Author : Kevin Hosey
It was after him.
Captain Kurt Avenel hadn’t seen the alien creature himself, but the last radio transmission from his first officer gave him a brief, panicked description: two meters tall with a reptilian body, razor-sharp teeth, and jagged claws. Their deep space freighter, the Leonine, had recently passed through a dense cloud of meteorite fragments. Avenel speculated the alien was concealed on one of them and somehow made its way inside.
That’s when all hell broke loose.
The creature began methodically stalking the seven-person crew. After all efforts to trap or kill it failed, Avenel ordered everyone else to abandon ship.
Then he became its intended prey.
Sweat prickling his face, he peered cautiously down the corridor leading to the last remaining escape pod. Flashlight leading the way, he stepped into it. It was shrouded in dense darkness. For one terrifying moment, he felt as if he had slipped outside the confines of the ship and was adrift in space.
And then he heard it. A voice.
A voice…inside his head.
Something metallic smashed against the deck. Avenel jumped so violently, he lost his grip on the flashlight. The cylinder rolled on the deck, then bumped against a square piece of slatted metal. It was the cover to the ventilation shaft above him.
That meant the alien was in the corridor with him!
Avenel cried out when the darkness seemed to solidify and slam him against the bulkhead. Lit in the halogen beam of his flashlight, he found himself peering into the open jaws of the alien monstrosity. It was a cavern of serrated teeth dripping with green saliva.
Eyes open so wide his lids threatened to rip loose, and heart pounding as if begging desperately to escape, Avenel watched as the creature’s mouth curled into a demonic smile. The alien’s face edged even closer until Avenel’s entire world consisted of nothing but its foul breath and piercing red eyes.
And then—it spoke.
Suddenly, impressions of the creature’s thoughts flittered through Avenel’s mind. A child. It was a child. And it wanted to play.
The word Avenel heard moments before. It was some sort of psychic emanation coming from the creature. It wasn’t stalking him. It was playing with him, just as it had been with his crew.
Suddenly, Avenel dropped and hit the deck as the alien released him. Confused, he watched as the creature scurried away…giggling.
“Come find me,” it called out in a thick, guttural voice. Then it was swallowed by the darkness.
Avenel blinked. What was it talking about?
Then he knew. Hide and seek. The thing was playing hide and seek.
And now, apparently, Avenel was “it”.
The captain of the Leonine had seen many strange things during his years in space. But that was definitely the strangest. A huge, terrifying, yet harmless alien child, perhaps lost and lonely, had come on board simply searching for someone to play.
With that realization, Avenel’s fear and anxiety slipped away. No longer afraid for his safety, he sat wondering what his next move should be. The company he worked for had a standing order that any initial contact with sentient alien life should be pursued in the hopes it may lead to future profitable business ventures.
Okay, so what now? How would he pursue relations with a childlike being?
After a few moments of deliberation, he shrugged and stood up. Retrieving his fallen flashlight, Avenel stared in the direction the alien had vanished.
Then he cleared his throat, counted to a hundred and called out, “Ready or not, here I come.”