written by Dragon Tongue
Chapter One: Jan and Tom
Jan flopped back into the bean chair and watched the herons swooping back and forth across the sky, dropping lazily back into the lagoon. She felt all the tension soaking away in the sun’s warmth, and for a change, it was nice. Lighting a cigarette she stretched one leg out in front of her and traced slow gentle patterns down her thigh, with a fingertip. A thought swam through her mind and she smiled.
It hadn’t been the greatest of years for Jan, but she had finished her course down at ‘Town Site’ now, and was the proud, and deserving holder of a degree in both Music and Fine Arts. She wasn’t normally one to work as hard as she did in her studies, but once into something that she really enjoyed, she found it hard to stop for food or sleep. How she had kept that up for four years without losing her friends amazed many.
Tom had never been an excellent surfer, and since the accident, he rarely ever took a cold bath, let alone a stroll in the surf. Since then a better part of his time was spent throwing clay pots on an old treadle ‘wheel’, a hobby he had borrowed from Jan to fill the many hours that seemed to waste by, while she studied.
Tom had grabbed some fish and chips at ‘Rowans’ for tea, and drove straight home from work, knowing that Jan had probably been cramming the books again all day, and would have forgotten to have lunch again.
The old Chevy creaked as it swung into the driveway, and he was pleasantly surprised to see Jan sunning herself on the back porch, eyes resting beneath mirrored glasses. The book and radio were common companions for her, but the glass of wine was unusual, and that much uncovered skin was very rare.
An eager thought tried to creep into his mind, but he held it off and locked up the car. He knew that when thinking of Jan it was better to expect a turn-down, and sometimes be pleasantly mistaken. He headed inside for a quick shower, and ended up taking longer than he needed. Jan must have dozed off.
From underneath the wide-eyed shades, the Chevy had looked like a ‘ponsy’ Rolls, as it slid in past the gate-posts, but there was an unmistakeable sound to Tom’s Chevy that reminded her the day was a good part gone. Someone ran water inside, and she could hear singing.
“Got a stomach ache Tom?” she joked.
A sloppy flannel flew out the window spilling her glass of wine. Her cigarette drowned in a puddle.
“Sorry.” Jan sneaked inside to return it.
They were both enjoying the shower when Jan had an attack of cramps, and hop-hobbled to the couch, calf in hand. Tom really did care, but he couldn’t help smiling. He took the newspaper out of the warming drawer and emptied it on two plates. With a bottle of tomato sauce under his arm, he walked back into the living room.
What seemed a low rumbling in the distance, quickly rose to a biting buzzsaw scream overhead, and faded out in the lagoon somewhere.
“Shit, that was low!” startled Jan.
“I’ll say!” replied Tom, rushing for the window. “Can’t see anything from here.”
Jan gazed across at him and smiled inside. The towel he wore pulled tightly across his bottom. She felt proud and warm.
Suddenly ‘Lady’ started barking from the backyard. Not just barking the “It must be tucker time!”, “Hi there.”, or “I’m going with you, aren’t I?” bark, but the real deep “You breath and you’re dead mate!” growl that Rottweilers were renowned for, and one that ‘The Lady’ had never needed to use before.
“Must be another dog out there.” Said Tom. “You sit tight, an’ I’ll be right back.”
On his way out he grabbed the air-rifle, doubting whether he could seriously hurt anything, but sure that a couple of slugs would send any dog off running withit’s tail between it’s legs.
“Won’t be a minute.”
Three or four minutes of silence passed before she decided to put on a record. A fly buzzed close by, and something smelt ‘off’ in the house.
Suddenly Tom burst in through the door, screaming and flailing his arms about like a mad thing. A swarm of flies flooded in about him. Like a puppet on a madman’s string, his body leaped into the air and smashed itself against the floor, walls, and furniture. Gibberish, guttural sounds punched out from his body. Pink foaming saliva sprayed from his mouth, and pain filled fear pleaded, trapped behind his eyes. Jan was stunned. A braver person may have screamed their lungs out, but she still couldn’t understand any of what was happening.
A nauseating smell. Something dead, shocked her back to her senses. There were so many flies that she could hardly see Tom, let alone get near him.
All at once, almost as if of one mind, the flies started in her direction. Her heart leapt to her throat. Behind her stood the door to the bathroom, it’s cold steel handle pressing against her back.
Her fumbling fingers opened, pulled her through, and slammed it shut behind her. With a rubbery thud, she slipped to the floor of the shower as the tap turned. A scream echoed about her cranium, and white sounds washed down over her face. Two large staring eyes looked up unblinkingly into the towering faucet, the needles of icy water stabbing at her unfeeling orbs, numbing her sight, and diluting her tears.
Time past, and her body’s shivering became more and more intense. The waters percussive touch tapped at her senses until a single worded question focused in her mind.
Slowly, without breathing, she quietly turned off the shower and listened. All was still.
“Tom?” she whispered, praying for an answer, but hoping that the ‘flies’ wouldn’t hear her.
There wasn’t a sound to be heard.
Through strands of dripping blonde hair, she scanned the bathroom for flies, especially the gap under the door and the keyhole.
The silence grew unbearable, and with it her fear of not knowing what was waiting, on the other side of the door.
Her mouth felt dry and bitter, like old dead parchment with metallic scribblings. Invisible fingers squeezed at her throat. Taking a deep breath, she took hold of the handle, it’s strong coolness somehow reassuring. Opening it a crack, she peeked through.
(god it stunk!)
A wave of nausea hit her as the stench stung her eyes.
(they had gone!)
The room was empty except for two upturned arm chairs, a broken picture frame with someone’s wedding photo, a sofa, and…
He was there, hiding behind the sofa, on his back, staring at the ceiling. His naked muscles stood out like steel ropes, his fingers splayed and locked in twisted claws.
Jan threw herself in through the door and across the room, but stopped when she saw his face. Tom’s eyes looked open and glassy in a wildly contorted mask. She knelt down beside him and touched his cheek. It was warm but damp.
A whispered word crept from deep in her throat but didn’t make it passed her quivering bottom lip. Her skin crawled, and a shiver ran up her spine, raising the hairs on the back of her neck as she brushed a fly from her hand. It landed on the floor.
(but it wasn’t a fly!)
It seemed to Jan to be more like a slater with wings. Looking back at Tom, she could see more ‘fly’ critters in his hair. She flicked one away, squashed another, and as hysterical vengeance overcame her she began to pound her fists on his scalp, trying to squash as many of the tiny bugs as she could.
Toms jaw fell open, and the fact that Tom was really dead, finally sunk in, as a swarm of ‘fly’ creatures flooded out of his mouth onto the floor.
Repulsion and fear gripped at her stomach, pushing her back, stumbling to her feet.
His body rolled over.
Before she could hide her face, her eyes saw… what her mind tried not to accept. A gaping bloodless hole opened up his back, from a now singular buttock, up to between his shoulders. Wrapped about his neck, at the base of his skull clung something alien. A grey ribbed oval shell. Small flagellating nodes hung from the rim of the shell. Like living stone armour, the ribs closed up as the shell flattened out, releasing its grip on his neck. The smell was thick and burning in her throat.
She looked back to see Tom’s neck, pink and white, half eaten away under the shell. No blood hid the knobbly bleached vertebrae that lay down his back.
Jan retched. Bile dripped from her mouth, chips and batter lay crushed underfoot. Blinking away tears, she saw that the shell had gone.
(but… no!) It was on her arm, slowly crawling up, and yet she couldn’t feel it. Expecting the worst, she glanced at her arm but could see no gaping trail behind the shell. It was not eating her flesh, as it did on Tom. Unable to move, she watched as it slid up over her shoulder and out of sight.
(what is this thing?…)
(what can it be?…)
(where is it going?…)
(what is it doing there?…)
(is it still there?…)
She heard a squelching pop behind her ears as something needle sharp and smooth slipped in under her skin.
(I’m going to die!)
A slick, thin, fleshy rod slid easily through layers of muscle and tissue at the back of her neck pumping warm mucus, as its length pushed with firm strength ever upwards. A revolting feeling of warm pleasure came from the base of her skull and spread out through her body in rapid waves. Her skin tingled and waited expectantly. Her body wanted. She wanted. She needed the spreading of its warmth. The spreading of her skin, her flesh, as it penetrated her person, inserting itself, asserting itself, took control. She had to open herself, spread herself wide to accommodate and engulf the sensation. Her whole body quivered, pulsed, and rode a wave of ecstasy that grew to an unbearable pitch. A feeling so strong that it seemed to have a separate identity of its own.
Suddenly, with an orgasmic burst, it was gone.
She felt cold and alone. Her mind so small and insignificant in a vast black void.
Her eyes moved, stopped, and focused.
Her head turned slowly and looked about.
( ? )
She hadn’t moved her head, and yet it moved. She wasn’t looking, and yet she saw. Something, something small and grey, was controlling her head, moving her eyes. Something impossible. She felt like a stranger, trapped in her own alien body. She felt….
A ‘fly’ landed on her face, but she couldn’t brush it off. She had no control. Tiny foot pads tripled across her cheek and upper lip, and then…
( no! )
With a ‘thuzz’, it crawled up into her left nostril. She could hear, feel and taste every step it took, crawling, creeping and tickling all the way. She screamed, coughed, gagged and choked, but not a single muscle obeyed her mind. Somehow, her body was no longer hers.
A wave flooded over her mind, and she fell into the deep alien pool of the shell’s vast memory. She ‘knew’ what was happening. It was all too clear.
Another fly thuzzed into her nostril.
In the infinite alien memory, she saw and understood that the multitude of ‘flies’ covering her body and face, were the shell’s male ‘drones’.
More drones crept into her nose and open mouth. The taste of dry sulpher tripled down her throat. Her ears roared deafeningly as drones tangled in her hair, and poured through every accessible part of her body, nestling in the warmth of her internal cavities. Her body, instead of rejecting the plague of degrading drones, seemed to make every effort to accommodate them.
Jan knew that her shell-creature and it’s ambitions were grossly inhuman, but still couldn’t help feeling awed at its impossible memory and mental control.
Somehow her mind had been tapped into an infinite pool of alien ancestry.
To conceal herself from the ugliness of her present situation, she submerged herself in her captors memory, and descended into the chasm of watery images. Remembering them, living them, memory after memory, life after life, generation after generation, and parent after parent’s strange experiences, lay one inside the other, waiting to be recalled.
On returning to her senses, Jan found herself dressed in her cowl neck sweater, tweed skirt and knee high boots.
Familiar names flashed past her eyes as the pages of her address book flipped over in her hand. Her eyes stopped and came to rest on one name, ‘Peter Strong’.
Chapter Two: Peter Strong