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The biologist asks more questions—how many expeditions there have been, what the first expedition found. But the... (full context)
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The sky darkens, and the environment seems to become more alive. The biologist asks if she can do anything, and the psychologist simply says to leave her where... (full context)
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The biologist finds the psychologist’s journal in her jacket. She also sees that under her shirt, her... (full context)
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The biologist next looks at the journal, which mostly transcribes the words in the Tower with a... (full context)
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In the psychologist’s pants pocket, the biologist finds a paper that includes a list of hypnotic suggestions and the actions that correspond.... (full context)
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The biologist’s husband’s life was defined by nightmares he had as a child—nightmares about awful crimes in... (full context)
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Then, the night the biologist’s husband told her he was joining the expedition, he told her about dreams he had,... (full context)
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As the biologist stands beside the psychologist’s body, she knows that her husband’s journal will reveal the real... (full context)
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The biologist decides it’s better to return to base camp despite the darkness because she doesn’t want... (full context)
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After an hour of walking, the lighthouse disappears behind the biologist. She walks quietly through the ruined village and the darkness intensifies, because she doesn’t want... (full context)
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Then, suddenly, something nudges against the biologist’s boot. She points her flashlight at the ground and sees a human face rising out... (full context)
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The biologist continues on, picking up her pace, as the moaning grows louder. There is a thick... (full context)
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Eventually, the biologist stops. Unable to keep going and make it back to base camp, she climbs a... (full context)
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The next morning, the biologist continues back to base camp, astounded by a particularly still part of the trail that... (full context)
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The surveyor calls out to the biologist, asking where the psychologist is. The biologist explains that the psychologist jumped from the lighthouse.... (full context)
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The biologist can hear the surveyor coming closer, and she sees the surveyor 10 feet ahead of... (full context)
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The biologist doesn’t know what to do: she doesn’t want to take the surveyor back to base... (full context)
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As the biologist stands on the trail, she feels the brightness spread even further through her. She feels... (full context)
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The biologist tries to explain more about the brightness—noting that she has not yet done so because... (full context)
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When the biologist returns to her senses, it is noon the next day, and she has managed to... (full context)
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At base camp, the biologist sees that the surveyor has destroyed the tent and the scientific data, and that the... (full context)
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The biologist takes stock of what she has: a few cans of food, drinking water, matches, her... (full context)
Chapter 5
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The biologist never enjoyed cities, even though she lived in one because her husband needed to be... (full context)
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The psychologist told the biologist that Area X’s border is advancing, but there are thousands of transitional environments that no... (full context)
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Recovering from her wounds, the biologist is drawn once more to the Tower. But first, she tries to sort out the... (full context)
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The biologist examines the cells from the psychologist’s wounded arm and from her own body, but she... (full context)
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Discovering the fact that the environment seems made of human cells, the biologist wonders if Area X somehow created clones of the men on the 11th expedition and... (full context)
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Most of the biologist’s husband’s journal entries are addressed to her, which makes her feel intensely guilty and grief-stricken.... (full context)
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The 11th expedition discovered the Tower on the fifth or sixth day, and the biologist’s husband was very hesitant to venture down into it, because he had claustrophobia. Instead, they... (full context)
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...group split up, with several members staying in the lighthouse while the linguist and the biologist went back to the Tower. The biologist’s husband and the surveyor continued past the lighthouse.... (full context)
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...return trip to the lighthouse took four days rather than seven. At the lighthouse, the biologist’s husband and the surveyor found the remnants of a shootout between the psychologist and the... (full context)
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The biologist’s husband and the surveyor then returned to the Tower, but they only went down a... (full context)
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The surveyor and the biologist’s husband returned to the Tower at dusk, where they saw seven members of the 11th... (full context)
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Slowly, the biologist’s husband shook off this ghostly feeling, but he and the surveyor argued about what to... (full context)
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Interspersed with the biologist’s husband’s account of what happened were more personal observations, most of which the biologist doesn’t... (full context)
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The biologist’s husband had many observations and photographs of the nature around him, which the biologist knows... (full context)
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By night, the biologist’s injuries have receded, and the brightness starts to expand in her body once more. She... (full context)
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The biologist enters the Tower, descending past the first levels and observing that the glow on the... (full context)
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...become fresher, and there is also a hum. The Crawler’s slime becomes slicker under the biologist’s boots. After two hours of progress, the Tower’s heartbeat becomes so loud that it shakes... (full context)
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As the biologist spirals down one more set of stairs, she sees a sharp, golden light beyond the... (full context)
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During the last months at Rock Bay, the biologist was restless. One late evening after a one-night stand, while still drunk, she drove out... (full context)
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At the tidal pools, the biologist was desperate for something familiar, a sign, or a discovery. And what she found was... (full context)
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Turning the corner in the Tower and encountering the Crawler is a similar experience. The biologist cannot begin to understand what she is looking at; the light blinds and overwhelms her... (full context)
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In all of this chaos, the biologist notices what seems like an arm, encoding information on the left-hand wall, and perhaps something... (full context)
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After this revelation and paralysis, the biologist slowly returns to the physical world and feels herself “thawing.” She once again recognizes that... (full context)
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Turning her back provides instant relief, and the biologist hugs the wall and closes her eyes. She starts to walk, sightless, back up the... (full context)
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The biologist then feels the impression from behind her of hundreds of eyes turning in her direction,... (full context)
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...the invasiveness, as well as the sense of drowning, are gone. The Crawler tosses the biologist aside, down the steps, and she is bruised and crumpled. She has no choice but... (full context)
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The biologist wonders if perhaps her only talent is to endure beyond the unendurable. She stands, legs... (full context)
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After almost an hour, the biologist feels she must keep going, unable to return to look at the Crawler again. Eventually,... (full context)
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Knowing she would likely die before being able to reach the door, the biologist turns around and feels eyes on her back. She realizes that she has another test... (full context)
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The biologist steps out into the light again, expecting the drowning and the feeling of her head... (full context)
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The biologist never dreamed before Area X, which the biologist’s husband found strange. The week before he... (full context)
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The biologist’s husband then asked her for a favor—a selfish thing to ask. He asked her to... (full context)
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...empty lot, the Tower, the lighthouse: these things are real and not real to the biologist. She remakes them with her mind every time she remembers and thinks about them. When... (full context)
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The biologist tries to construct a narrative about the lighthouse keeper, who perhaps saw the Event that... (full context)
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The biologist thinks that in some strange future, perhaps Area X will expand so much that it... (full context)
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After leaving the Tower, the biologist returns to base camp. She spends four days writing this account and plans to leave... (full context)
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The biologist has no desire to find out answers anymore, but she knows that the brightness is... (full context)
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The biologist decides to follow her husband’s journey as far as she can. She doesn’t believe she’ll... (full context)