Author: Rick Tobin

My sister’s eyes would never be warm or human again, now showing only metallic, sparkling haze from a Tantalus Worm wriggling in her infected body. She could walk, again, after agonizing, bone-breaking seizures evaporated from the powers of her disgusting, infesting companion. There is no cure…no treatment for Plyon’s Syndrome, outside of becoming host to a parasitic alien worm found on forbidden Allo-23.

“Can you understand, Celia? Can you hear?” I whispered. She struggled forward under her physical therapist’s guidance while navigating padded hand posts over a trying recovery exercise.

“We know you, Bruce.” A warbled response made me shudder– a trilling commingling of high and low pitches—but not Celia. There was shared distress in the message.

“Is…is it painful?” I shadowed her staccato struggling. Her head swiveled to me, eyes glittering in phases from gold to silver.

“Be thankful,” it bellowed. “We ancient races abandoned warrior bodies and violence before your inner worlds had life. We devolved, never again to harm. Our purpose is to serve in healing. We give no pain– only hope.”

“I want to speak to Celia, not you,” I snapped back at the remnant. Her dragging bare heels left trails of blue liquid. Doctors warned how parasites released toxins as a permanent aftereffect.

“Bruce…don’t be upset, please.”

Her voice soothed. Listening to recordings for years, as disease ravished her capacities, failed to calm his anger over a paralyzed ballerina. Politicians promised Mars’ soils were safe. Children frolicked barefooted on resurrected sea beaches. Celia was the lone survivor of a generation now remembered only in night skies as dry Deimos catacombs circled a dying Mars colony.

“No, dear Celia…never…forgive my impatience. I despise this dark dwarf planet in the Kyper Belt becoming your dreary home, as our last hope. Do you understand you must stay? No going back?”

Celia nodded.

“You discovered us,” the deep voice returned. “We did not seek you. It is agonizing to enter your forms, but we do it, relieving her terrible curse. She will thrive here…even dance again. You will see, but she must remain. Your governments will never let us leave this planet. They fear us.”

I turned, wondering what punishments I would face returning to my red planet. The death penalty for visiting Allo-23 was still enforceable. Outposts on Saturn’s moons might accept me, but they were cold, hostile environments far from terraformed gentle summers on Mars.

“I can’t stay. I used all my influence to get this far. I’ll have to leave my rank and status behind. How will I keep in touch? How will I know you are safe and recovering?”

“Touch her hand, for just a moment,” the therapist whispered. I noticed the assistant’s gloved hands. I wondered. A trick?

“Go ahead, Bruce. It’s okay,” Celia said quietly.

I lightly pressed her dry, bruised skin on top of her hand gripping the bars. It was electric…startling. I blinked hard, pulling away, flashing lights pulsing in my eyes. Tinnitus deafened me and then receded.

“What!” I blurted out before my vision cleared. I saw myself, and the therapist, as if viewing outside my body. I was looking through Celia’s new eyes.

Words appeared in my head, in her voice, clear and sweet from childhood. “We can see each other and talk when you think of me, no matter how far away. It is the Old One’s gift. Now we will always share without interference from Mars’ oversight. This is our love that can never be quarantined.”

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