written by M. Sydnor Jr.
He pushed his eyelids open to a wonderful sight. “My wife,” he said, relieved. He’d been at her bedside for forty-eight hours, only leaving to check in with Phea, and to be briefed by Kee on their status. He leaned over in the chair and grabbed Ada’s hand, rubbing his thumb over her knuckles.
She groaned as she tried to sit up.
“Take it easy,” he said.
Ada hardly listened to his orders on the field, so something as simple as sitting up would not defeat her. She squeezed his hand, closed her eyes and grunted.
Etos hopped to his feet and packed a few pillows against her back.
She took a deep breath, panned her gaze around the room and smiled when she looked into her husband’s eyes.
“How do you feel?” he asked.
Etos returned to the chair, scooted closer to the bed, and kissed her hand. He rubbed her hand with his chin and kissed it again. “I thought I lost you for good that time.”
“You can’t get rid of me that easy.” She took her hand away from him and stroked his earlobe. Then, she rubbed around to the top of his head and pulled it down to her lap for him to rest.
Etos looked into her beautiful wide eyes and caressed her warm brown skin. This was their thing. How they’d shown love to one another since their first night together long ago. Staring deeply into each other’s eyes, into one another’s soul, this was a sort of foreplay before they’d make love to each other. But Ada was in no condition for that, so this was the next best thing. Until she cut that intimate moment short.
She turned away from his gaze. “Where are we?”
Etos lifted his head from her lap and rested his back on the chair. “The end of the line.” He smiled.
“You’re smiling? Why are you smiling?”
“Because we’ve made it to the edge of our system, Ada. The first Uridians to travel this far. So, from now on, everything is…pure discovery.”
“We did it?” She mirrored his excitement with her own wide smile.
“We did it!” He stood and gave her a kiss. Then, he paced around the room, treating the Med-Bay as if it were the space outside. Pointing to a wall, the machines like they were distant stars. Planning their future. “We will find our home soon. I know it. I can feel it.”
“You know they’ll be after us.”
“Mhmm,” she nodded, killing their joyful celebration with some truth.
It made him stop at the foot of her bed and he dropped his head. She was right, but they’d be long gone by the time the Uridians got another ship off the planet, Etos had seen to that before they left. “It’s a big space,” is all he said. Then, he looked at his wife, the joy from her lessened. “You don’t regret this decision I made for us, do you?”
“We made this decision together, Etos. We. I just don’t want to be on the run for the rest of our lives. I’m ready to settle down.”
“And we will…soon. Like I said before, space is huge. And we are outside of everywhere they know. They’ll never find us in a million, trillion years.”
That exaggeration might have not been an exaggeration, but it made Ada laugh. “There is one thing I do regret,” she said.
Uh oh. “Yeah?”
“Family. We mean to save our people from extinction, don’t you think we should’ve brought more Uridians with us, at least. Are we trying to save our race or ourselves?”
“You know how it was when we left. We were outcasts, fugitives with prices on our heads. We couldn’t trust anyone. As for family, I understand, and I wish for that, too. But we’ve grown too old to make children now.”
“Yes, yes, I know.”
“But…we can clone.”
“No,” she snapped her head at him. “You know how I feel about that. Plus, we’ll never find a planet suitable enough or close enough to Uridia’s atmosphere for that process. Even trying it would be dangerous. So, no. Out of the question.”
“Okay, okay. So, anything else you regret?” Etos asked, side-eyeing his woman assuming she’d know what he was thinking.
“No—wait, you’re not talking about me saving you on Moyna X?”
He didn’t nod or shake his head, just stood there with a silly looking smirk.
“Oh husband. If I didn’t come in there after you, they would’ve torn you apart, or you’d be in this bed instead of me. Like after the war, remember? I was stuck feeding you soup for weeks.”
“Best weeks of your life.”
She rolled her eyes, then looked at the door and swung her legs to the side of the bed.
“What’re you doing?” he asked.
“What do you mean? I’m getting out of here. I’m all better.”
She certainly sounded better, seemed okay, but she was still hooked up to tubes and machines. So, he went to help her out. “Easy though, okay? Easy.”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m not a baby,” she joked.
“Sir,” Kee interrupted them through the speaker.
“What is it, Kee?” Etos responded.
“Sir…I think Ada should lie back down,” Kee said.
“What? Why?” Etos asked.
“Kee, go offline,” Ada commanded. Then, Kee disconnected.
Etos was too excited to have his wife back to question why she did that. So, he continued to help her disconnect from the machines.
“It’ll be good to stretch my legs,” she said. And just as she stood, she fell.
“Got ya,” he said, holding her, almost propping her up until she straightened her back to give him a nice hug.
“Yes, you do,” she whispered into his ear, then she squeezed.
He loved the chills that her embrace brought. From his back, going upward toward his neck, downward to his thighs almost making him weak in the knees, then outward to his happy glow, lighting up the room. His smile was the biggest since their escape from Uridia.
Then, the glow started to dim. His smile twisted into a frown, and his head jerked to the side for air. He released his part of the hug, but she kept hold and was squeezing tighter and tighter. The air he sought became a challenge. “Ada?”
She didn’t answer, only squeezed.
“Ada?” he screamed, best he could, but it came out raspy. She was stronger than him—no, ten of him. He couldn’t even move his arms to wiggle out or push her away or hit her. Her? Ada. Is she in there? He would kill for air. The loud and monstrous huffing and puffing sure as hell wasn’t him. With enough space to move his head around, he headbutted his wife.
She released a bit, but still held on. He gave her another hit to the head, harder, and she let go. He pushed her away and as she fell on the bed, she started to seize. Her shoulders jerked back and forth, her legs kicked the mattress, her belly tightened—sucked itself in as she took a handful of the sheets in her hand.
“Ada?” His eyes started to water. He wanted to help her, but he waited by the door. “Kee? What’s happening?”
“Kee…come back online.”
“What is Ada’s status?”
Etos had the door open, half his body outside the Med-bay, watching in horror as Ada’s skin started to shed. Her legs stretched out, further than the bed…taller than the bed. Her body no longer jerked, but it shook as she released the grip on the sheets. Her fingers extended and her nails curved into razors.
He was outside now, about to close the Med-bay, but…
“Etos!” Ada screamed. In her voice. “Etos help,” she said again.
He couldn’t help himself. He ran back in, to his wife, and put his big brain to use. Trying to think of anything to help her. He snatched a needle from the table, and stuck her in the arm, to sedate her…nothing, she still shook. Seemed her body and mind were on different pages, because she continued to plead.
“My husband, it hurts. Help me!”
The medical arm tried to assist, but she knocked it away with her monstrous hairy arm. Etos took a step back after that, inching for the door again.
“Kee,” he screamed. “Status now.”
“Sir, she is turning.”
“Turning—turning into what?”
“A cyclops, sir. The creature you encountered on Moyna X”
“Etos,” Ada said, clearer, calmer. “My eyes. I—I can’t,” the tone in her voice deepened so much that if he weren’t looking at her, he’d think someone else was in the room. “My eyes hurt.”
Against his better judgment, he leaned over and saw a layer of dark skin cover his wife’s eyes. Her nose did a wavy motion on her face… and then everything stopped. The clanking of the bed hitting the floor. Her shaking, her huffing and puffing.
“Ada,” Etos whispered as he took a step closer to her side. “Ada?”
Her beautiful face was gone. Her brown skin now black. Her yellow hair in pieces all over the bed. All he saw was a face with nothing on it. A second later, there was an opening in the middle of the face, an eye. His wife’s eye, same color, same length. Then her mouth opened and said, “Run.”
He stumbled back and ran out of the Med-bay as fast as he could, closing the door behind him.
Ada was no more, he had to accept that fast, deal with it later, grieve. He’d done it plenty of times during the war, but this time was different, Ada was his wife—his life. The thing in her place now was a threat to him, Phea, the ship, and to everything he and Ada risked their lives for. Most importantly, this monster was a threat to her memory.
Etos turned away from the window in the Med-bay and stormed down the hall. “Kee, unlock the weapons locker.”
“And lock Phea in the cockpit. Make sure she doesn’t get out.”
“Sir, the cockpit is empty.”
Etos stopped in his tracks and turned back down the hall, the cockpit area was just around the corner from the Med-bay door. “Well, where is she?”
Suddenly, a loud bang shook the entire ship. The door, the walls, everything separating the Med-bay from the corridor destroyed. The monster came stumbling out, completing the transformation, learning how to walk it seemed. As it fully came into the corridor, it stretched its back where the head touched the ceiling. That head turned to Etos.
Phea came into the corridor, behind the creature, and looked up and screamed so loud the walls vibrated.
The cyclops jerked around, pulling a trail of dripping saliva with it and chased after the girl. She ran. Etos followed them.
”Phea!” he screamed. “Go into the cockpit. Cockpit. It can’t get in there. Phea? …Kee, Phea’s location?”
“She ran past the cockpit, sir.”
“Your eye, Phea. Use your eye,” he yelled at her, but all he heard were her cries and the monster’s roars. Etos turned the corner and saw the back of the creature turn another corner ahead. He continued after it, screaming in an attempt to get its attention, but it seemed eager and hungrier for Phea.
As he reached the end of the other corridor, he spotted the monster tearing into the walls. “Hey! Hey!” he tried again to get the creature’s attention, but it didn’t work. “Kee, where is she?”
“She’s in one of the escape pods, sir.”
Shit. He wanted to go over there and fight it, but he didn’t have a weapon, he’d be dead in seconds. He could sprint for the weapons locker, but the way the creature was determined to get to Phea, it’d break into the pod and snatch her out. Or worse, destroy the ship, letting the space in.
“Kee. What is the structural integrity of the hull around the pod?”
“Thirty percent, sir. And dropping fast.”
He hated that he’d have to do this. But it was her only chance. “Eject the pod, Kee. Eject.”
“Ejecting pod, sir…Pod ejected.”
The cyclops stopped tearing into the ship, took a step back, then turned to Etos.
Now would be a good time to go to the weapons locker.
written & created by
M. Sydnor Jr.
copyright © M. Sydnor Jr.