Science Fiction Speculative Inspirational

Jagged spears of light sliced through the dome of the cavern. The planet Xenoscythe's sun, Aerialis spun in a perpetual dance with its barren rocky surface. Its scant rays fed the underground cathedral rock amphitheaters through rifts in the crust, allowing life to survive under the surface. Vast rippling pools of fresh water were ringed with igneous rock formations bursting with gold and green mosses, giant leafed ferns, purple flowers, succulent fruits, amphibians, and tiny flitting red finches. The sounds of the waterfall splashing into the small lake murmured in Tokarov's ear as he opened an eye and yawned.

His bed was a pile of soft dark green and lavender feathers nestled in the soft powdery clay dust under a stone outcrop. He rolled over and looked at her. Marble skin hid under a silken sheet emblazoned with the same iridescent sheen that made the feathers shimmer in the dim light. Reaching out, he stroked the burgundy curls cascading down her slender shoulders. Lora Lei stirred, shifting in her sleep. Tokarov scooted his naked frame over to hers and held her, folding down the blanket and rubbing her arm, reaching to feel the growing bulge in her belly.

Sitting up in a quick motion, Lora Lei stretched her long limbs and let out a noisy yawn. He was transfixed, staring at her vulnerable, supple frame as she fought off the fog of sleep.

“I need to feed.” Her purple irises flashed at him as a knowing smile dotted her lips.

"I'm sure some poor Grigglesneed is just waiting to have his head torn off." Tokarov slid on his trousers and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. He turned away not wanting to see it again.

The Sabinarath Lora Lei transformed into was tragically beautiful and terrifying. A long beak lined with razor-sharp serrations jutted from in between two enormous purple eyeballs the size of dinner plates. Her arms stretched into wings, trailing in flowing green feathers, with legs ending in talons and scaley bird-like feet. Two steps and Tokarov felt the wind as she took flight in the cavern, swirling up into the light, landing, and disappearing into the crevice in the cave ceiling.

Now alone, Tokarov slipped on his cotton tunic and bounded barefoot toward the stand of fruit trees near her lair. Flipping his dagger from its worn and humble brown leather sheath, he sliced through sinew strands of the sweet yellow-striped fruit that smelled like bananas and tasted like kiwis. Digging his teeth into the flesh, he tried to fight off the images of his mate feeding. Grigglesneeds were hearty reptilian humanoids with tails like a crocodile and legs like an iguana. She assured him, that the nutrients the fresh meat provided was necessary for their alien hybrid to grow. Thankfully, she would plunge into the water upon return and wash off the blood. He shuddered and swallowed, cutting up another fruit.

He nursed the fire, blowing on it with a tube to resurrect the orange flames. Piling on some small sticks, the hearth fended off the chill of the morning. The sun provided enough light for life, but no heat in the vast cave where they lived. He ruminated on the stories of the Wombs of Xenoscythe recited to him by Lora Lei. These natural formations were homes to the trial winners, ones who fought to live, ones tasked with birthing a new species capable of surviving, capable of thriving. It was rumored the Overlords of Xenoscythe had seed planets ready. They only harvested the planets that were dying, planets like the Earth, Tokarov's home.

His mind's eye replayed the evacuation. Long flexible tubes sucked the few dozen humans that had survived the armageddon from the surface of Earth. They were able to watch on a large digital screen in their holding area from the immense interstellar ship as a robotic arm equipped with a cylindrical head, lined with thousands of teeth tore into the Earth's crust. A hose the size of a mountain range vacuumed the remains into a storage vessel. In a few minutes, the Earth was reduced to a molten mash of bits, simmering in a cargo ship three times its size. A loud splash jolted him back to the present.

He turned to see the surface of the water rippling. Lora Lei's head slowly parted the water, her hair flowing in the water. Her body was like a master's painting, flawless and timeless. She cupped a hand to her belly and looked up with a radiant smile at Tokarov. He looked away with a bashful grin.

“What are you going to name it?” The question struck him.

“Shouldn't we decide that together?”

"We both know how this is going to end. You need to be planning, gestation with my species only takes a couple of moon cycles." Lora's eyes widened as she felt a movement in her abdomen. She grabbed his wrist and placed his hand on her stomach.

“I don't feel anything.”

“In time, dear, in time.”

“What if I don't know what to do? I have spent my adult life fighting, living the life of a warrior. I don't know anything about raising a child.” He looked at his blade, its metal stained with the blood of enemies and friends alike.

"We are all imbued with the spirit of life, Tokarov. Death is just another part of life. An animal doesn't need to read a book to nurture its young. We are programmed with DNA and powers beyond our comprehension. Billions of years ago rocks did not just spring to life and start breathing. We are moved and gifted with a force, a force of life that makes us want to live." Lora sifted her fingers through his long hair, prying to confront his soul. He hid it behind his humanity, shielding his vulnerabilities.

“I've spent my life killing and dying, hoping for a glorious warrior's death on the battlefield, with the gods of war smiling down on me, applauding my effort.” He unsheathed the dagger, spinning it in his hand with precision.

“What if there are no gods? What if there is only one single thread that holds us all together? What would you call it? A presence? A what? What would it be called?” She felt in her heart she had him cornered.


“What gives life?”

“The sun? I don't know.”

“Spirit, Tokarov! Every culture has figured it out since the dawn of time. They call it by different names, but unless you embrace the spirit you will always be lost. You can take a man's life, only One can take his spirit.”

“Who is the One then?”

“You have already met Him, you just don't yet believe.”

“Will I in time?”

“You will, you will...”

Time is an immutable force that whisks us to our destiny whether we are ready or not. The weeks that followed were the stuff of fairy tales. Love, bonding, and long afternoon embraces all contained in a place that could only be compared to the Eden of antiquity. Yet not everything is as one sees, for every life there must be a death.

“Didn't we meet just a few weeks ago?”


“You said the gestation would take a few moon cycles. On my planet that is sixty days.”

“Well, Xenoscythe is not your planet. My offspring is ripe, ready for the world.”

Tokarov screwed up his face a bit. Lora Lei was quite large to be in her first trimester. He had felt the fetus move a week ago, yet now nothing. Her belly was stiff and bloated. As the light from Aerialis dimmed in the cavern, she stopped, flaring her fingers out with wide eyes.

“The time is now!”

Tokarov led her to the lair, to their bed, the only soft place in the cavern. He folded up his shirt and placed it under her head and neck. She pulled off her clothes and lay there naked, pulling her ankles up to her buttocks with her hands and beginning a bizarre breathing pattern, eyes staring straight up.

Tokarov watched as nature took over and her body engaged in its genetic instructions. A sweat broke over her body and her abdominal muscles undulated, like a python swallowing a pig in reverse. He touched her arm, but she was fixated on the birthing process. Curious, he looked down to see if the baby had crowned yet. In humans, one could see the top of the head and some dark hair. Yet, the birth canal revealed a shiny, white, curved surface. He stopped and caught a breath. It was then she spoke for the final time.

“You must take it to the surface of Xenoscythe. Only Aerialis can free our child. I loved you.”

A final push released the egg from her womb. Lora's body fell limp. Tokarov touched the egg, its surface sticky with slime. He rubbed it with his fingers, momentarily forgetting about its mother. Then he stopped, his eyes wet, and looked up to her face. Emotion was gone.

Her body lay limp and lifeless, the Sabinarath had kept its word and given itself up for the birth. He racked a few selfish sobs. Not sure what to do he decided to carry her body into the water and allow nature to take it back from him. As he pushed the body out into the lake, birds in the cavern shrieked in a cacophony of sounds. He knew it was done, yet something else had begun.

There was no easy path to the surface. He could not fly like the Sabinarath. He had to carry the egg back through the caverns if he could remember the way. The egg was the size of a small watermelon. Needing his respirator to breathe in the caverns, Tokarov knew this was no minor adventure. Pulling on boots and checking his breathing apparatus, he plugged the tubes into his nostrils, spinning the oxygen generator onto his back. It sprang to life puffing air into his nasal passage. Lifting Lora's dress from the ground he used his knife to fashion it into a sling for the egg, carefully cradling it and placing the strap over his shoulder.

He slipped through the web-covered secret entrance one last time and flicked on his headlamp. It danced back and forth as the cave yawned on. His running banged out a tired rhythm as the egg swayed and the light bounced. After what felt like a kilometer or more, a few forks in the road, and guessing, Tokarov saw the soft light of a feeding shaft in the distance. He picked up his gait to a full run and was digging in a heel to slow down when the stars burst into his eyes as he blacked out. His last thought was to protect the egg and in falling he wrapped his body in sacrifice around it.

"GGGRRR ZZZZ AAAHHHH!!!!" The familiar tongue of the Grigglesneed met his ears. Digging for his waistband he felt the dagger's handle and wrapped it in a firm grip. The lizard man rolled him over and felt the egg, its tongue flicking out and tasting the shell. Tokarov wrapped his free hand around the creature's throat and lunged with the blade, aiming to plant it in the center of its walnut-sized brain. The lizard heaved and shoved him.

Its strength was unbelievable. It tossed him against the rib of the cave like a doll and hissed. Arms were rippled with armor scales and flexed three-fingered palms tipped in dirty, sharp talons. Tokarov pushed himself up on unsteady feet and brandished the blade in his back hand. Looking over, the egg was cradled in its sling on the rock floor. The diamond slits of its eyes narrowed in the darkness, the light of the overhead shaft illuminating the scuffle. Tokarov saw his headlamp lying near the creature's foot. He knew if he could blind it, even momentarily, the advantage would be his. Diving for the light, he flicked the switch, jamming it in the Grigglesneed's eyes. The shrieking echoed in the close space and Tokarov shoved the blade to the beast's throat, pushing it into the flesh. The lizard was too strong. It reached a claw around his forearm it pushed the knife from its throat. Shoving him back, it thrust Tokarov to the wall of the cave, its hot breath washing over his face.

“AAAAIIIIIIEEEEEE!!!!” Blood burst from the creature's head as a sword cleaved off half its head, splattering Tokarov in a mess of fluid and brain matter. As it fell back, he dropped to his knees and caught a breath trying to wipe the blood from his eyes. Looking up he saw the smiling face of Ego, his arm resting on the hilt of a double-handed claymore sword.

“Dear God, you just saved my life.”

“Not just yours, you have a species to revive.”

“You, are now Who has always been.”

“We are all just trying to survive, even the gods among us.”

“What am I to do?”

“Gather yourself and your future. I will get you to the surface.”

Tokarov sheathed his dagger and gathered himself, placing the egg in the sling over his shoulder, and looked at Ego, "What now?"

“Extend your arms and position yourself under the shaft. I will do the rest.” Tokarov complied and Ego clasped his hands together and his lips danced with ancient words, bringing realization and tears to Tokarov's eyes. The weight came off his feet as he ascended the shaft by faith alone with his future cradled around him.

At the planet's surface, he floated down to the rocky ground, the heat of Aerialis bearing down on him. Gently unwrapping the Sabinarath's egg, he held it up to the sun, allowing its rays to heat the shell, not quite knowing what would happen. As the star warmed it with its rays, something stirred inside. Sitting down, Tokarov placed the egg in his lap facing the sun.

Watching as it rocked and wiggled, he gasped as a tiny finger poked through the shell. Helping it along, he broke away the hard husk, revealing what looked like a human infant. As the light reached her eyes she squealed and kicked, punching away the last of its vessel. Holding her up in the light, he looked down, yes definitely able to reproduce. Wiggling and cooing, she locked eyes with Tokarov, her purple irises beaming in the sunlight. They both smiled as he held her close.

“I will name you Evangeline.” Tokarov kissed her cheek as a tear dripped off his nose, landing on her tender forehead.

A noise broke the communion as Tokarov saw the nose of a ship edging down toward the surface of Xenoscythe. The Overlords were here, to where they traveled next only they would know.

January 08, 2024 02:01

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Helen A Smith
17:29 Jan 16, 2024

I really enjoyed this Kevin. It was a beautiful read. Though it stood out in its own right, I thought it would make an awesome novel. For me, it crossed over into fantasy too. You really took me there with this one.


Kevin Marlow
02:33 Jan 17, 2024

Thanks for reading. This is the third world-building piece for a second novel, unfortunately, I am struggling to finish my first full-length WIP.


Helen A Smith
06:55 Jan 17, 2024

I’m the other way round. I thought I might spice things up a bit by introducing a subplot or new characters into the second novel (not too many of them) who link up to the main characters. Also, with more action. It’s easy to get bored with a novel and keep up the momentum. It’s helpful to get people reading and giving feedback, though not always easy to get the people and take the feedback.


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Patricia Casey
03:51 Jan 15, 2024

Hi Kevin, Excellent descriptive work throughout your well crafted plot. I'm still smiling from the new birth and happy ending. Patricia


Kevin Marlow
03:56 Jan 15, 2024

Thanks for reading, the prompt meshed well with a world I've been creating.


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Mary Bendickson
06:25 Jan 16, 2024

Fantastical tale! Thanks for liking my Magic story. And thanks for following me.


Kevin Marlow
02:29 Jan 17, 2024

Thanks and you are welcome.


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Chandler Wilson
15:00 Jan 09, 2024

Excellent work Kevin! My only suggestion would be to put it together with your other Xenoscythe works and publish a book. Maybe a series of books. I think Black Rose Writing or Morgan James Publishing would be all over it, but get it off Reedsy ASAP.


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