THE RELUCTANT KILLER
Landfall + 1
Pam's resting peacefully; lapsed into a deep sleep of exhaustion after our first foray into the virgin sands of Sirius IV. We began reconnoitering as dawn blazed its reds and yellows and greens. Instrument readings declared that probe's sensors were not mistaken before it crashed: atmosphere is viable. Disembarkation on a new world is always a thrill: this is our third. Flora was terran in appearance, exotic like the old history tapes. No sign of life, though bio-sensors indicate there is an abundance. Brought plants back to the ship for study by Pam in the lab. She's intrigued by the cell-structure, and worked on the plant most of the day while I prospected for igneous rocks and set up the monitoring base overlooking the seashore. Pam relaxed later, taking the plunge in the violet sea; it looked cold, so I was happy to watch.
Landfall + 2
Pam's been violently sick all night. Convulsions. All the signs of poisoning. Bio-scan reveals microscopic foreign matter in her lungs, spreading at an alarming rate. It could be the plant - or the sea; everything else we've shared, and I'm okay. Later: dehydration is a problem for her. Schedule for experiments terminated. I've reported back to Fleet Command, now awaiting instructions: thought the response message will take 2 days using sub-space comms. Physical aid'll take weeks - unless there's a nearby transporter... Supply of pain-killers adequate; but I'm getting worried, finding it difficult to sleep.
Landfall + 3
Pam's very weak. I've seen incredible things, all manner of extra-terrestrials. But this accelerated aging is beyond my experience. Earlier as I anxiously paced the ship, I glanced in at the lab. The plant she'd been dissecting had sprouted, had tapped roots into the steel bench and was flowering as I watched. Small spore pods hung from the fresh stalks: I wanted to rush in and destroy it, forgetting my scientific detachment, but I held back. It probably wanted me to do just that - and then it would explode its spores against me: I'd heard of space adventurers who'd become living fertilizer for alien plant-life. As the plant blossoms, the opposite is happening to Pam: she's wilting.
Landfall + 4
Pam's breathing is shallow. I looked out the window, at the planets reflecting in the beautiful deep purple sea. She's lost weight in these few days. I'm reluctant to kill her, but I can't bear to see her wasting away, and in so much pain. I walked into the moonlit surf, my wife docile, trusting in my arms. I immersed us both, Pam completely, myself up to my chin. I discovered that tears burn. Suddenly, she shuddered in my arms and forced her head out of the water, coughing in great, terrible spasms. She seemed to be disgorging her lungs, the attack was so violent. I pulled her out, overjoyed to learn that the sea, the amniotic fluid of the universe's life, was rapidly healing her, voiding the vile intrusions into her metabolism. She's not very strong, but she's alive. Report ends.
This was an attempt to write a piece of flash fiction of 500 words, using only four paragraphs.
Sometimes, repetition is justified: I deliberately began each paragraph with 'Pam' to convey that her fate is uppermost in the narrator's mind.
Previously published in WORKS magazine, 1989
Copyright Nik Morton, 2014
If you enjoyed this story, you might like Spanish Eye,
my short story collection featuring Leon Cazador, private eye in 22 cases
published by Crooked Cat Publishing.