..and the eyes

by R.T. Allenson

There are colder places than the sands of Mars. Colder places where the boundary between here and somewhere there are blurred so much to the point that it would be impossible to know where one begins…and one ends.

James was an ordinary man; an ordinary man living in Mars, the new frontier and the new Earth. He was one of the first to step foot on the red planet actually, one of the seven surveyors who first studied Mars without aid of computers or machines. Specifically, he was tasked in surveying the local geological formations and devoted much of his time studying rocks and soil samples. The mission itself was plagued with strange occurrences; sicknesses, fits of insanity and even missing persons. Of the seven only three reported back to Earth alive, him being the third. In the end, he would be the last of the notorious and controversial ‘Doomed Seven’. His other two colleagues eventually succumbed to an untimely death, both of them screaming indiscernible nonsenses: “Tash’taka! Iaejeurum en-Noorada!”

He eventually left the past behind him and departed to New Kansas where he would stay and continue studying the ancient Martian rocks and soil. This was all routine till one day, he felt something on the back of his mind. Unlike the headaches he used to get, he felt that this one was literally screaming at him…

He had begun writing ostensibly, a language considered dead for several hundred of years. There were traces or similarities to Akkadian, but the way he wrote it was utterly discernible even to himself. The verse seemed to just pop in to his mind like it was there all along. He would begin writing just after arriving from work, usually at around 5:00pm when the sun begins to set. He would feel an immense itch followed by a throbbing in his head which would only vanish when he finished writing the alien text.

There was nothing new with any of what he wrote as all of it seemed to be the same verse over and over again, and though he attempted to extract in his mind the meaning, it always eluded him just as he was about to fully understand it. As the weeks passed, the writing became more perverse to his senses and he would get feverish as soon as he completed each script. There were over fifty pieces of paper with the alien writing and many more that he threw in the fire one day when he seemed to have gotten a hold of himself.

Niles, a neighbor of his was the first to realize that there was something wrong with him. At first he thought of it as nothing more but a play of the heat to his eyes, but as he moved closer to his seemingly distraught friend, he realized that his eyes weren’t the same. His skin too, appeared different in the pale light of the sun and there was a smell around him that seemed to offend his senses that was unlike anything he had smelled before. Utterly different but something new that seemed familiar. Though at first he thought he was the only one to notice, many where already viewing his condition with suspicion and fear.

It came to pass that he was soon taken back to Earth, his condition by then already to the point that even his relatives failed to recognize him and was then finally interred into a hospital secretly run by the American government. In the hushed whispers of the nurses who worked there, they had begun suspecting the higher-ups were experimenting on their patients…

“Psst. Hey Derek. Hey! Psst.”

Derek opened his eyes painfully, the night still clinging heavily in his eyes. His head ached and his bones cracked, and a ringing had developed in his ear that wouldn’t stop. He turned his head slowly, as much as his neck brace would allow him and then, let out an irritated grunt.

“What now Bob. I’m trying to get some sleep.” His voice was faint and his breathing was hard. Bob however heard him perfectly. “This better be good.”

Bob, his head cocked to one side and resting on his hand coughed a few times. Unlike Derek, he was fully able to move but his respiratory system was so weak that he could hardly get out of the room without losing breath. A metal plate was visible just below his neck, a device that would regulate his breath from time to time. This was not perfect however, and was more of a tracking device the nurses used.

“I heard that the guy next to you is from Mars.”

Derek snorted. “Yeah so?”

“Well, is he green? Does he have antennae or something?”

Had Derek had use of his hands, he would have slapped his face in frustration. His hands however were bound to the bed and was still in a cast. A few years ago he was a pilot and though it seemed like a long time now, the sound of the screaming passengers still echoed in his mind.

“Bob, just because he’s from Mars doesn’t make him an alien. As a matter of fact, there are no aliens. Those ‘Martians’ are regular humans just like you and me. Or at least, me.”

“Yeah, well I don’t trust him.” Bob had rested his head on his pillow and was now staring at the ceiling, his arms crossed and on top of his chest. “There’s something about him, that guy. Makes me think of –”

“Look Bob, I’m tired. I really don’t have time with your conspiracy theories.”

“It’s not conspiracy that I’m thinking of. It’s just that…”

Bob was now sitting on his bed, his face painted with a worried expression. “I keep hearing about these experiments, these things the scientists do to us.”

“They’re doctors, Bob.” Derek interrupted.

“Whatever. The nurses say they’re actually scientists. But whatever they are, I’ve been hearing nasty stuff about them. Something about splicing things. And then, I heard last night. This intern was talking about that guy, the one from Mars. He said that he nearly threw up when he saw the growths he had.”

“Yeah, well that growth on your toe is one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever seen Bob. You sure he wasn’t talking about you?”

“I’m serious Derek! He said that the growths, all of them all over his body were had eyes and that they were blinking! And the-” Bob’s voice was shrill and before Derek knew it, his friend was grasping his chest and his metal plate was beeping. The sound echoed all throughout the room and into the hallway and suddenly, a group of nurses came rushing in to the room. Bob was restrained and then was taken away. It was the third time this week he was taken away, off through some unknown corridor to some unknown room in this evil hospital. He knew it too; the hospital was different and he knew all too well that the doctors were really scientists. Derek knew one of them after all.

The ticking sound of the clock was all that remained. Derek tried to sleep but his mind persisted in playing the screams of the passengers again and again. His heart was racing again and sweat was trailing down his fingers and landing on the floor. The sound it seemed, was louder than anything he had heard before.

Derek turned to the person next to him, the Martian that Bob had described. He was an older man, balding and was restrained to his bed. Of the three of them, he was the most normal looking although his legs and arms were covered by bandages that made him look like he suffered a burn. His chest rose slowly and depressed back though he was so quiet that he thought he was dead. Inching closer to one side of the bed, Derek squinted his eyes and looked for any signs of growths that Bob described.

(maybe they’re under the bandages)

Seeing nothing, Derek then turned towards the ceiling and started replaying memories from before the accident, the crash which took the lives of almost a hundred of people. It was not fitting for him to survive, though he was just the co-pilot; he had felt that he should have died with all those people. Only two of them survived the crash. The other survivor, a little girl was rendered mute for the rest of her life. He felt the guilt, of a hundred passengers but they called him a hero for at least saving one life.

(I don’t deserve it. I should have died with them.)

Holding back tears, Derek let himself slip into another dreamless and silent sleep. He was thankful that he never heard the screams there, tt was his only respite from an otherwise unbearable existence.

Derek woke up to the sound of rustling beside his bed. Almost automatically, he turned his gaze to the wall clock which read 6:30. It was morning, but it was too early even for him. He then turned towards Bob but there was no one there; the bed was still empty and the corridor outside was still silent.

The rustling sound grew louder as if getting closer to his ear. He heard a splattering on the floor like the sweat drops earlier except they were louder and they sounded more viscous. His heart was racing again. In his mind, his scream was among the hundreds of screams ringing in his mind.

He turned towards the martian who was a few hours ago sleeping peacefully in his own bed. Half-expectedly, he saw nothing there but a pile of bandages and a pool of blood dripping to one side. Drops of blood fell on the floor in a rhythm, drip-drop, drip-drop like the ticking of the clock on the wall.

Something slimy had begun crawling up his leg, slithering like a snake crawling up a tree. Derek felt the all-too realness of it all; the heat of the worm-like appendage crawling up his body and slowly constricting him.  He opened his mouth to scream but nothing came out. In his mind however, the screams of the hundred passengers seemed to echo everywhere. He turned his gaze downwards to his body and saw a thin, green tentacle had fastened itself on him like the restraining belts the nurses used to hold Bob.

Slowly, the tentacle crept towards his face. He felt slime seeping down his skin, through the pores in his skin. He thought of how quickly the slime would enter into his nose or mouth. The tentacle slithered quickly towards his face, tapering just above his eyes as if studying him. He closed his eyes and tried to scream but instead he found himself staring directly into a bulbous, green eye at the end of the slithering pseudopod.

The screams wouldn’t stop. Hundreds of screams, thundering across his mind…echoing throughout the room.

A/N: Originally titled “A Martian Sleeps Among us” as part of my Sector Twelve series. Slightly edited and corrected a few writing lapses.