BY DAVID CARROLL
Imperfect Copy a novel
The Tiger who wanted to be Human a comic
Changeling, with Kate Orman
BY KATE ORMAN
Untitled, by Sarah J. Groenewegen
Forgotten Memories, by Evan Paliatseas
The Rushing of Blood, by Evan Paliatseas
Keeper's Demise, by David J Richardson
NON DOCTOR WHO
Alien To Her, by David Carroll
She Twitched, by David Carroll
The Inner Light, by Kate Orman
Waiting in the Light, by Jonathan Barons
Grandfather's Clock, by Steven Caldwell
Messages, by Steven Caldwell
Inge, by Simon Moore
Alien to Her
by David Carroll
First appeared in Facehugger
Jeff threw her the rope and she half caught it, the silken length twisting in slow circles to her feet. "Cast off, sailor," he said, jumping aboard.
"Go screw," Ellen said amiably, dropping and kicking the rope into a corner. He grinned and showed her how to turn the engine on. And he watched as she navigated the small boat across the harbour, picking up the rhythm of the gears, the pull of the wheel. He took over when they passed the heads, the waves stronger and higher now, pushing them about. Ellen took a motion pill after all, and stood at the front of the boat and watched the sea.
Blue-grey, imperfectly reflecting the dark clouds above them. Never ceasing, it pushed at itself as much as the boat. Ellen had never been to sea, never been to a beach, had lived her life on solidity and with the grinding lurches of precision-controlled motion. She watched the never ending waves and they were alien to her.
* * *
They travelled away from the coast, then followed it east at a distance of about a hundred K. The water was warm and when the sun came out it was more blue than grey, and Jeff said he saw a porpoise jumping a wave and Ellen said that was bullshit. On the third day she went under with him and saw the beauty he had talked about, the colonies of colour and flickering movement that had been pushed from the poisoned shore. Still, she was not unhappy to pull the clinging mask from her face and breathe the free, salt-saturated air.
In the mornings they would travel, swapping turns at the helm. In the afternoon she could be alone, and glad of the solitude and the basking sun. In the evenings they would talk with the boat drifting -- retelling anecdotes, where they had been and where they wanted to go, bitching about the Company.
At night they would make love, and whether it was lazy or violent he would hold her tight and seem to fill her up, and afterwards they would stroke each other and fall asleep to the sound of the waves.
* * *
The unseen coast curved north, and they curved too.
* * *
Jeff came out of the water with something on him. Ellen startled out of the chair and ran to him, grabbing a blanket but not sure whether to drape it around his shoulders or not. He reached for her, his voice thick and incoherent, his fingers spasming, his eyes full of panic.
Not all of the strands had adhered fully, loops twisted and caught at his legs. Wherever it touched it stuck, wet, gleaming, sickly yellow with a gelatinous sheen. But across his torso, along his arms, one strand straddling a cheek, one down the right side of his nose. They adhered to him, a centimetre thick, three wide, she didn't know how long.
Jeff screamed and flailed at her, and she fell back. But he grew still, and he bent to lie on the deck but the strands across his knees resisted the bending, and he fell. And looked up at her.
Ellen didn't know what to do. Thoughts of help never far away, people, support, equipment and, always, the Company, all banished under the evidence of her shockingly sudden isolation.
She jumped for the bridge and started the engine and flipped on the SOS signal and ran back to Jeff. The boat started to move, she didn't care about the direction it was going in.
Every last loop had found a resting place now, lying against exposed flesh. She noticed he was naked, his briefs and breathing apparatus torn away. He was still blubbering, still made no sense.
She got a strong set of tweezers, something from Jeff's collection of odd tools he'd brought along. The strands were rubbery and wouldn't come away from the flesh. She got a knife and they wouldn't cut. She took a scalpel to the task, and as she scored away a section of the fibrous stuff Jeff screamed and kicked and she managed to put a deep score across his calf, the cauterised wound only seeping a little blood.
There was no blood elsewhere, the strands were clean. And then she noticed that they were getting thinner, perceptibly tightening against him. Except she though they were digging, eating away the flesh and blood and worming their way down.
Occasional ripples travelled along the slippery surfaces, as Jeff moved, resisted the pull. Otherwise they were still.
The area of tendril she had burned with the scalpel didn't move, looked sick and blackened and lifeless. Around it life seethed, and under it Jeff twitched.
After experimentation she found the blanket wouldn't stick, and she wrapped it around him and carried him down to the tiny cabin, resolving to use the scalpel in a more controlled manner. By the artificial light he looked worse, the skin too pale, the strands deeper in him, their surface drying and tightening and slick.
For most of the mass only half a centimetre remained in the free (and salt-saturated) air.
He lay on the bed, now looking at nothing. She sat by him, holding the untouched hand and wished he wasn't going to die.
She suddenly wanted to lie with him. To feel his warm dryness against her, to taste his damp mouth and run fingers through his hair, to scratch beneath his balls where it drove him crazy.
She sighed, and started again at burning the strands away.
Except she looked up, at the wrong time, and watched as the strand along his nose ripped the skin, slipping on cartilage, down to partially cover one eye. It didn't take long for the little ball of gristle to burst, and she wiped the remains of the eye-ball off his cheek (meticulously avoiding the sickly surface -- wondering if it would adhere to her skin on touch, wondering if she would be able to rip away the strand and her own flesh with it, and all that to stop thinking about the eye).
She ran up out of the constrictive space and threw up over the side of the boat, half watching lunch melt into the liquid morass.
She heaved again and again, until there was nothing left, and beyond that. Then she fell back to the deck, her back against the railing, and just shivered.
* * *
She didn't go back down, she didn't have the strength. Not yet she didn't.
* * *
But he came up.
* * *
Ellen watched as the form ascended the little stairway, clumsily grabbing at the hand-rail, and pulling himself out. She watched until it stood upright on the deck, and then she stood up herself, almost as an afterthought.
The strands hadn't disappeared, but they had now merged with Jeff's skin. The afflicting surface was dry now, and she looked first at the crisscrosses over his chest, preserving the line of musculature -- and even the right nipple had been mimicked, its colour contrasting its little pink twin. The eyes also differed, one black in brown in white, one yellow in yellow in yellow, but somehow watchful. Only the ripped skin on the nose, a strangely flattened ear and the score across one leg distorted his original shape. She saw that the Jeff-thing limped.
"Ellen," it said, Jeff's voice, but deeper, she thought. It held out a hand, the yellow patterns on the white flesh like inlaid marble. The fingers flexed and it took a step forward.
Ellen ran for it, and perhaps it made a grab at her. She couldn't tell -- without a gun or the knife that was still below, there was only herself, and she threw herself at it, and it twisted but she kicked at its legs and it tripped, flailing for balance.
It wasn't a big boat. She pushed it backwards, and as it tried to speak again she flipped it over the rail and it was simply and suddenly gone.
Carefully, Ellen walked to the side of the boat and looked down into the unendingly broken slap of waves against the side. There was nothing. She was still looking when the rescue team arrived to pick her up.
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