Author: CL Farley

Light turns the insides of my eyelids red. A strange smell, burning and sharply sweet, sticks in my nostrils and the back of my throat. This is not my cool backyard, where the damp breeze chilled my skin and sunset painted the looming clouds purple and crimson. I open my eyes and the light burns, forces me to blink rapidly as I focus on the glistening shapes on either side of me. Pinkish with small black dots, the light shimmers across the objects when they move. A slim rope or wire flashes across my vision; no—there are suckers on it, a tentacle. Staccato clicking and sloppy squelching sounds rise around me. My heart pounds in my chest and my limbs won’t move. Something bites at my wrists and ankles when I try to rise and I feel the painful pull of bare skin sticking to metal along my legs and arms. A heavy weight presses across my chest. It’s definitely a tentacle; I wasn’t imagining it.

The pink thing on my left leans in. There’s an eye set into the side of its bulbous body. A nictitating membrane slides across it as the oblong black centre fixes on me. The creature is clicking, but I can’t tell where the sound is emanating from; all I see is that eye studying me with a keen intelligence, sizing me up, but for what?

Another tentacle writhes across my field of vision. Its tip is coiled around a white sphere with spikes protruding from it. My throat burns when I scream. The tentacle darts toward my head and a hot pressure pierces my forehead. It crawls into my brain, a writhing worm that sears everything it touches and leaves a trail of numbness in its wake. Then I feel peace. It almost lulls me, but the things still loom over me, light shimmering across the white walls behind them.

No Harm. It’s more of a feeling than articulated words, but the concept floods my thoughts with urgency. It’s accompanied by a spicy stench that makes me choke and cough.

Thoughts that aren’t mine rattle through my head like machine gun fire: be calm, lie still, no harm. Repetitive, echoing. Get out of my head!

But that’s the only way they can communicate with me. I know it as soon as they think it. The one on my right leans in front of me, silhouetted against the light so I can see nothing of it except a rounded shape. The next thought they send me fills me with a fear even greater than before: Sentinels. Massive metal limbs creaking as the beings, part organic and part machine, awaken. Lights flickering amber and blue across metal plates fused into flesh as systems come online and flocks of the giant organisms gathering around a star, draining it of life to power their weapons.

Mishira. We need you to stop them once more.

“I can’t,” I mumble. “The interface was fried.”

We have another way