Monday, February 27, 2017

Embracing the Darkness

I wind a curl of his hair around my finger and lick my lips. The scent of him fills me, its rich, deep aroma making me giddy.

“I want to devour you.” I whisper it against his mouth, tasting his tongue with my words.

He grins and our eyes meet. Something flashes across his gaze then: humor, danger, a beckoning and a warning.

“Devour is such a pleasant word.” The timbre of his voice echoes in places deep within me, strumming strings wound tight through my core.

I close my eyes as he places his mouth over mine, pulling me into him. Heat and darkness envelop me and I am startled by the sensation of speed, the rush of wind whipping my hair. I open my eyes but it does no good; only thick blackness fills my vision.

“What—” My question is interrupted by another kiss, and his mouth tastes so good that for a moment I am lost in it, heedless of the strangeness surrounding me.

I wrap my arms around his shoulders and realize that our bodies are unsupported. No ground lies beneath us.

I gasp, pulling away again. His hands grip me firmly as they stroke me with long, gentle caresses. “There is no need to fear. Open your eyes.”

I obey his command, and now I can see him. He is the man I know, yet he is not, he is something more, something larger. His hair streams behind him like smoke, whirling away into oblivion. A smattering of dark coloration speckles his skin, not like freckles, but rather spots, like a leopard. A ripple, as though from something either very hot or very cold, flows continuously from his skin. Yet I am touching him, my body pressed against the length of his, and I feel only his warmth, not the sting of fire or ice.

And yet all of this I notice in half an instant before my eyes are drawn to the great black wings sprouting from between his shoulders. Their expanse is too much to take in without turning my head. They are thin and leathery, like the wings of a bat, but peppered with downy feathers, also black as pitch. They beat a steady rhythm, and I sweep my gaze up and down, following their tips as they cut through the air.

He watches me, I can feel the intensity of it, even as distracted as I am by his form. The wings sweep forward and back, changing our trajectory, and my feet meet ground as he alights. I stumble away from him, breaking our embrace.

“What…what is this? What are you?”

He holds out his arms and extends his wings. I notice claws where he once had fingernails. “You have seen me as I am during the day. By night, I am…somewhat different.” He lowers his wings and arms and steps toward me. A flutter of fear turns in my belly, but I refuse to run.

“But I don’t understand. Are you a demon? A vampire?” I can’t believe I’m saying those words.

He shrugs, and the gesture seems almost comical. His form is so cosmic; how can he be uncertain of anything?

“I do not have a name for what I am. I am as you see me.” He closes the space between us. He is so close I can feel the heat of his body again. He smiles. I realize his eyes are the same shade I have seen before. I reach out a hand, tentatively, and touch his cheek.

He grabs my wrist, his strong fingers gripping me tightly, his claws digging into my flesh. “I am not safe. In my daytime form I would never hurt you. In this form…I can’t make such promises.”

A wet heat stirs low in my belly. I press my body against his and slide my free hand up his chest. “How might you hurt me?” My voice is barely a whisper.

He runs his tongue along his teeth and bends his head. He kisses my shoulder, licking my skin. His teeth sink into me, piercing my flesh, and I cry out. He drops my arm and gathers me to him, letting the pain build to a dizzying intensity.

He pulls away and meets my eyes. His lips are stained red with my blood. He licks them slowly, closing his eyes, savoring the flavor. The wet heat in my belly moves lower. “More.” My voice is stronger now, but barely.

He grabs a fistful of my hair, yanking my head back, even as he pulls me closer to him. His erection presses painfully against my pelvis, crushing the tender flesh there. “You don’t know what you’re asking. I can only control myself so much.”

It’s hard to talk with my head pulled back so tightly. I stammer, “What…are you…afraid…you might…do?”

He traces my jawline with a claw. “I want to devour you.”

My knees buckle as the heat between my legs flushes across my body. He drops me, letting me crumple into a heap on the ground. Then his body covers mine, his wings beating fiercely, pressing me hard into the ground. His eyes meet mine, and he kisses me once, gently. Then his mouth opens widely, wider, inhumanly wide, and engulfs me completely.

The impenetrable blackness returns, warm but somehow comforting. I feel tightly held, bound really, unable to move my arms or legs. A warm breeze ripples across my skin, making goosebumps arise across it. A soft sensation, one I can’t quite identify, begins to stroke my belly, moving lower with every stroke. It moves into me, deeply, teasing the hot desire between my legs, feeding it. I try to cry out but an unseen force constricts my throat. The pressure on my throat builds along with the tension in my cunt, until finally I explode, a thousand fireworks dancing within the blackness that is all I can see.

The pressure on my throat eases, and his wings unfold around me, bringing the light with them, leaving me lying panting on the ground. He kneels next to me and brushes my hair away from my face. “You are absolutely delicious.”

My chest heaving with the effort of catching my breath, I meet his gaze and lick my lips. “More.”

He rises to his feet, then keeps rising, growing, his wings stretching across the horizon, his eyes becoming worlds, then galaxies. I tumble into them, and the stars and aeons swirl past, tangling in my hair, exploding into brilliant nebulae around me. He is again next to me, his hand holding mine. He pulls me to him and buries his face in my neck.

“I need to feel you.” I feel his words against my skin and hear them deep in my brain. His hands explore every inch of me, trailing down my arms, over my breasts, across the soles of my feet, all at once. I look into his eyes and see the galaxies reflected there, or maybe contained within. He smiles and kisses my mouth as he enters me. I smile, feeling the warmth of him fill me, then throw back my head and laugh with delight.

I feel him push inside me to the rhythm of the beat of his wings. Their tips brush my back with every stroke, sending shivers along my spine. I grab his shoulders and move with him as his strokes deepen, the rhythm coming faster and faster. His claws rake deep into my back, pulling apart muscle and bone. My body falls away beneath us, and I am nothing, nothing but pleasure and joy and pain. He screams, and the universe explodes around us.

I wake up in his bed, his arm wrapped protectively around me. Golden sunlight slants across the room. I snuggle into his chest, and he sighs and pulls me closer. He kisses the top of my head, his thumb tracing circles on my back.

“Good morning.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Destination: Hyaris

Bips the penguin looked out the porthole into the deep blackness of space. Stars twinkled in the distance, seeming colder than they did on Earth.

“What happens when we get there?” asked Bips.

“We get a new home.” Cpt. Flip was in charge of the mission. She knew everything about it.

Bips thought of Earth. “Will it be different from our old home?”

“Not really. Not much.” Cpt. Flip shrugged, more or less, as much as penguins can shrug. “There will be less radiation, we hope.”

Bips wondered if less radiation were a good thing. It was the nuclear winter that had led to the penguins’ rise to a spacefaring species, after all. It was all that stray radiation that had allowed them to multiply across the whole Earth.

Bips wanted to ask more questions, but Cpt. Flip was glaring at him. He thought better of continuing to annoy her, and instead waddled off the bridge and into the long tube that separated the living quarters from the rest of the ship.

“Hey, Bips!” Mizzles, his good friend from hatchlinghood, caught up to him. “Did Flip say how long?”

“No, I didn’t ask.” Everyone on board was excited about landing soon. The journey from Earth had not been a short one. “She seemed annoyed with me.”

“Well, she has her flippers full, doesn’t she?” Mizzles rocked from side to side. “I mean, the big day is almost here. Our new home!”

“Yeah.” Bips couldn’t quite share his friend’s enthusiasm. “Are you worried?”

“About what?” Mizzles cocked his head. “It’s what we’ve been waiting for.”

“I dunno.” Bips shuffled his feet. “What if it’s too hot? Or too cold? What if there’s nothing to eat?”

Mizzles waved a flipper. “The scientists have thought of all those things. They wouldn’t steer us wrong.”

Bips sighed. “I wish I had your confidence.”

The alarm pinged loudly, causing both penguins to jump. A tinny, recorded voice squeaked through the passageways. “Approaching destination. Prepare for atmosphere entry.”

Mizzles looked at Bips, his eyes gleaming. “It’s time! We finally made it!”

Bips nodded and they both filed into the living quarters to huddle with the rest of the nonessential personnel. Old instinct grouped them into a large circle, its members shifting their weight from foot to foot.

The ship vibrated hard, tossing back and forth as it tore through the new planet’s atmosphere. The living quarters became uncomfortably hot, and penguins began to shuffle away from each other. Some hid their heads under their flippers. Bips was thankful he had outgrown such chickish behavior.

With a final lurch, the ship came to rest, throwing most of the penguins into a pile against one wall. With effort, Bips slid out from under his fellows and glided on his belly to the door.

Cpt. Flip stood at the ship’s main hatch, making notes on a pad. Slowly, penguins filed in behind Bips, until the whole ship’s population stood before Flip, shuffling anxiously.

“Friends!” she cried. “On this great day that will go down in history, we arrive at our new home. It has always been the destiny of penguins to reach across the skies, to find and colonize new worlds. Today, we take our first step. Welcome to your new planet!”

She flung open the hatch, and a blast of noxious gas hit Bips in the beak. He tried to cough, but sputtered. As much as he breathed in, he couldn’t seem to catch his breath. His vision clouded, then went dark.

In millennia to come, visitors to Hyaris, the small methane ice planet in the Phagus system, would marvel at the well-preserved wreckage of the alien ship. Its black-and-white passengers and crew, their bodies mummified by the planet’s dry conditions, raised more questions than they answered. Why had these beings traveled to Hyaris? Where had they come from? Why had they landed or crashed on the planet? Why had they opened the door without appropriate protective suits?

The answer, of course, is because penguins are stupid. But the intergalactic community could not have known that.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Bear's Gift

Long ago, Bear was a small creature, no bigger than a fox. She ate flowers and leaves and berries, and sometimes scavenged the carcasses of prey that larger animals had killed. Bear was mostly happy, but she was also afraid. Wolves terrorized her, snapping their razor jaws at her. Mountain lions chased her, screaming with rage. When these things happened, Bear would find a small hole or crevice to hide in until they had gone. She had claws and teeth, yes, but the other animals were so much bigger they scared her.

One day, as Bear was looking for something to eat (her tummy was rumbling ferociously), she happened across a wounded deer. The deer hadn’t been taken down by wolves or lions. Bear could see blood on the jagged edge of a stone, and a great gash had been opened in the deer’s leg.

The deer started as Bear sniffed close. The bitter scent of fear tinged the air.

“Don’t worry,” said Bear. “I won’t hurt you. I’m just a bear.”

The deer’s eyes grew wide. “Your teeth and claws say you’ll hurt me.”

Bear shook her head. “My teeth and claws are for grabbing berries from the insides of bushes. I don’t kill.”

“I’ve seen you eat animals.” The deer’s voice shook.

“I have eaten dead animals,” said Bear. “You are not dead. You have nothing to fear. I am not going to eat you.”

The deer’s eyes were still huge. “Then leave me for one who will. I am finished, whether by your claws or the wolf’s.”

Bear turned and began to walk away. She stopped. She sighed. She turned back.

“No, you’re not finished.” She sniffed the deer’s wound. “Your wound is fresh and clean. I will find herbs to stop the bleeding and ease your pain. I’ll be back soon.”

Bear didn’t have to go far. She tugged some moss off a few stones and pulled some bark from a willow tree. She brought the bundle back to the deer. The deer was busy licking blood away from the gash.

“Good, that’s right,” said Bear. “That will help clean the wound. When you’re finished, I will pack this poultice for you. It will stop the bleeding and help with the pain.”

The deer’s eyes, still wide with fear, flicked back and forth between her wound and Bear. Finally, she leaned her head back, her eyes on Bear’s paws. “I’m ready.”

Bear had crushed the moss and bark into a soft mass while she waited for the deer to finish. She now pressed the mass into the gash in the deer’s leg. The deer jerked but stayed put.

“There, that should hold.” Bear straightened and backed away. “How does it feel?”

“Better.” The scent of fear dissipated somewhat. “Thank you.” The deer’s eyes were dark and calm as she looked at Bear.

“Be well,” said Bear. She turned to leave. There was light enough yet to find a few berries for dinner.

“Bear, wait.” The deer’s voice stopped Bear. Bear wondered how long she would need to stay with the poor animal. With a sigh, she turned.

There was no deer. Instead, a forest spirit stood where the deer had lain. Tall, branching antlers sprouted between her golden tresses. She seemed suffused with light, and a light breeze swirled around her. Bear’s breath nearly stopped in wonder at her magnificence.

“Bear, you have been kinder to me than all the other creatures.” The spirit’s voice was like a harmony of birdsong. “I was lamed in my corporeal form as I ran through the forest today. I thought I could not return to the world of spirits. Your kindness saved me in more ways than you could have known.” She smiled. “I would like to grant you a gift. Anything you want, name it, and, if it is within my power, it shall be yours.”

Bear found that it was hard to get her mouth to work, so awesome was the spirit. “I…I don’t know. I want for so little. The forest provides all that I need.”

“You are never unhappy? Never afraid?”

“Oh, I am afraid most of the time,” Bear admitted. “My claws are sharp, but small. Many animals would kill me if they could, but I stay in holes and caves most of the time, where they cannot reach me.”

The spirit beckoned Bear closer. Bear felt herself move as though she were floating above the ground.

“Dear bear, what if you were larger? What if you were the largest animal in the forest? Would that help? Would the other animals leave you alone?”

Bear considered this. “Yes, probably they would. How large?”

“I can make you larger than a man. Larger than I am. Larger than the trees of the forest.”

“Maybe only the small trees!” Bear put her paws up. “I think I’d destroy everything if I were too large.”

The spirit laughed. “Larger than the small trees, then. And master of the forest. All will tremble before your power.”

Bear cocked her head. “I won’t have to eat them, will I?”

The spirit shook her head. “Not if you don’t want to. You can go on as you have been, eating what the plants offer and what others leave behind.”

“And maybe fish. I really like fish.” Bear’s mouth began to water at the thought.

“Whatever you like.” The spirit leaned forward and kissed Bear on the nose. A warm, tingling sensation spread from Bear’s nose throughout her body. She watched the ground fall away, and suddenly her head was brushing the branches of the tree next to her.

Bear turned her paws over. They were the same familiar shape, with the same old scars. But now they were large, fierce, ferocious. Bear took a step and felt the trees around her shake. She shook her head and let out a fearsome, echoing roar. A dozen birds took flight in fear, crying their terror as they winged out of sight.

“Oh, thank you!” Bear grinned what must have been a terrifying smile at the spirit. “This is wonderful!”

The spirit bowed. “May you always rule, dear friend.” She stirred the breeze at her feet and let it whisk her away into the air.

Bear has been the greatest of the beasts in the forest ever since. She still eats mostly berries and animals that have already died. And, of course, fish. But the other animals no longer terrify her. Wolves and mountain lions flee at her approach. And when Bear goes into a cave it is to sleep and dream of the beautiful forest spirit, whom she once helped.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Ling and the End

We stand at the edge of the cliff, Ling and I. I look down into the gaping abyss below.

“I can’t see the bottom.” I hear the quaver in my voice.

“There is no bottom. There is nothing down there. You know that.” Her voice is small and gentle.

“That’s where you’re going? Into nothing?”

“That’s where we’re all going.”

I look again. The deep darkness seems to rush up at us both. I take a staggering step away from the edge.

“Don’t go. Please stay here. I know we have to go eventually, but not now. Stay with me a while.”

“Okay.” She puts a small hand in mine. “Soon, though. You must know that I have to go. I can only stay with you a short time.”

A sob escapes me. “Why? I love you so much. Why do you have to go? Why can’t you stay longer?”

“My time was always shorter than yours.” Her green eyes are full of compassion. “You always knew that.”

“I didn’t think about that when I met you. I just wanted you with me.”

“I wanted to be with you.” She turns around. “Look behind you. Look at where we’ve been.”

I do as she says. Behind us, stretching for miles, are the years of joy. I see every time she made me laugh. I see every time she comforted me when I was upset. I see nights curled in bed together and days spent quietly enjoying each other’s presence. I see her fear every time I left and relief and joy every time I returned. I see more than a decade of love.

“All that is what you gave me. Do not grieve that I go. Be glad that I was with you.”

“I must grieve.” Tears roll down my cheeks. “You have to go, but I don’t have to like it. I can’t let you go without feeling the pain that your absence will leave.”

She tucks her head under my chin. “You will grieve. And you will heal. And you will love again. Don’t let the loss stop you from having all those years of happiness.”

I stroke her sweet, beautiful head as we walk back to the edge. “I will always love you. I will never forget you,” I whisper.

“Then I will never be truly gone.” She gives me a last, sweet kiss and lets go of my hand.

I watch with an aching heart as she disappears over the edge of the cliff.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Afalia's Skin

Afalia dozed on a rock, warming herself in the midday sun. Her eyes were half closed, keeping part of her brain alert in case of danger, but mostly she rested, content. Her sticky lizard toes gripped the rock, ensuring she stayed in place. Her scales absorbed the sun’s rays and made her feel sleepy.

An itch near the base of her tail made Afalia squirm. She’d been expecting to begin shedding her skin for several days now. It had lost its usual deep hues and had turned a dull brown, the color of sand. The itch was a good sign. She rubbed her tail against the rock to ease the itch and pull the layers of skin apart.

The itch intensified. Afalia opened one eye fully and turned her head to look at the spot. Rather than the molting skin she expected to see, the base of her tail showed a red, angry splotch.

Afalia opened her nostrils and sniffed deeply. Something was wrong. The itch continued, making concentration difficult.

She stood and carefully climbed off the rock. On the ground, where the sun’s rays were more dappled, the shade cooled her body. But the itch continued. She lifted one clawed foot to scratch at it as she walked. When the claw snagged the swollen flesh, pain shot through Afalia’s body like knives. She carefully avoided scratching too hard after that, choosing instead to endure the itch.

Afalia climbed into a tree not far from the rock and scuttled onto a high branch. “Etudie!” A sparrow poked her head over the edge of her nest. “I need your help!”

Etudie hopped onto the edge of the nest and turned her head to look at Afalia. “What do you need?”

“My tail itches,” Afalia said. “It hurts when I scratch.”

“You’re just shedding skin,” Etudie replied. “It’s natural. Don’t worry about it.”

“No, I don’t think that’s it,” said Afalia. “It smells funny.”

“Relax,” said Etudie. “Just give it a few days. It will be fine. Rub some mud on it if the itch bothers you.”

Afalia sighed. “Thanks, Etudie.” As Etudie returned to her nest, Afalia climbed back down the tree. Mud wasn’t a terrible idea. She headed to the pond.

Afalia skirted the edge of the pond, looking for good mud. She found a spot almost in the water where moss had grown into the dirt. That would work! She walked into the mud and settled herself deeply, working the mossy mud into her skin. It soothed the itch somewhat, although Afalia could still feel the itchy prickles.

“Good, isn’t it?”

Afalia looked around quickly to see who had spoken. A brilliant green frog blinked up at her from the water, only its eyes and nose poking above the surface.

“Yes, it is,” Afalia replied. She worked her way deeper into the mud.

“We don’t often see lizards around here,” said the frog.

“I needed some mud. There’s something wrong with my skin.”

“Will mud fix it?” The frog blinked each eye separately.

“I don’t know.” Afalia sighed. “I don’t think so. It just makes it itch less.”

“Want to show me?” The frog pushed his head out of the water. Afalia saw that, in addition to his bright green skin, he had orange and blue stripes.

“Who are you?” she asked.

“I’m called Bogsi. I’ve seen many ailments. Sometimes I find ways to help.”

Afalia regarded Bogsi and his brilliant colors. “You’re poisonous, aren’t you?”

He let out a large, croaking laugh. “I can be, yes. If you ate me, you’d die. But you don’t want to eat me.” He shook his head. “My secretions can help too. In small enough doses, they ease pain and give comfort.”

Even covered in mud, Afalia’s tail itched. In fact, the itch was working its way up her belly and down her back legs. “Okay, I’ll show you. I don’t know how you could help, though.”

She waded into the water to clear the mud off her skin. Bogsi paddled near and peered at the itchy places. He looked at her tail, and her legs, and her belly. His large eyes blinked independently, giving him an odd look of concentration.

“Yes, very interesting. I see your predicament.”

Afalia scrambled back to the bank and squirmed into the mossy mud again. “Yes?”

“Your skin has got to come off. All of it.”

“No, that’s not it.” Afalia scowled. “This isn’t what shedding skin feels like.”

“You misunderstand me. I don’t mean you’re molting. Your skin is diseased. You need to get rid of it.”

“Get…rid of my skin?” Afalia stared at Bogsi, nonplussed. “I’m pretty sure I need it.”

“You might be surprised,” the frog replied. “Anyway, it’s doing you no good as it is. It’s trying to come off, itself.”

Afalia twisted her head so that she could see the itchy spot, which had now grown to encompass most of her underside. Sure enough, the inflamed skin was beginning to split, and not in the way it did when she molted, peeling back the surface. Deep cracks had appeared, running down into the muscle beneath.

Afalia sucked in a breath. “I can’t live without my skin. It’s going to hurt if it comes off, and then my body won’t be protected.”

“That skin is diseased. It’s hurting you by being attached.” Bogsi hopped so that he was nose to nose with Afalia. “Give my back a lick. My secretions will calm you, and dull the itch. And ease the pain, when it happens. Because this process is going to be painful.”

Afalia’s eyes grew wide. “What happens after my skin comes off?”

“I’m not sure. But you’ll heal. You’ll be rid of this problem.”

“I do want to be rid of it. It’s getting worse by the moment.” Afalia considered her options. Bogsi did seem to be correct: Afalia’s skin was going to pull away of its own accord if she didn’t do something. “Okay, we’ll do it your way.”

Bogsi nodded. “Are you ready?”

Afalia shook her head. “I’ll never be ready for this. But I suppose it has to be done. Will you help?”

“Of course.” Bogsi turned so that his back was to Afalia, and she licked. He tasted sweet and tangy, and she was overcome with a feeling of peace and calm. The world seemed slightly fuzzy.

“We’ll do this together.” Bogsi’s voice broke through the fuzzy, foggy world. “I’ll pull. You push.”

Afalia nodded. She hooked a claw into the place where her skin had split along her belly. Bogsi wrapped webbed fingers around the edge. Together, they tugged the skin away.

The feeling was as bad as Afalia had suspected. It was like fire and ice all at once. She felt parched and hot, then freezing and wet. She tried to cry out, but choked on her own sobs. A muffled whimper escaped her throat as her skin ripped open along her belly. She was glad for Bogsi’s secretion. Without it, she didn’t think she could bear being torn apart this way.

She felt him tugging at her leg and suddenly something popped free. Fearfully, she looked down. As much as she didn’t want to look at the place where her muscles and bone now stood naked in the mud, she had to know how bad it was.

Her leg was gone. Her small, greenish-brown, lightly scaled leg had been replaced. Attached to her hip, and definitely part of her body (she could feel the mud against it) was a large, emerald leg with scales so thick and large they were like armor. Enormous curved talons sprouted from her toes, deep purple in hue. She wiggled them, and they shimmered slightly.

“It’s working!” Bogsi tossed aside the dull skin of her old leg. “Look how much you’ve done! Let’s keep going.”

Emboldened by the change, Afalia wriggled and tore at the rest of her skin. It came away in sheets and in ribbons. Every place the old, brown skin tore free, her beautiful new body emerged. The pain was immense, almost unbearable. But it felt wonderful, like picking away a scab.

Finally, the last of the old skin fell away. Bogsi’s wide frog mouth stretched to an enormous grin. “Just look at yourself!”

Afalia scrambled to the edge of the pond and looked at her reflection in the water. Her scales were mostly emerald, although her belly was a bright yellow, the color of a canary. Like those on her leg, the scales themselves were thick and hard, like armor. She tapped a purple claw against them and found that they didn’t give at all. But they slid smoothly against each other when she moved, light and flexible. Her snout was long and tapered, ending in wide, flared nostrils. Her teeth had even changed: they now protruded over her mouth, her four pointy fangs. A yellow crest ran over the top of her head.

But best of all, when she turned, she found that two enormous emerald wings sprouted from between her shoulders. She rolled her shoulders and found the muscles that controlled the wings. She shook them out, and their tips stretched widely away on either side of her body.

“I’m a dragon!” Her declaration of the obvious made Bogsi chuckle. “I have wings!” She took a breath and breathed out through her mouth. She wasn’t at all surprised when a jet of flame shot from her throat. “I can breathe fire!”

“I told you that old skin had to come off. Aren’t you glad you listened to me?”

Afalia took several steps around the pond. She’d have to get used to this new body, and especially the wings.

“The transition will take some time.” Bogsi spoke her thoughts aloud. “You’ll have to learn to fly, and to understand your new body. But you’ve made an excellent start.”

“Thanks for all your help.”

Bogsi watched from the pond as Afalia leapt into the air, beat her wings, and took off on her first of many flights.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Strange Lights

Justin parked the pickup, and everyone piled out. The lights were there again! Red, green, and blue, blinking one after the other in the same slow rhythm as they had done every night for a week.

Liv helped Mari carry the camp chairs while the boys brought the cooler. They set up the chairs in a semicircle around the cooler. Everybody grabbed a beer and a seat and stared up at the lights.

“They’re kinda peaceful, don’t you think?” Mari popped the top of her beer open.

 “Peaceful?” Tyson snorted. “Until they probe you in your ass, sure.”

“Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it.” Mari winked at him. Tyson gaped at her while everyone else chuckled.

“They might not be aliens.” Liv took a swig of beer. “I mean, it could be lots of things.”

“Yeah? Like what?” Justin’s tone made it clear he disagreed.

“I dunno.” Liv shrugged. “A government test ship or something.”

“Like our government could build anything that does this.” Justin waved a hand dismissively at the lights.

“Did I say it was our government?”

“Well if governments are testing space ships, I wanna know.” Justin jumped up and cupped his hands around his mouth. “Put me in space, you MIB jackasses! Gotta be better than this shithole town!”

“Christ, will you shut up?” Tyson lobbed a small stone at Justin.

“Afraid they’re gonna hear me and come over?” Justin grinned at Tyson. “What, you scared of going to space?”

“No, just tired of listening to you, you colossal jackass.”

Justin shoved Tyson in the shoulder as he sat back down.

“Seriously though, I’d go to space. Aliens, government, I don’t care. It would be cool,” Justin said.

“What if you never came back?” Liv dug the toes of her boots into the dirt beneath her chair. “Like, what if they just took you to some other planet and you never saw anybody from Earth ever again?”

“I dunno.” Justin smiled. “Be some adventure, wouldn’t it?”

Mari shook her head. “You’re crazy. They could turn you into one of those monster things like in Alien, just using you for experiments. ‘Kiiill meeeeeeeee!’”

“You mean Aliens, the second film, not Alien, the first one,” Justin corrected her. “Where they were incubating the chest busters inside humans.”

“Ugh, yeah, whatever.” Mari shuddered. “It was gross. And that could be you.”

“Nah.” Justin finished his beer. “I don’t think aliens would really be like that. They’d keep humans alive, maybe breed them. Make lots more incubators.”

“I feel sorry for whoever has to breed with you.” Tyson laughed at his own joke. Nobody else did.

Above them, the lights blinked off one by one.

“Looks like the show’s over.” Tyson stood up and folded his chair. “You sober enough to drive, Justin?”

“Shit, I only had one beer. Short show tonight.” Justin grabbed one end of the cooler while Tyson lifted the other.

Everyone was quiet on the drive home. Justin broke the silence. “I wish they’d do something besides just blink. Anything. Just to let us know what they are.”

A sudden shockwave knocked the truck clear off the road, and a sound like an explosion thundered from their left.

“What the fuck was that?” Tyson shouted.

The truck had been thrown sideways in the blast, and its headlights now shone into the field across the road. Visible in their paltry beams was a dull, metal hull containing a row of red, green, and blue lights, which were slowly blinking back to life.

“Looks like you got your wish,” Mari whispered.

Justin opened the door and stepped out. “Justin, what are you doing?” Liv grabbed his shirt. “Don’t go over there! Let’s just go home, please?”

“Are you kidding?” Justin pointed at the field. “A spaceship just crashed right in front of us, and you want to go home? This is, like, the biggest thing that has ever happened in the whole world!”

Justin shook Liv’s hand off his shoulder and trotted across the road. Up close, the ship seemed less ethereal than it had in the sky. Its hull looked like it was made of aluminum, or maybe titanium. The lights were just circles of LEDs, like traffic lights. He could hear the electric switch as they blinked on and off.

Justin walked around the ship. In the back was what appeared to be a hatch. A gasket lined the edge of it, and there was no visible handle.

As Justin stepped closer to it, the hatch swung outward. A light from inside the ship blinded him, and he squinted and threw an arm over his eyes to shield them.

A hand reached out from the ship, not grabbing him, just offering. Justin took a step closer. He still couldn’t see inside the ship, or even the rest of the person offering him a hand. But it looked human enough….

Justin grabbed the hand and hoisted himself into the ship.

“Jesus Christ,” Tyson muttered as the ship lifted away. “He did it. The bastard really did it. He went with the aliens.”

Three astonished faces watched as the blinking lights disappeared into the distance.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

On the Floor

Christopher spotted something on the floor. He crawled to it, picked it up, and popped it in his mouth. It left something sticky on his fingers, but he didn’t mind.

He explored it with his mouth. It tasted salty and slightly of metal. It was heavy but soft, sort of like his teething toys. It had a smooth texture, smooth but not slick. Christopher liked it.

He bit it, his four tiny teeth doing nothing to mar the object’s surface. It gave a little between his jaws but didn’t come apart.

He moved it around in his mouth and noticed it was making its own wetness, in addition to his saliva. He swallowed the wetness. He wasn’t sure he liked it. But his teeth found things to grab onto around where the wet parts of the thing were: tiny bits that were smaller and softer than other parts of the thing.

Christopher chewed. The texture where the tiny bits were was varied: hard, soft, spiky, smooth, springy, wet. He chewed and licked and chewed some more, deciding he liked the thing. It felt nice, even if the taste was a bit funny.

“Christopher, no!” Mama had spotted him chewing. “No, take that out of your mouth. What is that?”
Papa reach down and scooped Christopher up. “Whatcha got, little man? Spit it out. It’s not food.”

Christopher didn’t want to spit the thing out, but Papa pinched his cheeks and fished it out himself.

“Darling, he got the finger. Do something with it, would you? And don’t leave any more bits on the floor. You know how this kid gets into everything.”

“Oh, Christopher, really. What are we going to do with you?” Mama kissed Christopher on the cheek. “Clean him up, will you, love? He’s got blood on his chin.”

Papa wiped the smear from Christopher’s chin as the wail emanated from the basement. Christopher didn’t like the noise, but he liked Papa’s shirt. He burrowed his head into Papa’s chest.

“That’s my good little man. One day you’ll be able to have the fingers, but only after we’ve cooked them. But for now you’re going to have to be content with strained peas, I’m sorry.”

Papa made the spoon fly like an airplane to Christopher’s mouth. The peas weren’t as nice to feel as the finger, but they did taste better.