Please read this with a grain of salt… or 7. It’s completely unedited and was written when I was a tender young zombling.
She sat, her hands neatly folded in her lap, on the back of the monstrosity Caleb had brought. Her pale hair sparkled under the light of the synthesized sun which floated lazily above us, Caleb, admiral Tarrksis, and I.
”Who do you think she is?” I asked, lost for a moment in her beauty.
”No idea.” Caleb allowed his eyes to linger on her flowing gown before turning their attention towards me, “But the carbon tests I preformed don’t even measure.”
”That must mean she’s over one hundred thousand years old.” the admiral looked towards the creature, a quadraped with scraggly patches of both fur and scales, and weepy eyes. I gaped incredulously.
”But she doesn’t look a day over 18.” I said, knowing that my remark would be ignored.
”It’s the creature.” Caleb said, “It’s some sort of symbiot. I think it keeps her alive.”
”Impossible” the admiral said, “Naturally the human body would begin to desintigrate after time, especailly as much time as you are suggesting.” I allowed myself a prolonged look at the pair of foreigners.
”Beauty and the beast,” I mused.
I stood, after retreating from the hall, in my quarters, gazing out at the sun, a distant speck of whitish light surrounded by a ceaseless pool of inky black void. I was contemplating the girl – Caleb’s discovery. He acted as if he owned her, gloating as specialists of all sorts looked her over in amazement, keeping a watch at night, as if he were afraid someone would touch her, and acting with a chill sense of paranoia towards everyone, even me, formerly his best friend. I took a deep breath and wondered about life, in all it’s aspects, even the shadowy side of death.
Admiral Tarrksis stood with Caleb at the farpoint of my vison, on the navigational bridge of this, our wonderful ship. Caleb, looking tired and disheveled, the obvious product of one of his night watches, was running his hands through his greasy hair. His gaze shifted towards me as my heavy footfalls on the metal catwalk signaled my approach.
” ‘Morning, Caleb, Admiral.” I said, nodding.
”Oh, and I suppose you have very deffinate opinions on the matter as well, Cretious.” Caleb snapped at me.
”What matter?” I inquired, “I was simply being polite.”
”Yeah, polite, polite, polite, then I get a knife in my back!” Taken aback by his remarks, I stared open-mouthed at Caleb.
”Yeah, that’s right, I had you pegged quite a while ago, Cretious! I know your plans! I will not allow you to take her from me!” There was an almost audible snap of realization in my mind as I realized what all of this was about. Caleb stormed off, towards the observation deck, leaving the Admiral and I to look shockedly at one another.
Caleb and I had been heading up the research team onboard the S.S. Datastar since her maiden voyage. We had always treated eachother with the utmost respect and courtesy while on a mission. We had attended sixteen years of school together, and were considered, in most respects, to be equals. It came as a tremendous shock to me when Caleb practiacally accused me of trying to steal his discovery away from him. The very idea of such a thing is unthinkable to me. And yet, I do not see the girl as “his discovery”. She is a person, albeit a very extrodinary one, but a person none the less. I look at her each and every day now, even under Caleb’s constant, scrutinizing watch. She has an ethereal quality, something about her makes her almost godlike. She is peaceful and serene, as innocent as a newborn, as insightful and wise as anyone I had ever known. Caleb sat, jittery and paranoid like a junkie awaiting a fix, in a small straight-backed chair outside the entranceport to the girl’s containment unit. I watched him for a while. He didn’t seem to notice.
The animal was almost as interesting as the girl herself. It was large, I would estimate it’s weight at 300 pounds or so, but it was very low to the ground. It had course skin, which ranged in color from salmon pink to aqua, hunter, and brown in various patches all over it’s body. Clumps of hair and clusters of scales covered it in no apparent pattern. It had large eyes and yellowed tusks, which, for some reason, didn’t look unfreindly at all, but rather gave the being the appearance of a kindly, comical walrus. It had a large, thick tail, rather like that of a rat, with narrow multi-colored bands and rows of short, stiff bristles. Short, stocky legs, ending in claws like those of a mole or shrew supported it’s flat, low body. It had an appendage like that of an aardvark, and this too was covered in bristles. I wondered how so delicate a creature such as the girl could sit on the beast and not die of discomfort.
The girl was very small, thin and fragile like a dove. She was very pale, but not at all unhealthy looking. She had large, clear, ice-blue eyes and perfect coral lips. Her hair was long and silky, almost white. It fell past her waist and rested on the creature on which she sat. Her skin was flawless. Perfect, like porcelain. I wondered if she was as fragile as she looked. Caleb interrupted my thoughts.
”Get outta here, Cretious, and don’t think you can find some way to get her out of here past me. I can see the whole room from here. ” I left. Not out of respect for Caleb’s wishes, but out of disgust at his suggestion of my intentions.
”Like it or not,” I muttered as I passed him, “She is a discovery, and as such, Mission control will expect a full report on her, and you can’t conduct any of the required tests without me.” He seemed flustered for a second, then he looked as if I had just given him confirmation of his suspicions.
”We shall see,” he chuckled, “we shall see.”
It was many hours later before I dared to venture again into the mukry depths of the ship’s underbelly to the observatioin sector.
Caleb looked drunk and sick. Packets of superconcentrated caffiene subsitute littered the floor around his feet. I don’t think he had eaten in days. He needed a shower as well, but I decided right off that I was not going to be the one to tell him that.
He surprised me by speaking aloud, although his eyes remained closed.
”Ah, Crete,” he said, using his old nickname for me, “how long has it been? A day? A week? A month?” I looked at my holowatch.
”It’s only been a few hours since I was last here.” I said, questions of his sanity prodding at my subconcious. He didn’t seem to hear me, instead, he continued on as if I had never existed.
”Crete, my friend,” his drunken slurred words were enveloped in a shortness of breath apparent from a distance, “How is Agamantha these days?” Then I knew something was very, very wrong. My wife, Agamantha, had been dead for nearly 4 years. I rushed forward, to the aid of my ailing freind. Putting my palm to his forhead, I recoiled from the intense heat concentrated there.
”Caleb!” I exclaimed, “You’re burning up!” I lifted my compatch, still fastened securely to my lapel, to my mouth and called for a medic.
The medideck was clean and homey, with softly hued tracklighting and tasteful decor. I stood in the waiting hall, anxious for news of Caleb’s condition. It had been nearly 2 days since he had slipped from conciousness before me, in the observation sector.
I had, of course, been keeping watch on the girl and her slovenly companion. She never spoke, and it caused me to wonder if she even knew how, I had never seen her standing, only seated on that oafish creature, nor had I ever seen her eat, I only knew that she was eating because the dishes of food I placed before her upon my exits were always empty upon my return. She seemed not to mind captivity, or even to notice, she always had the same blissfully serene expression on her devine face.
A nurse stepped into the hall, prying me from my reverie.
”How is he?” I inquired, scanning her face for truth before she answered. She looked towards me, her small, spectacled Votteranian eyes showing sympathy.
”I’m sorry.” she said, her voice painfully quiet, “But the doctors don’t expect him to make it through the night.”
I felt as though I had been electrocuted. I stood there, my heart, a thick mushy paste clogging up my airways. I stumbled back a few steps, terribly afraid I would faint. The nurse looked alarmed.
”Sir,” she helped to steady me, “Sir, should I call you a doctor?”
”No, no” I said, steadying myself against a wall, “I’ll be okay.”
It was 2 days later, almost to the minute, when I stood beside Caleb’s casket. His disheveled hair had been straightened out, color added to his pale, lifeless features, he almost looked himself again. His last words to me echoed in my mind.
”….they…want to take her,….examine her….Don’t let them…I know the truth….she is….” and then, with a weezing, sighing last breath, Caleb released his grasp on my collar and expired.
Admiral Tarrksis stood, in full dress, at the head of the chamber, reading a eulogy I myself had written. Scores of crewmen and women filled the room. I hadn’t even known that there were this many people onboard. Caleb would’ve enjoyed seeing the turnout, I mused sadly. Caleb. The realization of his passing hadn’t hit me full-force until the morning after his death. He was really gone. Forever. Death was like that – irreversable. Permanent.
I sighed and collected my thoughts, judging by the words the admiral read how much time I had before it was my turn to stand at that sterile grey podium. I had stood at that podium only once before, at a ceremony quite like this, for my beatiful wife.
Agamantha had been a laborer, a very skilled laborer. She worked with a team of seven men and four other women to keep the ship in tiptop shape. One day, due to a slight miscalculation (just whose it was was never detrmined) My darling Agamantha was too close to the ship’s reactor core when it switched to full power. She and seven other crewmembers were quite litterally vaporized.
The admiral read the last few words of my hastily composed eulogy, and I stepped forward, trying to keep my composure. As I approached the front of the great gathering, an overwhelming sadness came over me, and a tear slid down my cheek. The admiral looked at me in passing, stopped, and placed his comforting hand on my arm. I could hold back no longer, and I sobbed. The admiral stood before me, quite unsure of a course of action. I wailed on, remembering the final days of Caleb’s life. How I had treated him. I felt so ashamed. The admiral put his arm around me, half freindly embrace, half support pillar, and led me to the stand.
I wiped my eyes on my sleeve, quite innapropriate of me, and began my speech.
”Caleb was a bright man, ” I said, smiling ruefully at the crowd, “He was as strong a man as any I have ever known. He was not a proud man, not well liked, but he was a hard worker, and he served this ship, and the Fleet, well. He shall be missed.” I sniffled, and looked towards Caleb’s casket, already entering the jettison pod.
”Farewell, my freind, ” I said quietly, “I hope you can forgive me.”
I sobbed openly in the observation sector. Sitting on Caleb’s straighbacked chair, I felt dismally alone. I hungered for an answer, some mystical insight delivered via one of the million tiny stars in my view, but none came. My head in my hands, I sobbed on, hoping to lose my sense of reality, and to wake up in a world where my freind wasn’t dead.
”I’m sorry,” her voice was so small and so impossibly delicate that I hardly noticed, “From what I knew of him, your friend was a great man. I, too, mourn his loss.” I looked towards the great glass bubble housing the girl. She stood quite close to me, one hand on the three inch glass wall was all that separated us. She was away from her creature.
”He’s gone, ” I wailed, “and I am lost without him.” Her face took on a look of ancient wisdom that looked almost out of place on one so young. Almost.
”He, true, is gone from this plain of reality, but that does not mean that a shadow of his essence does not remain here, with you.” She said. I, foolishly, almost believed her. Taking on an air of the proffesional scientist I once thought myself to be, I looked towards her.
”Why have you not spoken before now, damsel?” I raised an eyebrow, and turned in my chair. A simple grin lit up her small face.
”Why, none gave me reason before.” I pondered this, looking to the stars for an answer. I recieved only mockingly radiant luminescence. I stood.
”How old are you, if I may suitably make such an inquiry?” At this, she looked wistful, gazing up to the transparent steel skylight above us.
”My age does not matter,” she said, “for I am here, forever a cycle, and I shall remain as such, from the ending of time until the dawn of eternity.” I watched her, perplexed. She had answered nothing of my question, and yet I didn’t feel the need to know any longer. My curiosity spanned in other directions.
”Your animal, what is it?” I asked, gesturing at the beast. It was then I noticed the thin trickle of brightest crimson edging it’s way around the opening of her sleeve. My eyebrows rose. “What is that? Are you bleeding? Do you want a medic?” She paused in her speaking, and lifted up her delicate arm, inspecting it and seeing the blood. She acted as if it weren’t there, putting her arm to rest at the side furthest from me.
”What it is is not important, but it is how it is that matters.” I wondered briefly if I should, infact, call the medideck, but I decided not to, it was her choice, and she had all but vocally declined my offer. I, instead, pondered her latest pearl of wisdom.
”And how, praytell, is it?” She began to walk around her confines, and I noticed how very graceful she was, almost as if she weren’t walking at all, but levitating.
”It is balanced, ” she said, “It takes no more than it gives, it is not overwhelimingly good, nor is it bad, it is what it is, accepting, calm, and tranquil. It serves a purpose, ” she paused, and looked up at me. I was taken aback by the pure intensity of her crytsaline gaze, “As, too, do you.”
”What purpose?” I inquired, stepping up to the glass.
”A purpose deeper than any you can possibly comprehend.” Her deep blue eyes lit with the glow of a thousand era, and I, again, found myself mesmerized.
I hungered for more of her wisdom, a hunger so deep that I momentarily forgot my grieving heart and felt only the extreme thirst for knowledge the girl had instilled within me.
”Are you saying that the concept of destiny my ancestors toyed with is real?” I asked, the impact of such a thing sending my head reeling in a complex array of twisted patterns of thought, “Are you saying that my life has been planned out for me? That I have no will of my own? That my fate has been decided?” My voice rose with anticipation and, maybe a little more so, with fear. I waited for an answer, and upon hearing none looked to the girl. I realized that my tone had frightened so delicate a creaature. I quited myself, forcing patience into my tone, and returned to my chair, ashamed and unable to look at her. “What is my life, if it is already set in stone how it will end?” I asked quietly.
The girl was silent for a moment. “There are things you are not meant to understand at this point in your evolution, things that will become clearer to you once you reach the next plain of your existance. You will see yhen what it is I am trying to tell you.”
It was then I realized that she wasn’t speaking basic. Infact, she wasn’t speaking at all. I heard her words, yet her pristine mouth remained a thin, fragile line of gossamer pink. The pure absurdity of that notion struck me, and I struggled to maintain an air of normality as I further queried the girl, careful to watch her lips for movement.
”Is that where Caleb is?” I asked, “In a higher plain?” She spoke. Her mouth, perfect as always, remained motionless.
”The essence you refer to as Caleb hhas ascended to a higher plain, yes.” I stood, and placed my hands on the glass, peering at the girl with intense curiosity.
”How do you do that?” I asked, “How did you… speak inside my head…How…” I stopped, mid-sentence.
The girl was shivering, her eyes were wide. She looked to be in pain. The little trickle of blood I had noticed before had widened, over time, into a vast river of deepest red. It drained down the circular vent in the center of the floor. I was mortified beyond belief, and I stood there, like an imbecile, wondering blankly what to do. I noticed something else – the creature’s long probiscus-like appendage was wrapped around her arm, as if in an attempt to cut off her circulation. Her blood squeezed out between the bands of the appendage. I was horrified. I raced to the entrance port, threw open the hatch, and pulled my work knife from it’s holster at my hip. Hastily, I severed the creatures appendage. I caught the girl as she fell, unconcious, heedless of the green ooze flowing from the creatures wounds, or its agonized wails.
I was in the medideck yet again. I stood in that placid waiting hall for the second time in less then a week. I looked to the track lights, then at the floor. I stood, then sat, I paced around the room, waiting. For what, I am unsure.
It happened. A team of three nurses raced down the corridor as the PA system blared “Med Alert! Med Alert! All on-staff physicians to Mediport Md9220.” I looked to the glowing numerals above the door in which the girl lay. Md9220.
I ran into the room, preparing to see the girl as I had left hher, bleeding to death.
Instead, I was shocked to behold an ancient woman, wrapped in a death-shroud of her own sickly skin. Her eyes were the same pure, crystal blue as before, but were now forshadowed with a haze of disease and pain. Her skin was so thin it was almost translucent, and it was stretched so tightly over her small face that she appeared as little more than a cadaverous skeleton. I was shocked, my mouth hung open as doctors and nurses of many races rushed around me. I moved, as if in some sort of stasis, slowly towards her. I knelt next to her and placed my hand on her small, whithered one.
”Wha – what happened to you?” I asked, then a moore important thought overcame the prior, “What can I do?”
She moved her mouth with effort, I was too traumatized to notice that she needed to physically move her lips to speak, “Ba – Bakiral…” she weezed hoarsely, “I must be with… Bakiral” I was perplexed for an instant.
”Your creature?” I asked. She nodded with great effort. I stood, almost without thought and plucked her from the bed. I carried her out into the hall, ignoring the surprised cries of the medicrew.
When I reached the observation deck, I was further horrified to find the creature in almost as bad condition as the girl. It lay on the floor, tongue lolling, eyes rolled back, thick green fluid seeping from the wound I myself had inflicted. I lay the girl next to it, and knelt beside her. The creature placed the severed end of its appendage on the girl, and wailed. I was in tears. What had I done? How could I have been so blind? So ignorant? Caleb had said that he suspected it was a symbiot, and I knoew, from my own research as well as Caleb’s, that if a host and symbiot reach a certain point of dependency on one another separation may be fatal to both.
What had I done? I looked across the floor, tears marring my vision, and saw the tip of the creature’s appendage some feet away, limp, and quite dead. I had killed them both in my stupidity. I wailed, then I noticed that the creature was wailing again, louder this time. I looked towards it, and the girl. I picked her small, delicate head up off the cold, sterile floor and held it in my lap, what remained of the creature’s appendage rested on her frail arm. Her breathing grew weaker and weaker. Her lips trembled.
”Balance…” She said weakly as she expired, and went completely limp in my arms. I wailed mournfully, then noticed movement beside me. My last thoughts were of my beloved wife as the creature, purely evil without the innocence of the girl for balance, ripped me to shreds.
Cold, frozen, unmanned, The S.S. Datastar floats adrift in a sea of stars and planets. Sheets of acidic ice cover it’s corroded hull. Somewhere in it’s depths, a terrifying, primal growl issues forth. Unfortunatly, it cannot be heard through the inky vacuum of deepspace.
”Datastar, come in, Datastar. This is the rescue vessel S.S. Norou, preparing to dock…