They by Russell Hemmell [sci-fi]

They by Russell Hemmell

They look at me, excited. They’re scared of me. And they’re scary. I run for cover, to a remote part of the hall where a tiny pool of shadow lingers. Reassuring, protective. I lie down, hidden from their view. For now. I know how things work. They won’t let me stay here. They will chase me with their torches—white lights so intense that they make my eyes squint and my head spin. But not yet.

Un, deux, trois. The hunt has started, like a waltz in the dark. Breathe. And wait.

It has been two moons since I got here, and no, I can’t sleep well. Sometimes I wake up with a scream that pierces my ears, and it takes me a few moments before realizing that scream is mine. I’m alone in this hall, day and night—a desolate, barren place. They don’t let me out. And they don’t let anybody in, apart from official tours—out of fear, or out of shame.

Quiet, quiet. I stay in my hideaway. There’s still time.

They captured me during their last trip. They’re exploring. After colonizing a handful of planets next door, they’ve made the great leap forward, going out of their star system. They feel invincible, that the universe is their oyster. And they eat it raw.

Still, still. They don’t look away any longer. They’re getting bolder.

I’m not just alone: I’m lonely, a cute specimen down for display. The other members of my family had all been killed in the chase. My baby brother too, soft skin and tender flesh. I see him in my dreams sometimes. Serene and smiling, he welcomes me in his embrace and he nuzzles my head. Gentle.

Silent, silent. They’re realizing they’re numerous, and it’s only me—frightening and odd-looking I might be.

I tried to make contact with them. Somehow. Talking at first. Then humming, blinking, screeching. Using the full range of the sounds I’ve learned here. But not one has proved effective. They do communicate with their kind, but not with the rest of the planet’s biosphere. They’ve no appetite for it, or they simply can’t.

And they’re coming.

Dancing is over. They’ve encircled me and the game will start in earnest now. Playtime. Their sounds become louder, movements almost frantic. They pick up and throw something at me, expectantly. One of them comes closer, braver than the rest, attempting a contact. She looks like a female, blue spots on raptorial legs, blades that glimmer under the transparent wings. I stiffen, my hairs bristle up, and I have to refrain from biting. Her extremities start moving up and down, rhythmically. Is she petting me? But then, she grabs my neck and tightens her grip. I cough and try to shake her away, in a desperate tentative of escape. She lets me go after a few moments and begins shrieking in a nasty laughter that others join. I feel humiliated. I’d cry, if I could only feel pain. But I can’t. There’s something that makes me hold back instead of reacting, and musing instead of suffering. Something frozen inside.

She throws something at me, a goo-like swarthy stuff I sniff while keeping my distance. It looks weird, and I can’t imagine what it might be. But I’m famished. I sniff it again, and I swoop down, biting that intriguing, vaguely disgusting dark sticky substance. I swallow it, slowly, taking good morsels. Trying not to look too close, as if some sort of monsters with sharp claws and becks would come out of viscous matter and hurt me. But it doesn’t move, only wobbles when I feast on it. That’s the best meal I’ve had in this place, and I could call myself fortunate to get a goo-piece every time. Because, I bet, this is where I’m going to spend the rest of my days, many or few they might be. Perhaps settling down, possibly forgiving, always longing.

They are tired, finally, tired of playing and proud of their achievement. Aliens and horrid to me, they’ve faced their horrid alien. Grown-ups of their species arrive and take them for a well-deserved rest after their day of adventure. They’re not cruel, I know that now. I’ve hated them, and cried, and cursed, and wished I were dead. Not any longer. Every day, when the sun is high in the sky, I await their visit. With trepidation, but expectantly, for they’re the only company I’ve got. They’re my keepers. They’re my torturers. They’re my playmates.

They’re children like me, although they ignore it and I’m Marion Octavie from Montreal, Canada no more. Here, I’m the attraction that came from Planet Earth, Solar System, Orion-Cygnus Arm of the Milky Way. Whatever feeling I might have had was lost in space in a hyperdrive flight.


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  1. Pingback: They- flash fiction – Russell Hemmell

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