My attempt at a surrealistic sci-fi horror short. . Needs reworking. Some gore.
|Dan loved the sounds of the ship's engines humming on autopilot as the ship careened through the expanse. The hull slightly creaked under the weight of the vastness of outer space. It only added to the orchestral symphony of creaks, hums, and clanks of the old ship. A distant noise punctured that delightful symphony and gave him a momentary pause. Was it a drip? He’d heard it once before.
“You hear that?” he asked June, his copilot.
“I don’t hear anything.”
“Hmm. Oh well.”
He went back to double-checking the calculations for the coordinates before making an announcement over the loudspeakers.
“All right, team. We’re about to head into the warp tunnel. This is none of y’all’s first time, so you know the drill.”
June leaned forward over the back of the chair and typed one last adjustment. A small silver cross escaped underneath her jacket and dangled in front of him.
“Hey, been meaning to ask. Why do you wear that?”
“Oh I don’t know. Just something my dad gave me when I enlisted, years ago. It helps. Reminds me of my dad when I get lonely, and reminds me of my God when I get weary. It mean anything to you?”
Dan began slowly pushing down on the throttle in front of him, and the sea of stars began to blur as the ship jumped into the warp tunnel.
“Nah, not really,” he said. They were both pushed into the back of their seats as the ship continued to climb to the desired warp speed. “My parents were really big into it and stuff, but it never did anything for me.”
The warp evened out and the two leaned forward in their seats.
“Why did you ask?”
“No reason. Just makin’ small talk,” he said. They both studied their consoles, looking for any errors that could have risen from entering the warp tunnel.
“Trajectory is good. Hull integrity is at near maximum. We’re looking good, Cap.”
Another voice came over the intercom. “Congrats on another successful entry into the warp, Captain. We’re going to celebrate it by drinking most of the whiskey in the mess hall, if you want to join.”
“Hey, I’m gonna join them. Come on over when you’re done.”
“Oh ok. I’ll meet you there.”
He heard the dripping sound again. She was an old ship after all, and old ships leak. After ensuring the ship was on the correct path, he worked his way down long corridors and dimly lit passages toward the rest of his small crew.
“Glad you could join us, Cap,” Melissa said as Dan walked in the small dining facility. June was perched atop a cabinet with a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a glass in the other. At a nearby table, food, drinks, and conversations between the crew were shared.
“I’ll have what she’s having,” Dan said, pointing at June as he took a seat with the rest of the crew, one of whom poured a glass and slid it to him. He took a sip before explaining, “Course is set. Gonna take us about a year to get there with the load - give or take a day or two. We’ll wake up from cryosleep four times: one week at a time every three months until arrival.”
“Oh Joy! That’ll be good for our bodies,” June mockingly said between sips.
“About as good as all that liquor will do to you,” said Melissa, clearly the most fit person in the room.
“Well it’s doing wonders for me,” June said. In fact, I find most of you attractive right now.”
“What about me?” Asked one of the more seasoned-looking engineers.
“If you have to ask, then you already know the answer,” she said with a wry smile.
Dan’s grin widened. She was his type: smart, fit, brunette, sweet but with a tinge of sarcasm - and more pronounced when she had a few. A year with her wouldn’t be too bad he thought. The crew finished their meal and traded stories about previous ventures aboard various ships. One sailed aboard the U.S.S. Ryan during the First Mars conflict. Another served on its sister ship, the U.S.S. Host. The two promptly compared battle scars, attempting to outdo one another’s deformities from war. The remaining, including June, were similar: trading ships, interstellar cruise liners, any ship they could get hired on. They all had it in common: the love of space.
“So, what does everyone think about-”
“Wait! Hold on. Do you hear that?”
“Hear what?” Bill said, a little upset at being interjected by a tipsy woman. “I don’t hear anything.”
“There! That dripping sound. It’s like it’s coming from the cargo bay.”
Soon everyone else heard it: a slow, steady, stream dripping onto the steel floor.
“I’ll go check it out,” Dan said. It was the same he’d heard before, only more pronounced.
“One of the sleepers probably woke and’s taking a pee,” Bill said with a spiteful laugh.
“Oh please no! The last thing I want is to talk to one of those people,” June said.
“Hah, June doesn’t like dealing with rich old snobs. Imagine that.”
“So? They get to pack up everything and move off a dying planet, leaving the rest to fend for ourselves. That’s not right.”
“Then why do you help transport them?”
“I needed the money.”
“Hey, don’t pick on her too much,”Dan said.
“Or else you’ll come back and give me a stern talking to?” Bill laughed again; his third glass of whiskey doing the talking for him.
He fumbled along each wall, now feeling the effects of the alcohol. The dripping was more pronounced the closer he walked. What was that noise? He walked up to the door and looked through the glass slit into the bay. Nothing.
The door creaked open and he stepped in and a light flickered on, casting a soft blue hue over the 100 people sleeping in rows tucked safely away in their stainless steel pods. He was met with freezing temperatures and a low hum of the cooler working, which sounded much like a voice whispering in his ear. He saw something in the rear corner.
As he walked closer the dripping began again. He began to walk, trepidation in his steps. He pulled out his grandfather’s k-bar from its sheath. The glass was cracked and frost had seeped into the pod. It was empty. A creak behind him. He turned, his knife at the ready. June screamed.
“Oh! I could have killed you, June!” Dan said. He wiped his knife clean and sheathed it. He heard a loud thump hit the ground. “What was that?”
“I don’t know.”
He looked up and saw a body in the vents above the pod, her neck was slit open and blood was slowly dripping from the grate onto the floor. “Ah!” He dropped his flashlight and ran and stumbled back to the mess hall through more long hallways.
As he was returning the dripping started again except slower. And this time from the dining facility.
“One of the sleepers was murdered!” His mouth fell agape when he looked in. “What are you doing?!”
“Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!” In unison the crew were hitting the table with their fists and crying out at him. The table seemed to him more rubber than steel, as it bent back and forth with each pound. They looked at Dan, motionless except for their pounding fists; their bones cracking, splintering, and piercing their skin with each boisterous pound.
“What is going on?!”
He hadn’t noticed June walk up beside him. She whispered softly in his ear, “This is where you wake up, Cap.”
Dan woke shivering. That wasn’t how it happened; he knew the truth.
* * *
The dripping always started at night. It was quiet. How much time had passed? Ten days before we reach port. Most of the functions were automated and set to low - enough to support only one pilot. He sat up in bed and breathed deep to calm his heart. His legs hung over the side of his bunk and braced for the two-foot drop.
He could hear the whispers and yells from outside his door.
The mirror didn’t lie; he was exhausted. The whites of his eyes looked like maps of continents on earth, the red cutting like tributaries and rivers converging into his deep blue pupils.
“What are you still doing here, Cap? Come to my bed.” He saw her from the mirror, leaning in his doorway. It was June but not really. She was blue, cold, and dead.
“Why do you torment me?”
“Why do you think?” Her voice was different. And when Dan looked into the mirror, he could tell why. “Am I still beautiful?” Her face was now even bluer, and a large gash in her neck began to form; and her blood began to drip onto the floor.
“Oh you’re no fun. Not like you once were.” She walked closer to him. He could feel the soft touch of her hand on his weary face. “Come to bed. It’ll all be over soon.”
Dan began reciting prayers his father taught him as a child. June got angrier with each word.
“I’ll leave. But I’ll be waiting for when you give in. I know you, I know your kind. You’ll give in eventually. You did before, remember?”
“I said get out!” he punched the reflection in the mirror where she stood and the cracks quickly filled with blood from his knuckles. A medical droid down the hall hummed to life and rendered aid to his wounded hand.
In as sincere a tone as an automated droid could give, “This is the third time this week you have inflicted self-harm, Dan. Unfortunately, this is going on your record.”
“I’m sorry, Sam. Won’t happen again.”
“That’s what you said last time.”
“Well, this time I mean it.”
“You said that, too.”
“Get out, Sam.”
The droid whirred back around and into position in a perch along the corridor wall and shut down.
* * *
The cockpit was the only place on the ship he felt alone; the only place he felt safe. The course was still set - three months to go until they reached destination. Wait, this says I should be there already. Scenarios went through his mind constantly. What would he tell port authority? Who would believe him?
Dan’s thoughts were interrupted by a red flashing light on his control panel. He flicked the screen with his finger and opened a message - it was a distress signal from a nearby ship. “What should we do, Darlene?” A female automated voice replied, “According to Starcode 8-4001.01, ‘all transportation spacecraft shall stop and render aid when able, or face stiff penalties, including prison and in extreme and rare cases: death.’ It is your choice, Captain.”
His hand hovered over the accept button for several moments as he considered the implications of allowing unsuspecting people onto his ship.
“Don’t let them in. Don’t. Let. Them. In.”
“If you let them in then I’ll hurt her more,” this time the voice was louder, behind him. It was her.
“June,” he whimpered involuntarily. “I-I can’t.”
She smiled. “I know you can. Because you can’t stand to watch me die again.”
* * *
The red flashing alarm woke him from the cockpit chair. It was a distress signal from a nearby ship.
“Remember,” came a whisper in his ear. Dan’s hand reluctantly flicked the screen and listened to the distress signal play.
“Let us onboard, please. We won’t ask you again.” the message kept repeating.
He pressed accept on the message and sent an encoded reply telling them he would be on his way. It should take a day or two. He would like to hear human voices again.
“I’m sorry, June.”
She then pulled out a knife and jammed it through her neck and fell onto the floor. He heard a loud thump. He began to cry.
* * *
“Hey Dan,” A hand touched his shoulder.
“I don’t know what you’re trying to do, but I’m not playing your game,” Dan said from his cockpit.
“What game? What are you talking about, Dan?” Bill was visibly upset.
What did I miss?
“Oh, um sorry. I just - there was a distress signal and I responded.” He looked back at the controls. Three months till port. No records of distress.
“Come on, man! We don’t need to bring anyone else on board. Not when one of us is a killer!”
“All right? Ok, I’ll gather the rest and we’ll meet in the mess hall.”
“I need to check the cargo bay again.”
“Come back soon. We need to get to the bottom of this,” he said. “I die next, remember?”
“Wait, what’d you say?”
“I said we need to get to the bottom of this,” Bill said, annoyed. “Man, you aren’t right; the crew can tell. We still have three months till we port. Get it together and meet us there.”
Dan walked in the cargo bay and looked at the pod. This time the body was frozen on the floor.
“She has to show you something,” the frozen body told him. The ice cracked the skin as the head turned, leaving part of the cold blue face frozen to the floor. For some reason he trusted it. He turned and saw something in the doorway. It was her.
“Follow me, Dan. You can’t let them turn against you. I’ll take you to when they first started to turn against you,” June said. It can’t be her. But if it could, shouldn’t I listen? He was lonely though, and missed her.
He turned and followed her back to the mess hall. “Shh, listen.”
He could hear the conversation going among the other members of the crew.
“Something’s not right with Dan. Am I the only one who can tell?” Bill told the crew.
Where was June?
“No. No, I can tell it too. He’s been talking to himself a lot. I overheard him earlier, crying about June,” she said as she motioned toward where June normally sat.
“I did, too,” Bill said. “Just now. He was in the cockpit for hours, mumbling to himself about something possessing us; and it had to be stopped.”
“Listen to them, Dan. Arguing, bickering, turning against you,” June said. “You have to assure them. You can’t let him turn us against you. You can’t let us die again, Dan,” she said and embraced him.
“Hey Dan, come in,” Melissa said. The room went quiet.
“Hey crew. I know the past few days have been tense but if we can hold on long enough to make it to port, we’ll be all right.”
“What we need to do is focus on finding the killer, Dan!” Bill said.
“I don’t know how it happened. Benjamin checked the security tapes.”
“And?” Melissa interjected.
“And they’re no good. They were nothing but static,” Ben said.
“And that means?” Melissa said, annoyance in her voice.
“It means they were definitely tampered with,” Benjamin replied.
“Can we tell when it happened?”
“Yes. I looked through the logs,” Benjamin said, pausing for a moment. “It happened at 1900.”
“What happened then?” Dan asked.
“Dan. We were all here in the mess hall by then. The only one not accounted for… was you.”
The crew turned and looked at Dan with unease.
“What were you doing, Dan?” Melissa asked. “What were you doing, Dan?!” More cries than words came out, but Dan understood. They all understood.
“The security tapes will show I was at the cockpit.”
“It would, but that one’s static, too.”
“Then what about the body?”
“Dan, there was no body. Only-”
“NO! There was, is a body on the floor!”
The dripping began in the cargo bay.
She leaned in and whispered in his ear
“Dan, you’re losing them.” He calmed himself.
“Then how can I prove I didn’t do it?”
“I don’t know,” Benjamin replied. “But until you can, you need to be locked up until we can.”
The dripping grew louder.
“No, no, no, no, I’m the captain! I need to pilot the ship!” Dan pressed his palms over his eyelids in frustration.
He removed his hands from his face and they were gone. He blinked and only two returned. June and Benjamin; only different. He shook his head and they all reappeared, except June.
Melissa stood and trepidly walked closer to Dan.
“Please, Dan. Please. If you want to earn our trust. Just for a few days.”
His urge was to say yes, but saw June shake her head.
“I-I can’t let that happen. But, Melissa, you know me. How many transports have been on? You’ve known me for years.”
A few moments passed as Dan waited for a reply. Then she did. “Well then what can we do?”
The remaining crew looked around not knowing the answer.
“Someone stay with me. You can keep me under 24-hour watch. But please, don’t lock me up.”
“All right we’ll take a vote. Dan, step outside. I want this to be as fair as possible.”
“Okay. I agree.”
He stepped out of the room and waited.
Inside the room the seven debated and argued then voted. “All in favor of locking him up?” Benjamin, and Bill raised their hands. “And all in favor of keeping him under watch?” Four raised their hands: Melissa, Dave, Bryan, Jared, and June.
Dan raced back in when he heard the yell.
“No! He has to be locked up!” Benjamin said. “He’s too dangerous, can’t you tell? He’ll kill us all!” If Benjamin’s finger was a knife it would have stabbed right through Dan’s chest. Even so, Dan could feel his chest bruising as Benjamin dug his finger into it, accusing him of murder.
The rest pulled him from Dan and attempted in vain to calm him. He broke free and lunged at him, crying out “Murderer! You killed her!”
“No!” Dan raised his arms to protect himself but no blow landed. He lowered his arms and they disappeared. The room had aged. He felt his face - his beard had returned. He blinked and saw a body standing before him. It was Bill.
“I’m sorry I didn’t believe you, Dan. Please forgive me,” Bill said. “Don’t trust anyone, especially Benjamin. He will kill you. They will all kill you.”
The tendons stretched and tore as Bill’s body slumped from his neck and thumped in a bloody mess onto the cold, stainless steel floor; but his head remained floating, still speaking warnings to Dan. “Stop it. Stop it before it’s too late.” His head returned to the rest of his bloody frame on the floor.
The dripping began again and quickly ramped up into a downpour.
Then, as if a gulf tore through the hull, the body dissolved and blew away like dust in the wind.
* * *
He stood languidly leaning his frame against the entryway to the mess hall. The events left him exhausted, hungry, and confused; and something else he wasn’t sure of entirely. The trip was a blur between reality and immaterial. Melissa saw him down the adjacent corridor and hurried to him. “Dan. Dan!” He was relieved to hear another’s voice.
“Oh Melissa! What’s been happening? Where is everyone?”
“You were right, Dan. You were right all along.”
“It wasn’t you. It was some thing - some demon as you told us.”
Dan remembered. The demon had stalked and killed June and Bill.The demon had stalked and kill. Ripped his head from his body and taunted the crew with it.
“H-how do we stop it?”
“I don’t know. We’re meeting up in the sick bay. I was sent to find you and bring you back so we can discuss a way to end this. Benjamin thinks he knows a way.”
Dan followed her as they walked through the corridors and up the steep stairwell toward the sick bay. He allowed himself to enjoy this moment with another person..
“It’s in here,” she said as she pointed inside a dark room. Dan stepped in and behind him the door locked shut.
“What are you doing?!” a voice coming from within him yelled.
“It’s for your own good, Dan!” she said, crying. “Something’s wrong with you. We found the real security tapes. They show what you did.”
She pressed a few buttons on a pad on her forearm and a projector screen showed on the wall in the room where he was locked.
He looked into the past. He saw one man running down a hallway, Bill; another frantically chasing him. It was Dan. The first ran and tripped and ran and tripped, until he got his head stuck in a cranny. The other man kept running. He tackled him to the ground, and his head ripped from the rest of his frame.
“Something is wrong with you, Dan. You’re sick.”
“No, no, no!”
The next one he couldn’t bear to watch. His memory was returning. It was the beginning; what drove him into his dark descent.
He saw a man walk into the cargo bay and pull out a knife. He walked slowly to a pod. A few seconds later a woman stepped in and came in behind him. She tripped on something. Startled, he turned and swung his knife. It cut across her neck. Horrified, wiped it off and placed it back in its sheath. Her blood quickly cooled, and dripped slowly from the steel grating.
“But what about that body?” Dan said, crying. “The body was still there. Someone killed that woman in the pod.”
“There was no body in that pod, Dan. There was one hidden in the vents above. But what we can’t figure out is her head was cut in two from top to bottom. It looked like you pulled something from her head. Why? Why did you do it?”
“I- I don’t know,” he said through tears.
“We’ll find out when we get to port in two days,” Benjamin said, as he pressed buttons outside the door. A few seconds after, green mist began filling the room where Dan stood. “It’ll put you out for a while.”
A wave of remembrance washed over him. He knew who did it, who was responsible.
“If a part of you is still in there. June made it. She’s still alive.” Benjamin said. “Don’t worry, Dan. We’ll come in and make sure you don’t starve. Then you’ll get your justice when we land.”
June appeared before him. She looked normal. “Don’t listen to them, Dan. They are lying to you.”
“I want so very much for that to be you, June.”
“It is me, Dan.” She kissed him. It felt real. Not real enough.
“No, June. I know what you are. Get out of me, demon. There is no room for you in here.” She began laughing then pointed at his chest as she looked out at the crew. “Maybe not in here. But maybe out there.”
“No, Benjamin,” Dan said weakly. “Don’t come in.” He fell to the floor. “Don’t let it out.” He faded into blackness.
* * *
The ship sat in port for two days before port authority was able to get in. Two officers stepped in. The manifest showed 127 people were being transported, yet there was one missing. The pod had been broken. It looked like from the inside.
“I’m Sorry, June,” the two officers heard, followed by a man weeping. It sounded as if it was coming from the cockpit of the ship.
They walked through corridors and dimly lit passages, passing by a calligraphy of corpses. Each scanned as one of the crewmembers listed on the ship. Only two were not accounted for: the pilot and co-pilot.
The captain’s chair swiveled around and the two officers looked in horror as they saw a shell of a man, scars on his wrists and a gaunt face with bloodshot eyes looking back at them.
“What happened on this ship, Captain?” demanded one of them. “Did you kill your crew?”
“Only two. But there is one other. She is alive, locked away in the sick bay where it couldn’t get to her. I saved her. I couldn’t save the rest. It killed the rest.”
“What do you mean, it?”
“Don’t worry, it left. It had no one left to possess.”
Dan knew who was responsible, who had killed his crew, who guided his mind into madness. “God, forgive me, please.” He began crying again. “The devil made me do it.”
He heard footsteps approach.
“Dan.” It was a familiar voice.
He looked up. Her neck was wrapped in bandages and she looked tired, but he knew it was her.