Saturday Fiction: Become It (Suspense)

Ready for something a little tense? Maybe even a little spooky? Well too bad, here it is.

Become It

publicstoragenight

Don’t let it touch you. That’s what the old ladies always told us. Don’t let it catch you, don’t let it touch you.

It didn’t matter how fast I ran, I could always hear the footsteps behind me. It was a thud and a splat, like a bag of wet garbage being dropped in succession. One after another, they came down again and again. In the pitch black of night, it was hard to keep my feet going one in front of the other. Staying upright was hard, keeping my eyes forward was harder.

The street was empty. In this part of town it was all half-built shopping malls and empty lots. Only the occasional car lit up the roadside patch of dead-grass in front of me. When the street lit up, my heart would fill with hope, only to be flattened each time as 3am drivers sped right by. No one was going to see me die.

They said it chose bad boys that became bad men. As a mother’s tale it was sound. You didn’t brush your teeth, you didn’t wipe your ass, it would come for you. We were supposed to fear it for life. It didn’t end with your trash chores, the absent father and the abuser could suffer as well. Except they never did, and then bad boys forget.

It was close now, I could smell it. It was an odor like rotting eggs drowned in settled mud. I had to fight back the urge to gag. All I could do is push harder.

The sound of another car approached. I made the decision, and split off into the road, almost falling to my face as I did. I ran to the middle of the street, and waved my arms as the bright lights of the car’s high beams centered on me.

I saw it, before I closed my eyes. It was a silhouette then, the car lights turning it into a creature of shadows. Then I saw nothing, and my body clenched as I waited for the car to run me over.

There was a loud honk, and the screeching of tires. Then the honking continued on into the distance, and I opened my eyes and turned to see the red tail lights of the car escaping into the night.

Did they not see it? Were they blind, or was it invisible. Maybe I was just mad.

Another footstep gave me no time to ask further questions. I ran across the street, passing into the lot of a public storage company. It was dark at this hour, with only one light hanging over the gate to the property.

I leaped it, my pants catching on the barbed top, before I yanked myself free and fell to the other side. I ran deep in, hoping to lose it in the process.

There were billions of bad men. Why would anyone think they were the one at risk? There was an answer though, not one I wanted to recognize. It wasn’t just bad boys who were hunted, it was our bad boys. I thought I was one of billions, but I was one in a dozen, the few boys to survive and continue to be around.

Of them, I was the worst. Melrose had a business, CJ was a pastor, Eddie was working two jobs to feed his twins. Then there was me.

I slowed down. My breath came in desperate pants, my lungs were burning, my legs ached. It was a dead end. Some idiot thought having a U shape in the garages was a brilliant idea, and now there was nowhere else to go.

Coughing, I shuffled to the deepest storage unit, and fought with the lock on it. I tried to ignore the whumps growing louder behind me, and the acrid smell that was filling my lungs with every breath. My eyes were watering, and I was covered in sweat.

“It isn’t fair,” I mumbled. There was no way to break in with nothing but my bare hands, “It isn’t fair.”

It was right behind me, I could feel a heat coming off of it. Did it want me to turn around and look at it? It made a gurgling noise, the sound of a man’s last breath.

It struck me across the back of my shoulders, the blow throwing me into the corner between two units, twisting me until I was facing out toward it. My legs buckled and I fell with my back against the wall.

The skin looked like green boils sliding down it in waves. It was wider and taller than any man, but still shaped like one. But unlike any man, the flesh was fluid, like an endless fountain of the bile and blood that it called a body, spilling in undulating waves. It kept coming, and the longer I looked, the more my stomach tried to crawl up my throat.

Both of its arms extended until they hit me in the stomach, and the bile-flesh flowed there, spilling over me. It was warm, strange, terrifying.

It wasn’t fair. Melrose was running his dad’s business. CJ grew up in the church, his uncle cared for him, taught him until he had a congregation of his own. Eddie’s mom remarried after his dad died. I was just the child of another bad man, couldn’t it see that? Didn’t it know I had nothing? I had to take everything to even get as far as I did.

The creature was shrinking as it poured itself over me. The weight built up around my legs and waist. It was a crushing and smothering sensation, the heat and mass. It was becoming hard to breath. No matter how much I fought against it, the force of the flow would just knock me back, pin me to the wall.

There was no escaping it, that was what they said. Don’t let it touch you, don’t let it catch you. If it gets you, you become it.

“I’m sorry!” I shouted into the night. Tears were burning my eyes, “I didn’t mean to hurt her, I’m so sorry, don’t do this!”

I kept shouting it even as the terrible flesh built up around my neck, and I knew it would suffocate me. I was yelling, but I was thinking more. They were excuses, sure, but I thought of them as additions.

I didn’t mean to hurt her, but she swung at me first. I’m so sorry, but this ain’t my fault. Don’t do this, I don’t deserve it.

When it first spilled down my throat, I wanted to retch. Not even that had enough force to counter the flow and the force. It kept coming, it filled me, the sweltering heat over my whole body.

There was something inside its shrinking form. I blinked away my tears. It was a man, pale brown skin locked inside the fleeing bubbling mass. Tears were streaming down his face as he took in panicked breaths, the mass no longer choking him. His familiar eyes were locked on me as he cried, they were just like mine. They were my father’s eyes.

The old ladies always told us, don’t let it touch you. Don’t let it catch you, or you will become it. It will imprison you, and you will become it.

Scarce Part Two – A Sci-fi Terror Story

Scarce
Part II
(Part I is here)

(I don't own this image)

(I don’t own this image)

It was bigger than I imagined. Compared to the glow of my home, it was bulbous and dull. Every meter covered in more bubbles of metal, stretching off into the distance. It had its own drones, making the same progress as mine, zipping around beneath the legs of the behemoth they served.

As I approached, a ramp lowered. Carlton stood at the top, a low blue lighting filling the whole bay behind him.

“You have time to talk?” I asked.

He nodded, almost impossible to see. I pushed up the ramp, and together we made our way through the bowels of the vessel.

It had endless rooms, twists and turns, most pointing back toward one another. Without him there to lead the way, I would have gotten lost in minutes.

“Used to be families in every one of these rooms,” He said.

It occurred that I didn’t know how he parted ways with his passengers. The ship belonged to him, but I didn’t know for how long. There was only one previous owner.

“What do you use all the space for?” I asked.

He stopped, opened one of the rooms with the flip of a switch, revealing a room filled with fake pigmy horses, metal boards, dolls starring at the ceiling. They were laying in disarray, piled up, like trash.

“Couldn’t fill it all up if I tried.”

There was a new odor there. I imagined that in the mess of it all, something was decaying. The switch was flipped, and the door closed.

“This model isn’t as advanced as yours,” He said as he kept going, “The war did that, shifted our priorities.”

I wanted to ask what he meant, but thought better of it. The whole thing seemed advanced enough, there were even a few features I had to ask about as we passed. In terms of sleek, my baby definitely won.

As we passed one room, there was a soft clank coming from the far side. Rhythmic, but purely mechanical. Carlton stopped there, the door still shut, and we both listened for minutes.

“I’m going to take care of that,” He said as he flipped the door open to a dimly lit room, stepped inside, then shut the door behind him.

Further down the curving hall I could see a doorway already open. My curiosity got the better of me, and I walked the hall until I could make out what was inside. Under weak light, I could make out bones. Racked, and on display, row after row.

My heart slowed as I looked over the different dirty-white fixtures. Some long and thick, others thin and racked together. It looked like a lab, or a museum. As I got closer, my steps getting faster, I noticed they varied in size. Some were massive, like animals that could walk over my head without trying, and others were almost human in size. Not all of them were as recognizable as I first imagined, the shapes off, the colors exotic. The light of the room made them match, and their arrangement made them fit.

“A collection,” Carlton said from behind me. I took an instinctive deep breath, then turned to see him.

My expression didn’t phase him, which meant I had to be doing something right.

“Impressive,” I said, “You’ve met a lot more life than I have.”

He looked into the room, “Most of it was mundane.” He flipped a switch, the door shut.

“You don’t say.”

Carlton headed back the way we came, “There is a weather advisory, you better get back.”

My relief was loud enough that I could feel it quicken his pace. We made it back to the ramp, as my monitor buzzed as soon as I made it to open air. I touched it, and received the same weather alert. The blizzard was returning, and it was advised I be inside for it.

“One last thing,” I said as I stepped down the ramp into the blue and white ice, “You were outside my ship yesterday.”

Carlton didn’t respond, he stood there waiting for the question.

I shrugged, and realized the motion felt weird, “Why?”

“I didn’t realize you weren’t in.”

I nodded, and walked out in the storm. What I didn’t ask was why he waited 3 hours. The ship was almost fueled. I could cut my trip short, maybe move to the other side of the planet, or find a new iceball to enjoy.

The alert made me snap awake. My bedroom slowly lit up, a gradual push to keep me comfortable despite my rapid heartbeat.

I touched the monitor, Alert, Lifeform detected in landing area.

The ship was still refueling, which meant I had to go and tell Carlton that I didn’t need company in the middle of my sleep cycle. I got up, and the room bloomed in light. I pulled on a pair of overalls I usually wore when it was warm enough outside to feel my extremities, and headed for the hall.

It was still chilly when I got there. The long passage going so far that I could barely make out the far end in the thin path of fluorescence. One smooth shaft, going on to the far end. Compared to Carlton’s ship, it was comfortable, simple.

Another alert chirped in my ear. I touched a spot on the wall, and felt the snap. Alert, Intruder onboard.

It felt like a wave of electricity went through my knees. I held to the wall, and probed the system further. What was it that got onboard? Was Carlton really that crazy.

The ship gave me footage in response to my personal questions, the outside camera. It was a blank feed, the status of the camera read ‘offline’. I started to spin the feed back to a point where it was online.

There was a clank in the long hall. I stopped, pulling my hand away from the wall and taking a step back toward my room.

One thought ran through my head, I keep my rifle in the cockpit.

I couldn’t see anything on the far end, but the light was low, meant to grow brighter as I approached in order to save every minuscule bit of power it could. Static snapped between my finger and the wall as I returned to the monitor. I switched to another camera, an internal one. It peeked toward me, from the far end of the hall. It listened to my commands, switching to a thermal cam and turned toward the cockpit doorway. Before it could finish pivoting, there was a loud Jang of metal, and the feed went offline.

He was coming.

I let go of the wall, turned back toward my room. It was smooth, besides the bed. Useless to me. The hallway as well, smooth and without escapes.

There was a footstep in the distance, then another. Heavy reinforced boots coming down on the walkway.

I wondered if I could take him, he was short, compact. My mind flashed back to the bones, lining the wall.

The footsteps got closer, and as I stared down the long hallway I could see other lights coming up in the distance. A silhouette was there, a grey man. I touched the wall again, looking for something, anything, to help. I needed a way around, or at least a way to stall him.

The wall slid open, revealing a red-lit catwalk. I leaped inside, and the door closed behind me.

I was beyond confused on where I was, until I saw a drone float up and past me, heading to some higher part of the ship. It was the inside, long paths of metallic paths revealed by circles of dim red light. The walls of the ship, the outer hull, were still invisible. There was so much of it, I didn’t know where to go, or what chance I had of making it back out again. It dropped off into eternity, and went on forever.

So I held the rail, and walked. Distinctly aware of the likely murderous man behind me. I walked and walked until the path cut in two, then I took a turn and started to walk again.

In the distance I heard an unmistakable sound; quick steps, clinks on the metal path. He found his way in.

I looked back and couldn’t see him under any of the red lights spread out in the darkness. Then I saw a motion, black against the red. Peering closer, unsure, I saw a drone in the area. Then saw another shadow under a closer light. The footsteps, the whole time, came quicker.

I turned and ran. It made the catwalk wobble under my feet, making every step unsure. No matter how fast I tried to run, no matter how many turns I took, it felt like his steps were getting louder.

There was a shape ahead, the outer wall of the hall. It was built by the same red, and I knew then that I could lock him below deck and try for my rifle. My heart pumped, my legs were on fire, the pit of my stomach full of electricity.

As I reached out for the door, a shadow came from my right, hit me full force. Collided was a better word, the growl he let out confirmed it was him, and the wild blow he launched at my head pushed me into the rail.
He already had my rifle. His arm tried to pull it into position, but I shoved him against the doorframe, pushing it into his throat. The red light washed over his face, revealing a calm man, squinted eyes, stern chin.
“What are you doing?” I shouted at him.

He didn’t answer, pushed me back, tried to aim the rifle again. I grabbed the length of it in both hands, struck him in the face, and pushed him back onto the catwalk. He held tight to the rifle, and as he fell I had to let it go.

My finger touched the wall, felt the snap, and the door slid open.

I jumped through, felt the swish behind me, and heard the boom of the rifle echoing in my ears.

I struggled to my feet, trying hard to think of a way out of here while my ship was still filling up. Where could I defend myself?

There was a scrabbling behind me, he was working on the door. I never heard the rifle fire when he broke into the below deck area, that meant I needed to hurry. I touched a nearby wall, there was a crank as the ramp to the outside began to lower with a loud mechanical stir.

The blizzard was back full force. I would say that I ran, but the ice and wind made that impossible. No matter how hard I pushed myself, I could only force myself against the wind and risk being picked up and dragged away. Plus I was freezing, a thin layer of cloth between me and temperatures I was afraid to double check.

There was nothing to hear in the howling wind, and there was nothing to see in the white. I kept one leg moving in front of another, pushed all I could into my body, rubbed my whole body with my hands to keep feeling.

In the distance, I heard the sound of the rifle firing. There was no stopping.

When I saw his ship, I almost collapsed. The ramp was open, and climbed it like a starving man looking for a morsel.

The inside was as wild as I remembered. I walked, partially to look for something to use, and partially to warm up my blood. The halls kept twisting, and each room I looked into was full of abandoned clothing and linens. The darkness didn’t help, the rooms had light but the rest of the hall was black.

I stopped, listening, and heard footsteps that stopped soon after. My body was still freezing, my fingers blue. In the dark, I rubbed my arms, took heavy breaths. Then I ran.

I ran in the dark, hoping for something familiar, anything. When I heard footsteps as loud and as fast as mine, I ran even faster.

Then I saw it. That pale light. Bones beneath, up for display. I slowed, and realized this was where it was all supposed to happen. If he ever wanted to kill me, to add me to his collection, he expected it right here, in his maze-like halls. I couldn’t escape him on his own ship, I couldn’t even find my way back to the ramp.

So I hid. The strength was gone from my legs, and I needed to rest. I waited, ears open, for him to come to me.

When I hunted, in those few times in 1000 years that I found something to kill, I always had to stalk it. You find it where it feels comfortable, strike out, then push it until it can’t run anymore. Then, you destroy it, simple. It worked on big land animals, worked on quick grazers, it even worked on birds, or at least what seemed like birds.

I could make him out now, hear his footsteps. He came to the hall, and stopped where I had, looking toward the room of bones.

“Are you waiting for it now?” Carlton said to the darkness, “Do you understand?”

I stayed quiet, unwilling to give him even that much.

“It isn’t often I get to talk to someone,” He said, “Don’t deprive me now.”

He took a heavy step up the hall, as if he was savoring each twitch of muscle as he approached the pale light. I could hear him getting closer, see him sliding along the hall.

“You’ll talk,” He said, “Every human loves to talk, craves that interaction.”

Another step, slower, louder. He was here, and I could hear him begin to prepare the rifle.

I flipped the switch, opened the door to the room of dolls and horses, and charged. The scream was guttural, the last ounce of strength I had pushing me up the hallway.

He turned in the low light of the hall, tried to pull the rifle up. I brandished my weapon, a toy horse, and struck him. We both fell, his arms went out, I tried to strike again, he dug into the meat of my skin, I hit him again, the rifle fired.

We laid there in the dark, Carlton and I. I bled from the arms, and he bled from the head. His breath came in weak gurgles, punctuated by spasms. All I could do was sob, and try not to sleep in a pool of blood.

It had been 500 years since the last time I saw another human being. I left home, left Earth, left my family, all of civilization. If I had my way, it would be another 500.

Scarce Part One – A Sci-fi Terror Story

Scarce
Part I

The girlfriend and I once had a talk about scarcity, and post-scarcity. The idea of a future where humans just figure it all out. It gave birth to a story, more creepy than anything. This is my attempt to translate that to the page. 

(I don't own this image)

(I don’t own this image)

It had been 500 years since the last time I saw another human being. So when I heard the chirp of my system monitor, I assumed it was going to be something mundane; unregistered debris, course adjustment requirements, fuel resupply.

I didn’t bother leaving bed to check the alert. There were few reasons to leave my personal space on the ship. I would have to choose between getting dressed, or feeling the chill of the ice-cold hallway until automated systems adjusted the rest of the ship to my temperature.

Instead I rolled over, gave my thighs a scratch, and placed a finger on the interface. There was a quiet snap, and my fingertip felt fuzzy. Then I saw the information scrolling past the back of my eyes. Not that it was really there physically, but the distinction was both pointless and likely to put me back to sleep.

The alert woke me up like a brisk smack on the cheek. Registered Space-faring Vehicle Located. There was more, my ship was approaching my next destination, and it was also requesting to BBMR, break bio-mass and refuel. I approved, broke connection with the interface, and laid back in bed. The room was pitch black, only lighting slightly when it detected my eyes were open for extended periods of time.

500 years. It was over 1000 years ago when I left home. That was when everyone started to leave really, and as far as I knew, there was no one left on Earth. It wasn’t a crisis, nothing dangerous, but simply an option. Earth lost its charm, and those who had the capability to leave, took it. When scarcity stopped being a problem, when resources stopped dwindling, Earth became a prison.

The second half of the last thousand years, I was alone. It wasn’t a problem, it was a state of being. It was hard to think back to why, to what lead me to pack up, purchase my own ship, and strike out alone. Something like wanderlust, that sounded like the right word.

Now there were other humans out there, people to meet. At least 500 years since I needed another human being to understand my words, recognize my motions, respect my appearance. I was going to need a bra.
I rolled out of bed, snapped my fingers, and the lights came on. There wasn’t much to see. A small bed built into the plastic of the walls. The walls were otherwise smooth, except where the plastic yawned out slightly as a drawer compartment. There was a shirt there, sticking out slightly, stopping the usually automated drawer from closing all the way. I snatched it out, looked it over, and decided it would do.

Since I took my time freshening up, the hall was warm before I made the walk to the cockpit. It took me some time to remember how I liked my hair cut, when it was ever cut. The rest didn’t require thought, so much as search time. A band to corral my hair behind my head, a jacket that wasn’t falling apart from burns or cuts, and a nice hat with a brim that wasn’t duckbilled. I liked hats, it would be a shame to be seen without one.

The hall, for lack of any better name, was the long stem of the ship. It didn’t occur until 20 years after buying the ship that I would never see around 90% of it. While the mass of the vehicle bulged on the outside, for me it was a cockpit, a long hall of smooth white, and my bed on the other side. The ship let off a slight hum, and if you touched your finger to the plastic you could feel it thrumming. Every bit of it, as far as I understood, was aware.

The cockpit had enough room for two, one primary chair and a second not far behind it. I sat down, leaned back, and gripped the arm of the seat. That numb feeling spread through my whole hand, and the information from the ship came back to me. The planet was closer now. Scans had already photographed several features and landmarks. It was an ice ball. There were jagged mountains with green peaks barely visible under blue-white snow. Deep caverns that could hold whole civilizations. All of it was empty. I had planned to board down those mountains. Maybe I would build a little house of ice, see what I could find. Fifty years ago I found a bird-like creature on a world. It was primitive, but the most advanced thing on the whole rock. I hunted them for at least a year, had some close calls, but every bit of it was worth it. I even got a feather for a hat. Well, it worked like a feather anyway.

The ships were communicating with each other. They were transferring records, places travelled, creatures and discoveries, even videos and photos. That meant more shows to watch during my landings and refuels.

Everything shook for a brief second, and the ship put out a warning that landing sequences were starting. I ignored it, and looked at the planets I had information on now. There was a small cluster of stars I had never visited, yet this other ship had bounced between them, visiting different sites. There was even a station there, Vega Habitat, more people. How long ago had this ship been there? How many people were there on it? It occurred to me I might come off as a bit strange to them. Was I strange? I shook my head. It was only a brief meeting, it wouldn’t matter after the ship dug up enough mass to keep going.

I looked through one of the landing cameras, it wouldn’t be long. The registration for the ship put it as a larger ship, a transport that could hold a few dozen families. It was registered to one Carlton Otomo. A ship lead by a man. I broke contact with the ship, and went to double check my bags before I hit the surface.

Despite my plans, he came to me.

The ship’s ramp lowered and I stepped out onto the deep snow. It had an odd crunch to it, like my feet were stepping into large sheets of the ice, crashing through the thinnest glass. It was a break in the non-stop storms I observed during landing. Instead the sky was broken up by mountain peaks high above the valley the ship chose for landing.

Even though there were no animals to keep the landscape busy, it wasn’t still. The shifting of snow, and wind-crafted flurries, all kept my eyes and ears busy with the swoosh of frost dominated worlds.
There was a heavy thud, and I turned to see that the ship was deploying small drones. They set to work, pulling down cables and equipment to prepare for the ship’s refueling. I was prepared to leave them to their work, to wander out into the snow and only return when I was called for, but instead my pocket buzzed.

I touched a finger to the sensor, Alert, lifeforms approaching landing zone.

It didn’t take long to find him, a silhouette of grey man against the white and blue wilderness. I waved, but he didn’t motion back. Instead, his vague form became a clear reality. A stern chin, squinted dark eyes, black hair was whipped by the wind before falling back into place.

“You must be Carlton,” I said.

He kept walking before he answered, got close enough that I could make out the detailed print of his faux leather jacket, could see the intensity in his eyes. He looked down my legs, then up past my hat, and still didn’t seem satisfied. His eyes wandered my ship, tracked the drones as they went about their business, then came back to me.

“Yes,” He said as he left a hand out for me, “I am.”

I shook his hand, trying my hardest to remember proper etiquette. Some man thousands of years ago decided what the best hand shake was, and to break from tradition now seemed unwise.

“Nice bird you’ve got here,” Carlton said. The tone of his voice was low, almost like he didn’t want to interrupt the frozen winds whipping across the planet. He was shorter than me, just barely, and seemed squeezed down into his small shape. His shoulders hunched, his neck tilted down. Still, he gave off an aura of control, seemed sure of himself.

“Thanks,” I replied, looking over my shoulder to see what he saw. It was rather magnificent, a large mass of metal and plastics, whirring and glowing. It was impressive, but to me it was a known tool.

“You alone out here?” I asked.

“Been alone.”

That was odd, I thought, “For how long?”

He looked me in the eyes, there was that look again. Was that how I peered at other people? Like cold meat. Maybe it was, who knew how to look at other people anymore? Somewhere, in a space station filled to the brim with human beings, they knew how to soften their eyes. Either that, or they knew how to ignore harsh gazes.

“Long enough.” He replied.

Without the warmth of activity, the planet’s cold was uncomfortable. Even in a sheltered valley, I felt the urge to cross my arms and dance around. But this stunted engagement was holding me in place.

“You want to head inside?”

It was simple, but somehow felt like the wrong thing to ask. I didn’t want another human being walking around my stuff. Besides, I didn’t really clean up enough to have company over.

He gave a nod of approval, and we headed back up the ramp. Drones passed by, ignoring both of us without anything more than a cursory scan. We headed to the cockpit, sat in the chairs, and looked out over the cold.

“When did you leave?” He asked. His voice was dry, lacked any wonder. Was this a routine question for him?

“First wave,” I answered, “With my family. Was young then.”

It was hard to imagine being a child, 1000 years will do that to you, will make everything gel together into one memory. Everything at the start of it starts to feel like it belongs to the rest, even if they are vastly different. Somehow, wearing cute blue dresses becomes level with hunting strange creatures for sport.

“When last did you get news?” He asked.

“Of what?”

“Anything,” He said, “Anything from Sol.”

I touched the arm of the chair, and I knew the answer. I never even thought about it before, but now it was a thing to consider. How long had I been away? Was there something going on?

“At least 600,” I said, “Got partial news once, but that was 500 ago.”

Carlton nodded with eyes closed, like he expected that answer.

“I was third wave,” He said, “I’m behind you by a good 100 years.”

“Did I miss anything?”

He looked at me, then turned to look back outside. “Another war, a short one.”

“Over what?” I asked.

“Technology,” He said, “and maybe religion. Its hard to tell.”

I scoffed, but the look he gave me made me hold my tongue. Maybe he lost someone.

“We had plenty of everything when I left,” I said, “That was supposed to be it, there was nothing left to fight over. We figured out how to heal the sick, feed the starved, and get enough space for everyone. The problems were all solved.”

He shook his head, “As long as there are other humans with other points of view, there will always be something to fight over.”

There was some truth in that, but I didn’t want to admit it. That was why we had the new frontier, why we left that barren rock. We didn’t need to sit around, arguing over whose god was the best, or where this country ended or began. Space was endless, we could go where we were wanted, and never answer the call of another.

“That’s why I enjoy it out here,” I said, “No conflict.”

Then things were quiet. I enjoyed the quiet, like for a brief moment he wasn’t even there. It made me question why I avoided people, why I was so secure in staying off the radar. Maybe I could visit a station or two, even if just to check in.

“I think,” He said after some minutes, “As long as there are humans, we’ll find each other, and make life shit for each other.”

Silence returned, and I was more thankful for it than before.

We returned to the cold as the planet’s sun started to recede. We didn’t say it, but I had no plans to speak to him again. His words, his attitude. It was odd to have a dissenting opinion around again, but I wasn’t sure I liked it.

So when he vanished into the white of the distance, I let out a sigh of relief, and went back to the bridge of my ship.

It was hard to sleep with Carlton on the brain. I thought about his words, about the state of humanity. It was distant, a vague concept, but I knew I was still part of that spread out lot called humans. Were we really like Carlton insisted? Were we all dangerous animals just waiting to ruin each other’s lives?

By the next morning I was consumed. my thoughts swirled, and I found I wanted to speak to him on the matter personally. No matter how much I disagreed, I needed to see his view on it. But I resisted, instead turning to my original plans for the frozen planet.

I took a board, wrapped myself in a thick and fuzzy coat, and headed East to a slope I marked during descent. The snow came down in sheets, blasting me with frozen walls that made the trip take longer than I expected. I couldn’t see much further than my nose, and only computed navigation gave me any sense of direction.

Then I felt a buzz at my side. I stomped my way behind an outcropping of rocks, just enough shelter to get my bare hands to my monitor.

It was another alert, Lifeforms approaching landing zone.

I sat there, thinking of all the objects that could accidentally trip the ship’s sensors. The rock was a desert. There wasn’t supposed to be anything alive enough to sense. Which left one obvious lifeform.

I bundled up, and continued to the slope.

The boarding wasn’t as satisfying as I hoped. The speed was intense, the snow on the little world providing little resistance. As the air whipped past me, I felt afloat, like the wind would pick me up at any moment, and deposit me somewhere halfway across the globe. It just wasn’t the best, I knew I’d had better.

So I returned to the ship, greeted by a break in the blizzard. The drones passed around me, busy in their process. The ship was officially latched to the planet, breaking down what it could, turning the dirt and anything in it into everything it needed. Someone gave me the specifics once, page after page of discoveries that saved mankind. It was dry, and I was at the back of the class.

I stripped down, then made it back to the cockpit. An arm down on the chair, and I reviewed the earlier alert. Footage, the ship had a mind to record the whole situation. I pulled it up, and a video of white began to play. The same blizzard I was trapped in at the time. There was no sign of whatever it was looking at.

I switched the footage to a thermal view, and I nearly snapped away from the system monitor. An outline in red, a heat signature against the frozen rain. The picture moved forward, speeding up and slowing down as I willed it, but he didn’t move.

An itch in the back of my head told me if I went to the present, he would still be standing there, still waiting. Instead the form receded shortly before the blizzard took a break. By the time I had a clear picture, Carlton was nowhere to be found.

I had been 500 years since the last time I talked to another human, but I knew when it was time to sit down and talk with someone. I pulled on a thick coat, tugged down my hat, and headed in the direction of his ship.

I Read – This Book Is Full Of Spiders

The Cover

 

Maybe a year ago I read the Comedy Horror novel, John Dies At The End. If you haven’t read it, I can tell you some of the things you can expect when you do (and you should):

– Hamburgers that scream when you eat them
– Angels who fly with farting cockroach jets
– The full character arc of a band of spunky teens skipped over in two sentences.

John Dies At The End is the sort of book you read when you need something to amuse you and blow you away at the same time.

I’ll get it out of the way, I wouldn’t call David Wong (actually Jason Pargin) the strongest author in the world on straight mechanics, but he knows his world, he knows his funny, and he puts it all together in a way that puts other writers to shame.

In this sequel, This Book Is Full Of Spiders, the principle characters all return, David Wong, John, and his lady friend. We are thrust back into their world of insanity in the crapsack town of [Undisclosed], and then the book doesn’t put you down until it has used you like cheap box of tissues.

This, the sequel nature of the book, made me jealous. The way Wong pecks at elements from the previous book, just enough that new readers won’t miss a beat, makes the book a pleasing read for new and old readers of his work. Don’t know who the good Doctor is talking about when he notes a story about a kid going missing? Who cares, the point is that it happened.

The wit is sharp, and the characters are fun. If you need a laugh and to be creeped half to death, then I don’t really know what better choice you have. Either way, it was well worth the read.