Terry the Space Bum

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Here's a quicky I wrote trying to mix science fiction and horror a little.


It was always a bit cold in space stations, Terry thought. Sometimes it made it hard to sleep on the metal deck plating, but then again, beggars can't be choosers. He'd been waiting for a transport for weeks, so he could hitch a ride out of Titan Station, but strangely, none had come. In his experience, even remote research stations like this one tended to get weekly supply shipments.


There was no trouble keeping out of sight from the scientists on board, they were too consumed with whatever research they were conducting. Just as well, he thought, it gave him an easier time when dipping into the food stores. Not fantastic fare, certainly not 'an epicure's delight,' as the last transport's in-flight magazine had described his previous home's cooking.


But then again, there was no beating Mars colony's Advanced Flavour Enhancer 3000; it made even stale bread taste delicious. He had tried to sneak some out with him, but there must have been some kind of theft-prevention device that evaporated the stuff when he left orbit. It was a finicky substance even on Mars' surface, but they produced enough that even a space bum like Terry could snatch a bit here and there.


Thinking of the time since the last transport dropped him off here, he realized that this station didn't have forced day and night. He had been relying on the chronometers in the station to keep track of time, and they could be running on some standard the scientists had picked. The last few research posts and stations he'd visited seemed to keep different time standards, probably picked by the scientists there for some reason known only to themselves. But Terry still had his watch on those visits, and it was set to Earth standard. He had been able to tell how fast or slow the local time ran.


But it didn't much matter, the station was well stocked, enough for a year, given the number of scientists manning the station, and himself. He hoped that wasn't a sign that he'd be there quite that long, but the more remote stations kept larger stocks, 'just in case.'


It was into the second month that he started hearing the noises. Every station had its own set of creaks and groans, but these were different. Whispers around the corner in a corridor, rustling in drawers, the scrape of nails on metal, just out of sight. At first he thought it was the scientists, but the station computer kept track of them, and none of them were anywhere near his location. He had welcomed this feature when he first arrived, it allowed him to keep out of their way. But now, with these sounds, it was becoming a recrimination, as if saying 'you have to be crazy if you think you're going to survive here.'


The sounds continued into the next month, and he was becoming progressively more and more on edge. When he started seeing things, shadows flickering near the sounds, he started to question whether or not all those old science fiction stories dealing with space insanity had some kind of prophetic quality. Sure, the Sol Health Organization said there was no evidence that any could actually go space-crazy, but he had always wondered about that.


The shadows were mostly formless, but occasionally he'd catch a shadow of something pointed, like a knife. With all the new ways of killing people that had been invented recently, the knife was still a good old stand-by. Never runs out of power, doesn't get jammed, can be concealed just about anywhere. He was beginning to wonder why he didn't carry one.


By the fourth month, the sounds started getting more and more menacing. The whispers took on an angry tone, the scraping sounds became a little more violent. He couldn't reveal his presence to the station's crew, but at the same time he was getting very scared, and thought that perhaps the crew would be able to protect him.


In the fifth month, when he started catching glimpses of something making the shadows, he was almost about to pop into the main science lab and for protection. He was drawing near, keeping an eye on the computer monitor throughout to see where everyone was. Then the screaming started, horrible, pained screams, little splashes against the walls and dull thuds afterwards. The monitors showed the dots representing the scientists slowly fade, one by one, as they were apparently being slaughtered. One dot remained, and he heard pleading screams, "No, no, please god, no!" When he heard the scraping noise start again, and head towards him, out of the lab, he ran.


In his excited state, it took him a while to figure out what to do. There was, in case of emergency, a special craft designed specifically for returning the crew to Earth. He had to get to it and get back, so he could tell someone what had happened. Luckily it was attached to the station near the docking bay, where he had first arrived. It was in the opposite direction from the lab, and so that's where he went.


It took him a little longer to get everything set up, being this excited, but he did finally disengage the holding clamps and get the launch thrusters going. It wasn't until the station appeared as a distance dot in his rear viewport that he let himself start breathing normally again.


"Did you see his face?" one of the scientists laughed to the others, back, safe, and in the lab.


"Man, that was the most fun I've had all year!" another replied.


"But he just took our escape pod," said a third.


"And the resupply ship's already left Earth," added the fourth, "so we can't get it to pick a replacement up for us."


"Oh crap," said the first, "it looks like when the pod took off, it tore a crack in the station's hull. We're leaking atmosphere."

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