Author : Beck Dacus
Azova, Girgin, and Rastat floated through a hole blasted in the alien ship’s hull. Inside, everything was trashed. Whatever had destroyed this ship had been thorough. The computer systems were all but disintegrated. The ship was in complete vacuum, in fact sparser than the interstellar space outside. There was no gravity, caused by linear acceleration, rotation, or otherwise.
And the crew was frozen.
Their corpses were hard to identify at first, but the statuesque structures sitting in the middle of all the halls were unmissable. Once Girgin had examined them thoroughly, he concluded that they were frozen organisms, most likely the sentients in control of this ship.
“Well, why are they frozen?” Azova asked. “What could’ve done all this to their ship, in addition to *that*?”
“I don’t know off the top of my head, Azova,” Girgin replied. “It’ll require an investigation. I’m going to do a biopsy on one of them and analyze the substance encasing them in my lab.”
“Just one small sample,” Rastat said. “We don’t want to disturb the site. Treat it like a crime scene.”
“Yes, sir.” Girgin took his sample, chipping off a piece of one of the organisms, and they all returned to their ship.
The next day, Girgin rushed into the mess hall, shouting for attention. The other two were having breakfast, along with Crimien and Tsafon, the astronomer and computer specialist who had stayed behind during the other three’s jaunt. Girgin was holding the sample.
The rest of them were utterly bewildered. Tsafon, however, soon understood what he was referring to, and tried to catch on.
“Are you saying that… that they were silicon-based, and the heat from their demise melted that silicon and, uh, vitrified them?” He gasped. “That’s it, isn’t it?”
Girgin gave him a look. “What? No. It’s biological. It’s a protein that encases them when they dry out!”
“A bioweapon, employed by their attackers?” Azova guessed.
“No! They did it on purpose!” While the rest of them gawked at him, he explained: “There are terrestrial animals called tadigrades that entomb themselves in this protein-based glass when the environment can’t support them. When conditions become favorable again, the glass breaks apart, and they resume their metabolism. These creatures must be doing the same thing! *They’re still alive*!”
None of them could believe it. Rastat snapped out of it first, saying, “So we can revive them?”
“Yes! And all it would take is exposing them to normal conditions. They might’ve depressurized their own ship, in order to induce this state and stay alive during the accident. Or the attack. It doesn’t matter which one it was; we’ll be able to ask them!” He turned to the computer specialist. “Crimien, do you think you can tease out a little of the ship’s life support data? We need to know what kind of climate is habitable for them, and then I can replicate it in my isolation chamber.”
“I’ll do what I can,” Crimien said.
“Good. Can you order everyone to suit up, Rastat? I wouldn’t want to overstep my bounds.”
Mildly exasperated, Rastat said, “You heard him.”
The whole crew donned spacesuits, and they drifted over to the wreckage. While Crimien did his best with the computers, everyone else hauled dry alien popsicles back aboard. Six hours later, with the life support data and ten alien bodies in hand, Girgin pressurized the isolation chamber and watched as, one by one, the aliens loosened, slumped, returned to color….
Typo: it’s ‘Tardigrade’.
Good vignette/ opening, but, as you left it, an incomplete flash. Just another line to coda it.
Like the revived beings’ descendants watching a time-captured AV of their parent’s rescue. Or something. A simple ‘one liner’ to reveal or close.
Yes it is, sorry about that. I just thought my computer didn’t recognize the name, but alas….
Now, I don’t want anyone to feel like I can’t take editing advice, but I want to make my case for the ending. I wanted the reader to be left kind-of mystified, curious about what had happened. I dropped some potential hints when describing the ship because I wanted people to speculate about its demise for themselves. I feel that, if I did reveal the reason, it would be infinitely duller than what some readers had come up with. I wanted the audience to have their own flights of fancy, dream up scenarios that I never could have lived up to. I think it’s more fun that way, in a sense. I don’t think that giving another little tidbit at then end would add to the whole; I think it would *subtract* from it, take away everything I just described. I’ve often found myself underwhelmed by what someone else wrote, underwhelmed by consuming, and that’s the reason I started writing. So I wanted to make a story where the reader had the option of going beyond consuming, to *producing*.
Once again: the story is mainly about the strange alien biology, there’s only so much a person can do with 600 words, and I wanted the reader to create their own ending. That’s the last time I’ll say that. And I don’t mean that as a threat– I mean that if you all really mean this, and another person says the same thing, I’ll take this advice. At that point, it’ll be hard to doubt that this ending really doesn’t click with people. In the end, I suppose it will be valuable.
Thanks again for reading this in the first place, everyone.
Just a quick follow-up. What you describe – where the story is, in effect, deliberately incomplete – is a vignette rather than a flash piece.
Flash fiction always needs the reader to ‘fill in the gaps’: that frisson of imagination fired to conjure further.
A short story can deliver sufficiently to leave an ‘open’ ending, but a flash, constrained by its very brevity, struggles to do so.
I’ll consider that the “one more comment.” Besides, you have a point. If this isn’t the type of fiction this website is here for, I’m not one to argue with that. I’m about to submit another story right now, and I think it meets the specifications better than this one does. If that one gets published, I’ll see you all there.
I like it, but it’s really not finished. It’s more like the into to the real story. Would have preferred to know what happened and why.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with some mystery in a story. And besides, the cause of the wreck wasn’t really what the story was about. It was more of an exploration of alien biology, and how the differences between us can be as fundamental as what we define as “fatal.” And lastly, there’s only so much you can do with flash fiction. To finish the story remotely realistically, I would have to wedge in days, if not weeks, of translation efforts, whereupon they would learn… what? That some big, bad race of super-cyborgs was coming to get Earth, like every other story out there? I’m not sure how much of this I could add in before the entire story you see above gets compressed into one sentence as backstory just to preserve the word count. To avoid this, the best I could to is to have the aliens revive, go insane because of what they saw, and shoot themselves. And how many of us really want to read that?
But why? You just need 3 words “… and ate them” 🙂
Now, that, I could do….
Puts freeze-dried in a new context. The implications for GMO and further evolution of our species are intriguing. Cool story.
Thanks. And that is what they’re thinking of using this concept for, in addition to the possibility of human hibernation. Got me excited enough to write this story.
Nice concept – but I suspect it’s not going to end well!
Thank you. And no, I don’t imagine it will. Something along the lines of, “Run, you are in great danger” will be said, and if the destruction of an advanced alien ship is any indication, these lowly humans won’t have very good odds of escape.