A flash fiction piece written back in October of 2012 for a contest over on SFFWorld.com. Decided to post it here to add a little something special since my hiatus. I have another flash fiction from a few years ago that I will post next week, so stay tuned. 🙂
By Lynn DeRiso
A creature swims upward and away from the darkness of its home. Something buried in its subconscious has called it to the surface. It doesn’t remember the surface, nor does it understand why it is drawn there.
Before it reaches the light green of the upper ocean strata, it catches a fish-like animal and gulps it down quickly. The aquatic creature has managed to survive in the darkness, hunting, feeding, and occasionally breeding. It doesn’t recall ever being an infant, or how it came to be here. It seems that life has always been this way.
It pauses a moment to look at one of its arms. There are marks down its length, and they stand out against the mottled flesh. These marks are permanent.
A flicker of hidden memory surfaces, and the creature begins to recognize the marks as letters and numbers. Though, it doesn’t understand their meaning.
As the creature breaks the water’s surface, a pale green-gray sky with angry winds greets its presence. Waves swell all around, sea spray stinging its eyes. Vision feels strained in the light, as its eyesight is more suited to life in the darkness.
There are large black objects suspended in the sky. Wispy clouds flow past in gale force winds, as red and blue lights pulse on the underside of the objects.
A long wand points downward from one of the dark orbs, emitting a series of nearly unnoticeable pulses of energy.
The creature looks at its arm once more, and lifts the limb fully out of the seawater. The slender arm terminates in an appendage with five digits, thick webbing between them.
The creature’s memory tells it that this is a hand. It knows this word, even the sound of it. It tries to speak this word, but all that it achieves is a gurgling noise.
It is in that moment that the creature’s deeply buried memories begin to surface. While it fails to speak a half remembered language, it realizes that its home of watery darkness is not its first.
A blue and green sphere, beautiful and precious, appears in vivid visual memory. Then, the last recollection of this world floats into mind.
The continents are pale and brown, and the seas are a dark gray. It is the dead home world of humanity.
The creature pined for the ability to say that world’s name, even for one last time.
The name John flashes into the mutated human’s mind. That was his name once. Now, the serial number tattooed on is arm is his only identity.
He remembers that he and others like him were brought to this alien ocean years ago, after being changed drastically to fit the environment. They were the first in a series of people to undergo forced adaptation.
He recalls being told about the wand, and that he is to come within its range periodically for exposure to its quantum waves. These waves, he remembers, function as a tune up for his mutated body. It keeps his cells from rejecting the changes, and strengthens his immunity.
As he looks toward the ships one last time, he knows that more humans live up there. They are the stewards of John’s kind, and of a project spanning many decades.
The mutated humans were the first phase of adapting to the alien world. There would be more soon enough.
John submerged again, dazed, and returned to the darkness beneath. His eyes readjust, and soon the others become visible once again. Their forms, once recognizably human, had a more serpentine appearance. Large, spiny fins sprout from their sides, arms, and tails. Male and female are nearly indistinguishable.
As John swam toward them, perhaps what would be one of his last recollections of irony occurred to him.
Humanity had reduced its home world to an uninhabitable rock within less than a thousand years. This new home would force a drastic change in them in less than a century. By the time they have fully adapted, this alien world will have consumed all that it is to be human.