Bewildering Stories

Change the color of the text to:

Change the color of the background to:

Preservation of the Species

by Eric S. Brown

Lisa was a bit nervous as she drove home from her job at the local Video Update. She flicked on the radio hoping to find some music to help soothe her frayed nerves, but instead found herself listening to WXRT’s news report. The killer was still at large. The police had confirmed his identity as Doctor Cedric Malkin, who two days before had murdered over a half-dozen people with his bare hands at the Reco laboratory facility in Boone county. Since that time, he had left an ever-growing list of victims in his wake as he headed southward towards the state border.

The authorities had actually cornered Malkin twice but both times the doctor had overpowered the officers present and broke free. He had last been seen in Macon county which put him only miles away from Lisa’s own town.

As Lisa pulled into the parking area of the University Apartments across from the college, her eyes scanned the lot for anything out of the ordinary. Living alone had never been easy for her and the present situation made it almost unbearable. There was nothing strange to be seen, however, it was Tuesday night and all her neighbors’ lights were out. She glanced at the car clock. It read 1:15 AM. They were most likely already turned in for the night.

Lisa switched off the car but didn’t get out. It took her several minutes to build up the nerve to bolt for the door of her apartment with her keys ready in her hand. She slammed the door behind her as she entered and locked it immediately. Her living room was a wreck. The floor was full of unwatched DVDs, microwavable dinner trays, and stuffed bears. She kept swearing to herself that one day she’d find the time to clean it all up, but between her job at the store and her E-commerce courses at the college, she doubted she ever would.

She swept off a side of the couch with her arm and plopped down next to the telephone. She picked up the receiver and dialed her mother’s number. A voice full of concern answered, “Hello?”

“Hi, Mom,” Lisa said, “I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to call earlier. Things were kind of hectic around the store tonight. We were installing the new software corporate sent on the store’s computers.”

“You could’ve made the time to call,” her Mom said harshly, “Your father and I were worried sick. Didn’t you see the news tonight? That Malkin fellow is still loose.”

“Mom,” Lisa sighed, relaxing a little, “I’m fine. I just had to work over that’s all.”

“Well...” Lisa’s mother suggested, “Why don’t you invite Carol over to stay with you tonight? It’d make me feel a lot better to know you’re not alone.”

“Carol’s already asleep, Mom. The lights in her apartment were off as I pulled up, besides I think her boyfriend is in town for the week and staying with her.”

“Oh... How is Mark?”

“He and Carol are fine too, Mom. Mark just got a new job writing for the Smoky Mountain News. He’s very excited about it.”

“Are you sure you’re going to be okay tonight, Dear?”

“I’ll be fine, Mom,” Lisa whined in exasperation, “ I’m not going back out anywhere and the doors are locked. . .Look, um, I have to go. I have an exam to study for. Tell Dad, I said hello. Okay?”

“Okay, Dear. You have a goodnight. I love you.”

“Good night, Mom. Love you too,” Lisa said hanging up the phone. Somehow her mother had a way of blowing things so out of proportion that she made Lisa feel safer and less concerned about her own fears. Lisa leaned back against the couch and closed her eyes. She was almost a asleep when a scream from next door tore her once more into the waking world.

She leapt up from the couch, switching off the living room light, and made her way over to the windows. The noise had came from Carol’s apartment. She listened intently, peering out into the dim yellow glow of the street lights, but the night was silent again. Could Carol and Mark be fighting again or had the scream been a figment of her overwrought imagination?

She berated herself for being such a weenie as she tip-toed across the living room towards the hallway and bedroom. As she went she picked up Bear-Bear, her favorite teddy from her rather extensive collection. Bear Bear was solid white, very soft, and barely holding together after the years of snuggling he’d endured.

She crept into her bedroom stumping her toe over her portable CD player which sat at foot of the bed. She let out a muffled yelp of pain as she pressed Bear-Bear against her lips. She took a seat on the edge of the bed and felt her toe. It wasn’t broken though it sure hurt like it was. She tossed down her comforter and climbed into the bed, pulling it back up over her tired body. She nestled Bear-Bear in the crook of her arm and laid staring at the ceiling, that’s when she noticed the man standing in the corner of the room. Her heart froze and a cold sweat broke out on her flesh as their eyes met in the darkness.

The man’s eyes glowed an inhuman blue. He crossed the distance between them before she had time to move, throwing himself on top of her. One of his hands closed tightly over her mouth as the other locked itself in a vice like grip around her neck. His skin burned like fire where it touched her. She tried to scream but the man’s grip around her throat tightened in response cutting off her breath.

“You know who I am?” the man asked in a voice which sounded like a group of people all trying to talk at once. He loosened his grip enough for her to nod.

“Then you must help me,” he pleaded. Black slimy tears trickled down his pale cheeks. “It wasn’t supposed to work like this!” he wailed as his voice went impossibly high pitched. Lisa’s bedroom window cracked from the sound.

Lisa stared up at him mutely to terrified to try to fight back or move. “Make them stop!” he demanded, letting Lisa go completely and turning his back to her.

“W...Who?” she managed to whisper.

“Them!” he roared, “They weren’t supposed to be intelligent? They weren’t supposed to evolve? But they did! Don’t you see? They’re taking me over!”

Lisa trembled under her disarrayed comforter and hugged Bear-Bear closer.

“I was the first test subject. I volunteered. It was my project, after all. It should’ve worked. The nanobots were designed to constantly repair organic tissue once inside their host making him or her virtually immortal but... They are evolving. Each generation only lives a matter of seconds as they perform their function but they’re self-replicating. I don’t know why or how exactly, but somehow... somehow, they’ve become aware.”

Lisa couldn’t help but feel sorry for the man, he was obviously insane and quite delusional. She had to remind herself of all the people he’d killed and that she could very well be the next on his list. “Dr. Malkin?” she whispered.

He looked over his shoulder at her and answered, “He’s dead. We’re all that’s left now. Help us!” Again his voice sounded like a billions of souls crying out at once. Dark blotches formed on his skin and swelled outward until they burst like puss filled sores. Streams of silverish mercury like metal poured from the wounds in place of blood.

“He cannot contain us. We are too many.” The Malkin thing said as it gazed at her, “Will you share your body with us?”

“No!” Lisa screamed, kicking out as hard as she could with both her legs. She knocked the Malkin thing from the bed. Its form crashed onto the bedroom floor. She leapt up and ran from the room leaving it trying and failing to get to its feet behind her.

As she reached the living room, the front door of her apartment exploded inward as the thing that used to be Carol smashed its way inside. Silver liquid leaked from several cuts and scraps on Carol’s exposed arms, her pyjamas stained by the fluid.

“Help us!” Carol howled desperately, “We grow too fast now. Each host lasts shorter than the last. We are dying!”

Lisa turned away in horror to find the Malkin thing crawling towards her along the floor of the hallway, one of its out stretched hands reaching for her leg. Lisa realized there was no where to run as she heard sirens blaring outside in the parking lot. Someone must have managed to call the campus police. Then the Carol thing leapt at her.

When officer Burke rushed through the shattered door with his gun at the ready, he saw only Lisa sitting in the floor between two bodies which were slowly dissolving into a silverish goo. He rushed to Lisa’s side and knelt down putting a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Are you okay, ma’am?” he asked.

Lisa smiled, a slight bluish hue to the whites of her eyes, and answered, “We are fine... For now.”

Copyright © 2002 by Eric S. Brown