FlashFic: The Response

Space is deadly. And space in science fiction is even deadlier. This #NerdArt struck me as a particularly vivid and graphic visualization of the kind of death and destruction that awaits humanity as we venture out toward the stars more and more. This is NASA Attack by Chen Yang, over at ArtStation. Check out more of Chen’s work here.

NASA Attack by Chen Yang, at ArtStation

 

Carl pulled himself through the weightless air into the small space between the Foreign Materials Workstation and the bulkhead. His breaths came in ragged gasps as he listened to the rending of metal in other parts of the space station. He doubted he would survive the next few hours, but he had to try. He didn’t even think the atmo systems were still working, the air already tasted a little stale.

It was that signal. We never should have sent that damn response.

He himself had been against responding to the strange light-pulse signal they’d found. Captain Shendrik, the station’s lead science officer had disagreed. It was their obligation, their duty, she had insisted. Earth had agreed. So they sent a tight-beam laser response.

That was two weeks ago.

And now?

Carl leaned out past the edge of the metal paneling and peeked out the porthole on the far bulkhead. Frozen droplets of blood drifted past the glass in a cloud of glittering red. The foot of a space suit came next, followed by the rest of the body. Carl’s hand clamped over his mouth when he saw the open facemask and destroyed skull of what used to be Commander Darren Kilghenny. Darren had been in charge of the construction of the station’s new warpfield testing wing. Now he was a floating corpsicle without a face.

A dark blur flashed past the porthole. Carl jerked back behind the workstation. With his eyes squeezed shut, he held his breath. He’d never believed much in any kind of a God, but now he whispered the names of every deity he could remember as he begged for their salvation.

He knew it was hopeless, though. These…things had already slaughtered every other member of the station crew. Forty-seven people. Forty-seven of the world’s smartest and most capable astronauts, slaughtered in just fifteen minutes. The humans were just floating prey for these creatures who wove their way through the gravity-less vacuum like sharks.

Long, spindly limbs with razor sharp claws that sliced through steel and aluminum as easily as paper; chromatic-black plating over their domed heads; and long, spiked tails that were even more dangerous than their claws. What chance did he have against these things, these… giant bugs, these abominations? And they didn’t even need space suits.

Yes, what chance did he have, really? Especially when there were no real weapons of any kind. He was a freakin’ researcher for God’s sake.

If I can just hide here… He thought that maybe after things calmed down the creatures might leave. Then he could make his way to the old Soyuz escape pod. The damn thing was nearly seventy years old, but all the systems checked. If he was lucky, he could survive re-entry in the antique. Better odds than facing one of them.

Something thumped against the glass.

Carl jumped. His jaw clenched as he tried to pretend that what he’d heard was his imagination.

Another thump.

He shoved himself deeper into the crevice. His heart pounded in his chest. He desperately wanted to look, to make sure it was just a piece of debris bumping the glass.

Thump.

No no no no no no no! Can’t look. Can’t look.

Thump.

And yet he moved. Slowly, he inched his way to the corner, ready to shove himself back at the next thump. At the edge, he stopped and waited. After nearly a full minute, he relaxed a little. See? Just debris.

Carl poked his head out and stared at the window. His heart was suddenly cold in his chest and he couldn’t breathe. There, pressed against the glass of the porthole, was the face of death staring back at him with soulless eyes that were blacker than the pitch of space. The creature’s mouth spread wide, revealing row upon row of serrated spear-tip teeth. Teeth that were stained red.

The monster’s arms reached out to either side of the porthole like it was hanging onto the handholds on the outer bulkhead. It leaned back. It’s lower jaw quivered for a second, then it’s head shot forward. The smooth, green-black, chitinous dome of its forehead slammed into the glass and bounced away without causing any damage.

My God!

It leaned back and flung its face forward again. This time Carl heard a crack. Faint white lines splintered and spiderwebbed out from the impact point. The high-pitched whistle of atmosphere venting through a tiny hole in the cabin filled his ears. A stray piece of paper floated through the air toward the crack.

Black orbs shifted in their sockets, looking from him to the crack then back to Carl again. The creature’s mouth opened even wider. Was it…smiling?

Carl screamed as the thing reared back and slammed its head into the porthole again. He held tight, wedging himself between the two hard surfaces. Glass shattered. The air was sucked from his lungs. His eyes bulged in the void and the outer layer of his skin flash-froze.

 

The creature pulled itself into the room, moving like an eel in water until it was face to face with Carl. It reached up and stroked the side of his cheek with a claw, slicing his face wide open. Sharp pain lanced his flesh but faded beneath the burning frost of the vacuum.

It edged closer and its jagged maw widened.

Carl opened his own mouth in a soundless scream. He thrashed and flailed, but the thing continued to close in on him. As the creature’s rows of teeth closed in on his face, Carl’s fear faded. He no longer prayed for salvation. Instead, he cursed whatever God had sent this monster.

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