Science Fiction Fantasy Funny

Protocol dictates I should not have plunged elbow-deep into the unknown alien goo. To hell with protocol, the crimson, amber and turquoise swirls were hypnotic, and they beckoned me to touch. So, I dived right in, consequences be damned.

'What the hell do you think you are doing?' Came the shrill voice of Mission Supervisor Marie Anderson.

'I am not quite sure,' I replied. I was still hunched over in a cat's pose, my silver landing party uniform growing increasingly dirty from the desert sand beneath me.

'Get your arms out of there immediately, Mission Specialist Taylor. Have you lost your freaking mind?' She asked a very good question. I was still not quite sure how I got there. I was not quite sure I wanted to leave, either.

It was supposed to be a routine survey of a desert moon in the Proxima system. However, I was about to learn that exploring other planets would be anything but routine.

'Taylor, can you even hear me? Get out of there now. I cannot even tell you how many rules you are breaking.' Anderson was right. My predicament defied all logic, yet there I was.

'I want to, Marie, honestly, I do, but I can't. It is so beautiful, and it will not let me go.'

'Russell, I want you to focus on the sound of my voice.' Using my first name got my attention, and I angled my head to look directly at her. Anderson's piercing emerald eyes were fixed squarely on me. Her hair was the same colour as the golden sand that soiled her uniform.

'I can't feel my hands, Marie. I don't know what is going on.' I stumbled on my words as I regained clarity. Whilst my hands may have been numb, I had grown aware the skin on my face was as dry as the desert itself. Moisture welled up in my dimples and almost instantly evaporated.

'Alright, Russell, I want you to stay looking at me. I have called for the rest of the team, and we will get you out of this.' Her calmer tone helped keep me in the present even as my gelatinous captor tried to tempt me back into confusion.

'I can't believe I screwed up like this on my first planetary mission.' I felt like if I kept talking, I would not succumb. 'I have looked forward to this moment since the Astrolabe left Earth. Hell, this is all I have dreamed of since applying to be on a generational mission.'

Marie scrunched up her forehead and softened her eyes at the same time. It was the kind of expression that conveyed pity or perhaps worry. It was hard to tell.

A feeling of hundreds of little spider legs started clawing at my wrists. The further up they got, the less sensation I had. What had started in my hands now threatened to consume more of me.

'Don't look at it,' shouted Marie. She took a step in my direction before hesitating and moving away. I had not even realised that my gaze had shifted back towards the tempting liquid that was now devouring my arms.

'What do you think it wants?' I asked, my words breaking as they passed my trembling lips.

'It wanting something implies sentience Mission Specialist. What we have here could be as simple as what they used to refer to as quicksand back on Earth.'

'Does quicksand have a way of getting inside your head, so you become obsessed with it? Because that is what is happening here.' Marie's face contorted. I could tell she did not know what to say. 'How far away is the rest of the team?' I asked.

'They took the landing pod up toward the equator for weather measurements. They said it would take them about thirty minutes to get back.' She glanced worryingly at the display on her wrist before looking back at me with a smile. 'Good thing I stayed behind with you, Russell.'

'Thank god for small miracles.' We both laughed just a bit.

The clawing in my arms had stopped just below my elbows. My mind was racing through numerous thoughts to divert attention from what was happening.

'How old are you, Mission Specialist?' Marie asked as she took a risk to close the distance between us.

'Twenty-three,' I replied, knowing I was a baby to her. She must have thought I was ridiculous. Here was a career space explorer with countless planetary missions under her belt counselling a rookie who couldn't grasp the simple concept of look but don't touch.

'Older than I was on my first mission. I was only twenty when I first blasted out of the solar system on the Astrolabe.'

'How many actual Earth years has it been since then?' I asked; I wondered how far some older crew members were removed generationally.

'It has been close to a century now. But for me, it has only been about twenty-five years.' She said, looking off into the distance as if remembering something just for her to know.

Mini sand blooms billowed under her knee as she moved to equalise our eye levels. This was a side of Marie I had not seen before. She had helped recover me from digital preservation when we first entered the Proxima system; my first impression was harsh. From the no-nonsense Mission Specialist who threw my uniform at my face to the sympathetic person keeping me calm whilst I was being eaten by goo, perceptions change fast.

'Russell,' she snapped me back into reality again. 'I need you to listen to me now. I have never lost anyone on a mission in twenty-five or a hundred years. Today is not the day I start tallying up lost Mission Specialists.' She was trying to cheer me up. Although, I could not help but feel that it was a deal that would be hard to keep. I do not think I had any control over what happened next.

All the same, I smiled at her and said, 'Deal.'

She probably hoped I didn't notice how she placed a reassuring hand on my body and recoiled instantly. I would not have wanted to touch me in that moment, either.

Suddenly, I noticed I could no longer make out Marie's face. It was like the sun had blinded me, only I was facing the wrong direction. As things became clearer, I saw her porcelain skin through rivers of rainbow light, which I followed to its source. It was radiating out from where my hands once existed.

Marie skidded back to her feet so fast that the shockwave of sand stung my face like a thousand little needles. I tried to regain some sense of what was happening, but all I wanted to do was vomit.

The crawling on my arms returned as the imaginary spider colony clambered beyond my elbows. As they advanced, what was once a slight tickle was now a scorching pain. Trying to pull backwards made it feel like what was left of my arms would tear right from their sockets. The light and sand still hampering my vision.

'Marie, please help me.' Was she even still there? Had she run away to save herself? 'Please, it hurts.'

I felt a pressure clamp around my ankles. A gentle force tugged at them, and I went from being on my knees to flat on my stomach, arms still splayed out in front of me, the goo now up to my biceps.

The pressure had moved further up my legs, closer to my hips. I felt like someone was trying to pull my pants down. I managed to lift my face up and turn my head. Marie was desperately tugging at my legs in a futile attempt to save me.

'Marie, don't, it will take us both.' I could not let the Astrolabe lose such a valuable crew member. They didn't need an idiot like me who would jump into the first pretty gel puddle he saw. But Marie, she was priceless.

'I am not losing you, Russell. We made a deal.' She was screaming. Why was she screaming?

I had not even noticed that Marie's attempts to save me had sped up my consumption. I could see the ballet dance of colours racing towards me. There was no stopping it now.

The burning in my arms ceased. A wave of Arctic cool washed over my face, tickling my entire head. An indescribable flurry of images completely consumed my vision.

I cannot remember what I was being shown. A download of incomprehensible information found its way into my mind. The speed of which caused an overwhelming razor-sharp headache.

I was no longer lying in the sand. I had no idea where I was or what was happening, and then, as quickly as it began, everything went silent.

The silence was so soothing after the calamity that ravaged my body. Another bright light flooded my retina, only this time it had shape and form. Perception of the physical world returned to my mind as silhouettes blocked the light.

'You are awake, Mission Specialist.' It was Marie's voice. I never knew I would be so happy to hear it. 'Doctor, we have him back.' She called out to someone I could not see.

The white light faded, and the silhouette morphed into Marie. The smile on her face was somehow comforting and troubling at the same time.

'Told you I was not going to lose you.' Her words made me realise that I could forever trust her.

With great effort, I angled myself upwards onto my elbows. My body felt strange, almost lighter and more relaxed.

I saw the Chief Medical Officer moving toward me across the poorly illuminated Sickbay of the Astrolabe. I had not been in Sickbay since awakening from digital preservation, so I never really got to know her. She placed her olive-skinned hand on mine and glanced between Marie and me.

'Hi Russell, not sure if you remember me, I am Doctor Jones.' She said with her calmest bedside manner. 'I am curious as to what you can remember about what happened on the planet?'

I stared back into her dark eyes. Like Marie, she was several years my senior, and I once again felt embarrassed about the predicament. It also dawned on me that I could not remember a thing after seeing Marie try to pull me out of the goo.

'It was all so confusing. I remember there being a lot of pain and then nothing.' I replied.

Doctor Jones sighed and looked back at Marie, who said, 'Well, you were completely swallowed by whatever that gel or goo was. Only a minute later, it just vomited you back onto the sand.'

That must have been a sight for Marie to see. Could this first mission have been any worse? Yes, it could.

'And you are positive you cannot remember anything that happened whilst you were inside this, whatever it was?" Doctor Jones asked. The tone of her voice was starting to worry me.

'I told you already, no. Why, what is wrong?"

'Russell,' Marie interrupted. 'Actually, no, you should tell him, Doctor.'

'What is it?' I shouted.

'I am not sure how to say this other than just to say it.' The inability of anyone to get to the point was starting to infuriate me.

'We ran a lot of scans once Marie got you back onboard the ship. We were very thorough. What we found caused us to run those scans multiple times. We got the same result each time.'

'And?' I asked.

'Mission Specialist Russell Taylor. You are,' the Doctor paused again. 'Pregnant.'

The room revolved around me at a million miles an hour. I managed to centre myself just long enough to look at them both and say, 'But why can't I feel my hands still?'

August 31, 2023 03:17

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Joe Sweeney
02:48 Sep 05, 2023

A very interesting story!


David Willett
19:02 Sep 05, 2023

Hope you enjoyed it. My first attempt at a Reedsy prompt.


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