Damon is a colony kid, one of the many dancing in dusty coveralls under the protective dome above us all.
These children have no worries. Their parents are scientists: astrobiologists, geologists, chemists, engineers, meteorologists. Their parents have built this colony on this tiny moon, and toil endlessly to keep it running, to keep it growing, to keep us all alive.
The children don’t realize this precarious position we find ourselves in – a foot of plastic in some places, separating us from murderous cold, gut-boiling noxious gas, and skull-crushing pressure. They kick up dust in clouds as they play invented games. This is a new world and these children are creating the childhoods of all those that will follow them. Their tiny clique is setting the standard for generations to come.
Damon is so beautiful. Of all the children, I enjoy watching him the most. I peer at him through a hole in my small habtent, sweating in the darkness as I imagine holding him in my lap, caressing his soft skin, breathing in his youthful aroma …
“Giles,” the comm unit on my uniform squawks. I jump in terror, thinking someone’s seen me. Sweat drops roll off my face and splatter in stains on my lap.
Switching the transmitter on, I say, “This is Giles.”
“Giles, we’ve got a major leak in the sewage line going out to Fill Three. The leak is outside the dome, so we’ve had to seal off the west quarter. How soon can you get it taken care of?”
“Fifteen minutes,” I say, rubbing my sweating hands on the legs of my suit.
“Funny,” the voice says. “As long as it can be fixed in a couple of days, we’ll be okay.”
I smile. They don’t know what I do here.
I take a good, long, final look at Damon, tackling another boy in the dust.
No, they have no idea what I do here.
I dream of Damon. His sweet voice fills my sleep and fills me with strange sensations. I ruffle his brown hair with my hands. I hold him in my lap and tell him not to scream, not to struggle. I tell him it will be over soon.
“I don’t know how you did it, Giles,” Director Kent says to me. He’s smiling. He’s Damon’s father, but I have no interest in him or what he says to me. “The pipe seal has held, and you did it in only ten minutes.”
“That leak was a geyser out there. Hell, half the pipe buckled. You’re amazing.”
“All in a day’s work, chief,” I say, wanting him to leave my habtent.
“Well, we’re damned lucky the Initiative decided to add you to our roster.”
Again, I just shrug. I don’t care about these people, or this colony. I don’t need them.
All I care about is –
“- Damon,” he finishes. He’s said something that I was ignoring until he uttered Damon’s name.
“W-What?” I stammer, starting to sweat.
“Do you know my son, Damon?” he says. I start to panic. Does he know? Does he suspect?
I freeze. I close up. I can’t say anything.
“There’s a director’s meeting tonight, and my usual babysitter is in quarantine with a virus. Would you mind watching him for a few hours?”
I have to fight to control an outburst. I bite my lip too hard. I feel like he sees my thoughts, my elation, my fantasy coming to life.
“I’ll do it,” I say. I think to myself that, yes, I will do it tonight. It’s so perfect. So perfect.
“You smell funny,” beautiful Damon says to me.
I know I do. I cannot help the chemical reactions taking place in my body. I have waited for this for so long.
“It’s how all adults smell,” I say, pulling him up onto my lap.
“No,” he says. “You smell like the yellow rocks.”
He’s so intelligent. More intelligent than they suspect, this child is a genius – a masterpiece of the human species, but too young for it to show to the untrained eye.
“My daddy says one day we’ll have to build a smaller dome underneath this one because the older one will fail,” he speaks to me, innocently, but in the manner of an educated adult. He is so perfect. “I think they should build one bigger. We should always get bigger and expand out.”
“How very profound,” I say to him. “Damon?”
“Yes, Mr. Giles,” Damon says, smiling at me.
“I’m going to do something to you that might hurt,” I say seriously. “I want you to try not to scream and stay very still.”
“Ok, Mr. Giles,” he says.
I reach my sweaty hands up and caress his skull. My blood boils within me. I apply slight pressure in my fingers, seeking out weaknesses.
“Mr. Giles,” he says. “You’re hurting me.”
“I know, Damon. It will be over soon.”
“I’m going to tell my daddy,” he says, and then I laugh.
“No, you won’t, human.”
With a quick squeeze, my razor talons emerge from my finger tips and pierce the human child’s skull. Before Damon can react to the sudden pain, I pull the top of his skull away and massage the brain slightly. Liquid drips from the open flesh of my fingers and works to numb all pain.
Slowly, savoring every precious morsel, I devour the child’s brain.
When I am done, only a few remnants of the brain’s connection to the rest of his nervous system remain. Just like I did with the sewage pipe, I fill the hole with the semi-organic excretion I produce in my true form underneath this human flesh that used to be Giles. It will fill the child’s brain cavity as I command, forming connections with his body, perfectly simulating the properties of the human brain. No one will know the difference. Damon just won’t be as smart as he used to be.
By the time Director Kent returns, I’ll have finished the job, sealing the wound as easily as I sealed the pipe. No one will know.
Then, after they are gone, I can begin to absorb this beautiful human’s intelligence which I have just devoured.
“We appreciate what you’re doing here, Mr. Giles,” Director Kent says. “We’ve always thought of you as just a maintenance worker, but your skill as an educator is very apparent to us now. We were in a tight spot.”
“Yes,” I say to him, adjusting my tie. “It’s unfortunate what happened to their former instructor. I am just glad to be able to help continue their education. So many of them have … potential.”
Kent rambles on and I turn my head to the sound of laughter, ignoring him.
In the yard outside the habtent being utilized as a school for the colony’s children, the next generation invents the struggles of those that follow. They kick up dust and play their simple games that will become their trials as adults.
One of them catches my eye.
I can feel his intelligence. I can sense his superiority.
He’ll be my next meal.