What’s up, beautiful earthlings?
It’s nice being human, isn’t it? Cable TV, I-Pads, Gaming systems, gourmet cuisine, 2-hour parking meters, (well, maybe not that last one…) — we’re living the life people!
But, you know, sometimes I do wonder if maybe somewhere, someplace out there, somebody has it better than us. The grass is always greener after all… unless it’s purple. Which is always a possibility. Anyway, as you might’ve already guessed, this week’s short was inspired by my curiosity of the happenings on other worlds.
Blame it all on my love of Anime and Comics, and my happenstance stumbling across a battle between two of my favorite Aliens: Goku and Superman. Whether or not you’re familiar with these two Alien POWERHOUSES, watch that 3-minute flip-book video. The work it took to fill in all those pages alone will surely have you in awe, ready to create something amazing yourself.
No more set-up…
Let’s do this!
It would have been Christmas morning. The trip seemed apropos. Rather than unwrapping some useless tchotchke, he’d be unwrapping one of the greatest mysteries of all time. How he now longed for the Yule-Log and Egg-Nog…
Using his foot for leverage against what could only be loosely described as a throat, Seward wrenched the dull end of the exploration pickaxe from the well armored gut of the malodorous Fish-Man. A sickly sucking noise erupted forth, followed by a jet stream of hot and green hued blood which coated his bare arm, as the flat, battle-worn edge of the instrument was freed at once. For a grim moment his heart sank to his stomach, as it seemed he’d lose his purchase on the icy terrain from the effort, but his government issue, “Sure-Grip Space-Boots”, and their, “Guaranteed Never-Slip, Stabili-Grip”, here proved their namesake. Now, standing tall, slinging his makeshift weapon over his shoulder, he heaved his first easy, non panic-stricken breath in over two days. Finally, the onslaught seemed to be over. The air was still.
Gazing out across the vast, bleak tundra of Europa, partially blinded by the heliographing floodlights of their distant ship filtering in through the ubiquitous forest of ice forged stalagmites, Steward was taken aback, momentarily, by the ineffable beauty that was this forlorn world’s sole and defining feature. Rather, the ice pillars had been the trademark of this peculiar moon… that is before he and his team had effected their influence. Now lying under the radioactively clouded war-torn sky, amidst shattered and splintered pillars of ice, countless bodies littered the vista, Human and Fish-Man alike, distracting the eye from a preferred view. Impaled and inert bodies, strewn everywhere a gaze was tossed, tainted this once breathless landscape absolute, staining the pure, transparent ice, both green and red — as if some mass murderer’s perverted dream of a blessed Christmas.
Shaking his head for the loss of his comrades, Seward took silent stock of all that had gone down over the past three days… while absent-mindedly scrutinizing the calcified mayhem at hand. Their aims had been pure enough, a simple mission of, “look-see and report back” which promised to send him to a world he’d only dreamed of since he was but a boy. And, being he was a member of the scientific expedition, (Note: decidedly not some government mercenary muscle for hire), personally of this purity of cause there could be no doubt. Though were he being honest, the primitive, oddly human creatures all around — mostly dead (one, of a pickaxe to the gut), the rest gasping and writhing pathetically, trying to suck air through dying gills on what would be our ribs, were the only ones who could truly steak claim over this barren place — this distant moon of Jupiter, Europa: the ice planet of legend.
Suddenly contemplative of the morality of it all, he shifted his gaze skyward, finding himself quickly lost in thought, staring into the ever-changing, undulating and tempestuous Great Red Spot. Once more he was reminded of the eternally burning Yule-Log, and his home. It seemed so near… absently he reached out to touch it… and promptly scoffed in ire at himself, shaking his head at the sheer frivolity of the act.
They were the villains here, not the Aliens, he decided. Hastily he amended his logic. The true aliens were at fault here, us humans, not the denizens of this oceanic world, abhorrent as they my be. No, the citizens of this planet had done nothing wrong but protect their only home. Meanwhile Captain Malrick, leader of the government grunts sent along ‘for protection’, who lay slain within pissing distance from where he now stood — skewered like a suckling pig on a tall ice spike — just may have been wrong in giving the order to fire in the first place. Perhaps their arrival, cinematic as erupting through the dense ice in a dazzling flourish of air-born acrobatisim may be, and frightening too, was born more-so of curiosity than aggression. Hell, he mused, maybe the sentiment was neither of these human emotions. Perhaps what had brought the life of this world topside was an entirely novel emotion to him and his kind altogether. He was reminded of how little they actually knew, (rather, “he“, as he was now the sole survivor), about the life-forms of this world. They could’ve learned so much from us, he thought, we could’ve shared so many things, helped to evolve their culture, and, in time, branched out together into a new and shared race… But instead this Christmastime Rorschach was splayed out before him.
Well, no matter, he thought, his wits returning to him at last. Though a scene of ineffably devastating tragedy was presently on display, he was still the sole survivor of this ill-fated expedition and had a duty to return to the base at Ursa Minor. Reports needed filing, explanations given, and, perchance some motes of wisdom could be gleaned through classification, he’d sure love to be the man who’d done it. Medals are given for acts of survival such as this, he promised himself. Briefly he pictured living out his long remaining days a local celebrity — a planetesimal to call his own, with throngs of female visitors to keep the booze flowing and the partying non-stop for all of time to come. He’d had enough of space. It was bloody cold. Time to get a move on.
Ambling past the stained, towering crimson and clover peaks of perpetual ice, growing taller and denser as he approached the distant ship, Seward incrementally made his way toward his lone salvation — weaving a blind path and occasionally backtracking as dead ends were met — all while eying down an uncannily tiny, and heavily wounded Fish-Man at the periphery of the devastation. That’ll make the panties plenty wet back home, he assured himself, through an ever-deepening spine rattling shiver. A real live Fish-Man, in the flesh, or, rather… Scales, on one of our operating tables — or, better yet, in one of our Zoo’s. He could just picture the droves of women barging down his door. The War Hero, Seward the Fearless, returned home with the greatest prize of all — Alien life. Mankind’s dream since he first stared up at the cosmos, and knew them for what they were.
As when the brilliance of light from a destination star overtakes the meager cabin luminosity within a ship on final approach to a target system, filling your heart with excitement and hope after so much time spent in a pitiless void, Steward felt a familiar, palpable sense of relief, and, (at least he thought), warmth, as he could now spy his destination up ahead. The clearing was partially visible through gaps in the massive clear spires of solid standing water, and he was nearly at the smoothed patch of ice they’d scorched from space, (posited upon the densest swath of ice their radar could detect, ensuring a safe, secure landing), while still dragging his putrid prize by the calf, the bedraggled, more than half-dead Fish-Man, clutching it just above the sharp and serrated fin that jutted off the back of its heel, threatening to slice him open at the slightest graze — when the ground began to tremor.
It was a mild vibration at first, a mere constant hum which reverberated all around but posed no real threat to his gait, and so he forged on ahead. Soon though, the eerily menacing, steady throng of jittery underfoot movement was joined by bouts of violent seizures — loud and heavy drums that lifted him and his catch from the ground as they struck — each strike increasing in intensity and frequency. The fifth ardent rumble proved to be too much, and effectively stole his, “Sure-Grip Space-Boots”, guaranteed purchase from their assured place on the icy Terra. Knocked from his feet, Steward landed squarely on the back of the Fish-Man he’d been dragging along, and sliced a sizable gash into his right tricept where the creatures back-fin merely glanced his numbed flesh. The Fish-Man, air pressed forcibly from its form, exhaled a long, sad, wheezy whinny under the force of Seward’s sizable mass, lasting a sickeningly prolonged few moments. What followed — as Stewards eyes danced frantically across the whitewashed world in search of a threat, as his arm freely bled and as his heart attempted to flee his body via his throat — was complete and utter silence and stillness… that is, all up until he heard the massive, echoing crack from up above.
Redolent to look, instinctively fearful, he clapped his eyes shut, cast down his head — and was promptly struck on the back of his skull by something cold and firm. Apprehensively, he opened his eyes, peeking past his interwoven eyelashes to find a small chunk of roundish ice coming to a rest… and rapidly growing shadow around his form. Cracking his head skyward, he easily found what was casting the shade, the two-story broken tip of an unusually wide ice spike, presently tumbling downward, ricocheting off nearby spires, and threatening to land squarely where he was, promising to permanently stamp his form into the permafrost.
He dove for the clearing, thoughtlessly abandoning in an instant his aspirations for fame and fortune, leaving the Fish-Man behind. The titanic chunk of frozen matter slammed hard into the ground, flattening the Fish-Man’s lifeless form, where he’d only just been, and piercing the thick shell of the Moons surface — rippling spindly, wandering hairline fractures outward from its epicenter which ran and stretched throughout the clearing, creeping throughout the ground beneath his waiting ship. Feeling his welcome in this world had long been exhausted, Steward redoubled his efforts to reach his vessel — springing to his feet and sprinting with vigor, using energy reserves he was sure he’d exhausted at least a day ago.
Then something curious began to happen. As he struggled not to slip while running across the slick ice, his ship started to sink below the horizon. Rather, the ship remained as it was, but the ground before him seemed to… rise… blocking his view and creating the illusion that the ship was hastily descending. The effect was odd indeed, and as his mind worked out the arithmetic his, “Sure-Grip Space-Boots”, offered up the best possible explanation that could be had — by losing their grip on the surface. The ground had shifted.
Before he knew it his body had turned and was in an untempered slide, and all at once the grim truth of his predicament was evident — the fragmented end of the ice float, upon which he was just running, was being weighed down by the fallen Ice spire, creating a onetime luge that ended in his hypothermic death if he plunged into the bitter, icy waters below.
Breathlessly, he wished he would have kept the pickaxe…
…but instead he’d ditched it to take the Fish-Man.
He might’ve even reached the ship in time.
He plunged into the bitter, icy waters below.
It was warmer than he thought in the embrace of the ocean, but then again maybe that was the hypothermia kicking in. His lungs burned for lack of air, and, though he was adept at swimming, his experting motions were tantamount to childlike flailing, as he could do nothing to counteract the pull of suction created by the still sinking, enormous ice spire. Before long, he just gave in. He was too tired, too hungry, and too hopeless to do anything more. Accepting his fate quickly brought a certain stillness to his heart, and he was finally able to appreciate his surroundings. There, not but ten yards away, was the flattened body of the Fish-Man who he’d planned to bring with him home, impressively intact for something that had just had its corporeal form reduced to two dimensions, he thought absently.
Then, as if reading his thoughts, the body of the Fish-Man… re-inflated. At once, like a switch had been flipped, the body that had been descending as would an unperturbed sheet of free-falling paper retook its previous dimensions. Agape, Steward gawked, not lost to the truth that this amazing transformation would ultimately prove inconsequential were he to die, intensely curious as to the mechanism of their physiology that could achieve this, and wishing he were in a warm, dry lab, able to study it.
You will not perish, came the odd, phlegm born voice at his rear.
Thoroughly surprised, though turning completely without fear, (a combination of emotions only the delirium reached in the throes of certain death can allow one to achieve), Seward found a large Fish-Man hovering just ahead in the distance. Had it really spoke, or was this merely something his dying mind had manifest? The broad palms of his clawed, three-fingered hands rested at his hips, turning the flattened, hammer like butts of his elbows out to the side, giving his silhouette the impression of some queer undersea superhero. Perhaps he was. Innate matters such as this, floated through his mind now. Seward knew he was very near to death.
“It was never our intention to engage you in combat”, the voice continued as Seward’s consciousness began to flicker, “Your odds of success were non-existent from the start. Look behind you.”
Mildly agitated at the demanding nature of the pompous hero, but without much more on his agenda that he could presently recall — which seemed odd… hadn’t he a bris to rush off to? — Seward casually flipped around. The reanimated body of the Fish-Man at his rear was vomiting luminance. Then, differentiating into individual beads, (beads, he imagined, that could fetch a pretty penny at the Ursa bazarr back home), the bits of shape-shifting puke then swirled around its body, creating a blanketing vortex of light which obfuscated its form from view.
“Bioluminescent phytoplankton“, the Fish-Man superhero, ‘Captain of the Sea’ continued from both behind him, and amidst another galaxy.
Seward idly wondered if these plankton were used in any intriguing, fishy-fish sexual acts. For a brief lucid moment, he wondered if his mind were unraveling, and then thought, nah. Grilled cheese. Then, the eyes of the once flattened and dead Fish-Man fluttered open, again revealing the horizontal slit pupils that had initially terrified him so. Now they made him crave pizza… or a nap… he couldn’t be sure which but his struggling brain insisted that it was time for repose. Fine, you cheeky monkey, he thought, you win this round.
“We have a symbiotic relationship — they are healing him”, came the voice from the heavens, and Seward wondered if it were God himself. “See, we know you creatures came from beyond the solid substrate. Meaning you’d arrived by traveling through the black waters where we cannot swim. A feat such as this must have pitted your opinion of us into the primitive. That, we are not. We have a highly evolved, complimentary ecosystem. Everything has a purpose, everything is incorporated into the whole, nothing is wasted or ignored.” And, just when Seward could not help but to reminisce about his first memory in life, (hiding a pair of shame and shit filled underwear in a crack in his bedroom wall, something that earned him the worst spanking of his young life when found out for the stench) the voice of God said one thing more. “Even you will have a reason to exist”.
That’s when everything went black.
Seward awoke in a bolt to the sound of a loud thud, and fell flat on his face as he tried to push himself upright on an arm which simply wasn’t there. He glanced down to find a black stump jutting off his shoulder where his right arm once was. Frostbite, the gash in my arm, he mentally intuited, impressing himself at the lucidity of the connection. Using his left palm now, he pressed away at the hard floor, and sat up on the floor of a cage. Fish-Men of all sizes and shapes ambled past, smiling wildly, while some now were stopping at the clear wall of his confines, pointing emphatically at something to his side. Turning, he saw a package on the ground, neatly wrapped in seaweed. Up above, on a ceiling far too high form him to ever reach, a latch fastened shut.
Hastily he unwrapped the package, discovering inside three tiny, cured squid.
Some Christmas, he thought morosely.
Finding a corner of his clear cage, Seward sat with his elbows to his knees and bit deeply into the bland meat that his captors had provided him. The children of the crowd giggled, and tugged at their mothers fins. Clearly he would be the talk of the town. He’d become a celebrity after all…
Poor Seward, he was only doing what he was told. Perception can be a bitch, eh?
Anyway, come back in a week and you may find this story edited some more. I’m man enough to admit that I may have rushed the ending, Christmas activities are calling and I’ve yet to buy a single gift.
(I know, I know, I’m a horrible person. You try to find time to shop with 80 hour work-weeks! At least i gave Seward a present! Wasn’t that nice?)
Hope you all enjoyed visiting another planet today,
Europa’s very real, and AWESOME — now go learn about it!
Be well, and go create something for fark’s sake, wont ya?