STARING AT THE SUN: a Spiralis story
Janina Nowak is an inspector for Sanepid (Polish equivalent for OSHA) in Warsaw. A single woman in her forties, she is a grounded individual with a no-nonsense attitude. Her life is comfortably boring and predictable, until one day she is called to inspect a building where workers are reported to unexpectedly faint and hallucinate…
Janina suspects fungus – a common issue in office buildings without proper ventilation. It turns out that the answer is not straightforward. Although she and her colleague, Robert, examine every corner of the office, they do not find traces of any transgression that could cause hallucinations. Janina even tries to look into the ventilation shafts and under the desks, and, when this does not yield any results, decides to talk with the workers and the office manager. It turns out that only people working on the eastern side of the building reported the issue, and only those who work on the last floor. Janina asks Robert to investigate the kitchen on that floor and take water samples: maybe the water is contaminated? When Robert is hard at work, she takes a walk through the floor. When looking out of the window, she notices something strange: the building in front of the windows has a huge metallic sign on its top in a shape vaguely resembling a sun. Its surface reflects the sunshine in a confusing, mesmerizing way…
Only after Robert calls her, Janina realizes she’s been looking through the window for quite some time. She feels faint, and has a headache. Robert tells her that they need to send the water samples to the lab. Janina decides to close off the eastern side of the tenth floor as a temporary measure.
That night, Janina dreams of being lost on a shore of a strange sea where water is yellow and the sky is forever still. She can hear voices chanting in a language that she doesn’t recognize, coming from somewhere beneath the waves. She wakes up dizzy and exhausted.
At work, she tries to talk to her supervisor about the strange sensation she had when she looked through the window of a building she was inspecting. Her supervisor does not have any advice, apart from the fact that she should wait for the water sample results: maybe she drank some of the water by accident and got poisoned. Janina takes the advice and asks for another case to work in the meantime.
The new case Janina is given seems to be even more straightforward than the previous one: food poisonings in a sushi restaurant. The restaurant in question, Fins and Tails, has recently changed its owner – and that’s when the complaints and reports of poisonings started. Janina decides to “go undercover”: she orders a sushi set, eats half of it and sends the second half to the lab for tests. The food is tasty, but this night the dreams Janina has are bizarre and frightening, with imagery resembling that of Hieronymus Bosch paintings.
After a few days, the lab results for both water and the food arrive: it turns out that the water is pristine clean and could not be the source of hallucinations. However, the food results are inconclusive: the lab reported problems with sample and asked for another one. Janina goes to the restaurant again, this time ordering takeout and sending it all to the lab “as is”. After a few days, she gets another report stating there was problem with the sample. Janina calls the lab and convinces the assistant to explain what exactly is the problem. Turns out that the tests discovered the fish flesh to have human DNA. The lab assistant is convinced that it is not possible the meat is actually human: there must be a problem with lab equipment or a way the sample was stored. Janina remembers she ate some of the meat and feels nauseous. She quickly ends the call.
Janina tries two more times to get the food samples examined, sending them to two different labs. She still gets “inconclusive” reports. This makes her curious: she tries to search for answers in the internet. She enters the phrase “human DNA in fish” in the search engine, and clicks on the top result. It turns out to be a conspiracy forum of sorts, where people from all over the country exchange scary stories about aliens, secret surveillance and so on. One of the topic is related to the so-called “fish people”, where mostly one man is active, writing lengthy posts about secret fish society. Janina emails him, asking to meet her for a coffee and explain what he knows.
They meet in a small coffee house. The man introduces himself with his online username – Marpen – and tells Janina all he knows about the fish theory. He explains that all he knows comes from one source: a man who knows so much that his mind is now completely messed up. Janina manages to convince Marpen to introduce her to his source, saying that this is matter of public safety. Marpen promises to arrange a meeting, but warns Janina that it may bring her nothing but trouble.
On her way back from the coffee house Janina goes to the office building where the hallucinations and faintings took place. She asks the office manager if the situation improved: she learns that since nobody works on 10th office anymore, there are no new cases of hallucinations; however, having half of the floor out of order is a big problem for the management, and they can’t keep it this way forever. Janina agrees and advises them to open the 10th floor, but keep the blinds shut all day.
That night, she dreams of the yellow sea again.
A few days later, Janina meets with the contact Marpen told her about: the man, calling himself Archew, looks deeply disturbed. He explains that fish people exist, that they are slaughtered by those who don’t want the truth found out. Their meat butchered and sold as cheap fish meat to get rid of their bodies. Probably this is how it landed in the restaurant… unless the restaurant’s owner is one of the murderers!
The man’s speech convinces Janina – she promises Archew to do everything in her power to expose the evil restaurant owner. Archew mutters something under his breath about doing his part and runs away, leaving Janina slightly confused.
Janina makes an official report about the restaurant and sends it to her supervisor, asking for additional support to combat the issue of enslaving and killing fish people. Feeling that this is a good progress in the case of fish flesh, she turns her attention to her other case. After numerous sleepless nights, she is now convinced that the building with strange logo resembling the sun has something to do with the hallucinations. She learns the company name – Yellow Knights Investments LTD – but, since there were no complaints about it, she can’t enter it as an OSHA inspector. She decides to investigate it on her own. In order to do that, she applies for the role of Safety Manager there. Thanks to her incredible CV, she is soon invited for an interview. The instant Janina steps into the building, she notices the whole interior is in different shades of yellow, and the logo – the circle with three arms that she mistook for a sun when she first noticed it – is everywhere. She feels faint and can’t collect her thoughts during the interview, although the interviewer is very pleasant and even gives her an office tour. She does not notice any OSHA violations during her visit in the building, but for the rest of the day she feels nauseous and lightheaded. Having no other options, she decides to at least order the company to take down the logo from the top of the building, citing city regulations for reflecting surfaces.
Next day, when she comes to the office, she is asked to immediately see her supervisor. Turns out that Archew recorded a youtube video about the fish people meat in Fins and Tails and sent it to all news outlets. The news about OSHA inspector believing in conspiracy theories was in morning news, making the whole office a laughing stock. Janina is very remorseful, but she explains the fish people are real and the lab results are a proof of it! Janina’s supervisor asks her to take a few weeks of unpaid leave until the rumors die down. Seeing that she may lose the job otherwise, Janina agrees. A few weeks later, when she comes back to work, Janina checks what happened to her old cases. The strange logo disappeared from the top of Yellow Knights building and people working on 10th floor could open the blinds again. There were no new cases of hallucinations or fainting.
Fins and Tails, thanks to bad review and fish people controversy, lost most of its customers and its owner had to close the restaurant and file for bankruptcy. Janina tries to call him to learn more about the fish people’s flesh, but he doesn’t want to talk to her, saying it’s all her fault.
Seems everything turned out great, but Janina is still restless. The dreams continue. Each night, the yellow sea gets closer and chanting gets louder. And Janina knows that one day she will see the yellow sign again – and this will be the day of reckoning.