Free Read Friday: Assimilation

For some time I've wanted to post short stories I've recently written, but held off on doing so. I think part of the reason for my hesitation is my fear that some won't like what I've written.

I know, that makes no sense.

There's also the issue that once I've posted the story here it is then classified as a reprint were I to submit it elsewhere. Recently I've come to the conclusion that these are just excuses. To be honest, while my goal is to make a living from writing, I know I'm not going to achieve that through short stories so why not give them away.

And what better place to do that than on my blog?

If all goes well every Friday I will be sharing a short story that I've recently written right here on these pages, along with a little background to show how the story came about.

First up is Assimilation (this is also the title of the as yet written third part of my Shadows of the Past series)

Do you remember the final scene in John Carpenter's The Thing?

Childs (Keith David) and McReady (Kurt Russell) are sitting amid the destruction of the camp sharing a final drink before the cold takes them.

 It is considered one of the most controversial movie endings of all time. I've seen ideas floated about for a sequel to the story, some involving a crew trapped on a submarine carrying the bodies back to the states. To me this made little sense. Why a sub when a C-130 could get them back to civilization faster? And what happened in those final moments before sleep claimed them.

Assimilation is my take on this.

I hope you enjoy it.


It watched from the burning rubble as the two men huddled together for warmth against the plunging temperatures. It felt no remorse, no anger, no fear. It knew only the need to survive, to expand its reach, to assimilate its enemies. It had no concept of love, nor the loneliness it entailed. It only knew the physical sensations that drove it onward, that need to feed, to propagate, to overwhelm all it confronted. 

It felt ragged, taxed to its limits. It had surrendered parts of the whole to keep that central core intact. The essence that made it what it was. That gave it the ability to become whatever it touched. It had tried to pass itself off as one of them, to blend into their tribe, so it could escape this desolate landscape that had been its prison for so long.

Upon first contact, it had marveled at the emotions of these creatures, the raw power that propelled them forward, but at the same time hindered them.

One of them had figured it out. Coming upon it before it could complete its transformation, and the battle of wits had been joined. It had endured this creature's attacks, confident in its ability to tolerate anything it threw at it, until its opponent had discovered the cleansing properties of fire.

Fire was the only thing it could not counter. Fire was a wild thing that consumed all it touched, no matter what it became, or how hard it tried to endure its relentless attack, fire was all consuming. It disrupted its cellular structure, boiling away the protective enzymes, and exposing its essence to the raw agony of its all-consuming embrace.

It would have to move soon. The fires of their last battle were quickly dwindling, the warmth it provided in sharp contrast to the pain it could inflict. It would soon be a memory as the endless winter of this desolate place invaded its essence, forcing it into another prolonged sleep.

It was amazed at the resourcefulness of its opponent, its willingness to surrender its own life to stop its encroachment. But in the end, all things would fall under its influence. Whether it took two thousand years or two million, it would prevail as it had prevailed on countless other worlds before this one.

As the cold penetrated it moved from the shadowy crevice it had inhabited as it watched the two men sharing a final drink. They spoke in soft tones, their words slurred by the advancing cold.

It would have to act now if it wanted to survive, and it moved across the ice that reflected the dwindling flames of the structure that once stood there. A structure that once provided warmth to its inhabitants and the possibility of survival to a species this world had never known before.

They became aware of its presence but it was too late for all of them. Time had dwindled and it had to act now or face another long sleep. They tried to escape but the cold had robbed them of the ability to move and their attempts were feeble at best.

Settling into its new home it waited as the cold seeped in. It would sleep now, but it knew it would be a short nap, as others would come in an attempt to rescue what remained of this outpost at the edge of a vast ice cap.

Awareness dawned and it moved sluggishly as the last of the freezing cold slowly faded away. There was no real warmth, just an absence of the cold that had kept it in a suspended state, not even dreams could intrude upon this little death, that period of unconsciousness that stretched into the shadowy past. It had no sense of the passing time and as it explored its new surroundings it became aware of a bright white light above.

Suddenly it was infused with a burning sensation that was like the fire it had faced before, yet not of the same origin. It retreated from the encroaching sensation, drawing back within itself as it cowered in a shadowy chamber.

It waited.

Time passed, how much was anyone’s guess as there were no devices to measure the passage of the seconds piling into minutes that slowly unfolded into years. Time meant little to a creature that could sleep for millions of years and awaken into a new dawn.

It reached out, sensing that burning sensation again, yet not as powerful as before, a faint tingling that added some discomfort, nothing like the wild panic that had gripped it when originally introduced to the greedy hunger of the flames.

It infused its host with its essence, withdrawing immediately when that burning sensation overwhelmed it, retreating to the solitary chamber it inhabited.

It reached beyond the boundaries of its host, unable to open the eyes, it was forced to evacuate and it probed the perimeter of what confined it.

What it found was a metal chamber, long and narrow, draped in soft fabric. There was a lid, but it was locked, and it probed the corners of its prison as it sought to escape.

It would have to feed soon.

Finding an unfinished weld it forced itself through, emerging into another rectangular chamber, the walls of which were coarse and pitted. Probing the perimeter it soon found a seam between two pieces of the material used to construct the chamber and forced its way through into rocky soil.

Searching its vast memory it found what it sought and became what it imagined, transforming into a burrowing rodent. Powerful claws parted the earth before it as it pushed itself forward beneath the surface of the ground. It came to another of those oblong chambers and slipped around to the right as it burrowed through the loose earth.

Coming to another structure, this one much larger than the others, it probed along the wall, locating a crack that offered access into a large space shrouded in thick shadows. Sunlight came through several openings high in the walls, painting the floor with yellow rectangles of light. In one a furry creature lay sleeping.

Its hunger stirred at the sight.

Keeping to the shadows it flowed along the corner where floor and wall met until it was nearly on top of the sleeping creature. The animal stirred, lifting its head, and yawning to expose sharp fangs. It stretched out one leg, spreading its paw to reveal curved claws protruding from the tip of each toe.

As the creature lay its head back down it struck, immediately wrapping both sets of paws in a tight cocoon that would prevent the creature from lashing out at it.

The creature cried out in a shrieking voice as it invaded its body and began the process of assimilation. As it did it became aware of the creatures purpose, its past interactions with members of the same tribe it had confronted in that desolate place at the end of the world.

They were the masters of the flame, they controlled the fires that were its only weakness.

Footsteps sounded from above as it quickly infused the  creature with its essence, drawing much-needed strength from its new host. A door opened at the top of the steps and an old woman carefully took the steps one at a time as she came down into that shadowy place.

“How’s my little baby,” she said as she approached and bent down to pet the cat it was in the process of taking over. 

It lashed out, latching onto the flesh of the old woman's hand, the lined features of her face smoothing out in terror as she backpedaled. It slithered the length of her arm, around her shoulder, emerging from the collar of her shirt to wrap itself around her face, slipping into her mouth and nose as it invaded her body.

She fell back, hitting the floor hard enough to crack her skull, and she lay there helplessly as it fed upon her essence and took control of her body. No longer locked in a struggle to survive it learned more about this creature that could control the fires as it invaded its thoughts and memories and all it had learned over a lifetime.

For the first time, it experienced emotions beyond the primitive need to eat, sleep, and propagate. It felt fear tinged by a note of sadness that the end was to be in such a lonely manner. There had been hope to be surrounded by those she loved as death placed its claim upon her soul. Children who had long since fled the nest, starting families of their own, visiting only around the holidays, and never for very long as her partner had become verbally abusive to anyone who dared stray within range.

At one time they had loved one another with a passion that surprised this creature as it assimilated the old woman's memories into its own. Fear, anger and a growing need for vengeance washed through the creature as it explored every delicious sensation that presented itself.

Vengeance, the need to strike back, to take a pound of flesh for any slight. It was an emotion it had never encountered before, that need to strike out at one who has harmed them, burning with a shining light in the soul of this creature.

It fed upon this need, finding nourishment in a growing anger that reached far beyond the need to propagate, eat, and sleep like its other victims. It felt renewed, refreshed, as it embraced that churning rage.

“Hey, bring me up a beer, will ya?” A man shouted through the open door.

The old woman pushed herself to her feet and crossed to the steps. Her movements more assured than before, more graceful, almost predatory as she glided up the stairs with a renewed spring in her step.

She’d suffered years of abuse at the hands of the man who inhabited the house with her. There had been a time when she referred to him as a husband, but that had been long before the first punch was thrown, before the love that once blossomed between them was poisoned by his indifference.

He was sitting in his favorite chair when she crossed behind him and dropped a cold beer into his lap. He jumped, his bald head rising as he tried to push himself to his feet, and she clamped her hand onto the crown of his head. Driving him back into his seat as her fingers grew to invade his nose and mouth as it extended its influence in this brave new world.

It would bide its time, wait patiently for opportunities to present themselves. Given time it would establish a foothold on this planet, one individual at a time, spreading like a stain across the surface of the globe until it was too late for those who inhabited this place to stop it.


So what do you think?

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