Legacy of Death
Mali 35, 12,053
After testing air and ground samples, find the planet capable of supporting our life forms. Possibilities for colonization good. Planet is virtual plant paradise, can provide more than adequately for colonists' nutrient needs.
Have not seen any large life forms yet, certainly not anything sapient. There are deteriorating remains of large cities planetwide. The aliens who built them have not been found. Landed one losi in a city that looked fairly intact. It is located in an arid, dry part of the planet that appears to have aided its preservation.
Mali 36, 12,053
Further exploration revealed the remains of beings scattered throughout the city, in almost every structure. I wonder if the whole city is actually some ancient burial ground? The larger buildings containing many beings might be a communal tomb for the poor sect, the more wealthy aliens being able to afford one large tomb just for themselves.
Mali 38, 12,053
Sol Keelak agreed with my idea of an ancient burial ground. The city was not destroyed by war or in any discernable manner; it is in good condition, except for places where the wind has worn down stones and structures. The beings are too uniformly positioned to have been destroyed by disease. They are all sitting in either vertical burial boxes or laying on large horizonal ones. If this had been a city destroyed by plague, some of the inhabitants would have been scattered in various parts of the buildings, perhaps lying on stairs or the floor; anywhere but neatly laid out, as if asleep.
I wonder what disaster wiped out the sapients of this planet? We can see the scarred evidence of wars pitting the planet's surface, but nothing big enough to demolish the whole race. The cities are crumbling monoliths.
Mali 38, 12,053
Decided to see some of the ancient dead ones which the exploration teams had discovered. My crew could not bring any to the ship, for they turned to dust when touched. So, I followed our Sol into the huge city, shuddering as the wind howled around corners, sounding like bascees on a hunt. The unexpected gusts whipped sand into our sensitive sight orbs.
Keelak gleefully led the way into a tomb containing one alien. The interior of the chamber was filled with drifting sand and eons of dust and debris. I snorted dust from my breathing cavity as we pushed determinedly through the accumulated mess, tasting an earthy mineral mixture as the sands found its way into my mouth as well.
We passed through several outer rooms filled with large, gaunt pieces of furniture, then arrived at the inner chamber. It was huge, overwhelming. Yet the horizonal death box almost filled the whole. The old one lay in the exact center of it, his limbs neatly composed. Will label it a male until after Keelak completes his tests.
Keelak jumped high, landing near the alien's midsection. I followed him and found myself next to its head. The alien was like no other I have run across in my many star travelings. He was approximately ten times bigger than the average Wazee, with only four appendages. He was extremely thin, the parchment-like skin stretched tautly over the body, revealing the bone structure remarkably well. Keelak said he was in a mummified condition due to the dry environment. I looked into the creature's skeletal face and was haunted by the sightless hollows of his eye spaces.
My unstable psychic powers must have been overreacting, for his grimacing mouth appeared set to reveal macabre secrets.
Jiggling with excitement, the Sol drew my attention to something. The alien was lying with its forelimbs on his midsection and between the leathery claws was a square object. "It looks similar to our ancient cojari texts wherein the old one's wisdoms were written...except it is of monstrous size," I spoke aloud, unaware I had done so until Keelak shook his head in agreement.
Before I knew what he was about, the Sol struggled with the alien's strong death grasp. He worked the text loose from the clasping appendages even as I started forward. One broke with a sickening snap, loosing the object suddenly as if the alien had lost interest in keeping it in his possession. Keelak was unprepared for his quick victory. His body pitched backward off the alien's last resting place, landing with a soft thud on the floor. I tried to keep pleasure from shaping my oral cavity as his eyes flashed round the room in embarrassment. Finding nothing untoward, he sprang gracefully up, dusting his garments with all his limbs but those he stood on.
My eyes flew suddenly to the alien again as my psyche flashed alarm. I watched with fascination as the ancient one seemed to shrivel even more, then slowly the face caved in, the body following. Tiny dust motes swirled slightly above the small pile of decomposed matter. Vexed with Sol Keelak, too much to even speak, my limbs flashed a furious message, "Why did you do that? You've destroyed the alien's remains!"
"Don't worry Juham, there are plenty more of them. But this is the first writings we've found with a specimen. I would venture to guess it has some religious or ceremonial context," he attempted to sound remorseful, but it came out placatingly.
I sighed, my anger deflating as quickly as it came and jumped down beside him. Juhams were as heavily tested as psychic healers and teachers. One wouldn't be chosen to pilot a starship if your anger was uncontrollable. Sols, such as he, were given more leeway for emotional tirades, or in his case, too much emotional detachment. A healer, scientist and alien biologist all in one; the combination made the Sol appear callous at times.
I felt a brooding glum descend on me. I decided to go back to the ship; further exploration would only add to my mood. It took Keelak and three others to move the text, one at each corner. I did not offer to help, something not expected of leaders. Yet I knew the reason lay within my own emotional state, too excited at this point to come close to such ancient writings, afraid of what my psyche would show me. Even so, my limbs ached to touch the discolored, yellowish pages. What secrets did they hide?
Keelak headed to the ship's back station immediately upon entering. He wanted to run the text through the language analyzer. This machine was a great invention; it saved much in painstaking deciphering of alien tongues and written language.
I made my rounds through the ship, then went to the refreshment area. I was sucking juices from a ripe qarlort fruit when Keelak ran in wildly waving his limbs. I smelled his fevered excitement. He told me the analyzer had already deciphered the ancient writings, run them through the ship's brain center and was ready to tell us the manuscript's story.
"Was the language so simple then?"
"No, no. Quite complex in fact, but so similar to the language of the primates on Calod, that it was simple to work out. Are you coming or are you more interested in nourishment right now?" Agitation and excitement fought for possession of his features.
My body fluids sped up and both my hearts played a clamorous melody of discordant beats. As we drew near the analyzer room a sickening feeling of apprehension crept through my zaktor receptors.
On my home planet, the learning pod had sent me early to the psychic trainers when the wisest of my teachers reported my potential. The trainers promptly sent me back. My psyche was too unstable to train, they stated; it came and went on its own timetable. Now was one of those times I wished not to have a visitation of my intermittent skills. Its plunge into the emotional realm was a hinderance to my observational abilities.
Upon arrival at the analyzer, Keelak's forelimbs moved here and there over the panel of flashing lights, making last minute adjustments. His oddly graceful movements triggered a trance state in me for a few seconds. The Sols dark-hued skin glistened as the lights reflected off its surface. The sudden plop of his heavy body onto the resting cushion next to me snapped me out of my momentary fugue. He perched nervously on the edge of his seat, as I on mine.
A disembodied voice leaped raggedly from the machine. The analyzer made automatic adjustments, then the voice flowed naturally, weaving its spell.
Ordinarily I don't keep a diary or journal of any kind, not since college anyway. But something strange has been brought to our planet and these are no longer ordinary times. It... they, are called the Vawee. I have such a strong feeling that they will change our society in some dramatic manner, that I will keep this journal of the creatures' entry into our world and their progress at becoming integrated into our society.
February 5, 2,089
The Vawee were carted into New Las Vegas spaceport by a crew of intoxicated off-planet traders. Even though their shiftless appearance bespoke of pirating interests, the trader's repugnant cargo was welcomed by several grossly obese people throughout the city. Everyone except the few fat fanatics shuddered and were repulsed by the idea of using Vawees to help reduce.
The scuzzy merchants were aided by three factors: One, the captain and crew set up a floating stall to attract attention and used criers throughout the city to herald their innovative merchandise. Second, not one pharmaceutical company had come up with a foolproof "fat pill", even though hopes had been running high ever since the new millennium waxed and waned. Many had come close, but all had proved to have side effects, some fatal. Third, the population of Earth continued to expand.
Forgive the pun, but not in numbers; population was strictly controlled by each government. People's bodies became bloated with easy living and jobs which took no more than a few punches of a button throughout a shift to complete a day's work. It didn't help that star ships imported exotic foods from nearby galaxies; dishes loaded with sometimes thousands of calories, making our hot fudge sundaes seem tame in comparison.
Of course, the discovery of propulsion units that pushed our race out to the nearby stars was the reason for this influx of alien goods. The disadvantages such as fattening exotic foods, were far outweighed by the advantages of interstellar flights.
I think these factors drew the crowds with flabby thighs and rolled midriffs seen massing around the traders' stall, vying for space. Most people turned away in horror when they saw the miraculous method suggested for weight loss.
Wriggling, shiny black creatures were held up for inspection. The Vawee were about the size of a large black widow spider with ten legs and suction mouths along each limb. Those limbs seemed to always be in constant motion, its multitude of antennaed eyes moving frequently as well.
"Just put one of these little fellows on some unobservable part of your body and let them do all the work for you. Yes sir, you won't regret purchasing one of these little gems! They make losing weight as effortless as a walk in the park." This was part of the speil put forth by the traders as they tried to overcome people's natural fear and revulsion.
Oh, at first they didn't go into details of how the Vawee did their job, not unless they had a very interested customer. Instead, they'd set the hook and reel them in, spewing forth statistics of weight lost by prior customers. Not once while I watched a sale ensuing did I see a potential customer ask for written reports or affidavits. When someone wants something bad enough and it sounds absolutely wonderful, I guess they're really not ready to "look a gift horse in the mouth" as my grandfather used to say.
I hated looking at those... things. I was suspicious of something that sounded as good as Medusa's gold, but looked more monstrous than the Gorgon. Being a reporter probably didn't help my suspicious nature. Anyway, I hung around the stall long enough to pick up all the details of this proclaimed "fat cure". The Vawee was somewhat like a leech, in that it attached itself upon a warm body, and then sucked upon its host with its various mouths. But the traders stated the creatures only sucked out excess fat, cholesterol, etc.
In other words, all the garbage in the human blood stream that is not needed. And the salesmen guaranteed you wouldn't feel any pain, just a little pressure at the site of attachment. They claimed that when you had lost all the weight you wanted, the Vawee could be easily detached. What utter nonsense! I didn't believe any of it for a minute.
May 16, 2,089
Unfortunately, there are always the gullible. Even with so detestable an appearance, the creatures were gingerly bought by several human monstrosities. They say there's a market for just about any human need or want. The traders found a tentative market for their Vawee with Earth's teeming overweight population.
I tried to do my part to stop this horrendous invasion. I wrote articles slanted against the Vawee, asking people to be cautious, take a good long look first. Even better, get a team of scientist to test the creatures before letting them loose on society. Some listened but not enough. And unfortunately, the overseeing of importation from other planets had broken down years ago into a "name agency" only. There were some attempts at regulation but too many imports made it past the inspectors, and the regulatory agency was famous for taking bribes. Importation paid handsomely, both to the traders and agency personnel.
It didn't take long before some of my faithful fans railed against me, writing inflammatory articles supporting the Vawee. Open your eyes Joe! Haven't the Vawee already proved themselves? Why, the first experimenters can look at themselves in the mirror with pride - and they don't even shudder anymore when looking at their Vawee.
Apparently, the traders were telling the truth, according to my fading fans. The parasitic creature was virtually forgotten after being worn for a few days. Reports were flooding in of dramatic weight loss, causing a stampede to the traders for more Vawees. When the pounds started dropping off, the disgusting things were looked upon by their host with fondness.
The first batch of slim experimenters, minus their Vawee, went around extolling the virtues of the parasitic, human garbage disposal. More articles were written in crazed support of the Vawee. Anytime I walked by the traders' stall, I saw elephantine behinds crowding around the gleeful salesmen, money flapping wildly from every hand.
August 2, 2,089
Sales have skyrocketed. The traders have made more trips, bringing back fresh shipments of these alien parasites. They even set up a permanent store. A very unpleasant place to frequent.
You walk in and the whole shop is filled with displays of the repugnant creatures, malignant eyes watching your every move from their clear glass cages. There is an odd, sour odor about the place. I always wondered what Vawees were fed when not on human hosts but did not pursue it, my curiosity overridden by queasiness when I thought of the answer I might find. Thank god I've always been thin. I shudder to think if it were otherwise, I might be tempted by the Vawees grotesque salvation.
July 21, 2,090
Time passes, natural revulsion passes, and the Vawee are in fashion. And I mean literally in fashion. Rich socialites and jean clad middle classers are seen wearing their Vawee. Anyone, fat or thin, who wants to be in vogue sport one of the disgusting things. Vawees quickly became popular with the thinner population when it was discovered that one could eat anything without consequences, as long as the Vawee sucked up all the junk in the bloodstream.
No further need for diets or strenuous exercises, and no more cholesterol clogging the arteries. People even had more energy and report feeling "wonderfully alive." I'm guessing it's ridding the body of all that junk... But still, I've never seen or heard of anything "wonderful" that didn't have strings attached. I dread finding those "strings", yet continue to dig for incriminating evidence.
Depending on the character of the person, Vawees can be seen on different parts of the human body. The youth prefer a locality on the waist while wearing short tops to bare the midriff. Many older people prefer to keep the Vawee covered up, hoping to deceive others that they don't need the parasite's help to stay slim.
The most popular and frightening, to me, is the attachment of the hosts "pet" to the juncture of their throat. By slipping a chain over the neck and through the creature's legs, it creates a grotesque necklace. I can hardly stand to go out to a restaurant anymore. Hard to eat when my eyes will be drawn to a black spot on some lovely woman's throat. I imagine sucking noises; another Vawee enjoying a feast at the expense of its host. In actuality, the Vawee never make a sound, which only adds to their ugly nature.
Of course all the Great Cities left standing after the world war, have joined in the Vawee love craze. It spread out from there; a sickening outward flow of the creatures throughout the world.
A few of my friends, the last to hang out with this stubborn Vawee hater, have urged me to purchase one. I refuse. What? Give in to societal pressure simply to please others? Never! I have a strong aversion to spiders and the Vawee too closely resemble them. And I have always been content to be labeled "eccentric", so I am only too happy to not give in to peer pressure.
September 11, 2,090
I hate them. I hope it's my imagination that sees a gloating air about the Vawee. Some purely primeval abhorrence for the unknown probably...but somehow I can't dismiss it so lightly. I have a growing feeling of horror.
January 15, 2,091
More time passes, but my alarm doesn't; it grows. It's been almost two years since the Vawee were introduced to Earth. I now have concrete reasons for my worry. The Vawee are an intricate part of everyday life now. Only one out of ten people don't own a Vawee, or should I say, nine out of ten people are owned by Vawees. Sometimes I think I'm the only one aware of the danger! Maybe it's just that I'm a natural candidate for paranoia, as my psychiatrist friend, Fred, firmly believes.
April 23, 2,091
There has been growing concern among the medical profession. It seems people are keeping their Vawees attached longer than necessary. Many people are underweight and pale, but still sport their parasites. Fred tried to reason with a patient about her Vawee, tried to get her to put it away until she gained some weight back. She went into hysterics, then got violent. Seems like people are getting downright attached to their pets. I hope that's just a figure of speech. Forgive me Dear Journal. Guess I sound a little smug -- but I would welcome the sight of flabby bottoms and fat jowls again, if they could replace these waifish figures with their vampiric burdens. The Vawee are too imbedded in our society, in our world...
August 27, 2,091
I'm a good reporter. Most of the time my nose has led me in the right direction; a few times I've been dead wrong. Why couldn't this have been one of those times I'd been led down a dead end? Dear Journal, my use of the word "dead" twice in such close proximity would be viewed with raised eyebrows by Mary Ann,my editor. It suits my mood.
The Vawee have struck. Not a sharp, severing blow but a slow, incessant attack. It is finally acknowledged by all that the Vawee are dangerous. My head-banging-against-the-wall efforts have been in vain.
A team of concerned doctors medicated several emaciated patients to remove their Vawees.
They cannot be removed any longer.
Any harm attempted on the parasites resulted in the host feeling the same thing. If forcefully or surgically removed in any way, the person dies instantly. The Vawee continue to feed upon the skeletal remains of their living hosts. What will become of us now? Will our race diminish to a few remaining people?
The Vawee have won the hand; the other players not even aware there was a game.
I feel gut-wrenching pain for the suffering of these unfortunate victims of the Vawee, but the future holds more than the depopulation of Earth. I look into the soulless eyes of the slithery creatures and see the promise of future sorrows.
October 17, 2,091
Dropping like flies. What a quaint cliché, yet so appropriate. The more skeletal humans are dying while the rest suffer great mental anguish. The suicide rate climbs daily. The Vawee are not found on their dead hosts. Where are they?
Day 1 - beginning of the end
I woke in the cold, dreary dawning of the day and did not wish to go outside. No desire to see the hopeless expressions on the few walking dead left.
Society has completely broken down. People have concern only for themselves now. Robbery is widespread. Murder is rampant, mostly by the crazed Vawee carrying hosts against those who do not carry a Vawee. I guess I can't blame them -- to see us walking around healthy while their bodies shrivel before their very eyes.
The newspaper shut down some time ago, we had a lot of overweight personnel working there. A deep sigh here, Dear Journal. How I longed to see Paul again. I'd buy him three dozen of the best doughnuts in town, to hell with calories and my gentle reminders that he should "cut down". Paul had occupied a desk next to mine and a been one of my few solid friends. He didn't mind being nicknamed Paul Bunyan, although his stature had more to do with poundage around the middle than height.
He was a good reporter and not stingy about sharing information as long as it didn't interfere with his own story.
Paul had the perpetual "jolly" personality attributed to overweight people. My buddy would have been the same if he'd weighed one hundred pounds instead of close to three. He was optimistic, ever ready with the joke, or gentle inquiry if someone was having a bad day. Paul was among the first recruits to purchase the Vawee, ignoring my dire warnings, causing a rift in our friendship that never quite closed.
The social part of me was complimentary toward the new Paul, but I felt a misery in my heart when I thought of that thing sucking away on this good man. Everyone else's comments and pats on the back only confirmed to Paul that he'd chosen the right path. As the pounds fell off, he emerged a nice looking, average-sized fellow. The rolls of fat no longer dictated his self-esteem. Even Paul's stories began to take on more zest, more life, causing further congratulations from the staff. Mine were as genuine as my earlier comments had been guarded.
Dear Journal, I had to pause for a few moments to collect myself; I cannot write anymore of Paul. Suffice to say he suffered the same fate as the others. He has been dead for some time now. I miss our Friday night drinking sessions, our football games, even our periodic arguments.
You can guess which subject most irritated my dear friend. I clutched my head between my hands for a long time, my mind numb with grief. I wish I could cry for Paul, for all of them. My head feels stopped up and my eyes shine like red beacons in the dusk, but I feel as dry as old sandpaper.
Imprisoned in my own house. A state I once wished for, like a far off dream... reporter sits at home and dashes off million dollar best seller. My dreams are not so pleasant any longer. Glad I stashed some money in the house and quite a bit of canned and dry goods. Always hated eating out anyway; impossible since the Vawee took over. So, I stay indoors as much as possible, not only to avoid seeing the near extinct, but for self-preservation as well.
Went into the bathroom to shave. Can you read my writing Dear Journal? My hand is shaking so as I sit to write this. Not that it matters if anyone can decipher it. Sorry, Dear Journal, I digress. I've always felt better after my morning shave. I saw the familiar face frowning grumpily back at me in the mirror. It froze in mid twitch, as if a frigid Arctic wind had found its way into my tiny bathroom and plastered the shocked expression there for all eternity.
A good jest by some forgotten dark god -- to smite from the darkness -- and return its victim to an equally black pit. Forgive me Dear Journal, here I go again with repetitive words. Here we go round the Mulberry Bush...funny how little childhood rhymes keep cropping up in my head, as if doing their best to distract me. But no, I was ever one to follow a story through to its completion.
After discovering my own frozen effigy, the room turned gray and I gripped the sink to keep from falling. They have truly won the whole game now. The Vawee will rule alone soon -- all too soon. I don't feel any pain. I am numb. Numb withdespair; the same flood of painless pain I had felt when my wife died.
There were tears in my eyes Dear Journal... can you imagine, I couldn't cry for Paul or the world, but for myself, yes. Selfish bastard! Many of my previous readers and girlfriends were right about that, it seemed. Or, is it a selfishness borne to every man at the appropriate time? I wax philosophical, I hope it is the truth.
I took several deep breaths and tried to still the trembling of my finger as I touched the oily blackness of the thing on my throat: my Vawee, my death. It was surprisingly soft and my finger left a slight indentation for a brief second. I grasped it in revulsion, planning to flush the thing. Such pain! Every nerve in my body screamed in protest. Had I forgotten that the Vawee could not be removed, or had some feeble hope wavered in my brain because it was now myself who suffered?
I could not remove it, it was one with my body. Where did it come from? How had this happened? Confusion fought with fear for control of my emotions. Suddenly a pain hit my lower belly, I felt ravenous. Maybe I'll go to a restaurant later, if there's still one open. For now, Dear Journal, I think I will lay down to rest awhile.
Sol Keelak sat in contemplative silence, echoing my own reaction. I trembled slightly, my zaktor endings still vibrating with distress.
We Wazee are a peaceful race, largely composed of scientists and philosophers. Hence a Juhams every thought recorded in their log is not only tolerated, but encouraged. One of our favorite sayings substantiates this practice, "one never knows where the next great philosopher will come from."
Our memory cells are excellent. I can usually spend all day executing my Juham duties, then return to my resting pod and record the day's events in exact detail. This perfect memory will, I feel certain, haunt me with the details of this day, and this world's history. The senseless and horrid killing of the beings once living on this planet was shocking to me.
I feel a need to purge, to explain. Is it for myself or those coming after me? The emotional pain is difficult to handle.
As I stared at the analyzer's dazzling surface, letting Keelak have time to gather himself, I thought of our race's beginnings. Long ago, before even the first sacred philosopher wrote down his wisdom, my people had been violent and predatory. Now we cannot understand or countenance violence in any form. Our peaceful ways make it imperative we colonize planets devoid of sapient life forms.
Our teams have found many varieties of smaller animals on this world who run swiftly away and hide. None are of a higher intelligence. Somehow they have survived on this world. How much time has passed here since the destruction of the sapient race? Impossible to tell. Perhaps our investigation will reveal more.
"Is that all of the story?" I asked.
"Most of it. Tree products such as the aliens used don't hold up well to time. Some parts were eaten by lower life forms or destroyed by decay," he sounded old, tired, reflecting my own mood.
While my zaktors were still trying to stabilize, Hajlor Sela came barging into the room like a pack of bascees were hot on his trail.
"Juham!" he exclaimed with a explosive whoof of air.
I surmised that Sela had run a distance to cause such breathing problems. "Yes, what is it? Can't you see Sol Keelak and I are in deep thought?" I admit my voice was exasperated. All I needed was some small trivia interrupting my thought sequences and already frazzled jaktors.
"Juham, I found a new life form," he squeaked with more enthusiasm than I thought warranted for the occasion.
"Hajlor Sela," my voice was firm, as one used with young ones, "you know to take specimens to the lab for examination by our qualified scientists. I do not have the time or inclination to inspect every new life form discovered here. Dismissed." I waved in his direction as I turned back toward the Sol.
"But, Juham," Sela persisted.
Agitated, I spun around to see why he was flaunting my dismissal.
"Juham, it's sapient. It's been signing to me!"
Our race had been using the limb signing to supplement our spoken language for centuries, since our ancestors had underdeveloped vocal receptors. Spoken language had been such an arduous accomplishment, now taken for granted. With the present generation, the signing was only used in ceremonial contexts or during times of high stress.
The Hajlor reached inside his voluminous uniform and pulled out something about a quarter of his size. For a few heartbeats I thought Sela had secreted a young Wazee child aboard. Then I saw my mistake.
Ignoring my shocked look, he continued. "And too, you can see the reason why I want you to personally inspect it," Hajlor Sela finished with smug satisfaction.
I stumbled out of my seat and walked over with a feeling of dawning horror to the creature. Why had I not figured this out? Right under my aspa the whole time! The description of them, even the distorted semblance to the Wazee name, should have made it clear.
I looked into several of its sight cavities, seeing things I wish I did not. There was an intelligent presence behind the orbs, but also the look of a wild bascee. This creature would take without mercy. It knew not the gentle teachings of the great philosophers. I looked at the face of evil and was shocked by the reflection off its dark surface.
The creature wriggled its legs in a excited, crude display of communication. This was a greeting, well understood; an unwanted one.
"Welcome, brother from the stars."
If you love sword and sorcery, crystal powers and unicorns, check out Mary's S/F romance ebook, Love's Captive. A synopsis and chapter excerpts can be seen on her web page.
"She has two reviews to date. One reviewer says Love's Captive is "delightfully entertaining" while the other says Love's Captive is "A must read! Exciting!"
She was chosen "author of the month" by the Road to Romance for July and the article can be seen under the Archives. Mary has had four short stories and one poem accepted for publication by The Storyteller magazine, and one short story by the Northern Stars magazine. She also has a proposal making the rounds for a southern traditions book.