by Steven M Nedeau
Erin looked down at the knife in his hand. The blood coating the handle ran between his fingers and lined the ridges of his fingerprints, leaving his mark on the wood. On the floor, bloody footprints walked toward and away from the table where the knife had been placed.
He didn’t recognize the species of the prints. There were so many onboard. He scoured his memory, searching out clues to the owner of the trail. The species was bipedal. The blood from the prints bled into the traction grooves of the stainless steel floor, dispersing them, making them harder to identify.
The rest of Marla’s room appeared undisturbed. Her clothing from that morning lay on the bed. The sheets were strewn about as usual in her morning routine. The cup of tea sat on the table next to the bloody knife, half drunk. Marla had been here, alright. But, where was she now? Did the owner of those footprints drag her away? Erin looked at the prints again. There did not appear to be any sign of a struggle.
He returned his attention to the clothing on the bed, picking them up. Under Marla’s morning clothes was a strange pair of pants. They were slim, much too slim for Marla. He looked at the pattern and matched it to his own. He held them up to his hips. They could fit him if he went on a significant diet but there was no way these were his pants. He could add one more clue to the owner of the footprints, whatever species it was wore clothing.
Erin followed the bloody trail, not the trail leaving the room, but the trail entering. They had come from another room in the ship, probably from the specimen containment area. Had this being injured itself escaping its confinement? To his surprise the footprints led not toward containment but to his own room. He pressed the button on the panel and the doors slid away from the opening into the walls.
What awaited inside horrified Erin and he fell to his knees at the doorway. Inside was Marla, or what was left of Marla. Her face lay near the bed, pulled away from her skull. Her skin and portions of her musculature lay in a pool of blood in the center of the room. Her bones were absent, all of them. Whatever demon had left those prints had dismantled the love of his life like she were no more than cattle.
Rising to his knees and pulling the sword-like key out of the wall, Erin sounded the alarm. The sword screamed in his hand emitting a piercing tone that reverberated around the ship, communicating the location of the alarm to the other crew members. In his mind the wail of the key became a scream of pain and he dropped it. A dizziness had overcome him. Was he in shock?
Disorientation gripped him and he found he could not get back to his feet after his initial fall at the doorway. He rolled out of his room and the door slid shut. He shook his head fighting the loss of control he seemed to be experiencing. Help should be coming. Boots should be thundering down the halls of the ship to answer the alarm.
There was silence.
Lifting his eyes to the end of the hall, to the door there, to the closed door, Erin saw a slender being on the other side of the glass, naked, hands pressed against the glass, watching him. Bathed in the blood of Marla the being had hair well past its shoulders. Erin could see because of its nudity that the being was a female but he still couldn’t place the species. There were so many.
Behind her the vacuum of space framed her image in the glass. She held the bridge. She was in control of the ship, of the crew, of the specimen containment units, of the life support. The realization of his predicament struck Erin. She had turned off the oxygen.
When Erin woke he tried to sit up but something held him down. Straps, yellow and black, crisscrossed his chest, arms, and legs. The air had returned to the cabin. Looking around he recognized Marla’s room again and upon further visual inspection noticed that he was covered in blood. He tried to scream through the gag as he pressed against the straps. All he managed was a, “Harumphg!”
“Ah, you’re awake.” The female from the bridge walked out of the shower stall drying her hair with a towel. She wore the pants Erin had found on the bed and she was otherwise naked. Erin glanced at her bare feet and surmised that it was she who had left the prints. She walked to the table and picked up the knife with the tips of her grotesquely slender fingers so as not to dirty herself again with the blood she had just washed away.
“It took me quite a while to get everything I needed but I think this is all going to work out fine.”
“Harrumg,” Erin said through the gag.
“Oh, yeah,” she said and ran into the bathroom with the knife, dropping the towel. When she returned the knife was clean of Marla’s blood. Straddling Erin’s prone form she slid the tip of the blade inside the gag against Erin’s cheek and cut it away. “You were saying?”
“You killed Marla.”
“Yes, I guess you could say that.”
“And my crew?”
“Yeah, them too.”
“How did you escape containment? Where did you get the knife?”
She laughed, a hideous lilting screech, and said, “You gave me the knife.”
“No, I don’t think so. What do you know of the species in containment?”
Erin disliked the lightness of her weight on him. Her knees rested on his arms held down by the straps.
“Did you cut me?”
“She laughed again. “That’s not your blood. It’s Marla’s. I was still pretty gory when I dragged you in here.”
Erin struggled again but the straps held firm.
“What do you know of the species in containment?” She asked again.
Erin relented, hoping she would lower her guard and an opportunity to escape would present itself. “They’re simple. None so far advanced as we.”
“And the lack of advanced technologies means they are inferior and can therefore be corralled like sheep whenever the need arises?”
“The creator made us and gave us the universe to do with as we see fit.”
“Can you clone beings?”
“Why would one?”
She slid the knife along his nose. “If I were to cut this off, could you grow another one to take its place?”
“Of course we can. We’ve had that technology for more than a century.”
“Oh, no, completely possible. We can grow more than our own flesh. We can grow yours now, too. Would you like to learn how we do it?”
“You’re trying to bargain with me, a captain?” Erin felt disgusted at the thought of an alliance with any other races, no matter what planet they originated from.
“Sometimes,” she mused, playing with the knife against his neck, “we can be very original. In fact, the last thing we grew was a costume.”
“And you snore,” she spat back. She waited for him to understand the comment and seeing the truth revealed in his eyes she continued.
She winked at him, resting the knife edge against Erin’s neck and said, “We’re using you and this ship as an example.”
With all of her strength she clamped a hand over his mouth and drove the knife into the grey skin of his neck, watching the terror in his eyes as he struggled against her and the restraints.
As his body relaxed to his fate she brought her lips close to his ear and whispered, “You should have thought twice about visiting Earth.”Marla’s Message
by Steven M Nedeau
As his body relaxed to his fate she brought her lips close to his ear and whispered, “You should have thought twice about visiting Earth.”