Daughters Of Uranus

Daughters Of Uranus (1974)

Daughters Of Uranus

a Gustav Belland short story

icon-saturn

Uranus was fertile.

And so they were born.

Out of Uranus, our fate was sealed and there was nothing we could have done to prevent it.

The search for extraterrestrial life had reached its peak in the early 3000’s when scientists invented a teleporting device powerful enough to project human beings onto other planets. By recreating the Big Bang in a contained environment, Man discovered the source of life: the first cell, which scientists called “The Seed”. It is this Seed which paved the way for the creation of the Explorium, a gate capable of allowing a person to travel to distant lands without the need for a spacecraft.

Some planets proved problematic: Mercury was hot, Mars was boring, the Moon wasn’t a planet.

Dr Fredrick Thomson led the expedition to Uranus, assembling a team of capable astronauts and explorers with the common goal of unlocking the mysteries of the ice planet once and for all. Among them was Sharon Lang, an expert on Uranus, playboy astro-physicist John Tucker and decorated space traveller Rick Kirkstrom.

The team would enter Uranus and bring back samples.

Who knew that such a simple mission could go so wrong?

icon-saturn

It was a Sunday morning, Dr Thomson had assembled the departing trio in his office for a final meeting before sending them through the Explorium.

“Thank you for coming.”, he said in a welcoming tone, “I’m sure you all can’t wait to get going!”

“I went to the bathroom, so I’m happy now!”, John replied confidently.

After an awkward silence, Dr Thomson continued.

“This mission should be straight-forward but nothing is straight-forward with science. I wanted you all to keep that in mind, when you’re out there. While we have been fortunate enough to learn a lot about other worlds, we have never penetrated Uranus and there is very little we know about it.”

“You expecting some nasty surprises up there?”, Rick asked before Sharon also showed concern.

“Is there a problem we should know about?”

Dr Thomson smiled.

“There is nothing to be worried about. I simply urge you, all of you, to stay focused on the mission at hand. Distraction is dangerous, in space.”

Rick and Sharon share a slightly puzzled look as John picks his nose.

Shortly after the ominous meeting, the team were standing next to the Explorium in their full space gear facing the leader of the United States who, in the spirit of an impromtu photo op, had agreed to wish the crew well on their adventure.

“Have a beautiful time up there, folks. And I mean that, I really do. I got a lot of astronaut friends, a LOT of astronaut friends, believe me. I know astronauts. Nobody knows astronauts better than me. You guys are great. Have a great time up there. I mean that.”, was President Frump Jr.’s obligatory speech.

Everyone shook hands, pictures were taken and Dr Thomson stepped forward.

“This is it: you are about to be the first people to step inside Uranus. Make us proud and be careful.”, he said.

After a countdown, the Explorium was turned on and the crew was soon walking through the pink, jelly-like portal.

If only they had known…

Sharon was the first to walk on Uranus, the others soon followed.

“It’s cold over here, what the fuck?”, John said.

“John, do you realise that those are now the first words ever spoken in Uranus?”, Sharon responded with a cold stare.

“What’s your problem?”

Sharon shakes her head and keeps walking.

Around the explorers, nothing but ice, wind and fog. White hills and mountains on the horizon and, in front of them, a blank canvas. The sky was electric blue with a slight greenish shade.

“We have reached Uranus, over.”, Sharon spoke into her receiver.

The response was a broken buzzing, no discernible word.

“God damn it.”, she complained.

“What’s wrong?”, Rick asked.

“Audio’s out. I can’t hear a thing from back home.”

“Maybe they’re busy and shit.”, John remarked.

Ignoring John’s last comment, Sharon and Rick keep on walking through the slippery, violently cold environment. Eventually, they come to a large puddle. A thick brown liquid is oozing out of a circular cracked hole.

“Let’s take a sample and get the hell out of here.”, Sharon decided, “I don’t like this one bit.”

Sharon hands John a small vile.

“We need some of that mud: go get it.”

“Why me? I’m an astro-physhism!”, John complained.

“Your father’s an astro-physicist, you’re a rich kid with shit for brains. Now go get the mud before I tell everyone you shit your pants yesterday in the cafeteria.”

“Yes ma’am.”, a beaten John replied, picking up the vile.

As John approaches the puddle, Rick starts filming the surroundings with a small camera and Sharon gets on one knee to examine the frozen ground. Suddenly, she sees something move under the ice.

Startled, she stands back up.

“Rick!”

“What is it?”

“I… saw something.”

Sharon then tries to contact Earth again.

“Come in Houston, come in Houston. This is Sharon Lang. I have encountered a life form. We are coming back now, over.”

She turns back to Rick.

“We gotta go.”

“What about John?”

“Oh right…”

She turns to the puddle but John is nowhere to be seen.

“John…?”, she whispers.

Without warning, the ice breaks underneath her and she crashes through the ground screaming. Rick starts to run towards her.

“Sharon!”, he yells.

Noticing the cracks on the ice, Rick stops running and takes a few steps back. He stands there for a while, silently, not knowing what to do. The only sound is now Rick’s heavy breathing and the wind around him.

“Sharon…”, Rick says under his breath, with a lump in his throat.

The ground starts to shake.

The puddle bubbles.

“My god…”

Brown liquid promptly shoots out of the puddle like a geyser. Rick watches, in shock, as the mud falls back down turning a lot of the ground and the astronaut himself brown.

“Come in Houston… come in Houston…”, he mutters into his microphone, terrified.

Once again, faint static is the response.

Out of the puddle a sphere slowly pushes through: it stays floating in mid-air above the hole for a moment before flying towards Rick.

Rick starts to run back towards the portal and the brown sphere follows unhurriedly. Rick runs faster and faster, slipping and sliding on the ice.

“Come in Houston! Request assistance right now! I am being pursued by a… an unknown life form!”, he speaks into his mic in a panicked tone, out of breath.

Nearing the portal, Rick eventually slips and falls on his front, cracking his helmet a little in the process. The sphere quietly picks up pace. Noticing this, Rick stand with great difficulty and starts to run again. He soon realises the sphere is about to catch up to him and he runs faster than ever before, dropping his camera to allow himself more room.

He finally leaps into the portal and lands back safely on Earth.

On the laboratory side of the portal, Dr Thomson leaves his seat and runs up to Rick.

“Oh no…”, he says to himself, concerned.

A few other men run to Rick and help him sit up, Dr Thomson tries to see who is inside the suit as the helmet is cracked and covered in frost.

“Who is this? John? Is that you?”, he said, “Where are the others?”

Not getting an answer, he signals to one of the men to remove the helmet. The obstruction is quickly disposed of and a hyperventilating, pale Rick is revealed: his hair has turned white.

“Rick! It’s me: Dr Thomson. You’re home! You’re back! It’s alright now.”

An oxygen mask is placed over Rick’s mouth.

“He’s trying to say something…”, Dr Thomson remarks.

Rick, who is breathing a little better after a few seconds, pushes the mask away and gets nearer to Dr Thomson.

“Shut… it… down!”, he struggles to say.

A cloud of horror lands over Dr Thomson’s face: he stands up.

“Shut down the portal! Now!”, he yells.

But it was too late: the sphere suddenly pushes through the Explorium and, in a few seconds, it is on Earth, floating above a group of scared, confused technicians and scientists.

“What do we do, doc?”, an assistant asks, frightened.

“I don’t know…”, Dr Thomson replies.

A sound booms out of the jiggling sphere, everyone covers their ears.

Rick finally stands up, holding the oxygen mask to his face, inhaling.

The sphere bursts.

The brown liquid splashes over the people, the walls, the floors, the ceiling as a thick smoke and a foul stench fills the entire room. Those who didn’t pass out are either coughing or holding a handkerchief to their mouths.

Two glowing silhouettes appear in the middle of the room.

The smoke finally clears to reveal two young bald women, fully naked. Everyone looks up, without saying a word. The women scan the room quietly, intensely.

You could hear a pin drop, at this point.

Without warning, one of the women speaks in a strange accent.

“We are Uranus.”

There’s a beat.

The other woman opens her mouth: countless brown bubbles fly out.

The bubbles stick themselves onto the bodies of everyone in the room, turning every individual into a large brown sphere.

Rick picks up his helmet and quickly walks up to the main control panel.

“What are you doing?”, Dr Thomson asks with desperation in his eyes.

“I’m ending this.”

Rick activates the Explorium before slamming the control panel with his helmet over and over again. Dr Thomson attempts to stop him.

“You fool! You’ll kill us all!”

“We’re already dead, doc. Look around!”

The control panel short circuits and the Explorium partly bursts out of the magnetic field holding it together: it is now a vortex sucking everyone into it. Rick and Dr Thomson grab onto the edge of the control panel as the people around them, some of them brown bubbles, start flying into the pink, fleshy spiral. The two women struggle to remain standing and they are soon sucked in also along with all their loose bubbles.

“I can’t hold on for much longer, Rick!”, Dr Thomson yells out.

Rick tries to move along the control panel in order to reach the wiring going up to the generator. With his right hand, he goes to pull one of the wires but his other hand slips. Luckily, he manages to hold onto the wiring, which he starts to dismantle.

“Help… me!”

Dr Thomson loses his grip and starts to fly into the portal just as Rick successfully turns off the power. The Explorium and its vortex disappear. Rick falls to the ground and turns around: he sees only the bottom half of Dr Thomson’s body wiggling around in a bloody mess.

Rick takes a deep breath, stands up and leaves the empty room.

He walks around the corridors of the building aimlessly, as if in a dream. He looks around the rooms and finds no-one, had they been sucked in as well?

Wanting to get some air, maybe smoke a well deserved cigarette, Rick exits the building. He is surprised to find completely lifeless surroundings, with nobody in sight. Cars have their doors open but no drivers or passengers.

Rick feels a cold wind blowing.

And then…

A snowflake.

icon-saturn

More from Gustav Belland soon.

Only on WeTheMindThinkers.

WWV

WWV (2006)

WWV

a Lazarus Pitt novel

Written at the same time as Max Brooks’ “World War Z”

Extract from Chapter XII

icon-saturn

The war had begun.

It had begun and now it was.

It was and now it remained.

Would it ever end?

We didn’t think so.

Maybe our squadron was just being particularly pessimistic. Or perhaps we were right to not be hopeful. The things we’d seen, experienced, could still not be explained and none of us could see a bright future on the horizon.

Doomed.

Joining the army wasn’t an easy decision. Don’t get me wrong, there was never any bad blood between me and Uncle Sam or anything, it was just the idea of going out into the unknown and facing potential death I couldn’t get over.

Then they came flying in.

This was an enemy like no other we’d ever faced before. Now, not only our country was at stake but our entire world! There was no way I could have just sat back and watched it all happen live on CNN, without doing anything. What if this was the end? What then? What kind of life would I have led?

No. If they want this planet, they’ll just have to go through me.

icon-saturn

Where am I?

The whole point of this covert operation was to invade the enemy base not hide all around it and lose each other. There I am, stranded in this ghost town, with no means of communication and no direct support.

That’s just great.

All around me are seemingly empty barracks. They had built a wall around the base on top of which their soldiers fired at us relentlessly. I had to see one of them, I had to see what we were dealing with.

I approached one of their soldiers, who was lying dead next to his weapon and, to my surprise, I found a young woman, not in uniform. Actually, she was naked. Naked and covered in blisters. Not only that but both her wrists were attached to the very machine-gun she was firing from.

Why?

Then I heard it: a rumble coming from inside one of the nearby tents. I ready my weapon instinctively and start walking towards it. Whatever was in there, it was safe to guess it didn’t want me around. Then again, what if the rest of my team somehow went ahead of me and took refuge in one of the tents?

I tap the end of my rifle on the ground three times, pause for a moment, then repeat. This was our code, our way of alerting each other, of letting us know that one of us was near without attracting unwanted attention. This time, there was no reply.

Whatever was in there: it wasn’t one of us. And it was, most certainly, hostile.

One Mississippi…

Two Mississippi…

THREE.

I run in, spouting out orders:

“Get down! Get down! Hands on the gr-”

Empty.

I move in further into the tent, as I try to decipher what could have possibly been the source of the sound I had heard when suddenly, the ground breaks under me.

My heart tightens.

My rifle: gone.

I’m falling.

Darkness.

The fall wasn’t too deep but deep enough that the landing cracked my knee. Struggling not to scream, I promptly bite my sleeve. If this was a trap, I had to buy some time, gather my thoughts before the attack. The pain was intolerable. I had also scraped my arm during the fall and I could tell by the moistness on the other sleeve of my uniform that I was bleeding.

I fumble around the darkness for my rifle.

Finally: I reach it.

I shakily stand up and start limping forward, down a deserted, unlit corridor. I start to feel dizzy, sick, but I push all of that aside in my mind. All that matters is the mission. I’m expendable, I know that, but if this is some sort of underground lair I’ve discovered, it’s my duty to make sure I bring as much carnage and panic to the place as possible.

And just like that, I saw something lying in front of me I wish I had never seen.

It was Smithey.

My teammate, my brother.

What have they done to you?

There he was: lying on the ground face down with the bottom half of his body missing. Gnawed off, it seemed.

Oh Smithey…

We were gonna raise chickens together.

I approach my friend, get on my good knee and turn his body around to face him when, suddenly, his eyes open.

“V…”, he said.

“Smithey! Y-you’re…”

“V…”

“What is it, Smithey? Tell me, I’m here!”

“V…”

Smithey died in my arms just then.

What could he have been trying to tell me?

A name, perhaps?

I knew I couldn’t stay there any longer. I had to go forward, move on with the mission. I say a quiet prayer for my old friend and keep on walking.

Those bastards are gonna pay.

Still limping, the pain more unbearable than ever, I finally reach some sort of large storage area: long, flat rectangular boxes, everywhere. Boxes upon boxes just sitting there, in the dark. Weapons? Missiles?

What were these monsters plotting…

I step closer to one of the boxes and go to lift its lid, making sure to keep my gun pointing in the right direction. I start lifting the lid when I hear a voice calling me from the corridor I had just walked from.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you”, the voice warned.

I promptly look up and, upon seeing a shadowy figure standing in the distance, I point my weapon at the stranger with every intention of shooting.

“Get down on the ground! Now!”, I yell out nervously.

“It is unwise to shout.”, was the calm reply.

The dark figure steps forward.

“Stay where you are!”

They stop.

“Don’t step any closer. I mean it.”

“I mean you no harm…”

The silhouette steps forward once again and I shoot. This causes no reaction whatsoever.

“Now you’ve done it.”

Some of the boxes around me start moving.

“What are you?”

Finally, out of the shadows, walks a familiar face.

“General Lohman?”

“That’s right, soldier. I’m a night-walker. Always have been.”

“But… Smithey…”

“Smithey got sloppy. We’re attracted to sound, we love it. Can’t get enough of it. Couple of misfired gun shots in the dark, that’s all it took. They jumped him, tore the poor bastard in half right there and then.”

“What the hell are night-walkers?”

“We live in shadow, we feast upon the blood of those who try to come between us and our destiny. The world belongs to us, soldier, we are evolution and nothing will stop us.”

“You’re wrong. You’re a mistake, a failed experiment. We’ll win.”

“You’re a good kid, soldier. Resourceful. I have a proposition for you: help us. Be our eyes during the daylight hours and you will be spared. I can guarantee that.”

“Then what? Say I help you: what will be left for me? I’ve seen what you do to humans when you’re done with them. ”

“You’re far more valuable to us than you realize. If there’s one thing we night-walkers will always need, it’s humans. I organised this personally, I wanted you to find us, I wanted you here. You’re the best we’ve got, soldier. Think about it: it makes sense.”

I look at the monster and smile.

“You’re right.”

I start applauding the General as loud as possible and, in a heartbeat, I see his hopes of a human mole shatter in a thousand pieces before him. The boxes around me rattle, shake and finally burst open sharply, like overcooked raviolis.

“Nooooo!”, Lohman cries out as the cavernous ghouls jump towards me, their fangs wet with hunger.

It does make sense.

There’s nothing like the sound of a deceived vampire.

Nothing.

icon-saturn

More from the iconic Lazarus Pitt soon.

Only on WeTheMindThinkers.

In The Between

In The Between (1990)

In The Between

an Ian McCanus short story

icon-saturn

It was their last meal and the Torhns had lost their appetite.

Their world was about to end, the two black holes on either side of their planet were about to tear it apart, split it, right down the middle and that’s all there was to it. No amount of food could change that. Even the Schgleg they were about to consume knew something was amiss.

” Go, shoo.”, Yichn ordered.

The Schgleg, feeling unwanted, slimes out of its tray and leaves the table.

“What’s the point?”, Yichn asked rhetorically, “It’s all going to end anyway.”

Her husband, Gnok, had no answer for her.

“You’re upsetting Igli: calm down.”, he answered.

Little Igli was only 300 years old, she had no defined idea about what was going on. She had just wet herself, though.

“I don’t care! It’s the end! I can do what I want!”, Yichn continued.

“That’s not true, you have a responsibility: you’re her mother.”

“Oh blow it out your flaaagn…”

“I know how you feel but you can’t let it get to you, let’s just finish our last meal with dignity. As a loving family.”

“A loving family? You think I don’t know about you and Griil?”

“W-what do you mean?”

“Oh forget it…”

Gnok turns to his daughter, wiping the urine from her face.

“Go to your room, Igli. Mummy and daddy need a moment alone.”

“Wammy?”, replied the infant.

“That’s right. I’ll be in there to tuck you in right away. Just give me a couple of months, ok?”

“Wakay.”

Igli leaves the table and walks to her bedroom leaving a trail behind her. Gnok turns back to Yichn and gently places his tentacle on her shoulder.

“You’re upset, I understand that. But we have to make the most of our time together, while we’re still alive. The planet is splitting in half, that doesn’t mean we should do the same.”

Yichn promptly knocks his tentacle away with her paw.

“That’s just it: maybe we should do the same! After all, if nothing means anything, why shouldn’t we? Why should anything?”

“Yichn, calm down…”

“Why?! Why be calm? Who is there to wake up? Besides you?”

“What?”

“You’re the one who needs waking up! You’re asleep! Asleep from the truth!”

Yichn stands up. Now hysterical, she starts to turn purple as her antennas vibrate from side to side (a sign of stress). Gnok walks to her slowly, trying to calm her down.

“Settle down, Yichn. You’re having a breakdown…”

“You’re asleep, they’re all asleep!”

Gnok moves his tentacle towards her.

“There there, it’s gonna be alright. Just give me your paw and we’ll talk.”

“Don’t touch me!”

“I’m not gonna hurt, no one is…”

Just then, Yichn opens her third mouth and bites Gnok’s tentacle hard: she eats half of it. Gnok screams, flapping his remaining tentacle around the room, breaking vases and glasses in the process.

“There there…”, Yichn says in a dark monotone, “It’s gonna be alright.”

Yichn falls on top of Gnok and devours him on the spot, her mouths taking large chunks out of him with every single bite. Gnok struggles and screams throughout, his orange blood splashing over every family portrait, every inch of the room.

Minutes later: Gnok was no more.

Meanwhile, Igli is lying in a puddle in her bed, counting Niays, her favourite animal. Yichn knocks gently on her door and walks in, still completely covered in blood and foaming at the mouths.

“Hi honey, you asleep?”

“Weelp.”

“You are asleep, aren’t you…”

“Wilry.”

“Hungry? I’m hungry too.”

There’s a knock at the front door. Startled, Yichn gets up and goes to answer it. Igli continues counting Niays.

Before opening the door, Yichn enquires:

“Who is it?”

“It’s Poyng! Open up! One of the black holes imploded in on itself. It’s gone! Our world is safe!”

Trembling, Yichn finally opens the door.

icon-saturn

More from Ian McCanus soon.

Only on WeTheMindthinkers.