Laughter of the Drowning

Well, it’s nearing zero hour. I’ve got about 4,000 words left to go to complete The City of Light, this year’s NaNoWriMo entry. I will finish that up today and tonight.

Things are winding down. The story has about four separate stories reaching a climax that marks the end of this 1/3 of the novel. And that leaves only the final 1/3 to go at a later date … definitely a lot sooner that NaNoWriMo 2013..

Likewise, this is the last old short that I’m going to dig up and subject you to.

So, what does that mean for this blog? Well, obviously, new stuff. New projects, new experiments, new rants. In the coming weeks I’m planning a post about anxiety and gravity, how navigating life is like moving through the universe: certain things have gravity and pull us in and slow us down and cause us to veer off course, when the ultimate meaningful life is spent moving forward and accumulating a wealth of experiences. It should be interesting.

With this part of the novel down, I’m turning back to short pieces for a few months while I plan for the conclusion of my epic tale. I’ll post a good deal of flash fiction here, and compose some longer pieces with submission for publication in mind. I hope you stick with me.

One of my favorite movies ever is The Thing from the ’80s, with Kurt Russell, Keith David, and Wilford Brimley. Spooky soundtrack and creepy effects aside, the idea of the doppelganger alien is a mainstay in science fiction, and it was done well.

This was the first of what will become many personal explorations of classic science fiction plots.

WARNING: VIOLENCE

Io zipped by the window, its mottled fruitcake-colored surface brightening the airlock momentarily.

Joshua brought the bulky magnetometer down on Baines’s skull again – the spray of blood exceeded the radius of the previous spatters.

Panicked, Joshua looked back to the glass where a handful of the crew of the Heisenberg Orbital Station watched in horror at his actions. Sweat ran down his face, mingling with spatters of blood and gore to run into his eyes. He could taste Baines’s life fluid in his mouth.

Looking back to the corpse, Joshua thought he saw movement in what was left of the engineer’s face and brought the heavy scanner down into flesh again. Bone splintered and hung in flesh like bits of nuts in a cake.

Io flashed by the window again, illuminating the violence of the scene, as the artificial gravity wheel spun around the station core.

The intercom switched on and Joshua heard the voice of the Project Director, Quinten Mallory: “Joshua, please stop this.”

“I saw it!” Joshua shouted, tossing the magnetometer aside in frustration. “I know I saw it!”

“It’s been a long mission and I’m afraid it’s taken its toll on all of us,” Mallory’s syrupy voice said through the speakers in the airlock.

Joshua looked at the director’s face through the glass set in the door to the station. Briefly, the glass reflected Io over Mallory’s face.

“Joshua, I’m sending the rest of the crew back to the core while you and I have a talk.” Motioning to the crewmembers, Mallory sent them away. After a few moments, having watched them depart, Mallory turned back to the airlock.

Joshua stared silently down at the lump of flesh that had been Baines’s face.

“You know what I have to do,” Mallory explained. “This exhibition seals your fate. As originally suspected, it was a crew member who murdered Franco and Deets. And now Baines.”

Joshua rotated his head to stare at Mallory, hearing his death sentence.

“It was you,” Mallory stated flatly.

Pushing himself from the floor of the airlock, Joshua ran to the door and beat on the glass. “Let me out of here!” he screamed in futility. “I didn’t do it.”

“Then explain what we’ve seen here,” Mallory said, offering a slight reprieve.

“There was something -”

“Some thing?”

“There was something in Baines,” Joshua said, glancing back at the circle of violence.

Io flashed by.

“I didn’t kill those men,” Joshua pleaded. “Please let me out. Maybe it left Baines and went into someone else. You could all be in danger.”

Mallory stared silently back at the blood spattered astrogeologist he was about to dump into space. He was surprised this one had figured it out as quickly as he had.

“Oh yes,” Mallory said with a wicked smile. “They are all in great danger now.”

Joshua saw Mallory’s left eye bulge as something moved inside it. From behind, Joshua heard a strange gurgling sound that settled into short bubbling gasps. He turned around and saw what was left of Baines’s face bubbling near where his mouth had been. As the air pushed through from the body and broke through the mangled flesh, the noise became the sound of rasping laughter.

The corpse slowly sat up and turned its gory mask to Joshua, who didn’t notice it gripping a handle on the floor of the airlock tightly.

When the airlock opened its contents into space, Joshua shot past the undead creature and exited the station – and exited this life.

Io reflected dimly in his dead eyes as floated away from the Heisenberg and was saved from a fate worse than death.

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