July 19th, 2013


Mutations - a short story

Truth be told, I’m not sure any of them are actually dead. If you don’t see a body, and all that. I tell myself that that is just wishful thinking – a fairy tale to let myself sleep at night. Not that sleep holds much relief these days.

If I’m to be honest, and let’s face it, there isn’t going to be a better time for honesty- Honestly, I’m afraid that they're alive. Hell, if even one of them was still alive, I don’t know where that leaves me.

Silence fills the room, and I look out over the faces. Unblinking, they return my gaze. A few have started to rot in their skulls, a few sport empty sockets, where I didn’t get them away from the scavengers in time. The room is full, but one spot, just a little left of center from where I sit at the podium, is empty. Four stands, headless.

The one that’s a little to the front of the others, that was to be for Marianne. It has a dress form attached to it, though it’s one of the old kinds, and a panel is missing from the back. I stuck on some of the wallpaper from the cafeteria– it was the sturdy kind. I know she never liked that paper- the industrial pattern, but it’s on the back where she couldn’t see it anyway. Not like she would be able to see, but you know what I mean.

Behind that, on the leftmost side, is the spot for Jeremy. I saved it for him, especially; I know he had a thing for Wes, and it was the least I could do. I mean Wes was a bit of an ass at times, but I think he was extra mean to Jeremy because he didn’t know what to say. Almost convinced Jeremy to tell him – no chance in hell I’d convince Wes to say anything – but then this whole fiasco started, and it was too late.

The other two spots are for the twins. So close in life, I couldn’t separate them now. I had to shuffle a few around once I realized the only two spaces left were in the opposite corners from each other. Really should have thought of it, first. But then, they were the first to disappear – all proper without the bodies or anything, and I guess I kind of forgot about them.

They had always talked about going back to the stars. I wonder if they made it – cobbled together a ship of some kind from the debris they were always off exploring. But most of the functioning systems had been pulled apart when we first landed. Incorporated in to the buildings. Even the largest scraps had found new function, melted and smelted and given new life.

And that was all we ever wanted, a new life. Funny how you think that a new life, a new world, will let you forget all your old problems. Let you start afresh. But even here we carried so much baggage with us. So much emotional shit built up from the actual travel, too. Interstellar travel – generation ships – let’s just say that those early ones, like the New Horizon, they still had their bugs in the systems.

And it’s funny. Jeremy, Marianne, me and the twins were the ones woken up first to help with the problems. Me and them, and I don’t see them anywhere.

It’s like I don’t know if whatever mutation got into the system, into those creatures, made them recognize us, for some reason. Don’t know if it makes us tastier, or repellant. Reckon I won’t ever know. Last of the beasties died outside the door there. Heard it howling as some of the planet’s natural scavengers picked it apart as it died. The orangish blood has seeped under the door, but is long dried now, and smells vaguely of rotting logs.

If they aren’t dead, then they think that I am. Must, or they would have come back for me.

Something scrabbles at the door – larger than what’s come before.

They would have come back – except maybe the twins – if they’d built their ship, they’d be gone. I like to hope so, anyway.

‘Course I know that that, them returning, that is just another of those fairy tales I tell myself, to keep from going mad.

The scratching at the door gets louder. And it starts to sound like knocks. The growls start to sound like voices. And I tell myself they must have died. Cause if they didn’t, they’d return for me.

They’d return.