Author : Roger Dale Trexler
“It’s troubling,” said Commander Smithee. “I don’t understand how the crew of the Carcosa could have disappeared. From all intelligence, Maurid 3 is a safe planet.”
“It’s outer space,” replied Captain Cox. “There’s nothing safe about it.”
Smithee nodded. “You’re right, of course….but it still doesn’t explain how the crew of the Carcosa disappeared.”
Smithee looked out the view port at Maurid 3’s landscape. “Alien, isn’t it?” he said.
“I don’t think I could ever get used to the foliage,” Cox replied.
“Yes, it is odd,” said Smithee. He looked out at the trees. The foliage was a strange, almost flesh-like color. The leaves on what could only be called “trees” were the same color, only a darker shade. Only the blue water in the distance looked familiar.
“It’s bizarre, I say.” Cox stared out at the strange new world a moment longer. Then, he turned his attention to the cylindrical spacecraft to his left. The hatch to the Carcosa was standing wide open. Whatever had happened to the crew, it had happened quickly and without forewarning. Cox nestled his plasma rifle to his chest. He wasn’t about to make the same mistake they had.
“You say this planet is uninhabited?” he asked.
Smithee nodded again. “Yes. We sent down a host of unmanned probes and they saw no sign of life. But,” he added, “something happened to the crew of the Carcosa.”
Cox turned his attention to the open hatch of the Carcosa again. It was then that he saw the long streaks of blood on the flesh-colored grass and nearby foliage. Something had killed the crew of the Carcosa. Could one of the crew have gone mad? He wondered. It seemed the only logical answer.
“Well, I guess we’re not going to get any answers standing here,” said Smithee. He reached out and took an environment suit off the hook. Maurid 3 had a breathable atmosphere—it was the reason they had sent down a survey team on the Carcosa in the first place—but both of them agreed that there might be something airborne that had overcome the other ship’s crew. It was better to be safe than sorry, so environment suits were the order of the day.
He quickly doned the suit and pulled on a helmet. He grabbed a plasma rifle, too.
Smithee reached out and activated the hatch.
They stood there as the ramp extended itself to the ground. Smithee took a step forward, but Cox caught his arm.
“Wait a minute.”
“What?” Smithee asked.
Cox pointed at the bushes nearby. “Do you see it?” he asked.
Smithee’s gaze followed the end of Cox’s finger. He looked at the bushes and, for a second, saw nothing. But, as he concentrated on the bushes harder, he saw something.
“What the hell?”
Cox pulled him back toward the airlock. “It’s camouflaged to its environment,” he said in a whisper. He shook his head. “The human eye can see more shades of green than any other color because we needed to discern predators from the foliage….the crew of the Carcosa thought they were alone. Our probes saw nothing because their camouflage was nearly perfect….and we expected to see normal colored animals.”
“My God,” Smithee said. “Look!”
Before them, the ground and the bushes seemed to come alive. Everywhere, things were moving.
“Get inside! Quickly!” shouted Smithee…but it was too late. Out of the corner of their eyes, they saw the thing as it attacked…and one thing looked normal.
Their fangs were white.
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows