RULES STALIN appreciates cunning and guile, and so enjoyed this story by @jonnywaistcoat which – aside from being a solid tale of struggle against an alien invasion – was a wilfully cheeky attempt to subvert the genre expectations of the prompt. When you get to the end and see the prompt supplied by @eph_bee, you’ll get the joke – half the fun of #SFSwap is you just can’t predict what someone else will do with an idea.
STORY NUMBER: 14
PROMPT PROVIDER: @eph_bee
She could not tell if the jagged point that pierced her forehead was claw or sharpened bone. The blood that dripped down her face tasted strange as it ran across her lips, as if tinged with something darker. The thousand melded faces of the thing that gripped her screamed and cried and gibbered as she felt it starting to draw all that was herself inside of its oneness.
She felt memories slipping out of her like water over glass.
She remembered the talk on the radio, of those strange signals that had finally responded to all the entreaties we cast to the sky. Had she been a child then? No, a child cannot make the decision to forsake the world as she did. A child cannot survive alone in the isolation of the woods, her woods, and keep but a single speaking link to what she had laughed to call civilisation. A child could not have been splitting logs when she heard the silence of the birds and the roiling cries on the horizon.
She remembered the dull panic that pierced her heart (as something now pierced her mind, but what? The thoughts are hard to form) when the radio said the thing that approached Earth would not slow or miss or stop. The size of the thing would destroy… It had been Australia, as luck would have it. But only at the start. The radio could never fully tell what had emerged from the broken shattered mess that had once been a continent to crawl along the bottom of the ocean and cover all it touched. The world could not survive, would not survive, she had known that.
“Extinction level event” the radio said. But she had thought to live he last days in the peace of wilds and fireside embers.
She remembered splitting logs the day the radio went dead and in its static she had read a thousand awful fates, yet none could have been close to what had come at last to break her skull and consume all that she was, had been or ever could become. Even that last fatal becoming would be denied her in that captors’ mass.
She remembered splitting logs again when the hellish wave of mottled flesh crested that horizon which had once been hers and only hers. So many billion forms and souls and minds and faces from worlds beyond her own were folded therein and it oozed and juddered across the landscape like an ocean of tidal cancer.
She remembered that she did not run, could not run, for how and where and why do you run when such a thing is upon you. It picked her up with twenty dozen hands and boneclaw-broke her skull to drink in who she is. She is gone. She is it. She is hunger and flesh and all. She has heaviness in her arm from the weight of the hatchet.
She remembered the hatchet.
With a single swing, too fast and desperate for the hands that held her to grip full tight she swung the hatchet and hacked boneclawed limb which reached from that main frame of flesh to drink her mind. In a spasm of pain the hands released her and she fell who-knows-how-far upon the hardened soil. It broke her, left her shattered on that ground. Was the blood that pooled from head or leg or jutting rib? It didn’t matter. All that mattered was that it was not from her hatchet arm, which still had strength to move. And for one final hack. The hack to keep all which she called her own identity. Hers alone, until the end.
PROMPT: She must hack the mainframe, before her identity is deleted