The Ruins of Abigail

Dedicated to Bogleech

~`~`~

The Basket Star is considered an offshoot of the order Euryalina, Brittle stars who broke away from the common “Starfish” roughly 500 million years ago.  While they share the long, flexible arms of their fellow stars, Basket star limbs have a tendency to bifurcate repeatedly, leading to an almost fractal-like appearance.

In June of 1953, the town of Abigail, New South Wales was the hub of a minor archeological uproar after the discovery of a heretofore unseen ruin lying just off the coast. Abigail is a minor geographical anomaly in that the continental  shelf does not exceed a depth of 20 meters for a radius of 2.7 kilometers(1.68 mi.) from shore.  The ruins, dubbed “the coral castle” by locals, were described as a sunken city composed entirely of a “rosy rock…[with] spiraling motifs and architecture.” The city was estimated to extend well past the continental shelf, but no concrete measurement was ever taken.

The Basket star, like its Asteroidea relatives, is an opportunistic carnivore, waiting for slow prey to cross its territory rather than pursuing it. However, the Basket star is unique in that it uses its own body as a trap, disguising itself as a coral polyp or other harmless Echinoderm. When prey brush up against its arms, which are covered in thousands of jawlike barbs, the animal is ensnared and quickly passed to the central disk, where it is masticated by the star’s five jawed-mouth. Inedible material is expelled once digestion is complete.

The underwater site was quickly taken over by an enthusiastic township once its discoverer, a librarian and amateur SCUBA enthusiast, announced its discovery. This was met with some trepidation by local trawlers, who had been fishing in the area for decades and noticed nothing.  They were overwhelmed by an enthusiastic local press, who announced the find of the century as families piled into rowboats and skiffs, armed with snorkels and swim gear, to investigate their sunken city.

There are over 2,000 varieties of Brittle star known to exist, with many living beyond the Pelagic zone. As such, there remain many undiscovered species, of unknown territory and  feeding habits.

The town of Abigail has an official population of 7 as of the 2001 census. Five of that number are the lighthouse keeper of Abigail’s Skirt Lighthouse and his family. In 1953, the population stood at around 290, all of which were at sea on June 7th. Even the trepidatious fishermen turned out to watch the townsfolk explore the city, on hand in case of emergencies. At approximately 3pm, the entire population, save the fishermen, disappeared beneath the waves. The fishermen reported no disturbance, not even a slight tremor as “a vast… dark shape untwined itself from the rock and slipped off beneath [the] boats.” This was followed by a tide of what was described as “bone slurry” by the onlookers. The ruins have yet to re-appear.

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