Science Fiction Speculative Thriller

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

“Do you know what I like best about eating humans?”

The Silkenskin smiled at me, its voice soft and melodious and full of death in some lesser-known underground caverns near the cave of Lascaux.  The place where Silkenskins had landed.

I considered the Silkenskin’s remark progress in our encounter. An hour ago, the Silkenskin didn’t even acknowledge me, except to say, “Get out of my bed.” The pile of material like satin sheets I knew to be its shed skin apparently qualified as a bed.

I reached out and casually touched the translucent waxy face. It felt like touching a woman’s freshly exfoliated and lotioned cheek through a Hermes silk scarf. It didn’t feel like my feminine skin, but I spent much of my waking life in dark, humid, dirty places. I promised myself a facial when this was over. My colleague Dr. Rafe Heller constantly teased me about my appearance.

Rafe Heller prided himself on being bold enough to touch a Silkenskin. When he said he was the first, I didn’t correct him. After all, that first time twenty years ago during a teenage camping trip, I wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near the creatures. This time, I was here as a member of the Agency for Monster Oversight, Research and Eradication (AMORE for short). But the danger hadn’t lessened.

Especially since I was supposed to bring this one back alive for study.

I slowly retreated and sat cross-legged on the other side of the cavern.

“Do you know what I like best about eating humans?”

“Tell me.”

“The Nosferatu say they like the essence.” The creature slowly sat in a mimic of me. “But I understand that this is, for you humans, saying you like water. You need water to live. We need to eat to live. We also like the taste. But I wasn’t planning to eat you.”


“Of course not.  If you sat and talked to a cow, would you make hamburger of it afterwards?”

“I grew up on a farm, so maybe."

The creature grinned and swayed its head from side to side.  That was all the answer I was going to get.

“What is your name?”

The creature made a series of sounds like pans clanging together.

“Can you translate for me?”

“You could not pronounce my name.”

“You seem to speak English fairly well.”

“One must know one’s prey.  What is your name?”

“Ashley Guevara.”

“Assh-lei.  You are…female?”

“How did you know?  By smell?”

It nodded. “I like eating males better than females.  More…meat, and it is sweeter.”

I would have to remember to tell t Rafe. “Is that so?”

“Do you eat babies?”

“Babies?  Children?  No.” The Silkenskin shook its head. “Our females have live young. I am male, by the way. Why do you ask me all these questions?”

I shrugged. “So you won’t eat me.”

The Silkenskin made the sound that I thought was laughter. “Very good.  Inventive. I am wondering why you are here.”

I held up my backpack and pick. “I’m a geologist.  I study rocks.”

“I look to humans like a rock?”

I laughed. “Not in the least.  But I’d heard rumors about you…I wouldn’t have become a scientist if I wasn’t curious."

“So why are you not studying your rocks?”

I got my pick and started digging, hoping the creatures didn’t know anything about geology. “You’ve been such fascinating company, I guess I forgot.”

“You should not forget.” The voice never wavered in its melody. “There are others of my kind in this area.  Approaching close now.  They will not sit and talk to you.”

“How soon?”

It shrugged its whole body. “I do not know your time measures.  By darkness?”

Through the mouth of the cave that the afternoon sun was fading.  I hadn’t much time.  If I could just lure it closer…

“There is a way…I could protect you, for a while…we are bound by the codes of our kind.”

“What is it?”

The Silkenskin smiled. “You will not like it.”

I knew that, but I also knew that this might be the only way to win over the creature. 

“Try me.”

“I must mate with you.”

I took it in stride because I felt numb from shock. “Is…mating with a human even possible for you?”

“Not to bear young, but yes, it has been done.”

“What makes you think, after you told me you eat humans just for the fun of it, that I would consider mating with you?”

“Because you want to capture me, and you would do anything to win my trust.”

I stumbled, and the creature caught me in hands like luxurious lamb’s wool.  I leapt away and stood defiantly.

“You touched me,” the creature said.

“Can you read my thoughts now?”

“No.  Only at the time of contact.  And I would know anyway once we mate.”

“You know then that I consider you a monster.”

It shrugged. “I am used to this from your kind.”

“You know that I want to see all of you locked up.”

“Not killed.”

"We’re not like you.”

“You kill small animals for sport.  You kill each other for gain.  You kill people because they look different and call it a just war.”

I hated to admit it, but it--he--was seductive the way John Milton’s Satan was seductive. 

“Look, we don’t want, to wipe out your species.  But we’re not going to let you run free when you’re a danger.”

“This is what I wanted from you, your honesty.  Not clumsy delays and pretending to dig.  You did not know what you were doing, otherwise you would have realized that your digging would cause a large stalactite to fall on you.”

I looked up.  He was right.  I looked into his gemstone eyes. 

“If you know all this about me, why do you want to mate with me?”

“Among my people, I am considered odd because I talk to my prey and let them go.”

“But you eat humans too.”

“Enough that I am not considered…sympathetic to you.  You, your race, fascinate me, but I am not sympathetic.”

“Then we have something in common.”

“We each desire knowledge of the other.  That is why you will mate with me.”

“If you’re expecting me to just let you go, I won’t.  I have a commitment to fulfill.”

The hiss of silk outside told me that company was arriving, and I saw that the shadows in the cave entrance looked like a prison gate.

I looked back at him.  He sat motionless.  The only urgency was in his voice.

“If you would decide, decide now.  They come.  I can signal them not to enter, but you must choose now.”

“They will honor your request?”

“Mating is a sacred thing with us, but first you must say yes.”

The reasons not to say yes would fill the cavern.

My voice was as soft as his. “We don’t have data on your…practices.  How do I--”

He moved quickly to the entrance and emitted those sounds.  This time, they reminded me of bongo drums.  The sounds outside stopped. 

“We will not be disturbed.”

He turned back to me and strolled back.  He moved like a grasshopper, though his legs were built like a human’s.  He motioned for me to sit, and I sat, noticing the ground was warm.  He sat so that his skin brushed mine.  I felt electricity move through me and decided it was the effect of that Spock-like touch telepathy he possessed.

His name was Lhere.

“Trust me.”

I do.

Frightened by my own surrender, I swallowed and said, “They ought to give me the Nobel Prize for this.”

* * *

I woke from my well-earned post-mating slumber.  A Silkenskin, who was definitely not Lhere, loomed over me. I was exhausted but determined to put up a good fight. Lhere lay motionless.

I crawled to Lhere and touched him, resulting in an overwhelming urge to kill the Silkenskin near him.

Before I could act, the creatures retreated.  

The tall, muscular figure that appeared provoked my new primal instincts.  I growled and got to my feet.

The beam from a four-battery flashlight blinded me. Rafe’s voice helped me to clear my head. “What happened to you?  Did you leave it alive?”

I lifted Lhere, surprisingly light in my arms.  He was either unconscious or playing dead. 

“He needs help," I said again.

Rafe nodded, not asking any questions. “The airplane is waiting.”

* * *

CNN trucks and helicopters surrounded the Spanish-style buildings in the lush Brazilian jungle. The reporters’ perfect hairdos withstood the heat through a ton of hairspray. “We have a mole,” I said to Rafe as the van drove through the crowd.

Rafe swerved to avoid three Fox News cameramen. “They can’t get through the security system.”

“What about the leak?”

“We’ll plug it later.”

Electronic gates slammed shut behind us, but some of the reporters were already climbing the walls.

I stayed in the back of the van with Lhere, who was in a pet safety cage, the safest place for him.  I couldn’t let Rafe know my concern or my fear.

“You let the other creatures go?”

“They let us go.  They fled.”

“They’ve never been afraid of humans before.”

“They were afraid of you.”

Rafe looked back at me, and I saw he was afraid, too.

I moved closer to the bars and watched over Lhere, worrying because for the first time, he looked helpless.  

When I spoke, it was as if someone else had taken over my voice.

“They’re iodine based.  If you have any thermometers in the place, break one and give him a transfusion.  He should recover.”

* * *

Three days later, Rafe, protesting, allowed me inside the replica of a Silkenskin den and then retreated into an alcove where he and the rest of our team watched me wait for Lhere to awaken.

I’d left my recorder in the outer labs, with strict instructions that no one except Rafe was to listen to my interview with Lhere.

Interview with the Silkenskin.  I could make a bundle writing a tell-all book, but I wasn’t interested in fame or money.  I didn’t know what motivated me anymore.

Lhere stirred and opened his eyes.  I knelt beside him. “Are you okay?”

“I bear the pain.  Did you heal me?”

I couldn’t hear him and hoped he wasn’t hearing me. “I guess so.”

“I told you how?”

I smiled. “I learned a lot of things from you when we…touched.”

“And I from you.  So much so that I became weak and told my kin that I would leave humans alone for as long as you were mated to me.”

“That’s why your kin attacked us.” I felt a stirring of guilt. “Because you mate for life.”

“Correct. However, my other mates will shun me now, and my hemas will attempt to kill me. Word spreads quickly among my kind.”

I touched him without revulsion.  I was in the power position now. “You sacrificed much to mate with me.”

“Was it not so in the Garden of Eden?”

I laughed out of surprise. “But you knew I planned to capture you.”

“You planned to conquer me. And you have. But I have also conquered you. You can no more live among your kind than I can among mine.”

I tried to think of what to say, but his next words made me gasp.

“Even if your kind sit and study both of us in one of your laboratories. Do you think I cannot smell them near?”

I looked at my lap. “No. And you know that your kin would have returned in the hundreds and killed us by now.”

“They were afraid of you before.”

Did he know my mind? “You were unconscious.”

“I know my own kind. They were afraid of you. And your kind must now fear us both.” Lhere smiled at me. I sensed no bitterness or hatred from him. “You are as much a prisoner as I am. The question is, will we stay that way?”

I turned to look at where Rafe stood monitoring us. 

Lhere smiled at me and emitted some of those strange sounds…sounds that I still could not decipher but gave me a feeling of dread in my stomach.

“Rafe,” I shouted.

Suddenly, shouts from the corridor turned the whole thing into a dark comedy..

“…bring down AMORE for sure.”

“…hear what’s on that tape! She actually…”

“…can’t actually air that, we’d get fired.”

“The hell we can’t.” 

Rafe stepped out of the alcove and faced Lhere. “Kill me, right now.”

Suddenly, screams from the corridor echoed, and I heard the hiss of silk like a pit of snakes. 

I turned to Lhere. “This is why you wanted to mate with me. You knew you could arrange an ambush through me.”

“Chiefly, yes. And…for scientific reasons as well.”

“But they attacked you…”

“I was weak.” He grinned. “I…convinced them it was all a ruse, for your benefit.”

“And they believed that?”

“Irrelevant. They could not lose the singular opportunity I offered.”

“We can defeat you. We have advanced technology.”


Rafe ran into the doorway, hypodermic in hand, before I could call out. I didn’t hear a scream, but I grieved for him and for my own folly.

I didn’t have much time to regret or repent my sins before Lhere’s fangs slipped smoothly into my skin.

“I thought you said you preferred males.”

“I also said I preferred pregnant women.”

“I’m pregnant? You said a human couldn’t--”

“I had thought so, but it seems I was wrong.”

 “Another fact Rafe could lecture on if he were still alive…humans get knocked up instantly by Silkenskins.  And Silkenskins do eat their mates.”

“Only human ones. And I cannot allow this child to live either. It is…an unknown variable and might cause my kind to war with each other.”

“You won’t kill my child.”

I reached up to claw at him, but I felt something warm seep through me, and I couldn’t move…his venom paralyzed instantly.  I had to fight…

“Assh-lei, I never told you what I like best about eating humans.”

I saw Rafe, gasping, crawl back into the chamber. He looked like he’d lost a fight with a semi-truck. But in his hand was a bucket of acid.

If I was going to die, I was going to die as I lived: getting knowledge.

“You like…” I swallowed, throat wobbling. “You like the salt of our skin.”

“The first puncture of the epidermis, like biting into an apple.”

His fangs were deep inside my flesh.

“You hate the essence because it makes you…drunk?”

“I like the sweetness of the bones. The marrow has…something in it that counteracts the intoxication of the essence.”

“You can taste my cells. My very…nuclei.”

“Like you eating caviar.”

Behind us, Rafe screamed and dumped the acid on Lhere.

I felt that the acid had no effect on Lhere. It bounced right off his skin. I reached a hand to his face.

“Tell your friend it was a valiant effort.”

I stroked his face.

“Why do you touch me?”

I shook my head. “I…”

“Pulling my fangs will not hurt me.”

I shuddered. “You like best…tasting our souls.”

“Especially yours…my mate…AAAGH!”

One of the Silkenskins had its fangs in him. I looked into its eyes and read the first rule of conspiracies: kill the assassins. Especially ones that mated with humans.

I attacked the Silkenskin with all my strength. The Silkenskin’s flailing hands didn’t even bruise my skin.

Rafe shouted at me and lunged for me.  Lhere shook off his attacker and made quick work of him before going after Rafe.  I hopped onto Lhere’s back.

“Take me out of here.”

“Where?” He smiled with irony. “There is no place for you, and none for me.  And none for our child, our hema.”

The first Human-Silkenskin child.

Everything was silent.  Several Silkenskins gathered in the lab’s entrance and looked at Lhere expectantly.

“Don’t tell me. You’re a pack structure too, and that was the alpha you just killed.”

Lhere smiled and made the bongo drum sounds.

He was telling them to shove off and leave us alone.

"We were sent to communicate with your race. Our very nature has jeopardized that mission. And yet you killed us rather than learn from us.”

“We were afraid.”

“As were we. We were part of an experiment too.”


“To see if we could live with others not of our kind. Our world…is dying.”

“I’m sorry.”

“No sorrier than I am. We cannot live with others. I had hoped…”

“You didn’t mean for them to attack us. You meant them to communicate…you hoped that mating with me would…But then you…”

“I too failed to rise above my nature…for the first time in my life.”

The truth of his words came through our mental bond, and I slapped him. “You’ve never eaten a human in your life, have you?”

“I hate the taste of humans.”

I laughed, as much at my own prejudice as him. “But you did mate with one…”

“To no avail.”

I curled myself around him. “I don’t know. Seems to me that getting a human to mate with you isn’t a failure. Who do you present the good news to?”

“Our Council on my homeworld. They have been waiting now for three decades for news.”

“I thought your world was dying.”

"In five years it will...and we have never lived anywhere else."

“Well…there’s a first for everything. Like a Silkenskin mating with a human…and that was another lie, wasn’t that? None of you have done it with a human.”

“No. But you sidestep the issues. My kind have killed yours.”

“And they’ll go on unless we make a trip right now to see your council. Will you go with me?”

“Do you know what I like best about humans?”

I grinned at him as the Silkenskins hustled us out of the lab. “What?”

He didn’t answer until we were underground, near some sort of misty-white column that served basically as the subway between the Silkenskin planet and Earth.

Lhere smiled at me just before we stepped into the conduit and held my hand. “Humans are full of surprises.”

August 04, 2023 17:24

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11:03 Aug 05, 2023

Ive hinestly no idea how you packed so much in here. It's like a fully condensed novel. Impressive!


Kristin Johnson
17:22 Aug 05, 2023

Thank you, that's such a great compliment!


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Zyn Marlin
21:49 Aug 16, 2023

That is a very twisty tale. Interesting!


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