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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Sci-fi · #2145537
Will she go home? Will she ever be free?
The icicles hanging from the eaves of my tiny shop were dripping like open faucets the next day, and delicate snowdrop flowers began to show themselves, peeking out from under the dirty snow. The living season was coming. With it came warmth and heat. Heat produced stronger odours from the animals, odours that I was having more and more trouble resisting.
Slowly the sun melted away great patches of the remaining snow, and more animals circulated on the village streets. Their sharp pungency was starting to drive me mad with hunger.

Then Sarah arrived alone.

She had obviously been walking fast, and I could smell the perspiration all over her skin. I was tempted to shed my human shell and just pounce on her and dine.
My species eats that way.
We thrive on a fresh kill, which is why there have been so many hunters from my kind here over the centuries. We kill and eat on the spot. We do not let the meat get stale. We devour the organs inside while they are still sizzling. Like the beating hearts. Our own appendages have sharp, spiky ridges that allow us to cut up the body of an animal sometimes before it even knows it is dead. Then we eat. I wanted to eat Sarah right then and there.

But there was something in the wide-eyed simplicity of her face that stopped me. I sensed there was some sort of subtle physical change about her. A certain roundness, a fleshiness that was making her almost irresistible, but once again I remembered my training and my mission.
If what I thought was true, she would be herded into a special storage space in the new husbandry scheme that my fellow species were planning for this sphere. After all, she was a breeder, and there would be millions of mouths to feed if the authorities and their plans were to take effect.

When I asked her where Lance was, she bowed her head, and I saw the sombre passage of a tear tracking down her cheek. She stammered something about Lance leaving her.
Then she blurted suddenly "My grandfather is dead. He was changing a tire and the hay truck fell on his chest."
I wondered why I had not heard news of this event. Damien Latters was one of the most prominent farmers in the community.
Sarah told me with dispassion that it had only just happened and that there would be no funeral. "My grandmother is going to burn him," she said without emotion. “Best thing for him.”
Sarah had other things to think about, and I got no further information about exactly how her grandmother was going to dispose of the body without attracting the attention of the authority’s which manage her species.
The news I did get was that Sarah's grandmother was going to lose the farm if she didn't make some payments soon. Damien had left no insurance or bank accounts. Sarah was upset that her grandmother had decided to send Sarah away to a convent in another village, the shame of Sarah’s condition was too much for her Grandmother.
I did not understand most of this as my species does not feel shame when we have offspring we feel glad that our genes will continue.

Sarah was still talking, and I realised she wanted me to hide her. She had been in the cellar, and now that the warmer weather was here, she thought she could hide out there until her grandmother either lost interest or died.
"Died?" I said, raising a human eyebrow.
"Lance was going to see to that but then he left me. He said he would make her fall off a ladder in the barn. That would stop her beating me with a rake"
"I see."

Actually, I did not see at all. My role was to remain detached from these creatures, and I felt I was getting further and further involved with their lives. Still, there was something overpowering about the scent that Sarah was emanating right now, something I had reported several times to my superiors, but to what end I do not know, as I have always been kept in the dark about their immediate plans or exactly how they use my information.

A small group of customers came into the shop, making the bells above the cluttered front door chime out what must have been a warning to Sarah, who darted behind the counter and hid herself.
The customers were village folk that I superficially knew.
They were looking through the stacks of old vinyl recordings trying to find something by a band named Jimmy and the Swingers.
I told them to keep looking because I had never catalogued the records, and, of course, I had no idea of who Jimmy or the Swingers were---and didn't care. I motioned for Sarah to crawl on her hands and knees unseen into the spare room.

I was forming a plan for Sarah in my mind, when one of the gaggle of middle aged patrons suddenly extracted a worn cardboard album from the stacks piled at random in the bins.
"I found them!!" shouted a guy with no hair.
"I found Jimmy and the Swingers!!"
The discovery elicited a great buzz of excitement from his companions, who passed the worn album with great satisfaction and reverence from hand to hand.
"Jimmy and the Swingers...Jimmy and the Swingers," they kept murmuring.
"How much?" shouted one lady whose hair was pinned in tight and wholly unattractive curls about her curiously shaped skull.
"It's Jimmy and the Swingers!! Do you remember them? No price is too high."
I took a hand full of paper money for the album, glancing at it briefly. Jimmy and the Swingers had guitars which they held up above their head and had slicked back, oily hair. In one of their mouths dangled a tobacco tube, some had eyes covered with blackened out spectacles.
With great pleasure and apparent fulfilment, the troop rattled out of the store, still purring about Jimmy and the Swingers. These animals, all of them, had a past. So much of it was unknown to me but nonetheless preserved in my store.

I found Sarah who was sitting on the floor in the back room. She cradled her head in her hands and seemed to be crying. For the first time, I felt sorry for her. Up until this point she had just been another specimen. For some reason now, she took on a personality of sorts.
Animals for food were not supposed to do that.
"You can stay in the cellar if you want," I said. "But first you have to tell me something."
"I don't know nothing," she sobbed. "I'm just a stupid girl. Lance said I was retarded."
"Are you with child?" I asked. And it turned out that she was. What that meant to me was that in a short time I might get some welcome relief from the tension and worry of my situation.
"Hide in the cellar," I said. "And try to be quiet."

As evening fell and I closed the shop, I put some cuts of pork into a pan and fried them on the stove. It was food for Sarah. I put it in the cellar, but I was not sure whether she ate it or not.

Outside the night shadows revealed huge muddy pools of melted snow. I was growing more ravenous by the moment. My assignment had lasted too long. What more information could I supply about the comings and goings of these creatures?
How much longer did I have to stay here and eat stale pieces of cow and pig carcasses?

Just as night fell and I was about to turn off the television in my room, Sarah came in unexpected. She was wearing only underwear and had come up to use my bathroom. Without warning, she entered my room and stripped off her bra and panties. Both had the rich fragrance of hormones which I longed to taste. She was lonely and wanted to sleep with me. "They say you like women, and people need sex," she said.
"I don't," I said. "Now get back downstairs before someone sees you."
"You're mean and an old witch," she said with a pout, pulling on her underwear.
Before she replaced the halter, which held her somewhat swollen breasts, I sniffed the air around her and sensed exactly what it was I wanted to sense.
Sarah returned to the cellar without another word.

Finally, some contact with my superiors.
Sunday. It is getting warmer every day, and there is sludge everywhere. People track it into my store. People carry it about on their boots. I checked the cellar and Sarah was not there. I have no idea where she went. Perhaps Lance came for her. That would, of course, ruin my plan. But no matter, so many plans had been ruined before.

On the doorknob of my shop a twisted flyer was attached with a rubber band. It was, I knew, some slight contact from those who had sent me. Inside the flyer, which sported ads for tilling equipment, was a narrow strip of a plastic substance, the name of which I do not know in any language on this forsaken sphere. For those of my kind, it was a communication device.
News from home---or at least what used to be home. I concealed myself inside the locked shop and rubbed the strip between my fingers, my human fingers. I wondered how long as the time is calculated here it had been since I had gotten any news.
A chirping sound sprang out from the material at once. My language, more like that of an insect they call crickets here, but still my language. I listened intently. My reports had been received and filed. Others were studying the situation. The colonization plan was still underway. My report seemed to tell them nothing that they had not heard from others, and I was briefly admonished for that. I was to remain longer. If I needed some real food, I was permitted to get some, providing I would not be caught. If I was caught, there was nothing they would do for me. I needed to be careful. I knew that already.
Go to the roads. Look for hitchhikers. It had been a long time since I had done that.
I threw down the message in disgust. No one would know what it was anyway. Just a cheap piece of scrap that made chirping noises if you rubbed it, a sound saying nothing from nowhere.

Locking the door behind me, I walked out into the obtrusive early spring sunshine. Immediately I was greeted by a woman in a floral house dress with paper twists rolled up in her thin hair. I knew her to be a customer but could not recall her name. "Zara," she said, addressing me with a kind of surprising familiarity. "I know you're closed Sundays, but I was wondering if I might come in and look for another album. We all enjoyed the one so much from yesterday."
"Jimmy and the Swingers?" I said.
"Yes!" she replied with more zeal that I usually discerned from these animals. Then I remembered something from my studies.
"Shouldn't you be in church," I asked sternly.
The overweight lady bowed her head and admitted that, yes, she should be in church and added that so should I. But she was determined to find her treasure, which was another Jimmy and the Swingers recording. "They made more than one, you know."
"I'm sure," I said dismissively. "Now if you will excuse me, I am indeed off to church. You can come back tomorrow."
"No one has ever seen you in church except once. And, besides, its Jimmy and the Swingers!!!"
She began to sing at me and I assumed that it was Jimmy’s songs she was warbling.

The woman was absolutely obsessed with Jimmy and the Swingers. Music. We don't care all that much for it where I come from. Nor do we care about church. I had only attended a local Baptist church once for my report. Once was enough I did not understand religion and wondered at creatures that would put faith in something so improbable.

I carried on down the street avoiding the mud puddles and remnants of snow piles until I reached Bridgeton's one and only cross roads. I noted in my mind that the village square was sign posted thusly as was the cross roads. Crazy, useless signs, this world is full of them. What a boring species.

To my right a little knot of people stood outside the Church, presumably waiting for the morning service to begin.
I nodded soberly to the group as I passed, and my gesture was returned by a few of them. Gaping bovine creatures, I thought. At least they taste good.

As I passed, I chanced to hear a mammoth farmer-type in faded coveralls and long green wellington boots say loud enough for me to hear: "That's Zara Mathews, the city folk who brought the antique shop. She's a lesbo they say. Someone ought to set that woman straight. If I was younger..."
But another voice interrupted the speaker and in reverend tones said that it was the same Zara who had sold them the music they so appreciated. "Jimmy and the Swingers," chimed several other voices almost in unison.

When the ranching starts, if it ever does, maybe we can corral them and keep them calm by playing a continuous medley of Jimmy and the Swingers. At least that would keep the older ones from stampeding or whatever they might do.

Farther down the road, the pavement gave way to a muddy trace grooved only by the tire tracks of what must have been many large farm vehicles.
I saw Dan coming up the road and realised I would have to have a conversation.
“Morning” I said flatly trying to keep walking, but Dan stopped me.
“You got any more of those records?” he asked, and I just knew what he meant.
“Jimmy and the Swingers?” I asked wearily
He nodded eagerly and took a swig from a flask of what smelled like whiskey.
I shrugged “Come to the shop tomorrow and have a look.”
“You got a lot of stuff in that shop that brings back a lot of memories”
"Like what?" I asked, trying to think of words that made a normal conversation.
"Like that funny doodad, I picked up the other day. I saw one of them exactly like it in Germany."
"Did you now?" I asked with slightly heightened curiosity.
"Yeah. The Germans used them to communicate with prisoners of war, you speak German into one end and English or French or whatever comes out of the other. They were way ahead of us on that."

I made a quick mental note that I needed to hide the instrument as soon as I got back to the shop. I had forgotten to do so after Paul's visit.
“You coming to church?” Dan asked
Shook my head sadly “No can do, just got word of a house clearance so I got get there before all the good stuff is gone.”
Dan nodded “Business is business; let me know if you find any more Jimmy.”

I tried not to walk too fast as I headed over the fields and towards the main roads. Hitch hikers were calling me, and I needed a fix.

The living season was upon the farm community of Bridgeton in its full glory, which could be dreadful for me as their poisonous plants were blooming everywhere, and the creatures seemed to be pushing them off on everyone.

Customers brought me tomatoes, beans, cucumbers and stalks of lethal corn. Roadside stands were full of toxic tree fruits like apples and peaches. The whole sphere around me was livid with the colours and smells of poison. How could a world so venomous produce creatures so tasty?
That had always been the question. How much was it worth our time to endure these lethal growing things and actually colonize and make a serious practice of human husbandry for our own nourishment?

I was starting by this month...June they call it....to wonder. I had been given a mission appropriate to my education and disposition, and I had dutifully recorded the habits, mores, routines and behaviours of the animals we sought to domesticate. But how much of what I actually submitted to the authorities was actually transcribed and read? Very little I started to think. Their feedback to me was growing shorter and shorter, and it mostly contained warnings about not exposing my assignment or myself to discovery and danger. I was starting to feel that I had been totally abandoned, and I longed to shed my human trappings and become myself again in a sphere that I could be comfortable in and understand. But no messages came forth.

No, I realized I had been forgotten here. I was alone and desolate.
And moreover, I was deteriorating mentally and physically. I needed the strength provided by proper food. I needed to eat hot entrails, not corpses. I needed to drink warm, flowing blood. Also, I needed the relief of intoxication. I needed it as much as Dan Broom needed his whiskey.

My depression over my abandonment and lack of value to my breed was becoming severe. I tended the antique shop with disinterest and watched the occasional comings and goings of Sarah Latters.

I say occasional because for days on end Sarah was absent from my cellar, where it seemed she only returned when she needed to hide. She would sit at night singing songs and I just knew they were from that hated Jimmy specimen.

She had told me her Gran was a fan.

I watched Sarah carefully knowing not only that she could get me into deep trouble but that I could go suddenly mad and just eat her, which would be a mistake, given the plan I had formulated.

I have no idea where Sarah went when she was not here.

There was no word about her in the village, and I feared that her rabid grandmother had succeeded in sending her to the rehabilitation place. But then she would appear again, forever bulging with new life. In her own animal way, Sarah was pretty.
As a specimen, she was well formed, and of course the males of her species knew this all too well.
Still, I harboured a certain repugnance for the entire race. The first thing a person in my role is taught is to not get too close to the beasts. Do not give them names. Well, these mortals already had names, and one was obliged to use them, another thing I was not fond of doing, though I had to admit that Sarah in her stupidity was starting to occupy a soft place in my emotions. This was a feeling I had to suppress.
Over the past several weeks, I have even begun to lose interest in this personal journal.

April 1: I ate a live cat today. It was horrible. I was sick afterwards.

April 17: The smell of Sarah is starting to seep up into the shop. I can smell her everywhere.

May 5: Some out-of-country tourists came into the shop today. They rummaged through the records for at least an hour. One of them found an empty album jacket for Jimmy and the Swingers. I am starting to loathe Jimmy.

May 22: Paul Jackson is back in the village. His smell is more overpowering than ever. I hope he never uses soap. I hunger for his flesh.

May 23: Paul Jackson dropped in to try to get me to encourage his advances. He left upset and called me frigid. I am unsure of this words meaning.

May 24: I can smell the succulent passage of Paul Jackson on the street even if he does not enter the shop.

I was, I guess, becoming obsessed with Paul Jackson.
I have heard nothing for weeks from the authorities. Maybe they have gone off to colonize another sphere. Maybe not.
I have been cast off and discarded by my own race. I am alone. I am hungry, and I may be dying or going crazy.

Paul showed me how he smoks yet another venomous weed that comes up out of their ghastly soil. It made him dopey and sleepy, and he liked that. I didn't care. I wanted to feast on him.

As ever, his scent was overpowering my will.

But now there is more to the story that I must write down, and my superiors must never see this.

Yesterday, it was raining, but I seemed to have more customers than usual. Some of them were village folk, others not. It doesn't matter. They rummaged through everything and I made a few sales. Why does the rain help my so-called business, and why do these animals cherish this old debris so much? These are questions that I probably will never be able to answer.

Anyway, they milled around in groups, digging through the bins. I watched them from behind the counter and tried to act interested. It is really their smells that interest me. The rain brings out a bouquet, the human bouquet, like nothing else. I try to ignore my urges.

Yesterday I failed.

It went like this.

A group of antique hunters had just worked over my store and were leaving. On the way out, a fat man in a striped t-shirt asked me if I had any old 33rpms of a band called Jimmy and the Swingers.

Goddamn Jimmy!!

I told him that I didn't know.
Whatever he saw was what I had.
I didn't keep a catalogue.
Then they all started digging around again for Jimmy and the Swingers.
Not finding Jimmy, they eventually filtered out of my store and back into the pelting summer rain.

About that time, Paul Jackson slid himself in. His stink was a strong as ever and started going to my head.
He looked at me squarely and said " Zara, I want you, if you won’t have me then I am going to make sure that everyone knows you are a lesbian."
"Everyone already thinks that anyway."
"I'll make it even worse, Zara. You with your dead fish eyes, I’ll tell them you’re a witch, they might burn you at the stake."

I ignored Paul as best I could, and he started digging around near the back of the store. In seconds, he had found what he apparently was looking for, and it wasn't Jimmy and the Swingers. It was, naturally, the funny rose-shaped, convoluted device he had first spied in the year's initial lunar cycle. How he found it again, I do not know. I thought that I had thrown it away.

He held the gadget in his hand in front of my amazed eyes. "I don't give a damn what this is," he smirked. "I saw the way you looked at me when I found it last January, the fear in your little eyes. So, I'm going to trade it for something I want. If you don't give in and cooperate with me, I'm going to walk out of here and take this weird bit of crap with me."

Fear entered my chest, momentarily extinguishing the desire I felt to eat him on the spot.
"Let me lock the door," I said, moving around to pull down the shade and secure the bolt. "But don't get that thing too close to your mouth, okay?"
"I'll put it in my mouth if I want to, who do you think you are telling me what to do?"
With determination, Paul stuck the fluted end up to his mouth. It was clear he had no idea what he was doing. But then he spun it around so that the shiny metallic screen on the other end nearly touched his lips.
"What do you really want from me and why? I don’t understand." I shouted.
Paul sneered and grabbed my arm.
“I live here, and I could have any woman in this village, married or not. But you ignore me, it frustrates me, I want you and I will have you!!"

But unfortunately, human words were lost to Paul now. He was doing the unthinkable. Without knowing it, he was speaking directly into the communication device and that is what it was, not a relic of this sphere, but something my distant predecessors had probably lost on a hunting expedition at some stage in the forgotten past. What came out the other end sounded like the chirping of an agonized bird combined with the desperate croaking of a million frogs.
Its jumbled tones were incomprehensible to Paul, but not to me, my language and the language of my sphere, beautiful and longed for.
It was also a direct translation of Paul's crazy words, and upon hearing these in my own tongue from a repellent animal on an orb that I loathed, I went temporarily insane and in a frenzy, I shed my human shell and fell upon him with all six of my appendages slashing and my suction probe drilling precisely into his beating heart.
I tore him limb from limb, sinew from bone and devoured everything on the spot.

When my feeding fury was finished, all that was left of Paul was some inedible genital parts and a stain of warm blood on the wooden floor of my shop, a stain which I lashed at with my mouth parts until it was rasped clean and the wood looked spotless and scrubbed.

The left-over parts I forced down the toilet in my quarters. As a species, we eat voraciously. It was nothing for me in my natural, non-human form to eat an entire animal, and Paul was the first I had had in many lunar cycles on this accursed sphere.
And so, Paul disappeared, rumours spread that he had run away with Sarah Latters.
I return to this episode now several days later.
No one has come seeking Paul, no relative or friend. I sated my hunger on his flesh. I violated every rule there is of my profession.
But I am replete.
I am satisfied.
The meat was good, and my strength and resolve to live have returned. It seems that is all that is left for me in this world is to find a good meal now and then.
And so that day passed.

Walking down the deserted street that evening, relishing the pleasing flavour the recent meal had left in my sense organs, I listened to a familiar group of raucous sounds coming out of the public house. It was a music that I almost felt that I liked that night.

Jimmy and the Swingers.

Paul was not my last.

I found two drifters while walking home from Dan's today. For some reason, I have started to like Dan's company and I have begun to visit him since he had a fall and is laid up with a bad appendage.

Before devouring the boy and his skinny girlfriend off in a ditch beside the highway, I had sat with Dan for several hours listening to snippets of his fragmented war stories.
He had killed a lot of his own kind.
He drank whiskey, rolled tobacco and played music.

We listened to another scratchy medley of hits from Jimmy and the Swingers.
Dan has almost worn out the record. I still fail to see what is so enchanting about this band's music, but I don't mind listening to it as much as I used to.

I got some news from Dan as well. Sarah Latters had once again been seen in village. I hoped she was heading for my cellar. It is nearly time to put my plan into action. Sarah has been away far too long, but it is the infant I am waiting for.

I am nearly ready to abandon the shop. I sent my last report back to my superiors yesterday.

There has been no reply so far.

Then just before I left, came some troubling news about Lance, who by now was sixteen and to my reckoning probably very edible but according to Dan, the teenager had suddenly gone completely "nuts" as they say here.

"He’s stole himself a gun from one of the farms and vowed to use it on anyone who would cross him," said Dan. "All of a sudden he wants to see Sarah and his baby when it arrives. Naturally, Sarah has been avoiding him. She can't go home anyway, but Lance has been seen lurking around her grandmother's place with his weapon. The old lady has called the police more than once."
"Wants to see his kid, huh?" I said showing some interest for my own sake. "How does he know the offspring is his?"
"Offspring? Is that some kind of fancy city word?"
"His kid. Is it really his?"
"Who knows and who cares? But I guess he thinks so. I ran him off from here, and I'm prepared just in case he comes back."
With this Dan patted a large machete.
The visit ended on a sour note, after I scoffed at the machete´s viability against a shotgun, and that is probably what prompted me to attack and consume the drifters I ran across on the road.
Frankly, I don't know.

The promise of all these plants dying in a few months and the dead season coming back is pushing me over the edge anyway. I realize now that my position is worthless to my superiors, and all I can think of is the thrill of eating fresh human meat. I have resolved to do it until I find another outlet for my depression...but that should be coming soon.

The next day brought a further surprise when my shop was suddenly visited by a man in uniform.
It was the Chief of police, a specimen who swaggered when he walked and was hung with pounds and pounds of law enforcement paraphernalia around his sizeable midsection.
He had a large pipe that always seemed to be dangling from his lip and spit gathered under the protruding object, it ran down his chin, but he never wiped it away.
He told me right off that he didn't trust me and that he suspected that I was hiding Sarah Latters.
He had, in fact, always suspected that, but now there was a reason to pursue his suspicion.

Sarah's grandmother, who in our whole conversation was never was given a name other than "Old Lady Latters," had been found in front of the family farmstead, in which she had been living without the benefit of water or electric.
Someone had driven a three-pronged pitchfork completely through her sagging chest.
"Went in the front and came out the back," said the Chief with some satisfaction in reporting gruesome police matters.
He went on to say that ‘Old Lady Latters’ was just "white trash," and probably better off dead.
The bank was going to send some thugs to evict her from the farm anyway.
He spoke at length about bad elements in the village and gave me a look that made me quite sure, that in his mind, I was smack bang in the middle of that category.

He vouchsafed to me with a side long look that he was convinced Sarah had done the deed. For some reason, it didn't seem to occur to him that Sarah was nearly nine months pregnant by now and probably not capable of piercing anyone's body, however frail, with a farm tool.
The progress of Sarah's pregnancy was something I had been watching carefully during her brief visits to my cellar.
Like all the nubile youths of this species she bulged hugely and seemed to have trouble ambulating very fast or far. I spoke of this to him and he looked a little taken aback.
"Never thought of that," He mused as if I had solved some sort of mystery for him. "Young pup is knocked up, ain't she? Never really thought of that." He rolled his eyes back as though he were in deep thought and said "Hmmmm" a few times to himself. Like many of the government guardians of this race, he was obviously rather stupid.
“Of course, if that Lance kid comes by, I have a little surprise in my trunk, If he thinks he can get the better of me. You call me if he comes by, ok?”
I agreed.
He finished up by telling me it was my civic duty to tell him at once if Sarah came back. As he rotated his girth to leave the cluttered shop, he stopped suddenly, stared eagerly at me and said "Say?"
"Yes?" I replied anticipating another shocking police breakthrough in his reasoning.
"Say, I was just wondering..." He paused again and gazed in all directions around the store. "I was just wondering...."
"Yes?" I said again, growing nervous about him wanting to look into my private quarters or worse into the cellar.
"I was just wondering if you had some more records of Jimmy and the Swingers?"
I have been neglecting this journal for some days now out of disinterest.
My superiors have made no further effort to contact me, and I am beginning to wonder about the importance of my own personal thoughts as well.
I have needed to kill and eat more.
It has become like a drug to me.
I will probably stop writing all this down soon.
I will probably close the shop for good.
Maybe I'll burn it down.
That seems to be the way they get rid of unwanted property here.

If they saw me as I am, they would call me a monster. That is what I called them at first, delicious monsters.

My plan now is just to go on and be a monster in my real form minus the human shell. I can kill and eat and hide at will. These creatures are no match for the appendages that nature has provided me.
Yes, that's it. I am just going to become a monster on this sphere. My life seems useless and vacant aside of that.

September 31st. A sweltering day.

The plants are dying everywhere, although the beasts have been bringing in more and more poisoned fruits and vegetables, and some of them have been trying to push them on me once again.

October 2nd. I am getting used to the names of their lunar cycles now. Maybe I should remain "human" and just become one of them. But I can't abide this stagnation and starvation now. I seem to live for fresh meat.

October 10th. Incredible news!! I heard a baby human cry in the cellar. I had not checked it in days, but today I did. I went down, and the odour of new life and rampant hormones assaulted my sensory organs at once. In a pile of dirty rags was a pink and very soiled human baby, a male. In the corner, Sarah crouched holding her stomach.
I brought her some rags, so she could get cleaned up.
The closeness of the baby made my head spin. The blood and other fluids made me feel half-crazy with hunger and wanting.

Finally, my calmer nature took control, and I went out and bought some food and some fizzy soda drink for Sarah. I have no idea what food I bought, something from the café in a plastic box, poisonous stuff that I knew Sarah ate.

She went off to the bathroom to wash herself and I stood over the baby, it was so delicious looking.
I wanted to devour it then and there. A new human animal was a real delicacy and the taste was such an explosion that I could hardly contain myself. I was sure it was the jolt I needed to bring me out of the depressive mood that had engulfed me lately.

The baby was still softly crying.

I began to change form but then I stopped myself. Surely Sarah would notice if her baby was gone.
Could I just eat her too?
I wasn’t sure. She had become a sort of pet to me now. Maybe I should protect my pet’s offspring?

Sarah returned and picked up the baby, she cleaned it off and placed it against her breast to feed it.
It reminded me of the way my species fed our new-borns fresh blood and I began to lose the killing urge.

I am not going to dwell on what transpired during these next few days, but for a time it was a happiness of a sort. I began to realise I had a purpose, if only to aid and nourish one of the animals we so love to eat.

This will be the last message to myself that I will ever be able to write here. I am dying.
I know that it will come soon, probably before sundown today. I can feel death crawling through my body. I will explain how and why.
There is a large number of metallic projectiles in my body. Although they are lodged in hard places where they have done very little damage to my native organs, the components in them are killing me. I am growing weaker by the moment.

With what strength, I have left, let me tell you of Sarah and her son Leon. Strange, that I should think of them first as I fade. There are other things to talk about, but I want to put them at the start. Sarah has a female friend who is only a little older than her named Dawn.
Sarah said that Dawn is just a friend, but I suspect they may have a deeper relationship and I don't care what it is.
These creatures do that. They pair off in the same gender sometimes. Who cares?
What is important is that Dawn has a vehicle parked somewhere out on the street and that she is going to take both Leon and Sarah away to live with her in another village. I am thankful for this because I can no longer support Sarah in my dying hours.

I will now mention my superiors.

They finally contacted me in the usual way. Their message was brief. The colonization project for this sphere, the food farming, has been called off.
They gave no reason as to why and only informed me that I would be "retrieved" at some unspecified point in the future.
Their message was without any emotion or appreciation for what I have done. I expected it that way.
No sentient being in the universe should ever seek gratitude, and they have none to express to me.
So be it.

Now the story or what is left of it.

For days, I watched over Sarah and the baby.
I brought them food and Sarah often sang to me.
Then a man named Burt-something came in the shop and told me that Dan Broom was dead, shot to death by the same insane teenager that had pitch forked Sarah's grandmother I guessed it was Lance.

Lance was out on a rampage and he was determined to find Sarah and his child. Somehow in his lunacy, he had become strangely paternal and seemingly protective. Lance wanted his baby, and he had told a couple of road sweepers that Burt worked with that he would kill anyone who got in his way, including Sarah, about whom he cared nothing.
"Whore can die," he was reported as saying.
The police began keeping a close watch on the shop and posted several officers around.
It was known everywhere that Lance was probably armed and dangerously psychotic.

It was a matter of finding a killer now.
Fortunately, none of the policing people got a warrant to search the shop. I willingly showed them the spare room, empty and clear. But the stairway to the cellar was unknown and unseen.

And then one day, Sarah decided that both she and Leon needed to move around outside in the sunlight, they often sat in the back yard of my shop with the gate open. That was when she met Dawn and began her friendship. I didn’t mind and would often sit with Leon and tell him stories of my home world while Sarah was at Dawns house.

One morning as I escorted mother and child out into the brilliant but chilly early October sun, I was being extra careful that no police people were in sight and both of us were squinting in the bright light that illuminated the tiny, unfenced garden behind the shop.

It was then that Lance appeared.
His mouth was twisted into a malicious sneer, and his insanely mismatched eyes rolled this way and that in their sockets. He focused on the three of us, but his eyes seemed to be fluttering in all directions at once. More smoking of the plant poison, was my first thought, and then I saw his projectile weapon pointing straight at Sarah, who held the baby in her arms.

"Drop my kid," shouted Lance, flaunting the weapon. "Put him down. Then I'm going to kill you, slut. I'm going to kill you and take my son."
Sarah, characteristically, obeyed and stood back almost inviting Lance to shoot her. Lance pushed the weapon into his shoulder and squinted down its long grey barrel. I saw his bony finger curl around the trigger.
His face snarled into a look of excitement and anticipation and I knew he was about to fire.

A shot rang out and I looked with horror in Sarah’s direction, but she was still standing, and I followed her terrified gaze back to Lance who had dropped to the floor. I looked around unsure of what had just transpired and then I saw the police Chief step out from the bushes.

My human body sagged with relief and my mind raced as I watched him waddle over to Lance’s corpse and pick up the gun.

Fresh blood was beginning to ooze out over the dirt floor of my back yard, it’s smell made me dizzy, but I knew Lance’s body would be no good as food now. The bullet would be in there poisoning the meat. I wanted to howl with anguish and I am sure that it was just for the loss of a good meal.

I realised the Chief was talking so I focused on his words.
“So, Lance killed the village lesbian and her little whore first, then I shot him dead with my fully licenced gun that I was, luckily, transporting for a thorough cleaning at the farm store.” He chuckled a little as though he had said something very clever.
I hate to admit but my clouded mind was confused (that word again, but what does it matter now)
“I’ll be a hero.” The Chief continued and raised Lance’s shotgun.
“Time to wipe the village clean of dirty scum, just like your Grandma.”
As he said this he swung the gun in Sarah’s direction and I saw her move protectively to pick up her child, her mothering instincts finally kicking in.
The gun bucked as the Chief instinctively fired towards Sarah.

And so, I did it. Changing form, I stepped between them. I felt the full weight of the blast, but was able to lash out with the razor end of one of my appendages and slice The Sheriff’s fat head away from his body. Sarah was screaming. I remember that much. She had seen me as I am. A monster.

Mustering whatever strength, I had left after the impact, I regained my human shell. I told Sarah to take the baby and run, to find Dawn and leave and not to worry about me. The last thing I saw of her was her instantaneous obedience to my command.

The gun shots would not go without attracting attention. People were coming. I needed to hide. I knew only too well that the projectiles had already started poisoning me.

I raced back inside, grabbed this journal from behind the counter in the shop and ran as fast as I could into the thickest trees I could find behind the village.

I wanted to write this final entry. I'm not sure why.
And here I am. Dying.
And for what?

Yes, for Sarah and for Leon. Animals. Food. Pets.

I will never be found by my superiors in the little pond amongst the trees where I am quickly breaking into pieces, folding up and expiring.
Maybe searchers will eventually find me. Who knows what they will make of my remains?

I really don't care.

I did a useful thing. I know that now.

From one of the house on the edge of the village I can hear a familiar strain of music floating back marking the commencement of Bridgeton village boarders.

Somewhere inside there are happy, well-adjusted animals, animals that will not be enslaved or herded or husbanded or probably not even eaten by members of my race.

The music is happy, and it reminds me of better times.

Jimmy and the Swingers.

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