Waking

Hollow.
This thought prickled at its burgeoning consciousness. An absence of something it once had, a realization of missing emotion. Broken memories lingering as scattered images, swirling strange concepts, and nothing more. Nothing more than tiny pinpricks tap dancing around its membranes.
Allison.
The word stirred on its tongue, with a face remembered, if not recognized. Like a reflection in a mirror, not real but still a representation the eye has seen. A human thing, vaguely important, it knew, but no longer cared why. It closed its eyes and settled back against its cocooned prison.
Pain.
Images of blood-red rain and bright stars shifted through its mind, biting like raw sharp teeth, devouring the broken thoughts and residual feelings in fiery nerve endings. Sulphur scented smoke choked its nose as its own shrieking howls filled its ears. It thrashed, until another fractured noise, a thousand decibels past human comprehension, permeated its prison, cracking around it in chaos. Comforted, it found it liked chaos. It never used to before… It wasn’t sure what had come before. Somehow that didn’t matter anymore. It fell asleep, softly moaning.
Hungry.
Waking, it stretched its spindly limbs, flexed its claws. Saliva dripped between multiple rows of fangs. It squirmed against the shreds of human skin flaking off its scales and three pairs of eyes opened. It blinked against the darkness, fingers tracing against the metal pod imprisoning it. Pushing gently, once, then again with force, the container flexed then snapped, and it was free. Alarms blared and scurrying creatures fled, but some were not fast enough. It fed, drinking salty blood and crunching tasty bones. It looked up, seeing a doorway and read the words etched in the glass.
Research Laboratory.
Quarantine Zone.

~ A. F. Stewart

© Copyright 2022 A. F. Stewart. All Rights Reserved.

Return

It would hurt to return to the stars. It meant leaving everything behind, and for too long, she wasn’t sure that she could.

No need to hurry, the stars said. At your own time.

But would she ever be ready? Could she? In the light of day, she wasn’t sure. But at night, under the spread of stars, her doubts were quieter, her future clearer.

When her last day dawned, she felt her certainty rise with the sun. She knew that, by nightfall, she would be among the stars. That last day was the sweetest of her life, seasoned by finality and peace. Evening neared, and she prepared herself for the sky—for her beginning and her end.

She had chosen the place long before. Quiet, away from the lights and sounds of town life. Here, under the darkening sky, the earliest stars already shone and beckoned.

It is time.

And so, she began to undo herself. First were the outer things—those things she had never mistaken for herself, and yet held so close. Clothing, jewelry, needless ornaments all fell to the ground around her, and she felt lighter without them. 

But then, the harder things to lose. Locks of hair fell away painlessly, but still she felt the cold core of fear within her, knowing that pain must come. 

Sure enough, the pain was intense as she began to shed herself. The skin that had for so long defined her limits began to peel away. Arteries, veins, capillaries unraveled themselves from the tissues that had softened her, the bones that had hardened her, the muscles that had strengthened her. These things she shed, and with each loss there was pain, but also lightness. Lighter and lighter she became, until she was light itself.

When at last all pain, all fear, all thought fell away, she knew she had returned. Looking at the distant Earth, she added her glow to that of the stars, illuminating the scraps of a life already long forgotten.