Revelation - By: George Shannon

we are we are we are

It had been an hour since I had last heard from Janice Polito.

The final canister of Toxin-A had been delivered into the air system of Hydroponics. Polito's voice rang in my ears when I did it, almost sounding pleased. Her order to get to Deck 4 played in my mind over and over, like it was a manager pleased with an employee.

I didn't understand her. I hadn't seen a surviving human soul on this ship. Not one. And yet she acts like I'm merely here to carry out her orders... maybe she'd improve when I saw her. Maybe.

But things weren't good right now. Not good at all.

When I slid the last containment canister into the filtration system, it seemed the whole mass of the Many howled, and I could hear it. Jesus, could I hear it. Spiders unfolded themselves from the corners of the room, their legs barely audible over the jets of steam.

I admit, I'm an arachniphobe. Always was. Back in San Fransisco, where I grew up, I stepped on every one I ould see when I went to play in the bombed-out buildings on the other side of the neighborhood. But my skin always feels cold when I saw one, and I scraped my shoes off like there was biotoxin all over it. I remember going into a screaming fit when one of their legs somehow hooked onto my shoelace, twitching and hanging on. I flailed around wildly until my shoe came off, and I ran home in my socks. Told my parents that a gang stole my shoes. They believed it.

These spiders were different. I couldn't squash these.

So I ran. I was low on clips, anyway.

I could feel them purr around me. I swear I could. It was a nasty, wet purr. Like a hiss, but low and drawn out. I hated it, it was what the spiders in my dreams sounded like.

Steam washed over me, mixing with my sweat as it settled on my face. Spiders clicked behind me.

One blocked my path, its front legs rising to wave at me. My pistol came up, automatically, the flash-fed information slamming into motion... I hadn't fired more than five shots my whole life before coming on board the Von Braum, being more interested in how the pistol worked than seeing it work.

But cyber-upgrades worked wonders, I gotta admit that. It was a shame I'd forget everything in a week.

The pistol popped three bullets into the arachnid. It twitched violently, legs twitching like they did when I was a kid. Jesus, I hated that. I snapped off more shots before I stopped myself. Its main carapace cracked and fluids sprayed into the air where the shells imapcted the organs inside. It leaked on the floor towards my shoes.

I heard the clicks again, this time over my own shrieking, which I didn't even know I was making. I vaulted forward as I felt spider legs pluck at my pants.

I really hate spiders.

After that, things got worse.

I wasn't careful. I should have been. I ran down the hallways, not listening for agents of the Many. One found me. A midwife. I could have avoided her completely if I had been careful. Her initial energy blast had fortunately caught my armor, but I still felt its sting. It made me slip as I tried to get away down the hallway on my right, and she caught up with me.

"Such a baaaad boy..."

One of her arms slammed into my head, and I reeled, clawing my way down the side corridor. Blood washed into my left eye. I fumbled with the shotgun from my pack. I managed to roll over and lift it, aiming at her face. It was smiling.

The poom of the shotgun sent her onto the opposite wall, her head full of buckshot. But she was still alive, well, still functioning. She tried to stand back up. She was still smiling.

I managed to stand and run.

I got to an access tunnel and crawled through it, finding myself above one of the hallways leading towards the Xerxes hub for Hydroponics. There was space enough in the crawlway for me to lie down. A place to rest.

I settled into the corner. It was black all around, but I could see down into the hallway over the edge and around one of the lights. I heard a door hiss open, and I froze.

The midwife I had shot clicked along the hall, her servomechanical legs tapping regularly on the floor.

Click click click.

I curled into a ball. This had to be a dream. This couldn't be real. I can't be stuck on a dead starship millions of miles from anyone I knew or trusted. Surrounded by... things that were part of something so unbelievably alien. I was alone. It had to be a dream. No one could possibly be this alone.

The metallic footsteps of the midwife inched their way into my thoughts.

The opposite door hissed open and she stepped out, the footsteps now nearly gone. But I still wouldn't move. It was too much. I just wanted to die now. Let it all drift away, I didn't want to fight anymore. No one should have to endure this horror. It was impossible. I'd either wake up or die.

There was no way anyone could possibly be this alone.

The first door hissed open again. A hybrid stepped through, walking his patrols. His alloy pipe swung limply at his side. I could hear him mumble to himself.

"We are, we are, we are..."

He stopped.

Maybe he smells me, or senses me, I think... a weak thought writhed in my head, trying to make me get a gun, and defend myself. But I couldn't. I was frozen in a tight fetal knot.

"What... what happened to me..." He swayed slightly, looking confused. I had seen ones do this before... I usually chose to attack then, while they were distracted... back when I made sense to myself. "What happened... TO ME..." He dropped the pipe and lifted his hands before his eyes. Staring at his flesh, where tiny worms worked their way under his skin.

"WHAT HAPPENED..." His fingers went taut, and he shook his hands, his clouded mind filling with rage.

He began clawing wildly at his own skin, trying to tear it off, broken nails raking over the dirty flesh. He howled as he did it, shaking uncontrollably. I remember feeling pity in some far off, disconnected part of my mind. Scraping at his own skin, trying to see what was really underneath.

His new flesh was too tough, and he only scratched the surface.

He raised his hands to his head, gripping his foreheard like a vice, his howl reaching a crescendo. It was all I could do not to scream with him.

He dropped his arms back to his side. He stared at the far wall, an expression of detached wonder on his face.

He reached down, picked up the pipe, and moved on as if nothing had happened.

I still didn't move.

No one could be this alone.

we are we are we are

The whispers of the Many squirmed into my mind like the worms of their species.

A million voices, all in absolute perfect unison, so you couldn't tell if it was one or many. But the actual voice carried more than the sound, it carried the meaning.

Why do you persist in your loneliness?

I dream.

Why do you persist in your loneliness?

I am not alone.

We are never alone.

I only need myself.

We sing to ourselves.

I don't need you.

Why do you persist in your loneliness?


Why do you persist in your loneliness?


Maybe the Many was right. Maybe no one needed to be this alone. Maybe no one could be this alone.

I remembered Polito.

Was she alone?

She didn't need the Many. She was alone. Maybe more so than me. I could hear her, she had no way to hear me.

She was alone.

I forced myself to uncurl, my tired muscles wishing for more rest, but I didn't dare stay too long. I needed to move. Polito needed me.

I'd talk with her. She was alone, I was alone, but we had each other. We would understand each other. And we could fight, separately, if we needed to. Because being alone, sometimes, is what makes us truly human.

I lowered myself from the crawlway, wiggling between the light fixture and wall, dropping down onto the floor with the least noise possible.

I made my way to the elevator, being careful. The steel hallways were silent, and I was lucky. I didn't pass anyone, or anything on the way.

In the elevator, I took deep breaths. I was going to make it. I listened to the reassuring whir of the elevator rails. I checked my equipment, not sure of what I'd see on the Operations deck. I tweaked the shotgun a little, making sure the pin wasn't gumming up like on Engineering. I threaded 4 more shells into the loading clip. I would make it. I would survive.

The doors hissed open, and I lifted my shotgun.

The hub was empty. I carefully circled the doors clockwise. All of them were jammed or locked. Damn... where was Polito?

The last door answered my question. I remembered that Polito was head of systems, she had to have a easily located and obvious office. I yanked the bulkhead clamp and tried to keep from feeling too excited. I fingered my shotgun lightly, and decided to sling it over my shoulder... no need to surprise Polito too much.

Finally... finally I wouldn't need to be alone.

The bulkhead was far enough up that I could squeeze underneath, and I did so.

Looking down the hallway, I saw a woman on a chair, a wide shadow under her, probably from an overhead light. I walked forward, opening my mouth to greet her.

I realized she wasn't moving.

I slowed, taking one shaking step after another.

I realized the shadow under her wasn't a shadow. It was her blood.

I stared at Janice's Polito's corpse.

The walls surrounding me flickered and disappeared, and I felt a presence invade the room. Hell returned to our world.

I could not tell my mind from her voice from my scream.



who are you?


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