Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, 22, of Blue Point, Long Island, New York, United States was an aspiring travel blogger. On August 19, 2021, she uploaded a YouTube video featuring a glimpse into her van adventures with her fiancé Brian Laundrie, 23, of North Port, Florida, USA.
In the video, Laundrie is briefly shown reading “Annihilation,” a novel by Jeff VanderMeer, 53, of Tallahassee, Florida. Published in February 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, it is the first in a series of three books called the “Southern Reach Trilogy.”
“Annihilation” has four female main characters, namely a biologist, an anthropologist, a surveyor and a psychologist, the appointed leader. A part of an expedition, the four women crossed the border into an uninhabited area called Area X, which has been closed to the public for 30 years.
After spending the first night spent at the base camp, the women find cursive writing inside a staircase that begins with the words “Where lies the strangling fruit…” The biologist later found out that the psychologist has programmed the group with certain triggers via hypnosis but the biologist believed that she has inhaled spores that made her immune to the hypnosis.
The next morning, the anthropologist went missing. The psychologist, who claimed that the anthropologist decided to leave and returned to the border, stood watch while the surveyor and the biologist descended back down the stairs.
After finding the anthropologist’s body, the surveyor and the biologist went back to the top. The psychologist also went missing.
In the end, the biologist was the only surviving member of the expedition. She decided to stay in Area X with no plans to return home.
Alex Garland wrote and directed the “Annihilation” film adaptation starring Natalie Portman as the biologist and Jennifer Jason Leigh as the psychologist along with Tessa Thompson as a physicist, Tuva Novotny as a geomorphologist and Gina Rodriguez as a paramedic. The movie was released in the U.S. on February 23, 2018.
Laundrie and Petito started dating in 2019 and got engaged in July 2020. They started their cross-country camping trip on July 2, 2021 and travelled across the U.S. in a white 2012 Ford Transit van.
On September 11, 2021, Petito was reported missing. On September 15, 2021, the North Port Police Department named Laundrie a person of interest in the investigation of her disappearance.
Laundrie has been missing since September 15, 2021. Petito was found deceased on September 19, 2021.