Author(s): Melissa Treglia
Release Date: March 5, 2021
Genre: Horror, Science Fiction
The social horror of Among Us meets a timeless tale of tragic love, in this novella by author and poet Melissa Treglia.
On an exploratory mission to an uncharted planet, science officer Brianna Dawson is infected by a vicious alien virus, causing her to become erratic and violent. The disease is breaking down her resistance and turning her into something strange, something other. Rhys Mayhew, the ship's chief medical officer and Bri's devoted boyfriend, must find a cure... before he ends up losing not only the woman he loves, but the rest of the crew becomes infected as well.
Interested? Here's a sneak peek at what's inside:
The surface of the planet seemed empty of any life, a barren empty rock devoid of oxygen – the planet having once been the victim of a magnetosphere gone astray. The stars held their pinpoint gaze without blinking, as Brianna Dawson descended into this biospheric crypt that was the deep cavern. She gently but securely clasped the line in her hand as she was lowered; the reduced gravity on this planet didn't make falling from a great height any less painful… or any less likely to be fatal. She felt a quiver of nerves shoot up through her spine, the breath she exhaled to keep calm briefly fogging up her helmet's visor as her descent continued.
Even though she trusted her partner, fellow astronaut Daniel Hainsley, she couldn't help but feel like she was walking through a graveyard.
She'd been exploring the surface of this planet with him for three days now, and there had been no signs of possible flora or fauna, beyond the faint traces of petrified bacterium that had burrowed into sediment solidified by the combination of below-freezing temperatures and the unforgiving erosion of the sandstorms that buffeted the planet. The surface of this planet was completely empty. Hopefully, the little crevices within concealed more promise.
Being here, on this abandoned rock in the Sirius system was as alien as one could expect, yet also achingly familiar to the homesick and enervated explorer. As Brianna continued to descend down through the cavern, she found herself musing how this unnamed planet was almost like Mars. A Martian type planet tidal-locked around the white dwarf of Sirius B, and covered with black dust that could provide a grim complement to Mars' volatile red. A dark twin to the god of war.
She breathed a sigh of relief when her feet finally touched solid ground once again. Feeling herself begin to relax, now that she no longer had so far to fall, she flicked on her headlamp and scanned it along the area.
And she gave an exultant shout that echoed through the microphone in her helmet.
"Dan! We hit pay dirt!" Brianna crowed. "There's signs of life down here!"
"Are you serious?!" His tone was, understandably, a combination of disbelieving and thrilled beyond measure. Finally, they had made a real discovery! "There's actually something kicking around on this oversized charcoal briquette?"
"Well, it's not kicking, really. Doesn't look like it can go anywhere," she said, examining her find. Indeed, the thing seemed rooted to the spot, though its limbs swayed gently as its limbs climbed, not unlike a vine of ivy on Earth enjoying a gentle breeze. She found its subtle little movements to be strange and yet beautiful.
"Can you get a sample?"
"I'm gonna see if I can find a little guy we can take home. I don't want to damage this big fella," she replied. And there, as if a gift from the gods to wayward space-travelers, was a smaller alien vine plant. This one was just like its much larger brother, but it having fewer limbs made her able to see it in greater detail. It had a mouth like a Venus flytrap, which was open and displaying its thin needles, as it waited for any cave-dwelling insectoid or vermin unlucky enough to wander nearby.
She smiled. "Come here, you. But keep those little teeth to yourself." With that, she pulled a clear sample jar from her bag, then gently dropped the open container on top of it, to keep it from potentially striking at her out of some alien predator-plant instinct, before she began gently digging in the ground to locate its roots. When she finally located the roots, she tenderly dug this flora – or was it fauna? – up, making sure not to sever any of those needed connections as she did so. She grinned to herself, as she sealed it snugly in the jar. All those days spent gardening with Nonna Dioguardi paid off. You'll be nice and cozy in the lab, potted in some nutrient-rich soil in no time.
Gently, she tucked it away, back into her bag, and then she placed the bag over her shoulders again. She tugged the line more firmly, letting Dan know she was ready to go. She exhaled slowly as Dan lifted her up, her feet once again leaving the ground.
Carefully, she used her hands to guide the way up the sheer rock face as smoothly as possible. Even so, she was jostled on the way up, and her bag struck against an outcropping of rock. She winced as the slow ascent resumed, hoping upon hope that the sample container wasn't damaged. If it was, she'd have to transfer it to another container as quickly as possible, once she was back in their lab on the surface.
She was immensely grateful when the lip of the cave finally appeared before her eyes, along with the blanket of starlight above, and Dan hunched over the crank that he was using to lift her on the line. "Sorry about the rough ride back up," he said, somewhat sheepishly. "The line got a kink in it that I had to straighten out."
"Well, hopefully, the little guy we've just adopted hasn't been damaged in the process," she said, feeling a little annoyed. She realised she was gritting her teeth, and began to wonder why she felt angry. Dan was good people, and an accident was an accident, after all. I need to calm down.
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